View Full Version : Speaches in the Senate, Thursday November 8 2018

11-18-2018, 04:35 PM
Bill to Amend Certain Acts and Regulations in Relation to Firearms

Speaches in the Senate, Thursday November 8 2018

Hon. Ratna Omidvar (Ontario, Independent Senators Group) said:

Honourable senators, before I address the particular question of Bill C-71, I have to remark that in today’s sitting, we have debated the transportation of crude oil along British Columbia’s pristine coast. We’ve debated marine protected territories. We’ve talked about terrorism and security. We’ve talked about the protection of fish and fisheries, and we’ve just heard comments from Senator Tannas on energy and the National Energy Board. It strikes a chord in me that, as senators, we have to embrace Canada in full and move outside of our personal lived experiences to face the issues that are confronting this country, and so I come in a roundabout way to guns and violence.

I have never held a gun in my hand. I don’t own a gun, but I come from Toronto. Guns are an increasing fact of life in my city. Gun violence and its increase in my city has dismayed us and left us saddened. As just one example, in July of this year, a young man killed two people and injured another 13 on the Danforth, which is one of the busiest and most popular tourist areas in our city. He fled the scene but soon turned the weapon on himself and committed suicide. Later on, we found out that he likely suffered from mental health problems.

All too sadly, such horrific instances are becoming more commonplace, giving rise to a certain kind of mythology — certainly coming out of Toronto — that gun violence is an urban problem; that it is in big cities that gangs are using guns to exert their power over others.

But as I looked at the evidence, I came to understand that gun violence is not just an urban problem. It is not just a gang problem, and it is not just a problem emanating from illegally obtained firearms. It is in fact a Canadian problem. It touches our urban centres, but it also touches all parts of Canada, in cities and towns big and small and in rural areas across the country.

Stats Canada reports that the use of a shotgun or a rifle in violent crimes in rural areas is four times that of urban areas. Saskatchewan has twice the rate of gun violence per capita than urban Toronto, and homicides there were more likely to occur in a rural setting. Most often, the weapon used was a rifle and not a handgun.

There are other parts of our country that struggle with an increase in gun crime, too — Edmonton, Winnipeg, Moncton, and, of course, Toronto.

Nationally, there is a disturbing trend that I would like to point out. Honourable senators, 2013 was a pivotal year for gun violence in Canada because previous to 2013, crime rates in Canada were generally improving over several decades. However, starting in 2013, statistics tell us that gun violence began travelling in the wrong direction. Between 2013 and 2016, criminal incidents involving firearms increased close to one third. Additional figures available from 2017 show a further deterioration. The increase since 2013 has actually climbed to 44 per cent. What’s most disturbing, I think, is the rate and the increase of youth participation in gun violence. Their share rose by 20 per cent in 2016 as compared to 2013.

It is no wonder, then, that Canada performs badly in comparison to other jurisdictions. Gun-related crimes in Canada are about 10 times higher than in the United Kingdom for a simple reason: Guns are more tightly regulated there. Canada ranks fourth among OECD countries in rates of firearms deaths. Guess which countries are ranked the lowest? Korea and Japan. We know where gun-related crimes are the highest — in the United States.

Whilst we talk about these numbers, I want to ensure and underline that behind every number, behind every statistic, is a very tragic story. There is a direct correlation between guns and domestic violence.

In Calgary this year, Nadia El-Dib, a 22-year-old woman, was stabbed 40 times before being shot twice as she tried to escape her ex-boyfriend. In Mississauga, Alicia Lewandowski was shot by her boyfriend. She was only 25 years old. In 2016, Christina Voelzing, a 24-year-old woman, was killed by her former boyfriend on Easter Sunday. He used a .22-calibre handgun and left her to die. In 2015, in Renfrew County, just outside of here, a man shot three of his former partners to death. He showed up unannounced at their doors carrying a sawed-off pump-action shotgun.

Of course, Senator Cormier touched yesterday on the horrible tragedy of the Desmond family. I can’t help wondering that if this law had been in place, if the proposed checks had been carried out, then perhaps that family would still have been with us.

These are just some of the stories of domestic violence. In Ontario, a quarter of domestic violence homicides are committed with firearms. In New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, two thirds of the women whose homes had firearms in them felt more fearful for their safety, and 70 per cent of them said the presence of a firearm in their home impacted their decision whether to seek help from others.

Honourable senators, Canadians not only pay with their lives, devastating families and communities, but we pay a collective price for this too. According to the Barbara Schlifer Clinic, a shelter in Toronto, Canadians pay $7.5 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence — costs ranging from funerals to the intangible costs of pain and suffering. The ripple effects are huge. They affect families, communities and, I would suggest, our national psyche.

Every bill that comes to us from the other place has a gender-based plus analysis attached to it. Since it is part of cabinet documents, this analysis is part of a confidential memorandum and we are not able to see it. I personally think this is a problem, and one that we may have to find our own way to fix.

For instance, ensuring every bill that goes to committee is subject to a GBA+ analysis as part of its work or finding some other way of getting the information. I am personally committed to achieving this objective. In the case of this particular bill, Bill C-71, I hope the committee that looks at it will apply a gender lens to their work.

Honourable senators, this bill provides reasonable measures that help strengthen our firearm laws in Canada. Extending background checks to include a person’s life history, not only the previous five years but beyond that, is a reasonable approach. Why would we let someone who has a violent or even a disturbed past own a gun? It also seems reasonable to me retailers who sell guns should maintain a record of who they sell it to. Most retailers, in fact, already do. It makes sense that all should do it. This would help police trace guns used in crime.

Mr. Mario Harel, who is the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, has said:

. . . police have been effectively blind to the number of transactions by any licenced individual relating to non-restricted firearms. The absence of such records effectively stymies the ability to trace a non-restricted firearm that has been used in crime. The tracing of a crime gun can assist in identifying the suspect of a crime and criminal sourcing of a trafficking network.

It’s all about law and order.

This bill deals with two separate questions. The first is prevention. Looking at a person’s history, beyond the immediate past, may reasonably contain the potential for harm in the future.

Second, this bill will make it easier for the authorities, in particular the police, to trace weapons and therefore find criminals and perpetrators. I think it is important to do both. I will invoke an age-old metaphor: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I believe the prevention measures embedded in this bill will be a reasonable deterrent to the misuse of firearms.

Let me address some of the concerns that have been voiced in the chamber, and in the many e-mails we have all received — that most gun owners are law-abiding people and this bill unnecessarily targets them instead of focusing on gangs and hand guns. Yes, we should focus on gangs and yes, we should focus on hand guns. I hope we will see measures to do that. This bill is not meant to address all the many issues related to firearm violence. It is meant to address a growing problem.

Here is another fact: Almost 20 per cent of firearms-related violent crimes involve a non-restricted firearm. It’s 20 per cent. It is not the majority of cases, but the figures leave no doubt there is a small percentage of people who have used guns for other purposes. I have cited statistics on domestic violence, but let’s not forget the link between mental health and guns.

Between 2014 and 2016 — I think Senator Cormier talked about this — an average of 600 Canadians have killed themselves with a gun.

Honourable colleagues, I want you to stop and think about that number; 600 people annually. We would have to fill this chamber five times over to imagine the scale of that tragedy.

I conclude the numbers are serious enough for us to pay attention. Even if they were not, I would still argue that every single life deserves our attention because as John Donne so aptly wrote in the 1500s:

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

Back to the law-abiding citizens who are peaceful gun owners, I do not believe they should feel targeted by this. In fact, if I was one of them, I would feel more secure that the few bad apples would no longer infect the forest; that my interest in using a weapon for sport, hunting or recreation, would be secured from the ill intentions of a few. Yes, I grant there will be some inconvenience involved, as Senator Gagné has pointed out. However, I believe some inconvenience may be necessary if, as a result, lives are saved.

Personal inconvenience, I believe, is part and parcel of living in a civilized society. We encounter various forms of inconvenience every day on a personal level, to protect the collective and public good. We stop at red lights, we go through security checks, we renew our driver’s licence, we moderate our driving speed, we smoke in designated areas, we wear seat belts and so on and so forth. I don’t want to minimize the inconvenience to legitimate and law-abiding gun owners. It deserves to be pointed out that in Canada, owning a gun is not a right. It is a privilege. With every privilege comes responsibility.

I believe it is our responsibility here to send this bill to further study to committee. Because of the seriousness of this matter, I urge us to send it to committee sooner rather than later. Thank you very much.


11-18-2018, 04:35 PM
Bill to Amend Certain Acts and Regulations in Relation to Firearms

Speaches in the Senate, Thursday November 8 2018

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson ( Nunavut, Conservative Party of Canada) said:

I would also like to speak to Bill C-71 an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms. I do so, perhaps, from a different perspective than Senator Omidvar. From the perspective of my region of Nunavut, from the viewpoint of the majority of our population, 85 per cent of which are Inuit and a high proportion of them, both men and women, are hunters.

For them, this bill is not about sport or about transporting firearms to shooting ranges. Many Inuit residents — and, I think, increasingly these days — have firearms not only for hunting, but also to protect themselves from polar bears, which are increasingly showing up in communities. We have sadly had citizens killed by polar bears this year in Nunavut.

So for many Inuit in Nunavut, like for many Indigenous people who continue to have strong connections to their traditional roots, firearms are actually a way of life. Inuit are known to be close to the rich lands and wildlife resources in Nunavut and heavily reliant on healthy, country food as opposed to expensive imported store-bought food.

The Firearms Act, which is being amended in this bill, has existed since 1995, and since its introduction, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which is the organization representing the interests of Inuit beneficiaries in Nunavut, has resisted the general application of the registration system in Nunavut, arguing in a lawsuit that it impeded the right of Inuit to hunt as guaranteed under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

The judge in that case, Justice Kilpatrick of the Nunavut Court of Justice, granted an interim stay in July of 2003, acknowledging that there is a significant public interest in Nunavut in ensuring that the constitutional rights of Inuit are respected at all stages of the adjudicative process. This is so particularly where questions of treaty interpretation engage “the honour of the Crown.”

I conclude on the basis of the limited evidence before me that the alleged infringement of a treaty right may cause collateral damage to important Inuit interests. It may interfere with Inuit harvesting, whether this is done full time as a livelihood or part-time as a means of supplementing diet. It may impact upon the quality of Inuit lifestyle in isolated settlements. It may disrupt Inuit food supply in remote communities. It may cause long-term damage to a defining or core social value of Inuit society. The potential for damage is both significant and immediate.

Section 112, the provision at the heart of NTI’s argument, which dealt with compulsory licensing and registration, has since been repealed by the former Conservative government in 2012 and a suite of Indigenous-specific regulations was put in place that addressed concerns of Indigenous peoples being prevented from owning firearms necessary to hunting, as guaranteed under the Constitution and various comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements in Nunavut and, really, throughout the country.

Article 5.1.2(b) of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, for instance, recognizes:

. . . the legal rights of Inuit to harvest wildlife . . . .

And 5.1.3(a)(iv) states that the article:

. . . provides for harvesting privileges and allows for continued access by persons other than Inuit, particularly long-term residents, and

(v) avoids unnecessary interference in the exercise of the rights, priorities and privileges to harvest; . . . .

So the regulations that followed the repeal of section 112 of the Firearms Act enable Indigenous persons who wish to acquire firearms a way of taking the tests on firearm safety — required in order to be licensed to carry a firearm — orally should language be a barrier. It also enables the Chief Firearms Officer to essentially vouch for individuals seeking to purchase a firearm but who lack the proper documentation.

I did take the opportunity recently to speak with Mr. Ed North, the Chief Firearms Officer for Nunavut. Mr. North is a retired, long-serving member of the RCMP in Nunavut who has lived in many communities and regions of Nunavut, and I think he is probably a model example of how a Chief Firearms Officer applying these regulations can do so in ways which do not interfere with Indigenous rights.

During our meeting he described instances where a firearms store in the South would call him, telling him that an individual in a certain community had ordered a firearm without having a firearms possession and acquisition certificate. More often than not, he would be familiar with the applicant and could either vouch for the individual then and there, or make inquiries to confirm that the individual is a long-time and respected local hunter and issue the permit over the phone. Alternatively, he could phone the individual and conduct the firearms safety test that way.

So his work is to be commended, and I would respectfully suggest that Mr. North be someone that the committee that studies this bill could consider as a potential witness. I do hope that every Chief Firearms Officer in every region who is dealing with Aboriginal hunters is able to effectively apply the regulations as they are being applied in Nunavut.

While my meeting with Mr. North did assure me that the system is working in Nunavut to protect the rights of Inuit, it did cause me to worry that the level of service to Indigenous people throughout the country may not be consistent. I hope that the committee studying this bill will be able to study the effectiveness of the application of the Indigenous-specific regulations throughout the country, specifically in remote regions with significant Aboriginal populations.

I would also like to mention the issues raised by the Assembly of First Nations during committee consideration of the bill in the other place. They need to be adequately addressed by the Senate committee.

Vice-Chief Heather Bear raised two issues. One was in regard to new requirements to obtain authorizations to transport a firearm for purposes other than from the place of purchase or to a firing range; and two was the new provision that would enable the Chief Firearms Officer to look at the history of an individual beyond the current five-year limitation.

Vice-Chief Bear stated:

The proposed amendments to the Firearms Act raise serious constitutional concerns to first nations. Our first concern is that this bill does not incorporate or safeguard our aboriginal and treaty rights that might be impinged, such as our treaty right to hunt. Nowhere in this draft legislation does it state how the provisions of the bill will be implemented for first nations or on our reserves. It should be made clear that the first nations’ hunting rights will be respected and that we won’t need a transport certificate for any kind of hunting rifle, even those classified as restricted. . . .

Concerning background checks, under the new rules, the entire life of a person who applies for a firearm licence will be examined, instead of just the past five years. First nations’ people are more likely to have criminal records due to systemic discrimination and other reasons I won’t get into right now, but is it fair that a person could be denied a licence on the basis of a criminal offence committed 20 or 30 years ago? Does that really predict how likely he or she is to misuse a firearm today? Obviously we need to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and people with serious mental illnesses, but why punish a person who made a mistake decades ago?

Honourable senators, I can tell you that more often than I would like to acknowledge there are incidents involving Inuit, firearms and standoffs with the RCMP. We know there are a high number of Inuit facing mental health issues for a variety of reasons, including remoteness, lack of jobs, intergenerational trauma or a lack of support or access to treatment.

I have spoken about my concerns about Bill C-45, and so on.

At its worst, in 2004, suicide in Nunavut was 11 times the national average, at 121 per 100,000 people. Last year, that rate was 106 per 100,000 people.

Unfortunately, these statistics are reality for many Indigenous populations throughout the country.

Great efforts are being made with the leadership of the Chief Firearms Officer in Nunavut to enforce safe storage of firearms and the use of trigger locks, but the practice is still not widespread. Keeping this in mind, I share the concern of Vice-Chief Bear that extending the period of review of a person’s history could potentially prevent a disproportionately large number of Indigenous persons from accessing firearms necessary for hunting.

I also have outstanding concerns that the requirement in this bill for persons not to gift or sell a firearm to an individual not holding a Possession and Acquisition Licence could impede the traditional rights of individuals to pass on firearms to family members. In Nunavut, I can tell you that children as young as six years old have been given firearms as part of the beginning of their journey as hunters. It will be important for the committee studying the bill to find out what proportion of Aboriginal hunters are holding Possession and Acquisition Licences and how many opportunities there are to take the courses and tests in remote communities.

I believe the majority of Inuit hunters in Nunavut do not hold Possession and Acquisition Licences, so they are carrying on their traditional hunting activities outside the existing law. Should we not be concerned about that?

In closing, I look forward to the committee’s study of the bill. I’ve raised some issues that I hope will be addressed. When the committee studies the bill, I hope they will make sure they hear from witnesses who are Aboriginal hunters. Thank you.