Lloyd Longfield Delivers Speech on Gun Control
June 23, 2022
C-21, Second Reading Speech
An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms)
Madame speaker, it is an honour to rise and speak in favour of this historic piece of legislation. Bill C-21 represents a momentous step in eliminating gun violence in Canada and, if passed, would be the most significant reform to Canada's gun laws in a generation.
I would like to start by thanking all of the stakeholders that have contributed to this bill, but more specifically, the stakeholders in my constituency of Guelph who have provided feedback that has informed the measures in this bill.
While much of these consultations were conducted in relation to previous pieces of legislation, I am very pleased to see feedback has been incorporated from March 2021, when the former Minister of Public Safety heard from Guelph area police services, local municipal politicians, and Guelph organizations that are dedicated to the fight against gun violence. They were concerned that previous proposals allowing municipalities to opt-in to gun control measures would have created a patchwork of regulations across the country that wouldn't have been as effective. This bill solves that, and indeed, if passed, this bill would make it illegal to purchase or sell a handgun anywhere in Canada.
Madame speaker, this is incredibly important to both my constituents and I in the current context, because for years, Guelph was considered the safest city in Canada. And while it is still among the safest, it can no longer lay claim to this status due in part to a rise in gun-related crimes. According to public data from the Guelph Police Service, the number of gun crime charges have more than doubled in 2020. There were eight charges of using a firearm in the commission of a crime, which is up from three the year prior. This is not the direction we want to be heading in, and while the Canadian Border Services Agency and other bodies have been provided with more resources by our government to help prevent gun crimes, the reality is that we need to stop handguns from being sold in the first place. Even one crime involving a firearm that could be prevented is one too many.
This is important, especially when you consider data from researchers at the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Responsibility at the University of Guelph, which shows that nearly six out of 10 women who are killed are murdered by their current or former partner, while only six percent of these women are killed by a stranger. Just over one-third of the total number of femicides are committed by a perpetrator armed with a gun, more than any other method of killing, while the likelihood of a woman being killed by a gun goes up to 42 percent for women living in rural areas.
This bill looks to address this alarming reality. It would permit authorities to revoke a firearms licence in cases of domestic violence or criminal harassment; when a protection order has been issued against a current licence holder; or when a ‘red flag’ order is issued. I am also encouraged to see that on the advice of organizations representing women and survivors, this bill includes an amendment to protect the identity of the person asking the court to apply this mechanism. This is just one example of how feedback from communities affected by gun violence has been integrated into this bill.
Similarly, this bill also seeks to better protect Canadians experiencing mental health crises. Over 80 percent of gun related deaths are suicides, which is a heartbreaking reality. The impact of this is not only felt by individuals, but their families, and our entire communities. One of the most heartbreaking elements of this is that when I speak to the families of individuals who have dealt with this loss, they tell me that it is possible it could have been prevented if guns were removed from the situation in the first place. Through this bill, a yellow flag or a red flag would make it more likely that such a tragedy could be prevented. As in other appropriate cases, a Chief Firearms Officer could suspend an individual's licence for up to 30 days if a member of the public, such as a family member, or a neighbour, were to contact a CFO with information about a licence holder. This could allow someone to recover or seek treatment without having the ability to purchase guns or acquire them.
Madame speaker, the urgency of this bill is clear, but unfortunately, since the government has stated its intention to pass Bill C-21 into law, we have seen a spike in the number of handgun sales across the country. By introducing additional regulations, the government is preventing a surge in hand guns purchases in the period between now and when it is passed, which is the right approach to ensure that the bill isn’t aiming at a moving target.
Madame speaker, the premise and rationale for this bill are sound, as it recognizes the reality that handguns are a preferred weapon of criminals and that banning their sale inherently makes people safer. Not only is the prevalence of gun crimes increasing in Guelph, as I previously mentioned, but since 2009, violent offences involving guns have increased by 81%, and 47% of Canadians say that gun violence poses a serious threat to their communities. We need only look across our border to see that if we continue down the path we are on now, it only gets worse, and worse, until it is many times more difficult to correct. We need to learn from what we see in Canada and the scale of gun crimes in other countries and not dismiss mass shootings as something that can't happen, or doesn't usually happen in Canada. We need to act now, and this bill takes a common-sense approach to achieve ambitious action on reducing gun violence while respecting law-abiding owners of guns, such as farmers.
It is truly unfortunate that there have been several unsuccessful attempts by some to mischaracterize this bill as something that could target law-abiding gun-owners, as that simply is not the case. This legislation is in no way about targeting legal gun owners. In fact, its sole purpose is to create safer communities for every single Canadian. Gun owners that adhere to the law will not face any undue hardship as a result of this bill. Clearly, handguns are not used for pest control or to shoot a deer.
I'd also like to take some time to address concerns that some have raised regarding the source of handguns that are used in gun crimes in Canada. While some have said that handguns are not legally obtained anyways, the reality is that the majority of crime guns traced in 2020 were originally legally obtained domestically, including 50% of handguns traced. To combat crimes committed with handguns that are obtained outside of Canada, our government has invested $350M to strengthen the RCMP & CBSA’s capacity to intercept guns coming across our borders, and we know that this has been effective. Last year, RCMP & border services intercepted nearly double the number of firearms than the year before.
We’re also increasing maximum penalties for weapons smuggling from 10 to 14 years, which will more effectively deter criminals from trafficking guns across our border. We also continue to coordinate with provincial and territorial counterparts to address the root causes of this gun smuggling, which has largely been shown to be perpetrated by gangs. This is why we’re investing $250 Million through our Building Safer Communities Fund, which funds programs that help at-risk young people lead lives free of crime while actively deterring youth and young adults who are involved in or at risk of joining gangs.
Madame speaker, I'd like to end by noting that Bill C-21 enjoys the broad support of many Canadians, and it is my hope that this bill will receive the support of all parties and be passed with urgency. The seriousness of gun crimes across Canada requires that we, as Members of Parliament, rise to meet this challenge. It is the right thing to do if we are to honour the memories of both victims and survivors of gun violence in Canada. It is not only the right thing to do, but it is how we will eradicate gun violence and protect all Canadians.