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View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, the development of a co-managed marine safety centre with the Pacheedaht First Nation in my riding seems to have been abandoned by the government. This project is supposed to be a meaningful effort for reconciliation and protecting our oceans.
When I previously raised this issue with the minister of fisheries and oceans, she did not answer my question. Moreover, there was no mention of the agreement with the Pacheedaht, who have now been waiting for over three years.
Therefore, I will ask this again: Why does it appear that the government is ignoring the Pacheedaht First Nation and stalling the development of this important project? When will we see the commitment?
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-333, An Act respecting a national day of remembrance to honour Canadian Armed Forces members who have lost their lives in peacetime in Canada.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to introduce my private member's bill, the peacetime service and sacrifice memorial day act. I would like to acknowledge and thank the member for Courtenay—Alberni for seconding the bill.
I have always had incredible admiration and respect for the men and women who serve and have served our country in the Canadian Armed Forces. In addition to Remembrance Day, October 22 has taken on significant importance for the veterans community in my riding, particularly for those who are members of Malahat Legion Branch 134.
This day is recognized every year in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford in honour of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and for the more than 2,400 Canadian Armed Forces members who have lost their lives on Canadian soil during peacetime. Since 2013, more than 54 members of the CAF have died as a result of PTSD alone, and yesterday was the three-year anniversary of the crash that killed Snowbirds Captain Jenn Casey in Kamloops. The bill I am introducing today would formally recognized October 22 as peacetime service and sacrifice memorial day in their memory.
In closing, I want to recognize Bob Collins as the driving force behind this bill and thank him for his continuous efforts to give this day formal recognition and for standing guard at the cenotaph in Cobble Hill in remembrance.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, when I was listening to the leader of the official opposition give his remarks today, I felt sadness. I feel it is quite insulting when he refers to woke academics or speaks of people who are employed in the “misery industry”. That is insulting to my constituents who have dedicated their life's work to helping people with very real problems.
I have taken the time to tour the streets of my community to speak to those people and meet those who are suffering from trauma. Overwhelmingly, the result is that people who are taking chances with buying their drugs on the street are playing Russian roulette with their lives. Having safe supply and treatment options are not mutually exclusive. We have to meet people where they are at, or it is going to be unsuccessful.
I would really like for my colleague to underline that point because central to today's debate is this trauma-informed approach of meeting people where they are at and keeping people alive long enough so they can come into contact with the services, help and treatment, eventually down the line, that will help them.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, where I disagree with the Conservatives on this issue is that I personally believe, backed up by evidence in the field, that safe supply and safe consumption have to work in conjunction with treatment and recovery programs. They are part of a continuum of care. We have to meet patients where they are at.
Where I do agree with the Conservatives, though, is with their sense of frustration. That is very real. The situation is not getting better. The numbers on the ground are a stark reminder of how the government has failed to step up to the plate.
Numerous people who are working on the streets, trying to combat this situation, have repeatedly asked the government to step up, commit the funding and commit the resources necessary to fight this epidemic on par with COVID-19 and with the AIDS crisis. That is the criticism that is being levelled at the government today.
Why has it not stepped up and, at the very least, declared this a national health emergency?
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, New Democrats are happy to support Bill C-281 at report stage and third reading. We would like to thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing this bill forward.
This bill makes four changes to different pieces of Canadian legislation to improve Canada's work on international human rights. First, it would require the minister to publish an annual report on human rights, as well as a list of prisoners of conscience for whom the government is actively working. It amends the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act to prohibit a person from investing in an entity that has contravened certain provisions of the act. It also amends the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Sergei Magnitsky law, to require the Minister of Foreign Affairs to respond to a report submitted by a parliamentary committee that recommends that sanctions be imposed under that act against a foreign national. Finally, it would prohibit the issue or renewal of broadcasting licences in the case of genocide, as recognized by the House or Senate, subject to Canadian sanctions.
We heard very clearly from witnesses at the committee stage that Canada's approach to international human rights could be much stronger. We want to thank those witnesses for their testimony and their guidance.
The NDP introduced four strong amendments to this bill, three of which were accepted by the committee. The first amendment we proposed changes to the list of names of prisoners of conscience for whose release the Government of Canada is actively working. We were concerned, as all parties were, that a fully public list of names may put certain individuals at risk of reprisal from authorities in the countries in which they are detained.
We also took note of the government's concerns over privacy and security of individuals. In the end, after significant conversation among the parties, the committee agreed to an NDP amendment, with subamendments from other parties. The resulting list still details the number of prisoners of conscience detained by each government or detaining authority, the circumstances of their detentions and the efforts the Government of Canada has made to visit them or attend their trials. It also includes a list of names. However, our amendment gives the minister the power to not include certain information on the list, if the government had concerns that it would not be in the best interests of the personal safety of the prisoner.
The minister is also required to consult with family members of representatives of the prisoners of conscience before they make such a decision. This would alleviate concerns the government initially had with publishing such a list.
I also note that the committee agreed to the NDP's proposal to ensure that the government's annual report include a description of the Government of Canada's communications with the families of prisoners of conscience, and its consultations with civil society on matters of human rights. Several civil society witnesses testified that the Liberal government was not doing enough consulting with human rights experts, and it is clear that the government needs to do a much better job at communicating on these issues. The NDP amendment also defined the term “prisoners of conscience” in the bill.
Our second amendment was to require the minister to develop and maintain a government-wide international human rights strategy. The Canadian government does not currently have an international human rights strategy. What we heard from expert witnesses at committee, including Human Rights Watch and human rights expert Alex Neve, was that Canada needed such a strategy by which the annual report, as required by this bill, could be measured.
While this amendment was deemed out of scope, the committee voted to overturn the decision of the Chair, with no opposition. All parties voted unanimously at committee stage to accept this NDP amendment and establish a government-wide international human rights strategy.
However, yesterday, the Liberals went back on their commitment to do this and appealed to the Speaker to reject the amendment. It is shocking that the Liberal government is now refusing to develop an international human rights strategy, when just last week the foreign affairs minister announced that Canada was seeking a seat at the UN Human Rights Council. The Liberals' decision goes against the will of the committee, goes against the advice of experts and, most importantly, is completely inconsistent with its stated goal to promote human rights. How can they say that they are promoting human rights when they are afraid to do the work?
This is highlighting the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the Liberal government, which has a lot of nice things to say but is just not willing to do the hard work. There is no good reason why the government should not proceed with this amendment and, I must say, we are extremely disheartened and disappointed by this decision.
Moving on to the rest of the bill, we are happy with the sections on the Magnitsky act and the Broadcasting Act, and we agree with much of what our colleagues from the other opposition parties have said today.
With my remaining time, I would like to discuss the NDP's amendments to the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act and, once again, the lack of leadership from the Liberal government when it comes to disarmament issues and cluster munitions.
We are pleased that the committee agreed to an NDP amendment that would include Canada's positive obligations under the cluster munitions convention in Canada's legislation. However, New Democrats also introduced an important amendment to fix section 11 of Canada's cluster munitions legislation. This was rejected by the government, despite its being the exact same amendment the Liberal Party introduced back in 2013.
In 2013, the NDP and the Liberals fought very hard to have section 11 of Canada's cluster munitions legislation fixed. The late Paul Dewar, the NDP's foreign affairs critic at the time, said, “when we sign international agreements, it's important that we live up to our signature. It's important that the legislation we adopt does not undermine the treaty we negotiated and signed on to and accepted.”
The NDP amendment we introduced was the exact same amendment that former Liberal MP Marc Garneau introduced when Parliament was first considering the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. Mr. Garneau was a strong opponent of section 11 in Canada's legislation, as was Bob Rae, as were all Liberals at the time, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and others who currently hold seats in this chamber.
Our amendment used the same language we will find in Canada's legislation on landmines, which we can all agree sets an important precedent.
Cluster munitions are banned for a reason. The humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions are horrendous. We can all agree that under no circumstances should any Canadian ever use, order the use of or even transport cluster munitions. This amendment would have still allowed Canadians to participate in joint operations with non-party states, but it would have fixed the loophole to finally make Canada's legislation consistent with the convention and with the opinions of over 100 other countries, including many of our NATO allies, as we heard clearly from witnesses.
In 2013 and 2014, the Liberals argued strongly to fix section 11. Marc Garneau wrote an op-ed in The Globe and Mail, arguing that it needed to be fixed. Bob Rae gave strong speeches in the House of Commons against it and, at third reading, in 2014, the Liberals voted against the unamended bill, with the current Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister voting against.
The objections were over this exact clause. Ambassador Rae testified last month that he had not changed his position that this clause is wrong. Many Liberals, I think, feel the same. All expert witnesses who testified to this, including Earl Turcotte, who negotiated the treaty for Canada, want to see this fixed.
However, the Liberals did not support moving the NDP amendment forward. They refused to fix section 11 of the cluster munitions act, just as they are now also refusing to take bold steps on a human rights strategy. It is very disappointing to watch the government try to explain away its bad decisions on this bill. This was an opportunity for the Liberals to show real leadership on human rights, make real change, do the real work and move Canada forward. Instead, they have chosen to approach this issue with reluctance and excuses. This is not the human rights leadership we need.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Abbotsford for the introduction of his bill.
I was a member of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying. For me, the struggle I had during all of those hearings was weighing up the respect for an individual's ability to make decisions respecting their autonomy and their capacity, versus the need for us to protect the vulnerable in our society with the understanding that the vulnerable in our society also have the ability to be autonomous and have the capacity to make decisions. That was the real struggle.
How does my colleague view those two concepts? I would like to hear his views on the ability of an individual to make a decision that is best for themselves. We may not always agree with it, but how do we ultimately respect that?
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, today we are revisiting a subject that never seems to leave me in this place, which is medical assistance in dying. It has come up repeatedly: in the 42nd Parliament, in the 43rd Parliament and again in the 44th Parliament. I think it underlines the gravity of the nature of this subject matter.
I want to thank the member for Abbotsford for bringing forward this bill and for giving us as parliamentarians an opportunity to discuss this incredibly important subject.
What Bill C-314 is essentially going to do, for the constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford who are watching this debate, is amend the Criminal Code to reverse what was done with Bill C-7 and specify that a mental disorder is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person could receive medical assistance in dying.
It is important to mention Bill C-7, because it is an important part of why we are here today. Bill C-7 was originally introduced in the 43rd Parliament. The government is, of course, required by law to issue a charter statement with its main pieces of legislation. In that charter statement, the Minister of Justice went to lengths to make people understand why the government had specifically excluded in the first draft of the bill why a person with a mental disorder as a sole underlying medical condition could not be eligible to receive medical assistance in dying.
The charter statement did say that the exclusion was not “based on a failure to appreciate the severity of the suffering that mental illness can produce”. Rather, as the statement took pains to say, it was “based on the inherent risks and complexity that the availability of MAID would present for individuals who suffer solely from mental illness.” It is important to understand we are not using the term “mental illness” anymore. Every text is now recommending that we use the term “mental disorder”.
There were three primary reasons given in the charter statement at that time. First, the charter statement said, “evidence suggests that screening for decision-making capacity is particularly difficult, and subject to a high degree of error”.
The charter statement went on to say, secondly, “mental illness is generally less predictable than physical illness in terms of the course the illness will take over time.” I think a lot of people can understand that. Someone may receive a diagnosis for a physical illness like cancer, which is particularly well known. We know a lot about cancer these days, and based on what part of the body it strikes, we can predict with a fairly certain amount of accuracy what a person's ability to survive it is based on how far it has progressed and so on. It is the same with other physical ailments. With mental disorders, on the other hand, there still are, indeed, a lot of unknowns.
Finally, that same charter statement went on to explain that the recent experience in the few countries that do allow it, and it did mention Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, “has raised concerns”.
That was the charter statement at the time with the first draft of Bill C-7. Of course, When Bill C-7 went to the Senate, the Senate amended that part of the bill to allow a person with a mental disorder as a sole underlying medical condition to access MAID. There was some back-and-forth between the government and the Senate to establish a sunset clause so that it would not come into effect until March 17 of this year.
At the time, the New Democrats decided to vote against the Senate amendment because the requirements of the earlier Bill C-14 had not yet been met. We had not yet had a parliamentary committee to delve into these issues, and we felt that, despite the government having gone to all those lengths through its charter statement to explain its position, accepting an eleventh-hour Senate amendment without having done that important work was very much akin to putting the cart before the horse.
There was also Bill C-39, which was introduced earlier this year because we found that more time was needed. Whatever anyone's feelings are in this House with regard to people with mental disorders being able to access MAID, there was agreement that more time was needed. Therefore, Bill C-39 was passed in very short order in both Houses, and that delayed the implementation of it until March 17, 2024. That is the timeline we are on now.
I am rising to speak to this particular bill because of my experience with this file. Both in the 43rd Parliament and in this Parliament, I was the New Democratic member on the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying.
It was not an easy committee to be on. Let me just say that. For me personally, I constantly wrestled with two concepts: How do we as parliamentarians, with the power we have to change Canada's laws, find a way to honour the personal rights, capacity and autonomy of the individual versus the need of society to step up and protect the most vulnerable? Those were two great themes that were constantly a struggle for me personally when listening to all of the witnesses who came before the special joint committee on the five thematic areas we were charged with by this House and the Senate.
I would encourage people, if they have not done so already, to look at the good work done by the special joint committee, both the interim report, which specifically focused on this area, and the final report, which was tabled earlier this year and completed the committee's mandate. I also want to draw people's attention to the executive summary of the final report of the expert panel on medical assistance in dying and mental illness because there was some incredibly good work done in that as well. We did recognize the authors of that report. The report states:
That MAiD requests may mask profound unmet needs or conversely, that such requests may not be received with the seriousness they deserve, has been raised with respect to several historically marginalized populations (e.g., racialized groups, Indigenous peoples, persons living with disabilities, and sexual orientation and gender minorities). In the course of assessing a request for MAiD—regardless of the requester’s diagnoses—a clinician must carefully consider whether the person’s circumstances are a function of systemic inequality.
That is the warning sign that I think much of the medical community is struggling with.
People with mental disorders qualifying for MAID will be under track two of the MAID regime, because death is not a naturally foreseeable outcome. I would remind people that track two has safeguards in place:
request for MAID must be made in writing....
two independent doctors or nurse practitioners must provide an assessment and confirm that all of the eligibility requirements are met....
the person must be informed that they can withdraw their request at any time....
the person must be informed of available and appropriate means to relieve their suffering, including counselling services, mental health and disability support services, community services, and palliative care....
I want to underline that last point. They have to be informed of the available and appropriate means, but we know that for a lot of marginalized populations, those are not always available.
I want to recognize my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni, who has called on the government to urgently fulfill its promise to establish a Canada mental health transfer. This is a very great need in our country. We can see it from coast to coast to coast. I can see it in my community of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
The question of Bill C-314 and the state of mental health care in Canada are two things weighing on me quite a bit. I am certainly going to take a lot of time to think about which way I want to go with this bill, but I appreciate the member for Abbotsford for bringing it forward and giving parliamentarians an opportunity to read the report and consider what this bill seeks to do.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, I enjoyed working with my colleague when I was on the public safety committee and I absolutely share her joy in the victory that we were able to achieve for the airsoft community. I too have received many thanks from communities in my own riding and across British Columbia. That indeed is a good thing that the committee was able to achieve.
The member was there on the committee with me back in November of last year when those 11th-hour, ill-advised amendments dropped in the committee's lap and caused all of this uproar. If she will remember correctly, in December, one of the leading voices against those amendments came from indigenous communities. It culminated when the Assembly of First Nations came out with a very rare unanimous emergency resolution that its members were against the amendments. I have heard from many people in indigenous communities who have explained why they have depended on semi-automatic rifles to protect themselves when they were out hunting wildlife.
Can the member explain this for colleagues in the House? Is it her understanding that current makes and models of rifles and shotguns are not affected by Bill C-21? Can she also elaborate as to why it was important to insert an amendment in this bill that would recognize the rights that are upheld under section 35 of the Constitution Act?
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to rise and offer my thoughts on Bill C-21 at third reading.
I say that with a bit of amazement because I cannot believe we have actually made it to third reading. This bill received first reading in this House on May 30 of last year. We got through second reading in fairly short order, but at committee stage, things really got lost and all hell broke loose, so to speak.
I remember participating as the NDP's public safety critic. We had scheduled eight witness meetings to look at the first version of this bill. Things were going along quite well. There were some disagreements around the table, but there was not any of the friction that suggested there would be a major catastrophe in the making.
That all changed in November when we arrived at the clause-by-clause portion of the bill. Before that meeting started, every party was responsible for reviewing the witness testimony, reviewing the briefs that had been submitted, and working with legislative drafters to put together our amendments. Once those were submitted to the clerk, as is the normal course of things, the clerk then distributed them to all committee members.
It was quite a surprise when we saw just how big the amendment package was and just how expanded the scope of the bill was going to be. Most of the amendments came from the government. There were a couple in particular that completely sent the committee off its rails.
The amendments landed on our laps at the 11th hour. It was obvious that there had been no warning to committee members. The Liberal members of the committee were introducing those amendments on behalf of the government. They read them into the record, but I do not think they actually had a clue as to the monumental nature of the amendments.
It was clear that the amendments were not backed by any witness testimony because of the significant nature of how they were changing the bill. We, as committee members, never had the opportunity to question witnesses on the bill taking shape.
That completely derailed things. That started in November 2022, and it is only just recently that the committee stage of the bill was finally able to complete its job. That is an incredible amount of time for one committee to be occupied with a single bill.
If we look at the mandate of the public safety and national security committee, it is one of the most important committees. It is responsible for reviewing the policies and legislation of multiple agencies, whether it is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Officer of the Correctional Investigator or the RCMP.
There are two other bills. Bill C-20 is going to provide an important oversight body for the RCMP and the CBSA. Bill C-26 is going to seek to upgrade our cybersecurity infrastructure. Both of those bills have been held up because of the shenanigans going on with Bill C-21.
I listened to the debate all day yesterday when this bill was going through report stage, and today when it was going through third reading. Unfortunately, because of some of the speeches in this House, there is a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of people have the wrong idea of what is included in this bill.
My Conservative colleagues do make a big deal in their speeches about standing up for hunters, farmers and indigenous communities, and I take no fault with that. I proudly stand here and say the same thing. It is troubling because it is alluding to something that is actually not in the bill. That illusion for hunters, farmers and indigenous communities is that their rifle or shotgun, if it is semi-automatic, is going to be prohibited by this bill.
Let me clearly say this for the record: That is not the case. Bill C-21 is not going to do that. If someone has a current make or model of a rifle or shotgun, they are licensed and legally own that firearm, after this bill receives royal assent, they will continue to be able to use it.
That is a fact. So far, when I have brought it up in questions, my Conservative colleagues have been unable to refute that. I have challenged multiple Conservative MPs to name one rifle or shotgun that is going to be prohibited by Bill C-21. In every single instance, they have deflected and swerved away to go back to comfortable talking points, because they cannot do it. I will tell colleagues why. It is because I am not reading Conservative talking points. I am going to actually read from the text of the bill.
In the new section that is going to add to the definition of a prohibited firearm, it mentions that it is:
...a firearm that is not a handgun and that
(i) discharges centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner,
(ii) was originally designed with a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity of six cartridges or more, and
(iii) is designed and manufactured on or after the day on which this paragraph comes into force...
The last point is one that everyone seems to skip over, but it is the key part.
Current makes and models are not going to be affected by Bill C-21. Future makes and models that come into the market after this bill receives royal assent will be affected. However, current owners will not be affected by Bill C-21.
Conservatives will then seek to muddy the waters even further. I have heard a lot of reference to the firearms advisory committee. They say that the minister is going to bring this back and staff it with Liberal appointees, who are going to make suggestions about what firearms should be prohibited and then act on the suggestions. I have a news flash for my Conservative colleagues. This is a power that the government already has. It does not need a firearms advisory committee.
I would direct my Conservative colleagues to the existing section 84(1) of the Criminal Code. It says right there that the government can change the definition of what a prohibited firearm is when it mentions “any firearm that is prescribed to be a prohibited firearm”. “Prescribed” is the key word there, because that means it can be done by cabinet decree. If they do not believe me, how did the government get the authority in May 2020 to issue an order in council? Here, 1,500 makes and models were done through the Canada Gazette under existing powers.
All this ballyhoo over a firearms advisory council, as well as all the hoopla that we have heard in this House about the dangers of that council coming into being, is a complete red herring. It is smoke and mirrors. This is a power the government already has. In fact, I would rebut them on that argument by saying that if the minister currently has that power to do this unilaterally through an order in council cabinet decree, would it not be a good thing to have an advisory council to at least talk to the minister about how maybe that would not be a good idea?
If we can ensure that the advisory council has indigenous representation, representation from the hunting community and representation from the sport shooting community, in my mind, that is a good thing. I will let them continue to say that, but they know they cannot argue with me on those facts. Again, I am reading from the bill and from existing provisions of the Criminal Code. If they are going to try to muddy the waters, they can try to argue their way out of it, but the facts cannot be changed.
I want to turn to something more positive, with the airsoft community. Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting the Victoria fish and game club. I do not know if colleagues have been to Vancouver Island, but in the middle of my riding is the Malahat Mountain. It is the big mountain that separates the Cowichan Valley from the city of Langford and the whole west shore. It is the traditional territory of the Malahat people, but on top of it is where the Victoria fish and game club is, on a beautiful property. Right beside it, there is an amazing forest setting for the club's airsoft games. I went out there with one of my constituency assistants on a weekend. They invited us to come and see a match. We got to don the referee uniforms, so that we could walk out in the middle of a pitched battle. I think one of my constituency assistants accidentally got shot.
It was so fun to see how much fun these players were having, to talk to them about how passionate they were about their sport and to really understand that this is more than a hobby for them. This is something that allows them to get out into the great outdoors with their family and friends.
They were really worried about Bill C-21 because of a section in the bill that would basically turn their airsoft rifles into prohibited devices. I invited some of them, with other colleagues around the committee table, to come to committee, to submit briefs and to say their piece. I have to say that the representatives of the airsoft industry, the manufacturers and the players associations did themselves proud. They made a good argument, and they convinced those around the committee table. They did what is done in a democratic system. They fought for change, and they achieved it.
The NDP amendment that was put forward to delete the offending sections from the bill was passed. That is a victory for the airsoft community. All they are asking for is not the sledgehammer approach of legislation that was in the original version of Bill C-21, but a regulatory approach. They are more than willing to work with government on the regulatory approach. That message was heard, and that is something that all parliamentarians can celebrate.
Let me turn to the handgun freeze and the amendment that we put forward as an attempt to expand the exceptions of the handgun freeze to allow for other sport shooting disciplines. As the bill is currently written, at this third reading stage, the only exemptions that exist are limited to people who are at an extremely elite level. They are Olympic athletes and Paralympic athletes. I use the terms “exemptions” and “exceptions” interchangeably.
After speaking to members of my community who participate in the International Practical Shooting Confederation and speaking to members who are in single-action shooting as well, I felt that these people are athletes. They train for what they do. They are passionate about their sport. They deserve to have exemptions as well. Therefore, I put forward an amendment to try to expand that. That amendment almost passed. There was a little bit of confusion on the Liberal side when that amendment came to a vote.
When I tuned in to watch the committee hearing at that stage, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Liberal member for Kings—Hants speaking in support of our amendment. It was a wonderful surprise to see, except that when it came to a vote, unfortunately, he abstained. It resulted in a five-five tie; of course, this had to be broken by the Liberal Chair. We came really close.
I have received a lot of flak from certain sectors of society for my stance on this. That is okay; I can take it. I am not going to apologize for standing here and making an attempt to fix the bill on behalf of my constituents who simply want to be able to practise their sport. To those who are arguing against that, I would simply point to the submission that was given to our committee by none other than the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. They said:
We believe that a handgun freeze is one method of reducing access to these types of firearms, while allowing existing law-abiding handgun owners to practise their sport.
That is what I was basing my amendment on, as well as the interventions made by my constituents. We tried our best at committee to make that change. Unfortunately, because of the votes falling the way they did with the Liberals and Bloc, it did not pass.
I will give another reason. The top IPSC competitors were telling me that they shoot about 50,000 rounds of ammunition a year. That is an incredible amount. We have to understand that a handgun is essentially a mechanical device. If someone is shooting it 50,000 times a year, it will break down. Sometimes, handguns have to be replaced. In my mind, it was unfair, not allowing an exception for an athlete of that calibre to have the means to be able to replace a tool that they use to compete.
We may have lost this particular battle, but what I would say to members of those sport shooting disciplines is that I will continue to pursue this issue. I will find other avenues to fight to make sure that their sport has an exemption.
We have completed the report stage part of the bill, but there has been some controversy from some women's groups who were unhappy with the red-flag provisions of the law, and I understand that. When I approached the committee hearings on this, I understood the controversy that existed around red-flag provisions. There were some women's groups that felt that adding this extra layer of bureaucracy through the court system did not serve women or other people who were in vulnerable situations where firearms might be present. They felt that we should have a properly equipped and responsive police force, and I agree with them.
I will turn critics' attention to members of the National Association of Women and the Law, because when Bill C-21 was reported back to the House, they made some public tweets, which are all up there for people to read. They said that with all the amendments that were proposed, these are some of the ways that the bill would make women safer: “The provision on licence revocation when someone has committed violence is now strengthened and clarified. A licence must be revoked when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual may have engaged in family violence.” They also said, “people who have been subject to a protection order will now be ineligible to hold a licence if they ‘could pose’ a threat or risk to the safety of another person. This way, safety comes first.” That is the onus test.
They went on to say, “The Bill had no timelines for reacting to danger and domestic violence. Thanks to the adoption of our recommendations, there is now a statutory duty to act within 24 hours. This will protect women at the critical time of separation, when risk of violence is at its highest.”
A lot about the bill has been subsumed by the debate over hunting rifles, shotguns, airsoft and the handgun freeze. However, it is important for us to realize that, in the heart of the bill, there are actually some very important measures, which have now been improved by the committee. I have worked with members of the National Association of Women and the Law, and I respect the submissions they have made. If they are willing to come out and publicly endorse the bill in this way, I am glad to have their support as a stakeholder, and I give it a lot of credence.
I also want to talk about ghost guns, which relate to another “unsung hero” part of the bill. We heard from law enforcement, and I want to read into the record the testimony that came from Inspector Michael Rowe, who is a staff sergeant in the Vancouver Police Department. He said:
In addition to what is already included in Bill C‑21, I would ask this committee to consider regulating the possession, sale and importation of firearms parts used to manufacture ghost guns, such as barrels, slides and trigger assemblies. These parts are currently lawful to purchase and possess without a licence, and they can be purchased online or imported from the United States. The emergence of privately made firearms has reduced the significance of the currently regulated receiver and increased the importance of currently unregulated gun parts that are needed to finish a 3-D-printed receiver and turn it into a functioning firearm.
That is the request coming from law enforcement. We know that this is a growing problem, and they asked for a specific legislative fix to the problem. I am proud to see that the public safety committee delivered on that request from law enforcement.
Much has been said about indigenous communities. They are, of course, the ones who led the way in opposition to the bill. I remember, back in December, when the Assembly of First Nations came out with a unanimous emergency resolution opposing those eleventh-hour amendments that were made by the Liberal government. They said that the amendments went against the spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They helped us to understand, as parliamentarians, that these are not toys or hobbies; rather, they are a way of life. In some indigenous communities, they are necessary for the protection of life. I am glad to see that the committee listened, and no current make or model of a rifle or shotgun that is currently in use in indigenous communities is touched by Bill C-21. The committee went further and added a clause, which now references section 35 of the Constitution Act to show that indigenous rights are upheld.
I will conclude by saying I can honestly go back to the hunters, farmers and indigenous communities in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and tell them their currently owned firearms are safe. I am glad we were able to force the government's hand on this matter.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, to anyone who is thinking of joining the public safety committee, they better have a thick skin. I will say without a doubt that is probably the most-watched committee out of any parliamentary committee. One can probably see one's actions reflected in real time just by watching one's Twitter feed.
On dealing with the gun lobby, I do not like using that term all the time. I know of the groups that exist like the CCFR, but a lot of my ordinary constituents are also logged in to the gun lobby. A lot of them came forward with some very legitimate concerns, and I am glad a lot of committee members took the time to listen to those.
Yes, some of the vitriol I have seen on Twitter has been a little “out there”, and I have just tried to keep myself straight and narrow to my principles and I am glad we were able to do the work to make sure the bill is where it is at today.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the kind words. He also has been a good person to work with. What a lot of people forget about in these heated debates is that we are all human beings. We may come from different political backgrounds, but a lot of us actually work in a very respectful way.
In regard to the member's question, I will let my actions speak instead of my words. If the member will recall, in early February I put a motion on notice to refer those amendments to the Speaker. It was that threat of a motion that actually I think was the straw that broke the camel's back and forced the Liberals to withdraw the amendments.
To the hunters, farmers and indigenous communities in my riding, my actions made up for that, and that is what forced the Liberals to withdraw the amendment.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, yesterday I referred to Bill C-21 as the goose that lays the golden eggs for the Conservative Party because it certainly has enjoyed its financial windfalls.
To his question more generally about misinformation, I took the time in my speech today to read from the bill. I systematically refuted Conservative talking points. Every time I have challenged Conservative MPs to name a rifle or shotgun, they have been unable to do so.
I will leave it up to the Conservatives to explain themselves, but it certainly makes our job a lot harder in this place when we are trying our best to present the facts and what is actually in the bill and it gets collided with misinformation again and again. That makes our job very hard. It does not mean I am going to stop doing my job, but it does make it more difficult.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, I wish I had the ability to answer in a more fulsome way. I was not at the committee. All I can do is reiterate what I said in my speech, that if we look at the public statement that comes from the National Association of Women and the Law, it took the time to say that with the amendments that were adopted at committee, it feels that this bill would make it much safer for women who are in difficult and dangerous situations involving a firearm.
The National Association of Women and the Law has a lot of credibility. I valued working with it. I take a public statement like that on the current version of Bill C-21 at face value and accept its ultimate judgment on this bill and what it would do for women in violent situations.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, this allows me to give a shout-out to our dear colleague, the member for Nunavut, because she also helped educate me on the way of life in the north.
It became very clear, after these amendments were dropped. We had indigenous witnesses come before our committee, and it was clear that consultation had not happened. Given that the government has attached so much importance to that relationship and the fact that it has passed legislation saying federal laws had to be in harmony with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it was quite obvious that those amendments were dropped with no consultation, and through indigenous efforts and the pressure indigenous people put on government, they can take a bow, because they are the ones who forced the government to backtrack and respect their way of life.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, hopefully the third time is a charm. I will ask my hon. colleague a third time: Can he stand in this place to name one rifle or shotgun that would be prohibited by Bill C-21? If he cannot, will he publicly state and acknowledge that this bill does not, in fact, go after farmers, hunters and indigenous communities and the models they are currently using?
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