Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 57

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

The Cabinet

Government Initiatives to Combat Violence Against Women—Cutting of Long Gun Registry

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

First, I wish to congratulate Senator Fortier and Senator Fairbairn, who so eloquently spoke on the important issue of violence against women on this very difficult day for many people, December 6.

As honourable senators know, today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is a day when we remember the massacre that occurred at L’ École Polytechnique in Montreal, where 14 women were targeted and murdered because they were women. This was a defining moment in a much larger struggle to end the senseless violence that continues to target women in our society.

Sadly, we were reminded of this terrible struggle women have even in my province. This year, more remains of vulnerable women were found on the Picton farm. Aboriginal women near Prince George were brutally murdered. My community in British Columbia was rocked when three South Asian women were brutally murdered. One of them was pregnant, and her charred remains have really changed the face of the issue of violence against women in my province.

Honourable senators, today is the day we remember what happened to the women in Montreal and to many women who have been murdered, but the time has come when we have to stop remembering and take action on this issue.

I know that the Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate cares deeply about this subject. Can she tell us about her government’s actions in this regard, particularly the efforts to dismantle the federal long gun registry, which even the police tell us is useful in protecting women who face violence?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the Honourable Senator Jaffer for the question. I am sure not one of us will ever forget what we were doing the day of the horrific tragedy at L’ École Polytechnique in Montreal. I recall that it was an extremely cold winter day and I was working at the time as the deputy chief of staff to former Prime Minister Mulroney. I remember the horrified feeling that came over me when I watched the events unfold on that awful day.


Honourable senators, we agree with what the Prime Minister said earlier today, that violent crime in any form is unacceptable. We must renew our national resolve to prevent and eliminate violence against women.

The government takes the safety of our citizens, particularly women, seriously. We are working with the Status of Women Canada to support projects that will directly assist women in the communities where they live.

Minister Oda and Minister Prentice have programs to deal with violence in the Aboriginal community.

We are assisting the more vulnerable Canadian women.

In Budget 2006, the Finance Minister removed 650,000 low-income Canadians from federal tax roles. We are also putting more resources in the hands of parents. This money will support women in the workforce.

Minister Prentice is working on the issue of matrimonial property rights for women who live on reserves. This has not been done previously, and it will help move women into safer environments.

The previous Conservative government brought in the toughest gun-control laws in the history of this country. It was done in response to the tragedy at L’École Polytechnique.

Licensing and application measures are still in place for gun owners.

Statistics show that gun crimes committed in this country against women and society in general usually involve illegally obtained handguns smuggled across the border.

The Dawson College crime was committed by a person who was deranged and had obtained the firearms through legal means.

Senator Jaffer: The Honourable Leader of the Government has not answered my question about the dismantling of the federal long-gun registry. Will the long-gun registry be kept in place?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, it is clear people confuse the issue of strict gun-control laws with the long gun registry. Hunters, farmers and people belonging to target-shooting clubs adhere to strict laws to obtain firearms. Those laws were brought in by a previous Conservative government.

As the Auditor General pointed out, the long gun registry was a $2 billion failed experiment. That money would have been better spent securing our borders and equipping our police. When this issue was before Parliament in the mid-1990s, I specifically said at the time that it would be better to spend this money on homes for battered women and more border security.


Honourable senators, the long gun registry is not to be confused with our strict gun-control laws. The government has already made it clear that we agree with the Auditor General that the $2 billion was not a good use of taxpayers’ dollars. People who own long guns are responsible individuals.

I have mentioned to you I was raised on a farm. We had a long gun in our farmhouse. My father was a responsible long-gun owner and would never have abused the gun or left it available for improper use.

Therefore, the long gun registry is not to be confused with the strict gun-control laws that we already have in this country.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate not find it a bit hypocritical that on this day, when we are honouring the memory of the women tragically killed at L’École Polytechnique, Canada’s new government continues to talk about the cancellation of the gun registry? Canada’s new government has closed 12 offices of Status of Women Canada, when it is clear that women today are still at the same level of risk as they were when the shooting took place at L’École Polytechnique.

Some people say this registry would not have prevented the tragedy at Dawson College, but prevention is a lot about perception. It is what government does that is perceived to help protect the citizens who are vulnerable in this country, and in the discussion we are having now, the protection of women who are vulnerable to the use of guns, whether handguns or long guns. Particularly, on this day I find it startling that we are still talking about the cancellation of the long gun registry, and are allowing the closing of 12 offices of the Status of Women Canada.

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. The problem with the Liberals is that they create perceptions that are quite unlike reality. We are talking about this today because I have been asked a question on this issue. As a woman and a person much moved by what happened at L’Ecole Polytechnique, I do not need to take any lessons in perception of reality from Senator Mercer.

On the cuts to Status of Women Canada, we, as a government, will work with women where the programs will help women: not by having an administrative person sitting in an office monitoring or talking on a cell phone, as Senator Gustafson said.

We will direct money at the community level where it is required; where people live and work.

The perception that the long gun registry has anything to do with our strict gun-control laws is something perpetuated by others. I wish to point out an important statistic: According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, nearly 7 million long guns are registered in Canada. Of the 549 murders recorded in Canada in 2003, two were committed with long guns that were registered.


Senator St. Germain: Smarten up, you Liberals.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I find it unusual that the Conservative solutions are to build more prisons and homes for battered women rather than caring and compassionate solutions. Their solutions are cutbacks, cutbacks, cutbacks for those who are most vulnerable. That is not my question, but I could not refrain.