Yesterday evening, Bill C-19: An Act to Abolish the Long-Gun Registry was passed by Senate.
Established in 1995, in the wake of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, the long-gun registry was a valuable public safety tool which was utilized roughly 16,000 times each and every single day.
As a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs I found it incredibly unfortunate that the debate surrounding the long-gun registry was framed in a fashion that placed Canadians living in rural areas of Canada against Canadians living in urban areas. The gun registry was not about taking away the rights of farmers and hunters; it was about providing a tool to the police that will help them protect women. Rates of death with guns are in fact higher in rural and northern areas. It is women living in rural areas that benefit from the added protection that the long-gun registry provides as it is these women who are disproportionately affected by domestic violence and spousal abuse.
From 1992 to 1994, I was appointed by Prime Minister Mulroney to be a member of the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. I along with eight other panel members visited communities across Canada, including those located in Northern and Western Canada, to study the causes of violence against women and make recommendations on how this violence could be prevented.
Our panel’s first meeting took place in Montreal where we met with families of the 14 young women who lost their lives at the École Polytechnique massacre. The room was filled with grief and pain, and our panel found it extremely difficult to find words to convey our condolences for the senseless act. At this meeting, we heard from Ms. Suzanne Edward, who lost her daughter as a result of this massacre. It was here that Ms. Edward spoke about introducing a gun registry, which she hoped would help ensure that no other mother would have to endure the pain of losing their child to a long-gun.
During our panel’s study, we also learned that when it comes to domestic violence, a long gun is regarded as a weapon of choice. In fact, 75 per cent of the time a woman is murdered with a gun, she is killed with a long gun, not a handgun.
Every year in Canada, more than 100,000 women and children leave their homes to seek safety in a shelter. Gun violence is present in the majority of these cases, leaving women intimidated and vulnerable. In fact, research has indicated that rates of homicides in domestic violence situations increase significantly where there is a firearm in the home. Once again, long-guns — not handguns — are the weapons of choice.
Unfortunately, our committee did not get a chance to actively reflect on this side of the debate. In fact, the impact abolishing the gun registry will have on women across our country was not properly assessed.
In my opinion, by not providing professionals who work with women who are victims of violence and abuse we as Senators have failed to live up to our duty, which is to provide a sober second thought.
Yesterday evening, Canadians lost an important public safety tool, one that has helped protect them for over a decade. With the long-gun registry’s fate now having been determined, together we need to discover new mechanisms to help protect women and children across the country, as violence against women is an issue that continues to demand our attention.