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THE DEBATE IS NOT OVER!

Author: 
Garry Breitkreuz M.P.
Date: 
Tuesday, December 1, 1998

On a bitterly cold night in March of 1994, more than 1200 people filled a rink in Preeceville, Saskatchewan - a town of about 600 souls. What would bring that many people out in 40 below weather? As I soon found out, it was anger over the just defeated Conservative government's gun control legislation (Bill C-17). What role did angry gun owners play in helping to reduce the PC party to two seats in the 1993 election? The Preeceville rally was my first indoctrination into the war against ineffective gun control laws. On March 10th I asked then Justice Minister Allan Rock to explain how putting more controls on responsible gun owners better protects Canadians. Rock ducked the question and he and his successor, Anne McLellan, have been ducking ever since.

On April 12, 1994, Liberal Justice Minister Allan Rock said in several newspapers across the country: "I came to Ottawa in November of last year with the firm belief that the only people in this country who should have guns are police officers and soldiers." Since that fateful day, I have issued 97 news releases opposing ineffective gun control laws and defending individual property rights. A number of my colleagues in the Reform Party, such as Jack Ramsay, MP for Crowfoot, have been relentless in opposing one of the most useless and least cost-effective piece of legislation ever to be passed in the House of Commons - Bill C-68.

Knowing what was coming, I worked with more than twenty like-minded Reform MPs to get a position paper approved by the Reform Caucus in June of 1994. Then in October 1994, 97% of the delegates attending the Reform Party Assembly in Ottawa approved a new Blue Book policy, which committed the Party "to introduce legislation to severely punish the criminal misuse of firearms and protect the right of law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms."

During debate of Bill C-68 in the spring and summer of 1995, the Reform Party provided vigorous opposition in the House of Commons forcing the government to invoke closure during every stage of debate. Once my motion to split the bill into two parts - crime control and gun control - was defeated, the Reform Party introduced more than 200 amendments to Bill C-68, all of which were defeated by the ruling Liberals.

During the debate, the Reform Party represented gun owners from all across Canada regardless of which political party represented them in the House of Commons. I gave up my time before the Standing Committee on Justice to permit two Quebecers to make a presentation. Liberal, Conservative or Bloc MPs refused to represent the views of more than 1.2 million responsible firearm owners in that province. On June 13, 1995, Reform Leader Preston Manning made persuasive arguments against the legislation in the House of Commons and formally called for the Repeal of C-68.

Reformers organized opposition to Bill C-68 while it worked its way through the Senate in the fall of 1995. Once again both Liberal and Conservative Senators had the chance to kill Bill C-68 dead in its tracks and they failed to rise to the challenge despite the rhetoric.

On December 5, 1995, Bill C-68 was passed and on December 1, 1998 most of it, with all its defects, became the law of the land. During this 3-year period, Reformers waged an all-out battle against C-68 and seldom missed an opportunity to lambaste the government and represent millions of responsible gun owners whose fundamental rights and liberties are threatened by this horrendous piece of legislation. In the spring of 1997, Reformers fought a federal election and, true to their Blue Book policy, promised voters to repeal C-68. Professor Gary Mauser, Ph.D. analyzed the results of the 1997 election and concluded: "The firearm legislation backfired on the Liberals in that it did not prove to be helpful in winning votes in the 1997 federal elections. Worse, from the Liberal point of view, this legislation was on of the most important issues propelling the Reform Party to the status of Her Majesty's Official Opposition. Gun control is an excellent example of the pitfalls of governing by poll."

Since the election some new stars in the fight against Bill C-68 have emerged in the Reform Caucus. Jim Pankiw, MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt, has been tackling Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and the government's attempts to use the United Nations to impose ineffective gun control laws on other countries. Axworthy has continually refused Pankiw's requests to attend United Nations gun control meetings as an observer. Jim found another way to get invited to these meetings and recently exposed Axworthy and his department for providing funding to international anti-gun groups.

Do gun owners have anything to fear by Canada's efforts on the international stage? Here's what Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray said in the Montreal Gazette on November 15, 1997, "This could be the start of a global movement that would spur the development of an instrument to ban firearms worldwide similar to our land-mines initiative." This past summer Reuters News quoted from an "open letter" distributed by Axworthy at an U.N. gun control conference in Oslo, Sweden: "Small arms and light weapons designed and manufactured for defense or internal security purposes should be restricted to military and police organisations only, and then only in such quantities that can be justified for legitimate defense or security needs of those countries." Sounds a lot like what Allan Rock said in 1994, doesn't it? Axworthy then refused my Access to Information Request for a copy of his "open letter."

On October 5th, my bill to strengthen property rights in federal law was debated. The Liberals refused my motions to vote on the bill and refused to even have the concept referred to the Standing Committee on Human Rights. On November 23rd, a Private Members Bill calling for the repeal of Bill C-68, introduced by Reform MP, Darrel Stinson (Okanagan-Shuswap) BC, was opposed by the Liberals and dropped from the order of business for the House after just one hour of debate. My Firearms Law Sunset Act has yet to be drawn for debate but if passed would automatically repeal any gun control law after five years if it is not cost-effective at reducing violent crime.

Reform's campaign against Bill C-68 has also had some success in exposing the lies emanating from the Department of Justice and getting the truth into the hands of all voters in Canada. In 1998, the results of all our efforts over the past four years paid off when between 20,000 and 30,000 law-abiding citizens rallied on Parliament Hill in a last ditch effort to get the government to see the error of their ways. Even the media couldn't ignore the fact that Fed-Up II was bigger than Fed-Up I. Our 4-year battle is finally starting to pay dividends as editorial writers and columnists hammer the government over the ineffectiveness of gun registration and the colossal waste of money.

On September 22, 1998, an arrogant Justice Minister Anne McLellan said, "The debate of Bill C-68 is over!" Let's show them it's not.