With regard to the recent debate our Party and our country has had over the fate of the long gun registry, I wish to add my two cents in a substantive manner. In 1993, the Liberal Party passed the Canadian Firearms Registry as a response to the 1989 mass shooting at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, where 14 women were killed, and 14 others injured in what is one of the most tragic instances of the use of violence in Canadian history.
The recent discourse the country has had over the long gun registry seems to demonstrate that the long gun registry was a divisive issue among Canadians because it created the unintended consequence of making it much more difficult for law abiding Canadian citizens to acquire and maintain long gun firearms for legal, practical purposes such as hunting and livestock protection—particularly in rural and First Nations communities throughout Canada where such practices are integral to daily life.
We as Liberals should not apologize for attempting to further the cause of “peace, order and good governance” in our country and above all the safety of our neighbours by attempting to pass legislation with the intention of reducing gun violence. We should, however, learn from the analysis of cost versus benefit to the Canadian people that the Canadian Firearm Registry legislation was flawed; it was an undue nuisance for Canadians who wished to use long-gun rifles for practical means, and it did not address the far more prevalent reality of handgun violence that affects our large cities in particular.
In short, the long gun registry was not a failure because of its principles; it was a failure because it failed to address what it was intended to address.
What our Party should be doing is working to prevent gun violence by seeking to address the societal challenges that are typically associated with gun violence; namely poverty (and in particular childhood poverty) and mental disability & awareness. It is the conditions of poverty that limit a child’s pathway to a healthy home, an education, success, and prosperity, and can lead to participation in organized violence and other criminal activity, and represents a tragic failure of Canadian society to provide for them the conditions for which they may attain the success in life that they desire.
Likewise, we need to do more to rise to the challenge of identifying, treating, and caring for those whose mental health may make them more susceptible to the mental imbalances that can lead one to commit acts of violence. Addressing the challenges of mental health in this society must be considered a primary goal in general, as Canada lags far behind its contemporaries in providing treatment and care for persons living with mental disabilities, but particular attention must be paid to mental health when considering senseless acts of gun violence. We can do a better job of preventing gun violence by treating and caring for those whose mental health may put them at greater risk of committing a horrible act of violence, and it is a challenge that we must be willing to meet.
We can do this by promoting greater awareness of mental health issues as a mainstream part of Canadian society, by providing improved and better funded mental health treatment programs, because in addition to treating and caring for those who require long-term care, mental health is something that at one point or another could affect the life of any Canadian.
Only when we address these issues will Canada truly be confronting the root causes of gun violence, and I hope that in the coming weeks and months, Canadians across the country will share their thoughts with myself and with our Party about where they feel our efforts on gun control should be focused.
If we want to get smart on cracking down on gun crime, we as a society need to do our best to ensure that we create the conditions where no Canadian is driven to a gun to inflict senseless and tragic harm on others. That means addressing the conditions of gun violence at their root causes, childhood and long-term poverty, a lack of opportunity, and a deficit in mental health awareness, screening, and treatment measures.