These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Province Won't Prosecute

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Solicitor General is now faced with the sixth province that refuses to prosecute the 600,000 gun owners who have so far been unable or unwilling to register their guns. The Solicitor General simply deals with the problem by telling the Nova Scotia justice minister to “get up to speed”.

Only Prince Edward Island and Quebec still support the gun registry. When will the Solicitor General start listening to the provincial justice ministers instead of insulting their intelligence?

Hon. Wayne Easter (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what I neglected to mention is that maybe the member for Yorkton--Melville should get up to speed on what is happening in terms of this legislation and the changes that we have made to it to make it more efficient. Maybe it would be helpful if that member would go out and encourage people to register their guns before the deadline.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I am beginning to wonder if the Solicitor General has any idea what is going on in his department. The minister's officials admit they cannot even process all the paperwork before the deadline at the end of this month, a completely arbitrary deadline.

The firearms database crashed. Does he know that? They have lost an unknown number of records. His own incompetence will criminalize legitimate gun owners. The minister's stubbornness will cost taxpayers even more.

Is the minister willing to criminalize more law abiding gun owners, or will he just scrap the program?

Hon. Wayne Easter (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said a number of times, the intention of this legislation is not to criminalize legitimate gun owners. We would hope that all Canadians who have legitimate guns out there register by the deadline and then that move will not be necessary.

Speaking of the member getting up to speed, he should be reminded that the crash in the system was in December. That has since been improved and we can handle the registrations now.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege concerning the justice minister's direct contravention of the Firearms Act and contravention of one of your rulings.

On November 21, 2001, at Commons debates pages 7380 and 7381, Mr. Speaker, you ruled on a question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Surrey Central concerning the failure of the minister of justice to table a statement of reasons for making certain regulations as required by subsection 119(4) of the Firearms Act.

I would like to now cite three separate quotes taken directly from the Speaker's ruling. I quote:

I should point out to hon. members the Firearms Act provides that where the minister is of the opinion that the ordinary regulatory process in section 118 should not be followed she may in cases specified by the law proceed directly to the making of new regulations or to the modification of existing regulations. However in such cases the minister is required by subsection 119(4) of the act to table in both houses a statement of her reasons for so doing.

The hon. member for Surrey Central drew to the attention of the House 16 cases between September 16, 1998, and December 13, 2000, where the minister made use of this exceptional power but failed to table the required documents in the House. He argued that although no deadline is specified in the Firearms Act it is surely unreasonable for the House to be kept waiting for up to three years for the tabling of the minister's reasons.

The ruling went on:

In the case before us, the legislation drafted by the justice department contained from the outset the provisions obliging the minister to table in parliament reasons why section 118 should not apply for certain regulations. Furthermore, in the orders in council relating to each case, a standard paragraph is included which reads as follows:

And whereas the Minister of Justice will, in accordance with subsection 119(4) of the Firearms Act, have a statement of the reasons why she formed that opinion laid before each House of Parliament;

Therefore, Her Excellency, the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, pursuant to paragraph X of the Firearms Act, hereby makes the annexed regulations--

The Chair must conclude from this evidence that far from being an arcane technicality cloaked in some dusty statute or other, the requirement for tabling of reasons is not only perfectly clear in the legislation but is invoked as an integral part of each such order in council. All the more reason, it seems to me, for the department to comply readily with the requirement given a modicum of efficiency in advising the minister.

The ruling went on:

Strictly speaking, these defects do not negate the minister's fulfillment of her statutory obligation, but they do point to a carelessness that appears to be characteristic of the way in which these matters are being handled by the officials in her department.

Were there to be a deadline for tabling included in the legislation, I would not hesitate to find that a prima facie case of contempt does exist and I would invite the hon. member to move the usual motion. However, given that no such deadline is specified, I can only find that a legitimate grievance has been identified.

I would encourage the hon. Minister of Justice to exhort her officials henceforth to demonstrate due diligence in complying with these and any other statutory requirements adopted by parliament. I look forward in future to the House being provided with documents required by law in a timely manner.

That was your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The parliamentary research branch has informed me that despite your stern warning and contrary to your explicit instructions, the justice minister has on four more occasions failed to table his statement of reasons for avoiding the laying of his regulations before Houses of Parliament, as required by subsection 119(4) of the Firearms Act.

The four orders in council identified by the Library of Parliament are: SOR/2002-440, 5 December 2002, regulations amending the importation and exportation of firearms regulations; SOR/2002-441, 5 December 2002, regulations amending the authority to export or import firearms regulations (businesses); SOR/2002-444, 5 December 2002, regulations amending gun show regulations; and, 5 December 2002, regulations amending the public agents firearms regulations.

While you ruled that the member for Surrey Central did not have a prima facie case of privilege, mainly because there is no deadline in the Firearms Act for the minister to table the statement of reasons, the situation we have today is different.

The minister is now in a clear contempt of Parliament, because not only has he shown complete disregard for the legislative requirements of this House, just as his predecessor did, but he has ignored your very clear instructions in your previous ruling.

I ask the Speaker: At what point does the minister's disregard for the legislative requirement of an act passed by this House become contempt? How many times does the minister have to be caught before it becomes contempt? Sixteen times last time. Four times this time. If not this time, will the minister be in contempt the next time we catch him?

Finally, how can we expect ordinary Canadians to obey the Firearms Act if the justice minister himself does not, cannot, or will not, regardless of what you say or rule?

If the Speaker rules that these four new violations of section 119(4) of the Firearms Act by the Minister of Justice constitute a prima facie case of breach of privileges of this House, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Hon. Don Boudria (Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have heard what has just been raised by the member. I consider it to be very serious. I will raise it with my colleagues. I will endeavour to report either to the House myself, or himself; it is mid-week now but hopefully by the end of the week or at the least sometime next week about the--

An hon. member: Oh, oh.

Hon. Don Boudria (Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): No, I did not say that. This is serious, Mr. Speaker. I intend to report. If there are documents that should have been tabled and there is a reasonable period of time elapsed, I will do my best to ensure that they are tabled, and if not, that someone at least inform the House why they will not be tabled in the time that is judged to be appropriate if such is the case in the accusation that is being made.

The Speaker: I want to thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for his diligence in pursuing this matter. It is always appreciated when hon. members support the rulings of the Chair and I notice his proper diligence in that respect.

I know that the government House leader is now going to do the same sort of thing and exercise proper diligence to see if the ruling has been fully complied with in every respect.

I thank the hon. members for that and I look forward to hearing further submissions on the matter in due course. In the meantime, of course, I will reserve my decision.

We have a notice of a point of order from the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.