By Ally Dunham
Following a lengthy debate on Feb. 15, MPs voted 159-130 in favour of passing Bill C-19, which will end the long-gun registry and allow the government to destroy records pertaining to non-restricted firearms.
“For me as a long-gun owner, obviously I’ve been opposed to the long-gun registry for a very long time,” said Kenora MP Greg Rickford. “The gallery was full with a lot of folks who had invested a lot of political energy in this bill, including Roger and Darlene Nordlund from Oxdrift who came down for the occasion.”
The bill has now passed third reading in parliament and will go to the Senate for further debate, and an additional three readings. Once the bill passes third reading in the Senate, it will receive Royal Assent.
“We are hopeful that by spring this will all be behind us and northwestern Ontario can all move forward in a variety of other issues where the debate is ever more lively, and move on,” said Rickford.
Two of the votes in favour of scrapping the registry came from NDP MPs, Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty, both from the Thunder Bay area.
Hyer and Rafferty were punished by their interim leader during the second reading, when the pair voted in favour of Bill C-19. The MPs were stripped of speaking privileges in the House, travel outside of Ottawa and their riding, and removed from all committees.
“I voted for my constituents, and I in fact know that was their wishes because I sent out two surveys. It was a pretty good response, and 97 per cent came back saying vote to abolish the registry, seems to me that’s a pretty good mandate,” said Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP, John Rafferty.
“Your first responsibility is to be a voice to your constituents. People know that they don’t have a big voice, or at least as direct a voice as I can have in places like Ottawa,” said Rafferty. “We’ll see what transpires at the end of March when we have a new leader, and we can get back on track.”
Bruce Hyer, MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North said, ”I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of e-mails, and well over 90 per cent of them supportive (of abolishing the registry), even the people who don’t agree about the registry itself, think the democracy is more important that the gun vote itself, and were glad to see I voted the way my head, my heart and my loyalty to my constituents and my promises to them mattered.”
Hyer says he told Jack Layton through four elections in eight years his stand on the registry was to vote for his constituents, and had Layton’s blessing to do so.
“The NDP actually has never had an official policy on the registry,” said Hyer. “In the matter of safety, I believe that the firearms registry is well intended but quite ineffective.”
“John (Rafferty) and Bruce (Hyer) and I will continue to disagree with a lot of things, but I continue to appreciate and respect the fact that they stood their ground. They were punished severely for their stand by the current leadership of the NDP. They paid a big price for this, but I think they understood like I did that this was important to northern Ontarians. John and Bruce stood tall and for that I have nothing but respect for them on this issue,” said Rickford.
Dan Landrie, of the Dryden Rifle and Pistol Club said, ”I’m glad it’s through, and hopefully will save the taxpayers some money and they can put that money to use somewhere else where I feel it would do more good than where it was. I’m glad Greg Rickford and his party followed through with his promise.”
Lezlie Goodwin, Manager of Communications for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) said, ”The OFAH is very pleased that the Harper government has made good on its word to scrap the long-gun registry. We have been fighting for this for well over a decade since Bill C-68 has been passed, based on that it targets the wrong people and that it has not ever been proven to prevent crime.”