Statement on vote regarding long gun registry

September 22, 2010

In recent months there has been a great deal of discussion and debate about the long gun registry in Canada.

I respect the many different perspectives that have been brought forward on this issue. It is clear that there is strong support for the registry in some regions of Canada. There is equally strong opposition in other regions.

In my region, the message has been clear. There is overwhelming opposition to the registry. There has been much talk about rural and urban perspectives on this issue. Far less attention has been paid to Northern and Aboriginal perspectives.

In Northern Manitoba, hunting and the use of long guns is part of our way of life. Many Aboriginal people exercise their right to hunt. Many non Aboriginal Northerners are sport hunters. At this time of year it is not unusual to see many residents of the numerous communities I represent out hunting.

Many Northern leaders, elders and residents in my area have criticized the registry. Aboriginal people see it as inconsistent with Treaty and Métis rights. Many people have called it an unnecessary intrusion in their lives. Many have pointed out that we already have restrictions on weapons, safe storage laws and the registration of owners.

Many Northerners have stated that they can understand the concern about guns in big cities. As someone put it, if you have a gun in a big city, chances are you might be a criminal. In Northern Manitoba you are the average citizen.

I am proud to be a part of a party that indicated clearly that there would be a free vote on this issue. Yes, there are differences of opinion in our caucus. There was significant opposition to the registry by NDP MPs when the registry first came into place. In Manitoba, the NDP has consistently opposed it. Today there are some caucus members that oppose the registry but many in our caucus that support it. I respect all of these different views.

I also respect the discussion about eliminating the more onerous features of the registry and the suggestion that would allow provinces, regions, Aboriginal governments and municipalities that want or don't want a registry to be able to do so.

If I have any disappointment it has been with the way some have tried to exploit this issue for narrow partisan interest. The Conservative tactics and motives have been widely criticized. Even though it is a private member's bill they have tried to polarize and politicize this issue from the beginning. I am convinced that many in the Conservative Party see this as what one MP described as "the gift that keeps on giving." The Liberal position has meant even more political games. They brought in the registry, spent a billion dollars on it and never once tried to deal with the concerns expressed about it. Now they have denied their MPs the ability to have a free vote on this issue. The long gun registry debate has been made to be a wedge issue.

When I was elected I made a commitment to stand up for Northern Manitoba in Parliament. That is why when I stood up today to vote it was to state clearly that the long-gun registry does not work for us, in our region. I will continue to make sure that the voices of our constituency - First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal - are heard in our House of Commons.

Niki Ashton, MP-Churchill