US embassy cable - 05TORONTO3314

FACT FROM FICTION ON TORONTO'S FINGER-POINTING ON GUNS AND APPROACH TO REGISTRATION

Identifier: 05TORONTO3314
Wikileaks: View 05TORONTO3314 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Toronto
Created: 2005-12-22 15:34:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KCRM PREL PGOV CA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

221534Z Dec 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TORONTO 003314 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2015 
TAGS: KCRM, PREL, PGOV, CA 
SUBJECT: FACT FROM FICTION ON TORONTO'S FINGER-POINTING ON 
GUNS AND APPROACH TO REGISTRATION 
 
REF: A. TORONTO 2451 
 
     B. TORONTO 2469 
     C. TORONTO 2498 
     D. TORONTO 2966 
     E. TORONTO 3195 
 
Classified By: Consul General Jessica LeCroy for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
). 
 
1. (C) Begin Summary and Comment: With a gun crime spike in 
the Toronto area, provincial and city political leaders have 
supported the Liberal party's December 8 presumed 
vote-getting proposal for a nation-wide gun ban.  The 
existing Canadian Firearms Registry has long been supported 
in Ontario, although the central registration system is 
flawed and may be vulnerable to efforts by criminal elements 
to gain access to its database. This message explains the 
origin of and possible motivation for Toronto Mayor Miller's 
and others' statements that 50% of guns used in the 
commission of crimes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) 
originate from the U.S., why limiting guns is seen as a 
vote-winner in Ontario, general background on the Canadian 
Firearms Registration Act, and U.S. and Canadian law 
enforcement concerns about the registry system.  The gun 
issue has been a perennial favorite for political spin 
doctors, particularly during this election season, so 
separating fact from fiction for a Canadian audience 
pre-disposed toward believing their problems derive from 
south of the border will require tact and perseverance.  End 
Summary and Comment. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
The Fifty Per-Cent Solution to Our Political Woes? 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
2. (C) Toronto Mayor David Miller and other city and 
provincial officials have publicly and repeatedly stated that 
50% of the guns seized by the Toronto Police Service come 
from the U.S.  The Mayor cited the 2000 Toronto Police Report 
to both the Ambassador in his November 14 courtesy call and 
the Consul General as the source for this figure.  The text 
of the report, however, claims only that "over the past 5 
years it has been determined that more than 50% of all 
handguns seized by the police in Ontario are not registered 
in Canada" (Note: Canadian law enforcement officials claim 
that many hunters in rural and western Canada have ignored 
the registry requirements altogether.  These officials 
readily admit that guns stolen from inside Canada are a 
significant problem.  End note).  The "spin" on this 
statement of fact deflects public scrutiny away from 
Toronto's ineffective efforts to stem the gun violence this 
year and panders to popular anti-American sentiment that 
makes it easy to blame "the Americans." 
 
3. (C) Out of public view, the working level cooperation 
between ATF and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) 
Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) is close and holds 
promise for reducing the flow of illegal guns from the U.S. 
to Canada.  Toronto ATF reports that its Ontario law 
enforcement colleagues view this as a shared responsibility 
and have privately said that the recurring use of 
headline-grabbing statistics by Canadian politicians is not 
helpful.  According to ATF, it is currently impossible to 
document the number of guns from the U.S. that are used to 
commit crimes in Canada.  Because the actual percentage may 
be more, or less, than 50%, depending upon how the statistics 
are collected and tabulated, ATF recommends that U.S. 
officials avoid discussing specific figures or percentages 
and emphasize instead our shared responsibility and 
intensified efforts to combat gun smuggling.  The Consulate 
has advocated that its Canadian contacts hold to this message 
as well.  Ontario Minister of Community Safety and 
Correctional Services Monte Kwinter has also been proactive 
in reminding Ontario officials of this. 
 
4. (SBU) After Mayor Miller cited the 50% figure in a 
December 8 press conference, the Consul General contacted the 
Mayor on December 9 to explain that the figure was inaccurate 
and that these public mischaracterizations not only hurt 
bilateral relations but undermined the morale of officials on 
both sides of the border who are working hard to improve 
their ability to intercept any weapons illegally bought in 
the U.S. and smuggled into Canada.  The intervention appears 
to have had some affect because in a CBC radio interview 
dealing with the banning announcement later in the day, the 
mayor did not mention the U.S., instead choosing to focus on 
the issue of guns stolen from within Ontario, such as the 
Malvern case.  Similarly, the Consulate's ATF agent met with 
Toronto and provincial police authorities to explain the 
difficulty of gathering reliable statistics. 
 
5. (SBU) Tight firearms controls resonate in urban Canada, 
especially in Toronto where several factors converge.  First, 
Toronto enjoys its reputation as Canada's most sophisticated 
and highly educated city.  Gun ownership intrudes on that 
sophisticated self-image (a registry gives people the sense 
that at least something is being done --even if it is 
ineffective).  Second, urban areas of Canada, like those in 
the U.S., have less of a hunting ethos than rural areas.  In 
rural Canada, firearms are seen as hunting tools; in urban 
Canada, guns are often seen as tools of crime.  Third, the 
Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is a city of immigrants.  Almost 
50% of the people in the GTA were born outside Canada, and 
many came from urban areas where only the police or criminals 
had guns.  For them, strict gun controls reinforce their 
cultural and political values.  Fourth, in 2005 the GTA saw 
an unprecedented level of homicide-by-gun.  This carnage has 
transfixed the community, which has long enjoyed a very low 
homicide rate compared to the U.S. (Note: non-violent crimes 
are more in line with the U.S.'s; car thefts are actually 
higher.  End note.) 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Federal Election Campaign: Politicians Vie For The Spotlight 
on the Gun Issue 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
6. (SBU) On December 8, Prime Minister Paul Martin proposed 
tough new firearms controls in what is widely perceived as a 
pure political ploy to attract Toronto's vote.  Each Canadian 
Province would be "invited" to participate in Martin's plan, 
however under Canadian law, provincial participation would be 
strictly voluntary.  Ontario has already indicated that it 
will opt in.  Martin,s C$325-million, five-point plan 
includes: 
 
--Banning the sale of handguns in Canada and retrieving the 
handguns now in civilian hands through a buy back program 
(Note: Campaigns to take firearms off the streets are nothing 
new to Toronto; e.g. last month,s surrender plan in the city 
yielded only 261 firearms.  The offer of Raptor pro 
basketball tickets collected 28 guns in March and April of 
2002.  In 2000 officials paid C$50 each for 1,753 weapons. 
End note). 
 
--Doubling the mandatory sentences for gun-related criminal 
convictions (Note: The Canadian criminal code does not 
dictate mandatory sentences for gun crimes.  Only two crimes 
are addressed: Using a firearm to commit an offense, and 
possession of a weapon obtained in an offense.  Each carries 
a statutory minimum of one year,s imprisonment. Ontario 
officials (Attorney General Bryant and Minister Kwinter) have 
been in the forefront of aggressive lobbying of federal 
officials to include tough mandatory sentences for gun 
crimes. End note). 
 
--Full compliance with existing gun registry laws (Note: 
Martin answered a reporter,s question by saying that nothing 
new was proposed for the 70-year-old federal handgun 
registry, but that compliance efforts would be redoubled. 
Ontario is unique among the provinces in supporting a 
registry.  End note). 
 
--Investment in community programs that would focus on youth 
at risk (Note: This would be funded by a C$50-million &Gun 
Violence and Gang Prevention Fund8 and would also target 
skills development programs.  This provision mirrors the 
well-publicized programs that Ontario and the City of Toronto 
have already begun implementing.  End note). 
 
--Increasing enforcement staff, including the addition of 75 
new customs officers at the border over the next five years 
at an annual cost of C$8 million, and a new special customs 
intelligence unit to &stop black market guns coming from the 
U.S."  The plan also calls for a C$45 million a year, 
250-officer unit of the RCMP to work with local and 
provincial governments on gun-related crime (Note: This 
initiative builds on Ontario,s initiative earlier this year 
to add up to 1,000 new police officers across the province. 
End note). 
 
7. (U) Opposition leaders were quick to criticize Martin's 
plan.  Conservative Leader Stephen Harper responded by 
releasing a statement calling for a "crackdown on illegal gun 
use, stopping the flow of illegal guns at our border," and 
introducing mandatory minimum prison sentences.  Harper's 
statement called the Liberal proposals ineffective, adding 
that the "liberals have done none of these things," except 
during campaign season.  NDP Leader Jack Layton jumped on the 
bandwagon by also attacking what he termed Liberal Party 
inaction on public safety.  Citing a lack of money because of 
Liberal-sponsored corporate tax breaks, Layton said he would 
restore government funding to community and policing plans 
aimed at reducing the causes and effects of crime and gun 
violence. 
----------------------------------------- 
Historical Background on Firearms Control 
----------------------------------------- 
 
8. (U) Canada has had a national firearms control and 
registration system since 1934.  Beginning in that year, all 
handguns were required to be registered.  During the Second 
World War "emergency registration" was extended to all guns, 
reportedly to keep shotguns and rifles out of the hands of 
saboteurs.  When the war ended, long guns were no longer 
required to be registered.  In 1977, Canada outlawed fully 
automatic weapons (machine and sub-machine guns).  Then, in 
December 1998, when the 1995 Firearms Act was implemented, 
.25 and .32 caliber short-barreled handguns were outlawed 
except those used by competitive target shooters. 
 
9. (U) The 1995 Firearms Act represented a sea change by 
requiring the registration of all firearms and making owners 
accountable for storage and use of their guns.  It also 
required licensing all firearms owners, tracking all firearms 
transfers as well as imports and exports.  More importantly 
for law enforcement, it guaranteed police access to gun 
ownership records.  Since December 1, 1998, 7.1 million guns 
have been registered and police have made 4.6 million 
inquiries about gun ownership, according to the Canada 
Firearms Centre that administers the registration program. 
 
------------------- 
A Troubled Registry 
------------------- 
 
10. (U) Management of the Firearms Registry came under fire 
in December 2002 when Canadian Auditor-General Sheila Fraser 
revealed massive cost over-runs.  In her report, Fraser 
reminded the Department of Justice that it had initially said 
the registry program would cost C$119 million, of which C$117 
million would be offset by user fees.  The Auditor-General's 
report noted that in 2000, the Department of Justice 
estimated that by 2004-05 it would spend at least C$1 billion 
on the program and have net fee collections of $140 million. 
Later in the same report, Fraser criticized management of the 
Registry's information systems technology citing examples of 
invalid software design assumptions, over-design of the 
system based on the needs of criminal investigations that 
were outside the scope of the enabling Act, and numerous 
small changes that "typically took three to six months to 
implement at a cost of millions of dollars."  Auditor-General 
Fraser made it clear that the Firearms Registry had been 
seriously mismanaged. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
Are Canadian Firearms Records Vulnerable? 
----------------------------------------- 
 
11. (C) Senior Canadian law enforcement officials have said 
that holding the names and addresses of every legitimate 
Canadian gun owner risks playing into the hands of organized 
crime.  Senior U.S. law enforcement officials are worried 
that criminal elements could gain illicit access to these 
records.  Ontario has a large number of outlaw motorcycle 
groups and it is common practice for these types of groups to 
cultivate or coerce employees of motor vehicle divisions, 
criminal records centers, and firearms registries, according 
to law enforcement sources.  The criminals use this illegal 
access to obtain information on themselves, do "background 
checks" on potential associates to make sure they are not 
undercover police officers, and to trace the ownership of 
vehicles they think might be used in undercover surveillance. 
 In the U.S. the fifty states license and register firearms. 
Canada offers criminals the opportunity for "one-stop" 
shopping. 
 
12. (C) Comment: This weeks &The Economist8 article 
focusing on gun crime in Vancouver and the recent 
high-profile murder of a young female Montreal police officer 
indicates that gun crimes are a Canada-wide urban issue. 
ATF,s e-Trace system for tracing crime guns was piloted in 
Ontario and the number of successful traces may have 
inadvertently fueled the political rhetoric on this issue.  A 
victim of our own success ) we and the Canadians can live 
quite well with this kind of success as we move forward with 
our efforts at law enforcement collaboration. 
 
LECROY 

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