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Finding 10

Canadians are receiving value for their tax dollars from the CFP. Overall, the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) is cost-effective in reducing firearms-related crime and promoting public safety through universal licensing of firearms owners and registration of firearms in Canada.

There is value for money in the CFP. Most interviewees (71% total ) were moderately (24%) to highly positive (47%) with regard to cost effectiveness of the CFP. What varies is the degree to which each key informant category feels the Program has achieved value for money. Those in the province of Alberta were highly positive (100%) while the least positive was Nunavut (50%). Special interest groups, nationally, were mostly positive (66%) yet police and government agencies were 50% positive. It was noted by evaluation personnel that police had commented on the lack of results that had been demonstrated to them by the CFP, coupled with the burden that this program had placed on human resource capacity. CFP staff believed that the Program was cost-effective (due to extensive partnerships and leveraging of funding) but that there was room for improvement. Respondents also commented on the public safety value of the Program, although there was uncertainty as to how one might quantify this value in financial terms. This can be typical for an administrative and preventative program, although communications deficiencies (as per program goals and results) to employees, partners, and the public were noted in a previous section. The majority of external partners felt the Program provided good value for money and performed an essential public good. On the whole, interview respondents offered few comments regarding the relationship between money spent and results achieved.

However, data from the interviews shows that the program is attempting to do “more with less”. The financial situation of the CFP is one in which the program’s mandate has been expanded, (addition of enforcement/operational role) and concurrently the budget has been reduced 1. This has created a situation whereby it could be argued that the current budget is not sufficient to meet the program’s expected performance objectives. Questions of sufficient funding were raised. There is a strong risk that any relatively small cost savings is more than offset by losses in program coordination and cohesiveness and, thereby, in effectiveness.

Since it is difficult for preventative programs to determine effectiveness, one method is to assess risk. The largest public safety risk to Canadians with respect to firearm fatalities may not stem from guns and gangs, but from firearm-related suicides and long-gun related homicides (the latter in non-Census Metropolitan Areas) and spousal homicides. The majority of gun shot wound-related hospital admissions (not including the larger number of emergency department visits) are for unintentional wounds and suicide attempts. The medical total (including direct care costs and lost productivity) for wounds and fatalities, was estimated at $6.6 billion in 1991, and adjusted for inflation in 2009 is $9.1 billion.2 Yet, outreach required on these issues, to the public, and to prevention organizations supporting public safety, is not well-supported by the CFP. The communication and outreach strategy, which addresses public safety risk issues affecting all parts of Canada, has remained unfunded.

Firearm Deaths in Canada
  Homicide3 Suicide4 Accidental Total
Year Hand- gun (% of total) Long-gun Other Hand-gun Long-gun Other unspecified Hand-gun Long-gun Other unspecified Homicide, suicide and accidental
2004 *112-14% 52- 7% 9 88- 11% 475- 61% 29 1 14- 2% 0 780
2003 110-15% 45- 6% 6 95- 13% 451- 60% 14 4- 1% 12- 2% 10 747
2002 98-12% 46- 5% 8 92- 11% 553- 66% 25 8- 1% 9- 1% 2 841
2001 110-12% 53- 6% 8 106- 12% 569- 64% 25 3 17- 2% 0 891

*First number denotes number of deaths. Second percentage is in relation to total homicide, suicide and accidental deaths, in the far right column.

Homicide trends (See Firearm-related and gang-related homicides, 1993-2007)

An overall comprehensive understanding of public safety issues is critical in order to attempt to meet a portion of its objective to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from firearms. As such, differentiating criminal identity is important in understanding firearms issues. For the most part, in Canada, lethal violence caused by firearms does not stem from a distinct criminal class (ie. gangs) yet there is a perceived high level of risk to this very concept. Following the advice of Americans in the US, Americans who have relocated to Canada, and those polarized in the debate (gun lobby and gun control lobby) in the provision of American circumstances and data, does not aid, in any positive manner, Canadian public policy with respect to firearms.5 In the US, the hand-gun has been at the centre of the debate for decades - the handgun is seven times as likely to be used in homicides compared to long guns.6 In Canada, it is only twice as likely, and while this may be applicable in very large urban areas, it is not the case in smaller urban centres, towns, and rural and remote parts of Canada. Recent attention to gang violence in Toronto and Vancouver gives prominence to hand gun violence, however, it may not be the more prevalent public safety risk.

It has been difficult to confirm that there is the elevated level of understanding of criminological and social health theory within the CFP, which is essential for developing relevant future-focused initiatives. Criminality including violence is more widespread among the population than is commonly believed. Behavioural scientists have recognized the role of situational factors in human behavior. Many people who commit violent acts (even homicide) have no known history of criminal behavior. 7 This again leads to the capacity issue within the CFP, and the lack of value placed on research, policy and communication /outreach functions to support the program, which has been evident since the last program evaluation, completed in 2002. 8 More emphasis on these functions would enable the program to better respond to the needs of Canadians, both at the local and national levels. It is possible that better and more relevant decisions would be made with a renewed and enhanced capacity.

Interviewees who had reported good value for money generally noted that there is difficulty in determining how to put a value on prevention or the avoidance of incidents. Usually, an analysis would be performed on the cost value of the program by the human lives it has saved. Since it is essentially a preventative program administratively and operationally, it is difficult to determine number of lives saved. One could presume, as was in the Auditor General’s 2002 report, that license denials and revocations would be for those who might harm themselves and/or others. The program response to the Auditor General was that, “Public safety is the objective of this initiative, and costs have to be viewed in relation to increased safety achieved with this program. It is worth noting that under the new program, 50 times more license revocations from potentially dangerous individuals have occurred as compared to the last five years of the old program.” 9

License screening has been successful in denying licenses to ineligible persons, and through continuous screening and revocations of licenses and weapons through prohibition orders, this number is significant in terms of potential lives saved. To-date more than 22,000 people have been denied the privilege of a license. Privacy legislation prohibits us from acquiring the full explanation and details surrounding the value of lives saved from license refusals and revocations. However, conservative estimates on the value of life range around $1 million (Cdn.). per life, minimum, and depending on individual circumstances it can rise from $4.7 -$10 million (US dollars). 10 If one surmised then that, of the 18-39% persons who were deemed to be a potential harm to themselves or others and who had their license refused or revoked, and using the lower range number of 18%, then approximately 3,940 people may have been saved 11. This would amount to $3.9 billion saved and would completely cover the costs of maintaining the program well into the future.

Also included in the overall direct program cost of the CFP are Grants and Contribution Agreements. Those were not directly assessed as there existed ambiguity over the placement of Grants and Contributions in RCMP evaluations.12 However, it can be noted that there is a lack of engagement by the program area in its outreach about these grants and contribution agreements, specifically the “Aboriginal and Other Communities and Organization Funding Program (AOCO), and the resulting lack of community uptake of the funds. This was especially so, as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organizations and associations exist which could support CFP objectives, and those communities that require culturally/language appropriate services could be best offered by those representing their own cultural group. (First Nation, Métis and Inuit). The fund totals $1 million per year, however, Aboriginal communities have not accessed the full amounts in the past several years. In 2006-2007 only $200,000 was disbursed to these communities and in 2007-2008, $100,000.

In that the CFP is but one part of the response to issue of firearms regulation and public safety in Cananda, the evalution team did not find an appropriate comparator in Canada or internationally.13

During the process of this evaluation, and as part of the Expenditure Management System, the RCMP participated in the federal’s government’s Strategic Review process in 2008. In September 2008, the RCMP submitted its program reduction proposals, which were approved in the January 2009 budget. Program cuts included the termination of several IT service contracts and other planned efficiencies that would result in an additional $5.1M in savings realized beginning in 2010/11.

Recommendation 21

That meaningful research, policy and communications functions with requisite competencies be improved within the CFP. This would serve to enhance strategic decision-making and cost-effectiveness in order to effectively support the public safety objectives of the program (regulatory and operational).


1 The CFP’s budget was reduced upon incorporation into the RCMP. As well, as part of the RCMP, the CFP’s budget has since been temporarily reduced in order to fund the 2010 Olympic security; in the 2009-2010 FY, all RCMP programs have received various levels of cuts to offset Olympic security losses.

2 Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, “CAEP Position Statement on Gun Control.” 2009. by Carolyn E. Snider, MD, MPH; Howard Ovens, MD; Alan Drummond, MDCM; Atul K. Kapur, MD, MSc; Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator, 2009

3 Firearm homicide source: Statistics Canada, Candian Centre forJustice Statistics, Homicide Survey

4 Firearm suicide and accidental death source: Chief Provincial and Territorial Coroners from across Canada

5 “Government Spending in Canada and the US” Dept of Finance Canada, 2003. Re: Public order and safety expenditure for the protection of persons and property. In 2001, the US spent 2.2 of its GDP on public safety, while Canada spent 1.9, and yet Canada is safer. Perhaps the difference can be explained through Canada’s increased expenditures on income security, health, social services, recreation and culture. The study does not explore laws and regulatory policies, although these are highly valued in, and synonymous with, Canada.

6 Crime in the United States, 2007

7 Boyd, 1988; Supreme Court of Canada, 2000

8 Department of Justice Canada: Canadian Firearms Program implementation Evaluation (to September 2002) ;

9 2002 December. Report of the Auditor General of Canada Chapter 10:Department of Justice. “Costs of Implementing the Canadian Firearms Program”

10 Appended Statistical Overview; Dale Clayton and Alberto Barceló “The Cost of Suicide Mortality in New Brunswick”, 1996 ; W. Kip Viscusi “The Value of Human Life: Estimates with Risks by Occupation and Industry” Harvard Law School, May 2003.

11 Commissioner of Firearms: 2007 Report. This estimate is the lowest range estimate, and most are a result of court prohibitions. It does not include the possibility of multiple victims.

12 This issue has since (April 2009) been resolved by Treasury Board in that Grants and Contributions and all programs covered through cost-recovery (ie. Contract Policing) will become part of the RCMP-mandated Evaluation Plan.

13 ie. Similar administrative/operational policing programs which work to prevent crime and enforce laws, and which have a significant interactive IT component with public and police.