Updated: Feds win latest round in legal fight against Quebec over gun registry - Macleans.ca

Updated: Feds win latest round in legal fight against Quebec over gun registry


MONTREAL – The Harper government has won the latest round in its battle to delete, once and for all, the last remaining portion of the federal long-gun registry.

Quebec’s highest court has ruled against the provincial government there, as it fights to keep data for the province from being destroyed as it has elsewhere in Canada.

In its judgment, the Quebec Court of Appeal said the province has no right to the registry data. It also ordered the provincial government to pay the court costs for the case.

“Quebec has no property right in the data,” said the 14-page ruling, released Thursday.

“The data does not belong to Quebec, and the provinces have no control over it… The Parliament of Canada, which considers the data at issue to be pointless and inefficient and believes that its existence in a registry infringes the right to privacy, can certainly decide to stop compiling and preserving that information.”

The long-controversial registry could, in theory, be completely destroyed in two weeks. The ruling said the federal government must wait that long before deleting the Quebec data.

But the provincial government quickly announced that it intends to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to consider the case. It has also filed a motion to keep an injunction in place in that maintains the registry in the meantime.

The federal government expressed its satisfaction at Thursday’s news.

In a three-sentence statement reacting to the ruling, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said his Conservative government was proud to stand up for farmers and hunters “unlike Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Thomas Mulcair’s NDP.”

The judgment was the latest round in a legal battle over an emotional topic in Quebec, where the fight for gun control intensified in the wake of the 1989 Polytechnique massacre.

The bill to scrap the federal registry received royal assent in April 2012, fulfilling a longstanding pledge by the Harper government.

Opponents of the registry called it wasteful and irrelevant in stopping crime. Its supporters, however, including some police organizations, described the registry as a valuable tool in law-enforcement’s arsenal.

Quebec has argued that it needs the data to support its own gun registry — making it the only province to announce its intention to do so.

The province has argued it would cost too much to start the registry anew.

Lawyers for the federal government have argued that if Quebec wants a registry of its own, it should start from scratch. The Conservative government has vowed to fight to ensure all the data is destroyed.

Both sides have called the case a legal first in Canada.

Thursday’s decision said it was “clearly inappropriate” for a lower court, in a ruling last year, to compel the federal government to maintain the Quebec share of the registry.

It quoted a recent Supreme Court ruling that said that as popular as “flexible federalism” might be, the goal of accommodating another level of government “cannot sweep designated powers out to sea, nor erode the constitutional balance inherent in the Canadian federal state.”

The judgment, rendered by five Quebec Court of Appeal judges, suggested there’s an appropriate place to seek redress for the scrapping of the registry: at the ballot box, not in the courtroom.

A gun-control group promised to keep fighting.

The group Polytechnique Remembers includes people directly impacted by the 1989 Polytechnique massacre, in which 14 women were murdered. Heidi Rathjen, a spokesperson, said it’s just the latest stage in a battle since the Conservatives took office.

“We’ve had many, many setbacks and the one light in all this is the determination of the Quebec government to fight the federal government,” said Rathjen.

“The (Quebec) government is going to appeal so all hope is not lost.”

Nathalie Provost, a Polytechnique survivor, said she doesn’t understand the Conservative approach to gun control.

“For me, a gun is something that is very, very dangerous that has to be handled with a lot of precaution,” Provost told reporters outside the Montreal courthouse.

“For a lot of people from the Conservative government, I think they see it as a right (to have a gun), so it’s a very, very different point of view.”

Quebec’s justice minister said the issue is not settled yet.

“There is a consensus in Quebec regarding the registration of firearms,” Bertrand St-Arnaud said in a statement. “All political parties represented in the national assembly unanimously defend this position and strongly oppose the federal government’s decision to abolish the firearms registry.”

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Updated: Feds win latest round in legal fight against Quebec over gun registry

  1. A sensible decision. It’s time to get the LGR out of the way and for the Tories who quote ” don’t think lawful gun owners should be treated as criminals” to sort out the rest of the Firearms Act which is filled with stupid and unjust regulations, most pertaining to classification of firearms.

    • Who needs to be able to track stolen firearms or give the police some idea of what guns a loony who has license yanked already has, right?

      There is, in fact, an incredibly strong argument that if you did not support the registry you are uninformed or an idiot, and that the CPC was quite happy to keep you that way.

      • Before you call people stupid (how easy it is be tough on a keyboard) perhaps you should learn about how police work is done.

        The handgun registry, started in 1934, has never been used to solve a violent crime. Ditto for the LGR. To do so would require the legal owner of a registered gun to leave it at the scene of a crime to which he was not otherwise connected. Not even career criminals are that stupid.

        Long guns are not required to be stored at any particular place. If the police have grounds to look for a gun they still can. If they can’t find it by searching thinking they know what guns someone has doesn’t do them any good if he is uncooperative or another person doesn’t provide info to the cops. The case of the Mayerthorpe police murderer is a good example. He was prohibited weapons. The RCMP had searched twice for a rifle they knew he had and which he later shot four of them with.

        Mr. X has his PAL is arrested for commission of a serious violent crime. After his PAL is revoked he could simply give his guns to someone with a PAL. Say he doesn’t and the LGR tells the cops he still has a single shotgun (before or after PAL revocation is irrelevant). They go to his house and find it behind the back door. Do they stop looking for guns? No. He’s not shown to have guns on the LGR. Do they look just in case? Yes. Every cop in Canada will take the opportunity to search the entire place. What if he doesn’t have a PAL? Do the police assume he has no guns? No they still search his home.

        The actual list of what he’s supposed to have is irrelevant. Only where to search matters and that isn’t changed by the end of the LGR.

        For anyone thinking officer safety is decreased without a LGR think this through. If the police run the owner of a house that’s about to be raided and the LGR comes back with nothing listed do they approach the place differently? Do their tactics change? No of course not because there could be illegal guns or other weapons there so the LGR is of no real help. There could also be people there who legally possess long guns but since the cops can’t ID them before they get there they couldn’t run them. Or the owner might not have long guns but another owner’s are there legally.

        WRT tracking stolen guns new guns can be tracked to their original retail point of sale without the LGR quite easily. Owners can still report stolen guns and have them entered on CPIC. If the police find or seize a gun tracking it to it’s original legal owner may help solve a property crime but if the owner can’t be bothered to report it then it’s his loss. Apart from a trigger lock or removing the bolt etc. there are no rules requiring a safe for long guns so unless the aim of the police is to use a burglar as a witness that a rifle lacked a trigger lock when he stole it there is little to no purpose in finding the original owner.

        The LGR sounds like it would greatly aid the police but it can’t anymore than the restricted list does. Curiously during the LGR debate the police didn’t trot out anecdotes or stats about the restricted registry saving officer lives or solving crimes. Most violent criminals who use firearms use stolen or smuggled guns or guns that have never been registered. Laws designed to control the peaceable ownership of firearms are enacted to make people feel good, show pols are “doing something” and the pave the way for further restrictions on private ownership.

        • I wasn’t being tough, dear boy, I was making an observation.

          The registry may not have been a silver bullet to end all crime but it was an important tool that we were getting at a decent price when it was cancelled. And yes sometimes people find ways around regulations, but often when that happens it gives leads to other irrepsonsible firearms owners.

          illegal resellers have already started popping up in Canada who are buying rifles and selling them off to people who can’t get them . Way to go, gun nut lobby!

          And if you think it’s easier to find ‘all the shotguns i have” rather htan “the x shotugns you know i have” well then yes you are dumb. I am so so so sorry we made people fill out a frickin SHEET OF PAPER over it, even after we bent over backwards to make it a free service.

          • Cry all you want. It’s gone and the Quebec version will soon go as well. It was a waste of effort and the cops couldn’t explain to the pols why they needed it. Clowns like those who use the term “gun nut lobby” ensured that the real reason for it- setting the stage more restrictions and prohibitions- was clear to anyone paying attention.

          • Well I just explained it in terms a reasonable person could understand. If the bad guys managed to block the police and the pols and feed the public a bunch of crap, that ain’t exactly something you should be proud of.

  2. It is probably impossible for the provincial government to legally compel the federal government to do this.

    Although it’s considerably more unethical than giving a paid speech for a charity organization, ya gotta admit…

  3. Poor little Quebec. Awwwwwwwwwww!

  4. Montreal’s École Polytechnique
    École Polytechnique

    On December 6, 1989, classes were
    in session when Marc Lépine went on a shooting rampage at the school.

    Dawson College

    On September 13, 2006, Gill
    arrived at Dawson and was carrying three firearms with him when he entered the
    college, including a semi-automatic Beretta rifle and a .45-calibre handgun.
    All three weapons are legal and were registered in his name, Montreal police

    17 years later and still did notning ,So how does the long gun registry
    work again !