Long-Gun Registry: Judge Extends Quebec Injunction

Posted: 04/13/2012 10:23 am Updated: 04/13/2012 6:24 pm

MONTREAL - A judge has extended a temporary injunction that will keep the long-gun registry alive in Quebec — for now.

Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard's ruling on Friday gives him more time to deliberate on the issue of a new injunction sought by Quebec that would allow for information to continue to be collected.

A written decision is expected sometime next week and until then the registry will continue to operate in Quebec.

The request for a new injunction is opposed by lawyers for the federal government, which doesn't want to maintain a system Parliament has voted to destroy.

It argues the provincial government should pick up the slack and collect its own data if it wants up-to-date records. But the province says that causes financial harm when a registry already exists and is operational.

Quebec wants to start its own registry using the federal data. It says it is entitled to information it helped gather, but Ottawa is refusing to hand over the information.

The federal government sent orders to its legal team to fight Quebec on the request for a new injunction.

The emergency order handed down last week after a request by the Quebec government safeguards the Quebec data and obliges people in the province to keep registering their weapons.

Blanchard wrote that given that serious legal questions remained unanswered, it was best to keep the status quo and maintain the registry as is.

He called the situation unique in Canadian law, as "each of the parties is claiming to be acting in the public interest."

"Maintaining the status quo permits the court to render a judgment without causing unreasonably prejudicing the rights of the two parties," Blanchard wrote.

He is expected to rule on another short-term injunction next week.

"Certainly, it's good news, it is the status quo for the time being," said Quebec lawyer Eric Dufour.

Federal lawyers declined to comment.

Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the government remains committed to ensuring the long-gun registry is scrapped for good.

"This injunction is temporary and doesn’t diminish our commitment to ending the long-gun registry once and for all," said Julie Carmichael.

"We are disappointed to see that contrary to the will of Canadians and of Parliament, the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry is still alive."

Meanwhile, lawyers are preparing to argue the actual merits of the case over three days, beginning June 11.

The bill to end the federal long-gun registry, C-19, received royal assent on April 5, fulfilling a long-standing promise by the Harper government to decriminalize long-gun registration and eliminate the data.

Quebec is the only jurisdiction that has sought information from the registry.

Gun control is a major issue in Quebec.

The Ecole polytechnique massacre in 1989, where a gunman shot and killed 14 women, led the federal government to toughen gun laws.

And a mass shooting at Montreal's Dawson College in 2006 that left one girl dead prompted Quebec to be bring in new rules.

The mother of Anastasia De Sousa, who was killed during the Dawson shootout, said she's happy Quebec is battling for the information.

"The (federal) government should have just taken the law, made some amendments to it and make everybody happy while keeping the safety of all Canadians," said Louise De Sousa.

In 2008, Quebec introduced a law named after the slain De Sousa. It bans the possession of firearms in schools and daycare centres and on public and school transport.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • What does this new bill on the gun registry do?

    We keep hearing about scrapping the long-gun registry, but really what we're talking about is scrapping the requirement for people to register their rifles and shotguns - that's what Bill C-19 aims to do by making amendments to the Criminal Code and Firearms Act. Once passed, people will not have to register their non-restricted or non-prohibited firearms. It also provides for the destruction of existing records in the Canadian Firearms Registry for those firearms. <em>With files from CBC</em>

  • What exactly is the registry?

    It's a centralized database overseen by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that links firearms with their licensed owners. It contains information about all three types of guns that must be registered - non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. (All firearms must be registered.) To register a firearm, you have to have a licence to possess it.

  • Does the bill make any changes to licensing requirements?

    No. Canadian residents need a licence in order to possess and register a firearm or ammunition and that won't change. There are a couple of different kinds of licences because of various changes to laws and regulations over the years.

  • What are long guns?

    There are three types of guns under Canadian law: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Most common long guns - rifles and shotguns - are non-restricted but there are a few exceptions. A sawed-off shotgun, for example, is a prohibited firearm. A handgun is an example of a restricted firearm. Different regulations apply to different classifications of firearms.

  • How many guns are we talking about?

    As of September 2011, there were about 7.8 million registered guns. Of those, 7.1 million are non-restricted firearms.

  • Why does the government want to get rid of the long-gun registry?

    The government says it is wasteful and ineffective at reducing crime and targets law-abiding gun owners instead of criminals, who don't register their firearms.

  • Who wants to keep it?

    Police and victims' groups are big supporters of the registry. Police say the database helps them evaluate a potential safety threat when they pull a vehicle over or are called to a residence. They also say it helps support police investigations because the registry can help determine if a gun was stolen, illegally imported, acquired or manufactured. This year, the RCMP says police agencies accessed it on average more than 17,000 times a day.

  • When will the registry cease to exist?

    The government has passed the legislation and the registry no longer exists. Except for in Quebec, where an ongoing court challenge means the owners must still register their guns in the province.

  • Why does the government want to destroy the records?

    The government is doing this to ensure that no future non-Conservative government can recreate the registry. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has also made it clear that if any province wants to set up its own registry it would get no help from the federal government. The Conservatives are so fundamentally opposed to the existence of the records, because they say they focus on law-abiding citizens instead of criminals, that they don't want them available for anyone to use.

  • How much does the registry cost?

    The registry cost more than $1 billion to set up in 1995 and the cost was the source of much controversy. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said on Oct. 25 that the government's best estimate is that it costs about $22 million a year to operate. That's the entire registry, not just the long-gun portion, but he noted most of the guns in the registry are long guns. He said he didn't know how much money scrapping the requirement to register long guns would save the government. Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner says there are also "hidden costs" that are borne by provincial and municipal police agencies to enforce the registry.

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