MONTREAL - A Quebec judge has granted an injunction that will keep the long-gun registry alive in Quebec until mid-June, when the legal battle between the province and Ottawa begins in earnest.
Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard's ruling on Friday extends the injunction until June 13, which is the third and last day of scheduled court hearings on the fate of the gun-registry information.
The decision means the registry remains operational in Quebec while safeguarding the information gathered over the years.
The province is attempting to use the data for its own gun registry, but Ottawa is opposed to relinquishing it.
Federal lawyers have opposed Quebec's injunction attempts, arguing the province should gather its own data if it wants to start its own registry.
Quebec has countered it would be too expensive to replace data from the federal registry and that it gathered the information in the first place.
The judge hearing the case has said he believes the case will eventually end up on the doorstep of the Supreme Court of Canada.
"It's an exceptional debate and is, according to the parties, a first in Canadian judicial annals," Blanchard wrote in his judgment.
"Two governments, democratically elected, propose diametrically opposed views of what constitutes the public good."
Bill C-19, the bill to end the federal long-gun registry, received royal assent on April 5, fulfilling a long-standing promise by the Harper government to eliminate the data.
On that same day, Quebec received an emergency injunction that was extended a week later. The province is the only jurisdiction that has sought information from the registry.
Lawyers are preparing to argue the actual merits of the case over three days, beginning June 11.
Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier told a news conference Friday he was pleased with the favourable ruling.
"This is certainly a victory for Quebec and open federalism, of respect, equality and co-operation to which we adhere," Fournier said.
He used a hockey analogy to describe the approach to the June hearings.
"The last period of a game is always decisive, but it's always preferable to start the third period with a lead," Fournier said.
A spokeswoman for federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the ruling doesn't diminish the government's commitment to ending the long-gun registry for good.
"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," Julie Carmichael said in an email.
"Bill C-19 is clear and our government will strongly oppose efforts to set it aside and will fight for as long as it takes to ensure the long gun registry is scrapped once and for all."
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>
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.
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.
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.
As of September 2011, there were about 7.8 million registered guns. Of those, 7.1 million are non-restricted firearms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.