Harper was asked about gun control during the annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities last Thursday.
“My wife’s from a rural area. Gun ownership wasn’t just for the farm. It was also for a certain level of security when you’re a ways from immediate police assistance,” Harper said.
Couillard weighs in
Those remarks weren’t widely reported in Quebec until Tuesday morning.
Politicians at the national assembly were quick to condemn them.
“The fewer guns in circulation in Quebec the better. A country where there’s an abundance of firerams circulating is not a country that the majority of Canadians and Quebecers want to live in,” Premier Philippe Couillard said.
Opposition parties agree
Opposition parties also criticized Harper's position.
“To say that having easier access to guns will make the country safer is frankly ridiculous,” said Pascal Berubé, the Parti Quebecois public security critic.
“Just look at homicide rates in the United states. It’s clearly a way for Mr. Harper to appeal to his base supporters,” continued Berubé.
Even the right-leaning Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault said Harper’s remarks were out of step with Quebec values.
“In Quebec we lived the tragedy of Polytechnique, so we’re for the gun registry. We have to limit the usage and possession of firearms,” Legault said.
Legault was then asked if he thought Harper’s remarks reflected American values.
Legault replied that he wouldn’t necessarily qualify the remarks that way, but added: “It’s not useful to have this type of discussion. The position we hear from Republicans in the United States is not part of Quebec’s values.”
Harper's Quebec lieutenant backs off remarks
Harper’s Quebec lieutenant, Infrastructure minister Denis Lebel, backed off slightly from Harper’s position when asked about the remarks Tuesday.
Lebel refused to specify under what circumstances it might be legitimate for a citizen to use a firearm on someone trespassing in their home
“There are police to ensure people respect the law and they’re going to do their job. We’re a long way from talking about that,” Lebel said.
Mulcair: Harper's position "irresponsible"
Speaking in Montreal Tuesday, Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair also slammed Harper’s position.
“There’s something frankly surprising when a prime mister tries to say to people they should use their guns to protect themselves,” said Mulcair.
“Stephen Harper is using the gun registry issue to divide Canadians. This time he’s pitting rural Canada against people who live in cities.”
Quebec’s association of provincial police officers criticized Harper’s remarks too, calling them “inappropriate”.
The Canadian Bar Association also said it’s worried by the message the Prime Minister’s remarks seem to send.
Quebec still hoping for its own registry
Couillard said Tuesday Quebec will continue to try to establish its own gun registry.
The province is waiting for a supreme court decision as to whether it will be allowed to use information from the now-defunct Canadian registry.”