POLITICS

Comments on the RCMP and the destruction of firearms data

05/21/2015 04:01 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - The Harper government has put measures into its latest budget bill that would retroactively change the law to put data from the defunct long-gun registry beyond the reach of the Access to Information Act.

This gets the RCMP off the hook for withholding and destroying data from the registry that was the subject of an access request.

Here are some comments about the move:

"There's nothing wrong with it. As I've often said about this government, it's unorthodox, but you can get away with it." Ned Franks, professor emeritus at Queen's University and an expert on parliamentary procedure.

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"Royal assent was given to a law passed by Parliament years ago requiring the destruction of the data from the long-gun registry." Stephanie Henderson, senior special assistant in the office of the Government House leader.

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"There is no restraint on Parliament's legislative powers other than legislative jurisdiction under the Constitution Act 1867 and the charter. Even if there were, it would not be binding. The actions of a previous Parliament do not bind a later Parliament." Rob Walsh, former law clerk to the House of Commons and parliamentary counsel.

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"In terms of the conventions of parliamentary government, it seems like a very serious violation to have something that's not just contentious, but seems to go against the sort of foundational principles of the rule of law. The retroactivity of it is very disturbing." Paul Thomas, professor emeritus in political studies and former Duff Roblin professor of government at the University of Manitoba.

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"The RCMP would have been able to defend itself using any argument at its disposal — and I'm sure they would have. But this idea that Parliament can somehow be seized of legislation, that it produces some force or effect before it's even been considered — much less adopted — is reprehensible under our system of government." NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

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"We're considering a bill that would legalize something the office of public prosecutions has themselves deemed potentially illegal and has referred to the OPP. It's beyond belief." Wayne Easter, Liberal MP and former solicitor general.

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"They're testing the envelope, they're flexing their muscle. They have it, and there's not very much (to do) except people in the media pointing it out. I think it offends the sense of justice, the sense of the rule of law that every other Canadian has." Michel Drapeau, law professor at the University of Ottawa and a retired Canadian Forces colonel.