Judge Luc Martineau had given the government until 10 a.m. to deliver an external hard drive to the court — effectively issuing a vote of non-confidence in government assurances that all the remaining long-gun registry records would be preserved while court challenges continue.
Monday's order was only the first decisive legal skirmish in a battle that could last for some time between information commissioner Suzanne Legault and the Harper government over the long-defunct long-gun registry.
Legault is poised to launch a constitutional challenge of the retroactive gun registry provisions buried in the Harper government's latest omnibus budget bill.
C-59 passed at third reading in the Senate late Monday, but has yet to receive royal assent. The bill retroactively grants amnesty to anyone involved in document destruction, backdating the changes to 2011.
Martineau's order came after a day-long hearing Monday, as Justice department lawyers argued it was unnecessary to produce an actual physical copy of the records because the public safety minister had issued "four separate undertakings" to preserve the data.
Lawyer Richard Dearden, representing Legault, presented affidavits, letters and email evidence showing that previous assurances from the Conservative government in 2012 were ignored as it pushed for the speedy destruction of all gun registry records outside the province of Quebec.
The destruction of disputed records in 2012 led Legault to issue a report this spring accusing the Mounties of breaking the Access to Information Act. The Ontario Provincial Police are now investigating the allegation.
Legault called the retroactive move in the face of an alleged crime a "perilous precedent'' that could be used to retroactively absolve and cover up electoral fraud, expense scandals or other serious crimes.