10/28/2011 01:02 EDT | Updated 12/28/2011 05:12 EST

Quebec Ponders Legal Action Over Gun Registry Records


Quebec hasn't ruled out legal action if the federal government's long-gun registry records aren't handed over before they're destroyed.

"We will use every means at our disposal, which we deem useful, to let Quebec's point of view be known," Premier Jean Charest told reporters Thursday.

"We are analyzing the means at our disposal to ensure that Quebec's point of view be properly heard."

The federal government introduced legislation earlier this week that would scrap the federal registry and destroy the millions of records on gun owners already collected.

The province needs those records to set up its own registry because starting from scratch would be costly.

Unanimous resolution

Quebec’s National Assembly passed a resolution Thursday calling on Ottawa to hand over the records.

In a rare showing of unity, the governing Liberals and opposition parties unanimously agreed on the resolution, tabled by the Parti-Quebecois's Stephane Bergeron.

“Quebecers have paid nearly a half billion dollars,” Bergeron said of the tax dollars that went into the federal records.

He said that should be a high enough price to be able to keep it.

Quebec has long supported the long-gun registry. It was created in the wake of the mass shooting at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, which claimed the lives of 14 women.

Privacy Act

The federal government has remained firm that it will not hand over records to the provinces.

Federal industry minister, Christian Paradis said it's out of the question to let a province continue indirectly in what the government has promised to eliminate.

The Privacy Act forbids collecting personal data for one purpose then transferring it to be used for another purpose, the government has argued.

The data has been gathering dust and is now out of date anyway, the government says, alluding to the lack of enforcement of the registry.

In Friday's question period, Quebec NDP MP Françoise Boivin accused the Conservative government of "destroying a key tool for keeping our communities safe" and of "playing politics with public safety."

"Why is the government insulting provinces that want to create their own registry?" Boivin asked.

Candice Hoeppner, the parliamentary secretary to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who has been the face of Conservative efforts to scrap the registry in recent years, maintained that to end the registry, the data must be destroyed.

"The long gun registry is the data," she said. "The data is flawed, it is inaccurate, it does not target criminals and it does target law-abiding Canadians."

Hoeppner reminded the House that the gun licensing system will continue, and law enforcement agencies will still have that information to work with.

Some of Charest's political opponents are urging him to immediately file a request for a court injunction to prevent the records' destruction.

The encouragement to act quickly was fuelled by the Harper government's move to limit debate on the registry bill –which is being fast-tracked through the House of Commons.

For now, Quebec's premier is relying on public debate as his forum to fight for keeping the data.

Charest called the federal government's determination to destroy the data "unacceptable."

"Common sense says if the data exists, it's there, it could help save lives and we should preserve it," he said. " There’s no reason to destroy it."

Also on HuffPost