MONTREAL — Quebec's provincial long-gun registry is set to come into effect on Monday — the one-year anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux told reporters on Sunday that gun owners will have one year to register their existing firearms through a "simple, quick, free" process that can be done online.
The process requires them to provide a detailed description of the firearm as well as proof of identity.
He called the registry "an important tool" that will both prevent and solve crimes by allowing authorities to trace a gun's ownership.
"It will help for suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention, the kind of operation by police forces when they know who is owning what (firearm), where, and how many," he told reporters in Montreal.
Coiteux said the Jan. 29 date was not chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the mosque shooting where six men died, adding that he wants to treat the events separately.
"I don't want to mix the two issues. They're not mixed in the mind of the government or in my mind either," he said, adding he'd chosen to speak about the new law a day early to allow Monday to be fully dedicated to commemorative events.
The province began plans to establish the log after the Conservative government abolished the federal long-gun registry in 2012.
A Quebec judge upheld the constitutionality of the registry last October, after a legal challenge sought to block it on the grounds that it infringed on federal jurisdiction.
The National Firearms Association, in conjunction with a Quebec-based pro-gun lobby group, had argued in court that the province was wading into federal territory when it passed its own long-gun registry law in June 2016.
Opponents of the registry have also argued that it will be unworkable and costly, as well as ineffective in stopping those who are intent on committing crimes.
Coiteux insisted the information was valuable.
"Prevention is not a guarantee that nothing will happen," he said. "But of course we can do more in terms of prevention if we have more information."
He said the registry is expected to cost about $20 million and is within budget so far.
The now-defunct federal long-gun registry was created by the Liberals in 1998 in response to the murder of 14 women at Montreal's Ecole polytechnique in 1989. They were targeted by a gunman because of their gender.
Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of the massacre and spokesperson for gun control advocacy group PolySeSouvient, said the provincial registry is "great news.
"We still have people who die from preventable gun violence, and we can do better," she told reporters at the news conference.
She addressed critics of the registry by pointing out that it was only one part of a comprehensive effort that is needed to fight gun violence.
"It's not by eliminating a measure that we do better," she said.
"It's by looking at what could have been done to prevent the access to firearms for certain individuals that we're going to move forward and reduce the chances of these events happening again."