Mar 27 2015
QUEBEC CITY - Less than two hours after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government has the right to destroy long-gun registry data collected in Quebec between 1995 and 2012, the province announced it would be moving ahead with its own registry — with or without Ottawa’s help.
Provincial Public Safety minister Lise Thériault was unequivocal during a press conference held Friday morning in Quebec City, promising that the legislative base for a provincial registry would be in place by the end of this parliamentary session. That legislation will, in turn, set up a timeline for the establishment of the new registry.
Based on a unanimous motion passed last fall in the National Assembly, the bill is expected to be supported by all opposition parties. Both Québec solidaire and the Coalition avenir Québec reaffirmed their support on Friday morning.
"We remain convinced that the daily use of a tool like this one is necessary to facilitate police investigations and interventions," said Thériault, adding that the most recent statistics suggest that the federal long-gun registry data — which was still available to Quebec’s police forces until Friday — was consulted an average of 900 times a day.
"Our first objective is the registration of firearms with the goal of better protecting citizens and police officers," the minister said.
She was careful to add that a provincial registry is not designed to limit hunting activities in Quebec or to crack down on lawful gun owners.
Based on "conservative" estimates, a provincial registry will cost at least $30 million to set up, but Thériault acknowledged that the number could fluctuate.
"You have to take the time to draw up the legislation, table the legislation, adopt the legislation, all of that. You have to understand that it can’t be done overnight."
Quebec fought for the right to keep the federal long-gun registry data linked to 1.6 million rifles and shotguns in the province for three full years. But on Friday morning, the Supreme Court of Canada sided with Ottawa in a 5-4 decision and brought an end to the legal wrangling.
The three Quebec judges on the court were among the dissenters.
The federal records, dating back to 1995, are expected to be destroyed almost immediately, as mandated by federal law. According to Thériault, the decision was an unexpected setback for the province, which had genuinely hoped to win the case before the country’s highest court.
"You argue before the courts to win, you don’t argue to lose," she said. "We fought. We lost. Fine. We roll up our sleeves and we move forward."