Quebec gun lobby group backtracks on plan for rally at Polytechnique memorial site
MONTREAL — Amid swift and widespread outrage, a pro-gun lobby group backtracked Tuesday on a plan to hold a rally at a memorial site for the 14 women who were killed at Ecole polytechnique in 1989.
A spokesperson for the group said on Facebook the event will be held elsewhere Saturday.
The earlier announcement by Tous contre un registre quebecois des armes a feu (All Against a Quebec Gun Registry) that it would hold a rally at Place du 6 decembre was roundly blasted by politicians of all stripes, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante.
Saturday’s protest will be held four days before the 28th anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.
Guy Morin, vice-president of the pro-gun group, told Radio-Canada, “it wasn’t an error” to plan to hold the protest at the memorial site, but added, “we, perhaps, underestimated the emotion that would come out of this.”
Faced with the public outcry, members of his group decided to change location, he said.
Morin remained defiant, however, saying the controversy was the fault of Quebec’s political class.
“I would say situations like this wouldn’t happen if politicians in Quebec City listened to us and didn’t laugh at us during legislature hearings and treat us like anarchists,” Morin said.
Earlier on Tuesday, he defended the event as a way of reaching out to groups like PolySeSouvient, an organization comprised of survivors of the Polytechnique massacre and members of victims’ families.
That group and its members have been targeted by gun lobby members online, but Morin said he wants dialogue.
“We want to show that we’re open — we want to extend a hand to groups like PolySeSouvient and those who want stricter gun control laws — and find true solutions,” he said.
“For 28 years, people in favour of gun control have taken this event to push their agenda, which in the end only serves to reduce the number of guns in the hands of honest people.”
Trudeau took to Twitter to slam the original plan.
“A needless and cruel provocation,” he said. “No matter the debate, no matter the argument, the families of Polytechnique victims should come first. May we always honour their memory.”
Plante also tweeted her disapproval.
“The pro-gun demonstration at the commemorative square of the Polytechnique massacre shows a lack of judgment, but also an unacceptable lack of respect for the victims of this tragedy and all women who are victims of violence,” she said.
She later said it is important to protect and honour the memory of the victims.
“I am asking the organizers of this protest walk to reconsider their strategy because I don’t think it is appropriate and this is not respectful to the memory of these women,” Plante said.
“Also we are in a week when we’re raising awareness about violence against girls and women.”
Morin’s group has also been mounting an offensive against Quebec’s own provincial long-gun registry, which it claims will punish legitimate gun owners.
Quebec’s registry is being closely watched by groups outside the province who fear it could be duplicated in their jurisdictions.
The Quebec log was introduced to replace the federal long-gun registry, which was created by the Liberals in 1998 in response to the Polytechnique massacre and eliminated in 2012 by the Conservatives.
“We don’t want situations like this (Polytechnique) to happen again, but the gun-control laws work well and that’s not where the problem lies,” Morin said.
Morin said Saturday’s event has been in the works for the better part of a month with the knowledge of local and provincial police.
Sylvie Haviernick, whose sister Maud was one of the victims in 1989, called the original plan an affront to the memories of the women who were killed.
“People have the right to express their concern and to take part in the debate because it is a societal debate,” Haviernick said. “Except that there are places to do it and there are ways to do it. This is very aggressive as a means of communication from this group.
Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux was among several cabinet ministers who weighed in on the earlier plan, saying he found it "absolutely outrageous.”
He said he thought it was a “very bad joke” when he first heard about it.
Dominique Duchesne, a member of the gun lobby group, admitted the initial choice of the site was designed to attract attention, but he defended it.
“We are really respectful of the families of the victims and the victims themselves,” Duchesne insisted. “But we want to pass the message the (mass) killings that happened were by people having mental health problems.”
- Sidhartha Banerjee
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2017
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