Quebec's Court of Appeals: 'Province has no property right to Fed's gun registry'

Last week, the Quebec Court of Appeals said that Canada’s conservative federal government does not have to turn over its long-gun registry information to the province so that it can create its own database.

Therefore, the federal government can continue to fulfill its promise to law-abiding gun owners and destroy the remaining records in its database, which are the 1.6 million rifles and shotguns owned by Quebecers as all other provincial records have been shredded.

The ruling was unambiguous and overturned a previous ruling by a lower court last year that argued Quebec had a right to the information because of “co-operative federalism,” i.e., consent is needed by both parties, the fed and the province, before the data is destroyed (for more on this earlier ruling, click here).

“Quebec has no rights over the data,” Chief Justice Nicole Duval Hesler wrote on behalf of a five-judge appeal panel. “The data does not belong to the province, the provinces exercise no control over the data, it is the sole responsibility of the director of the registry – a federal civil servant – from the moment the data is collected until their destruction.”

“The Parliament of Canada, which considers the data at issue to be pointless and inefficient and believes that its existence in a registry infringes the right to privacy, can certainly decide to stop compiling and preserving that information,” it continued.

In short, it’s the fed’s registry.  If the fed wants to destroy the data, it has every right to do so.

Naturally, this caused a tizzy amongst officials in Quebec who want to preserve the information so they don’t have to start from scratch and spend a boatload of taxpayer dollars compiling a new database.

Françoise Boivin, the New Democratic Party’s justice critic, released a statement condemning the ruling.

“New Democrats have always put listening to victims of gun crimes first – and we believe that access to existing data on guns is an important tool to help any province that wants to track non-restricted firearms,” the statement read.

“It is unfortunate Conservatives have persisted in this costly court battle, using taxpayer dollars, to fight access to this data,” he continued. “We are in favor of preserving data taxpayers already paid for and urge the Conservatives to stop politicizing such an important public safety issue.”

In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Quebec Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud said that the provincial government will file an appeal, which will likely go to the Supreme Court, and request an injunction to prevent the fed from destroying the data in the interim.

“There is a consensus in Quebec concerning the registration of firearms,” St-Arnaud said in the statement.

“All political parties represented in the national assembly defend this position and strongly oppose the federal government’s decision to abolish the firearms registry.”

So, the saga continues: ruling followed by an appeal, ruling followed by an appeal.   So, who will win out in the end?  While that’s not exactly clear, what is evident is that the taxpayers are the losers here.  Their money is being wasted on this protracted legal battle that now looks as though it will take many more months to resolve.

As has pointed out in the past, the national registry was, indeed, a hassle for law-abiding gun owners and a huge waste of money; a total of $2 billion was spent on the program, which yielded no real measurable results as a crime fighting/prevention tool.  Yet, despite this evidence, Quebec officials want to keep a database intact, which they have every right to do — on their own.

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