Aboriginal communities should consider creating their own long-gun registry separate from the database the provincial government plans on setting up, said the heads of First Nations communities on Wednesday.
Konrad Sioui, Grand Chief of Wendake, and Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, testified during the first day of hearings into Quebec's long-gun registry bill.
Sioui said the old registry – abolished in 2012 by the federal Conservative government – was "a complete failure" for aboriginal communities.
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He said up to 75 per cent of aboriginal long-gun owners didn't comply with the old law and were criminalized as a result.
Sioui said First Nations communities in Quebec are better placed than the provincial government to ensure their citizens register firearms.
"It would give us a form of dignity," Sioui said. "It implicates us, gives us responsibility and the ability to walk around with our head high and engage with you on a nation-to-nation basis. We have reached a point where we can be a partner. A serious and credible partner."
In December, Quebec tabled a bill to create its own registry for firearms used for hunting and sport shooting.
Restricted and prohibited firearms in Canada – such as automatic rifles and handguns – must be registered with the RCMP.
Non-restricted guns, known as long-guns, do not need to be registered anymore since the Conservatives abolished the database several years ago.
The federal government at the time claimed the long-gun registry was a waste of money, stigmatized responsible gun owners and did little to improve safety.
Quebec fought the Tories all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to receive the data related to Quebec long-gun owners but lost.
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Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said he appreciated that native people in isolated communities might have a difficult time complying with the proposed law but added the registry will be "simple and easy" to use – and free.
Coiteux added that penalties for non-compliance will be civil and not criminal.
Hearings into Quebec's long-gun registry bill are scheduled to continue in early April.