Philippe Couillard, Quebec's premier, takes aim at PM on guns

Premier Philippe Couillard and politicians from all major parties in Quebec are taking aim at remarks made last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Saskatchewan, where he said that guns are needed for safety in rural areas.

Opposition parties in Quebec also slam prime minister for his comments on guns

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the fewer guns in Quebec, the better. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Premier Philippe Couillard and politicians from all major parties in Quebec are taking aim at remarks made last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Saskatchewan, where he said that guns are needed for safety in rural areas.

Harper was asked about gun control during the annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities last Thursday.

"My wife's from a rural area. Gun ownership wasn't just for the farm. It was also for a certain level of security when you're a ways from immediate police assistance," Harper said.

The prime minister's remarks were not widely reported in Quebec until Tuesday morning and politicians were quick to condemn them in the National Assembly.

"The fewer guns in circulation in Quebec the better. A country where there's an abundance of firearms circulating is not a country that the majority of Canadians and Quebecers want to live in," Couillard said.

Opposition parties agree

Opposition parties also criticized Harper's position.

"To say that having easier access to guns will make the country safer is frankly ridiculous," said Pascal Berubé, the public security critic for the Parti Québécois.

"Just look at homicide rates in the United States. It's clearly a way for  Mr. Harper to appeal to his base supporters," Berubé said.

Even the right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said Harper's remarks were out of step with Quebec values.

"In Quebec we lived the tragedy of [École] polytechnique, so we're for the gun registry. We have to limit the usage and possession of firearms," Legault said.

He was then asked if he thought Harper's remarks reflected American values.

Legault replied that he wouldn't necessarily qualify the remarks that way, but added: "It's not useful to have this type of discussion. The position we hear from Republicans in the United States is not part of Quebec's values."

The PQ plans to introduce a motion in the National Assembly condemning Harper's remarks.

Harper's Quebec lieutenant, Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel, did not back Harper's position 100 per cent when asked about the remarks Tuesday.

He refused to specify under what circumstances it might be legitimate for a citizen to use a firearm on someone trespassing in their home

"There are police to ensure people respect the law and they're going to do their job. We're a long way from talking about that," Lebel ​said.

Mulcair calls PM's position 'irresponsible'

Speaking in Montreal Tuesday, federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also slammed Harper's comments.

"There's something frankly surprising when a prime minister tries to say to people they should use their guns to protect themselves," he said.

"Stephen Harper is using the gun registry issue to divide Canadians. This time he's pitting rural Canada against people who live in cities."

Quebec's association of provincial police officers criticized Harper's remarks too, calling them "inappropriate."

The Canadian Bar Association also said it's worried by the message the prime minister's remarks seem to send.

Couillard said Tuesday that Quebec will continue to try to establish its own gun registry.

The province is waiting for a Supreme Court decision as to whether it will be allowed to use information from the now-defunct Canadian registry, abolished by the ruling Conservative Party.

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