Students from Dawson College joined Quebec public security officials on Thursday to protest against the federal government's decision to scrap the gun registry.
Audrey Deveault, chairperson of the Dawson College student union, representing 10,500 students, spoke at the parliamentary hearing in Ottawa reviewing the bill to end the registry.
The Standing Committee on National Security is in the midst of hearings on the bill, which was introduced last month by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
Kimveer Gill — the 25-year-old who opened fire in the college, killing one student and injuring 19 — used three guns, including a registered Beretta rifle, in the shootings.
Deveault says the Prime Minister's approach to getting rid of the registry ignores what Canadians want.
'We are concerned that our government prefers to orchestrate a war that sews discontent among Canadians.' —Audrey Deveault, Dawson College student union
"We're concerned that our government is disregarding reports submitted by doctors, nurses, psychologists and police officers," said Deveault. "We are concerned that our government prefers to orchestrate a war that sows discontent among Canadians."
The government wants to pass legislation that would eliminate the registry and the records contained in it. Bill C-19 would mean provinces such as Quebec, which is considering launching its own registry to replace the federal one, would have to start from scratch.
Quebec Public Security Minister Robert Dutil also spoke at the parliamentary hearing, arguing Quebec should have access to the registry's data because its citizens have paid into the registry since it was created in 1995.
"The registry is an essential tool for the police," Dutil said, calling it a cornerstone for investigations.
"Tomorrow we're going to lose [track]
of sixty-thousand long guns on the island of Montreal," he said.
Often, he said, the registry is the first place police turn to determine if an accused has guns in his or her possession and how many investigators can expect to find if they have to enter a residence.
He says losing that tool means police will have to go through the legal process to search the home and verify no firearms are present.
"In domestic violence cases, it happens all the time," he said.
"The judge, when he releases the husband, there’s an order not to own a gun. So we can know right now. . . But tomorrow, what we’re going to have to do is to ask the judge to have a search warrant to go in the house, maybe in the cottage, to see if there’s guns inside or not."
"It’s going to be very heavy for our system."
Conservatives call registry ineffective
The government says the registry is wasteful and ineffective at reducing crime and targets law-abiding gun owners instead of criminals, who don't register their firearms.
The Conservatives have tried several times to scrap the registry, but were unable to in a minority Parliament.
Now, with a majority in the House of Commons and Senate, the government is expected to be able to pass the bill with little trouble.