A survivor of the 1989 Polytechnique massacre criticized the gun lobby for "wrong and simplistic arguments" as the latest protest against the Quebec government's proposed long-gun registry was staged outside the office of the provincial minister of justice in Maniwaki Saturday.
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"That would be terrible if Quebec would back down in front of the gun lobby," said Heidi Rathjen. "We are talking about public safety measures, where lives are on the line, which are supported by evidence, by the experts. There's no question about that."
'That would be terrible if Quebec would back down in front of the gun lobby.' - Heidi Rathjen, gun control advocate
Dozens of people gathered outside Minister Stéphanie Vallée's west Quebec office on Saturday morning with signs denouncing Bill 64, the Firearms Registration Act.
The group chanted, "We're not criminals."
Protester Patrick Rochon said the province will waste $17 million on a registry that he believes would do nothing to save lives.
"We would like the money to be invested in mental health, in education rather than a useless firearm registry," he said.
The group has collected nearly 40,000 signatures opposing the registry, so far, and plans to drop it off at the Quebec national assembly on March 11.
'Mistake' to dismantle federal registry
But Rathjen said statistics show stricter gun law do, in fact, work. For example, there was a 41 per cent reduction in homicides by firearms from 1995, when the federal firearms registry became law, to 2010.
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Rathjen escaped the bullets at the Montreal engineering school on Dec. 6, 1989, but 14 women were gunned down by Marc Lépine. He injured many others before turning the gun on himself.
Rathjen joined others touched by the massacre to help reform Canada's gun laws with the introduction of a long-gun registry — only to see it dismantled.
"It was a mistake. It was done for political and ideological reasons. It was done precisely because the gun lobby had the eyes and ears — and even the soul — of the Conservative Party," she said.
The registry was criticized for the ballooning costs to initially set it up, but advocates argued that the annual costs of maintaining it were minimal in comparison for a tool that police chiefs across the country endorsed as a helpful on a daily basis in thousands of cases.
The Liberals tabled the long-gun registry bill last December. The PQ is still reviewing the bill.