Three provinces join Ontario's call to suspend gun registry

Nfld. Justice Minister Kelvin Parsons says Ottawa shouldn't 'force-feed' registry until costs can be managed

The governments of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador have joined a rising chorus of voices calling on Ottawa to suspend the gun registry until the costs can be better managed.

Newfoundland Justice Minister Kelvin Parsons said the federal government should be more cautious in getting firearms registered.

"It's time to put a halt to this thing until we know where we've come from, why we've had this exorbitant cost, what remains to be done and what's the most cost-efficient manner to get there," he said.

New Brunswick Justice Minister Brad Green also spoke out Monday, saying his government agrees Ottawa should suspend the program and conduct a thorough audit.

"We've been doing our best to co-operate with the federal government to try and make this registry work, but the evidence that it is not is overwhelming," Green said.

Last month, federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser released a scathing report on the gun registry, saying the promised $119-million program only $2 million of which was to come from tax dollars will become a billion-dollar liability for the federal government by 2005.

The deadline for registering firearms passed on Jan. 1. On Jan. 3, Ontario Solicitor General Bob Runciman called the registry a "billion-dollar black hole" and called on the federal government to shelve it until Fraser can conduct a full audit of the program.

"Similar to Ontario, our position would be that rather than bulldoze ahead or force-feed this onto anyone, a cautious approach ought to be taken," said Parsons.

N.S. speaks out over the weekend

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Jamie Muir on Sunday agreed with Ontario that the registry should be put on hold. He called the program a "prototype government foul-up."

The registry "just has not worked as it was intended," he said.

Muir, who has been justice minister for two weeks, said his province isn't opposed to the registry in principle, only in price. He said the program should be as inexpensive as possible, and simple for gun owners to comply with.

Western provinces have voiced more fundamental opposition to the registry.

Ahead of the registration deadline, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Chris Axworthy said provincial prosecutors or conservation officers would not be used to enforce the law.

In Alberta, three people, including a member of the legislature, have openly defied the registry, but no arrests have been made.

On Saturday, Ken Palmer, a member of the Law-abiding Unregistered Firearms Association (LUFA), went to police in Calgary to confess his ownership of unregistered guns. Calgary police said enforcing the registry is out of their jurisdiction, and they would pass on Palmer's confession to the federal Justice Department.

LUFA wants to arrange an arrest so it can get into court and challenge the registry under the Charter.