Aboriginal leaders say Quebec must explain how new gun registry will affect them
First Nations weren't consulted before law was tabled, said grand chief of the Wendake Huron
The Quebec government needs to explain how its new long-gun registry law will affect Aboriginal people, says a prominent Huron leader.
First Nations communities across the province weren't consulted before the law was tabled, said Konrad Sioui, grand chief of the Wendake Huron community near Quebec City.
He added that leaders aren't sure how a provincial law on firearms will affect existing treaties or be enforced on their territories.
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Members of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador are holding a conference in Quebec City this week and Sioui said leaders are expecting answers from Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux at a scheduled meeting Thursday.
Province acted unilaterally, grand chief says
Quebec's National Assembly passed legislation last week creating a provincial long-gun registry, which forces owners of shotguns and rifles to register their weapon with the government.
Sioui said he wasn't surprised but was "disappointed'' Quebec acted unilaterally.
"Even the Supreme Court of Canada was extremely clear — in at least two cases — that federal and provincial governments need to do their best to consult with First Nations and to ensure that the application of laws (affecting us) is acceptable,'' he said. "All that was left out.''
Restricted and prohibited weapons in Canada must be registered with the RCMP under the Firearms Act. Non-restricted guns, known as long guns, are not required to be registered with the abolition of the federal registry in 2012.
Quebec fought the former Conservative government all the way to the Supreme Court to obtain the data related to gun owners in the province, but lost. The province then decided to create its own database, which the government says will cost $17 million to set up and another $5 million a year to maintain.
Federal registry a failure?
Sioui said the federal database was a failure for Aboriginal people because most of them didn't register and were criminalized as a result.
He said hunting rifles move around often on reserves, between family members and friends, and the federal law wasn't adapted to the realities and lifestyles of Canada's Aboriginal people.
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Moreover, Sioui says the regulation of firearms is a federal jurisdiction and Coiteux needs to explain to community leaders how Quebec's new law relates to Aboriginal Peoples across the country.
Sebastien Grammond, a University of Ottawa law professor and an expert on Aboriginal legal issues, said provinces and the federal government have the legal right to legislate for the control of firearms.
"There is no doubt a province can create its own registry,'' he said.
Sioui maintains a better approach would have been to grant First Nations communities the power to create their own registry — an idea the provincial government rejected.