Quebec takes legal action for gun registry info

The Quebec government has filed for a court injunction to prevent Ottawa from destroying data in the federal long-gun registry.
A man replaces a shotgun in the rack in a downtown Montreal outdoor store. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The Quebec government has filed a motion in Quebec Superior Court to block the federal government  from destroying data in the federal long-gun registry.

Liberal Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier announced Tuesday the province is taking legal action to challenge the constitutionality of Ottawa's decision and save the registry data.

Without that data, Fournier warns more than a million long guns will disappear from the radar screens of law enforcement agencies in Quebec.

"In 2010, we [seized] 25 hundred guns from people who owned those guns, because they were dangerous [to] themselves or other people," Fournier said.

The province believes that it has a right to the data because it helped collect it and claims that its destruction is unconstitutional.

Too costly to start new registry from scratch

Quebec has long demanded relevant registry information be transferred to the province, so it can create its own list.

It says starting a new registry from scratch would be prohibitively expensive.

"What we want is to have all the information that is pertinent, for our own registry," Fournier said.

Quebec's opposition parties support the preservation of the gun registry, but Parti Quebecois justice critic Bernard Drainville accuses the government of waiting too long to make its move.

"We think the Quebec government has been incredibly weak  before Ottawa over the past several years," said Drainville.  "They're suddenly waking up because there's an election pending."

The injunction, filed in Quebec Superior Court, asks for the registry to be preserved until a judge renders an ultimate decision.

Meanwhile, legislation to abolish the gun registry is days away from becoming a reality. Bill C-19 is expected to receive royal assent later this week.

The Conservative government has refused to transfer data to Quebec, where gun control is a particularly emotional issue.

The federal registry was the result of an intense lobbying campaign in the wake of the 1989 Montreal massacre.

Fourteen women were killed at the École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989 by a gunman wielding a hunting rifle.

Registry critics describe the system as ineffective and wasteful.