North

Inuit want exemption from Quebec's proposed long-gun registry

Inuit in Nunavik want an exemption from Quebec's proposed long-gun registry, saying it treads on traditional hunting rights guaranteed under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

'Our rights and privileged exclusive rights are being diminished here,' Makivik Corp.

'It’s going to hinder our hunting way of life,' said Paulusi Novalinga the president of the hunters association in Nunavik.

Makivik Corp., representing Inuit in Nunavik, wants an exemption from Quebec's proposed long-gun registry, saying it treads on traditional hunting rights guaranteed under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

"Our rights and privileged exclusive rights are being diminished here," said Adamie Delisle Alaku, executive vice-president at Makivik.

Bill 64, the Firearms Registration Act, would require that all firearms in Quebec be registered.

On April 6, Makivik tabled a brief in the Committee on Institutions of the Quebec National Assembly itemizing their concerns over the bill.  

'We want an exemption,' said Adamie Delisle Alaku, the Executive Vice President at Makivik. (Submitted by Makivik Corp.)
"We want an exemption because under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which is a constitutionally protected agreement, we have rights," said Delisle Alaku.

Under the proposed legislation each firearm would be assigned a unique number by the ministry, and owners would be required to "affix it to the firearm in the manner prescribed by government regulation."

The penalty for failing to register a gun would be a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000.

Makivik is requesting a full exemption from the bill for Nunavik Inuit until meaningful consultations take place.

"The consultation process did not fulfil its fiduciary obligation of consultations towards Nunavik Inuit and the potential impacts on our rights and titles as aboriginals," said Delisle Alaku.

Hunting way of life

The right to harvest guaranteed for Nunavik Inuit beneficiaries also includes the "right to possess and use all equipment reasonably needed to exercise that right."

Inuit hunters believe that the long-gun registry will threaten their traditional practices.

"It's going to hinder our hunting way of life," said Paulusi Novalinga, president of the hunters association in Nunavik.

"We're still living off the land and we need the tools to provide for our families."

Novalinga added that as subsistence hunters Inuit should not be lumped into the same category as sports hunters.

Language barriers

'Basic services to aid people to be able to fill in these forms are not easily accessible in the North,' added Delisle Alaku. (Nunavik Tourism)
The Inuit organizations say that the provincial long gun registry also does not take into account specific barriers faced by Inuit in the North.

"We have unilingual speaking hunters out there that would need help," said Delisle Alaku.

"Basic services to aid people to be able to fill in these forms are not easily accessible in the North."

Another problem is the turn around time for northern communities that have slow postal services. Gun owners will have 12 months to register their firearms once the proposed bill becomes law.

"Nunavik does not have the required services and transmitting information requires using the post office and there are delays," said Delisle Alaku.

The legislation also does not take into account the ways firearms are used and shared by Inuit.

"We have communal possession of firearms," said Delisle Alaku.

"A family would necessarily share a firearm, a father and a son or a daughter will share the same rifle when they go hunting."

He said the provincial legislation is reminiscent of the failed federal long-gun registry, which was opposed by many groups including Inuit organizations in Nunavut, who argued that it violated their traditional hunting rights.

"Bill C-68 that was trying to be passed with the feds, now the Quebec government has been pushing this," said Delisle Alaku.

He said now that Makivik has submitted its position paper to the provincial government it can only wait for a response before deciding on the next move.

"It's kind of a waiting game at this stage," said Delisle Alaku.

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.