The Current

Quebec's new long-gun registry is a symbol, not a solution, says opponent

The deadline for Quebecers to register their rifles and shotguns has passed, with only 25 per cent of the province's 1.6 million non-restricted firearms added to the system. We hear from both sides of the debate.

Deadline for Quebecers to register guns passed, with 25 per cent compliance

Quebec passed the law creating the long-gun registry in 2016, and gave owners until last Tuesday to register their firearms or face penalties of up to $5,000. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
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Quebec's new registry for non-restricted firearms is a symbol, not a solution to gun violence, according to a prefect from the province.

"It's easy for the government to make a symbol, and it's easy for them to say: 'We are doing our job,' and not invest correctly in mental health, in support for women's groups, etc," said Claire Bolduc, prefect of the region of Témiscamingue, Que.

Bolduc and the local government in Témiscamingue have adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on the registry.

Investing in protecting vulnerable populations would be more effective, she said, adding that the issue was highlighting a divide between rural and urban populations.

"The rural population and our population in Témiscamingue think we are identified as bad people, because we contest to register our rifles or arms," she said.

Quebec passed the law creating the registry in 2016, and gave gun owners until last Tuesday to register their firearms or face penalties of up to $5,000. As the deadline passed, less than 25 per cent of the province's 1.6 million non-restricted firearms had been added to the system.

Bolduc told The Current's guest host Connie Walker that while registration is free now, people are concerned it could eventually cost money. She also described it as a double standard, as there is no equivalent in neighbouring Ontario.

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador has also criticized the plan for not taking Indigenous rights and jurisdictions into account.

Heidi Rathjen said that the new registry instils accountability for safe storage, and helps with tracing illegal sales. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Law was passed 'fair and square'

Heidi Rathjen was a student at École Polytechnique in December 1989, and witnessed Marc Lepin's rampage that left 14 women dead.

She said that the law was passed "fair and square," after several years of debate and democratic process.

"They've had a year or two to comply, and so it's very strange now that for some reason they think that we can have a new debate about the merits of the measure," she told Walker.

Today, Rathjen is the co-ordinator for Poly Remembers, a gun control advocacy group made up of École Polytechnique students and graduates.

Quebec already issues permits to acquire and possess a firearm, but did not have records of how many guns a person owned or where they were kept.

The new registry is designed to record that information, and must be kept up to date by the gun owner, she explained.

Most gun owners are law-abiding citizens, and also don't want to receive fines of $500 to $5,000 dollars.- Heidi Rathjen

Rathjen said it will establish better accountability for safe storage, and help with tracing illegal sales.

She's not worried about the low uptake so far.

"Most gun owners are law-abiding citizens, and also don't want to receive fines of $500 to $5,000 dollars," she said.

"Once we see fines being applied, we're pretty sure that compliance will will increase very rapidly."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Produced by Imogen Birchard.

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