Quebec’s decision to sue the federal government for the data contained in the long-gun registry could help spur other Canadians to action, the NDP says.
Public Security Minister Robert Dutil said Tuesday morning the province plans to take Ottawa to court if a bill to end the registry becomes law.
“They’re providing a lead for a lot of people across this country,” NDP justice critic Jack Harris told reporters in Ottawa. “I think there are probably a lot of other Canadians who want to see their governments take this kind of initiative.”
Quebec is deeply opposed to the Conservative government’s law-and-order agenda, which includes eliminating the long-gun registry and passing an omnibus crime bill that would toughen sentencing for certain crimes.
Both Mr. Dutil and Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier have made trips to Ottawa in recent months to ask for changes to the bills, which they say will threaten public safety if they are passed in their current forms.
Quebec wants to use the information contained in the federal registry to set up a database of its own, but Ottawa has so far refused to hand over the data.
Speaking to a parliamentary committee last month, federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said, “the registry is the data,” and confirmed that his government is committed to eliminating both.
Quebec says it would be too expensive to gather the data on its own and argues it is entitled to the information because its residents helped pay for the original registry to be set up.
Mr. Harris called Quebec’s announcement “encouraging” and said he hopes the legal threat will convince Ottawa to reconsider its decision to destroy the data before the matter goes to the courts.
The Conservatives have tried to destroy the long-gun registry for several years, calling it wasteful and arguing that it makes lawful gun owners feel like criminals.
But police chiefs and some victims’ rights groups, including survivors of the 1989 Montreal massacre, say the registry is a valuable tool for law enforcement and helps prevent gun crimes.
The government re-introduced a bill to end the registry this fall, and it now appears on track to become law in the New Year.
NDP MP Francoise Boivin said Ottawa’s determination to move forward on its justice legislation demonstrates that it isn’t paying attention to Quebec’s concerns.
But she added opposition to the bills goes beyond the province that has been most vocal about it.
“It’s not just the people of Quebec. It’s not always just Quebec versus Canada,” Ms. Boivin said. “It’s actually the whole Canadian public that are saying there are problems with those bills.”