The federal government is undermining Quebec’s ability to create its own long-gun registry by refusing to hand over the data that would allow it to do so, the province’s Public Security Minister says.
Robert Dutil was in Ottawa Thursday in a bid to convince the government not to destroy the data when it passes a bill to end the registry.
Conservatives have long said they want to eliminate the registry, arguing it wastes money and pits police against law-abiding gun owners.
But Mr. Dutil said the government has not always been upfront with its plans for the data.
He said Minister Christian Paradis assured him last year that the government has no jurisdiction to stop the provinces from setting up their own registries.
“If the provinces want to keep it, that’s their business,” Mr. Paradis said, according to Mr. Dutil.
“The position of the federal government that the registry and the data are the same thing is contradicted by this statement,” Mr. Dutil said, adding Quebec needs the data in order to build its own registry.
He said it would be extremely expensive for the province to re-create the information now contained in the federal registry, and he believes it is entitled to access it because its citizens helped pay for it.
“Quebeckers have already paid handsomely for the gun registry,” Mr. Dutil told a House of Commons committee. “At least give us the data so we can have our own.”
But the federal government held its ground on Thursday, with Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism Maxime Bernier saying the government has always been clear about its plans to destroy the data along with the registry.
“The information in the registry is the data. So when we said we will destroy the registry, we will destroy the database that’s part of the registry,” he told The Globe and Mail.
Asked if the government will consider Quebec’s request for the data, Mr. Bernier said the decision has already been made.
“If a province like Quebec wants to have its own administrative registry, they can build one. But that registry [the long-gun registry]is under the federal code, it is 100 per cent under our jurisdiction, and we will do what we said we were going to do during the [election]campaign,” he said.
Quebec has threatened to seek a court injunction to protect the data for however long it takes the province to fight a legal battle for the records. Mr. Dutil declined to elaborate in committee about the province’s next steps, but said it has no plans to give up.