Skip to main content

Quebec Premier Jean Charest responds to questions over the federal gun registry and the destruction of its information on Oct. 27, 2011, at the legislature in Quebec City.Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to abolish the long-gun registry, the data should be preserved and transferred to Quebec to allow the province to build its own system, Premier Jean Charest says.

"The registry exists. It is there – and those who work with the police tell us that the registry is useful," Mr. Charest said in the National Assembly. "It is only common sense that the data be preserved and that [Ottawa]work with us to transfer the data."

For the fifth time in as many years, the Quebec National Assembly on Thursday voted unanimously to condemn abolishing the long-gun registry and voice its opposition to Ottawa's decision to destroy the database.

In a letter to federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Quebec called the legislation unacceptable, arguing that it goes against the objective of reducing criminal activities in the province.

"Quebeckers contributed to setting up the arms registry with their tax dollars," the Quebec government stated in the letter to Mr. Toews. "We ask that your government amend the bill to withdraw provisions relating to the destruction of the data and undertake discussions as soon as possible to transfer information in the gun registry regarding Quebec citizens."

The Harper government showed no sign of backtracking and moved to shut down debate on the bill Thursday, the fifth time in 35 days it has moved for closure or time allocation on controversial pieces of legislation.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said his government will move to destroy all the data compiled and gave no indication his government would bow to Quebec's demands.

"We will not do indirectly what we said we do directly," Mr. Paradis said in a Radio-Canada interview in defending the need to abolish the registry and destroy the data.

Mr. Paradis says his government has full authority to implement the provisions of the bill, including destroying the data. There is nothing Quebec can do to stop it, he added.

Mr. Charest refused to say what he plans to do when pressured by the opposition to explain his next steps.

The Quebec government, he said, is examining all possible avenues to prevent Ottawa from destroying the data, including legal action.

The province's Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Yvon Vallières, didn't rule out asking the court for an injunction to protect the information from being destroyed. He believes that Quebec can make a legal case to support its demands.

The killing of 14 women at the Montreal's École Polytechnique by Marc Lepine in 1989 sparked an outcry of anger over violence against women and launched a public debate over gun control, which led to the creation of the gun registry. That debate still remains fresh in the minds of many Quebeckers who continue to support tough control legislation and the need to maintain a gun registry.

Action démocratique du Québec party house leader Sylvie Roy, said the federal government's behaviour was clearly "arrogant," while Québec Solidaire member Amir Khadir noted that if Quebec was an independent country, "we wouldn't find ourselves in this type of situation today."

With a report from Jane Taber