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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper adjusts his translation aid during a joint news conference with Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 8, 2015.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledges his government pressured the Mounties to swiftly destroy long-gun registry records, even though they'd been warned it was illegal.

For the first time, the Conservative government is asserting that it encouraged the RCMP to delete the data in 2012 — notwithstanding an ongoing investigation by the federal information commissioner and a written promise from the public safety minister to respect the law.

Information commissioner Suzanne Legault has recommended charges because the Mounties knowingly destroyed records that were protected under the Access to Information Act. The matter is being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police.

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Legault is also in Federal Court seeking to preserve a remaining copy of Quebec gun registry data while championing the right of access to government records under an act of Parliament.

An affidavit filed in Federal Court by one of Legault's investigators presents evidence the RCMP was being pressured by the public safety minister's office and the Prime Minister's Office to swiftly destroy the records at the same time the government was assuring Legault they'd be preserved until her investigation was complete.

When asked about the allegation today in the House of Commons, Harper said his government had passed legislation explicitly calling for the record destruction and said it "obviously encouraged" the RCMP to do so.

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