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Supreme Court to hear Quebec appeal on long-gun registry

A rifle owner checks the sight of his rifle at a hunting camp property in rural Ontario west of Ottawa on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2010

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The last remnants of the federal long-gun registry will survive into 2014.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed on Thursday to give the Quebec government one last shot at making the case for preserving provincial registry data.

Records detailing more than five million rifles and shotguns owned by Canadians in the other provinces and territories were destroyed a year ago, but Quebec – the birthplace of the registry – has gone to court in a bid to use the information to start a registry of its own.

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"For the moment, we're satisfied with the situation and we're preparing for the eventual creation of a Quebec arms registry," Stéphane Bergeron, Quebec's public safety minister, said in Quebec City.

Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney issued a statement saying the Conservative government "will vigorously defend our legislation, adopted by Parliament, in front of the Supreme Court."

The majority Conservatives killed the registry in February, 2012, and Quebec has been fighting the decision ever since.

In June, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled the province "has no property right in the data" and upheld Ottawa's right to act as it saw fit.

"The Parliament of Canada, which considers the data at issue to be pointless and inefficient and believes that its existence in a registry infringes the right to privacy, can certainly decide to stop compiling and preserving that information," the Quebec court ruled.

The provincial government appealed, and the Supreme Court has agreed to revisit the case. As usual, the justices gave no reasons for deciding to hear the appeal.

The Coalition for Gun Control, formed after 14 women were gunned down at Montreal's École Polytechnique in December, 1989, expressed hope on Thursday that the top court will allow the Quebec registry data to be preserved.

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"The decision of the court reaffirms the fact that there is public interest in studying Quebec's request for an appeal on the decision to destroy the records on 1.6 million rifles and shotguns registered in Quebec," coalition president Wendy Cukier said in a release.

Conservatives have long railed against the registry as ineffective and prohibitively expensive. The fiscal arguments since its demise have been inconclusive.

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