The Federal Conservatives promised and delivered on the abolition of the long-gun registry in Canada and have ordered all records and infrastructure of the program to be scrapped. Then Liberal-Premier Jean Charest took a legal initiative to stop the Canadian government from scrapping data that was owned in part by Quebec, and promised to create a provincial registry.
On September 5, Quebecers voted for change and elected the first PQ government in a decade, and also the first female Premier, Pauline Marois. Her platform consisted of a list of demands to not only make Quebec more autonomous but a plan to eventually separate from Canada. Given how the Quebec Supreme Court sided with the Quebec government over who was entitled to access to information logged by the gun registry, it is safe to say that Marois can be sitting happily in her office as she prepares her list of demands for the Quebec takeover of powers that are currently in federal jurisdiction.
Today, a Quebec Superior Court judge Marc-André Blanchard decided that a part of the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act "impinges in a very substantial way, even exorbitantly, on provincial powers, and there is no rational or functional justification or any necessity to do so." The court has ordered that the Canadian government is not allowed to scrap Quebec’s portion of registry data since the Quebec government collaborated with the federal government at the time of its creation.
Today’s ruling upholds the one back in April that prevented the Conservatives from scrapping the data when they passed legislation geared at abolishing the registry. This ruling means that until the power gets handed down to the Quebec government by a deadline of 30 days, the Canadian government must continue to maintain and uphold the gun registry in Quebec.
The judgment also voids, for Quebec only, Sections 11 and 29 of the act, allowing long-gun owners to sell their firearms without registering the sale, and calling for the deletion of long gun records.
Meanwhile, Quebec’s outgoing Justice Minister, Jean-Marc Fournier, said he was "very happy that Quebec won the fight," adding that "Quebec's long-gun registry's data and its functions will be preserved in the province."
But, Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews expressed the Conservatives’ disappointment stating that the "will of Parliament and Canadians has been clear," and that people do not want to upkeep "any form of a wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry."
But this news couldn’t be better for Pauline Marois who promised to take over Employment Insurance and a wide range of justice legislation in the midst of her master plan for a sovereign Quebec. The court’s ruling in favor of Quebec’s autonomy in the case of the federal gun registry points toward future possibilities where Quebec may win jurisdiction transfers for select programs. It is also worth noting that despite the Conservatives’ disappointment in this case, their party is known for decentralized policies which would strike accord with the new PQ government who wants a transfer of federal powers to Quebec.
In the end of the day, Quebec gets to keep its data and create its own registry but considering how guns can be smuggled in by outside the province, one must wonder how Quebec authorities will cover all corners and how they will be able to use this limited registry to fight gun crime, something that is easier done in all of Canada using border controls.
The Conservatives will likely appeal the decision but given that the Supreme Court has once again ruled in Quebec’s favor, they might as well transfer the data and control within 30 days, end a conflict and save the money that they intended to save by scrapping the program in the first place.
The last thing Canada would want is for Pauline Marois, who used the campaign as a platform to attack the Harper government, to use the abolition of the gun registry as the first reason why Canada isn’t a home for Quebec. Considering the unfortunate event that happened during her victory speech, any further Conservative appeal to the registry could be used as a political maneuvering to recreate the seed and will for sovereignty, especially in days where Canada’s government doesn’t reflect Quebec’s principles and values.