MONTREAL — Quebec has won the latest stage in its legal battle against the federal government to keep long-gun registry data for the province.
Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard of the Quebec Superior Court sided with the province Monday and ordered the federal government to hand over the information.
It’s just one more step in the battle over what to do with the remnants of the now-defunct federal gun registry — a fight that could end up before the Supreme Court of Canada. Within moments of the decision, the federal government all but announced plans to appeal.
Monday’s decision comes after the province obtained a series of temporary injunctions safeguarding the Quebec data, which means long guns continue to be registered here unlike elsewhere in the country.
Blanchard wrote that the creation of the gun registry included multiple agreements over how the information would be gathered and accumulated. The judge ruled that the registry data cannot be viewed as being strictly “federal” and said Quebec has a right to it.
“There is a complex web between the federal, provincial and municipal weaves the registry of firearms which meant that it could not exist without the close and constant co-operation of everyone,” Blanchard wrote in his conclusion.
“The implementation of the firearms registry — although under the federal power to legislate criminal law — creates a partnership with Quebec, particularly with regard to the data contained in the registry.”
The bill to end the federal registry received royal assent on April 5, fulfilling a long-standing promise by the Harper government to decriminalize non-registration of long guns.
In Quebec, where there is a strong current of support for gun control, the provincial government has fought back. The outgoing Charest Liberal government began a battle that the next Parti Quebecois government will certainly continue, and perhaps even amplify.
The province has been seeking information from the registry and it plans to start its own provincial version.
Quebec argues that it has a right to the information because its taxpayers helped build and pay for it.
The Harper government is opposed to relinquishing any data, which it is determined to destroy. It says Quebec can start from scratch if it wants to build its own registry.
Gun-control advocates applauded Blanchard’s ruling.
“The decision of the court reaffirms the fact that the data on guns is useful, that the province which contributed to collecting it is entitled to keep it and that it is in the interest of public safety to maintain it,” the Coalition For Gun Control said in a statement.
The organization was founded in the wake of the Montreal massacre in 1989, which helped prompt a renewed federal push for gun control that led to the creation of the registry.
Opponents of the program called it wasteful and irrelevant in stopping crime. Its supporters, however, including some police organizations, described the registry as a valuable tool in law-enforcement’s arsenal.
The federal government reacted swiftly and critically to Monday’s verdict.
“I am disappointed with today’s ruling and will thoroughly review the decision,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.
“The will of Parliament and Canadians has been clear. We do not want any form of a wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry...
“Our Conservative government will continue to fight against any measures that needlessly target law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.”