No dissent welcome

Lana Payne
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George Orwell once wrote that, in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

Perhaps Orwell was partially envisioning Stephen Harper’s Canada where truth and facts are often dismissed, suppressed, denied or ignored. And the people who oppose this government and its ideology are often — like the facts — buried or dismissed.

The long-form Census questionnaire and the government’s decision to axe it is but one of many examples.

Canada’s gun registry is another. The gun registry is more than a wedge issue being capitalized on by the Conservatives, as NDP Leader Jack Layton has described it.

It is, for Mr. Layton, shaping up to be a test of leadership.

Twelve of his New Democrat MPs have voted with the Conservatives to dismantle the registry. Despite his personal support of the gun registry, the leader of Canada’s progressive party has refused to whip his caucus on this issue as the Liberal leader has done.

The bottom line is the fate of the registry rests with Mr. Layton and his MPs. The Conservatives may have fashioned this political box for the NDP leader, but as is often the case in politics and life, we do not always get to pick our battles.

In four weeks, the future of the gun registry will again be the subject of Parliamentary debate. On Sept. 22, MPs are expected to vote on a motion — based on a report from the Committee on Public Safety and National Security — to toss Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner’s private member’s bill that calls for the dismantling of the registry. That bill has already passed second reading.

Last week, Canada’s police chiefs stepped up their efforts to save the registry with a campaign designed to get the facts out from their perspective.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, head of the Canadian Police Chief Association, has said that the registry is a tool used by the police every day. “If you take it away from us, you are diminishing our capacity to keep our communities safe.” Chief Blair says this is not about ideology, but public and police safety.

Tell it to the Harper Conservatives. Incredulously, they would like Canadians to believe that the former head of Canada’s firearms program, a vocal and passionate supporter of the gun registry, was removed from his duties just weeks before the vote in Parliament because he needed French training.

RCMP Superintendent Martin Cheliak, who is credited with reducing the costs associated with the registry and increasing its effectiveness, told a House of Commons Committee that the registry is “vital to the prevention and investigation of crime.” He also said that it promotes safe storage and discourages illegal sales.

Perhaps most importantly the registry saves lives. According to the Coalition for Gun Control, firearm use in spousal homicide has decreased by 36 per cent since the 1995 implementation of the Firearms Act and suicides have dropped by 35 per cent. The National Public Health Institute of Quebec says that annually there are 250 fewer suicides and 50 fewer gun-related deaths.

Supporters of the registry like Mary Scott, president of the National Council of Women of Canada, say it is indeed strange that a “law and order government” like the Harper Conservatives are ignoring and suppressing information from Canada’s national police force. She was referring to a report by Superintendent Cheliak that is said to outline improvements and benefits of the long-gun registry. To date, the government has refused to release the report.

The Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights says women have the most to lose if Ms. Hoeppner’s Bill C 391 is passed.

A woman is 12 times more likely to be murdered if a gun is involved in domestic violence and the guns most commonly used in domestic violence are long guns, not hand guns. If Ms. Hoeppner has her way seven million long-gun firearm records will be destroyed.

None of this seems to matter. Little matters these days in Ottawa, but strident partisanship and ideology. Not facts, not truth, not integrity.

During his 1983 speech honouring the 50th anniversary of the NDP in Canada, Tommy Douglas said: “The growth and development of the New Democratic Party must never allow us to forget our roots. Don’t sacrifice conviction for success. Don’t ever give up quality for quantity. In a movement like ours, as socialist movements around the world have demonstrated, we’re not just interested in getting votes. We are seeking to get people who are willing to dedicate their lives to build a different kind of society, a society founded on the principles of concern for human well-being and human welfare.”

You have to wonder how someone like Tommy Douglas would have not just handled the gun registry debate, but the Ottawa of today. I expect it would have been with grace and skill.

I expect he would have risen to the courage of his convictions.



Lana Payne is president of the

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at Her column returns Sept. 11.

Organizations: Harper Conservatives, New Democratic Party, Committee on Public Safety RCMP House of Commons Committee Coalition for Gun Control National Public Health Institute of Quebec National Council of Women of Canada Coalition for Women Human Rights Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Canada, Toronto, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Gary E. Johnston
    January 29, 2011 - 22:52

    As soon as you cited an advocacy group's propaganda as a source, your article lost a lot of creditability with me. No doubt the NFA will have opposite information but no less questionable. How about peer reviewed social science with no ties to either side, the government, or the RCMP and let the chips fall where they may?

  • Donald
    August 29, 2010 - 16:26

    Scape Goat, if you read 1984, you completely misunderstood the whole point. Orwell, a socialist himself, was writing about an authoritarian regime, not a socialist one. Or maybe you just don`t understand socialism. Perhaps you should stick with Ziggy comics.

  • Donald
    August 29, 2010 - 16:26

    Scape Goat, if you read 1984, you completely misunderstood the whole point. Orwell, a socialist himself, was writing about an authoritarian regime, not a socialist one. Or maybe you just don`t understand socialism. Perhaps you should stick with Ziggy comics.

  • scape goat
    August 29, 2010 - 13:41

    Support for the registry is Orwellian? Has Mrs Payne even read 1984 In the book the government was a socialist one agents of that government taxed and stole from the people (can you say sponsership scandal? passed laws to control every aspect of human life ( its illegal to now fly a kite in toronto , and don't forget that "hey lets make up our own laws" police chief. the governemt of 1984 "ENGSOC" more resembles the liberal goverment of Canada , or the way the Mayor of Toronto runs things. so please stop with the "double think" Mrs Payne"

  • Mr Kilroy
    August 28, 2010 - 23:25

    George Orwell said a great many things, One such thing was "See the rifle on the back of the workman's cottage, that is the symbol of democracy, and it is our job to see that it stays there. The Registry has nothing to do with public safety or even police safety, for 133 years no one in Canada was required to register a rifle nor a shotgun, hell a licence wasn't even required. What did they do for all those years?

  • Richard Bungay
    August 28, 2010 - 20:58

    Yet more socialist drivel from Lana Payne, it's clear from her musings that she is against everything the conservative government does. The Canadian Police Chief Association took money from the same company that received MILLIONS of tax payer dollars to install and maintain the gun registry's computer system, at the same time they say they represent their members however many police say the registry is useless and other Chief's of police of major cities have come out against the registry. Bill Blair is the same Chief of Police who is on record for lying on camera on actions his officers took against protesters during the recent G20 in Toronto. Hey Bill here's a suggestion, instead of spending your time trying to save this useless registry why not clean up your city, you sir are a disgrace. Lana Payne goes on to mention the coalition for gun controls stats that in the 1995 implementation of the Firearms Act has led to drop in suicides, it doesn't mention the fact that suicides by firearms were already on the decrease. Do you think a person who has a registered firearm is less likely to kill themselves than with a unregistered one? What we should be focusing on is stopping the illegal flow of guns into Canada, putting more cops on the streets and stopping the crime epidemic that has gripped cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Imagine what those moneys wasted on the registry and continues to be wasted could of accomplished.

  • ricky joe
    August 28, 2010 - 18:17

    @Doug The police and the RCMP are special interests groups. HA HA that's funny. Actually it's gun owners that are a special interest group. I cannot find any reputable poll that shows the majority of Canadians want to scrap the registry. The good guys register their guns. The bad guys, criminals, don't register their guns. That's one way that we can tell them apart. Scrap the registry and the police will just have to treat everybody like a bad guy. I don't want that. I registered my rifle. It was easy.

  • BillD
    August 28, 2010 - 17:49

    You are completely ignoring the fact that a large majority of surveyed frontline Police officers have stated that the gun registry has little or no bearing on their duties. As a former Police officer I can assure you that the frontline officer knows that the absence or presence of a legal firearm cannot guarantee the presence or absence of an illegal one. As such, response in every case which may indicate violence would have any prudent officer include the possible presence of a firearm in the mix. If you consider that the rationale for the registry is to give information to frontline officers and the majority of officers feel this information is useless, I would think the only reason to keep the registry is political.

  • Observant
    August 28, 2010 - 16:27

    I knew Tommy Douglas, and he would have voted to scrap the Long Gun Registry and push for more and better policing of city streets to stop the neanderthal gangs, like in Toronto. Toronto and Montreal Liberal politicians punished rural long gun owners for the sins of the urban criminals who own unregistered hand guns. Tommy Douglas would never have tolerated such discriminatory laws.

  • Doug
    August 28, 2010 - 11:48

    Heres an idea, do what the majority of Canadians want with the gun registry. Kill it. That would be the democratic thing to do. The registry does not save lives. The police chiefs are throwing out red herrings. The fact is criminals don't register guns. In a real democracy the majority rules not special interest groups.

    • Mark Crowley
      August 28, 2010 - 15:09

      Doug, if the majority rules then we should have a coalition government representing and actual majority of voters, not the 35-40% that supported the conservatives last election. Lana, I agree completely, while free votes are a good idea in principle ( sometimes you need to consider the best interests of all of society. In this case I think the country is fairly split on the gun registry. But even if a majority want something, it can actually be against the public good (see the majority voting in favour of removing rights of gays in California) Some things (like taxes, the census, car licences, gun regulation ) are reasonable for society to have in place but it does put a burden on people so if you ask everyone if they want it, a lot will say no. That should clearly influence the decision but you can't simply take 50%+1 of everyone's opinions and just implement them, that is NOT democracy. We elect representatives to attempt to maximize the public good. Sometimes the public disagrees about what is good for them, that is why we need statistics and scientific study, to remove the irrational element of judgement. Sometimes, the harm that will be done to a small number of people is disproportionate and makes putting a little burden on everyone else worthwhile (eg. adding ramps for handicapped people, not discriminating against minorities, paying taxes that support social programs that help people without enough income for healthcare, publicly funded education, ...). That is how our society works and it is how democracy works. No one ever said democracy was about always implementing what 50%+1 of people want. That is simplistic and dangerous.

    • albertaclipper
      August 28, 2010 - 19:03

      I've seen it all now. After the manure piles of lies from the Liberals while in government over the years a lefty is accusing the Harper government of deceit.