Court decision delays end of long-gun registry

Despite the Conservatives’ best efforts last week to kill it, the federal long gun registry lives on, at least for this week.

For federal Conservatives and anti-registry campaigners, April 5 was supposed to be end-of-the-long-gun registry day after the Senate approved Bill C-19 April 4 and governor-general David Johnston was scheduled to make it law.

Then Quebec Superior Court judge Jean-François de Grandpré rained on the Conservative celebration, at least temporarily.

He ruled April 5 that the law should be suspended while legal issues are resolved surrounding a Quebec government demand that registry data for the province be retained and turned over to Quebec City, which wants to create a provincial registry.

The ruling did not challenge the government’s right to end the national federal registry, just its plan to destroy all 17 years of registry data.

Further hearings on the case are scheduled for late this week.

The office of public safety minister Vic Toews noted April 5 that the order is in effect only until the end of April 13 unless the Quebec court issues a further injunction.

“This injunction is temporary and doesn’t diminish our commitment to ending the long-gun registry once and for all,” Toews’ communications director Julie Carmichael said in an e-mail to reporters.

“We are disappointed to see that contrary to the will of Canadians and of Parliament, the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry is still alive.”

Despite some dissension in their ranks, New Democrat and Liberal opposition parties cheered the court order and demanded that Ottawa cancel its plan to destroy gun registry data.

They also want Ottawa to help provinces set up their own registries, although Quebec is the only jurisdiction to say it wants to.

The Conservatives did not see the delay coming April 5, even though Quebec government lawyers went to court that morning.

“I am very proud to report that our government has ended the long gun registry once and for all,” southern Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner told the House of Commons early in the afternoon. This afternoon the royal assent of Bill C-19 will be proclaimed.”

She noted support from two New Democrat MPs in the Commons and three Liberal senators for passage of the bill.

“Together, we are ending the long gun registry once and for all. We have fulfilled our commitment to Canadians.”

Alberta Conservative senator Betty Unger also started premature celebrations. In 2000, she ran against then-justice minister Ann McLellan in large part on the gun registry. She lost narrowly.

“Although I lost the election back in 2000, I felt victorious yesterday as I stood in the Senate chamber with my colleagues to cast my vote, which finally ended the travesty of the long-gun registry,” she said in an April 5 statement.

As it turned out, she spoke a little too soon.

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