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Quebec’s plea to maintain gun registry falls flat

OTTAWA – In what’s quickly becoming routine business on matters of
criminal justice, another member of the Quebec legislature arrived on
Parliament Hill Thursday to appeal to the better judgment of the
Conservatives – this time on their plan to scrap the long-gun registry
and to ditch the data.

Quebec Public Security Minister Robert
Dutil appeared before a Commons committee Thursday to ask the government
to keep the registry and simply decriminalize non-compliance.

At
the very least, he argued, the government should remove the clause that
calls for the destruction of data because Quebec would like to use it to
set up its own registry.

“If the unrestricted longgun registry
saves just one life, we are morally justified to continue our efforts to
maintain it,” he said.

Dutil later joined police and other gun
control advocates, including a Dawson College student and British
Columbia psychiatrist, at a news conference to highlight their concerns.

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The
cost of having to create a new registry from scratch, he said, would be
“prohibitive” and pointless since Quebecers, like all Canadians, have
already paid for this data.

Quebec, Dutil said, ultimately wants
to reach an agreement with the federal government on the matter and
won’t “do anything illegal” to get its hands on the records
independently while they still exist.

While the government has vowed to plow ahead with its plan, Dutil said he maintains hope the Tories will be open to dialogue.

But
Maxime Bernier, the Quebec Conservative MP for Beauce riding, offered
little hope his party would bend when he trotted out to plug the party
line Thursday.

“I’m here to reiterate the position of our
government that has always been very clear – that we will abolish the
long-gun registry because we believe it unfairly targets hunters and
farmers, rather than real criminals,”he said.

“When we said we
would destroy the registry, the registry is comprised of data . . . and
that data is what we’re going to destroy because it is the registry.”

Bernier
also argued the data, according to a 2006 report by the auditor
general, was incomplete and inaccurate and that transferring such
information to another government would be like “giving them a gift of
poison.”

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In Quebec City, Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said
it would be “unacceptable” if the Harper government resorts to closure
to end debate on Bill C-10, a sweeping overhaul of Canada’s justice
system. C-10, known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, has been
criticized by lawyers and human rights groups as well for substituting
rehabilitation with retribution, enacting longer and mandatory sentences
and other harsh measures to punish wrongdoers.

C-10 would change
the Criminal Code, the State Immunity Act, the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other laws, and would enact
the new Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

But Fournier’s
objections Thursday focused on changes in C-10 to the Youth Criminal
Justice Act, which he said would undo Quebec’s approach favouring the
rehabilitation of young offenders.

Fournier said the Harper government wants to be “tough on crime.” But closure is “tough on democracy.”

“What was so urgent that study of this bill was suspended today?” Fournier asked.

He
deplored Ottawa’s unwillingness to listen to his arguments and
predicted that the changes, allowing the publication of the names of
young offenders and trials in adult courts for minors accused of violent
crimes, such as murder and aggravated sexual assault, would be
temporary.

Fournier said Quebec will do what it can within its
powers to get around the changes and predicted that the federal
government would realize that its new approach does not work, returning
then to the existing law.

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Véronique Hivon, the Parti Québécois
justice critic, said she agreed with Fournier that Quebec’s approach to
young offenders works better, giving the province “the lowest crime rate
in Canada, and even in North America,” and calling C-10 “a major
problem.”

“If we had full power in criminal justice, we would not be here today,” said the PQ MNA.