June 23, 2015 11:36 am
Updated: June 24, 2015 10:47 am

Government hands Quebec gun data over to court

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WATCH: The conservative government handed over an external hard drive to the federal court Tuesday morning with Quebec’s entire long gun registry data. Global’s Sarah Volstad reports.

OTTAWA — The federal government handed over an external drive containing Quebec long gun registry data to the Federal Court on Tuesday morning, following orders Judge Luc Martineau issued yesterday.

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The hard drive was handed to a registry officer around 9:30 a.m. — about 30 minutes ahead of the court-issued deadline — and is now being stored in a secure area of the court house, a Federal Court spokesman confirmed to Global News.

READ MORE: Bill casts veil of secrecy over long gun registry’s destruction 

Martineau’s order for the the public safety minister and RCMP commissioner to deliver the hard drive suggests the court didn’t believe the government’s assurances that all remaining long-gun registry records would be preserved while court challenges continue.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault described the order as a step forward in protecting the law she oversees.

“This order is an essential milestone to protect the rights conferred by the Access to Information Act until the end of the proceedings,” she wrote in a statement. “Without such an order, the information could have been destroyed.”

After handing over the data, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney’s office focused communications on the fact the House of Commons voted to destroy the long-gun registry.

“The will of Parliament has been clear on multiple occasions; all copies of the obsolete registry are to be destroyed,” a spokesman for the minister wrote. “While‎ complying with the order of the Court, we will always stand up for law-abiding firearms owners.”

Yesterday’s order marked the first decisive legal skirmish in a battle between Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault and the Harper government over the long-defunct long-gun registry.

READ MORE: Harper says he encouraged RCMP to destroy disputed long-gun data

Legault is launching a constitutional challenge against retroactive gun registry provisions buried in the Conservative government’s latest omnibus budget bill which is poised to become law after passing the House of Commons last week and the Senate this week.

A clause buried deep in last month’s budget bill blocks access to any information about how the long gun registry was destroyed. It is also designed to block further release of a redacted copy of the registry itself.

The long gun data was destroyed in two phases: in October, 2014 for records of guns outside Quebec, and in a second phase after Quebec lost a Supreme Court decision in March of this year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this month acknowledged his government pressured the RCMP to swiftly destroy long-gun registry records, even though they’d been warned it was illegal on account of an ongoing investigation at the information commissioner’s office and a written promise from the public safety minister to respect the law.

The matter is now being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police, after Legault recommended charges because the Mounties knowingly destroyed records that were protected under the Access to Information Act.

Federal Court Order

-With files from The Canadian Press

 

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