Can Quebec Lead the Way?

Experts say a provincial long-gun registry would still be an effective policing tool – but first the federal government would need to co-operate and share existing data. 

A Quebec long-gun registry could be an effective tool for police, and might even start a trend of other provinces setting up co-operative long-gun registries, experts say.

Provincial registries sharing information would be second-best to the existing federal long-gun registry, they added, but far better than no registry at all.

The comments came as Quebec campaigned to keep the Quebec data in the long-gun registry, which Ottawa plans to scrap along with information compiled over more than a decade on 7.1 million guns nationwide.

The Conservative government says the long-gun registry, which cost as much as $2 billion to set up, is ineffective and needlessly singles out law-abiding hunters and farmers with rifles.

“Quebec should lead the way on provincial registries,” Université de Montréal law professor Stéphane Beaulac said. A Quebec registry could be consulted by municipal and provincial police in Quebec as well as by the RCMP and by cops in other provinces, he said.

“It makes sense for Quebec to want a registry so much,” he added. “We were a big source of enthusiasm for it after the shootings at the Polytechnique (in 1989) and at Dawson (in 2006).”

But a Quebec registry is unlikely unless Ottawa lets the province have the data, he said. “It’s too costprohibitive to start from scratch.”

Denis Côté, head of the Fédération des policiers et policières municipaux du Québec, representing 33 Quebec police officers’ unions, said that while it would not be ideal, a Quebec registry would prevent police officers from “going back to the future, to the 1990s” and having to conduct searches for weapons in person or relying on a suspect’s word.

“Right now when a person is released on bail and they have a condition of not being around firearms, we can check the registry,” said Côté, who is also a detective with the Régie intermunicipale de police Richelieu Saint-laurent, east of Montreal.

A “big majority” of the 711 average daily searches of the federal registry conducted by Quebec cops are for addresses in the province or for people who reside here, he added.

“I’m convinced individual police officers in Western Canada would consult” a Quebec registry if it was available to them, he said.

Côté predicted it will cost more to pay for “old school” police work than the savings obtained from scrapping the long-gun registry.

Pierre Saint-antoine, spokesperson for the École nationale de police du Québec, where all cops in the province must train, said searches of online databases are now a routine part of the job. Several provincial and federal databases are already linked.

“It wouldn’t change police methods very much if the databases were from a different source,” he said.

Leslie O’leary, a spokesperson for Ontario Premier Dalton Mcguinty, who was recently re-elected with a minority in the legislature, said “the premier has no plans at this time” to consider a registry at the provincial level in Ontario.

However, Joe Couto, a spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, representing 56 police forces, said Ontario would likely be interested in copying Quebec if the federal data were released.

“If Quebec moved that way then Ontario would likely consider it,” Couto said.

Ontario and Quebec cops already share a lot of information so it would make sense for such registries to be linked, he added.

Maria Peluso, a Concordia University political science professor, slammed the Tories for refusing to budge on releasing the data.

“This stuff about the data belonging to the government, (well) they need to be reminded that the government is the people,” Peluso said.

“Throwing out all that data and wasting all the money it cost to create it – they need to ask ‘what’s the cost of not having it?’ ”

The U de M’s Beaulac said Ottawa’s “unreasonable and ideologically extreme” intention to trash the data may actually be part of strategy by the Tories to eventually gain support in Quebec.

“They can kill the registry in Parliament but later they could change their minds on giving the data to the provinces,” Beaulac said. “This would make them seem not so hard line after all.”

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 15 juillet 2016 à 10 h 58 min.