10 October 2015

#70 Retroactive Enabling

After the École Polytechnique shootings in Montréal in 1989, there was a movement that succeeded in pushing the federal government of the day to put into place a registry for long guns in Canada. Many are the critiques of the efficiency or inefficiency of setting up the registry, but as time went on, police consulted the registry a lot, even thousands of times per month, if I am not mistaken.

I remember when my father filled out his declarations (he had two or three hunting rifles which had helped feed us during the years we were less well-off growing up), and how there were elements of checking on mental health and the status of the person’s marriage — things that you would want to know when someone has a weapon. I don’t recall his thinking that the form was particularly intrusive, but that might have faded from my memory.

The outgoing government always had a fetish about ridding the country of what they called the “unreasonable” and “expensive” long gun registry, and they finally voted to do that once they got their majority in Parliament. The story doesn’t end there, however.

Québec, having been the source of the first pressure to put into place the registry, considered setting up its own registry in reaction to the abolition of the federal one, and this idea had pretty widespread support. They asked the federal government to maintain the data pertaining to Québec and then they sued to stop the federal government from destroying it. The temporary injunction Québec got required the federal government not only to preserve the Québec data, but to maintain it. That isn’t what happened.

After the federal government eventually had the injunction overturned and had the court’s permission to destroy the data, we found out that the RCMP had already destroyed the data under pressure from the government. That would be deliberate disobedience to a valid court order, not something that you might expect from a government with a “law and order” agenda.

Not to worry, though, as the government fixed this by adopting a law exonerating the RCMP for its illegal destruction of the data before getting court permission to do so, and included those provisions in an omnibus budget implementation bill. Because it was all about the budget and the economy, right?

Further reading here

Ordered the police
to break the law, then fixed it

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