The Commons: Bonfire of the registry

We mustn't lose sight of the clear and present danger this registry poses

The Scene. At its essence, this debate over the long-gun registry was always a debate about paperwork. And so it is only right and fitting that it should end now with a fight over what should be done with that paper.

For the record, Article 29 of Bill C-19, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, states that “the Commissioner of Firearms shall ensure the destruction as soon as feasible of all records in the Canadian Firearms Registry related to the registration of firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms and all copies of those records under the Commissioner’s control.” And variously this much is viewed as a waste of both information and money.

“Why,” Nycole Turmel asked this afternoon, “destroy two billion dollars of accumulated information, while the provinces and the police want to keep it?”

Jason Kenney, whose turn it was to stand in for the Prime Minister this afternoon, stood and did his best John Baird impression, reading aloud a few quotes from NDP MPs who have stated their opposition with the registry. When he’d finished, Jack Harris stood to restate the question on behalf of the official opposition.

“Mr. Speaker, new information released today by Statistics Canada shows that homicides in Canada are at a 45-year low. The main factor is fewer deaths caused by rifles,” Mr. Harris reported. “Yet, on this very day, the Conservative government wants to not only turn its back on police, but burn all the data that helps keep the homicide rate in Canada low. Why is the government putting a divisive ideology ahead of our communities’ safety?”

In fairness, the clause in question does not specify the precise means of destruction. And while the NDP prefers to imagine that it will involve a fire pit in Vic Toews’ backyard, it is just as easy to imagine that the paper in question will be shredded and, indeed, even recycled. Or perhaps it will be used to build a giant papier-mache bust of Queen Elizabeth (or a smaller series of busts that will be displayed in Canadian embassies around the world).

Whatever might come of the files, we mustn’t lose sight of the clear and present danger this paper poses. “Let us be clear,” Mr. Toews explained by way of response to Mr. Harris, “the only reason the NDP wish to retain these records is to reinstate the long gun registry whenever it is in the position to do so.”

Ominously, various New Democrats applauded this. A couple even held aloft four fingers.

Mr. Harris was unimpressed and now leaned forward to bark his lecture at the Public Safety Minister. “Mr. Speaker, the minister’s answer is no excuse to destroy life-saving data that would help police keep our streets states,” he declared. “The Conservative government’s plan is tantamount to a $2 billion bonfire. It wants to destroy the data that police use 17,000 times a day and which they have asked the government to keep. The police deserve a fighting chance against gun crime in Canada, and if provinces also want to maintain this information for their own use, they should have the right to do so. Why is the government handcuffing law enforcement in Canada by burning all the records?”

On this matter of the $2 billion spent to establish and maintain the registry, Mr. Toews was equally concerned. Or at least he knew a woman who was.

“Mr. Speaker,” he reported, “as one woman from the Georgian Bay Women’s Outdoors Workshops stated, ‘As a woman, the long gun registry does not make me feel any safer or more secure. It is wasteful, ineffective and reduces funding to do real things. The $2 billion that have already been spent would have been better used on programs like health care, child care, women’s issues and allocating moneys to policing agencies to fight criminal and real crime.’ ”

Now all the government needs to do is use that paper to build a time machine to go back and redirect those funds to establish a national child care program and all our problems will be solved.

The Stats. Service Canada, the economy and the long-gun registry, six questions each. The G8 Legacy Fund, four questions. The auditor general, the RCMP and the Canadian Wheat Board, three questions each. The military, two questions. Aboriginal affairs, veterans, firefighters, the disabled, sharks and affordable housing, one question each.

Diane Finley, eight answers. Vic Toews, seven answers. Jason Kenney, six answers. Jim Flaherty and Pierre Poilievre, four answers each. Gerry Ritz, three answers. Peter MacKay, two answers. John Duncan, Steven Blaney, Leona Aglukkaq, Keith Ashfield and Maxime Bernier, one answer each.

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