The federal government has been given the green light to destroy what remains of the long-gun registry.
In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court dismissed the Province of Quebec’s bid to save registry data related to residents of that province. The Quebec government had argued that destroying the data, which Quebec wanted to use to start its own gun registry, was unconstitutional.
While the court was split, the majority found Quebec’s case lacking.
“The principle of cooperative federalism does not constrain federal legislative competence in this case, Quebec has no legal right to the data,,” the majority said.
The long-gun registry has been a delicate political issue for years, a fact acknowledged by the court but a fact the majority said was not at issue for them.
“As has been said many times, the courts are not to question the wisdom of legislation but only to rule on its legality. In our view, the decision to dismantle the long-gun registry and destroy the data that it contains is a policy choice that Parliament was constitutionally entitled to make,” the decision reads.
Part of Quebec’s argument had been that it played a role in collecting registry data. While Quebec’s Chief Firearms Officer is a member of the provincial police force the position is based on federal law and funded by the federal government.
The court ruled that Quebec’s participation in collecting the data was not enough to grant it the right to retain data Parliament had ordered destroyed.
“The Firearms Act did not empower this officer to modify or contribute to the registration certificate data compiled and maintained by the Registrar, nor did the CFO act in her capacity as a provincial official in maintaining the licensing registry,” the majority found.
All three justices from Quebec sided with the dissenting view that destroying the data without first offering it to Quebec and any other province that wanted it was unconstitutional.
The ruling was almost a forgone conclusion given the case Reference re Firearms Act, a 2000 case that challenged the establishment of the registry. In that case the court ruled that Parliament could use its authority, through the criminal law powers, to establish the registry.
The majority stated that if those powers could be used to establish a registry, they could be used to dismantle it.