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Ottawa seeks end to Quebec injunction prolonging gun registry

Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews talks about the gun registry during a news conference in Ottawa, Feb. 15, 2012.

Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government says it wants a judge to lift an injunction prolonging the registering of long-guns in Quebec as it prepares to fight the province in court in June.

Federal lawyers were in a Montreal courtroom on Thursday seeking an end to a temporary injunction handed down by a judge last week.

Quebec lawyers want to extend the injunction until the case is heard on its legal merits.

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The safeguard order is set to expire at 5 p.m. on Friday, the last day of hearings.

The actual merits of the case are expected to be argued in June when Quebec intends to argue that it's unconstitutional for Ottawa to destroy the information if it means thwarting the public policy of another level of government.

The federal government has said Quebec can start its own registry, but will have to do so without the data contained within the pan-Canadian registry.

Quebec has said it had no choice but to use the courts because the federal government wouldn't hand over data.

Mr. Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard of the Superior Court noted Thursday the fact that both sides claim to have the public's interest at heart might be reason enough to maintain the status quo until the case is finally resolved.

A different judge agreed last week to order a delay in the deletion by Ottawa of registry data originating from Quebec.

The ruling came after a request by Quebec's Charest government. It means Quebeckers are still obliged to register their weapons and that the registry data for the province will be preserved and maintained.

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Quebec said up-to-date information is necessary to continue registering long guns so there are no gaps in the information when it does start its own registry.

Quebec is the only province that has sought the information from the registry.

Federal lawyers argued Thursday the injunction is unnecessary because, according to them, there will be no destruction of documents until at least August.

"There is no automatic destruction, there won't be an automatic destruction," said Claude Joyal, a federal government lawyer.

The RCMP told The Canadian Press on Thursday that destroying the registry will make it tougher to trace firearms used to commit crimes.

A Mountie spokeswoman also said the process that will lead to deletion of rifle and shotgun records in the registry is under way – with the exception of the Quebec files.

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The bill to end the federal long-gun registry, C-19, received royal assent last Thursday, fulfilling a long-standing promise by the Harper government. It became law everywhere but Quebec.

During their arguments Thursday, federal lawyers chastised the Quebec government for not having a law in place to create its own registry after knowing for months that Ottawa was committed to killing off the federal one.

"They want to create a registry, we say go ahead," Mr. Joyal said. "But they have no serious right to the information."

Quebec says it remains committed to building a provincial registry.

"The intention is there, it has been clearly expressed," said Eric Dufour, a Quebec government lawyer.

Both sides also differ on the issue of "partnership" they entered into to create the registry in the first place.

Ottawa says it owes Quebec nothing while the province contends it should be privy to the Quebec-based information in the registry.

The hearing continues Friday.



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