Ontario openly defies Vic Toews over gun registry despite new RCMP warning

NationalPost.com – news
May 11, 2012.   National Post Wire Services

Ontario is shaping up for a fight with the federal government over the now defunct long-gun registry after Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday that he wanted stores to keep records of who buys firearms, despite objections in Ottawa.

The defiant statement came on the same day RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson warned all chief firearms officers in the country that they must not to create any semblance of a long-gun registry in their jurisdictions.

“The coming into force of the Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act leaves no doubt that Parliament has sought to eliminate any form of a long-gun registry,” Paulson wrote in a letter.

But Ontario has a different interpretation of the Firearms Act, and it will be up to the federal government to introduce legislation to counter the record-keeping practice, said McGuinty.

“We’re not going to adopt a long-gun registry here in Ontario,” McGuinty said after touring a local website development company.

“But we will maintain a practice that’s been in place since 1978.”

At the same time, Quebec has mounted a legal challenge preventing the destruction of federal long-gun records.

“Let’s not have an exchange between the RCMP expert in this area and the provincial experts in this area,” McGuinty added.

“Let’s turn it back to the feds and say if your intention was to not only eliminate the long-gun registry but a pre-existing practice, I think you need to make that clear.

“Right now there’s obviously some uncertainty.”

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews sent a letter Tuesday to all provincial chief firearms officers, telling them the collection of point-of-sale data is no longer authorized under the Firearms Act.

He asked the RCMP to notify him “immediately” if they learn that chief firearms officers are engaged in “unauthorized data collection.”

Toews’ letter to Paulson added that the RCMP and the Canadian Firearms Program were to provide “no assistance or direction” to any province that may be undertaking measures to create a provincial long-gun registry.

Officials with the Chief Firearms Office of the Ontario Provincial Police have previously said the OPP would continue to maintain records of all firearms sales and who bought them.

Tyler Anderson/National Post // REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s Community Safety And Correctional Services Minister and federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Ontario says it won’t create a provincial gun registry, but it will require stores to keep records of who buys guns, despite federal objections.

While they have insisted this is not an attempt to create a provincial long-gun registry, some observers have complained that Ontario police are flouting the will of Parliament, and creating a new provincial gun registry “by the backdoor.”

Toews said the collection of point-of-sale data is no longer authorized under the Firearms Act.

Paulson reiterated this point in his letter.

“I instruct all Chief Firearms Officers to ensure that the licensing conditions you impose on business records pursuant to the Firearms Act do not facilitate the creation of long-gun registries in your jurisdictions,” he said.

Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur has written Toews to clarify the province’s position on the issue.

Meilleur says recent media attention created confusion, so she wanted Ottawa to know Ontario does not want a provincial gun registry and will “comply fully” with the requirements of Bill C-19, which killed the federal long-gun registry.

But in an interview, Meilleur said Ontario retailers will continue to take down names and address of anyone purchasing a gun as part of the permit process.

She said the chief firearms officer of the Ontario Provincial Police interprets section 58 of the Firearms Act as giving him the power to impose that requirement.

With files from Postmedia News and The Canadian Press

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