OTTAWA - Federal Conservatives erupted in cheers Wednesday after
finally securing House of Commons approval to scrap the controversial
The Harper government used its majority to
pass the bill by a vote of 159-130, with the support of two maverick New
Democrats - John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer.
All other NDP, Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs voted against it.
vote effectively puts the registry on life support; all that remains is
for the Senate to pull the plug. Since the Conservatives enjoy a
commanding majority in the upper chamber as well, the registry's fate is
"They've got the majority and unless something
extraordinary happens, it will pass," acknowledged Liberal Senate leader
Cowan said Liberal senators will ensure the bill
is examined thoroughly at committee and that both supporters and
opponents of the registry are given sufficient time to be heard one more
time. But he said Liberals will not "delay, obstruct or filibuster" the
However, Quebec served noticed that the moment the bill
is enacted, the province will launch court action to prevent the
registry records from being destroyed.
Since taking office in
2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly vowed to kill the
long-gun registry. But he's been thwarted until now by the opposition
parties, which held the upper hand in the Commons until Harper captured
his coveted majority in last May's election.
"Many of us have
waited for this day for a very long time," Public Safety Minister Vic
Toews told a news conference earlier Wednesday.
He said it's the
end of a campaign that began for him 15 years ago, when he was attorney
general of Manitoba. And he called it an important day for
Conservatives, who have opposed the registry for years.
said the registry - created by Jean Chretien's Liberal government
following the massacre of 14 women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique on
Dec. 6, 1989 - is "a billion-dollar boondoggle" that does nothing but
penalize law-abiding hunters and farmers.
"It does nothing to help put an end to gun crime, nor has it saved one Canadian life," he argued.
the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has argued strenuously in
favour of keeping the registry, calling it an essential law enforcement
tool. The association says police consult the registry, on average, more
than 10,000 times a day, often to determine the possible presence of a
shotgun or rifle in a home where they've received a domestic violence
Most recently in Killam, Alberta, where RCMP had
been searching for a man suspected of shooting two Mounties, police used
the registry to find out the suspect, then still on the loose, was the
registered owner of a .50 calibre sniper rifle. Police ended up
arresting the suspect, and later finding the rifle hidden in a truck.
So while the Tories were congratulating themselves, the end of the registry is being mourned by others.
"This is a sad day for victims of violence," said interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel.
Liberal leader Bob Rae slammed the Tories' "triumphalism" and said the
more they celebrate the registry's demise, "the more they distance
themselves from where most Canadians are on this question."
Women's groups and victims of gun violence expressed outrage.
Coalition for Gun Control reiterated its complaint that the bill goes
beyond simply ending the registration of shot guns and rifles, including
the semi-automatic Ruger Mini-14 used at Ecole Polytechnique.
lobby group said gun dealers will no longer have to record information
on the guns they sell and to whom, "severely crippling the ability of
the police to trace firearms recovered in crime." Moreover, it said
individuals will be able to acquire unlimited numbers of long guns
without having to prove they have valid firearms licences.
The Tories were planning a reception on Parliament Hill following Wednesday's vote to celebrate the end of the registry.
News of the celebration drew condemnation in Quebec, where support for the registry is strong.
leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois began question period in the
National Assembly by reading off the names of the 14 women gunned down
at Ecole Polytechnique.
"After creating an online countdown
clock announcing the end of the registry, we hear Conservative MPs will
celebrate their victory tonight like it was a hockey match," said PQ
Leader Pauline Marois. "It's shameful, disgusting and revolting."
is ready to go to court to block the Conservative plan to destroy the
existing registry records once the legislation becomes law.
"We can't launch a suit to get the data before the law receives (royal) assent," Public Safety Minister Robert Dutil said.
people have been duly advised that, the moment that assent occurs,
legal action will be tabled in order to preserve the data."
Toews was adamant that the information will be erased as soon as possible after the bill becomes law.
He said the government can't shoot down the registry while keeping the records, the essence of the registry, in existence.
He said Quebec can start its own registry, but can't expect any federal help.
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