Editorial: An outrageous act of contempt

While the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done many things to show contempt of democratic processes over the years, it has outdone itself with outrageous provisions related to the long-gun registry in its budget implementation bill.

The government had every right to end the long-gun registry in 2012 and, given the years of discord between rural and urban Canadians over the issue, it was probably better to let it go. But the government has gone too far with the insertion of changes to the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act to oust the application of the Access to Information Act retroactive to Oct. 25, 2011, into bill C-59 that implements the 2015 budget.

Information commissioner Suzanne Legault has sounded the alarm about the bill C-59 provisions in light of a long-running investigation into the RCMP’s actions in response to a request under the Access to Information Act for records from the long-gun registry. The request dates to March 27, 2012, just before the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act came into force the following month. While the RCMP did turn over some records, Legault found it didn’t disclose all of the information it should have. But in the meantime, the police force destroyed all electronic records of non-restricted firearms — with the exception of those belonging to Quebec residents — in October 2012. In doing so, the RCMP violated the requester’s right of access under the Access to Information Act, Legault found.

After years of wrangling over the issue, Legault referred the matter to the federal attorney general on March 26, 2015, for possible obstruction of the right of access under the Access to Information Act. While she received no response, the government went ahead with bill C-59 that provides for the retroactive changes to when it first introduced the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act to Parliament in October 2011. The bill also bars any
proceedings against the Crown for the destruction of the records on or after April 5, 2012.

In effect, the government is attempting to go back in time to erase the legal obligations that existed at the time of the information request. Its actions are an outrage that Canadians should hold it accountable for when the election campaign begins later this year.
Glenn Kauth

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