Firearms Owners Association
Send the Conservatives back into the political wilderness
On 15 June 2000 the Supreme Court of Canada released their judgement on Alberta's reference question as to the provinces constitutional right to the regulation of property- specifically firearms. In a unanimous judgement the federal court held that the pith and substance of the Firearms Act was in relation to "public safety" which was a matter within the criminal law power of the federal government. Understandably gun owners were upset their new-found criminality, delivered by the Firearms Act, had the stamp of approval of the highest court.
Fast forward to Quebec's motion to prevent the destruction their portion of the registration records after the passage of the federal Conservatives Bill C-19. On 27 March 2015, the Supreme Court ruled against Quebec, allowing the destruction of the records. The decision was viewed as a huge victory by most of the groups representing gun owners and the Conservatives over Quebec. In reality given the 15 June 2000 decision it was a huge insult that it made it to the Supreme Court and that they did not simply dismiss it when it did rather than providing a judgement. That failure underlines not only the political nature of the Supreme Court but the precarious position the Conservatives - with the support of most groups that claim to represent gun owners - have left us in.
In the 5-4 Quebec decision the Supreme Court ruled that destroying the data was a lawful exercise of Parliament's legislative power to make criminal law under the Constitution. Given the 15 June 2000 ruling, that should have been a foregone conclusion. In the dissenting opinion all three Quebec judges and one from outside Quebec argued that the provinces had the right to make laws in relation to property (the Alberta argument previously rejected by the same court).
It is clear from these two rulings that firearms are a special class of property subject to political whims even in our highest court. As if to formalize this reality, commenting on the decision, Quebec's Public Security Minister Lise Theriault said, "The united opinion of the three Quebec justices reflects the views of the people in the province ... ."
The Conservatives part in this is equally clear. Of the ruling Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, "We have permitting - in other words, we have registration - of all gun owners in Canada already". That "registration" - licensing - of gun owners is what the Supreme Court twice ruled allows the Feds to hold sway over gun owners. Until the disconnect is made between criminality and the mere ownership of firearms we will be subject to the whims of the federal Liberals and NDP. While most of the groups representing gun owners preach that the end is near if the Liberals or NDP are elected these groups continue to support laws passed by the Conservatives that will enable the Liberals and NDP to bring about that end.
If the Conservatives do not make an election promise to decriminalise licensing infractions, as gun owners it makes no difference whom we vote for. Sending the Conservatives back into the political wilderness may be our only option in attempting to bring them into the light.
CUFOA National Spokesperson
22 June 2015