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Hill Dispatches

karl nerenberg's picture
Karl Nerenberg has been reporting on federal politics from Parliament Hill for rabble.ca since September, 2011. In his long career, he has won numerous awards as a broadcaster and documentary filmmaker.

Hill Dispatches: Toews wants provinces to stop enforcing the still-legal Firearms Act

| May 10, 2012

When the bill to abolish the long gun registry (C-19) was being debated in the House and in Committee a number of months ago supporters kept reassuring Canadians that ending the "wasteful and ineffective" registry would not mean ending all controls on firearms.

Here is what Public Security Minister Vic Toews told the House Committee considering C-19 last November:

"Firearm owners will still require a valid licence to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. They will still be required to undergo background checks . . . Moreover, owners of restricted and prohibited firearms will still be required to register their firearms with the RCMP."

A number of C-19 supporters talked about the so-called "green books" in which gun shop owners have, for many years, had to maintain information on purchases of firearms.

The implicit message of this was that any Canadians who were on the fence on this issue should be reassured by the fact that information on gun owners was still gathered somewhere – in those "green books," sometimes called "ledgers."

C-19 supporters used to be all for 'green books'

During Senate Committee hearings on C-19 there was the following exchange between Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson, a C-19 supporter, and Liberal Senator Joan Fraser:

Mr. Hanson: In the case of the handgun, there must still be the registration certificates and the permit, but there should be a paper trail from the time that order crosses the border. Furthermore, I do not see why you could not do it as well for long guns and re-implement what they used to have years ago, which my learned friend Senator White called the . . . green book. There was a book that was a registration —

Senator Fraser: I have seen reference to the green book.

Mr. Hanson: It was a point of sale registration to the owner of the long gun. No one had problems with that, and it makes good sense. . .

Senator Fraser: . . . I want to be clear that, in the end, what this would do in terms of long guns is remove the onus for recordkeeping, so to speak, from the ultimate gun owner back to the vendor.

Mr. Hanson: Even with long guns, there should be a point of sale record to indicate what happened to that gun.

During the House Committee hearings on C-31 the head of the Canadian Sport Shooting Association, Tony Bernardo, made the same point:

"Section 60 of the Firearms Act says that any firearm coming into Canada must be recorded with the chief registrar . . ." Bernardo told the Committee last year, "That firearm then goes to a dealer's inventory; they are obligated to keep an inventory book. It's colloquially known as ‘the green book.’ Every single merchant in firearms has to have that green book, and every firearm coming in or going out has to be recorded in that green book. . .That green book has been the status quo for at least 30 years."

The 'will of the people' or the law?

Now that the long gun registry has been abolished it seems Bernardo and Toews have changed their minds about "green books."

They’ve decided, it seems, they don’t want any records, of any kind, kept on the millions of long guns in Canada.

When Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Chris Wyatt recently sent a letter to gun vendors reminding them of their obligation to keep records under the long-established "green book" system, Bernardo shot back that Ontario officials "don't seem to share our respect for the law and have chosen to make their own rules in spite of Bill C-19. They have invoked . . .the Firearms Act to do basically what they want and ignore the House of Commons and the people of Canada."

That is the same Firearms Act that Bernardo himself invoked last November to calm the fears of people who worried about the effect of abolishing the registry.

Vic Toews jumped in as well. In the eight provinces where the federal government "rents" the services of the RCMP as provincial police forces the Public Security Minister has instructed the RCMP to, in effect, spy on provincial officials and report back on any efforts to enforce the Firearms Act.

Like his friend the gun lobbyist Bernardo, Toews bases his position not on the law, but on the "will of the people" and the fact that his party "won a majority with the mandate to abolish the long gun registry."

The only thing neither Toews nor Bernardo dispute is the legality of the Firearms Act, the existence of which they once enthusiastically cited to reassure Canadians that abolishing the registry would not end all control on long guns.

The two gun lovers must be fans of the American moralist and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who famously coined the phrase: "Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."



I get a kick out of the will of the people trumping the law...really?  Our Constitution is supposed to be the supreme law and will of the people according to the supreme court. The same supreme court put firearms under the federal head of power. Furthermore the Firearms Act specifically states in section 96

"The issuance of a licence, registration certificate or authorization under this Act does not affect the obligation of any person to comply with any other Act of Parliament or any regulation made under an Act of Parliament respecting firearms or other weapons."

So how then is it that since C-19 received Royal ascent and given the force of law is it a reasonable condition to order vendors to break the law?

Honestly we get it. all you progressive types hate the conservatives and despise everything they do. Why don't you get your facts straight first. I have noticed that most progressive don't give a fiddlers pluck about facts; after all the ends always justifies the means.


Such blatant distortions of facts surrounding this issue aren't surprising from such a partisan 'news' source as Rabble--an entity that is funded by large contributions from PSAC and other unions who had a financial stake in keeping the gun registry alive. Like the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police--which received generous funding from gun registry IT contractor CGI Group, in order to lobby for the registry--Rabble is basically a paid propaganda mill for PSAC and CUPE, not to mention the NDP.

The 'green books' were a legacy of the old (pre-Firearms Act) Firearms Acquisition Certificate regime, since 1977, which required gun purchasers' FAC numbers to be recorded when making purchases, and this data passed on to the RCMP. However, the Mounties actually never bothered with this:


"The RCMP had stopped accepting FAC records, and had actually destroyed those it already had. The FAC registry system didn't exist because the police thought it was useless and refused to waste their limited budgets maintaining it. They also moved to ensure that their political masters could not resurrect it."

Obviously, the Mounties realised how useless the old (1935) handgun registry was.

The requirement to record Possession and Acquisition Licenses was NEVER a part of the still-extant Firearms Act. And the Chief Firearms Officers of Ontario and other provinces--whose salaries are paid by the FEDERAL Government--are guilty: of insubordination, as well as enforcing non-existent laws. Perhaps they have taken their cue from Chief Bill Blair, of Toronto, who made up the 'five metre law,' in order to arrest protesters on bogus charges. The CFOs should be fired, and possibly face charges for Contempt of Parliament. And, given the precarious finances of Ontario and Quebec, McGuinty and Charest should not be wasting Federal transfer payments, or other funds on this waste of money. Nor should Toronto's City Council be meddling in Federal law--they have actual, politically-incorrect problems with gun violence in their city that silly paperwork harrasment of non-criminals won't solve:


The only part of the Firearms Act that Im seeing here that is being "ignored" is the part of the Firearms Act that lets CFOs do anything they want, pass any rule or regulation they want, any "almost law" they want, unilaterally, without any parliamentary or MLA input. (note- it isnt law, but if u do not follow it you lose your PAL/ firearms vendor license- and then you are a criminal- all your guns and property canbe taken, you get a record, you go to jail or court....so it may as well be law.......as to not do what the CFOs says can indirectly make you a criminal)

I dont see whats wrong with that, its a very undemocratic and tyranical bit of the Firearms Act that should never have existed in the 1st place.

The REST of the firearms act is still there "safeguarding" public safety. I wont even start on whats wrong with that..warentless searches, guilty until proven innocent........ the entire thing was written to punish 2-5 million Canadian firearms owners for a mass murder 20 years ago, as if we all had a personal hand in it.

NO one person should have the power these CFOs have. It has clearly gone to their heads when they openly flaunt their power and do not abide by the will of MPs who have made laws, they feel they are above the law itself.

Again, the Firearms Act is not being ignored here, just the haughty power mongering CFOs that think they run Canada rather than the MPs we the people elected.



'The will of the people' trumps the law...Lol...That's rich.


I wonder what colour the sky is on the plant that cretin Toews lives on.

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