Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety made an announcement related to increased offender accountability measures in Ottawa, May 9, 2012.
Credits: Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency
TORONTO -- Ontario's chief firearms officer insists that Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews can't just order him to stop collecting information on gun buyers.
OPP Supt. Chris Wyatt said federal firearms legislation stipulates he "may" ask gun store sellers to write down the names and gun licence numbers of purchasers -- and he intends to continue doing so.
"I don't like being in conflict with the RCMP or the federal minister," Wyatt said. "I want to be all on the same side.
"If the government feels that's what they intended, they should be really specific in how they write the law and just say no ledgers for long guns."
Julie Carmichael, a spokesman for Toews, said the minister has made it clear he does not want the provinces to set up a "back-door" version of the gun registry, which was dismantled through new legislation.
There is no need for business owners to collect and record personal information of long-gun purchasers, Carmichael argued.
Toews has directed RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to direct chief firearms officers (CFOs) to respect this, she said.
Wyatt said politicians impose their will through laws and policies -- not by issuing orders to CFOs.
"In law, the chief firearms officer is given the discretion to put reasonable conditions on a licence," Wyatt said Monday. "The federal minister, in law, cannot fetter that discretion. It's his interpretation of the law that the new law prohibits that."
Wyatt said while the information still being collected would have been found in the now-defunct gun registry, he argued there is a big difference.
The gun registry offered a single computer database where officers could look up people and quickly find out the type and quantity of long guns they owned, he said.
Officers hoping to access the gun ledgers, which have been kept in Ontario since 1998, are obtained through a court order and only provide information on one purchase at a time, Wyatt said.
"The purpose of the ledger is not to have like a back-door registry, it's for ensuring criminals and unlicensed persons don't acquire firearms through a firearms business," he said.
Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur, who acknowledged she's a strong supporter of the gun registry, said the province is following the rules.
"The long-gun registry was used 16,000 times a day, so it was an important piece, but now it's not there anymore so we did comply with the federal government's new piece of legislation," she said.
PC Leader Tim Hudak said it appears to him that a back-door gun registry is exactly what the Dalton McGuinty government has in mind.
"Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal members were the biggest cheerleaders for that failed gun registry that cost us billions of dollars in the past," Hudak said. "I suspect that their true plan is to bring in a provincial gun registry which we oppose."