Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Court Filing Alleges Conservative Duplicity in Handling Gun Registry Data

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Court Filing Alleges Conservative Duplicity in Handling Gun Registry Data

Article excerpt

Court filing alleges Tory gun data duplicity

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OTTAWA - The Conservative government was pushing for the speedy -- and illegal -- destruction of long-gun registry records even as it was promising the information commissioner that it would preserve the data, a new court affidavit alleges.

The duplicity alleged in the Federal Court filing by investigator Neil O'Brien goes right up to the Prime Minister's Office, and helps sets the stage for a constitutional challenge.

Federal information commissioner Suzanne Legault is seeking a court order to preserve any remaining records from the now-defunct long gun registry, part of a wider court challenge contesting the RCMP's handling of records under the Access to Information Act.

The dispute goes back to April 2012 when the Conservative government had just passed a law ending the registry, leaving in Legault's hands an unresolved complaint about access to registry records.

On April 13, 2012, Legault informed then-public safety minister Vic Toews and the RCMP that she was investigating, and that all documents had to be preserved pending the outcome.

Toews agreed, in writing, on May 2, 2012, that the government and RCMP would respect the legally enforceable Access to Information Act rules.

The very next day, according to O'Brien's affidavit, emails between two senior officials at the Canadian Firearms Program, housed within the RCMP, discuss "pressure from senior RCMP to move up delete date."

"Between you and me, someone will owe us lots of drinks at PMO if they want this to happen by end of August," responded Jacques Laporte, a program manager.

By May 29, Pierre Perron, the assistant commissioner of the Canadian Firearms Program, was emailing director Robert MacKinnon: "Just for the record, the minister's office is putting a lot of pressure on me to destroy the records sooner."

The Mounties did destroy the records in late October 2012 -- following further pressure from the Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that supports the prime minister and cabinet.

After a lengthy investigation, Legault ended up recommending this spring that charges be laid against members of the RCMP for the data destruction.

The Conservatives responded by rewriting the law, backdating the changes to the day legislation proposing to end the gun registry was first tabled in Parliament in 2011, and burying the unannounced changes in a 167-page budget bill that's expected to pass Parliament this week. …

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