24 Const. F. 1 (2015)

handle is hein.journals/consfo24 and id is 1 raw text is: 




The Supreme Court of Canada

Long-Gun Registry Decision:

The Constitutional Question

Behind an Intergovernmental

Relations Failure



Ian Peach*


Introduction
In 2012, Parliament repealed the federal law that
had established a mandatory long-gun registry.
The law to repeal the long-gun registry also pro-
vided for the destruction of the data contained
therein. Quebec, however, expressed its inten-
tion to establish its own gun-control scheme
and asked the federal government for its data on
long-guns owned by residents of Quebec.' When
the federal government refused to turn over the
data from the long-gun registry, despite the fact
that Quebec government officials had access to
the data while the long-gun registry was in oper-
ation, Quebec challenged the constitutionality of
the federal law providing for the destruction of
the data and sought an order requiring the fed-
eral government to turn over the data to Quebec.
The federal government's refusal to participate in
an act of intergovernmental cooperation began a
three-year round of constitutional litigation that
concluded in March of 2015 with a split decision
of the Supreme Court of Canada.
   At first, the decision of the majority of the
Supreme Court of Canada would seem to be
fairly straightforward; a government that has the
constitutional jurisdiction to enact a law should,
naturally, have the jurisdiction to repeal that law.
Further, given that data on Canadians was gath-
ered under that law as part of its administration,


a government ought to be able to dispose of the
data it has gathered as it deems appropriate. The
dissenting judgment, though, complicates the
constitutional question of whether the federal
government had the jurisdiction to destroy the
data, rather than turn it over to the Quebec gov-
ernment. The issue is not so straightforward.

The judicial history of the challenge

In 2012, the Quebec Superior Court decided
that the Canadian Firearms Registry (CFR) was
the result of an exercise in cooperative federal-
ism between the different orders of government
and that, in pith and substance the purpose of
destroying the data in the long-gun registry was
to prevent provincial governments from exer-
cising their jurisdiction when using the prod-
ucts of this partnership for their own purposes.3
Having determined that cooperative federalism
was a principle of Canadian constitutional law,
the Superior Court determined that the federal
government's action in destroying the data in the
long-gun registry was a violation of the principle
and therefore ultra vires the federal government's
jurisdiction over criminal law.4 The Quebec
Court of Appeal, however, reversed the decision
of the Quebec Superior Court, concluding that
Parliament has the jurisdiction to destroy the
data in the CFR, as a consequence of it having


Constitutional Forum constitutionnel

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