Nunavik Inuit repeat demand for exemption from Quebec’s gun registry

The government is “mixing up harvesting rights with criminality": Makivik

By SARAH ROGERS

Charlie Watt, centre and in grey, addresses Makivik's annual general meeting in Puvirnituq last month, where board members passed a resolution again calling on the Quebec government to exempt the region from its firearms registry. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MAKIVIK)


Charlie Watt, centre and in grey, addresses Makivik’s annual general meeting in Puvirnituq last month, where board members passed a resolution again calling on the Quebec government to exempt the region from its firearms registry. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MAKIVIK)

Makivik Corp. has renewed its call for Nunavik to be exempt from Quebec’s new firearms registry.

Nunavik’s Inuit birthright organization passed a resolution to that effect at its annual general meeting in March. Quebec’s new firearms registry came into effect Jan. 29, requiring gun owners to register their weapons through a provincial database, or face penalties.

Makivik has already made clear its position—the organization tabled a brief to the legislative committee studying the bill that went on to become law.

Makivik maintains that Nunavik Inuit should be exempt from the registry because of their distinct rights as harvesters under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

“Quebec did not consult properly nor did it include the requested exemption in the act or propose accommodation measures to the Nunavik Inuit,” Makivik’s most recent resolution read.

The MNA for Ungava, Jean Boucher, said earlier this year that the province would not consider an exemption for the region.

But Boucher said the Quebec government would help set up a regional organization to help Nunavimmiut register their weapons in Inuktitut, and noted the one-year grace period should give his government time to accommodate Nunavik’s gun owners.

“They’ve indicated they’re willing to help people fill out the forms, but there’s been no movement,” said Makivik President Charlie Watt, calling it “an administrative headache.”

Watt said he understands the public safety concerns behind the registry, but said the government is “mixing up harvesting rights with criminality.”

Under the new act, gun owners who fail to register their weapons could face a fine from $500 to $5,000.

Since the registry launched, a total of 50, 574 new weapons have been registered across Quebec, while another 29,649 applications have yet to be processed.

In Nunavik, about 20 firearms have been registered so far.

A spokesperson from Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security said the firearms registry already offers support to those registering their weapons and has been made available in English.

But officials have also been in contact in with the region to evaluate the possibility of introducing additional support to facilitate registration, the ministry said in an April 13 email.

The Kativik Regional Government said in an email that the Kativik Regional Police Force is currently looking at the new legislation “in order to determine its impacts on the region.”

Canada’s federal gun registry came to be in the wake of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Quebec, when 14 women were shot and killed in their Montreal classroom.

But that registry was dismantled in 2012 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Quebec then tabled legislation to create its own registry, which passed in 2016.

The Quebec government has since fought to keep its own records from the federal registry, which was set to be destroyed, though that data remains sealed pending the outcome of court challenges.

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