Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik April 20, 2016 - 7:00 am

Nunavik Inuit want exemption from Quebec’s new firearms registry

"Inuit hunters cannot be over burdened by bureaucratic measures"

SARAH ROGERS
Hunters head out onto the land outside of Kangiqsualujjuaq. New proposed legislation wants all of Quebec's firearms owners to register their weapons. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Hunters head out onto the land outside of Kangiqsualujjuaq. New proposed legislation wants all of Quebec's firearms owners to register their weapons. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Nunavik Inuit say rights enshrined in their land claim agreement should exempt them from Quebec’s proposed firearms registry.

Bill 64, the Firearms Registration Act, was tabled at Quebec’s legislative body, the Assemblée nationale, at the end of 2015.

That bill, if passed into law, would require that all firearms in the province be registered, and calls for fines of up to $5,000 for those who don’t comply.

During public hearings on Bill 64 earlier this month, Makivik Corp. tabled a brief to the legislative committee looking at the bill. requesting full exemption for all Nunavik Inuit.

“Makivik shares Quebec’s concerns over public safety and the safe handling of firearms,” the organization said April 6.

“However, Inuit hunters cannot be over burdened by bureaucratic measures that may penalize the exercise of their right to harvest under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement.”

Under the land claim agreement, Inuit beneficiaries have a right to harvest wildlife. Under section 24.3.12, that right includes ancillary means, such as the right to “use all equipment reasonable needed to exercise that right…,” Makivik said.

In its submission, Makivik noted other aspects of the bill that fail to recognize Inuit culture.

The organization raised the practice of sharing as a core concept of Inuit identify, which includes the communal possessions of hunting equipment.

Makivik also pointed out that firearm registration forms would not be made available in Inuktitut, the language spoken by 99 per cent of the region’s population.

Given those issues, Makivik asked for a full exemption from Bill 64, at least until a time that the province can properly consult with Nunavik Inuit on the proposed legislation.

Makivik wasn’t alone in its request; the Quebec Assembly of First Nations has also asked to be excluded from the registry, given First Nations around the province also use firearms for traditional harvesting.

Quebec’s department of public safety acknowledged those requests and told Nunatsiaq News that all the input provided at the public hearings is being considered by the legislative committee looking at the bill.

Quebec’s Bill 64 comes after years of disagreement with the federal government.

When Stephen Harper’s Conservative government scrapped the Canadian long-gun registry in 2012, Quebec immediately filed a request for an injunction to save the province’s data.

Although a temporary injunction was granted by Quebec Superior Court in April 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2015 that the destruction of long-gun registry records was within Parliament’s power.

The vast majority of guns in the province, some 1.6 million firearms, are long guns that would need to be registered, Quebec’s public safety department has said.

If passed, gun owners would have 12 months to register their firearms, at which point they would be assigned a unique number for their weapon.

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