Events / Miscellaneous / News / Opinion

Marking the Montreal Massacre and the fight to keep the gun registry

People mark the 22nd anniversary of the Montreal Massacre that took the lives of 14 women on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. 

By: Shannon Clarke

Feature image via The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick.

On Dec. 6 we pause to remember the 14 women murdered at École Polytechnique. They were killed for the simple fact they were women. Marc Lépine stormed the halls of the university looking for women before he found the engineering students. Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Maria Klucznik, Maryse Leclair, Annie St.-Arneault, Michèle Richard, Maryse Laganière, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Annie Turcotte lost their lives to gender-based violence. 

People across the country stopped to remember the horrific events of Dec. 6, 1989, but in Ottawa, there was a notable absence. Conservative MPs were deliberately not invited to speak at an event on Parliament Hill marking the 22nd anniversary of the Montreal Massacre on Dec.6.

Organizers, mourners, and political opponents are outraged over the government’s plans to scrap the long-gun registry. The move would mean Canadians would no longer need to register long-guns (or non-restricted firearms) like the Ruger Mini-14 used in the Montreal Massacre  – a law they say protects Canadians and especially women, from violence. While the Harper government and its supporters believe it is a step forward for rural, law-abiding Canadians, protesters and mourners at Parliament Hill that Tuesday strongly disagree.

“The Conservatives are recklessly dismantling the only positive thing to come out of the tragic events of Dec. 6,” NDP Leader Nycole Tumel told the Globe and Mail.

The long-gun registry is a direct result of the worst gender-based crime in Canada. After Marc Lépine opened fire in École Polytechnique at the University of Montreal – killing 14 women before he shooting himself – the country pushed for tougher gun control laws. The registry was adopted in 1995 under the Firearms Act.

But in October, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced the Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act, calling the current gun-control system “ineffective and wasteful” and promising the Harper government was still committed to measures that “actually tackle crime.”

Restricted and prohibited firearms will still have to be registered and gun owners will still be required to get a licence.

But the bill will not only eliminate the requirement to register non-prohibited firearms but will destroy all records.

“Our Government will continue to uphold our commitment to effective gun control measures that help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and off our streets,” Toews told the House of Commons.

But the promise to maintain effective gun control and focus on “real criminals” is vague and strangely optimistic. While the registry hasn’t eliminated gun violence entirely, it seems an odd choice to loosen gun control.

Quebec is leading the fight to maintain the gun registry and for good reason. The province has experienced two fatal mass shootings on college campuses since the Montreal Massacre. In 1992, Professor Valery Fabrikant opened fire at Concordia University, killing four of his colleagues. In 2006, Kimveer Gill arrived at Dawson College with three guns and began shooting. He killed 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa and wounded 19 others before taking his own life.

The Harper government’s bill to end the registry is expected to pass in Senate before the end of the year.

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