The federal Conservative government’s plan to axe the federal long gun registry has long been criticized from a safety perspective, but is it also a feminist issue? Yes, according to the non-profit legal clinic taking the matter into its own hands. Earlier this year, Toronto’s Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic filed an application before the Ontario Superior Court, declaring that Bill C-19 is in violation of sections seven and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“[The long gun registry] has been a very public issue for women’s clinics and organizations,” says Shaun O’Brien, a partner at Cavalluzzo Hayes Shilton McIntyre & Cornish LLP, who is representing the Schlifer clinic, pro bono. “We’re coming forward to take the position that it’s terrible for women.”
The clinic — named for a young lawyer who was sexually assaulted and killed on the day of her call to the bar in 1980 — provides legal counselling and interpretive services to women experiencing violence. Some of these cases involve threats or assaults with long guns, according to the clinic’s application.
“The clinic is interested in the equality issues raised by the differential impact of this law on women,” says Amanda Dale, executive director of the clinic. “We’re always looking at law and policy from that perspective.”
The clinic sought an injunction against the destruction of the registry in mid-September — supported by the City of Toronto — but Superior Court Justice David Brown rejected the motion. At press time, the clinic was seeking an appeal to the decision. The registry’s data could be destroyed as early as this fall by the federal government.
In a separate but related case, the Quebec government recently won a permanent injunction against the destruction of registry data related to that province. However, the decision is currently being appealed by Ottawa.
The Ontario case is slated to go to court in March 2013. If the registry’s data is destroyed in the meantime, the case will still proceed. Says Dale: “I’ve had calls from clients going back 15 and 20 years who’ve read about the judgment in the paper. They are adamant we keep fighting.”