Toronto will be going to court to try and keep data from the long gun registry available to police – going against its own solicitor’s advice.
Council voted 26-7 in favour of a motion by Toronto Centre-Rosedale Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, to try and keep data from the federal registry that is otherwise to be destroyed with the dissolution of the institution.
Wong-Tam and supporters, including Toronto’s Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe, argued that having access to the data from the registry is essential for preserving safety and public health in the city.
“It’s pretty obvious that firearms are a public health issue,” Yaffe said. “The firearms legislation and the long gun registry have had positive health impacts particularly around domestic violence and suicide among youth.”
Wong-Tam said the decision by the Conservative government to undo the registry throws out useful information for law enforcement.
“We have an ideology that says let’s get rid of the long gun registry and also expunge all data from that - let’s get rid of that,” she said. “But much of that information is sitting in affidavits. Let’s throw that out. And they’ve gone one step further – those who are selling long guns don’t have to provide sales ledgers. Well we have been keeping those records since 1977. How do you think they caught the Montreal massacre murderer? They got it through the long gun registry.”
Toronto Centre-Rosedale Councillor Pam McConnell, a former vice-chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said the information from the registry helps police know when they’re going into a dangerous situation.
“My understanding from the statistics provided by the chief and others is that every day our police officers go to the databank so they know what is happening,” she said. “So they know what’s behind the walls of the place they’re investigating. Because of that, police officers are much safer.”
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday urged councillors not to go ahead with the plan on the basis of confidential instructions they’d received from the city solicitor at an in-camera phase of the meeting.
“Councillor Wong-Tam has eloquently put forward this matter and I agree with her concerns regarding guns and so on, but we do have a report that tells us the perils of following that direction,” he said. “We were told about our chances on this matter. This could easily be a costly matter if handled the wrong way.”