The lawyers for the federal government had argued that it was unnecessary to produce an actual physical copy of the records because the safety minister had issued " four separate understandings" to preserve the data. The judge rejected the government's arguments, after he was informed by the lawyers for the information minister, that previous assurances from the Harper government in 2012 were ignored as it pushed for speedy destruction of all gun registry records.
It was the destruction of records in 2012, that led Legault to issue a report accusing the RCMP of breaking the Freedom of Information Act. The Ontario Provincial Police is investigating the allegation.
The Harper government responded to the allegation by retroactively rewriting the law in order to grant amnesty to anyone involved in the destruction and backdating it to 2011 and then "hiding" it in this spring's 167-page omnibus budget bill ( C 59), which was passed by the Senate on Monday, thus adding urgency to the Federal Court hearing to seal the remaining records. The government lawyer did not give a direct answer, when asked by the judge whether the government would respect an order to preserve the data once C-59 was passed. Gregory Tzemenakis, for the government replied that " absent a constitutional challenge", the bill's new provisions will be the law.
This is a very dangerous move by the government. " Perilous precedent", Legault calls it and she is quite correct. This action on the part of the government of an alleged crime ( the destruction of the records), could be used to retroactively absolve and cover up electoral fraud, expense scandals or other serious crimes, she warned.
Judge Martineau also mused aloud in court about retroactively absolving Nazis of war crimes and backdating the law to 1940. Clearly, the judge was most concerned at the government's anti-democratic action and his "musings", dismayed and alarmed the government lawyers. They should be more than dismayed and alarmed, because as officers of the court, they are guardians of the rule of law. The rule of law exist to protect all equally; to protect our Rights and Freedoms against an authoritarian government. The Magna Carta from which this principle is derived and which was passed 800 years ago, is presently on display in Parliament. Hopefully its presence will stir, strengthen and remind us of the centuries of struggle to against undemocratic governments. This slap-down of the Harper government follows on the many other instances when the Supreme Court has had to act against actions by this government.
It is clearly evident that the Harper government will do whatever it deems necessary to carry out its agenda, even if it means breaking the law and then take retroactive action to cover itself and its "cohorts". That is "perilous". That is an attack on all our Rights and Freedoms. That is a pathway to irresponsible and autocratic governance. That is the death knell of our democracy.
The RCMP and the Public Safety minister have complied with the judge's order and handed over all Quebec gun registry data around 9.15 am, Tuesday. Also Legault's constitutional challenge to retroactive amnesty contained in omnibus budget bill has been transferred to 3-judge Divisional Court in Toronto.