GNWT won't administer gun laws

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 29/96) - The territorial government has refused to administer new federal firearms regulations, along with the Yukon and three provinces.

However, the federal justice minister said Wednesday his department will administer the new rules itself.

 "The decision by these provinces and territories to abandon their role in the administration of gun control is nothing less than a shocking abdication of their responsibility," said Allan Rock (left) in the House of Commons.

"They will not take any further part in the issuance of FACs, they will take no further part in the administration of safety courses, they have walked away from their responsibilities in relation to gun control."

Until now, community safety through gun control has been a joint federal-territorial-provincial responsibility.

But with the refusal of the territorial and three provincial governments to administer the regulations, Rock said his department has no choice but to take over.

Further, he said his department has "embarked on discussions" to bring that administration to the local level of aboriginal communities, which he said they asked for during Bill C-68 discussions leading up to the new law and regulations.

The NWT along with the Yukon and three provinces announced earlier this year they will challenge the new gun law in court, arguing it flies in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Rock said he's prepared to take those jurisdictions on in court, and he's prepared to win.

Territorial Justice Minister Kelvin Ng has made no formal announcement on his government's refusal to administer the regulations and wasn't available for comment Wednesday.

However, an official who commented not for attribution, said it is part of the provincial and territorial protest against legislation they say should never have been passed in the first place.

"There will be a formal announcement in the coming days," the staff member said.

Reform MP Jack Ramsay criticized Rock's stand on the regulations and gun control in general, following Wednesday's introduction of the regulations.

He said the government should never have gone ahead with the legislation without full approval of all the provinces.

Former NWT Justice Minister Stephen Kakfwi told the legislative committee looking into gun control more than a year ago that the proposed law was just not practical in the Northwest Territories and even existing regulations couldn't be enforced, said Ramsay.

"We (now) have what may be a constitutional crisis, because this minister failed in his duty and responsibility to consult with the elected representatives of all the provinces as well as the territories," he said.

The new regulations will be referred to the committees of the House of Commons and the Senate for review within 30 sitting days and published in full in the Canada Gazette.

After review by Parliament, they will come into effect at the same time as the provisions of the Firearms Act, passed into law nearly a year ago.

The gun control act, first introduced into Parliament in February, 1995, is touted by the government as a measure preventing an increase in firearms violence across Canada.