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CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF LEGISLATION - Level of government

Friday, May 31, 2019 @ 9:01 AM  


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The appellants appeal a judgment which dismissed their application for a declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction seeking to have the Firearms Registration Act (the Act) declared unconstitutional. The appellants argued that the Act was ultra vires the powers of the province because it encroached on Parliament's criminal law power. They also asked the court to declare s. 13 of the Act inoperative pursuant to the doctrine of federal paramountcy. The trial judge concluded that the registration, in accordance with certain parameters, of an item owned by a citizen, for preventing accidents and crimes and facilitating the enforcement of judicial orders, had a clear connection to ss. 92(13) and (14) of the Constitution Act of 1867.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The Act was not concerned with the ownership or use of long guns, but rather with ensuring that the Minister was informed of their existence and their location within Quebec. The trial judge was therefore quite correct in finding that the Act's pith and substance was public safety and not gun control. The subtle distinction between the registration of long guns and the licensing scheme came into play when connecting the pith and substance of the Act to one or more provincial heads of power. It would be somewhat baffling to prevent a government from legislating for the safety of its population within the scope of the authority conferred upon it. It was not the role of the courts to rule on a statute's advisability or efficacy. The trial judge did not err by concluding that the Act's pith and substance, which related to public safety, brought it under ss. 92(13) and (14) of the Constitution Act of 1867.

Association canadienne pour les armes à feu v. Procureure générale du Québec, [2019] Q.J. No. 3386, Quebec Court of Appeal, The Honourables Nicole Duval Hesler, C.J.Q., Nicholas Kasirer J.A. and Jocelyn F. Rancourt J.A., May 1, 2019. Digest No. TLD-May272019010