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The federal government must release the information it used to justify last May’s OIC firearms bans, a judge said last week.
Although the government wished to keep this information a secret, the judge ruled that it must be examined, to determine if it really qualifies for cabinet confidentiality, as the government stated.
The ruling comes as part of the ongoing legal battle between the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights (CCFR) and a collection of businesses and individuals against the Canadian government. The aim of the lawsuit is to nix the federal Order in Council (OIC) firearms bans from May, 2020. The OIC ban saw a wide range of hunting, sporting and tactical firearms prohibited, with seemingly little logic behind the process. Since the ban was announced, the Canadian firearms industry has been fighting back, despite setbacks.
The ruling from Associate Chief Justice Jocelyne Gagné on May 27 means the federal government must now release the information it used to determine which firearms to ban through the OIC. Previously, the feds had tried to hide this information, claiming cabinet confidence. In other words, a government secret.
That argument won’t necessarily work now, thanks to Gagné’s decision. In the ruling (see the whole thing here), the judge gave the Attorney General of Canada 30 days to come up with the documents that supported the federal government’s gun ban position. Upon receiving the documents, the judge will determine whether or not they actually qualify for cabinet confidence, or if “public interest in disclosure outweighs its secrecy.” Note that that’s no guarantee the documents will actually be released to the public.
The judge also said the feds must pay the litigants’ costs in this matter, which will no doubt cheer up those involved.
Revealing the government’s basis for the firearms ban will no doubt prove key in the litigants’ arguments that the OIC crackdown is invalid, if they’re able to have those documents unsealed. With this court decision, the feds will have to cough up the paperwork required to the judge—but what will that look like?
Will government lawyers simply file boxes of blacked-out paperwork? This seems unlikely, as the requirement is to give the judge sealed documents, allowing the judge to determine their relevance to the case. Or is there actually any paperwork to start with? Will Associate Chief Justice Jocelyne Gagné simply go through the motions and rubber-stamp the federal paperwork? Or will the documents point to bad-faith activity, exposing federal misdoings? No doubt this is what the CCFR and other litigants would like.
We should know in a month’s time, but while this is a small victory, it’s certainly not the win that nails the lawsuit in favour of firearms. It is, however, a step in the right direction.