MONTREAL - A judge has granted Quebec's motion to stop Ottawa from destroying gun registry data in a ruling that immediately rekindled the divisive gun control debate.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the permanent injunction on Monday left him "disappointed," with a sport shooting association calling it "an abomination."
But the Montreal police union said the registry is "essential to public safety" and that the feds were "weakening gun control," while the mother of a Dawson College shooting victim said she was "so happy."
Superior Court Judge Marc-Andre Blanchard ordered Ottawa to transfer data on Quebec gun owners to the province while safeguarding any relevant equipment or personnel.
He said "uncontested evidence" shows that gun-related suicides and crimes, including homicides, dropped in the years following the creation of the registry.
The judge also agreed with Quebec's claim that Ottawa could not claim exclusive ownership of the records that Ottawa has earmarked for destruction.
Gun-crime victims were at the Montreal courthouse for the ruling, a major victory by opponents of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's long-standing plan to dismantle a registry he says is costly and ineffective.
"Someone heard us, someone wanted to do something," said Meaghan Hennegan, who survived Kimveer Gill's Sept. 13, 2006, shooting rampage that killed student Anastasia De Sousa, 18, at Dawson College in Montreal.
The dead woman's mother, Louise De Sousa, has since become a gun-control advocate and said the ruling was a "partial victory."
"On Thursday, it will be six years since we lost our daughter," she said. "It is a tool that we need so much, I think the judge has seen that. I'm so happy."
The Dawson shooting, and earlier gun rampages at Concordia University and Ecole Polytechnique, drove a deep wedge between Quebec and the rest of Canada on the issue of gun control.
The outgoing Liberal government in Quebec took the federal government to court earlier this year as it prepared to create its own gun registry.
Quebec argues that law enforcement agencies regularly use gun data to prevent crime and the Montreal Police Brotherhood said Monday that the information is an "extremely relevant tool."
"The registry data is essential to public safety and Montreal police officers greet with relief any decision that halts the weakening of gun control," president Yves Francoeur said.
Toews, meanwhile, called the registry "wasteful and ineffective" Monday and pointed fingers at the opposition NDP, who he claims has "consistently said that if given the chance they would try and use this data to target law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters."
Even stronger language came from Tony Bernardo, a spokesman for the Toronto-based Canadian Shooting Sports Association. He said the judge flouted Parliament.
"Absolutely preposterous ruling," Bernardo said in an e-mail. "If the Supreme Court of Canada upholds this ruling after the feds appeal it, the federal government might just as well go home."
The sport shooting association says it has refused to participate in gun registration, encouraging long-gun owners to trade and sell their rifles and shotguns in order to make the stored registry data obsolete.
Bernardo says 30,000 unregistered guns are making the rounds as a result of their protest.
The House of Commons voted to destroy the registry - including the Quebec records - in February. The bill was given royal assent April 5.
The Conservatives wanted to start destroying the data immediately but also said they would respect court rulings on the matter.
-With files by Dominique La Haye, Michael Nguyen and Emmanuel Martinez-
Dec. 5, 1995
Bill C-68: An Act Respecting Firearms and Other Weapons becomes law, creating the national firearms registry under Jean Chretien's Liberals. The Reform Party immediately vows to repeal the law if elected.
Feb. 6, 2006
Former Reform Party MP Stephen Harper sworn in as Canada's 22nd prime minister after campaigning on, among other things, a promise to abolish gun registry.
Oct. 25, 2011
Conservatives table Bill C-19, aimed at repealing registry requirements for rifles and shotguns and to destroy registry records.
Dec. 13, 2011
Quebec Public Security Minister Robert Dutil, flanked by police associations, gun-control advocates and women's groups, threatens legal action if Conservatives pass Bill C-19.
April 5, 2012
Bill C-19 receives royal assent. That same day, a judge grants Quebec motion temporarily barring Ottawa from destroying gun data, pending final ruling.
Sept. 10, 2012
Superior Court Judge Marc-Andre Blanchard grants permanent injunction ordering Ottawa to hand over Quebec gun-registry data.