HALIFAX - Gun owners are celebrating across Canada, except for those in Quebec.
Fulfilling a promise made by their political predecessors nearly 20 years ago, the federal Conservative government has finally deleted all of the long-gun registry information off of government-controlled databases.
"This is a fight that I have been fighting since I was the provincial attorney general in Manitoba when Alan Rock told us to enforce it," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told Sun News Network. "It was simply a waste of taxpayers' money. It did not serve a public safety purpose, it was simply a bureaucratic boondoggle."
More than seven million long guns were registered since the federal Liberal government created the system in 1995.
Sources say that a specialized script program systematically went through the computer database over a five-day span, deleting the names, addresses, phone numbers, registry numbers and types of rifles and shotguns from the massive files, skipping the Quebec records.
The work was finished Wednesday night, and the Tories say the backup copy was obliterated as well.
The government of Quebec wants the registry data preserved so they can use it on their own citizens. The Quebec Superior Court agreed in September and granted an injunction to save the files, and now the feds are taking it to the Supreme Court of Canada.
While that case is pending, the federal government cannot legally get rid of the data connected to the province.
"Although the court order has preserved the documentation, there is no law that would require anybody to submit information to the Quebec government given that the old bill C-68 in respect to the long gun registry is gone," Toews said.
Long-gun owners have had an amnesty from registering for years under the previous Conservative minority governments, and recently thousands of owners swapped and sold their guns in order to scramble the old data on the registry.
Chief fire arms officers in Ontario and Nova Scotia also tried to compel gun shop owners to keep paper ledgers listing the personal information of Canadians who bought long guns from them, creating a back- door registry that gun owners feared could be scanned into a new database.
The feds passed a law forcing the provincially appointed gun police to stop the practice.
Advocates for more gun control are not pleased with the cancellation of the registry or the destruction of the data.
"In addition to losing the long-gun registry, an effective crime prevention tool according to every major police organization in Canada, the Conservatives took advantage of the legislative process to further weaken the law," wrote Heidi Rathjen, spokewoman for the group Polysesouvient in Montréal. "Very quietly, they not only removed the requirement for sellers to validate the licence of a potential buyer, but they also eliminated the obligation for gun stores to keep inventory and sales records."
Canadians who own restricted and non-restricted firearms, including long guns, must still be licensed to own a gun or to buy ammunition. Police still have access to that data.
The long-gun registry forced hunters, farmers, sport shooters and many rural Canadians to register their rifles and shot guns with the government. The system was plagued with problems, running billions of dollars over budget, and many rural and western Canadians felt they were being treated like criminals.