C-71 Analysis – Examining the requirement to keep records, will the government have access?
In an interview given by the Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale to the CBC and published March 20, 2018, the Minister said this about the new, detailed transaction records required to be maintained by retail vendors of firearms regarding their sales:
“… it’s simply not a federal long gun registry, full stop, period. The requirement for retailers to maintain their own private record is just that, they’re private records of the retailers, and they will not be accessible to government. They would be accessible to police when they are investigating gun crimes, with the proper basis of reasonable cause and judicial authorization through a warrant. That’s how the police investigate private information now in any event with respect to every other manner of events…”
This is simply not true.
The Firearms Act creates a very clear system for the government to easily access all of the records maintained by a firearms business, in a section of the Firearms Act appropriately titled “Inspection”. They simply need to send in an Inspector under the following provisions of the Firearms Act:
Definition of “inspector”
101 In sections 102 to 105, inspector means a firearms officer and includes, in respect of a province, a member of a class of individuals designated by the provincial minister.
102 (1) Subject to section 104, for the purpose of ensuring compliance with this Act and the regulations, an inspector may at any reasonable time enter and inspect any place where the inspector believes on reasonable grounds a business is being carried on or there is a record of a business, any place in which the inspector believes on reasonable grounds there is a gun collection or a record in relation to a gun collection or any place in which the inspector believes on reasonable grounds there is a prohibited firearm or there are more than 10 firearms and may
(a) open any container that the inspector believes on reasonable grounds contains a firearm or other thing in respect of which this Act or the regulations apply;
(b) examine any firearm and examine any other thing that the inspector finds and take samples of it;
(c) conduct any tests or analyses or take any measurements; and
(d) require any person to produce for examination or copying any records, books of account or other documents that the inspector believes on reasonable grounds contain information that is relevant to the enforcement of this Act or the regulations.
Operation of data processing systems and copying equipment
(2) In carrying out an inspection of a place under subsection (1), an inspector may
(a) use or cause to be used any data processing system at the place to examine any data contained in or available to the system;
(b) reproduce any record or cause it to be reproduced from the data in the form of a print-out or other intelligible output and remove the print-out or other output for examination or copying; and
(c) use or cause to be used any copying equipment at the place to make copies of any record, book of account or other document. …”
In case you are wondering who a “firearms officer” is, that is provided by section 2(1) of the Firearms Act:
2 (1) In this Act, …
firearms officer means
(a) in respect of a province, an individual who is designated in writing as a firearms officer for the province by the provincial minister of that province,
(b) in respect of a territory, an individual who is designated in writing as a firearms officer for the territory by the federal Minister, or
(c) in respect of any matter for which there is no firearms officer under paragraph (a) or (b), an individual who is designated in writing as a firearms officer for the matter by the federal Minister; …”
Quite obviously under these provisions, it is not the case that the government requires a warrant or reasonable cause or any judicial oversight at all in order to enter into the premises of a firearm retailer, and examine and take copies of all of their books, documents or computer records.