Gun-registry attack off target

The Conservative government has never been one to let expert advice get in the way of party ideology.

The Conservative government has never been one to let expert advice get in the way of party ideology.

Disparaging or dismissing outright expertise, whether it’s from the veterans’ ombudsman, Statistics Canada’s chief statistician or a researcher at Correctional Service of Canada is the cornerstone of the federal government’s communication policy.

The common man doesn’t need to read more “irrelevant” reports prepared by experts, academics and the like, say Conservative MPs, because they already know the government’s position is correct.

Repeated ad nauseam, that message will soon have the average Canadian doubting all experts, which will make them that much more receptive to the Conservative government’s position ­— no matter what that might be.

The debate about the future of Canada’s controversial long-gun registry is the latest example of the government pitting the common man against professionals. MPs are expected to vote in September on a Conservative private member’s bill to scrap the registry. The bill passed second reading last fall 164-137. Eight Liberals and 12 New Democrats sided with the Conservatives, who have been vocal opponents of the registry from Day 1.

But support for the long-gun registry remains strong among groups that actually use it daily to protect Canadians.

The Conservative government’s pat response has been to silence its critics and, failing that, cast doubt on their expertise and discredit their position.

Case in point: an RCMP report evaluating the effectiveness of the Canadian firearms program. The Conservative government has been sitting on the report since February. They are unlikely to release it until after the vote because, according to the CBC, the report concludes that the registry is cost effective, efficient and “an important tool for law enforcement.”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews blamed the RCMP for delaying the report’s release and assured us that its findings were irrelevant to the upcoming vote.

Then earlier this month, RCMP Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak, director general of the Canadian Firearms Program and a vocal supporter of the long-gun registry, was suddenly removed from the position.

Gun-registry advocates cried political interference. Not true, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who went on to chastise the media and others for confusing the gun-registry issue with idle speculation.

Undaunted by the government’s attempt to silence opposition, Canada’s police chiefs reaffirmed earlier this week their support for the federal long-gun registry, calling it a valuable, cost-effective crime-fighting tool that is consulted up to 11,000 times daily. If MPs killed the long-gun registry, they would hurt police efforts to keep communities safe, the chiefs warned.

The prime minister dismissed the chiefs’ concerns outright, saying the government knows well that some rank-and-file police officers disagree with the chiefs on the registry’s value.

The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians is the latest group to oppose abolition of the long-gun registry because that say it saves lives. Its members are all too familiar with gunshot wounds, given that three-quarters of the firearm deaths in Canada in 2006 were suicides, and rifles and shotguns were used in almost three-quarters of spousal homicides.

Expert advice is not above critique; however, the Conservative government’s psychological war on society’s most knowledgeable and skilled professionals offers the common man little but ignorance in its wake.

The long-gun registry, once an expensive boondoggle, has evolved into a cost-effective, efficient and important tool for law enforcement and health-care professionals.

The common man would do well to take a closer look at their evidence instead of listening to a government that claims that protecting our safety is a priority, yet acts counter to it.

Cameron Kennedy is an Advocate editor.