Police chiefs to hear report supporting gun registry

EDMONTON — A conference of police chiefs will hear a report stressing the importance of the national long-gun registry, even though the man who co-chaired the committee producing it won’t be there.

EDMONTON — A conference of police chiefs will hear a report stressing the importance of the national long-gun registry, even though the man who co-chaired the committee producing it won’t be there.

RCMP Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak was originally supposed to present the report just weeks before Parliament resumes debate of a Conservative private member’s bill that would kill the national long-gun registry.

But Cheliak was recently replaced as the head of the Canadian Firearms Program and sent for French training, meaning he won’t be attending this week’s Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Edmonton.

Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who also sits on the association’s special working group on the registry, says the report will instead be presented by Supt. Brad Doucette of the Edmonton police on Monday.

“It includes reference to a number of different programs including the firearms centre in Ottawa, which of course includes the long-gun registry,” said Blair, who is in Edmonton attending the conference.

“The long-gun registry is a very important tool. It’s not the only tool law enforcement uses, but it’s an important tool that enables us to conduct criminal investigations related to firearms use and misuse. It helps us prevent firearms violence and it keeps officers safe.”

Blair said the report will be presented in private first, and then to the public immediately afterwards.

Critics have questioned the timing of Cheliak’s french training, accusing the Harper government of using the language requirement as an excuse to take the registry supporter out of the spotlight just as the issue comes up for debate in Parliament.

Both Harper and RCMP commissioner William Elliot, both deny that is the case.

Elliot further stated last week that Cheliak had been head of the firearms registry on an acting basis only.

Blair wouldn’t comment when asked for his own opinion on Cheliak’s removal, saying he respects the RCMP’s abilities to make its own decisions.

He did however talk about Cheliak’s contribution to the gun file.

“Marty went right across the country and educated police officers, police unions and police leaders in how that information could be used to keep our communities safe,” said Blair.

“In every place he went, people became more effective in their jobs. Those communities became safer as a direct result of his work.”

The absent Cheliak was presented with an award for his work at the conference on Sunday.