My understanding is, that the Gun Registry, as it is familiarly known, or the Canadian Firearms Information System is an official government record that cannot arbitrarily be destroyed. Below I provide references to Acts, Regulations, Directives and Policies that support that perspective. However, at the bottom you will find reference to proposed Bill C-19, and you will discover that this Bill aims to override all of these. Is it constitutional for a government to create an Act to go against its own Acts, Regulations and policies?
Normally, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has the final say on whether or not a database or record can be destroyed (see slide #3) as LAC is:
accountable for the final decisions about what gets kept and what gets deleted
And that statement is legally grounded in the Library and Archives Act:
Destruction and disposal
12. (1) No government or ministerial record, whether or not it is surplus property of a government institution, shall be disposed of, including by being destroyed, without the written consent of the Librarian and Archivist or of a person to whom the Librarian and Archivist has, in writing, delegated the power to give such consents.
To implement the law and follow the regulations the Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDA), were created to direct when and how records are destroyed, and it is not arbitrary:
Under the Library and Archives of Canada Act (2004), Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Canada is charged with various responsibilities regarding the disposal of this information, including the authorization of records destruction by government institutions (Section 12) and the preservation of records for their archival or historical importance (Section 13).
The Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDA) in this collection are issued by the Librarian and Archivist to provide direction to government institutions subject to the Library and Archives of Canada Act regarding the disposal of records managed by all or a multiple number of government institutions. They are designed to eliminate the need for government institutions individually to prepare submissions for and negotiate agreements with the Librarian and Archivist for records which have similar administrative or operational status.
The Canadian Firearms Registry, which includes the Canadian Firearms Information System, is part of Canadian Firearms Program of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) which is a Schedule I government organization according to the Access Information Act which means it would fall under Disposition rules and LAC ACT which states that:
The disposal of records managed by government institutions occurs under the Library and Archives of Canada Act. A government institution is subject to the Library and Archives of Canada Act if it is listed in Schedule I of the Access to Information Act or in the Schedule to the Privacy Act. (see MIDA)
The Treasury Board Policy on Information Management states, keeping in mind this is a policy not a directive, a regulation nor an act, but does say some nice things, not necessarily accompanied with budgets on the management of records:
3.1 Information is an essential component of effective management across departments. The availability of high-quality, authoritative information to decision makers supports the delivery of programs and services, thus enabling departments to be more responsive and accountable to Canadians.
Managing information and records using a whole-of-government approach where legislation permits, supports managers’ ability to transform organizations, programs and services in response to the evolving needs of Canadians. While information management encompasses records, as well as documents, data, library services, information architecture, etc., records and their management are mentioned at key points in the policy for the purpose of emphasis. Integrating information management considerations into all aspects of government business enables information to be used and recognized as a valuable asset. All these activities are indicative of a culture that values information.
The Treasury Board Directive on Information Management Roles and Responsibilities. refers back to the LAC Act regarding disposition:
9.2.5 issues records disposition authorities, pursuant to section 12 of the Library and Archives of Canada Act, to enable departments to carry out their records retention and disposition plans;
It would seem that there are Acts, Regulation, Policies and Directives that lean toward not being able to destroy the Gun Registry.
There are however some items in the current Firearms Act that allow for the registrars to destroy some data in the registry under some prescribed conditions:
84. The Registrar may destroy records kept in the Canadian Firearms Registry at such times and in such circumstances as may be prescribed.
Destruction of records
(3) The Registrar may destroy any record referred to in subsection (1) at such times and in such circumstances as may be prescribed.
In addition, Chief Firearms Officers 87. (1) A chief firearms officer shall keep a record of
(a) every licence and authorization that is issued or revoked by the chief firearms officer;
(b) every application for a licence or authorization that is refused by the chief firearms officer;
(c) every prohibition order of which the chief firearms officer is informed under section 89; and
(d) such other matters as may be prescribed.
Destruction of records
(2) A chief firearms officer may destroy any record referred to in subsection (1) at such times and in such circumstances as may be prescribed.
However, According to the Firearms Records Regulations, there are some pretty explicit instructions as to when a record can be destroyed:
DESTRUCTION OF RECORDS
4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), for the purpose of section 84 of the Act, a record kept in the Canadian Firearms Registry shall not be destroyed until after the expiration of 10 years after the date of the last administrative action taken regarding the information in the record.
(2) A record, kept in the Canadian Firearms Registry under paragraph 83(1)(a) of the Act, of a registration certificate that is issued or revoked shall not be destroyed.
5. For the purpose of subsection 87(2) of the Act, a record kept by a chief firearms officer shall not be destroyed until after the expiration of 10 years after the date of the last administrative action taken regarding the information in the record.
6. (1) Despite section 5, the following records shall not be destroyed until after the death of the individual in respect of whom they are kept:
(a) the record attesting to the fact that the individual has met the requirements of section 7 of the Act, including the date and place of any course or test; and
(b) records of every certification issued under paragraph 7(4)(a) of the Act.
(2) Despite sections 4 and 5, records of prohibition orders kept under paragraph 87(1)(c) of the Act and records of information concerning prohibition orders made under section 147.1 of the National Defence Act shall not be destroyed until after the death of the individual in respect of whom the record is kept unless the individual meets the requirements of subsection 7(3) of the Act.
To summarize, the Firearms Act permits the destruction of some records in the Canadian Firearms Information System under certain circumstances and these are stipulated in the act. Data can be destroyed but not arbitrarily, not the entire database, and it should be deposited at Library and Archives Canada.
Bill C-19 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act is however proposing to override all those good laws, regulations, directives, and policies with the following:
29. (1) The Commissioner of Firearms shall ensure the destruction as soon as feasible of all records in the Canadian Firearms Registry related to the registration of firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms and all copies of those records under the Commissioner’s control.
(2) Each chief firearms officer shall ensure the destruction as soon as feasible of all records under their control related to the registration of firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms and all copies of those records under their control.
(3) Sections 12 and 13 of the Library and Archives of Canada Act and subsections 6(1) and (3) of the Privacy Act do not apply with respect to the destruction of the records and copies referred to in subsections (1) and (2).
It is in this fine print that we need to be watchful of this Government, as it is making rules to abolish a program and destroy records and it is trying to do so legally or at least using legal means to do so. DATA seems to really be a FOUR LETTER word for this Government, they do not like the census, they do not use data to support their policies such as building jails, and they do not really like accountability, since in the end data help citizens assess and evaluate how their governments are doing.
No record, no way of evaluating!