Sask. native federation vice-chief says no to federal gun registration laws

REGINA (CP) _ Preparing for a showdown with Ottawa over gun registration laws, a vice-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is refusing to list his firearms with the federal government. Greg Ahenakew said the registration law, which takes effect Jan. 1, infringes on treaty rights. He added that while he doesn't advocate breaking the law, the federation will lend legal support to any Saskatchewan aboriginal person who chooses to do so.

``What I will say is I have a gun and I am not going to register it,'' Ahenakew said Tuesday.

``If you truly believe that that is your right not to register your gun, then don't do it, but every individual needs to make that choice.'' Ahenakew pointed out the federation is challenging the gun control laws in court, and though confident his group will win, he cautions it could take up to eight years.

``We're saying we have no problem with public safety, but we don't like what you have done with this act because you have infringed upon our rights and you have done so without consultation,'' Ahenakew said.

``We're saying if there is going to be a firearms law then it's going to be a First Nations' firearms act.''

The federation is the latest group to speak out against Bill C-68, which requires all firearms to be registered in a national database by the start of next year.

David Austin of the Canadian Firearms Centre said that the federal government has every intention of defending the registry against the federation's challenge.

With about 50 days left before the deadline, about 70 per cent of guns have been registered in Canada, he said, and the centre has no reason to believe that non-compliance among aboriginal people will be a problem.

``The problem is that, on the registration, we have no way of distinguishing between an aboriginal and a non-aboriginal,'' Austin said.

``Looking across the country we have no reason to see that they are not part of the norm.''

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Chris Axworthy spoke out in favour of the federation's challenge.

``We hope the FSIN challenge will be more successful and gun owners across the province support FSIN in undermining, as best they can, the firearms legislation,'' Axworthy said.

The Canadian Alliance has been the most vocal critic of the gun laws, calling the registry a wasteful bureaucracy that does nothing to protect Canadians.

A number of gun groups have balked at the laws as well. Their protests have ranged from the sensational to the frightening.

In Manitoba, one man successfully registered his soldering gun in the database to point out what he called ignorance in the system, while in Edmonton, a campaign was started to mail old phone books to Ottawa in hopes the feds would have to pay for the postage.

In June, the firearms processing centre in New Brunswick had to be shut down for almost a week when someone mailed two packages of white powder to the building. Local police have said the packages came from Alberta.

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