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NDP blasts RCMP boss over firearms silence

OTTAWA - The NDP justice critic is chiding the RCMP boss for refusing to comment on the value of the federal long-gun registry.

OTTAWA - The NDP justice critic is chiding the RCMP boss for refusing to comment on the value of the federal long-gun registry.

New Democrat MP Jack Harris says it's "kind of disturbing" that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson won't address the issue.

Harris pointed Tuesday to an RCMP evaluation that found the federal registry is a "useful tool" that prepares officers for urgent calls, helps them trace weapons found at crime scenes and assists in keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable.

"Their own internal evaluation talked about its value as an investigative tool and an important crucial part of the whole gun control system in Canada," said Harris.

"For this commissioner to duck that question, I find that kind of disturbing."

The government has introduced a bill that would halt registration of long guns and permanently delete more than seven million files on gun ownership.

The bill, about to receive third reading in the House of Commons, would override provisions of the Library and Archives of Canada Act and the Privacy Act to allow for destruction of the records.

The Tories argue the registration of long guns is wasteful and unnecessary. However, they support the licensing of gun owners and the registration of prohibited and restricted weapons like handguns.

In 2010, police across Canada consulted the firearms registry an average of more than 14,000 times a day.

The government appointed Paulson, a veteran Mountie, to the top job late last year.

At a Commons committee Tuesday, Paulson said he provides advice to the government when asked, but leaves it at that.

"I don't think it's my role to be commenting publicly on legislation or matters of the government."

A tempest arose recently amid suggestions the government was forcing Paulson to get permission from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews before meeting with politicians. Long-time Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny, former chair of the upper chamber's committee on defence and security, accused the government of interference.

Paulson denied Tuesday he was being told who he could meet with. But he acknowledged that he gives the government a heads-up on his meetings of a political nature.

"I certainly have not been muzzled," he told the MPs.

"I think I can meet whoever I want whenever I want.

"I'd just as soon not meet with Sen. Kenny, to be honest with you."

Paulson elaborated for reporters after the meeting.

"I'm not looking for approval from the minister at all," he said. "I'm just doing what I think is a professional duty, frankly."

And Paulson denied he has anything against Kenny. "I think somebody described Sen. Kenny as being a very senior and experienced parliamentarian, and I respect that and I respect him."

 
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