Trudeau under fire for long-gun registry comments

The federal Conservatives and Opposition New Democrats are calling out Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau for saying that the long-gun registry was "a failure," after he spent years defending it and voted not to abolish it as recently as a few months ago.

"The long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I'm not going to resuscitate that," Trudeau said during a campaign stop in the Conservative riding of Glengarry–Prescott–Russell in Ontario on Friday.

"We will continue to look at ways of keeping our cities safe and making sure that we do address the concerns around domestic violence that happen right across the country, in rural as well as urban areas in which, unfortunately, guns do play a role.

"But there are better ways of keeping us safe than that registry which is, has been removed," Trudeau said in a question-and-answer session while visiting the DART Aerospace plant in Hawkesbury.

In an interview with CBC News on Sunday, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said Trudeau is pandering to different groups depending on what part of the country he finds himself in.

"When he's in Quebec he says Albertans have too much power, but when he's in Alberta he says the opposite. When he's with his Liberal friends he votes in favour of the long-gun registry, when he's in a rural community he calls it a failure.

"Justin Trudeau will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear, whenever he thinks you want to hear it," Poilievre said.

Trudeau recently set off another political firestorm when comments he made about Albertans in a 2010 French interview resurfaced in the media.

The leadership hopeful offered an apology but maintained his comments were being misinterpreted and that they were directed at the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and not Albertans in general.

He later conceded his 2010 comments "may have hindered a little bit" his party's chances in the Calgary Centre byelection last Monday.

The Conservatives abolished the long-gun registry in April after passing Bill C-19, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, in a final vote of 159-130. Trudeau voted against the Conservative bill.

While the Liberals have since said they would not bring back the registry, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has pledged to restore it.

NDP justice critic Françoise Boivin, in an interview with CBC News on Sunday, said her jaw dropped when she read Trudeau's comments.

Like Poilievre, Boivin too wondered whether Trudeau would repeat those comments in Montreal or Toronto, cities that have been marked by gun violence over the years.

Boivin noted it wasn't that long ago that Trudeau voted against Bill C-19, "and to say a few months later that it was a failure, that it was not doing at all what it should be doing... maybe the attraction to try to lure some voters on his side and bring back the Liberal Party in that area was stronger than his principles."

"Real leadership is to say to a bunch of people that you know are against your view and try to explain it and convince them. That's what real leadership is suppose to be," Boivin said.

The New Democratic MP from Quebec also took aim at Trudeau's assertion that gun ownership is an "important facet of Canadian identity." Boivin said Canada is not the United States, where the right to bear arms is entrenched in the constitution.

When asked for reaction to Trudeau's comments, journalist Rob Russo, Ottawa Bureau Chief for The Canadian Press, told CBC Radio's The House that Trudeau was "boldly going where no Grit has gone before."

"He is taking on an issue where he is going to get into some trouble in the province of Quebec. If there was one province where the gun registry was an unqualified hit, a success, it is in the province of Quebec," Russo told host Evan Solomon.

Since the long-gun registry was scrapped, the Quebec government has gone to court and won the right to preserve its share of the long-gun data.

The federal government has since destroyed most of the remaining records of registered long guns and is currently appealing the Quebec Superior Court ruling blocking it from destroying the data from Quebec.

The federal long-gun registry was first created by the Liberal Party in 1995, in the wake of the Dec. 6, 1989, massacre at Montreal's École Polytechnique, in which 14 women were singled out for their gender and killed by a gunman.

Ceremonies to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women are held every Dec. 6 in Montreal and in other cities across the country.