Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why We Must Fight to Save Canada's Gun Registry

The picture to the right is of my Aunt Ruth, taken when she was just four years old. I never met my aunt, but her story is ingrained in our family history.

There was just a two year age difference between my dad and her, so they grew up together. As his 'big' sister she did her best to keep him out of trouble, and he always tried to return the favour.

Family and friends would have said she married well, into a prosperous family. 'She wanted for nothing'. But few knew of her other life. Not that it would have mattered much then. A wife was her husband's property, and if she left, the stigma of failure would have followed her.

But my father knew.

And when the RCMP arrived to tell him that his sister had been shot to death, by her husband; it was a devastating blow. In fact, they took him to the station and kept him under guard, fearing he would try to take matters into his own hands. And he probably would have.

Battles between my father and my uncle were well known, and despite repeated attempts (even a 'kidnapping'), he could never convince Ruth to get away.

His hair went grey overnight from the shock that he could no longer save her, and that stigma of failure followed him for the rest of his life.

And my uncle? Initially he told the police that he was cleaning his gun and it went off accidentally, but later claimed that she had committed suicide. And to compound the tragedy, this meant that she could not be buried in the family plot. Because, you see she was Catholic and at the time they did not allow anyone to be buried in a Catholic cemetery, who had taken their fate out of God's hands.

The fact that I wasn't even born when this happened, and yet can recount the details so vividly, is because of the impact it had on my dad. It made him extremely protective of his five daughters and we grew up with an understanding that we charted our own destiny, not our husbands or boyfriends, or anyone else. And if we complained that he was too strict, my mother would remind us of that story and the reasons for his fierce determination to keep us safe.

And it is in that memory that I fight to preserve Canada's gun registry.

Arguably, such a registry would not have saved my aunt, but it is reflective of how we view ourselves as Canadians. Peaceful, not aggressive. And the fact that a death more than a half century ago can still have such a profound influence on me, is testament to that.

So when I learned today that there is still a chance to preserve this important piece of Canadian identity, I had to step up.

The Canadian Labour Congress has established a page with all members of the opposition who voted in favour of Bill C-391. We must contact them to let them know that they have to change their vote. They also have a sample form that you can complete and they will submit the email.

They are hoping to get a thousand of these to send a clear message.

But these MPs have to know what's at stake here. This is not just a government agency, but a very large part of who we are; and I'm frightened that if we allow this cornerstone of Canadian identity to be removed, the entire structure will come tumbling down.

I have just three things of my aunt's. A rosary, which fittingly is broken; a hankie with her name embroidered on it and the photo above. But maybe I will also have this.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this important story with us, Emily. I hope you share it with the MP's as well. Because this IS personal - for all of us, as is all politics.

  2. I'm trying to condense it to frame it in an email. So many decisions that my father made, were because of my aunt. I have a lot to thank her for.