A quiet, bearded man who stopped eating for three days after being thrown in jail Sept. 11 on firearms charges will be freed Tuesday, Crown attorney Peter Keen told a packed Kenora courtroom late Monday afternoon.
By Janet Gibson
Miner and News
William Bruce Montague, 45, a Dryden gunsmith described by his lawyer as a man “who is going through a process of civil disobedience,” sat in a holding cell in the Kenora courthouse while his wife and son, friends, reporters and fellow members of Canadian Unregistered Firearms Owners Association waited almost seven hours for his release hearing to start.
“This is the day we’ve been waiting for,” said Canadian Unregistered Firearms Owners Association treasurer Jack Wilson.
Wilson, unregistered firearms owners association secretary Ed Hudson and Ontario director Montague were three of 300 demonstrators to protest Bill C-68, The Firearms Act, on Parliament Hill Jan. 1, 2003, the day the federal government’s gun registry penalties took effect.
They thought they’d be charged with unauthorized possession of a firearm, charges they’d planned to fight vigorously and publicly.
It didn’t happen. Instead, the same day, Korean war veteran Oscar Lacombe was charged in Edmonton after carrying a disabled .22-calibre rifle to a gun registry protest at the Alberta legislature. Seven months later, a judge granted him a conditional discharge.
The OPP charged Montague with unauthorized possession of a firearm, careless storage of a firearm, unauthorized possession of explosives and careless storage of explosives on Sept. 11, arresting him at a Dryden gun show.
He will plead not guilty, said lawyer Edward Burlew. The Canadian Unregistered Firearms Owners Association is raising money to fight the charges all the way to the Supreme Court.
“This case is hanging over all of us. If he wins, I win. If he loses, I lose,” Hudson said.
Montague’s wife Donna “got scooped up in the dragnet,” Hudson said, and was charged with unauthorized possession of a firearm and unsafe storage.
She was released from custody and will appear in court Oct. 25.
The Canadian Unregistered Firearms Owners Association wants the government to repeal Bill C-68, which requires people to apply for a licence before purchasing a gun and to register their guns.
“This is not about guns,” Hudson said. “This is about rights and freedoms. Everyone in the world is born with the right of self-protection.”
Keen, who was denied a request by justice of the peace Robert McNally for a publication ban on the hearing’s proceedings, said the Crown would release Montague only after he tells police the location of a hidden room in his rural log house.
“We don’t know yet what firearms will be found,” Keen said, adding more charges could be laid.
On Sept. 11 and 12, the OPP seized 50 firearms (handguns and semi-automatic weapons), five tubs of ammunition, some small rounds of 50 caliber ammunition and a number of gun parts, he said.
After the hearing, Donna Montague shuffled out of the courtroom arm in arm with her son, Michael, 17.
“I don’t want to talk,” she said. “I’m really rattled.”
Michael spent the day doing physics homework outside the courtroom.
“I want to hear what they are saying (my father) is like,” Michael said. “He’s very intelligent. He knows what is right and does what’s right even if it’s against the common belief.”
Family friend Pastor Noel Smith said he was saddened to see Montague in jail.
“So you got what you wanted?” he asked Montague when he visited him in the Dryden holding cell.
After the hearing, Smith was subdued.
“He’s been declared a criminal because he owns guns, not because he committed a crime with them,” he said.
An elderly farmer and his wife were two of many supporters who drove down from Dryden for the hearing.
“It’s a bad law,” the woman said.
“To me,” said her husband, “a rifle is just a tool the same as a hammer or a handsaw.”
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