Crown asks for sentence of not less than two years
By Garett Williams
Tuesday March 18, 2008
Bruce Montague returned to a Kenora courtroom Monday for a sentencing hearing following 26 firearms related convictions in December.
The charges against Montague, and his wife Donna, date back to 2004, following his arrest at a Dryden gun show. After police twice searched his Eton-Rugby home, Montague was charged with more than 50 firearms offences. His wife faced three charges.
On Monday, the defence and the Crown argued their case for sentencing before Justice John Wright, from Thunder Bay, who is left to consider their submissions, along with a pre-sentence report and references from community members familiar with the Dryden family.
Crown attorney Peter Keen argued for a maximum sentence of three years in prison, but no less than two, pointing out several of Montague's convictions carry mandatory minimum sentences. Converting a weapon to fully-automatic, storing a loaded restricted or prohibited weapon and removing serial numbers all carry a mandatory minimum sentence of three-years behind bars were those he listed.
Montague's lawyer Doug Christie criticized mandatory sentences, saying they transfer power from the judge to the Crown, which ultimately decides the charges to lay.
Keen suggested Montague serve his sentence in a provincial facility, if the sentence is less than two years.
"Mr. Montague is an unbending man," Keen said. "It hasn't served him well. I don't think he would do well in a (federal) penitentiary."
Keen suggested three years probation for Donna Montague and a 10-year prohibition from owning firearms. He suggested a lifetime prohibition for Bruce Montague.
"In my view, firearms, as part of Mr. Montague's life, is now over," he said.
In his submission, Christie urged Wright to use discretion when deciding on a sentence and asked him not to turn Montague into a martyr, which would do little good for Montague or society. He said it would result in more people hiding their firearms from the state, rather than openly challenging what they see as an unjust law.
"You want to see guns hidden all over this country, give him four years," Christie said. "Give him one year. You'll see holes being dug and PVC pipe loaded with rifles in forests all over the country."
Earlier in the morning, the foreman of the jury that convicted Montague requested an opportunity to recommend leniency with regards to Montague's sentence. Wright denied him, saying it was irrelevant, to the dismay of some 40 supporters present.
Christie argued the sentence should reflect a December ruling handed to a 60-year-old James Bay resident, who pled guilty to 19 of 39 firearms offences he faced. Ryerson Knight was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day, to be served in his home. A search of his home turned up 662 guns -- including Uzis, tear-gas grenades, sound suppressors and a machine gun.
Wright allowed Ed Hudson, of the Canadian Unregistered Firearm Owners Association, to make an address at the end of the day. Hudson said while he doesn't support everything Montague did, he does support his act of civil disobedience.
Wright responded saying the only moral grounds for civil disobedience are from those foreclosed from the political system. Those who can, must use the avenues within the system to invoke change, he said.
"There is no legal justification for disobeying the law," Wright said. "If you disobey, as the kids say, 'you do the crime, you pay the time.'"
Wright will hand down his sentence this morning.
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