This Case Epilogue written February 1, 2017 is intended to provide context to this web site as it documents a Canadian constitutional challenge spanning from 2004 to 2016.
Bruce Montague determined to expose the constitutional violations in the Canadian Firearms Act. After being charged, mounting a constitutional challenge and appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada, Montague's case was dismissed without reasons. With Bruce in jail, the Montagues then faced an another twist of injustice -- the confiscation of their home and property by the Ontario government.
The Montagues fought the civil forfeiture of their home for years until, in the summer of 2016, the Canadian Constitution Foundation was instrumental in negotiating with the Ontario Civil Forfeiture department to drop the lien against the Montague home.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation deserves our support as they continue to fight other cases of injustice around the country.
YOU COULD BE NEXT! Canada is undergoing a quiet revolution and your fundamental rights and freedoms are at stake!
The sentencing hearing of Bruce and Donna Montague, the firearm-control resisters, was held on Monday and Tuesday in Kenora, Ontario, following their criminal trial of late last year. Mr. Montague (see picture) was condemned to 18 months in jail, the forfeiture of his firearms, one-year probation, and a lifetime firearms prohibition. His wife Donna received six months of probation. Although the verdict will be appealed, Bruce was immediately imprisoned. The Ontario government also wants to seize the family home under the Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act of 2001.
About 40 local people were in the courtroom to support the two convicted paper criminals. The judge described Bruce Montague as "a decent, hard-working, otherwise law-abiding citizen ... willing to help others". The policeman who took him away declined to handcuff him.
Mr. Montague is not perfectly representative of the civil disobedience movement against the 1995 gun-control law. For among his illegal guns, he owned some fully automatic weapons, which have been prohibited for a few decades. The judge explained that "a message must be sent" to the effect that this "is verboten". No kidding: he really said verboten!
Yet, licencing — the new obligation to hold a personal licence to own any firearm — remains the main object of the Montagues’ civil disobedience. And just for being in possession of firearms without a licence, Mr. Montague got six months in jail. The judge held his open defiance of the law as an aggravating circumstance.
The issue of civil disobedience was central to the case. A high point of the sentencing hearing came when Ed Hudson, the leader of the Canadian Unregistered Firearms Association (soon to be rechristened "Canadian Unlicenced Firearm Owners Association"), unexpectedly stood up in the courtroom, asking if he could make a statement. The self-righteous Crown prosecutor objected, but to no avail.
Dr. Hudson said he wished to take responsibility for Bruce Montague’s actions, and presented a short plea for civil disobedience and for the accused. The judge replied that Mr. Montague had been "seduced by precepts which are American", that we live under a regime of "peace, order and good government", and that the law should always be obeyed as long as the political system is accessible — even though he admitted that the new gun controls are "convoluted and dangerous for honest citizens".
Is resistance to the law never justified? Disobedience to the law can barely be envisioned from within the legal system itself, as explained by William Blackstone in his famous Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769):
"The supposition of law therefore is, that neither the king nor either house of parliament (collectively taken) is capable of doing any wrong; since in such cases the law feels itself incapable of furnishing any adequate remedy. For which reason all oppressions, which may happen to spring from any branch of the sovereign power, must necessarily be out of the reach of any stated rule, or express legal provision: but, if ever they unfortunately happen, the prudence of the times must provide new remedies upon new emergencies."
Thus, Blackstone himself left open the possibility that oppression may be dealt with outside the law. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 happened because, as Parliament declared, "king James the second [had] endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom by breaking the original contract between king and people". The American Revolution was justified by "a long train of abuses and usurpations", stated the Declaration of Independence. The 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man proclaimed the right of "resistance to oppression". Extra-legal revolution is sometimes necessary.
Breaking a so-called "law" is lawful from a higher viewpoint. The classical ideal of the rule of law assumes that laws are not simply diktats from the state. Only real laws have a valid claim to moral justification and obedience. Professor Georges Ripert (1880-1958), another famous legal theorist, suggested that disorder is better than injustice. Perhaps some individuals draw the line in the sand at different places, but such a line certainly exists where official "laws" have to be broken.
When a small minority is oppressed, as in the case of gun owners, a revolution is unfeasible. Even if the minority has access to the political system — whatever that means — the majority can still crush it; and that is what's happening. To distinguish Canadians from Americans, the judge said that "we distrust the mobs", oblivious to the fact that the actual gun controls have been imposed by a legal mob on a minority. In such a case, civil disobedience may be the only non-violent alternative to fend off a regime of peace, order and good tyranny.