Is the media setting the agenda on the gun registry?

Last week, tragedy struck the West-end Montreal CEGEP Dawson college as an individual opened fire and killed one young woman and wounded a number of other students. It would seem that he was driven by hate and perhaps madness as nobody could truthfully start to justify his actions.

Learning of the events that day, many of us felt the sadness that comes along with senseless loss of innocent life and then some of us started to weigh the consequences: what would this mean for Montreal? Who is to blame? What shall we do about video games, goths and guns?

We somehow knew that these events would drive debate on these issues but we wouldn’t know how soon and by whom.

Enter the CBC, our “common voice”, our self-proclaimed cultural guide, and initiator of our national dialogue and debate.

According to our state-run broadcaster, this event reminded us of the horrible events of the massacre which occurred at Ecole Polytechnique years ago. Seventeen years ago Marc Lepine opened fire in downtown Montreal, murdered 14 women, did so because he hated women, and as a result, he shattered the peace and innocent mindset of Canadians everywhere.

And he did so with a gun.

Since murder was already illegal, the state sought to prevent future tragedies with new policy. In 1995, new policy was drafted and called for the registration of all long-guns.

Years later, in 2006, nothing has changed; a murderous spree in Montreal was committed by a individual set on mass murder. The gunperson (“gunman” like “fireman”, “manhole” and “policeman” went out of common parlance during those years which saw a liberal gender neutralization of our speech — didn’t it?) did indeed use a gun. However, it was registered as required by the law that was inspired by previous acts of madness committed by guns by murderers with guns. Thus, debating points generated by this tragedy against the current Prime Minister’s plans to scrap the gun registry would seem to be moot. Logic indicates that the two are not related in this way. In fact, a logical connection is instead found in the fact that the long-gun registry failed to prevent this tragedy.

Logically, this doesn’t call for the “scrapping” of the registry, but it would be illogical to fault the PM in the wake of this tragedy for promising to follow through on this unrelated commitment.

That doesn’t stop the CBC from seeing things illogically, however. Julie van Dusen of state broadcaster reports on the political nature of the tragedy the day after it happened. Of course, there’s no fault in her doing so. However, van Dusen sets the political tone of what we should expect to follow; we should expect the PM to (illogically) receive pressure against scrapping the long-gun registry. We should expect this because Julie van Dusen has conveniently provided the narrative for the Parliament which would conveniently reconvene the next Monday.

The CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices Part III section 5.1 reads:

“Single programs dealing with a major controversial issue should give adequate recognition to the range of opinion on the subject. Fairness must be the guiding principle in presentation, so that the audience is enabled to make a judgment on the matter in question based on the facts.”

van Dusen’s report seems to be in violation of this important standard. In her report, using the Prime Minister’s long-stated and known plan as the subject of her report, van Dusen only presents the opinion of gun control side of the debate. van Dusen calls upon Wendy Cukier of the Coalition for Gun Control to present the argument against Harper’s “scrapping” of the gun registry. Cukier ends by saying “the only people that support that are the gun lobby”. Those expecting a balancing opinion on this controversial topic from farmers, duck hunters, Garry Breitkreuz, or even the shadowy “gun lobby” were disappointed as van Dusen decided to initiate this discussion debate with her own talking points (murders in Quebec falling by half, political fallout for Harper in Quebec, Ecole Polytechnique, Harper’s ME position, environment, same-sex marriage and Afghanistan!). van Dusen again ignores balance and calls upon Jean Charest’s opinion against Harper on the gun registry.

With this unbalanced report on Stephen Harper’s plan to scrap the gun registry, and as the gun registry has no logical connection with the Dawson shootings, has the CBC made a special effort to initiate debate on this issue?

Is it “Canadian” to be for increased gun control?