Three years and counting...
By Christopher di Armani
While September 11th has many implications, here in Canada it means something quite different for Dryden gunsmith Bruce Montague.
Bruce and Donna Montague's ordeal began September 11, 2004, when Bruce was "taken down" by half a dozen Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Officers at Dryden's annual gun show. Daughter Katey, then only 12 years old, was abandoned at the gun show by the OPP in order to lure Donna Montague out of the family home. Upon her arrival at the show she was asked to accompany officers to the Dryden OPP detachment where she too was arrested.
It is now the third anniversary of their arrest and their constitutional challenge of Canada's Firearms Act is finally set to move forward on October 22, 2007 in Ontario Superior Court in Kenora. Bruce and Donna Montague will finally have the opportunity to prove the Firearms Act is unconstitutional.
Preparations for the trial have been increasing in intensity since constitutional lawyer Doug Christie joined the case in April.
After meeting for two days with Doug Christie in Victoria this past July, Bruce and the entire case management team have been busy researching many aspects of the case, including court precedents supporting Canadians' right to own firearms.
The constitutional trial is scheduled to last a week, but given the Crown's endless jockeying for position the last time out, it's anyone's guess whether five days will be enough.
Christie is confident that he has all the legal tools necessary to fight this battle. While preparations continue to intensify as the court date approaches, Bruce is glad this day is finally here.
"I've spent three long years trying to get here," he said from his Dryden, Ontario home. "It will be good to get into court and put this matter to rest, once and for all."
While her father is deluged with court arguments and historical research, daughter Katey Montague, now fifteen, has been busy with a project of her own. Katey decided two years ago to help her father get exposure for the case by creating a series of films, the first of which, "Katey's Firearms Facts", detailed numerous gaffes by the government's licensing and gun registration system.
Since then she's created over a dozen more short films highlighting the craziness of current laws and advocating for Canadians' right of self-defense. Katey, taking advantage of new technology, has placed all her videos on the video-sharing service "Youtube", and is looking for other avenues to gain more exposure for her videos and her father's landmark court case.
Katey Montague's videos can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/KateysFirearmsFacts and so far have garnered over 140,000 views.
She isn't done, however. She has another or forty videos either shot or planned, including a joint project slated for next year with U.S. gun rights advocate Oleg Volk, a professional photographer and the creator of the "A Human Right" website (http://www.a-human-right.com) which goes into great detail on both sides of the argument, and showcases Volk's photographic skill. Both Katey and Oleg are looking forward to the joint effort, saying they will be able to learn a lot from each other. No firm date is set for their co-production, but Katey says it will likely be next summer, as her parents refuse to allow her to miss school.
"Mom and dad say school is more important than any video, so it must come first," the fifteen-year-old says. "They're right, I guess, but I can't wait to go to Tennessee and meet him (Volk). It will be great to work with him."
While Katey continues school and work on more videos, Bruce, Donna and the Case Management Team continue to prepare for court. It is arguably the most important civil rights case in Canadian history, and the group takes their task seriously.
Legal preparation is well underway, but one outstanding issue is still what it has been from the start: how to pay for it.
A constitutional trial is very expensive. The government seized the Montague family home under the "Proceeds of Crime" Act shortly after Bruce's arrest, effectively stopping them from using the equity in their home to finance this case.
While the Montague team's fund-raising efforts have done well, there is a long way to go. This is the very first stage of proceedings with two levels of appeal before the Supreme Court. Gun owners and civil rights advocates across Canada continue to donate generously to the legal defense fund, but more money is needed to fight this case. Donations can be made through the website created to inform people about the case, http://www.BruceMontague.ca.
The Crown appears determined to steamroller the Montague family, however. While the constitutional challenge will be heard on October 22, the government is proceeding as though the Charter issues are already decided. Bruce Montague's criminal trial for violating the Firearms Act is scheduled to proceed on November 13, long before a decision is expected in the Constitutional trial.
Christopher di Armani is a freelance writer based in Lytton, BC. He can be contacted at http://diArmani.com.