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Students well-armed in Quebec, stats say

Sarah-Maude Lefebvre, QMI Agency
The list of weapons seized in Quebec schools in the last four years is chilling. (QMI Agency)

The list of weapons seized in Quebec schools in the last four years is chilling. (QMI Agency)

MONTREAL - Rifles, axes, explosives, brass knuckles. The list of weapons seized in Quebec schools in the last four years is chilling.

One hundred weapons are confiscated in schools every year by the Quebec police, according to data obtained by QMI Agency under the Access to Information Act.

Knives and guns were the weapons of choice for students between 2007 and 2010, according to the numbers. Of the types of guns, rifles were the most popular.

The statistics are reflective of seizures in schools in provincial police jurisdictions, which are outside urban areas.

"It is worrying that some young people may be armed in our schools. That's why we put much effort into the school-based prevention," said Martine Isabelle, a spokeswoman for the Surete du Quebec, the provincial police force.

But she was reluctant to comment further for fear of offering "a user guide for youth" on the origins of weapons confiscated in schools.

Education workers also found the numbers startling, considering their own campaign to keep weapons out of schools.

"It's disturbing, said Josee Bouchard, the president of the Quebec school boards federation. "But we can't just install metal detectors at the entrance of each school. Parents must take responsibility."

Since high-profile shootings in Quebec - such as the infamous massacre on Dec. 6, 1989, when Marc Lepine killed 14 women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique - the province's education system has been attempting to create a new understanding of weapons in schools, say educators.

The number of seizures show that has not been totally successful, said Chantal Longpre, the president of the province's federation of school principals.

"I can't believe that children still come to school with weapons," she said. "We were to develop a social conscience about it."

As the statistics are reflected mostly in rural areas, the weapons are sometimes "family" guns that are brought to school by kids who feel unsafe, said Claire Beaumont, co-director of the Canadian Obervatory on School Violence Prevention, and not necessarily intended for any specific purpose.

"Often, children conceal a weapon in their bag to provide insurance or feel safe," she said. "But having a weapon on them is still risky and dangerous. That is why we must act."

Recently, a high school in Longueuil, Que., installed close-circuit cameras and hired a security guard to help cut down on violence in the school.

"It's been two years and everyone still think it's the solution," said Jacques-Rousseau School principal Fabienne Longtin. "(It's) made a huge difference."