August 14, 2022

Opinion: British Columbia has been criticized for seizing very helpful belongings for comparatively minor offences.

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As soon as once more, the British Columbia Supreme Court docket has drawn consideration to the province’s civil forfeiture regulation and its draconian enforcement of people that haven’t been charged, not to mention convicted.

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On this case, a web based buy final summer season of $570 price of marijuana and psilocybin “undercover” as a Calgary police officer resulted within the British Columbia Director of Civil Confiscations being ordered in December to freeze Okanagan belongings and financial institution accounts holding tens of millions of {dollars}.

The director, who has all the time been a former RCMP officer, wanted a second renewal of the freeze orders as they had been coming to an finish and the police investigation had not but been accomplished.

“I have to do not forget that not one of the defendants had been charged with wrongdoing arising out of the investigation, and that the director didn’t show that the funds transferred to the Hidden Gem accounts had been the proceeds of unlawful actions,” Decide Katherine Murray wrote in her decision. .


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“At this level, all of the principal has to do is present some proof.”

And, in reality, her palms had been tied.

“That was thought of a low threshold,” Murray defined. “It’s on the defendants to indicate that (Non permanent Preservation Order) is clearly not within the pursuits of justice… stringent… (a take a look at that) will hardly ever be carried out. … Our Court docket of Attraction held that the waiver of confiscation within the pursuits of justice is an distinctive treatment that should be granted with care.”

Launched virtually 20 years in the past by the liberal administration of British Columbia and backed by the NDP, the regulation was meant to discourage crime and compensate victims.

In follow, this has proved to be an affront to the idea of innocence till confirmed responsible, and in addition dangerously blurs the separation of civil and legal regulation—one designed to resolve personal disputes and the opposite to implement social values.


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They’re sometimes called private and non-private regulation, and this week the federal legal professional common defined to senators the distinction and why Ottawa didn’t go to courtroom for an injunction (a civil litigation treatment) to take care of the trucker disaster.

Ontario and Alberta had been the primary provinces to undertake this civil regulation strategy to crime discount in 2001, and over the subsequent decade BC Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick adopted swimsuit.

However these legal guidelines don’t seem to have achieved their said objectives, however as an alternative proved to be fatally flawed. They undermine belief and confidence within the independence of regulation enforcement and the authorized system.

British Columbia, for instance, has been criticized for seizing very helpful belongings for comparatively minor offences.


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This disregard for proportionality is precisely what civil libertarians warned about when the laws was proposed.

It wasn’t till 2012, when criticism erupted over one in all a number of embarrassing confiscations, that Victoria truly began funneling some huge cash to the victims in any respect.

On this case, an appellate panel scolded the federal government for abuse — seizing a $52,000 Dodge Ram from a 51-year-old man over a small quantity of marijuana.

These are insidious legal guidelines, provided that there are provisions within the legal code to incorporate confiscation within the sentencing of a convicted individual.

For a similar crime, the identical property might be claimed in federal legal and provincial civil proceedings.

It is only a double menace, extortion, a product of the overzealous US regulation enforcement coverage of the Nineties.


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Not like a legal trial, the place the defendant has the proper to stay silent and the prosecutor should show guilt past cheap doubt, the confiscation regulation reveals Houdini-worthy sleight of hand.

The asset is the defendant and the proprietor has no rights: the burden is transferred and so they should show the origin of the property.

The director solely must set his case on the stability of chances.

Civil forfeiture circumvents vital procedural shields which have been developed over the centuries.

Individuals are pressured to withstand the facility and limitless sources of the state with out the identical protections which might be offered to the accused – the proper to stay silent and the heavy burden of proof positioned on the prosecutor, past any cheap doubt.


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Civil forfeiture officers even work aspect by aspect in police stations, serving to officers full the paperwork to begin civil forfeitures, creating jobs for attorneys, cops and bureaucrats.

In a 2020 research revealed within the Worldwide Public Administration Journal, researchers analyzed property forfeiture instances dedicated by 2,278 municipal police departments between 1993 and 2007 and located “a big affiliation between minority proportions and reported forfeiture proceeds.”

Others have come to the identical conclusion.

It’s excessive time for the federal government to repeal this abusive laws and cease abusing the civil courts.

On the very least, because it was meant to offer compensation to victims and redress, it ought to solely be accessible when there’s an identifiable sufferer who has suffered direct hurt.

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“The obligation lies with the defendants… (and) I’m not happy that the defendants have fulfilled their burden,” Decide Murray concluded.

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