Thursday, 3 November 2011


Don’t speed in British Columbia. They will take your car away. 

You aren’t worried. You don’t drive a $225,000.00 Ferrari and you are not Asian. You are probably safe. Maybe.

What has been most egregious about B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Act is that it is selectively enforced. Not every speeder in B.C. will lose their vehicle, especially if it is an old beater. If speeding equaled forfeiture for ALL B.C. drivers, there would be a major political problem for the governing Liberals. But if the speeder is young Asian guy driving an extremely expensive car, it is a different story. 

The salivating comment of B.C. cabinet minister,. Rich Coleman, after seizure of the $225,000.00 Ferrari and a $65,000.00 BMW was "These are probably the most salacious vehicles we’ve seized." 

The drivers would have been subject to Motor Vehicle fines of less than $200.00.

The point made by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is that the Civil Forfeiture Act is an end run around the Criminal Code. Both these drivers could have been charged criminally but they weren’t. There is a different standard of proof. The Civil Forfeiture Act says so. Pursuant to s. 16 of the Act, the standard of proof for both the Director and a Defendant is a balance of probabilities.

The posts on newspaper articles on the vehicle seizures overwhelmingly support forfeiture. There is no doubt an element of racism underlying this; it also reflective, however, of the appalling ignorance and blindness of Canadians when it comes to civil liberty issues. What a lot of these posters don’t comprehend is that when governments violate civil rights, there aren’t necessarily nice, clean boundaries that always exclude "innocent, law-abiding" people like themselves.

That is because civil forfeiture can be a consequence of the commission of any of the many offences under the Province's Motor Vehicle Act.  You do an illegal left hand turn (jumping into the far lane) and your vehicle is subject to forfeiture just as much as that of a young Asian guy engaging in street racing. Once governments discover a revenue stream there is an irresistible urge to drain it.

No comments:

Post a Comment