Monday, 26 December 2011


There is a disturbing trend in Canada towards highly authoritarian legislation which runs roughshod over traditional civil liberties. This new legislation, however, is not originating with left-wing or right-wing governments but rather from the so-called middle - the new Big Brothers in B.C. and Ontario (or more properly, in B.C., Big Sisters) both have a big L "Liberal" name tags.

An incident in May of 2011 epitomizes the new illiberal mentality. Some young drivers in British Columbia had their vehicles impounded after what Royal Canadian Mounted Police allege was a street race on a provincial highway in suburban Vancouver that reached speeds of 120 mph (200 kph). Police put the total value of the vehicles at $2 million. Police fined each of the drivers, 12 men and one woman all under age 21, $196, but lacked evidence to pursue more severe sanctions, they said. They immediately "seized" upon so-called civil forfeiture. Five of the vehicles were made the subject of proceedings under the Civil Forfeiture Act.

In British Columbia the sweet face of this authoritarianism is Big Sister, +Shirley Bond, an ex-school teacher who at the present time is the combination Attorney-General-Solicitor-General in the Illiberal Government. "We are going to pursue forfeiture of five of the vehicles." she boasted. She justified $100,000.00 forfeiture for offences which the legislature has deemed to be punishable with a $196.00 fine with these words "We expect people to behave responsibly on the highways. I think it's important to send a very strong message that this kind of behaviour is not going to be tolerated."

Of course. That is why there are various Motor Vehicle Act offences such as for speeding. There are also motor vehicle offences for making unsafe left hand turns, for driving too slowly, for following too closely, etc. These offences also lead to motor vehicle collisions and should, given the Bond reasoning, also lead to civil forfeiture in order to protect public safety.

Michael Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said that this vehicle seizure marked the latest in a series of troubling examples of forfeiture claims made by the B.C. government. She pointed out that the civil justice system requires a different standard of proof entirely, and the criminal benchmark of "beyond a reasonable doubt" doesn't come into play. And unlike in criminal cases, people involved in civil lawsuits do not have the right to legal aid. She said that the Civil Forfeiture Act is being used as an end run around the criminal process.

Is she correct? You judge by the following:  "After speaking to witnesses and gathering information, police determined there was not enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges," Superintendent Norm Gaumont, head of Traffic Services for the RCMP in the Lower Mainland, said in a press release. "With the criminal avenue closed to us, we decided to see if there was enough evidence to proceed civilly."

Vonn notes that the B.C. public was misinformed when the government brought in legislation allowing civil forfeitures. She says the understanding was that the law would allow the government to seize the proceeds of organized crime.  "When this law was brought in we were told ... this would be all about gangs," she said. "[These recent cases are] not what people think about at all when they think about the fruits of crime."

She points out that the criminal justice system does allow for seizures of property connected to crime -- as long as the accused person has been found guilty. "We're not opposed to the idea of criminal forfeitures," Vonn said. "There's no civil right to maintain the fruits of crime."

Bond displayed her phenomenal ignorance of the Act when she promised "that the cars' owners will have a fair shake in court." The legislation precludes a fair shake in the Courts, Shirley.

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