Justice Minister Marian Horne, during the debate on the budget last week, told the Yukon Assembly the government will not move forward with their proposed Civil Forfeitures Act until the public has been "consulted".
It's a shocking move for a government to take, given the optics of "getting tough with criminals" looks so good. Standing up for law and order and all that. But what lies beneath the surface of civil forfeiture laws should make every single citizen, Yukoner or not, shudder with fear.
You do not have to be arrested for a crime for the government to take your property.
You do not have to be charged with a crime for the government to take your property.
You do not have to be convicted of a crime for the government to take your property.
All that has to happen is a policeman (or woman) has to make the claim that your property MAY have been obtained through an unnamed criminal act.
No arrest. No charges. No trial. No conviction.
The government doesn't have to actually PROVE you did anything. It only has to show "on a balance of probabilities" that you COULD have done something.
You are left with having to prove a negative, that you're innocent, which in this case is impossible. Can you really *prove* you never received any money through the proceeds of crime? Remember, it doesn't matter that you've never been charged with anything. That's not relevant.
It's a complete end-run around your constitutional rights and freedoms.
All the government has to do is sue you for your property. Often, the end result is the same. You've lost everything you own, either by them taking it, or by your having to pay lawyers your life savings to defend against it.
Hardly the practice of an honest society with any regard for the Rights and Freedoms of its citizens.
That the government of Yukon has actually decided NOT to implement the Civil Forfeitures Act gives me hope for the people of the Yukon Territory, and for the territory itself.
It's laudable to say that "criminals should not be allowed to profit from crime". I think we can all agree with that statement.
But the sad consequence of these laws is that good, decent people are losing everything because some bureaucrat has decided to make an example out of them.
Take the case of Bruce and Donna Montague of Dryden, Ontario.
Bruce Montague spent two years traveling across Canada trying to get arrested so he could challenge Canada's Firearms Act in court. Under Canadian law, the only way you have "standing" to challenge a law is to break it.
Stupid, but that's the way the system is set up.
So Bruce Montague refused to renew his firearms license. He spent the next six years of his life in the court system attempting to win his case. He lost both his constitutional challenge of the Firearms Act, as well as his criminal trial, and was sentenced to 18 months in Prison.
The Ontario Attorney General's office is now, under the Ontario Civil Remedies Act, attempting to take everything the Montague family owns: their home, their 160-acre property and all of their personal possessions by claiming they somehow profited by Bruce's defiance of the Firearms Act.
They purchased the land with money Donna Montague received from an inheritance when her father passed away. They hand-build their log home from the ground up. They've got the receipts to prove it all. But it doesn't matter.
The facts are entirely beside the point.
The government doesn't have to PROVE that the Montague family received a dime illegally. All it has to do is show that they *might* have.
Is that really the kind of law Yukoners want?
I sure hope not.