Karen Selick: The folly of civil forfeiture

“This is the result of a law that was sold as a means of fighting organized crime and assisting crime victims. Sometimes it’s very rewarding being able to say “I told you so,” but this is one case where it’s hard to take much satisfaction over having been right 13 years ago.”

National Post

In 2001, I appeared before a committee of the Ontario legislature and predicted that Bill 155 — the province’s proposed “civil forfeiture” law — would violate the property rights of innocent individuals. The government passed the bill anyway, and other provinces soon followed suit.

These civil forfeiture laws — which few Canadians have even heard of — allow provincial governments to seize property that has allegedly been used in crime, or may constitute the proceeds of crime, even if nobody has ever been charged with, let alone convicted of, a related offence.

One unfortunate victim of Ontario’s law is Margaret Reilly of Orillia. Following in the footsteps of her father, an Anglican priest who operated a youth hostel for many years, Mrs. Reilly has worked with disadvantaged people from a young age. Her husband Terry, an insurance broker, shared her concern for the needy. He sat on the local housing…

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