Civil forfeiture laws have been sold to the public and passed into law as a way of taking the profit out of crime, preventing illegal activity, and compensating the victims of criminal acts. Such statutes exist in seven Canadian provinces, allowing the Crown to confiscate property which is deemed, on the balance of probabilities, to be either proceeds or instruments of “unlawful activity.”
In practice, civil forfeiture amounts to a shortcut. It allows for the easy seizure of criminal assets, but represents an end run around the presumption of innocence. Because Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not explicitly protect the right to property, civil forfeiture officials claim that property is not subject to the same standard of proof and due process as other rights such as life and liberty. To put a person in jail for the day, or even force them to pay a speeding ticket, the government must prove that individual guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To take that same individual’s home under civil forfeiture laws, the state must merely convince the court that he or she probably did something wrong.
Civil Forfeiture.ca exists to provide accurate and substantial information to those facing a civil forfeiture action, particularly those who are self represented; and to offer thought-provoking news and commentary to those studying and considering the legal and moral implications of civil forfeiture laws.