Civil forfeiture program must be reviewed, say New Democrats

VICTORIA – B.C.’s civil forfeiture program must be reviewed in order to ensure it is transparent and accountable, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“The civil forfeiture program must be credible in order to achieve what it was designed to do – help stop organized crime and seize the proceeds of those crimes,” said public safety critic Kathy Corrigan.

“While the intention of the civil forfeiture program as a tool in the fight against organized crime is positive, there have been a number of recent criticisms about the application of the law.”

The concerns include whether there has been fairness in cases where government has confiscated property from people who either have been found not guilty or haven’t been charged with any crime.

Corrigan noted that B.C. has been among the most active of the provinces in pursuing property and cash through civil forfeitures. Even though B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office was created three years after Ontario’s, B.C. has collected $2-million more: $41-million to Ontario’s $39-million. B.C.’s office budget targets have also increased over the past two years.

This January, former Liberal Attorney General Wally Oppal suggested a review of the program would help “see how it’s been operating, particularly in terms of fairness and how can we improve not only the act, but the way it’s been executed.” (Globe and Mail, Jan 26, 2014)

And recently, several current and former Liberal MLAs have suggested the program warrants oversight and review.

“Even the Ombudsperson has raised the issue and it is our hope that she will investigate further,” said Corrigan.

“Premier Christy Clark should listen to members of her caucus and the Ombudsperson and look at a systemic review of the Civil Forfeiture Office to ensure there are no abuses of the system.”