The 4 High Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana in Canada

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The 4 High Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana in Canada | Guest Author

With the approval of Senate Bill C-45, Canada became the first G7 member country to legalize recreational marijuana. Being a wealthy nation, it is poised to become a model for other countries who are planning to do the same thing. It is expected that such a move will impact the national economy in more ways […]

The 4 High Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana in Canada | The Daily Chronic

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Canada Will Legalize Marijuana Nationwide on October 17, 2018

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Canada Will Legalize Marijuana Nationwide on October 17, 2018 | Phillip Smith

With final approval by the Senate Tuesday night, the Canadian parliament has legalized marijuana. That makes Canada the second country to legalize marijuana (after Uruguay), with what will be the world’s second-largest legal marijuana market (after California). Canada also becomes the first G7 country to free the weed. While nine US states and the District […]

Canada Will Legalize Marijuana Nationwide on October 17, 2018 | The Daily Chronic

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Canada Becomes Second Country to End Marijuana Prohibition; Regulated Adult Sales to Begin Later This Year

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Canada Becomes Second Country to End Marijuana Prohibition; Regulated Adult Sales to Begin Later This Year | Marijuana Policy Project

OTTAWA, ON — A bill to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use in Canada received final approval from lawmakers Tuesday and will now be sent to the governor general for royal assent. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will choose the specific date on which the law will take effect, and legal sales […]

Canada Becomes Second Country to End Marijuana Prohibition; Regulated Adult Sales to Begin Later This Year | The Daily Chronic

The Daily Chronic

Canada Becomes Second Country in the World – and First G-20 Nation – to Legalize Marijuana

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Canada Becomes Second Country in the World – and First G-20 Nation – to Legalize Marijuana | Drug Policy Alliance

Last night, the Canadian Senate approved The Cannabis Act, making Canada the second country in the world to legally regulate all aspects of the marijuana market – including production, sale and consumption – following Uruguay’s historic move to do so in 2013. The bill has already passed the House of Commons and has the support of Prime […]

Canada Becomes Second Country in the World – and First G-20 Nation – to Legalize Marijuana | The Daily Chronic

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Canada: Lawmakers Reconcile and Pass Historic Marijuana Legalization Legislation

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Canada: Lawmakers Reconcile and Pass Historic Marijuana Legalization Legislation | Paul Armentano

OTTAWA, ON — Members of the Canadian House and Senate have reconciled and given final approval to C-45, sweeping legislation amending the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that those over the age of 18 may legally possess, purchase, and grow personal use quantities of cannabis. Majorities of both chambers had previously approved slightly different versions […]

Canada: Lawmakers Reconcile and Pass Historic Marijuana Legalization Legislation | The Daily Chronic

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Canada: House of Commons Passes Marijuana Legalization, Regulation Bill

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Canada: House of Commons Passes Marijuana Legalization, Regulation Bill | Paul Armentano

OTTAWA — Members of the Canadian House of Commons voted 200 to 82 Monday to approve legislation that seeks to legalize and regulate the adult use cannabis market. Liberal Party members, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, back the measure, which now faces debate in the Senate. The Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, amends the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act […]

Canada: House of Commons Passes Marijuana Legalization, Regulation Bill | The Daily Chronic

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Canada: Trudeau Administration Looks to Legalize Marijuana By July 2018

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Canada: Trudeau Administration Looks to Legalize Marijuana By July 2018 | Erik Altieri

OTTAWA, ON — Legislation is anticipated from the Trudeau administration in early April to regulate the use, production, and sale of marijuana. In 2015, the Liberal Party pledged to “legalize and regulate” marijuana if Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister. The forthcoming legislation will likely be modeled after recommendations issued in 2016 by a federal task force. […]

Canada: Trudeau Administration Looks to Legalize Marijuana By July 2018 | The Daily Chronic

The Daily Chronic

National Access Cannabis Appoints Former Health Canada Medical Marijuana Manager, Gulwant Bajwa, as CEO

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Ottawa, ON (PRWEB) April 22, 2015

National Access Cannabis today announced the appointment of Gulwant Bajwa as Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Bajwa brings unparalleled industry knowledge to NAC after serving in multiple senior leadership positions in Health Canada’s Medical Marijuana Program.

Bajwa understands how the system works at every level; from compliance and enforcement (for Health Canada’s previous MMAR program) to production and supply, to establishing processes for packaging and testing of marijuana for medical and research purposes. His background makes him a firm believer in Medical Marijuana’s positive impact on patients.

“As a 29 year old in 1992 I fought cancer and experienced the horrible side effects of prescribed morphine pain medications. I couldn’t move or even communicate,” says Bajwa. “That grim time in my life convinced me that there had to be a better way,” he explains. “I know firsthand how hard it is to get effective treatment.”

During his time at Health Canada he began his serious investigation on the efficacy of cannabis by speaking with patients using medical marijuana as part of their treatment.

“I heard dozens of powerful accounts from patients who reported that they could finally sleep again – medical cannabis was the only thing that gave them the pain relief they needed,” says Bajwa. “A big plus that many shared with me was the absence of debilitating side effects.”

“Leading the NAC team I know that I will make a difference in the lives of patients going through what I suffered during my cancer fight,” he adds. “NAC is the ideal model to help Canadians understand how to get safe, informed and responsible access to the benefits of medical marijuana.”

NAC provides education on how Health Canada’s medical marijuana system works. Members are connected with a physician for a medical assessment and NAC assists with selecting a Licensed Producer and submitting the required Health Canada medical documents.

Members also receive pharmacist consultations and ongoing guidance on responsible use while NAC pharmacy software monitors safe usage. In addition, NAC members receive the National Access Cannabis Card, a secure medical marijuana card developed in consultation with law enforcement to assure police that patients are authorized to use medical marijuana.

For more information on Gulwant Bajwa see his full bio here.

To learn more about NAC visit NAC can also be found on its social channels on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

About National Access Cannabis (NAC)

NAC is devoted to improving patients’ quality of life by creating local care centres across Canada. NAC facilitates safe access to medical marijuana within the laws and guidelines of Health Canada by connecting our members with physicians, providing pharmacist consultations and pharmacy software to monitor safe usage, and giving members a medical marijuana card for proof of compliance for law enforcement.

Mining’s New Joint Venture

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Posted by Gabe Friedman


This isn’t a great time for small Canadian mining businesses. For the past couple of years, people have worried that China’s economic problems will keep it from buying metals and minerals in big quantities, as it once did, which has lowered prices for some of those commodities. Plus, mine workers are aging and retiring, and there may not be enough younger people to replace them. The combined value of the hundred largest “junior” mining companies—the small ones focussed on exploring deposits, in contrast to “major” companies, which extract the deposits that juniors have analyzed—fell by forty-four per cent last year. As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change.” So a couple dozen mining companies are now trying out a sexier business: weed.

Canada started granting its first commercial permits to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes late last year. Since then, at least thirty junior mining enterprises have started diversifying into medical marijuana—“M.M.J.,” for short—or have announced plans to do so.

“As a publicly traded company, we always need a story that’s good enough to raise money on,” Jennifer Boyle, the C.E.O. of Satori Resources Inc., told me. Satori is—or has been, in any case—a gold-mining company. Now Boyle wants to get into pot. “If you can latch on to something you can probably raise money on, i.e., medical marijuana, then why not?” she said. “Because otherwise, your assets are in danger of being bought for next to nothing.”

The fact that exploratory mining and growing marijuana have little in common is, it seems, hardly important. The Papuan Precious Metals Corp.’s stock price rose from two cents to fourteen cents after it announced plans to consider agricultural projects and then hired a marijuana consultant. This month, Papuan agreed to acquire the assets of a pot dispensary in Colorado, where marijuana is now legal for anyone who is twenty-one or older. Other junior companies are experimenting with growing mediums and fertilizers, or looking to provide equipment to growers. “The reason you’re seeing the junior mining companies going to medical marijuana is because there is no money in mining,” Greg Downey, the C.F.O. of Papuan, said. “We look to where the money is going.”

The junior mining companies experimenting with marijuana are not high up in the hierarchy of mining. At the bottom level, there are prospectors, who walk hillsides and fields, kicking rocks in search of minerals and metals. One step up are the juniors: they follow up on prospectors’ finds by conducting more serious studies and sometimes even developing mining sites, with the goal of one day selling their assets to a major mining corporation. Most of the juniors that are turning to pot have market capitalizations of five million dollars or less; they represent only about one per cent of Canada’s estimated three thousand two hundred mining firms.

Major mining companies have had trouble raising capital because of falling commodities prices and a tendency toward cost overruns, which has made it even more difficult for juniors to raise money for their projects, since chances of a buyout are remote. It hasn’t helped that junior mining projects keep failing. There is also an impending labor crisis: in the next ten years, the mining industry will need to replace more than half of its workforce, as current employees retire or depart for more attractive industries. This is problematic both because companies will have to cover those former workers’ retirement benefits and because not many young people choose mining as their profession these days, according to a report by the Canadian government’s Mining Industry Human Resources Council.

The marijuana business isn’t necessarily a panacea. Marijuana remains illegal in Canada, although, since 2001, the federal regulatory agency Health Canada has let residents with a doctor’s authorization possess the plant for personal use. It also granted tens of thousands of permits to grow the drug for personal use or to grow it for someone else’s personal use. Last year, Health Canada became convinced that marijuana was being abused for recreational purposes, announced a repeal of the old growing permits, and started accepting applications for commercial-growing permits instead. (A court injunction put the repeal on hold for the moment, but Health Canada has issued thirteen of the commercial permits. It hasn’t put a cap on how many commercial permits it will grant, but it has said that it has received more than nine hundred applications.) Wagner, the consultant, said that only forty thousand Canadians or so have medical-marijuana prescriptions, a level of demand that a couple hundred growers could easily meet; even if the number of people with prescriptions grows to more than four hundred thousand by 2024, as Health Canada is forecasting, he predicts that this would create only enough customers for an additional several hundred growers. So far, none of the mining companies have been granted a commercial-growing license, although one former mining company is close to merging with a company that owns a license. Many are applying for a license or conducting medical-marijuana due diligence.

Executives at the junior mining companies gave various reasons for why they are well suited to enter the marijuana industry: Downey said that juniors are already publicly listed and therefore have immediate access to capital. Another said that his skill set is in assembling teams, whether it is geologists or pot growers. Boyle, the C.E.O. of Satori Resources Inc., pointed out that her company already has the ticker BUD, which gives it a natural leg up; even now, investors assume that the company is in the marijuana business.

Michael Dehn, the C.E.O. of Jourdan Resources Co., said that he wound up in the marijuana business by happenstance. His company owns several properties in Quebec that it wants to mine for phosphates, a component of fertilizer. It also leases office space in a strip mall in a Toronto suburb, next to a pot grower called ChroniCare Canada Corp. “One day, I was out in the parking lot talking to the guy next door, and I said to him, ‘What do you do?’ ” Dehn recalled. “He said, ‘We grow marijuana,’ and I said, ‘We make fertilizer. We should work together.’ ”

Jourdan and Satori Resources have joined together to excavate and pulverize a small amount of phosphate rock, and they’re partnering with ChroniCare to test whether it could be used to fertilize pot. If it works, the companies would together start selling fertilizer to pot growers.

“We were always going to do fertilizer, and our plan was to target corn or wheat, but we’re still five years away from that, so in the meantime we’ll receive a cash flow,” Dehn explained.

The Canadian market, however, is small. With only thirty-five million people in the country, Dehn and others said that they are thinking about export opportunities. “You kind of look at this as the prohibition period, like when Canada was smuggling alcohol to the U.S.,” he said. Dehn has never smoked pot, but he has heard good things about Canadian-grown marijuana. “For most of my life, this is where you heard the good weed was,” he said. “It’s like France—that’s where you go for champagne.”

Gabe Friedman writes about legal affairs, the environment, and business. He was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University and lives in New York.

Illustration by Dadu Shin.


An Investigation Into B.C.As Controversial Civil

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The office has increased the number of files it accepts and amount of money it makes, but there are growing concerns about its fairness and transparency

It was Oct.  15, 2007, when the RCMP officer knocked on David Lloydsmith’s door.

Mr.  Lloydsmith, a former electrician on partial disability living in the Fraser Valley community of Mission, was told the officer was investigating a dropped 911 call.  Mr.  Lloydsmith lived alone and said he hadn’t touched the phone.

The officer asked to come in and search the residence, according to court documents.  Mr.  Lloydsmith declined several times and finally moved to close the door.  The officer then forced his way in and put Mr.  Lloydsmith in handcuffs.  A second officer arrived within minutes and the Mounties began their search.

They eventually found marijuana plants in the basement.  Mr.  Lloydsmith was arrested, but released without charges.  The initial officer wrote in a report that the offence was “minor” and, with the plants removed from the home, public interest had been met.

Mr.  Lloydsmith thought the ordeal was over.  But three years later, the province’s Civil Forfeiture Office moved to seize the residence.  The legal battle continues, despite an earlier ruling that the evidence collected against him was in breach of the Charter.  A judge described the search as “warrantless” and “unreasonable.”

Mr.  Lloydsmith is one of the hundreds of British Columbians who have become caught in the relatively new spectre of civil forfeiture – a process originally intended to fight organized crime that has come to have a much wider reach.

A Globe and Mail investigation spanning several months and more than two dozen interviews has found the Civil Forfeiture Office has rapidly increased the number of files it accepts and the amount of money it brings in, while remaining largely out of the public eye.  But as the scale of the forfeitures has grown, so too have concerns about fairness, public interest, and transparency.

Documents obtained through freedom of information show how the office’s policy works when it comes to accepting files.  The office does not investigate cases itself and instead relies on referrals from law-enforcement agencies.

The documents say the director must assess a file on four grounds before accepting: public interest, strength and adequacy of evidence, fiscal considerations, and interests of justice.

The office does not need criminal charges, or convictions, to move on a property and the penalty – losing one’s home, for instance – can seem disproportional to the alleged offence.  The burden of proof is lower in civil court than criminal, on a balance of probabilities instead of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Evidence that could be seen as unfit for criminal court can be seen as fit for civil court.

Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce civil forfeiture, and eight of 10 provinces have such programs today.  B.C., despite opening three years after Ontario, has taken in more money than Ontario and critics have contended it’s operating as an end-run on the justice system.

The office’s executive director said 99 per cent of the people the office targets settle on terms favourable to the office.  Unlike Ontario, B.C.  has a budget target it must meet.  And cases that in the past have been conducted as offences under the Motor Vehicle Act, Wildlife Act or Employment Standards Act, for example, are being pursued under the Civil Forfeiture Act.

B.C.  Justice Minister Suzanne Anton expressed her support for the system and said the program meets the public interest.  The minister also noted many millions of dollars have been handed out to community associations and police as a result of the office’s work.

“The public has a very strong interest in seeing that people do not keep ill-gotten gains,” she said.  “And that’s why generally there’s public support for this Civil Forfeiture Act.” Civil forfeiture itself is not a new concept.  Its roots date back about a millennium, to Europe.  Modern civil forfeiture, however, evolved in the United States, where it was brought in to target drug lords but has grown controversial in recent years.  Controls have appeared lax and the programs have developed into cash cows.

Ontario was the first Canadian province to introduce civil forfeiture legislation.  The Civil Remedies for Illicit Activities Office opened in 2003.  In 2009, Ontario’s legislation withstood a challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada in a case commonly known as Chatterjee.  The court ruled the Ontario legislation did not conflict with the Criminal Code.

Yukon considered such legislation but decided against it in 2010, following a public outcry from people who said it would infringe on their rights.  A Yukon government spokeswoman said the territory has no plans to revisit the issue.

B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office opened in 2006 under the Liberal government.  It was heralded as another tool in the fight against gangs involved in the billion-dollar drug trade.  The “bling-bling,” as former solicitor general John Les put it after a 2007 bust, was about to disappear and the province has described itself as a modern-day Robin Hood.

In 2011, B.C.  became the first province to introduce a process known as “administrative forfeiture,” which makes it easier and quicker to seize property worth less than $75,000.  Robert Holmes, then the B.C.  Civil Liberties Association’s president, decried the move as another attempt to avoid proving cases in court.  Mr.  Lloydsmith is sitting at his kitchen table, near a window that overlooks the front steps the RCMP officer once climbed.  He has lived in the home for more than two decades.  It’s assessed at about $250,000.

He knows some people won’t sympathize with his plight – he’s heard from them.  They say he should never have grown marijuana in the first place.

He stresses he is not a bad man, nor a rich one, and indicates he started growing after he had trouble getting prescriptions.  Mr.  Lloydsmith went on partial disability after breaking his back on the job.  The exact number of plants discovered in his basement is under dispute.  A police report said it was a few hundred, a fact his lawyer denies.

Mr.  Lloydsmith says he will have nowhere to go if he loses his home.  “My world is right here,” he said.

He said the stress from the case has taken its toll.  He’s fought depression and lost 35 pounds.  It shows – he’s wearing an old sweater that’s become far too large.

“I don’t sleep now.  I can’t get it out of my mind.  It’s torture, it’s like a nightmare,” he said.

In court documents, the office argued Mr.  Lloydsmith’s property amounts to “proceeds and instrument of unlawful activity” and can be seized.

Bibhas Vaze, Mr.  Lloydsmith’s lawyer, said it’s an affront to democratic rights to suggest the Charter shouldn’t apply in this case.  He said the house can be accounted for as purchased through legitimate income and Mr.  Lloydsmith does not have a criminal record.

He worries about the legal ramifications if Mr.  Lloydsmith is to lose.

“Because then, as far as I’m concerned, it will be carte blanche for cops to go into people’s homes in violation of the Charter, based on what they could find, whether they have any good information,” Mr.  Vaze said.  “Why even get a warrant then?”

In a sign of the importance of Mr.  Lloydsmith’s case, the B.C.  Civil Liberties Association has decided to intervene.  It’s back in court in mid-February.  Gian Hong Jang and Yue Wang Jang own a Vancouver janitorial company.  In April, 2008, the husband and wife purchased a second property so Ms.  Jang’s parents would have a place to reside.  The Kerr Street home was bought for $720,000 after the couple secured a bank loan, according to court documents.

In September of that year, Ms.  Jang’s parents moved out of the home.  The Jangs decided to rent out the downstairs portion of the property and found tenants online, according to court documents.

The couple said they had no reason to believe anything was amiss, until Vancouver police raided the home in December and found a marijuana grow-op.  The Jangs were not charged but, in August, 2009, the Civil Forfeiture Office attempted to seize the property.

The office alleged that it would present evidence that the Jangs’ primary property, their own home, was also purchased with marijuana proceeds and it attempted to seize that residence as well.

The Jangs obtained a lawyer but, on the eve of a court date, decided to settle to minimize their losses.

They were allowed to keep their home, but had to give up 50 per cent of the equity in the property they’d been renting out.

David Karp, the Jangs’ lawyer, said the case still irks him.  He said the janitorial company was legitimate and Mr.  Jang “worked his ass off six days a week.”

However, he said his clients were wary of further court costs and the uncertainty of trial.

“They essentially flip it on its head,” Mr.  Karp said of the Civil Forfeiture Office.  “You’re guilty until you prove you’re innocent.” Robert Milligan is a second generation guide outfitter.  He owns and operates Coast Mountain Outfitters, a company based in the northern community of Terrace that specializes in mountain goat hunting, but also offers bear hunting and fishing expeditions.  To run his business, Mr.  Milligan requires a guide outfitter’s certificate.

The Civil Forfeiture Office, however, is attempting to seize that certificate.  Mr.  Milligan is accused of several offences – from using a snowmobile for the purpose of hunting in a closed area, to using a helicopter to transport hunters who were not physically fit, to using bait to lure a bear more than a decade ago.

The office is also seeking an order that would force Mr.  Milligan to turn over his profits.

The case, and the fact that it’s being handled through the Civil Forfeiture Act instead of the Wildlife Act, has drawn the ire of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C.  Scott Ellis, the association’s executive director, said it plans to intervene in the proceedings.

“I was going to say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, but I’m not even going to say there was a crime committed,” Mr.  Ellis said.

“It’s taking a sledge hammer – which is a quote you can use from me, if you like – to kill a mosquito.” Mr.  Milligan, in a statement released through his lawyer, said losing the certificate would be “utterly devastating.”

Nicholas Weigelt, the lawyer, said the plan had been for Mr.  Milligan’s children to take over the business.  He said losing the certificate would be akin to losing the family farm.

Although he could not say exactly how much the certificate is worth, Mr.  Weigelt said those in large and remote territories can sell for millions.  Mr.  Milligan’s certificate offers exclusive access to a large space.

Mr.  Weigelt said only one of the office’s claims has merit – one of Mr.  Milligan’s guides did ride his snowmobile into a closed area.  But it was unintentional, he said, and the snowmobile only ventured 400 metres into the closed space.

Mr.  Weigelt said some of the complaints appear to have been made by competing land users.

“I, like most members of the public, thought the government through the Civil Forfeiture Office went after criminals,” Mr.  Weigelt said.  “Regulatory offences are offences, they’re not crimes.”

This is not the only time the office has taken an offence that falls under another act and tried to pursue it under the Civil Forfeiture Act.

The office was unsuccessful last year when it attempted to seize a motorcycle owned by Jason Dery, after he was caught speeding on a quiet Vancouver Island road.  The office argued the Motor Vehicle Act offence made the Ducati – valued at anywhere between $7,400 and $14,000 – an instrument of unlawful activity.  A B.C.  Supreme Court judge disagreed and ruled in Mr.  Dery’s favour.  ( The judge added that the decision should not be seen as acceptance of Mr.  Dery’s driving.  He had been cited for more than three dozen motor vehicle offences over the previous two decades.  )

The office had until recently been pursuing a case against Mumtaz Ladha for an alleged violation of the Employment Standards Act.  Ms.  Ladha had been charged with human trafficking, though she was ultimately acquitted.

The office would not immediately agree to drop the case after Ms.  Ladha was exonerated, but relented about a week later.  Casey Leggett, Ms.  Ladha’s lawyer, said media attention around the potential forfeiture likely didn’t hurt her cause.  The different cases highlight the different concerns that have been raised with respect to the office.

Mr.  Lloydsmith’s case speaks to admissibility of evidence, among other things.

The Jangs are among the many landlords who said they had no idea what their tenant was up to, raising questions about severity of punishment and public interest.

Mr.  Milligan’s case demonstrates how an offence under a different act can be pursued through the Civil Forfeiture Act.

In 2007, the Civil Forfeiture Office moved on the Hells Angels clubhouse in the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo.  It later went after clubhouses in Vancouver and Kelowna.

However, even these instances, in which the office did what it was essentially created to do, have not been without controversy.  Joe Arvay, one of the country’s most influential lawyers and a constitutional law expert, announced in October that he would represent the Hells Angels in a constitutional challenge of the Civil Forfeiture Act.

“If it takes the Hells Angels to demonstrate that the government has acted unconstitutionally, well then good for the Hells Angels,” he said.  “There have been a number of cases …  where you look at what the director has done and you say, ‘Really?’”

The constitutional challenge could put those who feel they have been unfairly targeted, or that the process is flawed, in the delicate position of rooting for the Hells Angels to succeed.

Rick Ciarniello, president of the Vancouver chapter of the Hells Angels, said the legislation should trouble everyone, not just the group’s members.

“Governments everywhere are now routinely using these ‘civil forfeiture’ laws as a substitute for the criminal process.  Most people seem to just cave when faced with these forfeiture lawsuits.  It is just too expensive and stressful to fight back when faced with the resources of the state,” he wrote in a statement.  “We aren’t going to do that and our fight will be for all British Columbians.” The office itself is a black box.  Its location is not made public and, unlike Ontario, B.C.  does not disclose who works there.  The province’s information and privacy commissioner is expected to rule in a matter of months on whether the staff list should be made public.

Rob Kroeker, who was the office’s first executive director, left the post in October, 2012, for a position with a gaming corporation, according to documents released through freedom of information.  He was replaced by Phil Tawtel.  Both men had previously worked for the RCMP.

In an August briefing note to Minister Anton, obtained through freedom of information, Mr.  Tawtel said revenue derived from forfeiture is used to operate the program ( legal and administrative costs ) and provide crime-prevention grants to community associations and police.  Litigation is the single biggest expense.

Mr.  Tawtel said the grants are critical because they generate positive feedback and provide government with a way to identify emerging issues and priority commitments.

The office has issued about $11-million in grants since it opened, and paid about $1.3-million to victims of crime.  Grant applications can be found on the Ministry of Justice’s website.

Those numbers have been helped by a sharp increase in seizures in recent years.  In its first year, the office brought in about $600,000.  In 2010-11, it seized approximately $4.8-million in property.  That figure more than doubled the following year, to about $10.8 million.

By the end of fiscal year 201213, the office had seized more than $31-million in property since it opened.  That total has since reached $41-million, more than Ontario which is at $39 million.

Unlike Ontario, B.C.  has an annual budget target it must reach.  In the briefing note, Mr.  Tawtel wrote the office must “meet an assigned budget target to the government which has increased over the past two years by $1M to its current $3M.”

The office has made more than three times that target in fiscal year 2013-14, seizing about $9.5-million in property.

The number of files the office has accepted has also grown, from 69 in 2008, to 240 in 2011, to 418 in 2012.  In 2013, the office accepted 467 files.

The complaint most often cited by defendants in civil forfeiture proceedings is that of cost.  Legal aid is not available and defendants are put in the position of assessing whether it’s better to fight their case in court or to settle to try to minimize the damage.

Blair Suffredine, a lawyer and former Liberal politician who served in the legislature from 2001 to 2005, last year went up against the office in a case involving the seizure of $9,251.  The money was found on a property in which marijuana plants had also been discovered.

Mr.  Suffredine’s client, Bill Pundick, was living on part of the property but was not its owner and maintained the money had been obtained lawfully as part of his decades-old currency collection.  The judge ruled in the pensioner’s favour and said it was “not a case where wads of tens or twenties or fifties are rolled up and bound by elastic bands.”

Mr.  Suffredine, who did not play a role in establishing the Civil Forfeiture Office during his time in government, said its conduct in the few cases he’s handled amounts to bullying.  He said the office tries to stretch out a case and make it so expensive that the defendant has to settle.  Going after pensioners was not the plan, he said.  “What was intended was to get the guys who are making big money,” he said.  In a joint telephone interview with Minister Anton and Mr.  Tawtel, the minister portrayed Mr.  Tawtel as a gatekeeper who ensures it does not go after cases that are outside the public interest or the interests of justice.

Ms.  Anton said the office’s target remains organized crime, but any unlawful activity is fair game.  When asked if she’s worried people who did not receive ill-gotten gains are being swept up in the process, she said no.

Mr.  Tawtel said the Civil Forfeiture Act has a number of safeguards, including court oversight.  But very few cases make it to trial – the first wasn’t completed until 2011.  As Mr.  Tawtel himself noted, 99 per cent of people settle on terms favourable to his office.

Ms.  Anton said she does not believe a settlement rate that high suggests the process is flawed.  She said she’s very confident in the system.

“Sometimes the cases, often they do settle.  And that’s because generally the director brings them forward in proper circumstances.  In fact, I would argue the director brings them forward always in proper circumstances because that’s his job,” she said.  “The point is not to make money.  The point is to deprive people of ill-gotten gains.”

She declined to comment on whether the office should take cases in which evidence was collected in breach of the Charter, since such a matter is before the courts.

She declined to comment on whether the Civil Forfeiture Act is being used too broadly for similar reasons.

When asked whether she sees any problem with giving the office a budget target, whether she’s worried the quota leads to the pursuit of cases that don’t meet high standards, her answer was simple: “Absolutely not.” Although it has had some defeats, the Civil Forfeiture Office has also had some wins, both inside the courtroom and the community.

Sergeant Lindsey Houghton, spokesperson for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., the province’s anti-gang unit, said his agency will only refer files to the Civil Forfeiture Office if they involve people with direct relationships to guns, gangs, and violence.

He said the office does serve as a deterrent.  The unit this week received a vehicle from the office that’s been draped in antigang messaging.  The seized sport utility vehicle will be taken to school to warn young people about the dangers of gang life.

Abbotsford police received a vehicle in a similar manner for a similar purpose in 2011.  The department had the Hummer covered with messages that included “Gang life is a dead end” and “Easy money can get you hard time.”

The rolling billboards have also grown popular among police departments in the U.S.

The grants the province has handed out as a result of the office’s work have helped a wide variety of groups.

In February, 2012, the province announced $5.5-million in crime prevention grants for programs that included violence-prevention projects at half a dozen Lower Mainland schools and an anti-gang campaign in Kelowna.

About $1-million in grants was announced in March, 2013, with funds earmarked for women and family violence programs and a workshop on sexual exploitation awareness, among other things.

MOSAIC, a non-profit organization that assists immigrants and refugees, last year released a pamphlet to help foreign workers who may be victims of trafficking.

The pamphlets were made possible due to a $42,500 civil forfeiture grant.

Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2014 The Globe and Mail Company
Contact: [email protected]
Author: Sunny Dhillon

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