Fighting civil forfeiture

More than 100 Yukoners protested in front of the legislature yesterday against Bill 82, the territory's proposed Civil Forfeiture Act. The crowd was largely young and largely apolitical.

More than 100 Yukoners protested in front of the legislature yesterday against Bill 82, the territory’s proposed Civil Forfeiture Act.

The crowd was largely young and largely apolitical. There were skateboarders and dog-walkers and moms pushing baby strollers. It was sunny enough for many to wear sunglasses, and a few wore shorts.

The gathering had a decidedly anti-authoritarian flavour. The podium that had been hauled into place bore the Gonzo Fist of Hunter S. Thompson.

Cars honked as protesters waved placards that bore slogans such as “Screw Bill 82” and “Guilty until proven innocent? WTF?” while speakers blared songs like Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up and Trooper’s Raise a Little Hell.

Speeches were heavy on rhetoric. Organizer Micah Hoeschele called the bill “insidious and socially dangerous.”

“Effectively, it circumvents your Charter of Rights,” he warned.

This ragtag group, Yukoners for Civil Rights, has gathered more than 2,000 signatures over the past week. Their Facebook presence, which helped mobilize the many young people in the crowd, yesterday had 485 supporters.

Opposition MLAs gladhanded the crowd and took turns speaking.

The Liberals’ Darius Elias acknowledged his party supported the bill when it received second reading in December, “but at no point did we agree to circumventing the consultation process,” he said.

The Liberals had also called on the territory for provisions to “protect the innocent,” he said. “That didn’t happen.”

If the draft law is not amended to reflect such concerns, Elias vowed to “fight to see that Bill 82 doesn’t see the light of day.”

The NDP’s Steve Cardiff, who later tabled the group’s petition in the legislature, blasted the government for its plans to pass the draft law as it stands.

“It’s about taking away people’s rights. It’s about taking your property. It’s about being guilty until being proven innocent.”

Civil forfeiture laws exist in eight Canadian jurisdictions. They allow police to seize property – including cash, vehicles and homes – from citizens without proof of criminal wrongdoing, by way of the civil courts.

Boosters say the law will help fight organized crime. Critics worry it could be easily abused by authorities.

Last week, the Yukon Party government agreed to shelve the draft law until public consultations were held. Such an about-face is remarkable for the government, Cardiff said. He congratulated the crowd for helping to pressure the change.

“Democracy isn’t something that happens every four or five years in the territory,” he said. “Democracy is something that happens every day.”

Megan Vis-Dunbar, a Vancouver lawyer and member of the BC Civil Liberties Association, warned that once such a law is in place, it’s difficult to remove.

Last year, her organization lost a Supreme Court of Canada challenge of civil forfeiture laws.

Former Whitehorse Centre MLA Mike McLarnon also urged Yukoners to “kill the bill” and during consultations to say “No, period.”

After the rally, many in attendance crowded into the legislature gallery, leaving standing room only. Speaker Ted Staffen twice shushed the crowded for clapping and thumping feet.

The NDP’s Todd Hardy played to the crowd, warming up with a reading of the trade unionist poem Bread and Roses, followed by later references to Mahatma Gandhi’s fight against British imperialism and a recitation about Nazi Germany.

Premier Dennis Fentie, meanwhile, took a swat at the Liberals for what he saw as their self-righteous posturing against Bill 82.

“They change position like a windsock,” Fentie said. “It wasn’t that long ago they were all for this matter.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Just Posted

Judge orders eviction of Kopper King trailer over drug activity after SCAN investigation

Justice Suzanne Duncan issued the order March 22. The trailer will be closed off for 90 days

Whitehorse’s Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon is making a splash on the slopestyle World Cup

The Yukoner is 20th in the world after skiing his way into a full season of starts

EDITORIAL: Yukon is not immune to a measles outbreak

With confirmed cases around Canada, the Yukon can’t be complacent

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

YEC challenges regulator over energy saving initiatives

‘We think we’re pretty well-equipped to deliver those programs effectively’

Yukon’s Ernest Chua wins pair of medals at Special Olympics World Games

Chua was the first Canadian to medal at the games

ANALYSIS: Yukon’s job market by the numbers

At only 3.2 per cent, the Yukon has the lowest unemployment rate… Continue reading

Whitehorse RCMP investigating ‘sextortion’ scams

Whitehorse RCMP are investigating after two “sextortion” scams were recently reported to… Continue reading

Yukoner Ed Hopkins wins 2019 Iditarod rookie of the year

Hopkins was the top Canadian musher in the field, finishing 21st

Martine LeLevier repeats as Granger Grind champion

LeLevier won this year’s race with a time of seven hours, 57 minutes and 53 seconds

Driving with Jens: Spring forward with your clocks and vehicle

Each spring when you move your clocks ahead an hour for daylight… Continue reading

Commentary: Do endangered species endanger industries?

CPAWS Yukon campaigns coordinator Malkolm Boothroyd says the Yukon needs species at risk legislation

Yukonomist: Skookum versus Hygge

Back before Christmas, I wrote a column whinging that our wily winter-tourism… Continue reading

Most Read