Horne stands by civil forfeiture

The Yukon Party government plans to use its majority to ram through the proposed Civil Forfeiture Act.

The Yukon Party government plans to use its majority to ram through the proposed Civil Forfeiture Act.

That worries the Liberals and NDP, which are both calling on the government to put the draft law on hold until public consultations are held.

But Justice Minister Marian Horne notes the bill enjoyed unanimous support when it received second reading in December. And the territory has met with select groups – namely, Crown prosecutors and police.

So Horne says she sees no reason to delay the bill becoming law. “As far as I’m concerned, this bill is good,” Horne said Wednesday.

She also repeatedly suggested the opposition is soft on crime.

“Is the opposition opposed to being tough on crime and having safer communities?” Horne asked.

“I think we’re opposed to being tough on innocent people,” Liberal MLA Don Inverarity replied.

Boosters of the law say it will make it easier for the RCMP to seize ill-gotten gains from organized crime. Critics warn it will also open the door to abuses or unintentional screwups that could cost innocent people their vehicles, houses and other property.

The law would lower the burden of proof required for police to seize property.

Currently, RCMP must meet the criminal court’s test of there being no reasonable doubt when seizing the proceeds of crime. By pursuing property confiscation through civil court, the bill lowers this threshold of evidence to what’s called a balance of probabilities.

Being cleared of criminal wrongdoing is no guarantee that you would see your property returned under this law. And anyone planning to challenge a forfeiture would need to be able to afford a lawyer.

Even if you win a challenge, it’s unlikely you would receive your property back, says the NDP’s Steve Cardiff. “It won’t be returned. It will be sold, more than likely – regardless of whether you’re a victim or a criminal,” he said Monday.

In Alberta, civil forfeiture was used to seize a rental house that was being used, unbeknownst to its owner, as a marijuana grow operation.

In British Columbia, a similar law was used to seize vehicles used in street racing, even when the racers were using borrowed vehicles.

This concerns the Liberals’ Darius Elias. He also worries that RCMP detachments could become dependent on forfeiture funds for revenue. This unintended consequence is especially noticeable in the United States, he said.

Eight jurisdictions in Canada have civil forfeiture laws. To Horne, that’s proof the law is sturdy enough to be passed. She says none of the laws differ in any important way.

Horne brushed aside fears that the law could be misused by police. “If there is punitive prosecution, the government can be sued, and it will assist in deterring crime,” she said.

If the opposition wants the law changed, they should put forward amendments, said Horne.

But Elias says it’s unlikely the government would consider amendments in good faith. He points to efforts this week to broaden the membership of a panel that will examine RCMP conduct in the territory.

The NDP proposed this change and received the backing of the Liberals, but the Yukon Party voted it down.

“Anything we put on the floor just gets thrown in the garbage,” Elias said in an interview.

It’s also unreasonable to expect a law as complicated as this one to be effectively amended by non-lawyers on the fly in the legislature, he said.

But one change Elias would like to see is an assurance that anyone who challenges a forfeiture would see their legal fees paid by the territory. This echoes a request made by Cardiff on Monday.

And both Elias and Cardiff want assurances that money obtained from forfeitures would go towards a fund for helping victims of crime, rather than into the government’s general revenues, as would currently be the case.

Contact John Thompson at


Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read