The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.
Proposed legislation designed to take the profit out of crime by allowing police to use the civil law process to seize, freeze and have the proceeds of unlawful activity forfeited to the province has been introduced by Attorney General Gord Mackintosh. "The goal of the Criminal Property Forfeiture Act is to ensure that crime does not pay," said Mackintosh. "If passed, it will help keep criminals from financing future activities and reduce the return on their investment in the form of human misery in our communities." The legislation would allow police to apply to the Court of Queen's Bench for orders to seize property either bought with profits from unlawful acts or used to commit crime. Property would include not only real estate but also personal property such as cash, vehicles, boats and equipment for drug operations. The legislation contains a ground-breaking provision that would permit property owned by a member of a criminal organization, and businesses where a member of a criminal organization is a key player, to be presumed to be the proceeds of crime unless proven otherwise. "In fact, this legislation would directly address two major concerns about gang activity in the province," said Mackintosh. "First, it would get at the roots of the problem by ensuring that organized crime does not pay. Secondly, it would make it much more difficult for gang members to hide their ill-gotten assets while applying for legal aid at the expense of tax payers. Money from the sale of seized items may be directed to legal aid." Under the law, the province would become the owner of the forfeited property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund legal aid or initiatives that prevent crime or assist victims. Reasonable protection for people with legitimate interests in the property has been built into the legislation. The Criminal Code allows for the forfeiture of proceeds and instruments of crime as part of the punishment of a person convicted of a serious crime. Manitoba's legislation would introduce a civil process that would not require a criminal conviction and would not be limited by the type of offence that might trigger the process. "It's tough legislation designed to make the climate in Manitoba hostile to organized crime," said Mackintosh. "It would be a flexible and useful tool for preventing crime, particularly when a conviction may be very difficult or the people reaping the profits keep themselves removed from the actual criminal activity." The Criminal Property Forfeiture Act would complement other legislation that uses the civil process to crack down on organized crime and illegal activities in Manitoba communities. The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act and the Fortified Buildings Act have resulted in the closure of more than 40 problem properties, from drug dens to gang hang-outs. "These successes seem likely to continue as we pursue new and creative ways to fight organized crime," said Mackintosh.