TORONTO: The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has been granted intervenor status in an Ontario Court of Appeal hearing dealing with civil forfeiture. The case AG (Ontario) v 947014 Ontario and Norwood Estate (Norwood Estate) involves the scope of the Ontario Civil Remedies Act. This is legislation that governs the seizure and forfeiture of assets suspected and determined to be proceeds of crime.
Norwood Estate involves assets, including a family home, that were seized as part of a drug trafficking prosecution where the accused later died before his trial. The Application for the forfeiture of the family home did not proceed, and a determination of whether the home was the proceeds of crime was never concluded. Despite this, court relied upon a provision of Ontario’s Civil Remedies Act to approve a forced settlement between the deceased’s estate and his mother, who alleges to have a claim to a portion of the home.
“This is a complex case, but the question we want to address in this intervention is very simple. Can the Attorney General do an end run around the law and dispose of assets the way they did in this case? In our view, the answer is clearly no,” said CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn.
“The Ontario Civil Remedies Act is designed to preserve assets until there is a determination about whether they are proceeds of crime. The Attorney General cannot be permitted to make side-deals with interested parties, gradually depleting the seized assets, before it is determined that they are the proceeds of crime,” continued Van Geyn.
“If the Act is interpreted the way it has been in this case, the consequences could be significant. For example, imagine you are in a dispute with a friend about the ownership of a car. Your friend lends that car to their dead-beat brother, who then uses the car for a drug deal. The police seize that car, and before it can be determined that the car is proceeds of crime, the Attorney General awards it to your friend. This cannot be how the legislation is intended to work, and it’s why we are getting involved in this case,” concluded Van Geyn.
The appeal in Norwood Estate is scheduled for May 12, and the CCF will be represented by Jessica L. Kuredjian and Robert Sniderman of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP.