Ontario Updating Property Forfeiture Laws to Ensure Crime Does Not Pay

Published on December 10, 2019

Ontario Updating Property Forfeiture Laws to
Ensure Crime Does Not Pay

 

Proposed changes to help build safer communities, stand up for victims of crime

TORONTO — The Ontario government is taking action to strengthen its laws around property forfeiture to ensure criminals don’t profit from crime and proceeds of illegal activity are directed faster to victims and support programs that fight crime.

Attorney General Doug Downey recently introduced the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act to simplify a complex and outdated justice system. If passed, the bill would modernize and improve the province’s civil property forfeiture laws, among other changes.

“Our government has listenned to people from across Ontario when it comes to building safer communites while standing up for law-abiding citizens. That is why we are updating laws to ensure criminals don’t profit from crime and that we are supporting victims and the work of police to fight crime,” said Etobicoke Centre MPP Kinga Surma

“Our government is simplifying and strengthening Ontario’s laws around property forfeiture to help ensure crime doesn’t pay by making it harder for criminals to hold on to the proceeds of their crimes,” said Attorney General Doug Downey.

Today in Ontario, the government can pursue the forfeiture of property connected to illegal activity and use it to compensate victims and fund grants to help police fight crime, including human trafficking and gang activities. The proposed changes would make the process easier by allowing personal property, such as cash or cars, used by criminals for illegal activities to be forfeited without a court order in cases where no interested person disputes the forfeiture. This change would relieve burdens on the police and the court system, while more proceeds of crime will be reinvested to support victims.

Protections will remain in place to ensure innocent people, including those who rent or lease their property, would not be adversely or unfairly affected by administrative forfeiture. Other proposed changes include simplifying the Civil Remedies Act to help improve program delivery, increase transparency and reflect best practices in other provinces.

“No criminal should profit from illegal activity,” said Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General. “Through the Civil Remedies Grant Program and the Proceeds of Crime Front-Line Policing Grant, Ontario is helping police carry out targeted crime prevention projects in communities to combat gun and gang violence, stop sexual violence and harassment and end human trafficking.”

 “Ontario’s police leaders continue to work with the government and justice partners to modernize our justice system and make it more efficient,” said Chief Paul Pedersen, President, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. “We support the proposed legislative changes to the Civil Remedies Act because it will simplify the processes around personal property forfeitures while also relieving the burdens on our police personnel and the court system.”

 

QUICK FACTS

  • Since November 2003, a total of $63.2 million in property has been forfeited to the Crown. The province also has approximately $12.6 million in property that is frozen, pending completion of civil forfeiture proceedings. 
  • Ontario’s civil forfeiture laws allow the government to take the profits of illegal activity (e.g., a telemarketing scam, trafficking of drugs or guns, sexual exploitation or forced labour) and give it back to the victims of that crime or fund projects to support victims and prevent crime.
  • Updating Ontario’s 2001 laws on property forfeiture would expand Ontario’s ability to take away the profits of illegal activity from criminals and re-establish the province as a national leader in deterring criminal activity.
  • This year the Civil Remedies Grants Program provided $1.5 million to help police across Ontario fight human trafficking crimes such as sexual exploitation and forced labour as well as other illegal activities that fund gangs and put communities at risk.
  • The Smarter and Stronger Justice Act proposes changes to more than 20 acts to update old laws and streamline processes so justice works better for Ontarians.