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.
Yesterday, Attorney General Doug Downey introduced the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act to simplify a complex and outdated justice system.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 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 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."
"York Regional Police supports these legislative changes that simplify and modernize the laws around asset forfeiture because they will benefit both police and victims," said Brian Bigras, Deputy Chief, Investigative Branch. "Avoiding the need for a court order, which will result in making compensation available to victims sooner, provides greater efficiency and streamlines the system for everyone involved."
"We commend the government for continuing to address the issue of crime in our community," said Gillian Freeman, Executive Director, Victim Services of York Region. "By taking away proceeds of crime and redirecting these funds to essential programs that support survivors of human trafficking, the government is sending a much-needed message. This speaks volumes to their dedication to not only deter crime but to also support those impacted by it."
"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."
- 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.