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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tim Hudak would focus on asset seizure as part of "tough on crime" policy

Back off Tim Moin Yahya posted an article that he wrote yesterday on the Supreme Court's horrendous decision in Chatterjee v. Ontario to allow asset seizure from those who are suspected of (not "charged with" or "convicted of") criminal activity.

Tim Hudak, who briefly redeemed himself to me last week with some good economic policy, has come out, guns blazing, in favour of this policy.

In fact, as part of his "tough on crime" policy package (which is otherwise fairly status-quo for a Conservative politician), he pledges to focus on asset seizure when dealing with grow-ops. From his website, Hudak says he would focus on:

  • Toughening laws and sentencing for violent crimes
  • Taking aggressive steps to stamp out grow ops in Ontario including a focus on asset seizure
  • Toughening prosecutorial and sentencing standards for organized crime
  • Increasing penalties for offenders caught in the act of defacing property

(emphasis mine.)

This is not some innocuous policy that only property rights "nuts" ought to be concerned with, nor is it something that can go wrong only in hypothetical cases. The fallout of allowing such property seizures in the United States has resulted in complete disregard for the law by some police officers - mostly warrants without probable cause - and extremely tragic cases such as the death of an innocent man in a raid that was motivated by a desire to seize his (impressive) assets and suicide by a woman who saw it as the only way to prevent asset seizure leading to homelessness and impoverishment.

Even if you are in favour of continuing the war on drugs, this complete disregard for property rights and the rule of law in Ontario should be wholeheartedly condemned by anyone who cares about either. It is extremely disappointing to see any serious Conservative politician (or anyone at all) endorsing this nonsense.

Posted by Janet Neilson on May 7, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink


I don't doubt they'd do it through the court process, Janet, if the court process were not almost completely broken. I realize that due process is a cornerstone of our liberties, but the fact remains that it is the judges and the lawyers, not the politicians, who have strangled the system.

Are we just supposed to wait until this current crop of judges all dies off and reforms can be implemented before we tackle society's problems?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-07 8:34:19 AM

I can confidently say that ignoring the rule of law and due process and allowing asset forfeiture has -*not*- solved any of society's problems anywhere it has taken place. I'm also confident in saying that the more these trespasses on the integrity of the legal system are allowed, the more societal problems seem to emerge.

I haven't the faintest clue what would make anyone think it would be different in Ontario.

Posted by: Janet | 2009-05-07 9:22:08 AM

Hudak supports asset seizure? I think that policy drops him a spot on my ballot all on its own.

Posted by: Alex Sloat | 2009-05-07 9:40:43 AM

Grow Ops are incredibly dangerous - they illegally cut into the power grid (which costs more for everyone), make dangerous alterations to the structural integrity of the house and use growing equipment that should never be in a house.
Countless articles can be found of these houses going up in flames, or, in the case of meth labs, flat out blowing up.

That's why cops have placed such a high priority on flushing them out. Oh wait - its only so they can infringe on the rights of helpless people.

Why is the seizure of a criminal's property more important than my rights as a property owner to live safely? Take away their property? Absolutely. That criminal is threatening the liberty (which you so value, you claim) of me and my family and all of my neighbours.

You can feel free to defend the rights of criminals. I think the only seizure that took place here was your credibility.

Posted by: The Realist | 2009-05-07 10:56:32 AM

The Realist, this isn't about seizure of a criminal's property (which, I'm pretty sure, is already allowed). This is about seizure of property of someone that hasn't even been charged, letalone convicted. What an awful policy.

Posted by: William Joseph | 2009-05-07 11:16:44 AM

Might I ask why anyone is surprised by this?

The Progressive Conservatives were the ones who brought the act in in the first place (2001).

Hudak voted for it in 2001.
Klees voted for it in 2001.
Christine Elliott's husband (Jim Flaherty) voted for it in 2001.

(see: http://www.ontla.on.ca/house-proceedings/transcripts/files_html/2001-12-13_L081A.htm#PARA694 )

And, for the record, I condemned it at the bill's hearings before the Standing Committee on Justice.

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2009-05-07 11:39:50 AM

Here's the link to my testimony

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2009-05-07 11:40:16 AM

Incidentally: two related videos. The first demonstrates that Hudak's really just doing a repeat performance of John Tory:

First YouTube video

The second is taken from a show I was on prior to the bill's adoption:

Second YouTube video

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2009-05-07 11:46:29 AM

William: can you point to where Hudak says that? I just went to his website and I couldn't find his pledge to seize property before trial.

You certainly are taking liberty with your interpretation of five words.

Which is shocking, coming from the Shotgun blog. Absolutely shocking.

Posted by: The Realist | 2009-05-07 12:41:48 PM

Actually my bad... I think I just read Janet's post too quickly.

Posted by: William Joseph | 2009-05-07 1:03:21 PM

Realist, although this is a tangential point, you have expertly outlined the dangers that plague grow ops under prohibition.

There would be no incentive to create such a dangerous operation if it didn't have to be kept secret. Criminals don't want to be blown up any more than the rest of us.

Besides, any grow house seized and torn down will simply be replaced with an equally dangerous one putting different people at risk.

Prohibitionists can keep looking for all the band-aids they'd like to these types of dangers. I'd rather apply the cure.

Posted by: Janet | 2009-05-07 2:32:27 PM

Realist -

The SCC decision says that assets can now legally be seized before trial. Unless Hudak is planning to change the law to make it harder to seize assets, a crime strategy focusing on asset seizure can and almost certainly will lead to some property being forfeit to the government without charges being laid in the name of "public safety."

If Hudak is opposed to asset seizure before trial, then he should make that clear by proposing legislation to better protect Ontarians' property - something I would wholeheartedly support and encourage him and all other candidates to do.

If he does not come out against the current forfeiture law, which it's reasonable to assume he's aware of, when he comments on asset seizure I see no serious problem with assuming that he's in favour of it as it stands.

Posted by: Janet | 2009-05-07 2:44:46 PM

Realist, you are being blind due to your opposition to drugs. I am not supporting drugs, but this is not about, or limited to drugs. There is a world of difference between being "suspected" by the state and being guilty or found guilty. Yet you appear willing to accept that if the state suspects someone, that someone is guilty. Just remember that granted such power, the state will not limit it to those suspected of dealing in drugs. To support this one must also assume that the police are flawless and never make mistakes. The police are composed of human beings, some less flawed than others but none of them perfect. This is not just a slippery slope but a greased pole.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-05-07 5:44:36 PM

Every day it seems like we have more laws that are actually criminal in nature in and of themselves. They are unethical, unprincipled and immoral. And no I don't support drug use. However I also don't support all of the paranoia that comes from the neverending "war on drugs". The kind of paranoid law that negates our right to self defense, our right to privacy in our own homes, the right to genuine security. How can any of us ever feel secure knowing the "authorities" can come, unannounced and without warrants to kick in your door and seize whatever they want to (including you)...like a pack of thugs. God help us.

Posted by: JC | 2009-05-07 9:16:07 PM

Give enough power to the police and it won't be long before you have a police state. Want that house or car ???. Just plant a little grass in it and it's all yours. Laws like this beg to be abused.
JC is right...God help us.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-05-07 10:57:52 PM

Ah, Hudak is continuing the grand Ontario Conservative tradition of finding some issue to shoot themselves in the foot with. Just like John Tory with his proposal to fund religious schools. I tend to vote Conservative in provincial elections, but if Hudak wins the leadership and continues to advocate such blatently statist and anti-property-rights policies as this, then Dalton McGuinty will be getting my vote next time around.

Posted by: GregS | 2009-06-05 10:19:31 AM

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