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Third reading of Bill 58 - The Criminal Property Forfeiture Amendment Act

On Thursday May 20 I spoke at third reading on Bill 58, the Criminal Property Forfeiture  Amendment Act.

Bill 58–The Criminal Property Forfeiture Amendment Act

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): First of all, I think it's important to point out that the NDP brought in this law in the first place. And I know that the Justice critic for the NDP has a lot of complaints about the law, but she should probably start by looking at where it came from and why it didn't then just fund community organizations.

      Next, I want to address the Minister of Justice ridiculous assertion that a person who votes against this bill votes against the organizations listed. The minister obviously has never studied basic elements of logical thinking; his logic is fallacious. We are not so much against recouping the proceeds of crime as we are against the measures in this bill, which would have property being taken from people prematurely before they have even been committed and convicted of a crime.

      When you take property from people who have not been convicted of a crime, there is a big problem. You may make mistakes. We have to acknowledge that mistakes can and do happen. We have had people come to us who have told us about their property being unjustly seized because there was some alleged link to the crime that was going on, which turned out to be completely false.

      Now, this is where we have to be very careful; and I think the bill falls short in the due diligence that must be achieved. When you are dealing with taking property away from people who have been alleged to have convicted–committed a crime but have not been convicted of being–of having committed the crime, and when we're talking about taking away a car or a house from people, then this is very serious matter.

      The justice system should be fair, it should treat people equally, but it should also be very careful about taking major property away from somebody who has not been convicted of a crime. And there should be much better safeguards to protect people until such conviction occurs. Certainly, this is the biggest problem; the law should be fair and just. The law, as it is being applied, should not cause more problems than it solves by taking property from people who have not been convicted without having the adequate safeguards in place.

      I think it is also true that the way the funds are distributed may need to be looked at. But I want to say that organizations like Candace House, there is just no question that they do an amazing job, and they are to be complimented for that. It may be that the government really should be funding them directly rather than having to rely on the proceeds of crime to fund them.

      But be that as it may, the important thing is that we do ensure that organizations like Candace House and other organizations which are doing a great job do get the financial support they need to continue their efforts helping make this place a more just and fair place for victims of crime and to decrease crime in the first place.

      So with those few comments, I will stop. But I will just sum up once more that the minister's assertion that a person who votes against this bill votes against the organizations listed–that is ridiculous; we are concerned first and foremost that property should not be taken prematurely from people before they have been convicted of a crime.

      Let us not do more damage in the cause–in the course of trying to provide justice, and then–and we should not be hurting innocent people in the course of trying to provide justice. And let us remember that some of the property that can be taken away is–can be major property, including a car, a house, and that is should be very carefully done and it should not be done prematurely before people have been convicted of a crime.

      Thank you.

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