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June 19, 2014

Phil Hewkin’s Artwork Nails It to Loony Left

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Phil Hewkin is an artist and a gun owner.  He believes, as I do, that owning private property should not land you in prison, nor should it cost you your life savings or your family home.  All three of those things happened to Ontario gunsmith Bruce Montague.  Well, to be precise, the last of the three, the theft of the Montague family home using Ontario’s Proceeds of Crime Act, is not yet completed.

Now that the federal government is done stripping Bruce Montague and his wife of their life savings in the form of a firearm and ammunition collection, the Ontario government will now proceed with their absurd claim that the Montague family somehow benefited financially from Bruce Montague’s act of civil disobedience.

We in the west will tolerate any amount of insanity from radical muslims, yet when a single Canadian gun owner uses civil disobedience to protest an atrocious law he is branded a terrorist, tossed in prison and stripped of his worldly possessions.

Does that sound reasonable and rational?

Only if you’re a loony lefty who despises the Rights and Freedoms we are born with…

Inconsistencies-Of-The-Left

Image Courtesy of Phil Hewkin. Used with permission.

 

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June 18, 2014

Donna Montague Speaks Out on Criminal Case Against Her Husband

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My name is Donna Montague. I am married to former Ontario gunsmith Bruce Montague.

I have had Enough!

I am thoroughly disgusted!

It is bad enough that the news media reports inflammatory positions  about Bruce without verifying their data ….. but the “JUDICIARY” is  doing it too.

Now that the trial is over I can speak.

The search of our home:

  • First off, there was no search warrant for the September 11, 2004 raid  on my home. To this day I have not seen a search warrant for this raid.
  • The dynamite we had in the freezer was legal and all charges related  to it were dropped. The police reported the dynamite to prejudice the  public.
  • There were NO sawed off shotguns.
  • Next, 20,000 rounds is not a lot. Police officers testified that they  and target shooters shoot 5,000-10,000 rounds a year. One order from a  local police department is for 11,000 rounds for one event. A retailer  has to supply to their customers.
  • Next, the full auto firearms: Most don’t realize that they are legal  in Canada. Bruce’s license for these was burned in protest.
  • Serial Numbers: Bruce did remove serial numbers and was harshly  sentenced for it. Bruce served his sentence.

Bruce’s character:

The charge against Bruce of being a danger to society was found NOT  GUILTY by the jury.

Character witnesses, a crown contracted background check, and even OPP  officers who knew him, when cross-examined testified and stated that  Bruce is an upstanding citizen. Bruce worked on a lot of OPP and local  police firearms and serviced police departments as far away as New  Jersey. At the time of the raid he had a handgun form a Kenora Crown  Attorney and an OPP rifle. Yet Bruce is continually slandered.

I, his wife would not remain by his side for over 35 years, and  through all this, if Bruce was of the character the judiciary is  insinuating. Bruce is a help-your-neighbour kind of guy. I can’t  imagine anyone who knows him saying otherwise.

You know we ran a gunsmithing shop and retailed firearms. We didn’t  have as many firearms as most firearms stores do. Now the government  wish to take what was our small store’s inventory It was not an  arsenal! – it is our life’s savings!

Now, after the criminal portion of our case is over, the Crown wants  to seize our home – paid for with inherited money from my father and  built by our family. This is extreme, overboard and unreasonable!

This game of media defamation is disgusting. You jury members and  those who attended the trial, you know the whole story. You can share  what you learned in the trial. This is spinning out of control – It is  like politicians with their smear campaigns at election time.

Please! Stand Up! Speak! Don’t be silent and let this atrocity continue.

Donna Montague

 

P.S. I have had a lot of response to my letter in the newspaper. People are  asking me how they can help with letter writing. We would appreciate your letters to be cc’d to:

Court of Appeal for Ontario
130 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5H 2N5

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay  (no postage necessary)
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8

Canadian Constitutional Foundation
1830 – 52 Street SE
Suite 240
Calgary, Alberta T2B 1N1

Some points to consider in these letters may be:

  • Taking someone’s life savings for a victimless paper crime when a  1 ½ year prison sentence already seams excessive, is a cruel and  excessively brutal punishment.
  • In light of the lenient sentences that real criminals get, the  courts appear to have an obvious bias against firearms owners.
  • Bruce Montague was a protester!  He was a conscientious objector to Canada firearms legislation. (see an excellent explanation of what this means at PostcardsFromTheRight.com)  He didn’t threaten or hurt anyone.  This  isn’t how we treat protesters!
  • The civil forfeiture legislation was presented as stopping drug  lords from getting rich. The we made no profit from our protest and our house is not an instrument or proceed of crime.  Bruce made nothing, but the government stands to make hundreds of thousands of  dollars.

The Canadian Constitutional Foundation is representing us. You can support their efforts by donating through the Canadian Constitution Foundation website http://theccf.ca/donate/

Thanks,

Donna Montague

http://theccf.ca/articles/excessively-punitive-ruling-make-canadians-nervous/

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June 5, 2014

Bruce Montague’s Response to Forfeiture Order

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Mike Ackermann liked this post

By now you must all be aware of the ruling we received from the appeal court of Ontario a couple of days ago. I am not really surprised that we lost but I am surprised that they decided to increase my punishment by also stealing my ammunition.

As bad as this ruling is, our lawyers at the CCF (Canadian Constitution Foundation) found some encouraging aspects to it. There are a couple of legal principles we put forward and the court affirmed them. This not only should help if we appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada but it will also help others that get caught up in the snare of laws designed to persecute firearms owners. This is the first defeat we’ve taken that has some tangible pluses that will help gun owners in general.

My short explanation of one small legal victory is that the confiscation of my firearms and ammunition was indeed a punishment. Up until now it has never been considered a punishment, although to most people it seems obvious that losing your valuable property is indeed very punishing. This precedent should be helpful for others who are facing sentencing because now the value of the property should now be considered as part of the sentence. This may be a small plus, but you take what you can get.

Also on our side was a very strong bias shown by the court against firearms owners. This has been spotted in past rulings as many of you have commented on. Up until now we didn’t have any idea of how to address this. Things will change in future court hearings as a result. – – “Live and learn.”

I am quite surprised at how much media attention this ruling has gotten. Whatever the reason, I’m glad that this story is getting out. More people need to be aware of how easily the government and court system can take away your rights and your property. I’m hopeful that by the time we are in court fighting for our house, even non-gun owners will wake up to this travesty of justice.

The way in which the law is written in regards to taking our house (civil forfeiture laws), I don’t see any legal argument to stop them from taking it. We will be at the mercy of the courts, and so far I haven’t seen any mercy from them. The only chance I see us having is if the common people of this country speak up and say enough is enough!

I wish I had more promising news than this to report. I am reminded of what our past lawyer Doug Christie told me before he died. He told me that even if we don’t win in the courts we are still doing a positive thing for firearms owners and even the general population by standing up and fighting as long as possible. The people need to see these important issues argued because regardless of the courts ruling, each individual will have his own perception of whether justice was served. Sometimes losing in court will give you the best outcome in the long run. (It’s kind of like the Martyr effect.)

If you think this fight is worth fighting I would encourage you to visit the CCF website (http://www.theccf.ca) and make a donation. Now that the CCF has offered to represent us we now defer all donations to them. They are sincere and dedicated to doing a great job defending all our rights. Please let your non-gun owning friends see what can happen when you fall out of favour with our justice system.

Yours in Liberty,

Bruce Montague

P.S. I was in a discussion with my son who is a Lutheran pastor and this famous quote came up. It seemed quite applicable in this case because most people, if they are not gun owners don’t realize the threat this law is for everyone.

“In Germany they first came for the communists
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.
They came for the Jews
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade Unionists
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

– -Pastor Martin Niemoller (Lutheran Pastor)

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June 4, 2014

Gunsmith Bruce Montague, Dr. Henry Morgentaler and Abortion Law

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Keltie Zubko, Mike Ackermann liked this post

That may seem an odd title but it will make sense shortly.

The Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in R. v. Montague, 2014 ONCA 439, in which the government’s desire to seize Bruce Montague’s complete firearms and ammunition collection came to its unjust conclusion.

Ontario’s Court of Appeal heard arguments for and against the forfeiture of over $100,000 of firearms and ammunition on November 15, 2013. At that time they reserved judgment to give justices Feldman, Gillese and Tulloch time to rationalize the State’s cash grab.

Justice Feldman, writing the appeal court’s unanimous decision, took 32 pages to explain seizing Montague’s entire firearm collection and ammunition was not only constitutional, it was also rational and proportional to the “crime” Bruce and Donna Montague committed.

For those unfamiliar with this case, Bruce Montague traveled across Canada for 18 months seeking arrest for violating Canada’s Firearms Act. Being a man of principle he believed, as I do, that Canada’s Firearms Act violates the rights of those mere citizens who dare own firearms.

Montague believed a constitutional challenge of the Firearms Act would result in the court declaring it unconstitutional, forcing the government to write a more sensible and rational law, one that does not violate our constitutional rights.

So why did Bruce Montague allow both his business firearms license for his gunsmithing business and his personal firearms license expire?

To answer question that I need to step away from Bruce Montague’s case and go to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the abortion issue and the legal term “standing”.

Prior to this ruling, section 251.9 of the Criminal Code,allowed for abortions to be performed at only accredited hospitals with the proper certification of approval from the hospital’s Therapeutic Abortion Committee.

Three doctors, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Dr. Leslie Frank Smoling and Dr. Robert Scott, set up an abortion clinic in Toronto for the purpose of performing abortions on women who had not received certification from the Therapeutic Abortion Committee, as required under subsection 287(4) of the Criminal Code. In doing so they were attempting to bring public attention to their cause, claiming that a woman should have complete control over the decision on whether to have an abortion.

Abortion was illegal when Morgentaler first opened his Toronto abortion clinic, except in very specific cases and with very specific permissions required. Morgentaler disliked that, and wanted to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s abortion statute but an individual cannot challenge a law, any law, unless they have what in legal terms is called “standing”.

This means unless the law will adversely affect you personally you have no right, or “standing”, to challenge the legislation. In other words, unless you are charged with breaking the law you have no standing to challenge the law in court.

So Henry Morgentaler broke the law. Repeatedly and across the country. He opened an abortion clinic, performed illegal abortions until police arrested him and charged him with a crime. He then posted bail and repeated the process in another process until his case eventually landed before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion law, leaving Canada with no law on abortion at all to this day.

Henry Morgentaler is hailed a hero for his fight for “abortion rights”. He was awarded the Order of Canada “for his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations.

In other words, for daring to violate Section 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada in order to make his point in court.

Without violating that law Henry Morgentaler did not have “standing” to challenge its constitutionality, which brings me back to Bruce Montague.

The issue the courts consistently refused to acknowledge is Bruce Montague specifically and deliberately broke the law in order to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s Firearms Act, just as Henry Morgentaler did with Canada’s abortion law.

At every level of our justice system, from the Ontario Provincial Police (who used Bruce Montague’s gunsmithing services themselves) and Crown prosecutors to the trial judge, superior court judges and Court of Appeal judges, every single one attempted to paint Bruce Montague as a danger to society; a threat to the nation and a potential terrorist.

Not a single person in the entire justice system ever acknowledged Bruce Montague’s very public protests across the nation or his repeated and public statements against the Firearms Act.

Montague_PlacardThey simply branded him as a terrorist, a threat to public safety, and mainstream media outlets did what they do best; they parroted the party line on Bruce Montague even while running photographs of his public protests alongside their “articles”.

For example, the Court of Appeal in 2010 made this ludicrous statement, as though Bruce Montague actually intended to violently overthrow the government.

In September 2004, acting on the authority of two search warrants, the police seized more than 200 firearms and related devices, together with in excess of 20,000 rounds of ammunition and boxes of military­ related books and associated paraphernalia from the Montagues’ home. Many of these weapons were discovered in a hidden storage room in the basement of the house. It is fair to say that the quantity and nature of the seized arsenal of weapons and associated items may have been sufficient for a small-scale insurrection.

No, it is not.

Bruce Montague’s sole desire, as he stated repeatedly and publicly across the nation, was to challenge the constitutionality of a law he felt violated his Charter Rights and Freedoms. He was not preparing to mount a “small-scale insurrection“.

At no point would any level of our justice system acknowledge, just as the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to acknowledge in Monday’s ruling, that Bruce Montague could not challenge the constitutionality of a law without “standing”; without breaking the very law he disagreed with and be charged with a crime.

Henry Morgentaler did so and we rewarded him with the Order of Canada, citing “his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy”.

Bruce Montague’s “determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy” earned him 18 months in prison.

He also forfeits his life savings in firearms and ammunition (valued at over $100,000) and that still isn’t enough punishment as far as the government is concerned.

The Government of Ontario, under Ontario’s civil forfeiture law, will now steal the Montague’s family home and acreage valued at roughly $250,000.

By the time our government is done with Bruce and Donna Montague they will be penniless, homeless and jobless, and Canadian judges dare call this “justice“?

Only to fascist thugs who refuse to face the most fundamental fact of this entire case: Bruce Montague used civil disobedience in order to challenge the constitutionality of a bad law.

Anyone who believes Bruce Montague deserved to spend 18 months in prison, forfeit his entire life savings and now forfeit his home and acreage on top of it all clearly checked their humanity at the door.

Yes, I mean you, James McKeachie.

It is in no way “proportional” to the victimless paper crime committed by Bruce Montague. He refused to renew his firearms license. He refused to obtain registration certificates for his firearms. For this he will lose everything he worked his entire life for, including the beautiful log home he literally built with his own two hands.

[50] Some Canadian case-law has held that forfeiture will not be cruel and unusual punishment for someone who deliberately chooses to commit an offence that puts the particular property at risk, regardless of the value of the forfeited property in comparison to the gravity of the offence: see Turner v. Manitoba, 2001 MBCA 207, 160 Man. R. (2d) 256; R. v. Spence, 2004 NLSCTD 113, 238 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 259.

[51] In this case, it is most unfortunate for the appellants that they chose to challenge the firearms licensing laws by putting all their firearms at risk. However, in my view, the fact that it was their deliberate action that put so much property at risk is not the full reason why its forfeiture does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. It is because the forfeiture consequences cannot be viewed as grossly disproportionate or even disproportionate at all.

As I said earlier, there is no way to challenge the constitutionality of a law in Canada without breaking that law so you have “standing”.

That is not a choice to put your entire life savings, home and property “at risk”. It’s a decision to challenge an unjust law that unfairly penalizes Canada’s most law-abiding citizens: legal gun owners.

Seriously… who else must pass repeated police background checks and notify the government within 30 days of moving residences or face 2 years in prison?

Certainly not rapists and child molesters.

Forcing them to register is a violation of their civil rights.

Gun owners however, as evidenced by Bruce Montague’s case, have no civil rights. Rendering him penniless and homeless is a rational and proportional punishment for the crime of refusing to obtain a firearms license.

[59]Considering all the factors as they apply to the facts in this case, it cannot be said that the cumulative forfeiture of these weapons would outrage community standards of decency so as to amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

So says the Ontario Court of Appeals, who clearly don’t listen to the Montague’s community members or anyone in Canada’s vast firearms community. Every one of us are outraged at this cruel and unusual punishment that rendered the Bruce and Donna Montague penniless and will soon render them homeless as well.

But once again I forget; we’re gun owners. We are not part of the “community standards of decency“.

We’re lower than rapists and child molesters.

 

 

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June 3, 2014

Civil Asset Forfeiture and the Lack of Due Process

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I’ve written on civil asset forfeiture a lot lately and in response to my latest article, BC Civil Asset Forfeiture Office Proud to Steal From Mere Citizens, I received a email asking if I would post an information graphic on my website.

The infographic, created by ArrestRecords.com, goes into great detail of the abuses of civil asset forfeiture laws across the United States.

Some of the “low-lights” of civil asset forfeiture enforcement include, but are not limited to:

  • Most state and federal legislation laws allows law enforcement to keep up to 90% of what they take from citizens.
  • Only 8 states do not allow law enforcement to keep any of the proceeds
  • 26 states allow law enforcement to keep 100% of the assets they seize
  • In only 6 states must the government prove you are guilty of a crime before seizing your property. (Actually, this is now 7 as Minnesota just enacted civil forfeiture reform that requires government to prove guilt.)
  • From 1990 to 2005 the value of assets seized was relatively consistent at between $300 – $500 million
  • In 2006 this jumped to $841 million and that number has risen ever since
  • Despite 74% of we mere citizens believing property owners should be presumed innocent the vast majority of civil asset forfeiture laws, including all those here in Canada, presume you are guilty, even if you are never arrested of charged with an offense.

Civil Forfeiture

an infographic from ArrestRecords.com

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May 31, 2014

Civil Asset Forfeiture is “not traumatic” for defendants says Phil Tawtel

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Keltie Zubko liked this post

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My wife, bless her heart, cuts out articles from the newspaper for me. I’m sure she thinks she’s doing me a favour, but most of the time the articles she cuts out just make my blood boil, such as the article she cut out for me the other day titled “BC Forfeiture Office Defends Its Record” by Ian Mulgrew.

In Mulgrew’s article the head of of BC’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Program, one Phil Tawtel, pontificated at great length why he and his office perform such a “valuable service” to we mere citizens of British Columbia.

Mulgrew’s article containing Tawtel’s defense came in the wake of a number of high-profile civil forfeiture cases where the director had to backpedal. As stated in the article,

Over the past few weeks, Tawtel’s office threw in the towel against David Lloydsmith, a disabled Mission electrician fighting the seizure of his house. The BC Court of Appeal rejected the [civil forfeiture] office’s appeal of a lower court ruling that it defend a series of Charter breaches that occurred in the 2007 RCMP investigation into allegations Lloydsmith was growing marijuana.

While recognizing the law’s aim, the court worried about the imbalance between the province’s immense resources and those of defendants who don’t qualify for legal aid and may not have even been charged with a crime, but face complicated legal proceedings that could cast them dearly.

Since that decision, the director also settled two other cases in the media eye – one involving an older Burnaby couple whose property was in jeopardy despite a criminal court ruling that a forfeiture would be excessive, and another against a Nelson-area acreage owner who had not been charged [with any crimes].

Phil Tawtel believes, it appears, that every mere citizen of British Columbia is fair game, that we are cash machines he can withdraw from as he pleases.

Targeting individuals who have no connection to organized crime or gangs is just part of the job, and it serves them right for coming to his attention, or so his attitude says. In defending his zealous “interpretation” of BC’s civil asset forfeiture law he said,

How does the director apply fairness and proportionality? Certainly, from Day 1 that is o our mind, from day one when we are looking at a file… that’s key to us.

Really? It doesn’t look that way to anyone outside your office.

However, to answer your question on “fairness and proportionality” I would suggest, Mr. Tawtel, that you ask yourself this: If you were the one whose home your office is about to steal, would you think it was fair and proportional to the crime with which you were never even charged?

There is the answer to your question, and the honest answer of it is a far cry from your current belief.

The former Edmonton RCMP investigator said that some of the Charger breaches “on the surface are not egregious and its worth… seeing how it plays out.

Such a cavalier attitude towards the Charter Rights of we mere citizens is frightening. Launching civil forfeiture proceedings are no big deal… he says… we just want to see how it plays out.

Let me translate…

The Almighty State decreed through civil forfeiture legislation it can steal any property from any individual any time it wants. If I launch civil forfeiture proceedings against you it’s no big deal as you will have your day in court to explain yourself.

And a massive legal bill but that’s okay; it’s Phil Tawtel’s whim to see how your case “plays out”. Your suffering is inconsequential and of no relevance.

We mere citizens of British Columbia have good reason to be terrified. Power that great wielded without accountability is nothing if not traumatizing to the poor souls crushed under its weight.

Phil Tawtel does not see it that way, of course.

Far from traumatizing defendants, as lawyers claim, litigation provides an opportunity through the discovery process for them to explain, as in “I know what the police told you, but here is my side of the story,” Tawtel said. Though he added, “You often can’t get there and get their information until well after litigation has started.

Clearly Mr. Tawtel believes that, as a representative of government, he can do what he wants, when he wants, to any mere citizen. If we know what’s good for us we will simply bend over, muffle our cries of pain and say thank you when he’s finished.

Claiming civil forfeiture proceedings do not “traumatize defendants“, I’m sure Mr. Tawtel would view that far differently were it his home attacked by a BC Civil Forfeiture Office seizure order. He would suffer a great deal of trauma at that point. I’m also positive it will take such an action happening to him before Mr. Tawtel will grasp his actions against people, like a disabled electrician, are egregious, severe, cruel and yes, traumatic in the extreme.

They are making people’s lives a living hell for the period of the litigation and possibly forcing them into a settlement when they know it’s so difficult to prove they haven’t engaged in any wrongdoing,” fumed Lloydsmith’s lawyer Bibhas Vaze.

(Defendants) throw up their hands and give up. It’s really outrageous.

The Process Is The Punishment.

Suffer extortion by government decree or lose your home entirely.

As Bruce and Donna Montague’s case in Ontario proves, this is all about money and nothing else.

The Montague family home and acreage, valued at roughly $250,000 faces a seizure order under Ontario’s version of civil forfeiture, its Proceeds of Crime Act. In the Montague’s case government thieves graciously offered to “settle” the case if the Montagues agreed to pay $50,000 in extortion… er… I mean “settlement” fees.

But losing the home you built with your bare hands, as Bruce Montague did, to government extortionists is “not traumatic“, says Phil Tawtel.

Uh huh.

Mr. Tawtel, it appears, requires a new dictionary.

As disabled electrician David Lloydsmith’s lawyer stated it is impossible to “prove a negative”. You cannot, for example, prove a fish does not live in the stream running in front of your home. You can only prove it does when you find one. The absence of observable fish does not prove there are no fish.

The trouble with bullies is they never view themselves as bullies.

They always believe their actions are justified. That is even more true when the bully is civil asset forfeiture and those prosecuting the case get paid only when they are successful in seizing assets, as is the case here in BC. The financial incentive to go after any and all cases crossing your desk is overwhelming when your salary is tied directly to how many forfeiture cases you win.

I call it an environment ripe for abuse, which is precisely what is happening here in British Columbia, and that must change.

BC should follow Minnesota’s lead and reform its forfeiture laws so a criminal conviction is required before government can go after property through civil asset forfeiture. As I recently wrote:

Kudos to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton for signing this into law the moment it hit his desk.

This reform turns civil forfeiture on its head; something long overdue. Current legislation in every other jurisdiction, including here in Canada, requires you to prove you did NOT do something, rather than requiring the State to prove you committed a crime.

If you agree enforcement of BC’s civil asset forfeiture law is out of control then I urge you to speak with your MLA immediately and demand BC’s civil asset forfeiture laws are reformed to the Minnesota civil forfeiture standard.

You can read more about that standard here:

Minnesota Gets Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Right

 

 

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May 18, 2014

Minnesota’s Courageous Reform of Civil Asset Foreiture Law

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Ryan Steacy liked this post

Five years ago scandal over the horrific abuse of Minnesota’s civil asset forfeiture law rocked the state. Their Metro Gang Strike Force (disbanded in the wake of the scandal) among others, grossly abused the power given them by the state’s civil forfeiture legislation, giving way to these reforms.

The Metro Gang Strike Force didn’t care who they stole from. Anyone was fair game for this corrupt band of legalized criminals. If they saw something they wanted they simply took it, leaving the victim of their predation at the mercy of a system tilted against them.

Evidence of crime? Why bother when the legislation allowed them to steal with impunity. To quote Jason Snead and Andrew Kloster’s article on the issue,

Minnesota residents became ATMs and their living rooms became convenience stores. After all, someone needed to finance strike force trips to Hawaiian conferences and supply agents with television sets.

But the whole scheme came crashing down. Amid federal and state investigations, the strike force was shut down and some $840,000 in settlements was paid out to those whose property had been wrongfully seized. Other legal actions netted millions in settlements.

Instead of the half-baked attempts at civil forfeiture reform in other jurisdictions Minnesota didn’t shrink from its duty to its citizens. It tackled civil asset forfeiture reform with courage and conviction, and did it properly.

Minnesota’s landmark civil forfeiture reform means police agencies can no longer victimize mere citizens at will and with impunity. As of now, law enforcement can no longer seize property from mere citizens unless there is either a criminal conviction or an admission of guilt.

While police may still profit from successful civil forfeitures, the new conviction requirement will add a layer of protection against the sort of evidence-less roadside shakedowns seen elsewhere. The state will also bear the burden of proving wrongdoing in any civil forfeiture case by clear and convincing evidence.

Kudos to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton for signing this into law the moment it hit his desk.

This reform turns civil forfeiture on its head; something long overdue. Current legislation in every other jurisdiction, including here in Canada, requires you to prove you did NOT do something, rather than requiring the State to prove you committed a crime.

Guilty until proven innocent is not the way western justice works. It’s the other way around.

Of course, forcing a person to prove they did not commit a crime makes it far easier for law enforcement… All that “innocent until proven guilty” crap takes far too much time and resources, right?

What we require now is for every other jurisdiction in North America to follow Minnesota’s lead.

If we are to stop the legalized theft of money and property from unwitting citizens for no reason whatsoever this simply must happen.

 

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May 17, 2014

Civil Asset Forfeiture Finally Hits The Right Mark

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Justice comes in many forms, but the delicious irony of the seizure of a former Sheriff’s vehicle using civil asset forfeiture law is almost too good to be true.

This past January in New Mexico 21-year-old Sylvia Solano crashed her car into a brick wall. A breathalyser test pegged her blood-alcohol level at 3 times the legal limit and police booked her for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). They also seized her vehicle using civil forfeiture law after determining this was Sylvia Solano’s second DWI offense.

Funny thing is… the 2003 BMW she crashed wasn’t Sylvia’s vehicle at all; it belonged to her father, former Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano.

The story gets even better.

While in office back in 2006 Sheriff Greg Solano advocated extensively to use civil forfeiture law to seize vehicles from repeat drunk drivers. Yes, including vehicles not belonging to the drunk driver, as in his daughter’s case.

Karma is a bitch, and she bites hard some days, doesn’t she Greg Solano?

While I certainly don’t condone drink driving, I do enjoy seeing one of law enforcement’s finest getting bit by the law he fought so hard to pass.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot Greg Solano no longer sees the law as “fair” or “just”. Suddenly the very law he fought so hard to pass, and used to his department’s financial benefit, is now a “violation of a car owner’s due process rights.”

Hypocrite is obviously Greg Solano’s middle name.

Back when Solano held the office of Sheriff of Santa Fe County he didn’t value the property rights of we “mere citizens” at all. He seized the property of innocent people all the time and did it with a smile on his face.

Now that it’s his ox being gored it’s a whole different ballgame.

Gotta love the hypocrisy of it all, not to mention the incredibly delicious irony!

 

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May 11, 2014

Russ Caswell, Civil Forfeiture and a Little Common Sense

Motel-Caswell-PFTR

Russ Caswell, now 70, spent the last two years fighting local, state and federal agencies over who owns Motel Caswell, the motel owned by his family since 1955.

I first wrote about Russ Caswell and his civil asset forfeiture nightmare on July 1, 2012 when his case broke internationally. From that article:

It is now, like many older motels across the nation, home to lower-income people such as seniors, as well as temporary workers who pay by the week or month.

While rates to stay there are not expensive, there is one thing the motel has that is very valuable to the thieving local police department and the thieving federal government that’s helping the thieving local police department: equity.

Caswell owns the property outright.

Why is this significant? Since Caswell’s property has no mortgage the State can keep the entire proceeds of the sale of the property after they steal it from him. Of course they don’t call it theft or stealing… they call it cracking down on crime.

In the case of Russ Caswell, it makes absolutely no difference that he has never been charged with a crime. In fact, it’s not any actions of his that concerns the thieving police and federal justice department.

It’s the actions of roughly 30 patrons of his motel over the past 18 years who have been arrested on drug charges. That’s right. Since 1994 approximately 30 people have been arrested on drug charges.

The US Justice Department and its thieving local counterpart, the Tewksbury Police Department, contend that Caswell is responsible for what people do in his motel rooms every minute of every day. His motel rooms were used to “facilitate” the crime of drug dealing, therefore the motel is guilty and must be seized as proceeds of crime.

Police and government officials, thieving scumbags each and every one, decided that Caswell’s property should be theirs so they set out to steal the Caswell family motel using one of the most abused laws ever devised: civil asset forfeiture.

The notion that you can “take the profit out of crime” by seizing the assets of criminals seems noble enough, but only if you accept without question the rhetoric and sound-bytes used to sell this atrocious legislation.

You may never be charged with a crime, let alone be convicted of one, before government thieves seize your property. That ought to terrify even the most law-abiding and pro-government among us.

In Caswell’s case thieving police and prosecutors don’t care that Caswell never committed a crime. That’s entirely beside the point.

The accusation against Russ Caswell isn’t that he didn’t do enough to help police crack down on crime in his motel. That is utter garbage if not an outright lie. Russ Caswell installed video cameras, recorded license plate numbers and customer identification, gave police free rooms for their sting operations… in fact he did everything ever asked of him by law enforcement.

That wasn’t enough. Now the Tewksbury Police Department thieves, along with state and federal counterparts, insist the Caswell’s must give up their home and livelihood too.

“I’ve found, which is kind of hard to believe, but I’m responsible for the action of people I don’t even know, I’ve never even met, and for the most part I have no control over them,” Caswell said in court. “And I have to rent them a room unless I have a real good reason not to or I get accused of discrimination and that kind of thing.”

“And when they do something wrong, the government wants to steal my property for the actions of those people, which to me makes absolutely no sense,” he added. “It’s more like we’re in Russia or Venezuela or something.”

The government thieves have three things on their side:

1. You need never be charged with or convicted of a crime, so that pesky issue of your guilt need never be addressed,

2. Police and Prosecutors keep most of the money and assets they seize. Legislation is often written giving police and prosecutors 100% of what they steal, and

3. The burden of proof is far lower for a civil action than a criminal prosecution. Under civil asset forfeiture police and prosecutors must never prove guilt, obtain a conviction or even file criminal charges before they seize private property. The term “on a balance of probabilities‘ is the phrase used to rationalize theft of private property.

This turns the notion of justice on its head. The accused must prove they did not commit a crime. How you prove you haven’t done something is… well… beside the point, right? Proving a negative isn’t possible.

Really, who cares, right? It’s just drug dealers and criminals they’re going after, not decent, law-abiding citizens. It’s not like they’re stealing your home, right?

Wrong. So utterly and completely wrong. The Caswell family didn’t do anything wrong. In fact they did everything asked of them by law enforcement. That wasn’t enough, and there is a very simple explanation for why.

Follow the money. It’s always about the money.

Statistics from the United States are utterly terrifying.

In 1985, the U.S. Department of Justice created its Asset Forfeiture Fund. One year later, the fund — which holds the proceeds from seized property and is available to be divvied out to law enforcement agencies — brought in $93.7 million. In 2008, the amount had ballooned to $1.6 billion. In 2013, it reached $6.3 billion.

The incentive here is cash. Boatloads of cash. Cash for police departments and prosecutors’ offices. Cash that is used to pad government budgets because government must always get bigger, not smaller, when it’s not being used to pay lavish expenses for corrupt prosecutors, that is.

An investigation conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looked into how funds over a five-year period were spent in Georgia. According to the newspaper, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard spent thousands of dollars gleaned from civil forfeitures on pricey dinners and an elaborate home security system for himself. In November 2009, he allegedly paid $800 to rent out a movie theater. Three months later, Howard told his employees they’d have to take 10 furlough days due to budget constraints.

In Caswell’s case it’s very simple. The annual budget of the Tewksbury Police Department is just $5.5 million.

Motel Caswell is valued at $1.5 millon.

Get the picture?

The greedy thugs of the Tewksbury Police Department saw a way to raise over 25% of their annual budget with the theft of a single property.

These greedy little pigs desperately need a refresher in Peel’s 9 Principles of Policing.

The concept of a limited government is so old fashioned, isn’t it? It shouldn’t be. The goal of every responsible government is to pare down its thievery from we mere citizens, not expand it to the point we have nothing left to feed the monstrous behemoth.

Civil forfeiture laws in America are almost 3 decades old. That’s a generation of police and prosecutors used to stealing from we mere citizens whenever the mood strikes them. At $6.3 billion stolen from mere citizens in 2013 alone, the mood clearly strikes them regularly.

In Russ Caswell’s case a federal judge finally applied some common sense to his situation.

After a four-day trial, on Jan. 24, 2013, a federal judge in Boston dismissed the forfeiture action against the motel, ruling that the government engaged in “gross exaggeration” of the evidence and did not have authority to seize the property.

In short, both police and multiple layers of government overstepped their bounds. Again. They chose their greed ahead of their duty and responsibility to those mere citizens whom they feel free to abuse so mercilessly.

Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, took on Caswell’s case pro bono.

“You breed a culture of ‘take first, ask questions later,’” Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told FoxNews.com. “It’s thuggish behavior.”

Absolutely.

The attempted theft of Motel Caswell from Russ Caswell and his family is, as the title of the free book from The Institute for Justice says, nothing more than Policing for Profit: the Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.

I urge you to download and read this free book from The Institute for Justice. Then contact your elected representative and demand they reform civil asset forfeiture law in your jurisdiction. Don’t kid yourself. It will be an uphill battle. Police and government look at civil asset forfeiture as “free money” and they won’t give it up willingly.

Here in British Columbia, for example, the cash incentive is the primary motivation for civil asset forfeiture. The government doesn’t handle the thefts itself, however. It farms out the work to other lawyers.

Here’s the catch though… those lawyers only get paid if they are successful in stealing property from some hapless mere citizen. It matters not whether that person is an actual criminal or not…

Private property should never be forfeited unless it is proven in a court of law that a crime was committed and that the individual in question profited from that crime. This would, of course, require we drag our justice system back to its noble beginnings.

Remember the days where you were innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?

Don’t be absurd, Christopher! That’s so…. last century

Yet today, the government in America seems more like the former enemies we vanquished than the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness the Framers established.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

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July 4, 2012

Under Agenda 21 “Property Seizure” is Seen as “Profit-Sharing”

agenda-21-is-evil

Canada’s Constitution is the supreme law.

Any law passed by any federal, provincial, or territorial government that is inconsistent with the constitution is invalid.

The next highest law in the pecking order of paramountcy is the Criminal Code of Canada and the same rules of law apply–or should apply–under the Criminal Code as with the Constitution.

The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, otherwise known as SCAN, has been a bone choking my throat ever since it was invented from somebody’s zealous imagination.

By the same token, a noisy, disruptive drug house was a bone sticking in the craw of every property owner and tenant who lived in the otherwise quiet, peaceful, respectable Old Town area of Whitehorse.

This hastily-written piece of legislation was well-intentioned but any law passed to simply to take legal action against one specific target is misdirected.

And it’s hard to say where a law may lead to in future unless a judge has the fortitude to rule that it is invalid in relationship to the paramountcy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code.

SCAN is handy because it is based on civil law and depends on bureaucratic scrutiny; private parties can get into the act, too. It does not require criminal charges from the police and convictions from a court. Therefore, this flimsy non-law is open for drastic abuse.

Soon after SCAN’s enactment, sure ‘nuff, the Yukon legislature made a failed attempt to quickly usher in a draconian Civil Forfeiture Act. Thankfully, the quick-acting public, nimbler than the deceitful politicians, clamped the lid shut on the forfeiture refuse posthaste.

There are already enough laws covering all bases in the Criminal Code tome to choke an oversized camel. Why does a territorial government need to write more unlawful laws to deal with one particular drug house in one community?

(more…)

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July 2, 2012

Does the Yukon Territory really need a pseudo-police department to deal with drug dealers, bootleggers and prostitutes?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Does the Yukon Territory really need another layer of bureaucracy to do the job the RCMP is already paid to do?  Apparently, the answer to that question is a resounding YES! according to Yukon’s Parliament.

If that shocks you, you’re not alone.

“There oughta be a law!  What?  There already is?  Since when?”

We already have laws against drug dealing, bootlegging and prostitution.  These laws have been on the books for decades, yet the Yukon Parliament, in its unfailing quest to be “seen to be doing something”, decided another layer of bureaucracy was the answer; that somehow this new layer of pseudo-cops would deal with the evils of society once and for all.

Yeah, okay.  Looks like someone’s been drinking the Koolaid again.

One more law, one more bureaucrat or one more bureaucracy is never going to stop mankind from breaking the Mankind’s laws.  If all it took to stop crime was another law, then murder would have been banished from the Earth back in the days of Moses.  God did command “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, didn’t he?

The trouble is not with the commandment, but with the recipients of that commandment.  In other words, the trouble is with Man and the wickedness of his own heart.

Don’t bother telling that to the Nanny State Ninnies of the Yukon Parliament though.  Nope, these yahoos know infinitely better than we mere mortals about what will finally rid our communities of the scourge of drugs, or whatever the scourge du jour might be.

On May 24, 2006 the Yukon Parliament proclaimed the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (SCAN) under the bizarre premise that “one more law” will solve the problem.  It’s no surprise that this legislation is the spawn of the late Todd Hardy, the former NDP Leader.  The NDP is nothing if not the proponents of the Nanny State in all her glory.  That’s not speaking ill of the dead.  It is speaking ill of the stupid policies he advocated, however.

To quote the Whitehorse Star:

Hardy brought forward the initiative amid the growing concern nothing could be done about known drug houses, if the criminal system was not able to secure the necessary evidence for a conviction.

SCAN allows officers to build a fact-based case that doesn’t need to meet the same test as a criminal case, but allows the court the breathing room to make obvious assumptions based on such things as the number of visitors and when they’re visiting.

Did you catch the important idea there?

A lower burden of proof than is required for a criminal conviction.

The trouble with this do-gooder law is that it actually removes the police from the crime-fighting equation.  Instead of calling the cops to report a crime, now Yukoners are encouraged to call this new bureaucracy instead.  Once a complaint is received, the do-gooders will waste countless hours (not to mention taxpayer dollars) “investigating” the complaint.

Here’s the stupidest part of this legislation.  SCAN investigators have no power to make an arrest.

So why bother?

Good question.

The legislation gives rise to what is termed a “Community Safety Order” which can force a homeowner or tenant to

vacate the property on or before a date
specified by the court, and enjoining any
or all of them from re-entering or re-occupying it;

It can also force a homeowner to terminate a lease agreement and even close the property down and order it to remain vacant for up to 90 days.

That is precisely what happened in the case of Marius Moustakas in May of this year. Mr. Moustakas was ordered removed from the home he owns for 90 days because SCAN investigators claim he was “engaged in the illegal sale of alcohol and drugs.”

Documents submitted to the court say

“The neighbours agreed that this interfered with their business and, or, peaceful enjoyment of their properties. They also expressed concerns for their safety and security, and the general safety of the public.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me.

I am NOT in favour of drug dealers or bootleggers living next door, nor am I in favour of prostitutes plying their trade where my kids and grandkids play.  That’s not because these people are inherently “bad”, but because their activities are inherently dangerous both to themselves but more importantly to those innocent bystanders who may be in the way when things go south.

Criminal actions bring with them a willingness to hurt others if that will advance the criminal activity.  Drug dealers have proven they are very willing to hurt other people if, for example, they do not pay or are infringing on their perceived “territory”.  I’ve not heard of many average citizens killing someone over an unpaid debt, but the news is rife with cases of drug dealers who killed people for all kinds of reasons, both real and imagined.

The problem with the the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act is not only that it removes the police from the crime fighting equation but also that it removes our Common Law protections in favour of expediency.

A person should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, beyond a reasonable doubt, in a court of law.

Is it inconvenient to have to prove someone has broken the law beyond a reasonable doubt?

Absolutely.  It’s incredibly inconvenient.  However if we want to live in a nation that is anything other than a Police State, that is how we must remain:

Innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, in a court of law.

Expediency and convenience can never be the reason we violate someone’s Rights and Freedoms.

If we’re willing to violate someone else’s rights today because it’s “convenient” or “expedient” to do so, what else will we be willing to do tomorrow in the name of The Greater Good?

 

 

 

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July 1, 2012

Russ Caswell’s Civil Forfeiture Nightmare

Russ Caswell is 68 years old.  He has not been charged with a crime, yet the Tewksbury, Massachusetts, Police Department is using civil forfeiture laws to steal both his livelihood and his retirement estate.

Russ Caswell owns and operates his family-owned motel called, oddly enough, the Motel Caswell.  It’s not the Ritz but that’s to be expected given the motel was built by Caswell’s father back in 1955.  It is now, like many older motels across the nation, home to lower-income people such as seniors, as well as temporary workers who pay by the week or month.

While rates to stay there are not expensive, there is one thing the motel has that is very valuable to the thieving police department and the thieving federal government that’s helping the thieving local police department: equity.

Caswell owns the property outright.  There is no mortgage on the property.

Why is this significant?

Because Caswell’s property has no mortgage, that means the State can keep the entire proceeds of the sale of the property after they steal it from him. When local or federal police departments steal from citizens using civil forfeiture laws they get to keep most or all of what they steal.

Of course they don’t call it theft or stealing… they call it cracking down on crime.

In the case of Russ Caswell, it makes absolutely no difference that he has never been charged with a crime.  In fact, it’s not any actions he has taken that concerns the thieving police and federal justice department at all.

(more…)

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June 2, 2012

The ongoing abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

Civil Forfeiture in America

When policing devolves from solving crimes to seeing how much private property police can seize from citizens there is something very wrong with the focus of our nation, yet under civil forfeiture laws this is precisely what’s happening across Canada and the United States.

Like most laws, civil asset forfeiture has, at its heart, good intentions.  As the saying goes, however, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Civil asset forfeiture is nothing more than a paving machine on the road to Hell.

The original idea behind the concept was to take the profit out of crime by seizing the assets of criminals.  Unfortunately for citizens, police departments quickly realized there was a loophole in civil forfeiture laws that they could use to profit from, and profit they have.

The way civil asset forfeiture laws are written in most jurisdictions the agency that seizes the assets gets to keep all or most of what they seize.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this system is ripe for abuse.

The only way to get assets returned once they have been seized is to go to court and prove you obtained them legally.  In other words, you must prove you did not commit a crime.

As you can imagine, proving that you did NOT do something is not exactly simple.

The Institute for Justice (http://www.ij.org) is an American organization dedicated to ridding the United States of the scourge of civil asset forfeiture.  They continually highlight the most heinous abuses of civil asset forfeiture laws across America and have written a report titled “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.”  This report can be downloaded for free from The Institute for Justice website.

They have also created videos that highlight what’s in their report, one of which is below.   I have also included a link to a news video that shows how police in Tennessee police have blatantly abused civil forfeiture laws in order to pad their budgets.

The Tennessee case is one of the most disgusting abuses of these laws, but Tennessee is hardly alone in this.  Practically every police department in Canada and the United States use these laws to benefit themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens.

For example, in Ontario civil asset forfeiture is being used to take away the home of Bruce and Donna Montague.

Why?

To send a message to Canadian gun owners.  That message?

Don’t challenge Canada’s gun laws or we will crush you too.

Bruce Montague’s “crime” was to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s Firearms Act.  What most people don’t comprehend is that in Canada, unlike in America, you cannot challenge the constitutionality of a law unless you have “standing.”

What this means is that unless you are directly affected by the law you cannot challenge it.

(more…)

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