Pubdate: Wed, 15 Feb 2017
Source: Packet & Times (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Orillia Packet and Times
Author: Tracy McLaughlin
Page: A1


Maggie Reilly's rental properties were seized by government under
Civil Remedies Act

Maggie Reilly may be a small woman fighting a legal battle with
Goliath, but she's not going to quit.

Financially and emotionally drained after an eight-year court battle
with the attorney general that had her rental properties seized under
the Civil Remedies Act, Reilly insists she's going to keep fighting
until a judge orders the government to give it back.

"I'm not going to lie down," said Reilly, a soft-spoken redhead who
shows a glimpse of fire in her troubled blue eyes.

"If I lose, then every Canadian is at risk of having their property
taken by the government on a whim. And that's scary."

Her rooming houses at 42 Nottawasaga St. and 60 Front St. in Orillia
were seized in 2008 by the attorney general, who claims they were
"instruments of crime" and that she and her husband, Terry Reilly,
were profiting from drug dealer tenants.

After months of police surveillance, heavily armed officers in full
tactical gear moved in on the units, sending tenants fleeing out back

"They smashed windows and doors; they arrested people who were already
down and out and had no other place to go," said Reilly, who renovated
the older homes as rooming houses and single apartments that offered
low rent to low-income people. She fully admits many of her tenants
were drug addicts, battling mental-health issues and living on welfare
or disability.

Since then, the properties have languished unoccupied with boarded-up

The ensuing court case over forfeiture dragged out in Barrie
courtrooms for eight years - and still hangs in limbo.

Sitting in her rustic Orillia home, a 70-year-old renovated farmhouse
in a wilderness setting, Reilly, 55, is surrounded by rows of books,
art, candles and two purple singing Australian finches. Adorning her
study and living area are her "healing trees" - tree branches tied up
with clusters of purple ribbons, each bearing the name of a person who
suffers from cancer, sickness, grief or drug addiction.

Those who suffer from drug addiction hold a special place in her heart
and she would never profit from their hopelessness, she claims.

"Drug addicts are people who have wounds. For whatever reason, they
have great pain," she said. "The government must live in some kind of
a glass bubble to think it can step in and take the roof from over
their heads ... What's next? Putting them to death?"

During the court proceedings, lawyer for the AG, Rosalyn Train called
the properties "despicable, filthy crack houses," crawling with drug
addicts and drug dealers.

"The properties were instruments and proceeds of illegal activity,"
said Train, who claimed the Reillys were irresponsible landlords who
allowed criminal activity and never took steps to remove the

Superior Court Justice Amy Mullins appeared to sympathize with the
Reillys, acknowledging the difficulties landlords often face in law
when trying to evict unsavoury tenants.

"To say the words 'easy' and 'evict tenants' in one sentence is a bit
of an oxymoron," said the judge.

See In the end, the judge said she could not make a decision, and
ordered a new trial.

"I do not consider the material to be sufficiently credible or
reliable to decide this application on the material before me,"
Mullins said.

In her ruling, she slammed the AG for building its case on what she
called "paltry evidence." The judge noted despite the huge volumes of
material submitted by the AG, it failed to prove the Reillys did
anything wrong.

"The contents of the affidavits filed by the applicant (AG) are at
times sweeping in scope, exaggerated in content and patently
disrespectful to the unfortunates who occupied the premises," Mullins
said in her ruling.

The judge ordered the properties sold in the interim rather than sit
empty. Two weeks ago, they sold for a yet-undisclosed amount Reilly
estimates should have been about $550,000. It will be up to a new
trial judge to decide if that money should go to the government or
back to Reilly. No trial date has yet been set.

"Now, we wait, and wait," said Reilly.

Over the past eight years, she has lost $80,000 a year in rental
income as well as more than $100,000 in legal fees.

But there is a glimmer of light in "this dark political mess," she
said - the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a non-profit group that
defends constitutional freedoms of Canadians, has offered to assist
with legal and financial help to assist Reilly's lawyer, Shawna
Fattal, of Toronto.

"When we learned about this case, we became very concerned;

this looks to us like a case of government greed," said CCF lawyer
Derek From, based in Alberta. "It's an abuse of power and it's scary.
If the seizure of the Reillys' properties is upheld, it will be a new
low for Canadians ... no Canadian will be safe."

He claims there is no transparency by the government on what happens
to the money from property it seizes.

Train said she is not able to comment on the case as it is still
before the courts.
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