HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Controversial Crime Bill Blocked By NDP
Pubdate: Sat, 25 Jun 2005
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: The Windsor Star 2005
Author: Cristin Schmitz, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


Party Doubts Constitutionality, Wants More Time For Study

OTTAWA -- The NDP has stymied the plans of other federal parties to 
fast-track into law a controversial bill that would make it easier to 
forfeit to the Crown the assets of convicted gang members and drug traffickers.

NDP justice critic Joe Comartin confirmed he informed the government 
Thursday his party won't join with the Liberals, Conservatives and 
Bloc Quebecois to give the necessary unanimous consent to push the 
proposed proceeds of crime bill through all stages next week.

Hear Witnesses

He said the NDP has doubts about the constitutionality of the bill 
tabled by the government last month, and wants the Commons justice 
committee to take the time to hear witnesses on the bill.

If passed, the law would force those convicted of organized crimes or 
several serious drug offences to demonstrate that it is more likely 
than not that their assets are not the proceeds of crime, or see 
their property forfeit to the Crown.

The proposed procedure would shift the normal burden of proof from 
the prosecution to the defence, a move usually frowned on by the 
Supreme Court of Canada.

Comartin said the earliest the bill is likely to be studied by the 
justice committee is next fall.

Only Justice Bills Pass

That means the only justice bills expected to pass into law before 
MPs flee Ottawa for their summer recess are the same-sex marriage 
bill now before the Commons, and the child pornography bill currently 
in the Senate.

Left to languish until the fall are bills to decriminalize marijuana, 
boost judges' salaries, toughen the antiquated animal cruelty laws, 
and to authorize drug impairment testing of motorists.

Comartin said academics, defence lawyers and the Canadian Bar 
Association have expressed concerns to him about the proceeds of crime bill.

They say it covers too many crimes and could have unforeseen consequences.

He wants to assure himself the bill would survive Charter attack.

"The last thing we need is more litigation to the Supreme Court on 
criminal law matters," said Comartin, a Windsor lawyer and MP for the 
riding of Windsor-St. Clair.
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