British Columbia

B.C. civil forfeiture grants aim to turn ill-gotten gains into good

B.C. pioneered the use of crime proceeds for crime prevention programs, and a new wave of applications open Monday.

Controversial proceeds from crime grant applications open Nov. 9, call for anti-crime ideas

B.C. Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton, centre, says civil forfeiture grants help make communities better. (Government of British Columbia)

Millions of dollars, through B.C.'s civil forfeiture grant process, available for anti-gang initiatives and youth crime prevention, are up for grabs.

B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton says applications can be made starting Monday, Nov. 9.

"We want criminals to know that they will find no safe haven in our province. With this year's grants now open, we will continue to invest in those organizations doing meaningful work to transform their communities for the better."

Andrew Schofield of Street to Peak Initiative is a fan of the grants.

The former principal received one in 2014 for the program that helps give at-risk youth, mainly from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the opportunity to get away from their everyday lives.

Schofield took a group of teens aged 13-17 up Mount Kilimanjaro.

"When we were doing training hikes with the students ... It's just a way of engaging the kids and finding out information as to what's going on, which is more sophisticated than normal forms of policing," he said.

"It was building relationships which are long-term and sustainable with the students and having them see that there are other ways of interacting with adults."

He and others applaud B.C.'s aggressive civil forfeiture laws and the grant process, which accepts applications until Dec. 17, 2015.

The B.C. Civil Forfeiture program targets the tools and proceeds of crime and has, so far, returned $22 million to crime prevention programs and victim compensation. (CBC)

The program, which has seized millions in property, goods and cash since 2006, does have detractors.

Six members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club hired one of Canada's leading constitutional and human rights lawyers, Joe Arvay, in Oct. 2013, to launch a challenge to B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Act.

The office does not need a conviction or charge to pursue a case, and is described by some as a provincial cash cow.

The B.C. act allows the director of forfeiture to take civil court action against property deemed to be proceeds of unlawful activity or an instrument of unlawful activity.

In 2011, amendments were made to the act to allow the director of civil forfeiture to use administrative proceedings against property valued at $75,000 or less that is not real estate.

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