“You have your $50,000 truck in the driveway and you don't work, so the first question is where did you get the money to buy the truck... Where is your income? Where is the letter of gift from somebody?” says Justice Minister George Hickes of the asset forfeiture investigation process that will go through the courts in an effort to repossess property that was obtained through criminal activity.
photo courtesy of the legislative assembly

The Government of Nunavut will soon have its Civil Forfeitures Office operational, and individuals unable to prove how they legally acquired expensive possessions could wind up in court defending the legitimacy of ownership.

The new office, based in Iqaluit, is designed to seize the proceeds of crime. It will rely heavily on referrals from the RCMP, which will sometimes be based on tips from the public.

“Civil burden of proof is a lot lower than criminal burden of proof. It would give us the right to be able to go to an individual and how did you get that 2020 truck? Where is your income? Where is the letter of gift from somebody?” Justice Minister George Hickes said in the legislative assembly on March 14, adding that a court must side with the government before property can be confiscated and disposed of. “Where that burden of proof criminally is a lot harder to challenge, but through civil courts it’s a lot easier, where the impetus is on the person being accused to substantiate their burden of proof of where they got the funds from to be able to purchase those vehicles.”

Stephen Mansell, deputy minister of justice, said the department would bring an application for forfeiture in such cases and then the court would order the “respondent” – the person being accused – to provide proof of how an object – like a new pickup truck – was obtained.

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak urged the government to ensure that anyone who stands accused will know what their rights are.

Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser commended the government for creating the office.

“There are a lot of bootlegging and illegal activities that are happening in all our communities and this would be a great tool to curb the violence that it’s causing in our communities,” he said. “There’s illegal activities in all of our communities where drug dealers, bootleggers have a pile of equipment, certainly in their yards, and obviously all the equipment is bought through illegal drug trade … For many years people in the communities lives have been damaged by these activities and sometimes it seems impossible to stop them. I’m very glad that we’re going to see this coming out. Then the selling of cannabis and alcohol illegally … something will be done about that. It’s good to see things that don’t help lives; something will be done about these things that don’t help any lives. So I have better expectations now.”

Hickes said he anticipates that the office, which will initially be staffed by a director and two staff, will open as of April 1.

He emphasized that it’s important for members of the public to come forward with information. He added that there will be a communications strategy to inform Nunavummiut of how the process works.

Mansell said, “If we got just the tip, then we would have to gather the information from whoever provided it to us and then decide if we had enough to go to court. With respect to the actual repossession, the minister’s right, it would probably be the sheriffs that execute that, and then we’re working with CGS (Community and Government Services), because once you have the thing, then you need to put it somewhere and sell it and do all that stuff.”

Angnakak noted that the courts are already busy. She asked whether they will have the capacity to take on asset forfeiture cases.

Hickes replied, “I don’t anticipate it being a big burst.”

Mansell added, “If we see a big influx and a lot of work, and we might have to talk with the court and see how they’re doing, but initial rollout, I think it should be fine.”

Angnakak also mentioned the challenge of obtaining a lawyer, as she knows from consulting with the Legal Service Board that there’s already a “big, long wait list” for legal counsel.

Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq asked how members of the public will be protected after they provide tips about their neighbours potentially possessing the proceeds of crime.

Mansell didn’t provide a clear answer.

“We haven’t sorted out exactly what the public tips might look like, but I understand the concern about protecting people who might be informing on other people in a very small community,” he said.

Join the Conversation


  1. Legislation can get this going but fail to obtain housing. We are tired of living under our parents roof, and only way alot of people get into housing buildings is to get on a emergency list, or have lots of unnecessary kids, or get enough pity from others just to get on the emergency list (live in a shack or cabin). As im busy complaining this, probably wait another who knows what, 5,10,15 years? To get into an awful moldy, already in horrible shape housing house?

  2. I hope this is only to MLA family members only that well be taken care of this is just outrages dictatorship in the making Nunavut Government is going corrupt and dictating Nunavutmiut my point of view

  3. Not so kind of cool, why’d you have to do that? Just because people are selling weed/bootleggers, you only should do that to bootleggers, cannabis is legal now..

  4. Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom protects privacy from unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, the federal Privacy Act provides a high level of protection against the disclosure of personal information. This Act governs the collection, use, disclosure, retention and disposal of personal information within federal government jurisdictions.

  5. Hey government may I borrow 1 gram of weed and Miki which I will never return oh darn we can’t do that to a company

  6. Yo wear did you get that nice car?!? Are you doing anything illegal? Prove where your money is coming from or you are going to be guilty of commiting criminal activity. This just feels like you’re trying to find an excuse to harras people for no reason.

    All this to stop what? Drugs and booze? Yeah that is the worst thing that is going on in the community right now. This whole article gives off the shittiest feeling. Can you guys actually do something useful for people like helping with the homelessness?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *