COLEMAN BILL TAKES SHAPE
Drug seizure legislation would be among toughest in Canada
One of the final pieces of legislation crafted by Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman before the May provincial election promises to become a significant tool in the fight against drug crime.
The Civil Forfeiture bill was introduced in March by Coleman, then Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
The bill will again be introduced in the fall session of the legislature by Coleman's successor, Chilliwack-Sumas MLA John Les.
Earlier this year, Langley Township council wrote to Coleman expressing concern that B.C. Hydro has invaluable information" that could be used to help law enforcement authorities.
Lower Mainland politicians were shocked to learn the utility claimed that privacy legislation prevented it from reporting excessive use of electricity. Hydro's defence came after 28 pot growing operations were uncovered in one Coquitlam townhouse building. Marijuana plantations require a great deal of electricity, and Hydro upgraded electricity services at those townhouses.
In his response, which council received late last month, Coleman said the government was reviewing the privacy implications of B.C. Hydro providing police and other authorities with access to customer information to see if there is a way to allow disclosure while at the same time addressing legitimate privacy concerns.
Coleman wrote that every effort must be made to counter the marijuana grow operation problem. While police action will remain the primary means to respond to the problem, we must also ensure that other measures are in place to detect and deal with grow operations."
Earlier this year Coleman announced that provincial electrical inspectors would team up with police, firefighters and bylaw enforcement officers in Surrey and Abbotsford on two pilot projects aimed at countering grow-ops. If a residence is found to be a hazard, utilities can be shut off.
The Civil Forfeiture Act is a direct response to the lucrative drug industry and will provide a more effective means to attack the financial means of illegal activity," allowing authorities to seize property believed to have been gained through the profits of the drug trade, Coleman wrote.
The legislation contains the reverse onus" concept in which the owner or occupant of a building busted for drugs will have to prove that the house and items in it were purchased with legal" money, not that derived from illegal drug activity.
Coleman told The Times that the legislation pushes the window further than any other jurisdiction in Canada."
In March, an undercover drug officer told a forum in Aldergrove that the amount of pot is seen as the fuel that generates the income for organized crime, - linked to 85 per cent of grow-ops.
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