Margaret and Terry Reilly are from Orillia, Ontario. The Reillys own several rental properties, some of which are former single-family homes that they have converted into rooming houses for low-income tenants. Margaret has been involved in alleviating poverty and homelessness since her father became the priest at an inner-city Anglican church in Toronto and opened a youth hostel there, while Terry has served on the City of Orillia Homeless Committee. Providing housing to marginalized members of society has always been a deliberate choice for the Reillys.
In 2008, after police surveillance confirmed drug activity at two of the Reillys’ rental properties, a branch of the government called the Director of Asset Management took control of them. Since then, the properties have languished largely unoccupied, falling into progressively worse repair. Stripped of their rights as landlords, the Reillys had no choice but to watch their properties deteriorate physically and depreciate in value. Then, in 2012, the Government of Ontario brought a motion to permanently seize and sell the properties on the grounds that some of the tenants’ rents may have been paid, in part, with the proceeds of their drug activity. There is no evidence that any funds paid by tenants was derived from drug money; the state merely assumed that cash payments must have come from the proceeds of illegal activity.
The Reillys were dumbfounded. There was no allegation that they themselves had ever engaged in any illegal activity. They knew that some of their tenants were not upstanding citizens, but that is why they were trying to give them a helping hand. Margaret and Terry thought they were doing the right thing, and here was the Government of Ontario trying to seize their property through civil forfeiture.
As the CCF highlighted in a recent report, Canada’s provincial civil forfeiture laws were originally intended to deter crime and compensate victims. Today, however, in many cases they have become a supplement or alternative to the criminal law. This transformation has had a profound impact on many of the most important rights enjoyed by Canadians. Revenues generated through successful forfeiture proceedings are returned to provincial governments and their law enforcement agencies, which incentivizes these authorities to seek the forfeiture of more property without regard to the original objectives of deterring crime and compensating victims.
The CCF exists to help people like the Reillys, to bring attention to their stories, and to help them secure the legal representation they need to fight oppressive and unconstitutional government action. We will be standing with the Reillys as they fight this abuse of Ontario’s civil forfeiture laws.
Update: We have won this case. The Reillys will be receiving a settlement for the unjust seizure of their properties. Read our news release here.
Donate now to support the Reillys and to fight civil forfeiture abuse in Canada.
Read the full case announcement from December 12, 2016 here.
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