Presumption of innocence: a primer for Nova Scotia’s NDP

Back on the last day of June, CBC Radio’s Information Morning program put Justice Minister Ross Landry on the hot seat for the Dexter Government’s embrace of the Civil Forfeiture Act, a right-wing scheme to short-circuit the presumption of innocence. More accurately, the program’s listers put him on the hot seat.

The act lets cops seize property from suspects as long as they can convince a court the assets probably came from criminal activity. No proof needed. Just probability. As a standard of justice, it’s more Queen of Hearts (“First the verdict; then the trial”) than Justice Blackstone  (“Better ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”).

Callers to the CBC understand the principle, even if the NDP Justice Minister does not.

Caller One: “Is it too difficult for our highly trained police service to obtain a conviction? Maybe it is. It would certainly explain why they’ve had to find an easier way to go, but it doesn’t explain why we are letting them do it.”

Caller Two: “This is 1984 guys coming at us here. This is Orwellian beyond a reasonable doubt. Due process. That’s why they fought the bloody wars. Isn’t that why we’re fighting the bloody wars today? This is outrageous.”

Caller Three: “With no due process and no actual determination of guilt, innocent people fall between the cracks. It is an unconscionable travesty of justice that gives police unprecedented powers and will lead to abuses as has been evident in other jurisdictions.”

Caller Four: “It surprises me that we are willing to stand by and watch such corners being cut in our justice system. We should all remember: We could all be next if this type of procedure continues.” Under restrained questioning from host Steve Sutherland, Landry responded with the sort of vapid talking points that are becoming a hallmark of the Dexter administration.

The act is another tool for police to go over criminal assets and go after assets that are the proceeds of unlawful activity.

Well sure it’s another tool — one democratic societies have eschewed for generations. The whole interview is worth a listen:


My question is this: What on earth has happened to Nova Scotia’s NDP? Why wasn’t this malevolent piece of legislation rescinded at the first sitting after their election? Where are Maureen MacDonald, Howard Epstein, Graham Steele? How can they sit quietly while their government tramples on the very principles that brought them into politics?