NEWS: Nunavut March 12, 2018 - 2:30 pm

Nunavut civil forfeiture office still unstaffed with no office, minister says

GN needs more time to find office, hire staff, write regulations

STEVE DUCHARME

Nunavut’s new minister of justice, Jeannie Ehaloak, said she can’t, within the next year, commit to implementing a key piece of legislature passed by the last government, which gives law enforcement authorities new powers to confiscate money and property obtained by illegal activity.

The Unlawful Property Forfeiture Act was passed in Nunavut’s legislative assembly in March of last year.

Through a yet-to-be-established unit, the act will allow law enforcement to more easily seize funds and property gained by illegal activity—like Nunavut’s multi-million dollar bootlegging and drug trafficking industries.

Under the act, the seized property and funds will be collected within a forfeiture fund, and any proceeds above the department’s annual operational expenses would be spent on crime prevention.

But Ehaloak said she “cannot promise whether or not this department will start or open in August of 2018,” when asked a question on March 8 by Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak.

Mikkungwak asked Ehaloak to clarify responses she made a day earlier during question period, when she estimated that it would take “six months to a year to have the necessary work done to establish this forfeiture office.”

That’s because the new department’s director, along with “one or two” case workers have yet be to hired, Ehaloak said, and the Department of Justice is still finalizing job descriptions, department reorganization, policies and regulations required to set up the new office.

Ehaloak went on to say that her department has also not settled on a final location for the new office, but that it would likely be in Iqaluit so that it’s close to the Nunavut Court of Justice building and the Nunavut RCMP’s “V” Division headquarters.

“However, the location of the forfeiture office will be able to receive cases from any community in Nunavut,” she said.

Mikkungwak noted that “a year has lapsed before any of the employees have been hired or an office has been decided,” and that the response by the Justice Department for timelines have remained largely unchanged since he began asking them a year ago.

The Unlawful Property and Forfeiture Act was passed by Nunavut’s assembly last March at the same time that the former minister of Justice, Keith Peterson, released the territory’s new crime prevention strategy.

That strategy singles out bootlegging and drug trafficking as a major source of crime within Nunavut, and was developed through a string of pan-territory public consultations held in 2013 and 2014.