WINNIPEG — It’s billed by the province as a major way it ensures crime doesn’t pay.
But a new and unusual court claim made by Manitoba’s Criminal Property Forfeiture Unit shows even people charged with non-criminal offences may stand to lose big.
Officials have moved to claim a Pelican Rapids man’s 2012 Ford F-150 truck after Manitoba Conservation officers pulled it over and found it was being used for illegal nighttime hunting.
The truck, worth anywhere from an estimated $20,000 to $27,000 new, became an instrument of unlawful activity in the Rural Municipality of Mountain in the dark of morning on Nov. 14, the province says.
Officers spotted the truck with three men inside just east of Birch River and witnessed the beam of a powerful spotlight emerging from it in a “sweeping motion” towards private property, according to the claim.
Birch River is located in a remote area about 300 kilometres north of Dauphin.
The truck’s occupants were charged with infractions under the provincial Wildlife Act. Conservation officers seized two hunting rifles and ammunition from the vehicle, which had a freshly killed white-tailed deer in its cargo section.
The spotlight officers saw was plugged into the dash. It was rated to have the power of three million candles.
Knives, gloves, a saw and a hatchet all covered in blood were also found in the truck, the province says.
Officials pegged the deer’s time at only hours earlier.
The Wildlife Act forbids the use of lighting or reflective material to hunt animals at night.
The two passengers, Merlin Leask, 38, and Cornelius Genaille, 36, pleaded guilty in provincial court in Swan River and received fines of $550.
However, the driver and registered owner of the truck, Leo Genaille, 38, is contesting the province’s bid to take it away.
Judge Don Slough urged him in January to get legal advice regarding the forfeiture case, which falls outside the purview of the criminal courts.
“That’s a pretty significant consequence,” Slough told Genaille. “It’s a valuable truck.”
Because he’s elected to fight the province’s claim, the case has now wound up in the Court of Queen’s Bench where a civil-court judge will ultimately decide the case.
Genaille is currently wanted for failing recently to show up in court to deal with his infraction.
» Winnipeg Free Press
In addition to wanting to keep the truck, Genaille expressed other concerns to Slough about the government taking his stuff.
“My guns? Can I get them back?,” he asked.
The weapons, bolt-action Winchester rifles, were already ordered ceded to the Crown when his co-accused pleaded guilty.
» Winnipeg Free Press