The Policy Diffusion of Civil Asset Forfeiture in Canada



Stevenson, Gavin

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University of Guelph


Since 2001, eight Canadian provinces have enacted civil asset forfeiture statutes, with Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador abstaining. These policies allow provincial governments to seize property that has been used for, or is the result of, unlawful activity. Due to their novel nature, this paper explores the manner in which civil forfeiture policies have diffused across the Canadian federation, their changes over time, and their resemblance to one another. Through a content analysis of relevant policy documents, as well as interviews with key policy actors, this research finds that the provinces have learned from jurisdictions both domestically and abroad when developing their own policies. Additionally, despite the potential for considerable policy variance, adopting provinces have adhered to a relatively consistent legislative framework, though more recent policy innovations, including administrative forfeiture and unexplained wealth orders, illustrate more pronounced differences amongst jurisdictions.



Policy development, Federalism, Policy diffusion, Policy transfer, Civil asset forfeiture