Forfeiture of Weapons and Firearms
Section 491 requires the forfeiture of weapons:
Forfeiture of weapons and ammunition
491. (1) Subject to subsection (2), where it is determined by a court that
- (a) a weapon, an imitation firearm, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance was used in the commission of an offence and that thing has been seized and detained, or
- (b) that a person has committed an offence that involves, or the subject-matter of which is, a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance and any such thing has been seized and detained,
the thing so seized and detained is forfeited to Her Majesty and shall be disposed of as the Attorney General directs.
Return to lawful owner
(2) If the court by which a determination referred to in subsection (1) is made is satisfied that the lawful owner of any thing that is or may be forfeited to Her Majesty under subsection (1) was not a party to the offence and had no reasonable grounds to believe that the thing would or might be used in the commission of an offence, the court shall order that the thing be returned to that lawful owner, that the proceeds of any sale of the thing be paid to that lawful owner or, if the thing was destroyed, that an amount equal to the value of the thing be paid to the owner.
Application of proceeds
(3) Where any thing in respect of which this section applies is sold, the proceeds of the sale shall be paid to the Attorney General or, where an order is made under subsection (2), to the person who was, immediately prior to the sale, the lawful owner of the thing.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 491; 1991, c. 40, s. 30; 1995, c. 39, s. 152.
Under 491(1), the court shall order the forfeiture of weapons or ammunition where it is determined that:
- a weapon was used in the commission of an offence and the weapon has been seized by police, or
- an offence involved or the subject-matter is a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance and it has been seized
If so, the thing seized is to be "forfeited to Her Majesty and shall be disposed of as the Attorney General directs."
In December 1998, s. 491(1) was amended to expand the application of mandatory forfeiture order to include firearms that are the subject-matter of the offence regardless of whether they were used in the offence. The purpose was the address the problem of the circulation of illegal guns in the public as well as those who hold guns legally.
R v Montague, 2014 ONCA 439 (CanLII), at para 52
Forfeiture in the "Interests of the Safety"
Section 117.06 permits a justice to make an order disposing of any items seized under s. 117.04 where it is in the "interests of safety".
Application for disposition
117.05 (1) Where any thing or document has been seized under subsection 117.04(1) or (2), the justice who issued the warrant authorizing the seizure or, if no warrant was issued, a justice who might otherwise have issued a warrant, shall, on application for an order for the disposition of the thing or document so seized made by a peace officer within thirty days after the date of execution of the warrant or of the seizure without a warrant, as the case may be, fix a date for the hearing of the application and direct that notice of the hearing be given to such persons or in such manner as the justice may specify.
Ex parte hearing
(2) A justice may proceed ex parte to hear and determine an application made under subsection (1) in the absence of the person from whom the thing or document was seized in the same circumstances as those in which a summary conviction court may, under Part XXVII, proceed with a trial in the absence of the defendant.
Hearing of application
(3) At the hearing of an application made under subsection (1), the justice shall hear all relevant evidence, including evidence respecting the value of the thing in respect of which the application was made.
Forfeiture and prohibition order on finding
(4) Where, following the hearing of an application made under subsection (1), the justice finds that it is not desirable in the interests of the safety of the person from whom the thing was seized or of any other person that the person should possess any weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition and explosive substance, or any such thing, the justice shall
- (a) order that any thing seized be forfeited to Her Majesty or be otherwise disposed of; and
- (b) where the justice is satisfied that the circumstances warrant such an action, order that the possession by that person of any weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition and explosive substance, or of any such thing, be prohibited during any period, not exceeding five years, that is specified in the order, beginning on the making of the order.
(5) Where a justice does not make an order under subsection (4), or where a justice does make such an order but does not prohibit the possession of all of the things referred to in that subsection, the justice shall include in the record a statement of the justice’s reasons.
Application of ss. 113 to 117
(6) Sections 113 to 117 apply in respect of every order made under subsection (4).
Appeal by person
(7) Where a justice makes an order under subsection (4) in respect of a person, or in respect of any thing that was seized from a person, the person may appeal to the superior court against the order.
Appeal by Attorney General
(8) Where a justice does not make a finding as described in subsection (4) following the hearing of an application under subsection (1), or makes the finding but does not make an order to the effect described in paragraph (4)(b), the Attorney General may appeal to the superior court against the failure to make the finding or to make an order to the effect so described.
Application of Part XXVII to appeals
(9) The provisions of Part XXVII, except sections 785 to 812, 816 to 819 and 829 to 838, apply in respect of an appeal made under subsection (7) or (8) with such modifications as the circumstances require and as if each reference in that Part to the appeal court were a reference to the superior court.
1995, c. 39, s. 139.
In order to succeed in an application for a forfeiture order, the applicant must prove:
- the respondent is the owner of the item to be forfeited
- the respondent did not have reasonable grounds to believe that the item forfeited would or might be used in the commission of the offence.
The test is "whether there are legitimate concerns the person lacks the responsibility and discipline the law requires of gun owners."
Hearsay evidence is admissible in a hearing under s. 117.05.
Where a forfeiture order is granted on application under 117.05 for the court shall also order that the accused be placed on a prohibition order from possessing any "weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition and explosive substance" or any such thing specified in the order.
- s. 117.05(4)(b)