Richard Leduc, former owner of 1050 Trunk Rd. in Duncan, said his property was forfeited to the province due to drug activity there despite the fact he didn’t do anything illegal and cooperated with police in their investigation. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Former Vancouver Island property owner cries foul over forfeiture

Richard Leduc said his Duncan home should never have been taken from him after fire, drug raid

Richard Leduc said his life has become a living nightmare.

The Duncan resident has lost his home and his property over what he says were drug-fuelled issues caused by squatters and his efforts to work with officials to address them

Leduc was the owner of the property at 1050 Trunk Rd. in Duncan where a house, which had been the subject of several police files and multiple search warrants related to drug trafficking, once stood before it was destroyed by fire in March.

The execution of a search warrant at the house in September, 2018, yielded seizures of cash, and substances believed to be fentanyl and crystal meth cocaine. Following that search, the RCMP sought restraint and forfeiture of the property.

The matter was sent to the British Columbia Civil Forfeiture Office and on to the B.C. Supreme Court where the application was successful, and the property was forfeited to the province earlier this month.

RELATED: B.C. moves to make seizure of drug dealers’ assets easier

The province’s Civil Forfeiture Act, which became law in 2006, targets the proceeds and instruments of unlawful activity and was created to ensure that people cannot profit from unlawful activity or use property in a way that may harm other persons. But Leduc said he’s the victim of the whole process.

He said he lived in a small upstairs apartment in the house and rented out the main floor to tenants. Leduc said that squatters had moved into the house, without his permission or knowledge, with his tenants and when the tenants left, the squatters stayed and repeated efforts to have them leave were not successful.

“I went to the police and the City of Duncan for help, but nothing happened for four months,” he said. “I cooperated with the police during those four months and gave them all the information I could thinking they would act quickly, but I have no idea why it took so long for them to actually do anything about it.”

Leduc said that when the house was finally raided last September — five people were arrested and large quantities of drugs, as well as suspected stolen property and cash, were seized — he was treated as if he was involved in the illegal activities at the home.

He said the police searched his apartment and found no drugs or anything else that could implicate him in any illegal activities, and he was never charged with any offences in the raid.

“I tried to do the right thing and cooperated with police the whole time, but I was made to feel that I could have done a lot more,” Leduc said.

RELATED: Five arrested and drugs seized as police raid Duncan residence

Leduc said the house was undergoing renovations when the fire began after a spark from a generator started the blaze, but the insurance wouldn’t cover the loss largely because the power to the residence was cut off after the police raid and it wasn’t reported to the insurance company.

And now that the house has been forfeited to the province due to the drug activity there, Leduc said he has been reduced to virtual homelessness.

“I was not benefiting or had any involvement in the drug activity in the house and yet I was the one who was made to look like the bad guy,” he said. “I did the right thing and now I’m left hanging out to dry.”

Inspector Chris Bear, head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, said he can’t release anything in rebuttal to Leduc’s claims.

“If he feels unfairly treated or that the RCMP failed to do their job, he can contact me at the RCMP detachment or the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP to review the matter,” Bear said.

A spokeswoman from the British Columbia Civil Forfeiture Office also said the Office can’t release details of specific cases. But the BCCFO’s website explains the circumstances in which a house can be forfeited to the province.

The site says the judge overseeing a forfeiture case may limit or decline to order forfeiture if the homeowner is determined to be an “uninvolved interest holder,” as Leduc claims he is.

RELATED: Police called to Parksville drug house 86 times in a decade

“This essentially means that you did not know of the use to which the property was being put,” the website says. “However, the director of civil forfeiture may lead evidence that you ought to have known of the unlawful activity. The decision about whether you ought to have known rests with the judge.”

Garry Kerr, the bylaw enforcement supervisor for the City of Duncan, said bylaw officers had visited 1050 Trunk Rd. many times responding to complaints of garbage piled up in the driveway, noise and other concerns.

“There were usually between two and 15 people there every time we paid a visit,” Kerr said. “It was like a flop house. We had a good rapport with Richard and he would work to respond to our concerns, but after a few weeks, everything would be like it was before.”

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