Ontario abuses a law meant to target organized crime against a small town gunsmith
Cyril Doll - October 31, 2005
If you believe Michael Bryant, Ontario's attorney general, the web of organized crime in Canada's most populous province has made its way from Toronto, across the Great Lakes and over the Canadian Shield to the tiny hamlet of Rugby, Ont.--in total, a 1,100-mile jaunt. Using Ontario's Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act, Bryant's office served a notice of motion on Sept. 30 to initiate the process of seizing Bruce and Donna Montague's home in the township, which has a population of about 300 and is about a half-hour drive north of Dryden. "The property was found in circumstances that reasonably infer that they are the instruments of unlawful activity," reads the motion. In other words, the money they used to purchase their home was obtained illegally.
So what sort of organized crime or other illegal activities were the Montagues up to? Did they run a crystal methamphetamine lab in their basement? A brothel? Actually, they've been operating gunsmithing business, Monty's Gunsmithing, out of the basement of their 2,000-square-foot home. Not exactly something out of a Martin Scorcese film. Trouble is, Bruce didn't renew his gun licence in 2002--a federal crime for which Montague was arrested last fall and will eventually appear in court. But why is the province coming after his home, using a law passed in 2001 to prosecute mobsters, gangbangers and drug runners? Good question, says Calvin Martin, attorney for the Montagues. And the province's motion doesn't shed any light on the matter. "There are no specific details given in the grounds of that motion, simply a recital of the provisions in the act," Martin says. "It's my belief that the action is meant to harass Bruce and Donna. Someone had to ask the province to start this action and it has to be the feds or the OPP [Ontario Provincial Police]." James McKeachie, senior counsel for the attorney general of Ontario, refused comment.
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The Montagues started builiding their one-and-a-half story log home in 1996, with plans eventually to retire there. Bruce says he's astonished that the government wants to seize his house and says he is in no way involved in organized crime. "That's the thing that steamed me up," he says. "It's pretty obvious to anybody who has seen the situation here that I'm not profiting from any crime or illegal activity." But he can't imagine the local OPP is behind the push to take his house. After all, says the gunsmith, "We know all the local police officers--I do all their work for them."
But whoever's behind the province's drive to take Montague's house, the reality is that all of Ontario's gunsmiths may have to get used to this sort of treatment. After a summer that saw 41 murders in Toronto from gun violence, Bryant and Premier Dalton McGuinty outlined on Sept. 1 a four-point plan that they say will eliminate the growing gun violence in Ontario's largest city--which cops say is largely the result of gang violence. Point number two is a plan to get law enforcement officers to more aggressively target gun shop owners who aren't fully compliant with the country's increasingly restrictive firearms laws. And you can bet they're serious. Apparently being 1,100 miles away from the gunfire on Toronto's streets is close enough for the province to consider you part of the city's organized crime problem.
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