Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Province claims truck in unusual seizure case

Used for unlawful hunting

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It's billed by the province as a major way it ensures crime doesn't pay.

But a new and unusual court claim by Manitoba's criminal property forfeiture unit shows even people charged with non-criminal offences could stand to lose big.

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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 an estimated $20,000 to $27,000 new, was used for unlawful activity in the Rural Municipality of Mountain in the early morning of Nov. 14, the province says.

Officers spotted the truck with three men inside just east of Birch River and saw the beam of a powerful spotlight emerging from it in a "sweeping motion" toward private property, according to the claim. Birch River is in a remote area about 300 kilometres north of Dauphin.

The truck's occupants were charged with violating the provincial Wildlife Act. Conservation officers seized two hunting rifles and ammunition from the vehicle, which had a freshly killed white-tailed deer in the box.

The spotlight officers saw was plugged into the dash. It was rated at three million candlepower.

Knives, gloves, a saw and hatchet, all covered in blood, were found in the truck, the province says.

Officials pegged the deer's time of death 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 from him.

Provincial court Judge Don Slough urged him in January to get legal advice on the forfeiture issue, 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 is now in the Court of Queen's Bench, where a civil-court judge will decide the case.

Genaille is currently wanted for failing recently to show up in court to deal with his infraction.

In addition to wanting to keep the truck, Genaille expressed other concerns to Slough about the government taking his property.

"My guns? Can I get them back?," he asked.

The weapons, bolt-action Winchester rifles, were ordered ceded to the Crown when his co-accused pleaded guilty.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2014 A7

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