RCMP were called to the home in the Fraser Valley community of Hope in March. They had received a report of a sudden death and would locate the body of Gordon Stewart.
But police would also discover and seize nearly $20,000 in cash – and British Columbia's Civil Forfeiture Office says the province should get to keep it.
A lawyer opposing the office's claim says the money is not linked to crime and should not have been seized. And though the Civil Forfeiture Office says police discovered 149 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, the response filed by the lawyer says Mr. Stewart had a valid licence to grow for medical purposes.
The Globe and Mail has reported extensively on B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Office, a government agency that has been criticized for its aggressive attempts to seize homes, vehicles and cash connected to crimes, even from people who are not convicted or charged. The office was introduced as a way to fight organized crime, but has come to have a far broader reach. Critics have questioned some of the cases it takes on, calling it a cash cow.
B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton has repeatedly defended the office, saying it only pursues cases in the public interest.
The director of civil forfeiture, in the office's notice of civil claim, says Hope RCMP seized $19,770 on March 14. The notice of civil claim says a money counter was also seized.
It alleges "all or part of the money" and the counter were "derived directly or indirectly from unlawful activity, including possession, trafficking and production of controlled substances."
The notice of civil claim says the money was found in a cloth bag and police also discovered 34 Ziploc bags of marijuana bud.
"Mr. Stewart either directly participated in the selling of the controlled substances or obtained the money directly or indirectly from the sellers or purchasers of the controlled substances," the court document says.
It alleges Mr. Stewart intended to use the money to buy controlled substances and would have bought the money counter with illicit proceeds.
None of the allegations in the civil case have been proven.
The office filed the case against "the owners and all others interested in the money and/or the money counter, in particular, the estate of Gordon Todd Stewart, deceased."
Lawyer Martin Finch, who filed the response, would not confirm if he was working for Mr. Stewart's family or someone else.
In the response to the civil claim, Mr. Finch wrote the marijuana located on the property was produced in compliance with the marijuana for medical purposes regulations or the marijuana medical access regulations.
"The deceased had, on the date of his death, a valid licence for the production of marijuana on the property for his personal use," the response says. It says Mr. Stewart did not commit an unlawful act. The response was filed last month, and the notice of civil claim was filed in August.
An online death notice for Mr. Stewart says he died at the age of 37. It does not disclose the cause.
The notice says Mr. Stewart was an outstanding minor hockey league goalie and loved baseball and football. However, it says a car accident in 1997 left him a paraplegic.
It says Mr. Stewart was lovingly remembered by his family, including his mother, stepfather, brother, son and two stepdaughters.
RCMP Corporal Mike Rail, spokesman for the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment, said he could not provide information on the case due to the civil-forfeiture suit.