Bill C-230 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Chuck Cadman Independent
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
October 2nd, 2006 / 3:25 p.m.
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, since this is my first intervention in the House since the election campaign in New Brunswick, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Liberal government in New Brunswick and Premier designate, Shawn Graham, and his team.
As partners, we will represent New Brunswick in a new era of relations between the three levels of government.
It is my pleasure today to speak on Bill C-19. It is another one of the bills presented by the new Conservative government.
Once again, with the introduction of this proposed legislation, the Minister of Justice does not address the real issue. While he and his government might be playing to another audience, an audience in large municipal centres of rich population, dense population and voters who did not support the government, they are playing to the issues that affect people very much. While the purported message in the bill is to prevent crime and keep communities safe, the real objective of the bill, like all other bills the Minister of Justice has led through the House, is political gain.
Like the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh said earlier, we must look at the issues involved and the real merits of the bill and compare it to other bills, which have been presented in Parliament's past, to give a good review of where we want to go. I submit that this matter be sent to committee for procedural as well as substantive review.
The real issue is the saving of lives before lives are put in danger. Instead of investing time and energy into creating new offences that have a catchy title, such as is the case with Bill C-19, we as a responsible nation and as responsible parliamentarians need to invest in prevention and education to prevent street racing from happening, rather than dealing just with the victims and deaths once street racing has occurred.
It occurred to me that this would be an appropriate time to bring forward the fact that, under the public safety and emergency preparedness cuts of last week, the RCMP cut from its budget $4.6 million to do with the elimination of drug impaired driving programs through its training budget. It seems remarkable to me that on the one hand the government is suggesting our streets will be safer. On the other hand, it takes money away from a program that would have made the streets safer.
I am proud of the fact that Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a Canada-wide organization. It has probably met with every member of Parliament. It is very focused. I am very proud that the president of MADD currently is a resident of New Brunswick. It would not be particularly pleased that the first focus of the government, when it comes to driving offences, is street racing. For some time, it has been lobbying for measures such as those cut in the recent budget. It would like to see the penalties meted out to drunk driving offences, which have a long history in the Criminal Code, as severe as those for street racing violations, and they are not under this bill.
We can all agree that street racing is a dangerous activity and has no place in Canadian communities. I am tired of other parties in the House being castigated with the brush, that we are not for the protection of our citizens. I make a non-partisan statement that every member of the House is for public safety and safety in our streets. We will differ on how to get there. My remarks are about that.
How to address this problem is the real issue. The Minister of Justice believes that by creating a new series of offences that reference the existing Criminal Code offences, we will have a panacea. Because it is called a street racing bill, I am very concerned that members of the public will now think it will eradicate street racing. Nothing can be further from the truth.
The truth is there are in existence a number of harsh and severe offences, which have to be meted out by the justices and for which this very Minister of Justice has absolutely no respect. The Minister of Justice has showed that he does not even know how judges get appointed. He has to know what colour they are in political allegiance, but he has no idea how they get appointed. He has shown so little respect for judges and their discretion that he has held up a long overdue pay increase to them. He has criticized judges as Liberal judges. Today he might have argued that judges have no political stripes. We are waiting for a lot of answers from the Minister of Justice on his view and his level of respect for the judiciary of our country.
Clearly, by these amendments, he has no respect for judicial discretion. This is in a long line of bills that the government has presented. I am not sure the minister has read them all but they all represent one thing: no discretion to be left in the hands of judges, who are probably all Liberal judges, but of course that will gradually change appointment by appointment. The minister has no respect for the discretion of these judges. That is the case with this bill as well. It would take away discretion.
Mr. Speaker, unlike my hon. friend, I am used to the courtroom and there is decorum in a courtroom.
This bill, like Bill C-9 and Bill C-10, takes away the discretion that judges have and instead of sculpting what could be taken from the late Chuck Cadman's bill and Bill C-65 as presented, where these factors would be taken into account on sentencing, the Minister of Justice, in his marquee cinema like world, wants to name something and pretend that all citizens of Canada will now be safe from street racing. However, that is not the case. The bill, on a technical aspect, would further cloud some issues by creating these new offences.
The definition of street racing itself has been talked about so I will eliminate that from my speech. It is something that can be cleaned up at committee. As members have said, the definition as it relates to at least one other motor vehicle can be made to make sense because there are races that include only one vehicle.
There are also problems with the definition of “public place”. While the bill is primarily oriented toward an urban environment, the Minister of Justice and members of the House will know, whether or not they are lawyers, that public places and motor vehicles have been defined and they may include snowmobiles on icy surfaces of lakes in rural Canada. This may be of concern as we go forward in looking at this bill.
On the solo race, the race against time and against oneself, the bill does not address that behaviour. This may be more dangerous than the actual one-on-one racing that occurs in some municipalities.
Bill C-19 creates another confusion. There is a lot of confusion in every Conservative bill because the Conservatives are in a hurry to leave a strong impression in Canada. It has been well established in law that objectively the offence of dangerous driving is not as serious as criminal negligence. However, this bill establishes an identical system of imprisonment for both offences. That does not make much sense.
It is respectfully submitted that the proper approach to deal with this dangerous conduct is simply to make street racing a mandatory aggravating factor in sentencing.
I heard talk in the House about whether people need to be lawyers but surely they do not. They need to have good sense. However, it does mean that the lawyers in this House need to have common sense too. It does not excuse the lawyers from the requirement for good common sense. The good common sense from having street racing as a mandatory aggravating factor in sentencing means that while we trust judges, and on this side of the House we do, to make proper decisions, we are saying by way of public statement that they shall consider street racing, when it is present, as an aggravating factor. This would remove the issue of having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a street race has occurred.
One could imagine, in very serious circumstances, that the lawyers would spend most of their fighting over the definition of street racing because it has not been provided in the bill. The hon. Minister of Justice says that there is a lot of common law on this but common law on racing in Canada would probably be more tuned to horse racing than street racing because Canada has not had a law on street racing, which leaves it as a dog's breakfast. We probably have a whole bunch of Liberal lawyers trying to figure it out.
Instead, we would like some Liberal legislators to make it inevitable that we will not need to deal with the definition of street racing. The Minister of Justice and his cohorts can still go out on the bandstands and say that they have cured the issue but the technical aspect is that aggravating factor in sentencing would ensure the judge is just dealing with whether he thinks there was a race, whether there was dangerous operation of a motor vehicle or whether there was criminal negligence. Those are the standards that have been used. Those terms have meaning in law. They have been considered in cases. Those are judicial decisions that judges write.
This would remove the issue of having to deal with street racing, which has not been defined, just as the Liberal's Bill C-65 and, as I said before, private member's Bill C-230, proposed by the late Chuck Cadman, proposed to deal with this. I think it is the right way to go. Preferably we will deal with it in committee and, if not, by amendment at third reading stage.
It is suggested that by providing a mandatory aggravating factor in sentencing, the message to the public will be as serious as the marquee name “street racing” and the message would be heard loud and clear. It would be easier at a sentence hearing to argue that the aggravating factors existed.
Members will note in the material supplied by the Library of Parliament that a number of the cases showed that there were other aggravating factors, not mitigating factors. The Minister of Justice likes to speak about mitigating factors, the people who got off because of circumstances. We have had plenty of cases where there are multiple increased aggravating factors, such as the use of alcohol, criminal gang activity and lack of remorse. These are aggravating factors that can be combined with the mandatory aggravating factor in sentencing that was in place in Bill C-65.
The difference between a dangerous driving offence and a dangerous driving offence involving a race will be a dog's breakfast before the courts. I think we need to be careful that, while we agree on a goal, which is keeping the streets safer, we give, not only the judges but prosecutors, the tools they need to succeed in getting convictions and not give them loopholes with undefined terms, all for the purpose of political gain.
The bill would increase the available maximum prison terms. Once again, it is a well-established legal principle that the maximum sentence is usually reserved for the worst offender in the worst case. This might give people who are very concerned about street racing offences the false impression that every street racing offence will be charged under a maximum or asked for by charging the maximum.
We know that there are summary conviction methods of proceeding here, which give prosecutors discretion in the way they wish to proceed. We also know that maximum terms are not meted out that frequently.
It is important to tell the truth to the Canadian public, that even this bill, in its form, does not guarantee that every street racing offender will get 10 or 14 years. It is time to be real with the Canadian public. The bill would provide for mandatory orders of prohibition from driving.
At this time I would like to mention again the spectre of MADD. Mothers Against Drunk Driving might very well be at our doors next week or the week after, should we move this on or pass it relatively quickly, to ask where the tough mandatory orders of prohibitions are for longer periods on continued, excessive and repetitive drunk driving offences. The bill is harsher than those infractions are and those infractions were built up over a long period of time.
Though it should be easy to support this initiative with respect to the mandatory orders of prohibition, the manner in which it is addressed is inadequate, specifically when dealing with repeat offenders.
It is important to know the distinction between dangerous driving causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. Let us take ourselves to a situation in an area not unlike the area that my friend from Fundy Royal represents, a countryside where there is a known repeat offender with respect to racing. This person is dangerous to the public and to himself or herself. The person is convicted the first time of dangerous driving because the prosecutor and the police, in that case the rural RCMP, say that this will show that person and this will be a deterrent. Hopefully that person is meted out the proper sentence and the proper time is served.
On the second conviction, the police might very well charge that person, because it is a repeat offence, with criminal negligence causing bodily harm. In both cases there could be bodily harm, the same modus operandi, the same facts, but the police authorities and the prosecutor have said that, for deterrent's sake, they must charge the person with the worse offence because the person will get more time.
Under this bill as drafted, and I hope we can sort this out at committee, I submit that the repeat offence will not be caught by the mandatory prohibitions and the longer sentences. The reason is that the definition of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, if amended, with or without a street race, is not a repeat if it is charged under criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
These definitions and these legal words certainly have to be worked out at the committee level but there is more than that. It is not good enough for the chief law officer of this nation to sign off on a bill for which homework has yet to be done. It is not fair enough to say that we can fix this at committee. It is a trend. It is trend of the government to present ill-conceived, ill-drafted, hasty and sensational bills to this House, known more for their titles than their substance, and expect the hard-working members of the committee to set it all right.
If I could send one message to the government members it would be that they read the bills, consider them and consider that the Criminal Code of Canada is holistic, it is organic and it should be taken in this context.
When a person is charged with criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing bodily harm, it begs the question of whether this is a repeat offender. Is the criminal negligence a second offence? We would not know. The bill fails to answer those questions. I can tell members that every doubt will be cast in favour of the accused in our courtrooms, as they are constituted.
Many if not all studies have shown that there is no link between more severe, longer and harsher sentences and the diminution of crime rates. While I, as a member of society, might be very willing to go with the government on longer sentences and try the principle of sentence that says deterrence is important, I would need to know and I would need to be able to tell my constituents that it will work, that the thrill-seeking street racer will be deterred by a harsher sentence.
It goes back to our first point. Through education or funding in law enforcement and more cooperation with the provincial law authorities, I think more could be done than just simply getting it out on the five o'clock news that we will cure street racing now because we have a three page bill. That is not good enough.
If the minister uses the word “holistic”, then let us put it into action. Let us work together to make sure that as Nicholson, Rob he convenes meetings with provincial attorneys general and that he sees the good work being done in cities like San Diego and Los Angeles and, if I may for local advertisement, the city of Moncton in enforcing its bylaws, in preventing drive-throughs, and in preventing people from circling certain locations on a habitual basis.
Let us work together with these various levels of government, because the cities and municipalities in this country are the third order of government, and let us try to make a better bill that would save the government money, but more important, would save lives.
Bill C-19 would create a new offence punishing people for street racing just as they are already being punished now for street racing. This is already covered in the current Criminal Code. This bill would allow us to arrest people only after they have put other people's lives at risk. We have to look at the big picture. We have to work with other members of other governments to make sure that we make a better law.
October 2nd, 2006 / 1:35 p.m.
Carol Skelton Minister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, street racing. I urge all hon. members to support this bill, a bill that undoubtedly conveys the importance this government places on ensuring that our communities and streets are safe.
Street racing is a serious crime. Its consequences are equally serious. Street racing is killing and seriously injuring innocent people and is placing all road users and citizens at risk. It has been pursued in communities across our country, in Toronto, Vancouver, Regina and Saskatoon, to name only a few. This government will not stand idly by and allow it to continue.
Indeed, the consequences of inaction on this issue are stark. Our streets will become racetracks and our communities will be at risk. This government is committed to ensuring that we have safe streets and this bill will contribute to that.
In talking about Bill C-19, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the important work of our late colleague and my friend, Chuck Cadman, work which was driven in large part out of a deeply held sense of justice. He believed that our lawmakers and our laws should work to ensure that our communities are safe and that those who would threaten our safety through criminal acts should be held accountable. With this purpose in mind, Chuck introduced Bill C-338 and then Bill C-230.
While Bill C-19 would deal with street racing differently than the amendments proposed by Chuck would have, our goal remains the same, namely, to ensure that our streets are safe. It is in this light that I am proud to be able to speak today on Bill C-19, for I believe that Bill C-19 is about ensuring that individuals who commit serious crimes should be punished in a manner that reflects that seriousness.
Bill C-19 is very much about public safety. Currently, there is no specific offence of street racing in the Criminal Code. Rather, persons who currently engage in street racing could be charged under existing offences such as dangerous driving or criminal negligence. Bill C-19 proposes to create a new offence of street racing. In my opinion, this is important, because it appropriately signals the disdain that we as Canadians feel toward this reckless and dangerous crime. It demonstrates that we will not tolerate this reckless disregard for the safety of others in our community.
Bill C-19 would define street racing to mean “operating a motor vehicle in a race with at least one other motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place”. The offence of street racing would operate by referencing already existing Criminal Code offences, namely, dangerous driving, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and criminal negligence causing death.
What this means in practical terms is that in street racing situations when a person commits one of the offences I have just listed, the punishments available to them will be tailored to appropriately reflect the unique nature of the crime. The punishment will fit the crime.
There will be tougher penalties than those currently available under our criminal laws. This is consistent with our larger objective of ensuring that the criminal justice system is tough on crime. We will no longer tolerate a justice system that is soft on criminals at the expense of public safety.
In addition, a person convicted of the street racing offence would be subject to a mandatory minimum driving prohibition. Those who choose to treat our city streets and roads as racetracks for their own pleasure, placing the lives of innocent citizens at risk, will have to face the consequences of such careless behaviour.
I would like to add a personal note. When I was a much younger woman, I used to drive a stock car. In fact, I actually did quite well. I think I was the only woman ever to pull a tire off on a quarter-mile dirt track, so members will know I was doing pretty well with our super D stockers. I also have a nephew who has a CASCAR and drives the race circuit in western Canada and the northern United States. Members will know, then, that our family loves speed.
However, I do think there is a place for speed. I think that if young people want to race they should be on a racetrack or a community stock car track of some kind, right across the country. The key to this point that I just mentioned is that I did it at a proper facility. This was as much for my own safety as it was for others'. I obviously have nothing against racing. I love it. I am addicted to the sport. I love the sport, but it must be done when and where it is safe for all involved.
Canadians do not want to see those who have been convicted of a serious street racing crime back behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. My son-in-law, the police officer, most definitely does not. These penalties send a clear, strong message, one that I support.
Currently, a person who is convicted of dangerous driving can face the maximum penalty on indictment of five years' imprisonment. Bill C-19 would retain this penalty in relation to street racing. It would, however, impose for the first offence a mandatory minimum driving prohibition of one year. In addition, the sentencing court would retain discretion to impose a driving prohibition of up to three years and the penalties would go up on each subsequent offence. For a second conviction of dangerous driving while street racing, the mandatory minimum driving prohibition would increase to two years. The court retains discretion to prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle for up to five years.
Beyond two convictions of dangerous driving while street racing, a sentencing court would be required to impose a mandatory three year driving prohibition but would have discretion to impose a maximum lifetime prohibition. This discretion ensures that the courts are able to deal with each instance appropriately and individually.
Operating a motor vehicle is a privilege, not a right. Those who would continue to abuse that privilege and place others at risk of serious harm or death should not be entitled to drive. For the more serious street racing offences, Bill C-19 proposes stringent penalties.
This government made a commitment to make our communities and streets safe and to ensure that the criminal law is strengthened so our laws accurately reflect the significant and lasting impact crime can have on our communities. This government is living up to its commitment. Those who are convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm or criminal negligence causing bodily harm in street racing situations will face stiff penalties.
Bill C-19 proposes to increase the maximum penalty available to those convicted of this type of behaviour from 10 to 14 years' imprisonment. Similarly, it would also impose mandatory minimum driving prohibitions for those who commit the most serious offences. For dangerous driving causing death or criminal negligence causing death in street racing situations, the maximum penalty will be life imprisonment. This is a significant increase from the penalty of 14 years currently available for this conduct in our criminal laws. Indeed, life imprisonment is the most stringent penalty our criminal law provides for. This reflects the severity of the crime, its negative impact on society and the seriousness for which our government views this.
This government believes that Canadians deserve safe streets. Bill C-19 is one of many important bills currently before Parliament which will ensure that our communities remain safe.
For example, as it is currently formulated, Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), would prevent the use of conditional sentences in serious crimes. Serious criminals must be held accountable. These changes to the criminal justice system will ensure that.
The amendments proposed by Bill C-9 are pertinent to street racing as well. In those cases where street racing causes injury or death to another person, a conditional sentence or permitting the offender to serve his or her sentence in the community would not be permitted. This makes sense. A person who commits a serious crime, and let us make no mistake, causing death or injury to someone as a result of street racing is of the utmost seriousness, should not be able to serve his or her sentence in the community.
I should pause for a moment to note that Bill C-19 is not about criminalizing legitimate racing activities nor is it about criminalizing motor enthusiasts. What Bill C-19 is about is ensuring that dangerous and irresponsible street racing is recognized in the Criminal Code for what it is: a serious crime that will not be tolerated.
The Criminal Code amendments proposed in Bill C-19 to address street racing go beyond tougher penalties for this crime. Rather, they speak more fundamentally to the values we hold so dear in Canadian society and the values we wish to live by. Canadians can rightly stand with pride. Canadians live in and contribute to a society that is envied the world over. Our country is known to be safe, just and law-abiding.
Canadians want safe communities. They want to feel secure in knowing that when they leave their homes, whether it is to go for a walk, to drive to work or to celebrate important events with friends and family, they and their loved ones will be safe.
Canadians want laws that work to ensure safety. They should demand nothing less of their government.We, as their elected representatives, have no greater duty than that of ensuring that our laws reflect these values. We must respond to these demands in a measured and responsible way. We have an immense responsibility to ensure that our laws continue to ensure that our communities will be safe for our citizens.
Indeed, as the Minister of Justice has noted, “there is no task more important to any government than the protection of its citizens”. I believe this is true, and our government takes this task very seriously. Bill C-19 will make our streets safer.
Of course we know that strong laws will not curb crime on their own. That is why our government continues to pursue a broad range of measures, legislative and otherwise, to ensure that our communities are safe. For example, we have pledged $20 million over two years to focus on crime prevention activities, including strategies to reduce youth crime. This money will enable us to partner across Canada at the local level to work with at risk youth and thereby prevent crime before it happens.
While we do not have comprehensive statistics on street racing crime, including how often it is occurring and by whom, we do know that it is often caused by young persons. Our government's efforts to better respond to youth crime will also make a difference. Bill C-19 would indirectly enable us to keep better track of who commits these crimes and how often. The proposed provisions will provide a more systematic and comprehensive ability to track street racing offences.
Our government is also committed to strengthening the ability of law enforcement to respond to crime. Good laws are effective only if we have strong police forces across this country to enforce them. I wish to acknowledge the important work being done by law enforcement agencies across this country in combating crime in all forms.
For example, in the greater Toronto area, Project ERASE, which stands for “Eliminate Racing Activity on Streets Everywhere”, works to reduce street racing through the collaboration of multiple police forces. These policing agencies work to reduce street racing through a combination of awareness and strategic enforcement. Bill C-19 would strengthen the ability of law enforcement to move more effectively and respond more quickly to street racing.
In addition, this government has committed to investing nearly $200 million over the next two years to strengthen the capabilities of the RCMP, who are called upon day in and day out to perform many dangerous tasks with the goal of keeping our communities safe. This commitment to our officers will ensure they have the resources needed to perform their jobs.
Strong laws are important, but we must not forget the important role that law enforcement plays in ensuring that they are effective. This government is making certain that law enforcement forces do have the necessary tools to do their jobs. It is a combination of targeted legislative amendments and broader measures to support crime prevention in our country that this government believes will lead to a safer and more secure Canada.
The government is committed to tackling crime by working with our partners at the provincial and territorial level as well. Bill C-19 will complement existing provincial and territorial laws that have been enacted by legislatures across the country to respond to street racing.
Measures used have included fines, vehicle impoundment and licence suspensions. Taken together, these measures provide our law enforcement officers across the country with an effective range of tools to curb this practice. Bill C-19 enhances these tools.
In short, street racing threatens lives and undermines public safety. Bill C-19 would clearly and strongly denounce this crime. It would provide increased accountability for those who engage in it and it would help preserve the kind of Canada that we all expect, one where people can feel safe walking down their streets.
I urge all members in the House to join with me and strongly support the quick passage of this law.
October 2nd, 2006 / 12:30 p.m.
Sue Barnes London West, ON
Mr. Speaker, a number of bills targeting street racing have been placed before this House over the past few years.
Most Canadians will remember the work of a former member of Parliament, the late Chuck Cadman, on the subject. Mr. Cadman, a respected and respectful parliamentarian, submitted private members' legislation three times. The former Liberal government also introduced Bill C-65 to amend the Criminal Code regarding street racing. Mr. Cadman's private member's bill and the proposed legislation of the former government died on the order paper when on November 29 last year the government fell.
Today we are talking about another variation on how we as a society will attempt to deal with this serious scourge on our streets, something that can and does end tragically for some individuals, both the participants and, even more tragically, the bystanders who are innocent.
Bill C-19, unlike both the prior government's Bill C-65 and Mr. Cadman's private member's Bill C-230, includes new street racing offences. Also differing from the former government's bill, Bill C-19 now includes a graduated increase in the length of the driving prohibitions for repeat offences.
In the first half of 2006 in Canada, 10 deaths can be attributed to street racing. More and more we have been alerted to the menace on our streets. Over the past year, street racing, with its deadly consequences, has affected communities across the country.
As many would realize, education is an important tool to help alert the public, especially younger Canadians, to the dangers of street racing. I do not believe that education of itself will be sufficient to effect the necessary change in this dangerous behaviour. I do believe, however, that education on this matter should continue to be used in schools and other media, such as movie theatre trailers, to counteract the increasing sensationalization of street racing now found in some video games and movies.
Not all street racing is a spontaneous event, though this is the type of thrill-seeking activity many would immediately think about when the words street racing are used. Some street races are spectator events, with people being alerted in advance and police lookouts. Therefore, I am not talking about the supervised venues where racers test vehicles on closed tracks. I would also say that it is not only young people who are engaged in street racing, although many of them are, unfortunately.
Bill C-19 and predecessor bills are attempts, using the Criminal Code, to further address the problem of street racing. Members may ask how this has been dealt with in the past. Obviously and unfortunately, street racing is not new. Most would understand that the provinces and territories are involved with their own legislation and statutes respecting the operation of motor vehicles and road safety, and some even have some street racing offences. However, the provincial legislation applies, for the most part, to the less serious offences.
This is in contrast to the federal Criminal Code's more serious offences of criminal negligence and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. These Criminal Code sections have been successfully used to charge and prosecute serious street racing offenders in the past throughout Canada and may in fact continue to be the most efficient choice for prosecutors.
In Bill C-19, proposed clause 1, street racing is defined similarly to the previous bills:
“street racing” means operating a motor vehicle in a race with at least one other motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place;--
Thus we see that two or more motor vehicles must be involved, not a lone vehicle speeding. Since motor vehicle is already defined in the Criminal Code, the definition in Bill C-19 would capture motorcycles, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. If two or more of them were racing in public places, this would include, for instance, public lots, frozen public waterways, as well as streets, roads and highways that we normally would think about. Bill C-19 would create five new street racing offences which would all require the same fundamental elements in law: a criminal mind and a criminal act, mens rea, actus reus.
These are the same elements that are required to obtain convictions for the existing offences of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle. Both the previous Bill C-65 and Bill C-230 were more focused on street racing as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into account in sentencing by the judge after conviction.
The five new offences created in Bill C-19 would require the same constituent elements as do dangerous operation and criminal negligence, in addition to the new element of street racing.
In other words, the five offences will apply if the offence can first be categorized as criminal negligence or dangerous operation. To clarify for those who still have difficulty with this, the five new sections are new subsection 249.4(1), dangerous operation of motor vehicle while street racing; new subsection 249.4(3), dangerous operation causing bodily harm; new subsection 249.4(4), dangerous operation causing death; new subsection 249.3, causing bodily harm by criminal negligence (street racing); and new subsection 249.2, causing death by criminal negligence (street racing).
Thus, one can easily see that we have a referencing of a new element to existing Criminal Code sections. Is this really a serious attempt to underscore the denouncement of street racing, as the Minister of Justice has just suggested, or is it, as some critics have stated, merely something to show that we are serious, the denunciation just by the statement?
Note that the offences that are needed are already in the Criminal Code. How difficult will it be to prosecute the new element of street racing on top of the two elements already required? Therefore, will it be used more to obtain conviction or be used to plea bargain on the included offences? Will the charges still be laid under the old offences despite the options now provided in this new bill, if passed?
These are important questions and some critics have gone so far as to say that this is a totally unnecessary or window dressing bill. However, I do think that the subject area is one that all Canadians are concerned about and the previous government was also acting in this area. I do not think that anyone believes street racing is a good idea, rather it is dangerous and a menace to public health and public safety. There is an appetite in the land to address the problem and stem the occurrences.
I should also address the other elements that this bill has added to the debate. Bill C-19 adds, where street racing is proven, the mandatory driving prohibition minimum of one year whether or not bodily harm has been caused and where it was discretionary in all charges before.
The bill does propose higher maximum terms of imprisonment in three of the five street racing offences. The bill does not make any minimum terms of imprisonment. Currently, we know that conditional sentences have been utilized under section 742.1 of the Criminal Code. Judges are permitted and in fact encouraged to utilize, under the sentencing principles of the Criminal Code, less restrictive punishments than incarceration where other factors are not in play.
Case law has developed across Canada on point, going both ways I might add. I raise this because we are currently having a conditional sentencing bill which is now before the justice committee. If enacted as is, it would impact on Bill C-19 if it were passed as is. Essentially, there would be a consequential effect if the higher maximum penalties were passed in this Bill C-19, with the exception of dangerous driving not causing bodily harm or death. Unfortunately, mid-process this is speculative, but I do flag the potential now, as has the Minister of Justice.
It is not entirely clear the intention or message to the courts of how Bill C-19 has been set out. On a scale of seriousness, criminal negligence is considered higher than dangerous operation. The difference between the offences is the degree of carelessness or recklessness in the offence. This is one area that needs to be properly examined if this bill ends up in committee after a vote in this House, which I believe will end up happening.
Bill C-19 puts street racing that constitutes dangerous operation and street racing that constitutes criminal negligence on the same footing. Fine tuning is required here, as has been pointed out by some others. When we try to limit judicial discretion, as would appear to be the pattern of this new Conservative minority government, it creates other, perhaps wholly unintended, consequences. Many authorities, some would say, consider criminal negligence more serious than dangerous driving and we will look at this.
Bill C-19 also holds that when a person is convicted of street racing, the judge would prohibit the offender from driving. This is a mandatory order for a specific period of time. Also different from previous bills and the current Criminal Code is the introduction of a minimum period of one year in the case of each of the five street racing offences. This is driving prohibition.
Under Bill C-19, the maximum and minimum for driving prohibition orders would increase each time a subsequent street racing offence is committed.
Bill C-19 would provide a prohibition of driving orders of the same length or longer than periods now in the Criminal Code of Canada. Further, new subclause 259(3.4) proposes the creation of a mandatory life prohibition on driving. This would apply when the offender has two or more convictions of street racing where someone was injured or killed and one of the street races resulted in a death.
I should note that the driving prohibition order will come after the period of imprisonment. I should also note that the maximum and minimum for driving prohibition orders increase in a very similar fashion as the rules governing driving prohibition orders in cases of drinking and driving.
There is a lot to digest in the details of this bill. This is the initial stage of discussion. It is not the place for any of us to come to firm conclusions. There is obviously agreement that street racing needs to be dealt with by Parliament. The fact that there have been two different governments and continued private members' bills, underscores this to all of us.
Always it is a question of degree. Is one approach better or more practical than another? Can the officers on the ground, the judiciary and the system of justice be given better or more flexible laws for Parliament to utilize? Do some of the clauses in Bill C-19 go too far? What is most important is will this help with community safety? Those are the questions that need to be answered.
We should also examine whether there are some situations that are captured that were not intended. I have already heard from the Canadian Association of Rallysport with suggested amendments since it is concerned that this will negatively impact on its sport activity held across the country.
What about when roads are closed for major professional racing events which normally occur annually in cities like Toronto and Montreal? Would we need to consider specific exemptions or exceptions or do we rely on the charging officer's discretion and judgment, as has been done in the past? Do we really intend to capture racing snowmobiles not close together traversing a frozen lake, for example?
I would like to listen to the comments of other parliamentarians in the House. I believe we come here to do positive work for our electors. We can do the measured work required of us in a respectful manner I would hope.
I am personally inclined to send the bill to committee for further discussion but wish to hear from my colleagues. It is a bill that is not perfect and has some issues that need to be addressed. Not all of the provisions will help the situation and may in fact cause some confusion. The stages for amendments in this House and in the other House are available to us to clear up any of these ambiguities, whether they are real or just misunderstood. Also, we will have the benefit of our witnesses and, hopefully, some experts.
I know from the short briefings I have received from others that there was no wide consultation on the bill. I asked if there were formal studies but was told by officials that none had been done. I am also aware that on January 25, 2005, at the federal, provincial and territorial meetings of all justice ministers, they had agreed to study the matter of Criminal Code amendments affecting the theft of motor vehicles, as well as penalties for those who steal vehicles and drive recklessly.
Bill C-19 is before us now with a limited priority area of street racing and does not address these other issues. However, it is important that we all do our job, as I know we will, and I look forward to working on this bill with my colleagues.
October 20th, 2005 / 3:30 p.m.
Bill Casey North Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to debate this issue today. It certainly is timely in my case.
The distinguished member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl a minute ago referred to the crime situation as a run away rampant situation in cities. I represent an entirely rural riding in Nova Scotia. We have seen an incredible increase in vandalism, minor crimes, repeat offences, issues that make people's lives miserable. It prevents them from enjoying their own properties, and they feel insecure in their homes. I feel this.
I have been here for quite a while. I did not feel this until just within the last two years. It is coming to my riding and if it is there, it is everywhere.
However, I want to speak to Bill C-65 today and acknowledge the contribution that Chuck Cadman made on these issues. He had several issues of which he was a tireless supporter, always in the interest of other people's security and safety. He brought this concept to the House through two bills, Bill C-338 and Bill C-230. One was on misidentification of VIN numbers on vehicles a crime and the other was on street racing. At the time the Liberals opposed these bills, making all kinds of statements about them. They blew them away and said they were not appropriate.
I have a quote from the minister of justice at the time, Martin Cauchon, who in speaking to Mr. Cadman said:
Your proposed bill would result in a mandatory driving prohibition....As you are aware, the Canadian criminal justice system is premised on the notion that sentences should be individualized for each offender... Research indicates that mandatory minimum penalties do not work from the point of general deterrence and recidivism.
That is exactly what we need. The other part that has been watered down in Bill C-65, as compared to Chuck's bill, is the penalty for repeat offenders.
In a recent incident in Halifax, a young woman was killed and the driver of the car had something like 15 or 20 outstanding offences. Despite repeated offences, he still drove and he was the cause of a fatal accident. It has had a profound impact on the community. Bills like those proposed by Chuck Cadman, not like this one, would have helped prevent that.
I want to go into other issues that affect my riding in northern Nova Scotia. As I mentioned, we have seen an increase in criminal activity such as theft, vandalism, damage, cars stolen and break-ins. I want to go through three little communities in my riding that have experienced virtual crime waves for the first time in their history.
I went to a meeting in a community hall in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia about a month ago, and 80 people attended. I could not believe the stories of vandalism, theft and break-ins. I could not believe the number of people who now were scared to stay in their own homes. I also could not believe the fact that they would call the police and there was no response. Most of these people know many of the criminals and they are already on the list of offenders. However, because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, they are repeat offenders and the police have very few tools to rein in these criminals.
Stewiacke has a lack of RCMP officers now, although they used to be present. I then found out their building had been shut down because of a mould problem and nobody had done anything to resurrect the building so Stewiacke lost its RCMP presence. I raised it in the House and as a result of that, a temporary building is under construction now. Now Stewiacke will have a building and hopefully an RCMP presence to deal with these issues.
The Liberals seem to be turning the other way on all these criminal justice issues.They do not seem to be interested. It is puzzling to us why they do not care and why they allow these issues to go on and on.
Earlier this year we had an issue in Truro. It was rumoured that the northeast drug section, the most successful drug enforcement operation in the region, was to be shut down. We raised the issue in the House and I think we slowed it down and perhaps stopped the elimination of the drug enforcement section. However because the RCMP officers have been moved around it is hard to tell whether they are there or not. However senior RCMP officials have told us that they do not have the number of officers they need to provide the minimum level of law enforcement in Nova Scotia.
The other thing that came out was that when they do have a number of officers and one goes on maternity leave or sick leave, there is no allowance for the replacement of those officers. Therefore, even though they can show an allotment of officers on duty and available, they are not really there. This is another issue we raised in the House and hopefully the Solicitor General or the Attorney General will deal with this.
Another small community in my riding is Debert. We have had all kinds of vandalism there. People are afraid to go out on the streets. They are afraid for their homes and businesses because of the buildings that have been burned. They are afraid of property damage. They are afraid of threats and intimidation. The RCMP came back and reported to us that they do not have enough manpower to have the RCMP presence there to deal with these issues. They tell us that they do not have the types of vehicles they need to apprehend the criminals. They tell us that they just do not have the equipment or the people.
This is not just about street racing. It is a whole attitude on behalf of the Liberals, and I do not understand it. They are looking the other way. They do not care about these issues which are going to grow and grow, as street racing is in my riding, and then soon, hopefully, they will deal with the issues. However if they do not, we will.
Street racing is a growing issue and it is right across the country but it is not just about street racing. It is the lack of RCMP officers and the support they have. The government does not give them the support or the resources they need to hire replacement officers and new officers when they are needed. They do not have the money for the proper facilities. Stewiacke has a perfectly good building but it is empty because it cannot be maintained. People in Stewiacke are demanding that the Youth Criminal Justice Act be strengthened and that stiffer sentences for repeat offenders be applied.
This is exactly where the bill falls flat. It does not allow for stiffer sentences for repeat offenders and that is the single biggest reason why I will not be supporting the bill.
Yesterday almost all of our questions were on justice issues. It was amazing to hear the number of issues that come up around the country. We represent the whole country and everybody is experiencing these problems. We heard no answers and there was no indication that the Liberals want to deal with these issues. They are turning a blind eye to this issue and it will come back to haunt us all if we do not address it.
The RCMP needs the tools to work with. The justice system needs the tools to work with. The youth justice system needs to be strengthened. Certain crimes need mandatory sentences, as we have advocated for years. This is not just about one or two little issues. This is a whole attitude toward justice and it must be increased and strengthened.
October 20th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
Don Bell North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, street racing is a matter of serious concern in my riding of North Vancouver, as I am sure it is in all areas of Canada. This is why I gladly support Bill C-65 as a logical step by this government toward the goal of the much respected, late member of this House, Chuck Cadman, and his proposed private member' bill, Bill C-230.
Bill C-65 will now provide a clear, express direction for the courts to conclude that street racing, if found to be a factor in the commission of the offence, is to be an aggravating factor.
The Criminal Code does not have many factors listed as expressly being aggravating circumstances. Therefore, the addition of street racing will certainly be noted by the judiciary.
Bill C-65 also goes further than Mr. Cadman's proposed bill, by extending the possible maximum driving prohibition from three years to a possible maximum lifetime prohibition.
Street racing is an area that I know we have many examples of in my riding and in adjoining ridings where lives have been lost as a result of street racing. Therefore, it is important that this House shows its concern, through the passage of Bill C-65, to the people of Canada that this is an offence that must be dealt with seriously.
I know that this bill does not propose minimum mandatory sentencing. Minimum mandatory sentencing is something that I have supported in this House, both in my statements and in my votes on previous motions and bills. However, I believe that Bill C-65 is worthy of support at this time because it indicates the very serious nature of which this House holds street racing. As I have said earlier, it sends a very clear message to the judiciary to treat this as an aggravating factor and extends the maximum prohibition.
Many families have suffered lost ones as a result of street racing. It is something that puts at risk the lives of people and communities, as it has in my riding. It is something that this House, I believe, needs to show support for as being not acceptable behaviour in Canada.
Therefore, I would ask the members of this House to support Bill C-65.
October 20th, 2005 / 1:45 p.m.
Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC
Mr. Speaker, I was interested in the questions by the member for Northumberland. I am not questioning his sincerity, but what he has tried to do is deflect the issue and in effect confuse and diffuse the issue. He has missed the main point about which we are concerned.
I think that everybody understands that Bill C-65 is the act to amend the Criminal Code to include street racing and also to make an amendment to another act. What the proposed bill will do is amend the Criminal Code by defining street racing and by specifically identifying the involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for a number of offences. Those offences would include: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm; dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death; criminal negligence causing bodily harm; and criminal negligence causing death. It also provides for a mandatory driving prohibition order if street racing is found to be involved in one of these other factors.
We want to see this type of prohibition, but the Liberals are stopping short of what they are trying to convince the public is being done. We need to look at the history. This bill is something that was championed by a number of people in the House, but chiefly by the recently deceased member, Chuck Cadman. He had been attempting to legislate changes to the street racing provisions since December 2002. Previous versions of the bill also included Bill C-338 and Bill C-230, for those who want to explore and do some research into the background on this.
What is important is the government for years refused to accept the premise of what Mr. Cadman and others were asking for, and that was that there should be some minimum mandatory sentencing if street racing were an aggravating factor. There is no question that the whole issue of street racing seems to be a growing problem. It involves absolute disregard for the life, safety and security of other people. Our citizens across the country are asking that something be done about this.
As much as I appreciate the half step being taken, once again it is only under extreme public reaction and sustained anger over a long period of time that the federal Liberals seem to get it and want to respond. That is a constant frustration in the House, with so much legislation that is common sense, that is needed by people and that is protective of them. Unless the Liberals see in the polls that it will affect some votes, they are very reluctant to move on principle. It is always on politics and that has been a frustrating part of the progress of this. Chuck Cadman was frustrated by this lack of progress for a long time.
We understand that there may have been some background discussion, that the Liberal ministers or others in their camp may have had discussions with Mr. Cadman prior to his decease and gave him some kind of reassurance that what he had asked for,over a number of years would be granted. That may have helped Mr. Cadman in some of the decisions he was making at the time or it may not, I do not know. The Liberals only moved on this as they saw extreme anger and public reaction over a sustained period of time and the possibility of winning support for this and other votes. That is what has been frustrating.
They are pretending that this bill is everything Mr. Cadman, and others who wanted to see this progress, wanted. In fact, it is not. It falls short. It does include street racing as an aggravating factor for sentencing, but it totally ignores the very serious area of repeat offenders. The aspect of repeat offenders was an essential part of what Mr. Cadman wanted to see happen
Why are the Liberals so reluctant to get tough on crime or to get serious about serious crime? Why are they so reluctant to deal with minimum mandatory sentencing? Sometimes when we use that phrase, it can sound like we are saying a certain very serious and grievous crime deserves a minimum sentence. We do not mean to minimize it. We are saying that in many cases the judiciary has too much discretion when it comes to sentencing and too often the judges will not apply any kind of sentence to a grievous and serious crime. Therefore, it does not serve as a deterrent.
The problem, philosophically, is liberals have a great struggle in terms of their view of human nature to accept that there are times when a very serious crime deserves very serious time. Liberals tend to diminish personal responsibility when it comes to crime. They tend to say that since we are all basically born good, the only reason anybody does any bad things is because they are influenced by society, or by their mothers or fathers or by some other extraneous force. When liberal philosophy does not in general accept that there can be personal responsibility, especially when it comes to serious crime, then they are greatly reluctant to assign any imprisonment or so-called punishment to that. They say that it was not that person's fault, that they were influenced by society, or by their parents or by the car manufacturer, the car was too fancy or too fast.
We are talking about minimum mandatory sentencing for this type of serious crime or others. We constantly raise the issue of serious repeat offenders in the House. We know repeat offenders perpetrate most of the crime. We have to deal with them. Repeat offenders have to be deterred by knowing there will be a serious mandatory sentence, one that a judge cannot get around. If it does not work as a deterrent and they go ahead and repeat the crime, then at the very least they are off the streets for awhile and society is protected.
That is a clear philosophical difference between liberal thinking and conservative thinking. People have to take responsibility for their actions and that actions bring consequences. Sometimes those consequences are not pleasant, but the consequences of seeing innocent people maimed, injured or killed by irresponsible street racers are serious and must be met with serious offences and imprisonment for repeat offenders. The philosophical problem we deal with all is this liberal thinking.
We ask people to recognize that this bill is like so many areas where Liberals philosophically in their heart of hearts disagree with it, they do not like it and it makes them feel all queasy. When they see the population wants the particular law because it makes sense, they have this internal battle between feeling all queasy about demanding responsibility and consequences and the possibility of losing votes. They think about how they can capture some votes and at the same how they can ease off the queasy feeling inside them. Because they like to feel squishy rather than queasy, they take a half step, thinking that will ease the pressure. They will do it today. They will stand and say that they have the mandatory provision in the bill. They will say “There, all you vengeful people, we will put that person in jail for awhile”. It has nothing to do with revenge. It has to do with common sense, consequences and people taking responsibility for their actions.
We are asking the Liberals to take responsibility for their actions. They made a commitment to follow through on a commitment that was made to Chuck Cadman. As Mr. Cadman was representing a majority of citizens on this issue, it is a commitment to the citizens. The Liberals said that they would do something, but they have not done it. We are asking them to put in the mandatory provisions for serious repeat offenders. Do the right thing is all we are asking.
October 20th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
Rob Moore Fundy, NB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-65 on behalf of my constituents of Fundy Royal.
Unfortunately the bill is held out to be an adoption of Mr. Chuck Cadman's previous private member's bills, Bill C-338 and Bill C-230, which he had been trying for years to get through the House. They were common sense legislation that would protect Canadians and innocent bystanders and make our streets safer for everyone.
However, in typical Liberal fashion, the government dragged its heels for too long, and now, insultingly, once again it is offering too little too late.
From the outset, I would like to state that this bill is flawed and inadequate. Countless people have suffered from street racing while the government did nothing. Now the government is responding, but it is responding with a typical Liberal half-baked measure.
It reminds me of a couple of other issues related to the administration of justice, which I will touch on very quickly. One is the sex offender registry. As my colleagues know, victims' groups, the police and the provinces have been calling for a national sex offender registry for years. Unfortunately, the party opposite was ideologically opposed to such a move.
When public pressure became overwhelming in regard to the fact that the protection of children outweighed any privacy rights that sex offenders might have, the government did come up with proposed legislation for a sex offender registry. It was unfortunate and ironic what the bill did in regard to the registry. People were shocked to find out that the registry was not retroactive, which meant that all of the convicted sex offenders and people who had victimized children in the past would not be included in the registry.
It left countless Canadians wondering what was the point of having a registry if it was empty, if it was a blank sheet of paper, if we had to start from scratch when we already had all this information and could protect Canadians. There was a model in Ontario that we could have followed. Ontario had a retroactive registry.
Once again, in a wishy-washy method that was designed to pander to their own ideological bent, the Liberals could not stomach having an effective registry, but because of public pressure they had to come up with something.
The other example is Bill C-2, the child protection legislation. We see this same pattern. They call something “child protection legislation” so that it sounds like a bread and butter issue. It sounds good. We are all interested in protecting children, but what we are left with in Bill C-2 is a hollow shell. We are left with loopholes that people who victimize children could drive a truck through, loopholes that the defence and the bar associations across the country will have a field day with. It is not effective. It is not precise. It does not protect children. It does not go beyond where we are today with our current legislation.
The party opposite suggests that just by throwing a name out there and saying that something is a sex offender registry or child protection legislation or, in this case, a street racing bill, somehow Canadians will be fooled into thinking the government is taking some substantive actions.
Originally Mr. Cadman's bills were tabled to address the rise in street racing. The police tell us that the practice of street racing is becoming increasingly dangerous across the country. It begs the question, then, why now? Why is the government finally wanting to take on the appearance of action? Why was something not done in the past when Mr. Cadman was introducing private member's bills that would have addressed this very issue?
It is important to note the government's earlier response to Mr. Cadman. What was it saying in the past? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice said:
Unless there is some compelling reason to specify that certain circumstances are aggravating it is better not to multiply the instances where the Criminal Code spells out that a particular way of committing the offence will be an aggravating factor. In my view, we are not seeing any such reason emerging from decisions of the trial courts and the appeal courts with regard to the four offences when street racing is a part of the circumstances of these offences.
There was a reluctance to adopt Mr. Cadman's bill. There was an effort to downplay it, to make it sound like it was not going to be effective. The Minister of Justice said, “Your proposed bill would result in a mandatory driving prohibition”.
That is what the bill called for: a mandatory driving prohibition.
The minister went on to say:
As you are aware, the Canadian criminal justice system is premised on the notion that sentences should be individualized for each offender...Research indicates that mandatory minimum penalties do not work from the point of general deterrence and recidivism.
This is the same line that we hear from the current Minister of Justice. We heard it as recently as yesterday in a response to a question. The Minister of Justice stated that mandatory minimum sentences do not work, yet we see that in other jurisdictions they are effective for serious offences. The Minister of Justice and the government are for some reason ideologically opposed to providing concrete protections for law-abiding citizens and to protecting the innocent in society.
It has been three years since Mr. Cadman first tabled his bills. All along, the government refused to support the legislation because it called for mandatory minimum driving prohibitions and increased the punishment for repeat offenders.
We could ask any Canadian if it makes sense that if someone is a repeat offender there should be an increase in the punishment. If someone is showing signs of recidivism, of being a repeat offender, should there be an increase in the punishment? The average thinking Canadian would say, “Absolutely. That makes sense”. When someone is a more serious offender, there should be a more serious consequence to the offence, yet in the past the government refused to support this legislation. I am pleased to say that the Conservatives have consistently supported these measures.
Bill C-65 proposes to amend the Criminal Code by defining street racing and by specifically identifying involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing. That makes sense. The following offences are listed: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm; dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death; criminal negligence causing bodily harm; and criminal negligence causing death.
Bill C-65 also provides for mandatory driving prohibition orders if street racing is found to be involved in one of those offences.
There we go. On the one hand, yesterday the minister stated that mandatory sentences do not work, yet in an effort to appease Canadians when there is public pressure for something, the party on the other side will do whatever it takes to appease people. So what do we see included in this bill? We see a measure that I support. There is the mandatory driving prohibition, but again it is a half measure because there is no increase for repeat offenders.
There is an irony in debating this bill today, which has the mandatory provision, when we remember that the Minister of Justice stood up yesterday and said in a blustery way that he was opposed to mandatory minimum sentences because they do not work. It just does not make sense.
Despite the positives, and there are some positives in this proposed bill, it is important to note, as I mentioned, that without serious penalties for serious crimes those crimes are going to continue. There will be no effect.
It is important to remind Canadians that in this legislation the severity of the punishment does not increase for repeat offenders. That was an essential aspect of the proposals in Mr. Cadman's original private member's bills. His bills proposed that for subsequent serious offenders there would be more serious consequences.
Bill C-65 is a half measure. After years of the government dragging its feet and speaking out against Mr. Cadman's private member's bills, it has introduced a half measure. It is a half measure that I cannot support.
We should honour the original intent of these bills, which would have been effective and would have provided serious consequences for those people who are serious offenders. We need to have some common sense amendments to this bill.
October 20th, 2005 / 1 p.m.
Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton--North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-65, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to street racing.
Bill C-65 defines street racing as “operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place”. Under the proposed legislation, street racing would be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes in causing death or bodily harm by criminal negligence or by dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. A street racing offender, when convicted of these offences, would face a mandatory prohibition against operating a motor vehicle on any street from one to ten years and would follow the prison sentence. Currently, offenders face discretionary driving prohibitions if convicted of the above-mentioned offences.
Street racing has been a growing problem in British Columbia's lower mainland and has resulted in numerous high profile tragedies that have caused considerable public outcry.
In June 2000, Cliff Kwok Kei Tang, 28 years old, hit and killed pedestrian Jerry Kithithee, racing a Porsche at approximately 150 kilometres per hour.
In November 2000, Sukhvir Khosa and Bahadur Bhalru lost control of their Camaros while racing at an estimate speed of 140 kilometres an hour, and hit and killed Irene Thorpe on the sidewalk of Marine Drive in Vancouver. Both were given two-year conditional sentences rather than jail time and later Bhalru was deported.
In September 2002, Yau Chun Stuart Chan ran a red light at a Richmond intersection in his speeding Honda sports car and t-boned RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng's police cruiser. The force of the crash sent the 32-year-old constable through the back window of his vehicle, killing him instantly.
In May 2003, another street racer, Ali Arimi, was handed a conditional sentence after being found guilty of dangerous driving causing death.
In March 2004 in Surrey, an 18-year-old lost control of his muscle car at an estimated speed of 140 kilometres per hour. He demolished a bus shelter, critically injuring a 71-year-old woman. Another car was spotted fleeing from the scene.
Those were just a few examples of the many sad stories that have resulted from young people racing on the streets of the lower mainland. In recent years, these speeding cars have claimed nearly 30 known victims. People are outraged, not only by the crime but also by the lenient sentences handed out to the guilty.
Many of us in British Columbia, like my former colleague and neighbouring member of Parliament, the late Chuck Cadman, were outraged at the light sentences given to street racers. Street racing can be compared to waving a loaded gun around while blindfolded and squeezing off shots at random without any regard for other people or property.
Chuck Cadman introduced two bills, Bill C-338 and Bill C-230, dealing with street racing, neither of which went beyond committee stage. The bills were intended to prevent street racing by sending a clear message that those who endanger the public will face serious and long term consequences. As is usually the case, the government was not interested in supporting an opposition MP's bill when Mr. Cadman was a Conservative.
Almost two years ago, in October 2003, when Bill C-338 was debated at second reading, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice spoke in opposition. He claimed that the bill was inadvisable and said that if a court imposes a long period of imprisonment, the court may believe there is no need to have the offender prohibited from driving. The offender will have been off the streets and away from the wheel for a long time.
The problem with the parliamentary secretary's logic is that no one has ever received long jail terms for convictions resulting from street racing. Often house arrest is being used for street racers who kill or injure people.
The government has now turned an about face on Mr. Cadman's street racing bills. This should come as no surprise to members and to the public watching. After refusing to support my bills to protect firefighters and whistleblowers and to recognize international credentials, the government stole my concepts, introduced them in its name and started supporting them. First it criticizes an opposition bill and then it steals its concept, messes with it and then makes it a considerably weaker bill.
Bill C-65, the proposed legislation before us, is a neutered version of Mr. Cadman's past bills. Although it provides for mandatory driving prohibition and the inclusion of street racing in aggravating factors for sentencing, it fails to include the clauses on repeat offenders, which was an essential part of Mr. Cadman's bill.
Amendments to the bill should include reinstating Mr. Cadman's increasing scale punishment clauses replace subsections (a) and (b) in section 259(2.1) with the following:
(a) for a first offence, during a period of not more than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than one year;
(b) for a second or subsequent offence, if one of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), for life;
(c) for a second offence, if neither of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not more than five years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than two years; and
(d) for each subsequent offence, if none of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not less than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment.
Illegal street racing terrorizes our neighbourhoods and kills innocent people. We must put a stop to it. Doing so will require work by all levels of government. Part of the solution may lie in increased impound fees for vehicles involved in street racing; the prosecution of street racing spectators, as has been done in the U.S.; traffic calming mechanisms; and the confiscation of vehicles after multiple violations.
The federal government, in particular, should provide more funding to the RCMP to increase enforcement and allow for the use of high tech surveillance. We must also have laws with teeth that provide a real deterrence to street racers, and steps should be taken to ensure that sentences are actually served.
When will the government realize that people who commit violent crimes should serve real time, not at home but in a prison where criminals will understand the magnitude of their crimes.
The B.C. government is already taking steps to clamp down on street racing. B.C. police seized 60 vehicles and suspended 180 driver licences. The B.C. government is doing its part. It is now time for this weak, Liberal federal government to do the same.
It is time to get tough on street racing. Street racing is something that is absolutely unacceptable and we should have zero tolerance for it. The Conservative Party supports the mandatory minimum prohibition on driving for street racing offenders and the placement of street racing as an aggravating offence.
The Conservative Party has consistently supported the efforts of Chuck Cadman in tackling this issue by supporting him on his bill. The Liberals, on the other hand, did not support his bill when he was a caucus member of the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party. They only decided to support legislation after Mr. Cadman voted to save the Liberal government in a confidence vote on May 19.
Bill C-65 is a step in the right direction but the government should honour Mr. Cadman's memory by amending the proposed legislation to more accurately reflect the true intentions of the bill.
October 18th, 2005 / 5:10 p.m.
Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC
Mr. Speaker, I count it a great privilege to stand and speak to Bill C-65. The reason in particular is the way the bill has been characterized as being a tribute to Chuck Cadman. Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely false, totally false.
I had the privilege last Saturday of visiting very briefly with Donna Cadman, Chuck's wife. We did not discuss the bill, although I know she is familiar with the reasons that our party is having a tremendous amount of difficulty with the bill. I count myself as having been exceptionally privileged as having become a friend of Chuck's and I take great offence when I hear the justice minister of Canada referring to this bill as a tribute to my friend, Chuck Cadman.
I was also rather perplexed when I heard just a few minutes ago a member of the NDP refer to this bill as the essence of what he proposed. Well, the smell of a skunk is the essence of perfume, but it does not have anything to do with anything pleasant or anything related to what we would normally think of in terms of a perfume.
Bill C-65 as far as it goes is fine, but the next thing I can visualize is that the Liberals in a dishonest approach will say, “The Conservatives are not really serious about this issue. They would not even back the memory of Chuck Cadman. Look at what they are doing. They are going to be voting against the bill. It is the essence of Chuck Cadman”. It is not the essence of Chuck Cadman.
Chuck Cadman understood that while some of the parts of the bill are essential, truly the devil is in the details. Chuck Cadman had been attempting to legislate changes to street racing provisions since 2002. As some of my colleagues pointed out, again and again Chuck Cadman was rebuffed not only in this chamber, not only with the rejection of his bills, but also at the justice committee. He was constantly rebuffed by the Liberals.
I do recall at Chuck's funeral, and it was a fitting tribute to a very special man, that the minister related that in jest Chuck said that he had voted with the Liberals on the confidence motion and wondered if God would not be pleased. He said it in jest, but he worked constantly throughout his honourable time in this institution to try to bring some real change to justice. He worked honourably against the Liberals who were constantly opposed to him because they refused to do what was absolutely necessary to bring justice back to our justice system.
Currently we have a legal system in Canada, not a justice system. Chuck Cadman worked to that end.
Previous versions of the bill include Bill C-338 and Bill C-230. The government had refused to support the legislation because it called for mandatory minimum driving prohibitions and increased punishment for repeat offenders.
The Liberals are so soft on crime that they are constantly creating revolving doors. They are constantly looking to make sure that the person who has committed the crime is treated with kid gloves while the victims' families can go hang. That is a bad attitude. That is a wrong attitude. It is an attitude that the people of Surrey North, the people of Surrey, the people of British Columbia and indeed the people of Canada reject of the Liberals, that they are constantly so soft on crime.
We constantly supported the measures that Chuck Cadman brought forward. I recall a gentleman when Chuck initially came to the House of Commons, Larry Park. Larry was Chuck's legislative assistant. Larry was as committed as Chuck to these amendments to the Criminal Code. Larry and Chuck would work for hour after hour, weekend after weekend. I am sure that Donna must have wondered if she had become a widow with the amount of dedication that Larry and Chuck had to bringing these things forward.
If I am speaking with some emotion today it comes from the well of emotion that I have within me to say that this is not Chuck Cadman's bill. It reminds me an awful lot of an event that actually happened during the U.S. presidential election. George Bush's running mate was Dan Quail. When he tried to play down his youth in the vice-presidential debate by pointing out that he had as much experience as Jack Kennedy when he ran for president in 1960, his opponent, Lloyd Bentsen, pounced and said, “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy”.
I say to the justice minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, you are no Chuck Cadman, you do not understand, you just do not understand.
We want to make the following amendments. They cannot be made at this particular stage but we will be proposing them on the assumption that the Liberals will be supported yet again by the NDP for this bill to move forward.
We will be making the following amendments: for a first offence, during a period of not more than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than one year; for a second and subsequent offence, if one of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), for life; for a second offence, if neither of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not more than five years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than two years; and, for each subsequent offence, if none of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not less than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment.
For the people who are reading this text, other than lawyers, for people who may be watching these proceedings on television right now, that sounds like an awful lot of detail. However, as I said earlier, the devil is in the detail. This is the detail that Chuck Cadman would have had in this bill.
I say again that the Minister of Justice of Canada is misleading Canadians and is misleading the House. It is regrettable that the NDP has fallen into the trap of his misleading when he tries to say that this is Chuck Cadman's bill. Chuck Cadman was a friend of mine and this is not his bill.
October 18th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
Randy Kamp Dewdney—Alouette, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia.
I would like to take all members of the House back to a place in my riding. It is the intersection of Lougheed Highway and Laity Street. If we had been there on Monday morning, February 28, we would have seen a man wandering in a dazed condition, aimlessly it would seem, in a state of disbelief they tell me. It was an accident scene and he was approaching reporters and people standing by wanting information. He was asking for details because earlier that morning he had received a call from the RCMP, that call that we all live in fear of, that said that his 23-year-old son had been killed in a car accident. He went to the scene to see what he could learn.
The investigation later would reveal that at 10 p.m. the night before his son was the passenger in a green Honda Del Sol driven by his 22-year-old friend. This car and a silver sports car were speeding, racing eastbound on Lougheed Highway. Shortly after it went through the intersection at Laity Street, it lost control and swerved to the left into the westbound lane and hit a Ford Taurus station wagon killing the 45-year-old woman who was driving and seriously injuring her passenger. The two young men also died at the scene.
In that moment for many, the world was forever changed. Two young men with goals and dreams, and by all accounts good kids, died in a moment of recklessness leaving behind broken-hearted families and grieving friends, and 17 and 21-year-old sons of the 45-year-old mother. The driver of the silver sports car, who by all accounts stopped, backed up, took a look at the scene, then raced off and has not been seen since. A community is forever changed when it experiences such a tragedy.
Of course we could go to other places as well. In October 2004, in Maple Ridge, there were two racing motorcyclists. One died in a ditch beside the Lougheed Highway. The uninjured rider was given a 15 day driving suspension and had his bike impounded for 48 hours. On November 13, 2000 two street racers killed pedestrian Irene Thorpe and in February 2002 they were sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest. On September 15, 2002, 31-year-old RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng was killed when his cruiser was T-boned by a street racer. The racer received 18 months, and 6 months for leaving the scene of an accident.
There are many other indicators that we could go through indicating that there is a problem. In fact, Chuck Cadman recognized that there was a problem through his private member's Bill C-230, which he introduced in October 2004, and before that Bill C-338 of December 2002 and then reintroduced again in February 2004. That one was actually debated.
There were three main initiatives in his bill. First, to amend the Criminal Code to identify street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for the following offences: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and criminal negligence causing death.
Second, it called for mandatory driving prohibitions; and third, it had an escalating scale of prohibitions for repeat offenders.
It is interesting as I look back at Hansard to see what the government's response was to Bill C-338, which is remarkably similar to the bill that we are debating today. First of all, the government did not like specifying street racing as an aggravating factor and said it was unnecessary. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice said:
Unless there is some compelling reason to specify that certain circumstances are aggravating, it is better not to multiply the instances where the Criminal Code spells out that a particular way of committing the offence will be an aggravating factor.
—unless we have a strong indication that the courts are not treating street racing as an aggravating factor for these four offences, restraint ought to be exercised in specifying that street racing become an aggravating factor.
The status quo is what he was looking for and the sister of Irene Thorpe might have offered him the compelling reasons he was looking for.
They did not like the idea of prescribed mandatory driving prohibitions. That same parliamentary secretary said:
I think there is logic in the present law, which gives the court discretion on whether to impose a driving prohibition order.
There may be logic, but the problem is what happens in practice. He went on to say:
If a court imposes a long period of imprisonment, the court may believe that there is no need to have the offender prohibited from driving at the point of release from imprisonment, which will be far in the future. In such cases, the offender will have been off the streets and away from the wheel for a very long time.
This argument is like an NHL player who was suspended just before the lockout arguing that he had done his time because he had been off the ice and unable to do any more harm for a very long time. The person he had injured would not see that as justice.
The government has always been against mandatory minimum sentences, even though it points to a few that it has allowed and even claims once in a while that they are working. I heard this argument just yesterday from the Minister of Justice.
It seems to me there are two basic arguments that the Liberals use. One is that they do not work. That is the government's main argument, it seems to me. This is arguable. In fact, if we look at the data, most of the data the Liberals consult comes from across the border and the drug laws that are in place there. They look at the drug use and so on and the measurements by those standards, and say that obviously these mandatory minimum sentences are not working so the idea of mandatory minimum sentences must be a bad idea. The question is not only about whether they work, it is about whether justice is being done. It is not the minister of social work. It is the Minister of Justice.
The Liberals do not like the idea of them because it removes discretion from judges, but it seems to me that that is the whole point. The theory is that if judges are using good judgment, we will only limit them by how harsh they can be. What about judicial trivialization, as I like to call it. If they are just not exercising good judgment and if justice is not being done, then they need to also be limited by how lenient they can be. Of course, they did not like the prescription for repeat offenders.
This brings us to Bill C-65. This bill looks remarkably similar to Bill C-338 which the Liberals opposed a couple of years ago. Bill C-65 is a government bill, so it raises at least two questions: why the change of heart and how is it different in any way from what Mr. Cadman proposed? Let us deal with those briefly.
Why has the government had a change of heart? What has changed since October 2003? We know that the government survived a crucial vote, and a crucial vote in that vote was cast by Mr. Cadman. I believe he did it in good faith based on his principles, but we know the government is not averse to rewarding loyalty, even if it us unintended, and so feels some kind of an obligation. Of course we also know that Mr. Cadman has left us.
The government has said that this bill and Bill C-64, its companion bill, are intended as appropriate tributes to his legacy. I agree with this. I agree that there should be a legacy and a tribute to Mr. Cadman. Our country and our Parliament are poorer places without him. In fact he made many contributions in my own riding. In my own community he used to come and work with our diversion program, talk to young offenders and give up his valuable time to change lives.
Let us go to the second question. How is this different? It now has street racing as an aggravating factor. Yes, that is in it. It has mandatory prohibitions, although the Liberals appear not to like it at other times. They are in here as well, but they did not include the clauses about repeat offenders and I am disappointed by that. Instead of giving us a bill in a form as developed by Mr. Cadman and which I think would have been enthusiastically supported by everybody in this House, the government has neutered the bill.
This is not a fitting tribute to the legacy of Chuck Cadman. While I support what is in it, I am disappointed by what is not in it. There needs to be more. We need to do what is necessary to amend this bill to include the repeat offender clauses, not just because it is what Mr. Cadman and his family would have wanted, but because it makes it better legislation and it is the right thing to do.