An Act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Mark Warawa  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 18, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

May 5th, 2009 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it was the member from Surrey North's late husband, Chuck Cadman, who came from ICBC, as did I, and both of us joined the fight against auto crime. I got a chance to spend some time with Chuck Cadman here in the House.

In 2004, I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-293, which is basically the bill that is presented today. I want to thank the hon. member for continuing the work of Chuck and I.

It was the Conservatives who voted in favour of my private member's bill at that time, but the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP all voted against it.

I want to ask the hon. member what she thinks has caused the change. Does she sense that the opposition will now support getting tough on auto crime, or will they permit this very serious crime to continue?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 27th, 2007 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-343. This bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to increase minimum penalties for motor vehicle theft.

A similar bill, Bill C-293, was defeated at second reading during the last Parliament. At the time, the Bloc Québécois voted against it, and today, we will vote against it again. The only difference between the two bills is that Bill C-343 establishes a two-year minimum sentence for a third car theft offence instead of a one-year sentence.

Currently, the Criminal Code treats car theft like any other theft, that is, as a crime against property punishable by different penalties according to the value of the stolen goods. When an individual steals a motor vehicle whose value exceeds $5,000, the offence is punishable by a maximum prison term of 10 years. If the value of the vehicle is less than $5,000, the offence is punishable by up to two years in prison. As we are all aware, most of the time, shorter sentences are given. I would note that a vehicle worth less than $5,000 is becoming a rare thing these days. At any rate, thieves generally steal vehicles that they think have a certain cash value.

The bill before us seeks to amend the Criminal Code to impose minimum prison sentences for motor vehicle theft. It sets out different sentences for first offences and repeat offences. As I said, we are against this bill. We believe its purpose is not really to solve this problem but to create the illusion of doing so. I mentioned earlier that we voted against a nearly identical bill on September 28, 2005.

Minimum penalties are at the heart of this bill. We know that, in the vast majority of cases, the concept of minimum penalties is an ineffective deterrent to crime. In our society, most people readily obey the law. Any reasonable person obeys the law and they do so not because they worry about the repercussions, but because they are reasonable and they simply respect society. Those who do not obey the law do not have that good sense. In the majority of cases, in almost all cases, these people think they will not be caught. So the severity of the punishment is not much of a deterrent to criminals. When the legislator determines the length of a maximum term of imprisonment, they are far more concerned with establishing the relative seriousness of a crime in relation to others than with the deterrent it would provide.

So, to think that because a thief is familiar with the Criminal Code and knows that there is a minimum penalty, he will be deterred from stealing a car is wrong in most cases.

I would like to provide some international statistics that prove that imprisonment is not an effective measure for crime prevention. Canada imprisons 101 persons out of every 100,000 inhabitants. In the European Community, it is 87 out of every 100,000. In France, the number is 77. I do not think anyone believes that countries in the European Community or that France are less safe than our country. In Japan, one of the countries which has the lowest number of cars stolen, 50 out of every 100,000 inhabitants are imprisoned. In fact, the places in the western world where crime rates are the highest include the United States, where 689 out of every 100,000 inhabitants are imprisoned. The United States even surpasses Russia, where that number is 673.

Contrary to the Conservatives' worn-out rhetoric about law and order and getting tough on crime, the numbers show that this does not work. Putting people in jail does not prevent crime. We put people in jail to punish them once they have already committed crimes. We have to get to the root of the problem and work on preventing crime.

The members of the Bloc Québécois do not like the idea of minimum penalties because we do not want judges' hands to be tied unnecessarily. In some cases, this can produce undesirable results because judges may be inclined to acquit a person rather than impose a penalty they consider unreasonable. If the application of this legislation results in people who would otherwise have been given less severe penalties being acquitted because judges cannot bring themselves to apply such draconian penalties, we will be no further ahead. How paradoxical that this bill should have come from the Conservative Party, because in the past, the Conservatives criticized political activism on the part of judges and accused them of making or amending legislation. They said this was the prerogative of elected representatives, that it was up to the House to vote on legislation, and that the judges had no business getting involved.

It is rather ironic to see the Conservatives denounce a so-called intrusion by judges in our work while, at the same time, they are proposing a bill that interferes in the work of judges. Personally, I believe it would be best to maintain the traditional division of power. We are here, as legislators, to enact legislation and determine the relative seriousness of offences. We must leave it up to the judges to impose the most appropriate penalties after taking into account any aggravating or mitigating factors that may come up in a given case. As legislators, we will never be able to incorporate that into a bill.

It is even more ironic that this bill would lower the maximum penalty for a first offence. As I was saying earlier, the current sentence is 10 years, but that would be decreased to five years in the case of a first offence. If, as legislators, we pass this legislation, it could be construed as belittling the seriousness of the offence, which seems rather illogical. That was probably not the intention of the sponsor of the bill, but there is a clear incongruity here.

Another problem arises from the fact that the $10,000 fine provided for in the bill would not have the same impact on everyone, depending on the offender's financial situation. Motor vehicle theft is often the work of organized groups. These groups are often very wealthy, and a $10,000 fine would not be a much of a problem, given the profits earned from the sale of stolen cars. However, for certain isolated young people who spontaneously commit a one-time indiscretion, this would be a very serious penalty. For these reasons, it seems to me that this bill completely misses the mark. The Conservative government and the Conservatives would be much wiser to leave the firearms registry alone, which would help prevent crime.

As we all know, throughout Quebec and Canada, crime prevention programs and subsidies are being cut by the government. That is where we must act, to prevent crime before it happens.

November 21st, 2006 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Vice-President, Policy Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Stephen Wallace

First of all, thank you very much for some very relevant questions and comments.

We would be very pleased to provide a written analysis. I must say, in the process of trying to go through the due diligence and rigour you try to apply to legal analysis, that sometimes sounds like a lot. Sometimes, it can crowd out the underlying principles and intent behind legislation. We would not want to do that. We have really come to focus very much on the technical analysis of Bill C-293. But the underlying principles of strengthened accountability, achieving a new standard on transparency, and achieving greater clarity of purpose are value statements that we very much did not want to challenge. That speaks to a couple of questions from members as well.

We'd be very pleased to provide a written analysis.

We do not have a specific proposal to put on the table. That is the work of the members of the committee, as has been already stated. But we have been exploring options with respect to how to deal with the question of legislation. That's the point I was making. That's the kind of background work we've been undertaking on this matter.

I'm sure the minister would be very pleased to comment further on exactly where that process will be going.

Parliament of Canada Act
Adjournment Proceedings

November 2nd, 2005 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-293 introduced by my hon. colleague from Langley provided for the use of mandatory minimum sentences.

It is inconsistent. That is the problem with the bill. It is inconsistent to provide for a mandatory minimum penalty, presumably justified by the seriousness of the offence, while at the same time lowering the maximum available term of imprisonment for its commission. That is the fundamental flaw with respect to the position that the member has taken with this bill.

Parliament of Canada Act
Adjournment Proceedings

November 2nd, 2005 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to ask the government what it is going to do about auto crime.

Approximately 450 vehicles per day are stolen in Canada. Over the last decade this has grown dramatically. We are now one of the highest countries in the world for auto theft. We actually have more vehicles stolen per capita than the United States. It is a huge problem that is often linked with organized crime. The proceeds of auto theft directly fund crime and terrorism.

As I have been involved with different panels, town hall meetings and knocked on numerous doors, this is a common occurrence and people want something done.

My previous vocation was as a loss prevention officer for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. I dealt with auto crime. The common denominator of the problem is that auto thieves, high risk individuals who are addicted to illegal drugs like crystal meth, are released back into the community. They are high risk and the courts know they are high risk, but they are not being dealt with in a way that is appropriate. Typical sentencing is probation. If they reoffend, they get probation for breaching their probation.

Because of that, I am honoured to be here to represent my community of Langley. I came up with a private member's bill, Bill C-293. Through consultation with other members, I thought it was a very good bill. It gave direction to the courts that there had to be minimum sentencing involved with this.

I am expecting the parliamentary secretary to answer in a moment and I am going to ask him not to read from a prepared speech, but actually share with us what the government is planning to do in tangible ways to come up with an attack against auto crime. It is a problem. My private member's bill dealt with it, I believe, but the government voted against it. It does not support minimum sentences.

What is the government going to do about it? Chuck Cadman had a bill. He had a similar background to myself, being in insurance. He had an important private member's bill. The government voted down Chuck's bills and reintroduced a watered down portion of Chuck's bill, Bill C-64. Bill C-64 is not what Chuck wanted.

I pushed and got Transport Canada to invoke the immobilizers starting in 2007. Actually, for the last five years I have been working on that. It is one of the things I am very happy about.

In tangible ways, how could we direct the courts to come up with sentences that are practical and proportionate? Releasing high risk people back into the community is not the answer. What is the government's answer to come up with practical solutions to auto crime?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

October 24th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted to do something truly good about protecting citizens, then Chuck Cadman would have been leading debate in the House on his own private member's bill and it would have sought unanimous consent to pass it at all stages so Canadians would have been protected. That would have been a fitting tribute while he was living. That is what it should have done in the House. Instead it brings forward a watered down bill.That is the worst argument I have ever heard over there, that it is somehow doing some on behalf of Canadians to protect them.

I rise on behalf of the people of Essex to speak to Bill C-64. I am here also with thoughts of my former seat mate, Chuck Cadman. I have to be honest, I miss him terribly.

Chuck's brought forward his private member's Bill C-287, on the alteration and obliteration of vehicle identification numbers, because there was no provision for the direct prosecution of a person engaged in the physical act of tampering with a vehicle identification number, a loophole that has been masterfully exploited by organized crime. Instead what we have is Bill C-64, a partial attempt by the Liberal government to address that loophole, which is insufficient.

Also, I am here to talk about what the Liberals have been falsely claiming as a fitting tribute and honour to the late Chuck Cadman, member of Parliament. The only fitting tribute to the memory of Chuck Cadman would be to take his private member's bill, ironically unaltered, and pass it in the House. Instead what we have is the Liberals trying to fulfill a promise they made to Chuck after he gave the government life in that crucial May 19 budget vote.

I was sitting in my seat next to Chuck after that vote. It was interesting to watch the long lineup of Liberal members of Parliament eager to shake Chuck's hand. I thought the most interesting moment of that whole night was when the justice minister was face to face with Chuck. If we can believe it, he looked him in the eyes and said that he did not know why Chuck came to this Parliament, but that he would do something about the issues that were important to him.

It is very interesting that our justice minister did not know that the reason Chuck Cadman came to the House for eight years was because of the death of his son and the fact that the criminal justice system did nothing about it. Shame on the government.

What has the government brought forward instead of bringing Chuck's bill forward and passing? We have a nice little add-on to the bill, and will read it. First I will read the words in Chuck Cadman's bill. It states that every one commits offence who, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse.

The government decided it wanted to make an ad-on to that. It states, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.

That is a substantial change from what Chuck wanted to achieve. Chuck's intention was that we would have a justice system that would get tough on criminals. He was a tireless crusader of rights for victims over the rights of criminals. Chuck's previous private member's bill on the issue put the onus of proof for lawful excuse on the person indicted, on the accused criminal. That tilts the balance in favour of the Crown on behalf of the victims of crime.

What the Liberals have done with Chuck Cadman's idea is change the onus now to put a double onus on the Crown.

It was Chuck Cadman's intention that someone caught with an altered vehicle identification number would have to explain themselves. It is not a great demand to put on somebody who is caught with a vehicle that has an altered VIN. If I were working at a wrecking yard and, as part of the normal process of business, removed a vehicle identification number, I would have a lawful excuse why that vehicle identification number was altered and removed. That would have sufficed under Chuck Cadman's bill. Now, the Crown, on behalf of the victims of crime, has to prove an additional burden that the vehicle identification number was altered or removed to conceal the identity of that vehicle. I can hear the criminal defence lawyers laughing already. Those are the people who the Liberals consulted, between talking to Chuck Cadman and bringing the bill forward.

I was thinking a little about lady justice earlier today. I think we all remember the lady justice symbol of her holding up the two scales, literally weighing the evidence, with a blindfold across her eyes to symbolize her impartiality in the weighing of that evidence.

Under the Liberals there is a new lady justice. Her arms are thrown up in the air in a show of helplessness as criminal after criminal gets soft treatment, or gets day passes to amusement parks or gets house arrest, while victims in our system get re-victimized.

This new lady justice has dropped the scales at her feet because the evidence seems to no longer matter. Witness a lot of the court decisions. The evidence suddenly does not matter any more. This new lady justice still has her blindfold on, not to reflect her impartiality any more but because she needs to shield her eyes from the injustices that are committed. This new lady justice has been brought on by 12 years of Liberals being soft on crime.

Let the numbers speak for themselves. Already this year there have been 64 murders in Toronto, 44 violent crimes committed with guns. The Liberals say that the gun registry that is supposed to protect people. It is their answer to everything, like Kyoto is their answer to everything in the environment. They have a gun registry to protect everybody. It has not. People are being gunned down in our streets.

James Caza has 42 convictions. He is roaming the interior of British Columbia. I am sure the people in British Columbia feel real safe these days.

Serial rapist Larry Fisher was surprised himself that he was let out of jail so quickly. While out on parole he raped and murdered.

Liberal Senator Larry Campbell wants a soft approach on hard drugs like crystal meth.

Legal counsel from the Liberal government testified before the justice committee that mandatory prison terms for criminals would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

A parole board handed out day passes to pedophiles to attend children's theme parks. I have four young kids. I will rethink how I spend my summers. Will we go to Canada's Wonderland? I have no idea who will be roaming around there and who will be a threat to my children.

This is wrong. Canadians should not have to restrict their freedom from operating in society because they do not know what criminals are lurking there, criminals that the Liberal justice system has let go.

The Liberal government opposed Bill C-215, a bill sponsored by my Conservative colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings, which proposed mandatory minimum sentences on indictable gun crimes. The bill has gained support from the victims of crimes and from those who enforce the laws in the land, our police. They know the bill makes sense, but the government does not support it.

The Supreme Court of Canada refused to consider the case of Dean Edmondson who was convicted of sexual assault for trying to have sex with a 12 year old girl. Instead of a prison term, he got house arrest.

It brings me to the obvious question. What is the Liberal priority? The Liberals want to solve overcrowding in our prisons. They want to solve our court backlogs, the mountain of cases that have clogged up our courts. They want to do it by making it easier to stay out of jail, even though these people wreak havoc on society. The Liberals want it to be easier to make bail. They want to make it easier for the courts to give the criminal house arrest and to give concurrent rather than consecutive sentences. God forbid if one were convicted of multiple violent crimes that one would have to serve sentence after sentence. Why not get a group discount? That is what the government approves.

The Liberal priority is to make it easier for a Liberal patronage appointee filled parole board to give day passes to fun parks to convicted pedophiles.

With Bill C-64, Liberal so-called justice means to get the handcuffs off the criminal and put them on our crown attorneys instead. That is what the bill proposes to do. Once again the Liberals are siding with the criminals. They are not standing up for victims of crime. They are siding with the criminals and the Liberal defence lawyers who donate to their election campaigns.

I think we all remember that Allan Rock was the Liberal justice minister for a time. He gave us the failed long gun registry on which the government has spent $2 billion. For what? It is not serving its purpose. It is allowing the criminals to continue wreaking havoc on society. It goes after law-abiding farmers and duck hunters instead.

Allan Rock gave us the Liberal policy of conditional sentencing with no direction to the courts as to which serious violent crimes should be exempted from the concept of conditional sentencing. What is the result? Liberal appointed judges rightly interpret that the Liberal government's desire is to let violent criminals get out of jail free. That is the Liberal priority.

Bill C-2, the Liberals so-called child pornography legislation, is sitting on the Prime Minister's desk. It has the legitimate use defence in it. It used to be called the artistic merit defence. We can dress it up, paint it up or call it whatever, but it is a loophole one could drive a truck through. It leaves our vulnerable children unprotected.

The Liberals voted against raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. That is not much to ask to protect our young adolescents. Instead, the government wants to keep it legal for a 40 or 50 year old man to have sex with a young adolescent.

I think it is clear that the Liberals are soft on crime in general and on vehicle crimes specifically. Our Conservative colleague, my seatmate, had his private member's bill, Bill C-293, a bill I spoke in support of in this House, a bill that proposed mandatory minimum sentences for vehicle theft.

The other so-called Cadman bill, Bill C-65, the companion to this legislation, dealing with street racing, does not honour Chuck. The Liberal government this time left out something very important from that legislation, which was the scale that Mr. Cadman had built into his bill of increasing punishment for repeat offenders. Apparently those who continue to threaten the safety of our communities get a discount for their anti-social choices.

Mr. Cadman was on a crusade for eight years to get tougher on criminals in crimes involving vehicles before his premature demise. During those eight years, seven were under Liberal majority governments, not a minority government like it currently is. The Liberals, if they were serious about vehicle identification number alteration, could have passed Chuck's bill quite easily. They could have rubber-stamped it post-haste. They had majorities for seven years in this House and instead they reserved the right to fast-track things for political pork-barrelling to Liberal cronies and friends. The talk of Liberal concern for Chuck Cadman's crusade is hollow, quite frankly.

The least the Liberals could have done this time around, if they truly wanted to honour Chuck's memory, would have been to bring forward his bill unaltered. I find it a curious irony that we are talking about altering vehicle identification numbers and yet the Liberals altered the bill of the late Chuck Cadman, an honourable and distinguished man, for their own political purposes. It is a moral crime, a crime against Chuck's memory, to allow the Liberal government to alter a good bill.

The Liberals can talk about Chuck's memory all they want but they are waxing poetic. They did not listen to Chuck Cadman at all. The loophole in Bill C-64 is proof of that. The Liberal government listened instead to Liberal defence lawyers and now defence lawyers and organized criminals will have a great time watching the crown frustratingly try to prosecute under this legislation.

I would contend that the Liberals, with their loophole in Bill C-64, have dishonoured the memory of Chuck Cadman. I do not say that lightly. I sat next to the man for my short time in this House and I spent my time getting to know him. He was one of the most decent men I have ever known, a good family man, a devoted husband and devoted father. He was not planning on being a member of Parliament. That was not his design, but he made it his crusade because he loved his son that much, to come here and ensure we had the laws and the direction to the courts that society wants criminals to be prosecuted to the fullest, that they should pay for their crimes, that Canadians should be protected and that they should not be revictimized in this process. Chuck was here to do that. I can say proudly that Conservatives have always stood for the principles in Chuck Cadman's original private member's bill.

Conservatives will continue standing up for safe streets, for healthy communities and on behalf of victims of crime and say, “No way”. The rights of Canadians should be respected in this country.

Justice
Oral Questions

September 29th, 2005 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Northumberland—Quinte West
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, last evening we did deal with Bill C-293, but I do not think that was an appropriate bill to go forward. One of the reasons it was not an appropriate bill to go forward is we do not believe this is the time to be reducing sentences on auto theft. That bill actually proposed to reduce the sentence from 10 years to five years and we do not agree with that principle.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

September 28th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-293.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 22nd, 2005 / 7:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to give a little history of Bill C-293 and why it is before the House today.

Five years ago I started working on this bill but from a different perspective. I was a city councillor for 14 years and dealt with the problems of auto theft in the community. I was also a loss prevention officer for the insurance corporation of British Columbia. My job was to find out where the crashes and auto crimes were happening, why they were happening, and how to make our communities safer. I found out very quickly, through working with the police and different stakeholders in the community, that the typical auto thief was not somebody joyriding but somebody with a very serious drug problem.

There was a study called “Reality versus perception” done by Simon Fraser University released in February 2004. It was released at an auto crime forum in Surrey, British Columbia. We found out that the typical auto thief was somebody addicted to crystal meth and was stealing the car to commit another crime. A 27 year old male with 10 prior criminal convictions will steal a car again. He is driven by the drugs.

We heard from Superior Court Justice Wally Oppal at the time. He spoke at this auto crime forum and said that the courts had received very clear direction from Parliament that they were not to lock up these high risk offenders. That is the direction that came from the House. The evidence from Superior Court Justice Wally Oppal was that Parliament said not to lock them up as there were no facilities to send these high risk people.

He asked what to do with them as his direction from the House was to release them back onto the street. What we found in the study was that the courts would give probation. People would steal other cars and receive probation for breaching their probation. They were not keeping the peace. Time and time again these high risk offenders stole cars again and got probation for breaching their probation. There was zero consequence.

My consultation over the last five years was to find out from communities, stakeholders and police a way of dealing with this. Do we lock them up and throw away the key? No, that is not the solution. What is an appropriate sentence?

One of my colleagues asked earlier, what do we do when offenders do not have criminal records? Do we send them to jail? Bill C-293 would give the courts the discretion of giving a fine or time in jail or both. I see a judge in that case providing a fine and not sending this first time offender on a joyride. There would be a $1,000 consequence.

I would like to see more than $1,000 fines, but in consultation it was agreed that a $1,000 fine would probably be an appropriate sentence. The average cost across Canada to repair a vehicle that has been stolen is $4,500, so a $1,000 fine does not even come close to covering that, but it is a minimum. A fair fine would be the cost of fixing the vehicle. This is only a start.

I am asking the House to send this bill to the justice committee where it can be debated. I am open to amendments. I am asking this of the House after five years of consultation. I worked on the immobilizer bill with Transport Canada. Five years ago I sent it to FCM and we now have that part of the protection. We have the engineering, but we need the enforcement part of it.

I ask the House to please send this bill to the justice committee where it can be debated and legislation can be established that will give direction to the courts to provide protection. It is our job as a Parliament to provide security and protection to our citizens. They are not getting it with probation. This bill will provide it and still give the courts discretion for appropriate sentencing.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 22nd, 2005 / 7:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I wanted to add my voice to Bill C-293 sponsored by the member for Langley.

This issue of minimum sentencing has come up on a couple of other matters, such as child pornography. There has also been a lot of discussion about the merits of minimum sentencing with regard to grow houses and whether or not they should be applied there.

One of the arguments that has been made contrary to minimum sentencing has to do with whether or not it is a deterrent. I am not so sure that I am interested in whether or not a sentence is a deterrent to somebody else doing it or that same person repeating it. I am more interested in whether or not the public at large feels that the penalty actually is reflective of the seriousness of the crime. That is also important. It is just as important to me as a deterrent.

All Canadians have seen many programming stories about auto theft rings. As the previous speaker said, the typical profile is not the joyride. These are people who are highly likely to be involved in other criminal activity. When we see these problems, we must determine out level of tolerance.

The other argument that I have heard about dealing with matters such as criminal sentencing has to do with the fact that the courts are clogged up and the jails are full. The courts are clogged up because the system or the process has perhaps got out of hand.

I can remember observing some cases in court. There was a young man there and his lawyer walked in and said that his client had 27 convictions this year, but 30 the year before. The lawyer appealed to the judge that the number of convictions each year were going down and this was a good thing. His client was getting better.

I thought it was almost laughable. It really was laughable to think that in a court of law one could argue that since the number of convictions were going down, things were improving. When people have this affinity to continue to break the law, there are consequences. The consequences are not just to that individual. The consequences are to the public at large.

Most people who have had a break-in in their home, which is an invasion of their privacy, would say that the impacts of that are enormous. Their personal space is violated, and their security and safety come into question. Those kinds of principles come into account.

We are also talking about a process ostensibly that is not in the federal jurisdiction in terms of the courts dealing with these matters. However, the criminal law, with regard to the sentencing that the provincial courts and the police would have to impose, becomes yet another question. What happens with issues where the police officers are in the situation where they have so much time to spend in court? The courts are not dealing with it quickly and they cannot do their jobs properly, so we are also interfering and taking up the important time of the law enforcement agents.

There will be a lot of debate on this. I am sure that there are many good excuses. I think the fundamental principle that the punishment must be reflective of the seriousness of the crime is right and with minimum sentencing, there has to be some real time. I am not sure there is going to be a deterrent factor. It is something that would have to be studied over some period of time.

I am absolutely sure that the public at large who are aware of the facts of the case in its plainest form would feel that having to serve some time was appropriate given the nature of the crime.

One other argument I have heard was that if a mandatory minimum sentence was set, the sentencing that would always be applied would always refer down to the minimum and would never go to the full extent that was permitted under the law. I am not a lawyer by profession and I cannot say that I am too familiar with the statistics, but that kind of argument is basically an indictment of the integrity and credibility of the judges, and the courts as well.

There has to be a wholesale assessment of what is happening in the courts, both federal and provincial, to find out why it is that the resources seem to be used in a way which ultimately end up with nobody winning.

Convicted people who are involved in a range of criminal activity continue to be problems to society at large. There is no remediation. There is no rehabilitation. How does this happen? I hope Parliament provides a step forward and says that what has been happening so far has not been acceptable. We think that we can and should do better.

We should be able to say clearly that when it comes to matters such as auto theft, or possession of child pornography, which I think definitely deserves mandatory minimum sentences to reflect the seriousness with which society views that criminal activity, are not acceptable. This includes grow houses as well.

Most members know that the issue of grow houses is quite serious. A very large number of them involve organized crime. Moneys related to the growing of marijuana are not used in the business of selling marijuana, but are used to finance other illegal, more serious criminal activities such as the hard drug business, prostitution, money laundering and all kinds of other things.

Any time a member gets up in this place and says we have to talk yet again about where we are now, where we would like to be, and how we get there, that member will have my full support.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 22nd, 2005 / 7:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I echo the sentiments of my colleague by saying it is a great pleasure to rise in this place to speak to what I believe is a fine piece of legislation. This bill is long overdue. The bill has been brought forward by the hon. member for Langley who is my seatmate here in the House. In his first year here, he is demonstrating himself to be a fine member of Parliament.

I look at this legislation that he has brought forward which provides for minimum sentences on theft of a motor vehicle. Dealing with criminal justice issues has become a serious passion for the member for Langley. He has worked very diligently on this particular issue and others. The voters back home in his riding of Langley will be very pleased with the work that their member is doing. The new rule changes have allowed him to bring forward his private member's bill in such an early fashion and the chance to have it voted on and moved forward. This is an exciting time for him.

This is a very important piece of legislation. Motor vehicle theft is a very serious issue in Canada. It is a serious issue in my community back home. In the communities of Essex County, particularly the city of Windsor, there is a growing influence of organized crime; vice crime is on the rise.

A number of people, even in my own circle of friends, have had their vehicles stolen. It is a serious cost to them and a serious cost to our fellow Canadians as well. We pay for it through our increased insurance rates. We like to complain a lot about how much we have to pay for car insurance in Ontario. It is not just attributable to poor driving but to the fact that our vehicles are being stolen.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that auto theft costs Canadians $1 billion a year. That is a staggering number. We are not talking pocket change here. This is very serious: $1 billion a year.

Canada's auto theft rate is higher than the rate in the United States. My riding is across the river from Detroit, Michigan. Many of us think that crime is pretty bad over on the United States' side of the border and we pride ourselves that things are a lot quieter and our communities are a lot safer over here. Canada's vehicle theft rate has been higher than the United States' rate since 1996. It is virtually a decade already where we have exceeded the United States in vehicle thefts.

What is particularly serious is the nature of the crime. Vehicles are being stolen, not just as a crime in itself but in order to commit other crimes. It is not just a simple act of theft by somebody on a lark. The statistic I have is that one-quarter of vehicle thefts are linked to organized crime. It is very serious. For our colleagues from Quebec who are tackling organized crime within their own provincial boundaries, this is a serious issue. One-quarter of vehicle thefts are linked to organized crime.

The proceeds from auto theft fund organized crime terrorism. That is where the proceeds are going. Vehicles are stolen to commit other crimes and it is done in an organized fashion. Sometimes the vehicles are exported overseas, or resold in other provinces, or stripped for auto parts. They are very sophisticated operations.

The real serious problem is that courts in Canada are not taking this seriously enough. They are not penalizing these criminals in the proper fashion. Why not? The Criminal Code currently rates auto theft simply as a property offence, which fails to grasp the larger issue that these vehicles are being stolen to commit other crimes, that there are strong links to organized crime, to funding terrorism. Those are very serious things.

The courts need clear direction from Parliament regarding the seriousness of this offence. That is why I salute my colleague, the member for Langley, for bringing this bill forward. This is part of our attempt to send a strong signal from Parliament on behalf of society at large, the communities we represent, that they do not tolerate auto theft. They understand the seriousness of it.

We need to express that here within these walls by passing Bill C-293. It is a very important piece of legislation that would provide for minimum mandatory sentences and/or serious fines. It would send a clear message to the auto thieves themselves. It would act as a deterrent. Maybe people who were being corralled into an organized crime ring or drug ring would think twice about it, because they would not just get some sort of house arrest or a little slap on the wrist. There is a very real threat that they would spend some time in a real jail. That may dissuade some of them from getting involved in these kinds of crimes.

Not only would it dissuade potential offenders from offending, but it stands the real promise of dissuading actual offenders, those who have already offended, from reoffending. That is a real concern as well, those who have been involved in organized crime or a drug ring, who have been caught under the old rules. If this law passed, it would change the scenario for them. They would have the potential to do real time. They may think twice now and they might find a way out of it so that they do not reoffend and end up in jail.

The other important thing about this is that it would finally be communicating society's condemnation of auto theft. We have had enough. It is costing us $1 billion. Insurance rates are soaring. It would send a signal that we have had enough and that we are done with it, that we are going to get serious about this. We are going to ensure that those who steal automobiles for the purposes of committing other crimes are put away. They are going to serve serious time. That is very important.

This is important if we are going to send a serious signal about the larger issue of organized crime. We are not going to tolerate it any more. We are going to fight back. Society wants to fight back. Canadians can do that through their members of Parliament. That is what the member for Langley is doing. That is what I am up here doing on behalf of the citizens and the communities of the riding of Essex and even for our neighbours in the city of Windsor. We know they do not tolerate this anymore. In our community we have seen vice crime on the rise. We have seen a lot of crime that has been going up.

It is very important for us as citizens to express our displeasure. We are done with it. We are just not going to tolerate it anymore. The way we can do that is by passing Bill C-293.

I want to talk about the profile of the typical auto thief. It is not some young kid on a joyride who walks into a neighbourhood, picks a car that is nice and easy to break into, takes it for a little spin and leaves it somewhere else. According to a 2004 auto theft study, the typical auto thief is a 27-year-old male with 10 prior criminal convictions and who is usually addicted to crystal meth or some other illicit substance.

I think I heard one of the hon. members across the way say that the courts have to factor in that the person stealing a car may not have a criminal record and that we have to look out for things like that. Ten prior criminal convictions is the standard profile for an auto thief who is usually a 27-year-old male. This is not just the ordinary kid off the street. We have to send a strong message. It is a very critical issue.

I applaud and salute the member for Langley for bringing this forward. It is about time that we got serious about the issue of minimum sentencing in the country. The other parties may oppose this because they think criminals have a constitutional right to have house arrest instead of being put in a jail. We on this side of the House disagree. We in the Conservative Party of Canada think that it is high time that we start getting serious about minimum sentencing and send a strong signal that we have had enough with auto theft.

I will be proudly voting for Bill C-293 in support of my colleague and in defence of our communities.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 22nd, 2005 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to address Bill C-293, an act to amend the Criminal Code, amending sentencing with regard to the theft of an automobile.

I want to thank my hon. colleague from the riding of Langley for his important contribution to Canadian justice in introducing this legislation.

Auto theft is a major problem in the lower mainland of British Columbia. The bill is a step in the right direction toward changing that.

I had a look at the statistics for auto theft in my own riding of South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale. In 2004, nearly 200 cars were stolen in White Rock. However that pales in comparison to Surrey. In recent years, Surrey has seen over 7,000 cars stolen a year. The problem in Surrey is so bad the city has even gained the infamous of “auto theft capital of North America”.

I say in recent years because in the last year the RCMP in the lower mainland have launched a somewhat successful project to combat this problem. The RCMP have tasked officers to focus solely on auto theft and have begun using bait cars to capture thieves. Surrey saw car theft drop 23% in the month that the program was introduced, with a 13% drop overall across the greater Vancouver area.

However bait cars, more policing and all the efforts of law enforcement are not going to eliminate most auto theft because even when criminals are convicted, they are back on the streets again quickly. Even auto thieves with long records for repeat offences are routinely given slaps on the wrist.

The situation is not unlike that of marijuana grow houses, also a major problem in Surrey. Despite the best efforts of police to catch and convict growers, they cannot keep up with the problem. Even when convictions are obtained, growers, like car thieves, get light sentences. That is in part because the Criminal Code does not recognize auto theft as anything more than a property crime.

According to Statistics Canada, 171,000 cars were stolen in Canada in 2003. The direct costs to insurers, police and courts of car theft is over $1 billion a year. There is an added cost to the victims of such thieves, in terms of paying deductibles, lost possessions and loss of mobility.

All Canadians pay for auto theft through the taxes they pay for policing and justice. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that the component that covers theft of an average annual auto insurance premium is $48 per car.

Likewise, the cost of grow ops to landlords for damaged rental property and the utilities for stolen electricity is also in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

However there is a darker side to both crimes, often accompanied by an element of violence and posing a threat to public safety.

As we have learned, grow houses are often protected by armed criminals and the houses themselves are often booby-trapped with explosives or other dangerous deterrents.

Similarly, auto theft could be a dangerous and deadly activity. We need look no further than Maple Ridge, B.C., where in March a gas station attendant was dragged almost eight kilometres to his death under a stolen Chrysler LeBaron.

Based on statistics from previous years, somewhere around 30 people will be killed in an incident involving a stolen car this year. There also seems to be a connection to street racing in some cases of auto theft.

Whether cars are stolen for joy rides, for parts or for the money to buy street racers, the minor consequences auto thieves face if caught are little disincentive to those who would be involved in dangerous street racing. We just had another incident in Victoria yesterday that some eye witnesses believe may have involved street racing. A woman was killed and several other bystanders were injured.

It is also revealing to hear what the police who deal with auto theft believe about the problem. According to a study conducted by the City of Surrey and several interested parties, 100% of police interviewees agree on the following points: auto crime is not strictly a property crime but a crime against persons; auto theft has seriously impacted victims despite insurance coverage; sentences for auto theft are too lenient; auto theft offenders pose a serious risk to police; auto theft criminals carry weapons; and these offenders pose a serious risk to the public.

The courts are simply not taking this crime as seriously as they should when it comes to sentencing and that poses a threat to public safety.

The Surrey mayor stated in the Surrey Now newspaper that:

We're being very aggressive with car thieves who commit frequent thefts and we're working hard with the courts to try and keep these people in jail longer.

We've got to make the courts realize how dangerous some of these people are when they steal cars.

Indeed, there are reasons why auto theft is now so dangerous. Auto theft has become closely linked to the drug trade and organized crime. Many of the car thieves arrested fit a profile of young, single men and male teens often seeking cash to feed a drug habit.

The increasing involvement of teenagers in auto theft is no accident. They know that they can participate in this criminal enterprise with few consequences if they are caught and as juvenile offenders will have no criminal record when they turn 18.

Those paying the cash for the stolen cars are members of organized crime who, incidentally, are also selling the narcotics. It is a huge industry and the profits are phenomenal. Organized crime strips the cars for parts for sale domestically, changes the VIN numbers and sells them interprovincially or exports the cars overseas to jurisdictions where they cannot be traced. Usually it is the more expensive cars and SUVs that are making it overseas; about 40,000 annually by insurance industry estimates. This is a major problem.

According to the latest annual report from the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada it states:

At the Port of Vancouver, sectors of the workforce have been infiltrated by a small number of criminal elements, including some members and associates of the HELLS ANGELS, as well as other independent criminal operators.

A report produced by Statistics Canada on involvement of organized crime in motor vehicle theft states:

Stolen vehicles that are shipped out of Montreal or Toronto may first arrive in the United States and from there travel to Europe, South America or East Africa. Stolen vehicles that are shipped out of the port of Halifax are likely to arrive eventually in Eastern Europe. Stolen vehicles moved through the port of Vancouver often end up in Asia.

For reasons of economics and public safety it is time for Parliament to act on this issue. There are many actions that can be taken and Bill C-293 is a modest, moderate step forward. Bill C-293 would require a minimum sentence upon first conviction of three months incarceration or $1,000 fine or both. A second conviction would be six months incarceration or $5,000 fine or both. All subsequent convictions would result in a one year incarceration or $10,000 fine or both.

There are 29 other offences in the Criminal Code for which there are minimum sentences. This is not a novel idea, nor is it a new idea, but it would be an effective deterrent to those who would steal cars.

The Liberal government disagrees with this approach. When we discussed minimum sentences during the month of March, the justice minister's parliamentary secretary made a number of claims about minimum sentences, some of which were conflicting. His most absurd claim was:

Research into the effectiveness of minimum sentences has shown that these have no dissuasive or educational effect and are no more effective than lighter sentences as far as crime prevention is concerned.

He also said:

--there was no correlation whatsoever between the crime rate and the severity of sentences.

The parliamentary secretary also suggested that the cost to the corrections system may increase with the minimum sentences. He may be correct about that but that is not the entire equation. First, if minimum sentences are enacted and enforced, court and policing costs may drop as repeat offenders find themselves behind bars for extended stays. Also, the cost to drivers, through reduced insurance costs, may be appreciable, because with the car thieves either behind bars or deterred from such a crime there is simply less theft to compensate.

The fact is the government has not taken criminal justice seriously and that is evident to even a significant number of Liberal MPs who are often persuaded to support various private members' bills that stiffen sentences for crime whenever they get the chance in a free vote.

I want to conclude by once again congratulating the member for Langley for introducing this fine piece of legislation. I would like to encourage all Canadians who care about this issue to write or call their member of Parliament and ask them to support Bill C-293.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 22nd, 2005 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-293, an act to amend the Criminal Code, theft of a motor vehicle.

I would like to begin by addressing some of the comments made in the first hour of debate on Bill C-293 in the House.

I would agree with the hon. member for Langley that motor vehicle theft is a serious issue. I would also agree with the comments made by some hon. members that cars are stolen for a variety of reasons. As examples, they are stolen to feed drug addiction, to facilitate the activities of criminal organizations or simply as a matter of thrill.

As I understand the position advanced by the hon. member for Langley during the first hour of second reading debate, one of the rationales for mandatory minimum sentences in Bill C-293 is deterrence. I cannot agree that the sentencing structure as he has provided will meet this important objective.

To the extent that the bill attempts to deter vehicle theft, it is sending a mixed message, given the fact that if implemented, Bill C-293 will reduce the maximum punishment available for theft by one-half, down to five years imprisonment.

Currently, a person who steals a motor vehicle is liable to a 10 year jail term when the matter is prosecuted by indictment. A 10 year maximum term sends an important message to offenders that this criminal activity will not be tolerated, not by society and especially not by the Canadian criminal justice system. It makes a long term of imprisonment available to judges imposing sentences when circumstances so require.

It is an important element of sentencing in Canada that a court undertakes an assessment of any mitigating and aggravating factors during the sentencing process. For instance, where motor vehicle theft is accompanied by an incident of violence, this has been found to be an aggravating factor in sentencing. Alternatively, when an offender pleads guilty or is without a criminal record, these have been found to be mitigating factors. This balancing process aims to ensure that like criminals receive similar sentences for similar crimes.

My point is, this judicial discretion, which is very important, is contributing to the imposition of suitable punishment, one that takes into account various statutory directions set out in the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code, especially when dealing with a wide range of offenders committing auto theft in the country.

I have focused much of my discussion thus far on the use of criminal law as a means to combatting this form of crime. During the first hour of debate on this matter my colleague highlighted two other factors which would contribute to the reduction of motor vehicle thefts in Canada. These two components include education and engineering.

With regard to engineering, a significant advancement was made by the government in March with the regulatory amendment regarding the vehicle immobilization system. The amendment requires that by September 1, 2007 all new vehicles having a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 4,536 kilograms, except emergency vehicles, must be equipped with an immobilization system. These immobilization systems, which make it difficult for the car engine to be started without the proper disabling device, will be effective in reducing theft in the country.

Although not a panacea, this new requirement for cars in Canada will make it more difficult to commit motor vehicle theft and will certainly prove to be an effective deterrent, especially for those committing auto theft as a crime of opportunity or thrill.

With regard to the need for community programming and education, recent law enforcement initiatives have shown evidence of success. For example, project heat in Saskatchewan and the bait car program in British Columbia are evidence of innovative ways law enforcement are directing efforts at preventing this form of crime in these communities.

In conclusion, although I believe the intentions behind the bill are good, I cannot support Bill C-293 as it fails to take into account that the crime of auto theft is committed by an array of offenders with divergent motivations and associated levels of violence. Further, the bill would essentially cut in half the maximum punishment available for this crime currently under the Criminal Code and it would also disproportionately increase the maximum punishment available under summary conviction to two years, well beyond crimes such as sexual assault.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 22nd, 2005 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to private member's Bill C-293, brought forward by my hon. colleague from Langley. My colleague has brought forward an issue that affects Canadians in every riding in Canada, the issue of auto theft.

The bill is designed to send direction to the courts when dealing with this matter. It is intended to send a message to criminals that the days of stealing cars with little or no consequences are coming to an end. The purpose of the bill is to provide direction to the courts regarding sentencing for the offence of theft of a motor vehicle.

Bill C-293 would amend the Criminal Code to provide for minimum sentencing with fines and/or imprisonment for every person who is convicted of theft of a motor vehicle a first, second or subsequent time. The bill would provide for minimum sentencing whether the offence is prosecuted by indictment or punishable on summary conviction.

On first conviction it would be three months incarceration or $1,000 fine, or both. On second conviction it would be incarceration or $5,000 fine, or both. All subsequent convictions, should there be any, would be a year in jail or $10,000, or both.

Each year 160,000 vehicles are stolen in Canada. Over the past decade, vehicle theft rates have doubled in London and Hamilton, tripled in Regina and more than quadrupled in Winnipeg. Canada ranked fifth highest of 17 countries for car theft in the 1999 international crime victimization survey. Canada's vehicle theft rate has been higher than the United States since 1996.

The major motive for theft continues to be joyriding. The remainder is mainly accounted for by organized crime.

While many associate vehicle theft with big cities and bad neighbourhoods, this is not often the case. In fact, the rate of vehicle theft is highest in the western provinces. Luckily, these provinces also have high recovery rates because cars are usually stolen for joyriding and the ones stolen for export markets are harder to accept from non-seaport cities.

Most thefts by organized crime are for vehicles exported overseas or to other provinces. However, many are still chopped for parts as in the past. In fact, a chop shop was discovered about 15 kilometres from our farm this year. I asked a friend on the weekend if his stolen truck was recovered. He said they had found one part, so the whole vehicle must have been chopped. What a waste.

The drastic rise in the cost of auto parts has made this an extremely profitable and lucrative venture for organized crime. Export markets are the reason Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal and large Ontario urban centres suffer from the lowest recovery rate.

Montreal has the largest problem of organized vehicle theft in Canada. Its non-recovery rate is twice that of Halifax, the next city on the list. A staggering 44% of vehicles vanish without a trace.

Last year my husband and I were victims of auto theft. Not only was our family a victim, but more important, so was our business. While my husband worked on the swather, swathing rapeseed, a wanted criminal jumped into our farm half-ton truck on that very same field and headed off down the highway. Luckily I was looking for my husband in the field and noticed our truck speeding down the highway. I managed to call the police.

We were among the fortunate few. We got our vehicle back in one piece, but it was two days later. The RCMP recovered our truck that night on a tip from a suspicious citizen. Unfortunately, this is not the case much of the time because 34% of cars stolen from homes are not recovered. Comparatively, parking lots and streets have much better recovery rates of 15% and 10% respectively. An amazing 41% of cars stolen from car dealerships are never found.

These statistics show that thieves are selective in the cars they take. Even new cars with their new anti-theft systems are not safe. All of this comes at a great cost.

Every day about 440 cars are stolen in Canada. This comes at a staggering cost of $1 billion per year. This only gets more expensive as cars get more expensive. Our insurance rates skyrocket. Low income families who cannot afford to live downtown find they cannot afford to drive from the suburbs either.

However, it is not the financial cost that concerns me the most. It is the human cost. Those who steal cars are often reckless in their use and even more reckless when fleeing the law.

From 1999 to 2001, just three years, 81 Canadians lost their lives as a result of vehicle theft. Half of them, 54%, were the offenders themselves. The other half were innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The justice system has failed to keep repeat offenders off the roads, but the Liberal government and its go soft approach to youth crime is also to blame. Young offenders, those aged 12 to 17, account for 42% of all those charged. That is unbelievable. Forty-two per cent of those charged with stealing cars are not even old enough to be licensed.

Although these youths are charged, the consequences under the Liberal youth justice system fails to provide enough of a deterrent. Organized crime knows this. Organized crime, just as it does with young drug runners, targets youth to do its dirty work because there are no consequences. The Liberal government has turned our youth into targets for organized crime as a result, and this is unacceptable.

The costs are not simply criminal records. The real cost is lives. Seventy-one per cent of those killed in stolen vehicles were under the age of 25. While some like to blame high speed police chases, this is not the case. In fact, over half, 54%, of deaths occurred outside of the active police pursuit. Our law enforcement officers are trained professionals and should not be blamed for collisions involving stolen vehicles.

As I mentioned earlier this year, our family truck was stolen. We were not alone. Hundreds of small business owners can go out of business with a relatively simple vehicle theft. Many have all their tools and equipment in their vehicles. A stolen vehicle puts them out of business and their families suffer as a result. It can take months to re-accumulate the specialized tools and equipment. Whether it is a plumber, a carpet cleaner, a courier, or a cab driver, all face financial ruin with the theft of their vehicle, their business and their livelihood.

I applaud my colleague from Langley for bringing forward this legislation. By doing so he has taken the first steps to better protect small business owners. More important, he has taken a giant step toward saving the lives of innocent victims, especially our youth and our children.

By supporting the legislation, the House sends a message that there is a serious problem and we want consequences for all those involved in it. I encourage all my hon. colleagues to think of the innocent victims in their ridings and support this legislation.

At this time I want to honour those men and women in our police forces across our country who are in the stolen vehicle units and who work so hard to enforce the laws and to stop people from stealing our vehicles.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 22nd, 2005 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak today on Bill C-293, an act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle).

I would like to begin by responding to some comments made in this House during the first hour of debate on Bill C-293.

I agree with the member for Langley that theft of a motor vehicle is a serious offence. I also agree with the comments by some members about motor vehicles being stolen for a variety of reasons. They can, for instance, be stolen to maintain a drug habit, to facilitate the activities of criminal organizations, or merely for the thrill of it.

If I understand correctly the position of the member who spoke during the first hour of the debate on second reading, one of the reasons given as justification for mandatory minimum sentencing as set out in Bill C-293 is its deterrent value. I am not convinced that the sentencing structure he proposed will achieve that important objective.

If this bill does try to send out a deterrent message about motor vehicle theft, it is a muted message, since it would, if implemented, cut the maximum sentence for motor vehicle theft in half, that is down to five years imprisonment.

Currently, anyone who commits theft of a motor vehicle is liable to 10 years' imprisonment if prosecuted by way of indictment. A maximum 10 year sentence tells offenders that this crime will not be tolerated by society in general or by the criminal justice system in particular.

An important sentencing principle in Canada is the consideration by the courts of any mitigating or aggravating factors during sentencing. For example, when theft of a motor vehicle is accompanied by an act of violence, that act is considered to be an aggravating factor in the determination of the sentence. Similarly, a mitigating factor would be if an offender pleads guilty or has no criminal record. The aim of this compensatory process is to ensure that like criminals receive equivalent sentences for similar crimes.

In other words, the judge has a great deal of discretion in handing down an appropriate sentence that takes into consideration the various directives set out in the Criminal Code provisions on sentencing, especially when it comes to crimes committed for a wide variety of reasons, as is the case with motor vehicle theft in this country.

Up to now, I have talked mostly about using criminal law to fight this type of crime.

During the first hour of debate on this issue, my colleague mentioned two other factors contributing to the reduction in thefts of motor vehicles in Canada, namely education and technology.

As regards technology, the current government made significant progress in March 2005, when it amended the regulations on vehicle demobilizers.

The amendment requires that, by September 1, 2007, all new vehicles with a gross weight rating of less than 4,536 kg be equipped with vehicle demobilizers. These systems, which make it difficult to start a motor without the device that deactivates them, will help reduce vehicle theft in Canada.

While no panacea, this new requirement will make it more difficult to steal a car and will no doubt be an effective deterrent in the case of crimes of opportunity or crimes committed by those looking for a thrill.

As regards the need for community and educational programs, recent initiatives enforcing the legislation have met with success. The recent HEAT program in Saskatchewan and the bait car program in British Columbia are examples of innovative methods used by the police to prevent this sort of crime in their community.

In conclusion, while I believe Bill C-293 is based on good intentions, I cannot support it, because it does not take into account the fact that car thefts are committed by all sorts of offenders for various reasons and with varying degrees of violence. In addition, it would essentially halve the current maximum sentence for this type of crime provided in the Criminal Code and would disproportionately increase the maximum mandatory sentence provided when the offence is punishable on summary conviction to two years, which is considerably more than sentences for crimes such as sexual assault.