Bill C-64 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (vehicle identification number)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Irwin Cotler Liberal
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
October 25th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to be speaking about Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime). As my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, so clearly stated just moments ago, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. Bill S-9, just like Bill C-26, which went down the drain because of prorogation, and Bill C-53, which went down the drain because of the election, has the very specific goal of reducing vehicle theft. The bill's main measure, which is to create an offence for tampering with an identification number—which is also known as a serial number, just to clarify—is not new. In fact, it was lifted from Bill C-64, which was introduced by the Liberal government in September 2005.
However, Bill S-9 is broader in scope. It also targets the trafficking, export and import of any property obtained by crime and proposes a minimum six-month sentence for a person convicted of vehicle theft for the third time. My colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, explained the Bloc Québécois' position well. Generally, we are against minimum sentences in justice bills because they tie the judge's hands and mean that no matter what happened and despite any exacerbating or mitigating factors, a minimum sentence of x number of months or years must be handed down to the person who committed the crime. This means that one person could receive the same sentence as another even though the crime they committed was not nearly as serious or they played a smaller role in the crime than the second person. The Bloc Québécois feels that is a problem.
However, it is said that when there is recidivism, organized crime is more likely to be involved. When teenagers steal a car and take it for a joyride, the hope is that there is not too much damage, because accidents can be caused by excessive speed. I imagine a person who commits this type of offence already has the makings of a criminal. However, in that case, there is not necessarily recidivism. Criminal groups make money by stealing cars, altering them, chopping them up to sell the parts, or shipping them overseas. If these people are caught more than once, they could receive a minimum sentence. The Bloc Québécois does not really have a problem with that in this particular case because of the way the legislation is drafted.
Bill S-9 is in all respects the same as Bill C-26 as passed, with support from the Bloc Québécois, by the House of Commons during the last session. Furthermore, Bill C-26, which the Bloc Québécois supported at third reading, was practically identical to the version introduced at first reading, which itself was similar to Bill C-53, introduced previously. We are in favour of sending Bill S-9 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Unfortunately, as some hon. members have said and as my colleague, the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, said during a speech on the same subject earlier this year, this committee is overwhelmed because the Minister of Justice has piled on the bills.
Although we may be in favour of some of these bills, we must still study them carefully. We cannot pass a bill without having studied it and heard from witnesses. Sometimes everyone in the House will agree on a bill, because it is clear and well written and we know its purpose and all the ins and outs. In this case, the bill may be fast-tracked, or passed very quickly. However, in most cases, we must study bills in much more detail and send them to committee to ensure that there is nothing fishy going on, and that we are on the right track.
The problem is that there is a lot of jostling in committee. There are bills that everyone agrees on, but members would like to hear from the witnesses. Some political parties want further information, and want to propose amendments. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is very busy right now. So it will be difficult for anything to happen with this bill. I do not know whether the House is unanimous on this bill, but based on what I have heard from the various parties, it seems that we will not have any trouble moving it through. The government needs the support of one party, and the Bloc is in favour of this bill.
A little later, I will give some interesting statistics. According to what I have read on this subject, the number of car thefts has been going down since 1996. Nevertheless, now is the time to act, because it still happens too frequently.
The social and economic consequences of these thefts are a heavy burden, both for individuals and society as a whole. Just think about the insurance companies that are faced with this problem. Insurance companies are no different from other businesses. When they incur costs by compensating people who have had their vehicle stolen, it is the consumer who foots the bill at the end of the day. That is the way things work. It is true that vehicle thefts affect everyone.
The cost of automobile insurance varies based on how often you use the vehicle and where you live. Central Quebec is known as a region with high rates of vehicle theft and possession of stolen vehicles. It is possible that insurance there costs a little bit more. Without repeating what was said earlier, I would say that Winnipeg is, unfortunately, Canada's vehicle theft capital. I am sure that people pay much more to insure a vehicle in Winnipeg than in other municipalities in Canada. Montreal and Toronto also have a high number of vehicle thefts because of the large number of vehicles registered there.
Back when I was a local radio reporter in my region, I witnessed several vehicle seizures. Unfortunately, a number of criminal gangs had chosen Victoriaville and the surrounding area as a location for their illegal activities. Even some very modern garages that sold nice cars were raided, and police seized several vehicles. Charges were laid, and people were sentenced to jail for possession of stolen goods. I sometimes covered these events. Today, there are fewer such garages, no doubt because of those seizures. They may have set up shop elsewhere, or they may be more discreet. Still, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. The scourge persists in my region and all across Canada.
The Bloc Québécois agrees with the new trafficking offence set out in Bill S-9. The purpose of this provision is to curb trafficking in cars and car parts. Organized crime groups get rich by quickly dismantling cars and selling the parts. Some stolen cars immediately leave the country for sale elsewhere, but in general, cars are stolen for parts, so vehicles are stripped right away.
Judging by the list of most frequently stolen cars, thieves are not always after very costly or luxurious vehicles. Some groups put in orders for particular makes of vehicles.
I do not need to list those makes, but I can say that the most popular cars are the ones most frequently stolen. Many of them are compact cars that cost between $20,000 and $25,000. There are so many of these cars on the market that parts are in high demand. That is where possession of stolen goods comes into play. Fenders, engine parts, mufflers, wheels, everything goes. Everything gets recycled and sent to shady dealers for resale. Worst of all, these parts are not necessarily resold for a better price. Consumers who have been in accidents or who have defective parts in their cars buy these parts in good faith, not knowing that they are buying stolen parts. This is a very lucrative market for gang members.
This bill also tackles another problem: vehicle theft for the purpose of joyriding. I am not sure what the correct word for that is in French. Most thefts of this type are committed by young people.
For instance, this happens when someone stops their car in front of a convenience store and unfortunately leaves the keys in the ignition, perhaps even leaving the car running. Sometimes in the winter, people might leave their cars running while they run in to buy some milk. They get out of the car without locking the doors. Someone can walk by more or less by chance and steal the vehicle to go for a joyride. A friend of mine was the victim of this kind of theft and the police found his car in a ditch a few kilometres from where it had been stolen. The young people had simply abandoned the vehicle there, unfortunately with some damage, because they had gone for a joyride in a field. Not everyone commits this kind of vehicle theft for the same reason.
I mentioned statistics earlier. According to the most recent statistics from the insurer's organization, Groupement des assureurs automobiles, there were more than 38,800—that is nearly 40,000—vehicle thefts in Quebec in 2006. That is the equivalent of one motor vehicle theft every 14 minutes. That is a lot of theft. Insurance companies had to pay out $300 million, which has a direct impact on all insurance premiums. Despite those high numbers, Quebec is far from the worst. In fact, per capita, the figures are far lower in Quebec than in the western provinces.
Comparing the number of vehicle thefts in 2006, Quebec had 507 per 100,000 inhabitants and Alberta had 725. The worst rate—and I think some of my colleagues have mentioned this—is in Manitoba. Earlier we heard that Winnipeg was the car theft capital of Canada. In fact, Manitoba had 1,376 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. This is rather frightening, especially if we compare it to the average across Canada, which is 487 per 100,000 people. In all of Canada, approximately 160,000 vehicles were stolen in 2006. As I said earlier, the rate has been going down since 1996, but the statistics show that we are still facing a very serious problem.
The situations in Quebec and the western provinces are different. In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the majority of the cars are stolen for joyrides, simply for the fun of stealing a car and going for a ride. Sometimes cars are used during the commission of another crime. People steal a car to commit a holdup and then abandon the car shortly thereafter. In western Canada, auto thefts are committed by people who are not necessarily seeking monetary gain from this larceny. The purpose is a joyride. These thefts are committed for fun, on a dare, or to get a car to commit another crime.
In Quebec and in Ontario, even though people steal cars for joyriding in those provinces as well, most of the auto thefts are linked to trafficking in and possession of stolen vehicles.
The most commonly stolen vehicles are not the ones we might think. They are not just luxury vehicles with high resale values. The most popular vehicles are stolen for their parts. I have a list from 2006, but most of the media provide a list every year of the 10 most stolen vehicles in Canada. The list is even broken down by most stolen vehicle per province.
For the most part, we are talking about small cars such as the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza and Acura Integra. The Acura Integra no longer exists, but people modify it. They like that model because it is a high performance vehicle and the parts are traded on the market rather easily. These are highly sought after parts. That kind of car is very popular. There are also the minivans used by small families; we see a lot of them on the road. Vehicles are stolen for their parts and not necessarily for their value.
The Library of Parliament put together a very interesting document for the committee to use during its study of this bill. I remember some of the facts that were in it. The Insurance Bureau of Canada, or IBC, estimates that auto theft creates a financial burden in excess of a billion dollars a year. This estimate includes the theft of uninsured vehicles, costs related to health care, court proceedings, police services and legal services, and personal expenses incurred by owners.
Thus, vehicle theft costs our society about a billion dollars a year. There is a direct financial impact on consumers. Auto insurers figure out how much money they lose because of auto theft, and then they pass the cost on to drivers and vehicle owners. These costs also depend on where the vehicle is located and how it is used. For example, members of Parliament who use their cars a lot for work are more likely to have their cars stolen because they travel a lot and park in many places. Their cars are not sitting in garages. They put a lot of kilometres on their cars and are at greater risk of having their cars stolen.
In Canada, the number of motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 inhabitants dropped 15% in 2008, continuing the general decline we have seen since 1997. This drop is due to the fact that we opened our eyes and adopted certain measures. Since September 2007, Canadian auto manufacturers have had to install electronic immobilizers in new vehicles, which makes them more difficult to steal.
Insurance companies are also trying to reduce theft by offering better deals to owners of vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. This may not necessarily be an alarm system; it could be a device with an intelligent key, which makes it more difficult for a thief to start the vehicle.
Luxury vehicles stolen and shipped overseas in containers to Russia, Africa and the Middle East, where they are in demand, as my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie mentioned, are often equipped with a GPS, which makes it easy to locate them.
I would be remiss if I did not mention certain municipal bylaws. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of theft in my region. In Victoriaville, there is now a municipal bylaw prohibiting drivers from leaving their cars running if they are not in them. Another bylaw provides for a fine if a vehicle's doors are left unlocked. If a vehicle is parked in the driveway and the doors are not locked, a police officer can give the owner a ticket. People are increasingly being made aware of the problem of auto theft. Studying this bill in committee will allow us to tackle the problem of auto theft.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
October 25th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Hochelaga for his encouragement.
I am very pleased to take part in this debate on Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime). As suggested in the short title, it will amend the Criminal Code to give it more teeth. Auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime are often related to gangs and organized crime.
Gangs in large Canadian cities such as Montreal and Toronto often make illegal, totally reprehensible profits from stolen vehicles and especially auto parts that are much sought after on illicit markets.
This bill is needed even though Statistics Canada data show that there has been a clear decline since 1996 in the number of vehicles stolen per 100,000 population. I printed out the 2006 Statistics Canada data by province on motor vehicle thefts per 100,000. There has been quite a large reduction since 1999.
The figures show that in 1999, there were 531 vehicle thefts per 100,000 population. In 2006, there were 487 thefts in Canada per 100,000. That is a major reduction. There were some regional disparities, of course. The extent of this illegal activity varies depending on the part of Canada. In Quebec, for example, there were 507 vehicle thefts per 100,000 population, while in Manitoba, there were 1,376. The regional disparity is obvious. This is related to the reasons why malicious people steal vehicles. The reasons are not the same in Montreal as in Ontario and Alberta. Some people steal cars for the money, while others want to go for joyrides, as the literature shows.
First, this bill includes targeted measures to improve the Criminal Code. It will help us get a better picture of all these illegal activities and the black market, whether in regard to exports and imports of stolen or illegally obtained goods or trafficking in them. It also imposes longer sentences. Minimum sentences are introduced in this bill, but I will get back to that later.
The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-9. However, we should not focus simply on punishment but look at the source of the problem as well. We need to realize that the societies where crime is the lowest are often those that deal seriously with major social ills, such as poverty and inequality. Our provinces, municipalities and police forces should look at prevention as well. We need legislation and penalties, of course, but what we need most of all are preventive measures aimed at reducing inequality and poverty.
The new measures to reduce car theft have been debated in Parliament before, in 2005. At that time, the Liberal government had introduced Bill C-64 providing that altering the identification number would be an offence. The vehicle identification number, referred to as the VIN, is used to identify vehicles and their parts. It provides each vehicle with a unique identifier. I will come back to this a little later.
The purpose of Bill S-9 is to extend the reach of the Criminal Code by tackling trafficking in, exporting and importing any property obtained by crime. It also clarifies and extends the reach of the Criminal Code. It provides minimum sentences after an individual has been convicted of motor vehicle theft for the third time. So harsher punishments have been provided for these illegal activities.
Section 354 of the Criminal Code already provided punishments for possession of property obtained by crime, but Bill S-9 clarifies those crimes. It creates an offence for trafficking in property obtained by crime, but it also provides a maximum sentence of 14 years. So this adds to the sentences available for these criminal activities.
But it must be understood that the reasons why individuals steal vehicles are not all the same, from one place to another and one province to another. There are regional disparities in the reasons why an individual steals a vehicle belonging to someone in Quebec or someone in Alberta. In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the reasons for theft are described as “joyriding”. A vehicle is stolen there for amusement, while the situation is different in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Quebec and Ontario, in particular, have become criminal hubs for stolen vehicles, because people want to profit from property obtained by crime in these cases.
We have seen organized rings becoming real hubs of organized crime. The indicator that enables us to identify these various types of theft is what is called the stolen vehicle recovery rate. The ability of the authorities to locate stolen vehicles varies enormously from one province to another. For example, the stolen vehicle recovery rate in Toronto is 75%.
When we come to cities like Montreal, part of which I represent in the House of Commons, we see that the stolen vehicle recovery rate is 56%. Obviously, the authorities are clearly having trouble locating stolen vehicles in Montreal, as compared to Toronto. The reasons are different. Why is it harder? Quite simply because these cities have in fact become organized crime hubs, as I was saying. These stolen vehicles are used for trafficking and exporting. We can see that there are various ways these individuals, acting with malice aforethought, decide to steal vehicles that belong to members of the public.
First, what does the thief do? They start by identifying the vehicle, based on where it is, whether in a private or public parking lot. Then, they steal the vehicle in a very short timeframe. The statistics tell us that the thief manages to steal the vehicle in 30 seconds to three minutes, depending on whether the vehicle has an auto start system and some kind of protection, whether an alarm or something else.
In a trafficking scheme with crime hubs, where does the vehicle go? There are three activities that organized crime groups do to get rid of a vehicle and make huge profits. The first is that the vehicle is chopped, or stripped for parts. Much as a butcher would do, these organized crime groups dismantle the vehicle to take the most important parts. These parts are identified. They know exactly which parts to take from certain vehicles. They know which parts are worth a lot on the market, and this is determined by supply and demand. So, they strip the vehicle for the most important parts. Next, they immediately export the parts after stripping them, because the vehicle is often sent to underground shops, where mechanics strip the vehicles and identify the valuable parts. Then, the vehicles are exported.
Why are the recovery rates lower in areas like Montreal? Simply because Montreal and Toronto are prime strategic locations for organized crime groups that traffic in vehicles or vehicle parts, for two reasons. First, Montreal and Toronto, and particularly Montreal, are right on the border. As a result, it is a strategic location for organized crime groups to export stolen vehicle parts to the United States. In addition, Montreal and Toronto are near waterways. Second, in terms of strategy, as I said earlier, unlike in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it is clear that cars stolen in Montreal and Toronto are not stolen for the purposes of joyriding; they are stolen to be resold.
The second way organized crime groups move a vehicle is to export it to where there is a clearly targeted market. Where are these markets, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada? Essentially, these markets are in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, South America and Africa.
Resellers export car parts that are in very high demand to these markets by ocean freight. It is estimated that the sale of a Jeep Cherokee can directly generate $97,000 for organized crime. For some organized groups, it pays to sell stolen vehicles. That has to be taken into consideration.
It is often thought that luxury vehicles are in demand in these markets. However, that is not the case. Quite often, the vehicles or parts in demand are not high-end but have a high resale value. In 2006, the 10 most stolen cars in Canada were the 1999 Honda Civic SiR two-door, the 2000 Honda Civic SiR two-door, Subarus, Acuras, Dodge Caravans, Dodge Grand Caravans, Audis and Dodge Shadows. Luxury vehicles are not necessarily the most frequently stolen. The two most stolen automobiles are plain Honda Civics because their parts have a resale value on the black market.
There are three types of operations: chopping for parts, exporting, and changing identification numbers of parts and vehicles. In addition, parts and vehicles are cloned. How is the identification changed? Organized groups find vehicles involved in accidents, obtain their vehicle identification number or VIN, and copy it onto a stolen vehicle. The identification is changed in the third step in the process, which is also when cloning takes place, once again using the VIN. For example, thieves will go to a shopping centre parking lot, obtain a VIN, and copy it onto a stolen vehicle.
That is how organized crime works and why the VIN is important and central to Bill S-9. We cannot simply create an offence for the possession of property obtained by crime, which has been covered so far by section 354 of the Criminal Code. We have to have provisions covering the VIN. When the vehicle identification number has been altered, there must be better regulation and offences with minimum sentences. That is why we are supporting Bill S-9.
Cars are stolen for two reasons. The first is that there is a black market with well-targeted operations. The Criminal Code must have more teeth and prohibit tampering with the VIN. This would be one measure among others to reduce auto theft and fight this problem.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
October 6th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC
Madam Speaker, this is the fourth time that this bill has been introduced in Parliament. I do not know if anyone said it was an urgent matter at the time, but they were ignored.
It started out in 2005 as Liberal Bill C-64. They were stopped short because an election was called, which they did not appreciate. It then became Bill C-53, and was shelved by an election or prorogation. It then became Bill C-26 and we now have Bill S-9, which was introduced by the government in the Senate in order to speed up its passage.
I believe that everyone recognizes that the government is responsible for the recent delays. That contradicts what we hear on a regular basis from the Minister of Justice in this Parliament, who says that the opposition is dragging its feet and that the opposition systematically opposes the legislative program it wants to present.
First, that is not true; second, the opposition's philosophy about some matters is diametrically opposed to that of the current Minister of Justice. We do not want our country to follow the example of the United States and become a country with one of the highest rates of incarceration. We know that half of all inmates in the world are found in U.S. prisons and it is obvious that this has not produced the desired results. There is a considerable difference in our philosophies. When a criminal justice bill that will really improve things and address an urgent problem is introduced, we are ready to collaborate. The minister knows that. Why did he not move more quickly before?
That said, now that he has introduced it, we will get the bill passed quickly because I note that there are no objections from the other two opposition parties, nor do we have any.
Nevertheless, I would like to make some comments. First of all, I must point out that auto theft has declined since 1996. I think the members who spoke before me said it is down by 20%. I think that corresponds to the statistics I have. Clearly, the nature of auto theft has changed somewhat over the years and now our legislation requires certain adjustments.
For instance, one thing that really surprised me when I consulted the most recent Statistics Canada data on the subject is that the incidence of auto theft varies considerably across the country. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador reports only 131 auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. Prince Edward Island reports 115. Nova Scotia reports 263, which is very high for the Maritimes. In New Brunswick, the number is 187. Quebec reports 507 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, which is quite high. The number of auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in Ontario is 303, and in Manitoba, it is 1,376.
We have heard some reasonable explanations so far. I can come back to some and add to them, in order to understand. Personally, I do not say this to humiliate Manitoba—as we have been unfairly humiliated—because in Quebec, we do more to tackle corruption; we tolerate it less and we prosecute the offenders. Therefore, it is in our newspapers more often than in other places, but it does not mean that we have more corruption than other places, nor does it mean that the entire population is corrupt. In any case, we can look at it hypothetically.
In Saskatchewan, the number of auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants is 663, in Alberta it is 725 and in British Columbia, it is 682. As we can see, the incidence is higher in western Canada. Once again, this clearly shows that the Parliament of Canada, which creates legislation for the entire country, does not necessarily have the power to make the changes needed to address crime. It was my experience, as a member of the Quebec government, that crime must be fought locally first, with local police forces and our own policies.
It is our duty to amend legislation when needed and that is what we are doing.
Statistics vary a great deal according to the province and the size of the city. I am all the more sympathetic to Manitoba when I know that the city in Quebec with the highest theft rate is the one that I have the honour of partially representing. Part of my riding is in Laval. In Laval, there are 852 car thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to Montreal where there are 723 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. That is quite high.
I understand that the rate is higher in Toronto than in Montreal because of Montreal's port. In Montreal, there are orders from foreign countries for four-wheel-drive luxury vehicles with air conditioning and other accessories. These vehicles can be shipped out of the country quickly through the port of Montreal, something that is not an option for car thieves in Toronto. This certainly plays a role in organized crime, which makes crime prevention more difficult, but not impossible.
Another significant number: the stolen vehicle recovery rate is 75% in Toronto and 56% in Montreal. This also clearly illustrates that organizations that steal luxury cars are able to offload them quickly because of the port, or so I am told by the police.
When I was young, another common reason for stealing a vehicle was joyriding, which is far less common today. Cars were not stolen for the thrill of stealing, but to cruise around and try it out. We all need to understand that boys are fascinated by cars. At least, that has been my experience. Young girls think about the utilitarian side of a car, but young boys think about how much fun it would be to drive one. That is why, quite often, the only crime a young person ever commits is having helped steal a vehicle. Young men are fascinated by them.
How do we combat this? I think that we have done it over time. It is far more difficult to steal a vehicle now. We have taken measures to make it more complicated to start a car. In earlier days, among young people, both delinquent types and those not overly involved in crime who had never committed a violent act and who were respectful, it was a source of pride to know how to start a car without the key and things like that. That is another explanation.
Perhaps the members from Winnipeg can tell me if they agree. When there is a large population of youth from not-so-rich families, there are perhaps more youth who are tempted and fascinated by automobiles, as are all young boys. If their fascination is not satisfied by their family's vehicle, they will be more tempted to steal vehicles simply for the joy of riding around in a car, being in control and driving it.
We are taking advantage of the opportunity to change the legislation. First, a minimum sentence of six months has been added. People may think that the Bloc Québécois has an ideological stance against minimum sentences. We are not against minimum sentences, but we recognize the circumstances under which a minimum sentence can be effective. Most of the time, the minimum sentences that have been proposed are not effective. I am sure that not even 10% of the members in the House know how many minimum sentences there are in the Criminal Code. If I gave them a test and asked which offences have a minimum sentence associated with them, less than 2% of them would pass. And I am being generous.
So how can we expect criminals to know what the minimum sentences are? These sentences have no impact on criminals' behaviour because they do not know what the minimums are. I have always said so. The most striking example is the importing of marijuana in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I began practising law. Marijuana was starting to spread. It all came from outside the country, because the marijuana that grew here was not hallucinogenic at all. The minimum sentence for importing marijuana was seven years. This was when marijuana use went up the most, so someone had to import it. We found that this minimum sentence, which was the longest in the Criminal Code after the minimum for murder, did not deter anyone. Minimum sentences generally have no deterrent effect, except under certain circumstances. The minimum sentence in this case is smart because it is for subsequent offences and because the offender is informed.
As a lawyer, I always informed my clients that if they were caught a second time, a minimum sentence would apply. That can act as a deterrent. If I had been appointed as a judge, I would have made a point of informing offenders when I had to sentence them for a crime for which a minimum is provided in the event of a subsequent offence. That way, an individual who might commit the same offence again is aware of the minimum sentence. That acts as a deterrent.
That is what we are talking about here. There is a reasonable minimum sentence of six months for a second offence. The minimum sentences that the members opposite come up with are always paradoxically flawed. Logically, a minimum sentence should apply to the least serious form of an offence, so that the maximum sentence can be handed down for the most serious form of the offence. But the people who come up with minimum sentences think about the most serious cases, which is why they want a minimum sentence. However, because they are motivated by the most serious cases, they set very long minimum sentences.
We have seen this in the United States, where there are many minimum sentences. Moreover, this is one of the problems with minimum sentences. In this case, there is no such problem. I feel that a six-month sentence for a third offence is reasonable. It can certainly act as a deterrent. As hon. members can see, the Bloc's objections are not ideological, but are based on rational knowledge, experience and criminology.
A new offence has been created—tampering with the vehicle identification number. I am surprised it is not already an offence. Someone who alters a VIN obviously does not have honest intentions. I really believed it was prohibited. No matter, it will be in the future.
A presumption is created: if an individual owns a vehicle with an altered VIN, he is presumed to have obtained it illegally. I believe that this is a reasonable presumption, but it does not always hold true. One can always provide a defence, if it is a good one. If it raises a reasonable doubt in the judge's mind, he will not accept the presumption. It seems to me that something is amiss if we own a car with an altered VIN, unless we dealt in good faith or were victims of the person who stole the car, changed the number and sold it to us. We apparently bought the car lawfully, and went to register it with the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec. That is a good change.
There is another new offence concerning trafficking in stolen vehicles. I have always thought that there could not be trafficking in a stolen car without possession of a stolen car. However, this is not a bad change—
May 6th, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.
Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my experience regarding auto theft with the House.
I practised criminal law for thirty years. The issue of auto theft comes up regularly. Throughout my career I saw numerous young people come before the courts on auto theft charges. I will come back to this point later, but lawyers consider there are two different offences: auto theft and joyriding. There is a fundamental difference between the two, and I think this needs to be taken into consideration when this bill is examined in committee.
In my opinion we need to let this bill, on which the Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour, go to committee for in-depth study. It is an important and worthwhile bill which addresses a phenomenon that affects our society.
My colleague from Hochelaga spoke yesterday about auto theft in major cities. My colleague has no car, so he is not at risk of car theft. In big cities, the phenomenon is different than in the regions. Let me explain. I will compare the Montreal region and the Abitibi—Témiscamingue region. Obviously it is problematic to have your car stolen in Montreal, because the insurance companies are often rather uncooperative and there are investigations. That is no fun for anyone, but there is always the possibility of taking public transit. Obviously, the situation is the very opposite if you have your car stolen in a region like Abitibi—Témiscamingue, where there is very little public transit. A stolen car causes all manner of problems and difficulties.
Unfortunately, many vehicles stolen in the outlying areas end up in Montreal or the Montreal area or somewhere else, to be disassembled. This is a reality. A stolen car is rarely found in one piece. Generally, they are stolen, taken to a chop shop, transformed or modified. Expensive major parts are taken off and resold.
Society is plagued by auto theft. We believe that the new offence that would be created in the Criminal Code could be worthwhile and should be analyzed in detail. However, we should think twice before imposing mandatory minimum sentences for auto theft. I will come back to this shortly.
I would like to talk a bit about Bill C-26. This bill would create an offence for tampering with a vehicle identification number. This will not mean much to those who are watching. I will explain.
Every vehicle has an identification number, which the dealer notes when the vehicle is maintained. The dealer looks at the identification number, which is stored in a data bank. He knows what maintenance was done on the vehicle most recently, what sort of vehicle it is and what sort of maintenance it requires. This identification number is very important. The problem is that the number is found in only one place in the vehicle. Generally, it is quite visible. It has to be so that the garage can take note of it. It is inside the vehicle, on the edge of the windshield.
In committee, we can look at whether chips could be placed in other spots inside the vehicle, on important parts such as the wheel rims, the engine or the transmission.
Would it not make sense for manufacturers to put chips in vehicles to help trace them? I know from experience that a number of dealers have begun using this sort of identification, which could be used to trace these parts if the vehicle were stolen.
Let us go back to Bill C-26. I want to point out that in 2005, the Liberals introduced Bill C-64, which became Bill C-53, which has now given rise to Bill C-26. I hope that we will be able to pass this bill, because I feel it is important to create an offence for tampering with an identification number. I feel this is important because the bill will be broader in scope. Bill C-26 also targets the trafficking, exportation and importation of property obtained by crime.
Possession of stolen property is a Criminal Code offence. It means that you have in your possession an object that you are using and you know is stolen. For example, and this is the case unfortunately for many people, their car is stolen and, for one reason or another the VIN number disappears. Quite often the vehicle is found at the other end of Quebec or Canada. The vehicle has been transformed: it has been repainted and the doors replaced. The person buying the vehicle quite often believes that the vendor selling the car for an incredibly low price is honest. The courts have intervened on several occasions with regard to wilful blindness.
If you purchase a 2007 or 2008 Audi A4 for $2,000, it is obviously a case of wilful blindness. You deliberately ignore the fact that the car may have been stolen. Someone who purchases a Mercedes, especially a recent model, for $10,000 or under can expect to be charged with possession of stolen goods.
Heaven knows that there are many very honest people and I have met some in my career. They purchase a car at a reasonable price. I was looking at the list of stolen vehicles. Take, for example, someone who buys a 1999 Honda Civic coupe for between $10,000 and $15,000. They would expect to be purchasing a legitimate car, one that was not obtained by committing an offence such as theft. All this is difficult to prove. It is complicated for the courts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person knew that the car was stolen.
Tampering with an identification number must be an offence. The vehicle identification number may be altered, modified or changed, but only by the dealer. When I read the bill I noted that this person will obviously not be prosecuted. That is not the purpose of the bill.
This bill creates the offence of trafficking in property obtained by crime, punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years. It also creates sections 355.1, 355.2 and 355.3 in the Criminal Code. The definition will be important, since “trafficking” will not have the same meaning as it does in the Food and Drugs Act. It will correspond to the definition of the term “to traffic”, in the sense of to sell, give, transfer, transport, export from Canada, import into Canada, send, deliver or deal with in any other way, or to offer to do any of those acts.
With this, we are getting at the very heart of organized crime. Motor vehicle theft is very much the work of organized crime. A great deal of organization is required to have people who steal motor vehicles and bring them to specific locations so they can be disguised, changed or even broken down into pieces.
At this time, it is very difficult to identify the mags—pardon the expression—of a Passat, Beetle or Audi A4. It is very difficult to tell the difference if there is no chip or something to identify them. So the vehicle is broken down into pieces. That is what has been happening in many scrapyards, to use the jargon of those in the business. Of course they are not real scrapyards. The store front indicated auto parts, but motor vehicle were seen being brought in. We even have photos.
With this bill, we will be putting up a roadblock for organized crime—an appropriate expression given the subject. This must stop. Section 353.1 proposes the following offence: “Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle.” This is a recent offence, and very interesting. It is one of the reasons we will be voting in favour of this bill.
I do, however, have a serious problem and it is one that will require the bill to be examined very carefully. Here we are again with minimum prison sentences. Personally, I have a big problem with that. The Bloc cannot support minimum sentencing. That is not the solution. It is never the solution. They want to impose a minimum sentence on someone who is on his third auto theft charge. We need to be careful.
There are what are called joyriders and there are real car thieves. The first group are often kids from 15 to 19 who decide to steal a car just to get to a party or to look like a big shot —which is not really the case—to get from point A to point B. There is a specific section of the Criminal Code on this. Auto theft can be a theft in the legal sense, yet if it is a joyride, it is just some kids who see a car left near a convenience store with the motor running, and decide to take it just to get to point B, which is not far away. With respect, that is not auto theft. It is a theft from the legal point of view, but it is called instead taking a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner. There is a section in the Criminal Code on that.
We will have to be careful how minimum sentencing is imposed. I am very surprised to hear the Conservatives say, and say more than once, that someone who has committed at least three auto thefts should receive a minimum sentence. The problem is not when they go into prison, but when they come out. Let me quickly explain.
To give an example, the judge has someone before him who is on his third theft. He stole a car once and sold it to a scrapyard. He did this twice and got caught.
I would be very surprised if that person did not get a minimum prison sentence. The court needs to make sure the offender understands that enough is enough and that he cannot keep stealing cars. That is usually what happens. However, imposing minimum prison sentences....
If a person commits theft at 17 and then again at 18, should we not wonder why that person is stealing cars? The court should gather more information, analyze that information, and make sure that its sentence fits both the crime and the individual.
Now, the problem is that when a judge tells Mr. X that he deserves a prison sentence and then sentences him to six months in jail, that youth can get out in three weeks and never serve the time. That is the problem. I think that we will have to be very careful when we look at this bill in committee, because we have to consider minimum prison sentences for major crimes when we are dealing with a repeat offender who neither understands nor wishes to understand. I think that judges are the ones who should sentence offenders, and I think that they are well informed.
The Conservatives need to understand, listen and analyze. People convicted of offences should serve their time in jail and not be freed after serving one-sixth of their sentence. They should not be released until they have done some soul-searching and participated in rehabilitation sessions.
The problem is that a young person sentenced to 12 months in jail can be back on the street in a month and a half. Clearly, that is a problem, and it will continue to be a serious problem. We need to re-examine the parole system. That is what we are saying. We will vote for the bill so that it can go to committee, but the Conservatives need to understand that minimum prison sentences will not fix anything. We have to tackle the parole system.
November 14th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to hear my colleague from the NDP say that his party was not entering into an alliance, an unholy alliance, with the Conservative ideologues and the Quebec separatists. So I am just curious what in fact this is. Is this a political ménage à trois? It is a pretty scary thought.
More interesting, the member mentioned that in the spring they were not allying with the Liberals, but in fact were helping to govern to ensure that very important legislation would get passed. We have some 30-odd bills on the order paper that, if there is a non-confidence motion, will not get passed. Following that logic, I would assume the NDP is now saying that these are not important bills for the people of Canada.
What sort of bills are these? There is Bill C-66, the energy relief bill, which would provide relief in January for people on fixed incomes, our seniors and families on low incomes. It would fall to the side. Does his party not feel that is important legislation? There is Bill C-69, the agricultural marketing programs act bill; or Bill C-64, the vehicle identification bill or, as some would call it, the Chuck Cadman bill. It would unfortunately fall by the wayside. There is Bill C-16, the impaired driving bill and Bill C-54, the oil and gas exploration bill. I am sure that the members opposite from Alberta will be happy to see that one fall by the wayside. There is Bill C-11, the whistleblower protection bill, and Bill S-39, the sex offender database bill. Which of these bills does the member feel is not important enough to be passed?
Parliament of Canada Act
November 2nd, 2005 / 7:15 p.m.
Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to prove to my hon. colleagues the Government of Canada's commitment to fighting auto theft.
I would agree with the hon. member for Langley that auto theft is a serious issue in Canada. The statistics for this type of crime revealed that Canada had a rate of roughly 531 vehicles stolen per 100,000 people last year. That is why in January 2005 federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice asked their officials to examine the issue of auto theft and to determine whether our current Criminal Code provisions respond appropriately to this form of crime.
In this regard, I am pleased to report that last week a very important federal-provincial-territorial auto theft forum was held here in Ottawa, which involved federal and provincial justice officials, co-chaired by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. This forum also included representatives from the national committee to reduce auto theft, a multi-stakeholder group made up of law enforcement personnel and insurance industry representatives.
This forum was a success. It involved an open discussion of potential legislative and non-legislative responses. These officials will be reporting back to federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers on their progress and will continue working collectively on this issue.
It is essential that our provincial and territorial colleagues are involved in the examination of this issue as the provincial Crown prosecutors are the ones who normally prosecute auto theft offences. In the meantime, the Government of Canada has shown its commitment to addressing a particular form of auto theft, namely, organized auto theft, with the introduction of Bill C-64, as my hon. colleague from Langley cited.
Government Bill C-64 would make it an offence to wholly or partially alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number without lawful excuse in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the act was committed in order to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
The punishment for this offence would be, if proceeded with by indictment, a five year maximum term of imprisonment or, if proceeded with by summary conviction, a six month maximum term of imprisonment and/or a $2,000 fine.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft have all called on the Government of Canada to bring forward a VIN tampering offence. We have answered that call.
Parliament of Canada Act
November 2nd, 2005 / 7:15 p.m.
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?
Pacific Gateway Act
November 2nd, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
Brian Jean Athabasca, AB
Mr. Speaker, there is no question that we have problems with infrastructure all across this country, especially in places such as British Columbia and Alberta and even in Fort McMurray where 98% of this great country's oil is located. There is a single lane highway going in and out of Fort McMurray which some 30,000 to 70,000 people travel on frequently. We do have an infrastructure deficit.
I would like my friend to comment on some of the issues that were brought up by the previous speaker when he said that this government had been firm with our trading partners.
I started to add up the issues in my head. There is the softwood issue. The government has thrown loop into Bill C-64 by trying to stall it for guarantees for the softwood industry. The government says it has been firm with the United States with respect to our cattle industry. There is also the safety issue around shipping in Atlantic Canada that has been brought up by some of our members. The fishing industry is an absolute failure with the U.S. and other countries.
Other issues the government says it has been firm on with respect to the United States are textiles, wheat and especially the environment, for instance, sumas energy 2, which our caucus, especially the member for Langley, has been so adamant in trying to fix with the U.S.
I fail to see where our government has been firm with the United States with respect to acid rain, the Great Lakes and Devils Lake. Could my friend enlighten me as far as the Liberal government's firmness is concerned during any of the years it has been in office?
October 25th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-64.
October 25th, 2005 / 11:15 a.m.
Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-64 today. This bill has been touted as being a bill which would enact one of the key issues in Chuck Cadman's private member's bill, but I am disappointed at this weak and unsuccessful attempt. I believe it will do very little to nothing to deal with the problem.
Some amendments must simply be made to this bill, and we will certainly try to make these happen. In the end it will be up to the government and the other parties here in the House to support these changes.
Part of this bill deals with tampering with vehicle identification numbers. It also deals with the whole issue of auto theft which is a huge problem in this country as well as organized crime. Canadians are very much aware that organized crime is a growing problem in Canada. Anything we can do to tone down the success of organized crime is something we should strive to do. This bill unfortunately will do very little to nothing to actually deal with the problem.
The issue of vehicle theft can be demonstrated by a couple of statistics. There is probably over $600 million in costs associated with vehicle theft in this country right now. That is a lot of money, and every one of us feels it whether we have had our particular vehicle stolen or not. We feel it through our insurance rates. Young people can identify with this. When they buy their first vehicle, their insurance rates are very high. That is a result of the increase in vehicle theft. Over 170,000 vehicles are stolen across this country every year. This is a serious problem.
Mr. Cadman should be given a lot of credit for what he has done with respect to this issue. He also deserves a lot of credit for what he has done with respect to victims' rights, and I will talk about that a bit later.
I want to talk about how vehicle theft has impacted my own family. My wife Linda and I have five children between the ages of 23 and 28. All five of them now live in the Edmonton area. Every one of them has either had their vehicle stolen or had the contents of their vehicle stolen in the few years they have been in Edmonton. This has had an impact on their insurance rates as well as everyone else's insurance rates. It is a serious issue.
My oldest daughter had the contents in one of her cars stolen. We all know it is not easy dealing with insurance companies. We never get full value for what has been stolen. We have no hope of really ever getting back any personal items.
I have identical twins who are 26 years old. In one day one of them had the same car stolen twice. It was first stolen from a parking lot in front of his apartment building. Later that afternoon he saw a guy stealing his car the second time. This guy obviously had a serious drug problem. My son hollered at him from his balcony, but the guy went ahead and stole his car.
Over the years all of my children have driven a Toyota Camry. In certain models a thief can get into it with a screwdriver and start it up with the same screwdriver. These models lend themselves to being stolen. It is a popular car and a good car, so it is in high demand when it comes to vehicle theft.
For my son, the second time in one day was almost too much for him. The third time he almost had his car stolen, he hollered that he was coming down to get the guy. The thief did go away, so my son did not actually have it taken that third time, but it was only due to direct intervention by himself.
It is a huge problem. They of course learned after the first time not to leave a fancy stereo in a vehicle because they will lose it and never get anywhere near the value back. They had fancy stereos in their vehicles to begin with. The vehicles themselves were really not worth an awful lot of money but to them they were extremely important. They were students going to university with very little money, struggling to make payments to get through the end of the year, and then they have their cars stolen.
The first time, they had something like 200 CDs in the car, purchased over the years, of their favourite music. Try dealing with the insurance company to get that back. They had to and it was a pain. I do not blame insurance companies. It is a tough thing to deal with. How do they know what CDs they had? They did not have a list made. They remembered their favourites, did the best they could, and they got paid a small percentage of the value of replacing them. To some people that may not sound that important, but it was to them. They felt a deep personal violation.
Next to the home, I think having one's auto broken into is probably the most private and personal space that a lot of people have. Their cars are seen in that way. It is the type of society we are. They certainly felt that personal violation. I would suggest that the law is soft on the people who commit these crimes.
Some of the people who stole vehicles were found. My youngest son has had his car stolen twice in Edmonton. That is not a very good record. My youngest daughter has never had a car stolen, but she has had the contents stolen. So, all five of my children, over a period of the last six years since they have been going to secondary school or starting to work, have had their vehicles or the contents stolen. I doubt that this is an unusual story.
I wonder about the statistics and whether they are complete because in the case of my oldest son, who had it happen twice in one day, he did not report it. After a point, why bother reporting it? Nothing is going to happen. They became wise enough to know not to leave any contents of value in the vehicle. They probably know they should report it, but what is the point? The police say there is nothing they can really do about it, and there is nothing they can do without the law.
That is why what Mr. Cadman was trying to do here is of such value to society and he should be thanked for that. The government, in offering this recognition of Chuck, should have been more generous. The government should have been generous enough to take the intent and content of his bills and put them into its attempt at duplicating his efforts, but it failed entirely. This legislation, Bill C-64, dishonours the memory of Chuck Cadman and we simply cannot support this bill.
We will attempt to have it amended. This is a very small bill. Just so Canadians know, it is a one page bill. It is a very small piece of legislation, just a few amendments to the Criminal Code. I am going to read one of those amendments the government put in. Proposed section 377.1(1) reads:
Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse--
That part is good. Unfortunately, the government went beyond that and said:
--and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
The government has taken away all the value of the first part of that statement by putting in that vague clause which makes it almost impossible for police officers to get the evidence they need for judges to use in the courts so they can make this stick.
I know that people speaking on this bill will deal with the other sections that simply are inappropriate. It is such a simple bill that I do not know how the government could get it so wrong. We are only talking about a few paragraphs.
I encourage the government to honour the memory of Chuck Cadman, who did so much for victims on issues like this, by amending its bill to truly reflect what Mr. Cadman had in mind and what he put on paper in this regard.