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.)
October 25th, 2005 / 11 a.m.
David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand today to speak to Bill C-64.
A little later in my speech I want to talk about Chuck Cadman, about some of the things he stood for and about some of the things that were important to him, but I first want to talk about an issue in the bill that I find important.
My colleague who just spoke said that it was not really an issue with the bill but I still want to make people aware of it. There is an entire subculture or industry of rebuilding and restoring vehicles such as motorcycles, cars and those kinds of things. My colleague reassured us that they would not be caught in the bill but I am not quite as confident as he is about that.
I want to make people aware of the fact that there needs to be some exception for people who are doing that kind of business. Obviously, we are not talking about people stealing cars off the street in the middle of the night, stuffing them in trucks, taking them to chop-shops and either chopping them down or changing the VINs on them.
It is important for people to understand that an industry has arisen dealing with restoring older vehicles. That industry is not just something that is being done in people's garages any more. It is a multi-million dollar industry. These restored cars are worth anywhere from zero dollars, which is probably the one I have in my shop at home right now, up to $500,000. I think of some of the late sixties' Corvettes, the Shelby Cobras and those kinds of things that are worth a lot of money. Those cars are getting older and their bodies have been wrecked. People want to restore and rebuild the vehicles. They have the frames and the drive trains. We can actually buy new body parts for many of these vehicles.
I have a concern that those people do not get caught in the legislation. I am not confident that it gives that kind of exception. It talks in the bill about having a lawful excuse. I do not see it in federal legislation. I hope it would be included in provincial legislation when it comes to the licensing of vehicles, which is covered by the provinces.
It is typical of the NDP-Liberal government's legislation. So often it comes forward and it does not seem to work. It restricts regular Canadians and allows the people who it should cover to escape from the law.
Chuck Cadman, as we know, was a fairly ordinary guy. He was a veteran MP when I arrived here but he was one of those folks who was going to be himself and was not going to change, and he did that. He stayed true to what he believed. The issues that brought him here were the issues that stayed important to him right to the end of his time here.
Just on a personal level, one of the reasons I got to know Chuck Cadman was because of his music. He was a former musician and played in a lot of different bands over the years. My son was 13 when I was first elected. When we came down here, Chuck was one of the guys who really fascinated him. He had played with the Guess Who and other bands. My son, Andrew was very interested in music. I always thought it was interesting that there were a lot of people around here who had power and prestige but it was actually Chuck Cadman who really appealed to my son and with whom he felt he had some connection.
Chuck was an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things. The things he focused on really were the prime issues, one of which we partially dealt with last week and the other we are dealing with this week, that being street racing and vehicle theft. He dealt with these issues in a very practical and realistic way. It was typical of him that he would not come forward with something that would not be effective, so the bills that he brought forward were effective.
This letter was read into the record a couple of times last week but I want to reinforce it. Someone who was close to Chuck Cadman, a man by the name of Dane Minor, wrote that one of the things that drew Chuck into the political arena in the first place was a visit by a former justice minister to supposedly discuss the Young Offenders Act with Chuck. The man blew into town, spent five minutes getting his picture taken shaking Chuck's hand, and went back to Ottawa saying that meetings with victims showed his government cared about victims and the faults of the Young Offenders Act. Chuck was disgusted. It was incidents like these that led him to become an MP and try to truly change things.
I would suggest that the government, as that justice minister did, has failed to respect Chuck and what it was that he wanted to take place.
I believe that these two bills that we have looked at, Bill C-64 and Bill C-65, are a dishonour to Chuck's memory. They have been watered down and do not cover the issues that he wanted to cover. It is no wonder Canadians get more and more cynical about the government and what it says that it stands for.
Last week we talked about Bill C-65 which addresses street racing. Again, we wanted amendments which held true to Chuck's intentions with the bill. For example, we wanted Chuck's increase in scale of punishment as offences mounted, which was taken out by the government. His bill read:
(a) for a first offence, during a period of not more than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than one year;
(b) for a second or subsequent offence, if one of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), for life:
(c) for a second offence, if neither of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not more than five years...and not less than two years;
Those mandatory minimum sentences were important to Chuck.
The fourth part of Chuck's bill read:
(d) for each subsequent offence, if none of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not less than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment.
We see some of the same things happening in Bill C-64. It is an act to amend the Criminal Code dealing with vehicle identification numbers and once again we see a watered down version of Chuck Cadman's intent. The Liberals are basically making a mockery once again of what he wanted and what he stood for.
Auto theft is a growing problem in this country, particularly in western Canada. It is a large problem in Regina. I am from a rural area in southwest Saskatchewan so it is not as big a problem there, but it has been a problem for a number of years in Regina. At one point I was talking to a policeman who said that it was really frustrating to deal with the Young Offenders Act because of the way in which it has been set up. They had a young man in custody who was getting out before his 16th birthday. They said that the young man's goal was to steal 250 vehicles before his 16th birthday and because he was getting out a couple of months before his birthday, they actually thought he would probably make that goal. It is good that young people have goals but that probably was not one of the more laudable ones. Auto theft is expensive to Canadians as well. It costs up to $600 million and at some point we need to deal with it.
Currently, the act of changing, obliterating or altering a vehicle identification number is not a specified criminal act. Section 354 of the Criminal Code treats tampering with a VIN in a context establishing that “in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a tampered VIN is proof of property obtained by crime”, but there is no law dealing with the direct prosecution of a person engaged in the physical act of tampering with that VIN tag. This creates a major loophole for organized crime and it needs to be closed. An effective VIN tampering provision would aid significantly in dealing with organized crime and in the prosecution of organized crime rings, but we do not think this bill would do that effectively.
One of the changes that took place in the bill over Chuck's bill concerns section 377(1), which 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 and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
It is important to note that the last phrase,“under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”, was added to Chuck's bill and really does water it down. Chuck had put the onus of proof for lawful excuse on the person who is indicted, not on the crown.
Once again, we have a bill where the Liberal government had a chance to do the right thing and it has been watered down. It is frustrating. It gives criminals the out they need and it does not give leeway to regular citizens who have legitimate reasons for dealing with VIN numbers. It reminds me of a lot of other legislation we have seen. I think back to the gun registry where a law was made that really has not accomplished what it set out to do. It has left criminals free to operate and has caused nothing but a great deal of expense, time and problems for regular folks.
In conclusion, I would like to read one more statement by Dane Minor in a letter about Chuck. He states:
If the Liberals truly want to honour Chuck Cadman I suggest they pass his laws as written and actually give the police the resources to find out how many previous offences there were. If they don't have the courage to do that, at least have the decency to stop using his name in a self-serving bid to gain political points.
October 25th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to speak to Bill C-64, which is being touted as part of Chuck Cadman's legacy. Many on this side of the House would challenge the legitimacy of that claim.
I am relatively new to this place, having been elected just over a year ago. As such, I never really had the opportunity to know Chuck Cadman. Before I became a member of Parliament, I heard of Chuck and his story of the tragedy that mobilized him to get involved and ultimately run as a member of Parliament. While here, he continued to do his own thing. He did not change to suit this place. He had his own agenda and he pursued issues that were important to him.
The bill before us is being promoted by the government as part of the Chuck Cadman legacy. Based on all I have heard from people who knew Chuck much better than I did, and having looked at Chuck's draft legislation in comparison to the bill before us, I suggest the government is callously and quite cynically sullying Chuck's legacy and reputation by bringing this forward as something he wanted to see. It is a pale imitation of what Chuck wanted.
We all know that cars and trucks are made up of lots of different pieces. We also know that cars get stolen either in whole or in part. When a set of used tires is purchased from somebody, there is a chance that those tires might have been stolen. Those types of things are hard to track. The police struggle with this, and it is a problem that will not go away.
Each vehicle has an identification number. It is a long tag that is often located just inside the windshield. That VIN identifies the particular vehicle. It is on that basis that the vehicle is registered and licensed so it can be legally driven. That vehicle identification number is one piece of the puzzle of which the law should be able to keep track.
While it may be possible to inadvertently or mistakenly take some piece off a car and sell it or trade it, it is impossible to imagine a situation where a person would accidentally take the vehicle identification number off one vehicle and place it on another. It is beyond reasonable to come up with any scenario where that would happen as an honest mistake or that someone would buy a vehicle knowing that had happened and not think there was something illegal about it.
The world has changed. Cars are more valuable than they ever have been. Many cars stolen these days are exported out of the country. This has made the job of law enforcement even more difficult. It is more difficult to keep track of where these vehicles have come from or where they have gone.
The law needs to change with the times. When there is an obvious loophole or weakness in a law, it is important that something be brought forward to plug that gap. That was Chuck's intention when he brought forward his private member's bill.
In bringing this legislation forward, the government added some words that do not look harmful on first reading. Where I come from we call them legal weasel words. Those words substantively change the impact of the legislation. The reference is, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did it to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. The onus is now on the police to prove that the person who switched the vehicle identification number did so with criminal intent.
I go back to my first point. It is impossible to accidentally do this or do this for any reason other than to conceal the identification of a vehicle. If it were done, it was done with criminal intent. There is no other reason or way to switch that number other than to do it deliberately. This phrase greatly weakens the bill.
If this bill is passed, a year or two from now, people will be able to look back and ask if Bill C-64 had any impact or was it one more watered down bill, full of legal weasel words that had no impact on the ground. The fear of my party and many of my colleagues is that Chuck's bill in its pure form would make a real impact. It would reduce the number of car thefts by empowering police officers to prosecute. Whereas Bill C-64, as put forward, will have no such impact.
That begs the question as to why the government has brought this forward at this time. Why is it pushing something forward that even in private I am sure it would admit would not change much?
It takes me back to last spring when the government was threatened. The Prime Minister and his cabinet were fearful that the government may fall and an election might be caused. In a defensive, save one's own bacon move, the Prime Minister went on his deal making tour last spring. He tried to do everything imaginable to stay in power himself and to avoid any sort of democratic process in this place that could threaten his government.
Before a critical vote on the budget last spring, Mr. Cadman, who was quite ill at the time, was in town. We all remember the attention on Chuck on whether he would say yes or no. On the Monday evening, a day or two before the critical vote, it was reported that the Prime Minister went to visit Mr. Cadman. What any of us would have given to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.
We have heard stories about other members who were approached with deals, offered goodies, jobs and cabinet seats if they supported the government. We cannot ask Chuck what he was offered on that day. However, I do not think it is unreasonable to speculate that the Prime Minister may have offered Mr. Cadman his commitment that the government would move forward on at least one or two things about which Mr. Cadman felt very strongly.
We do not know whether that was offered, but it is not beyond the realm of the possible. Knowing why Mr. Cadman ran for Parliament in the first place and knowing why he was here and what he felt so strongly about, such a promise or commitment may have influenced his view on whether the government should continue.
Now we get to the really cynical part that. As Canadians know, Mr. Cadman passed away this summer, so we do not have him here to ask that question. We do not have anyone here to answer the question about what was discussed, what was agreed to, what deal was made and whether the Prime Minister and the government lived up to the terms of what they said they would do.
Again I am going to speculate, but what has been put before the House is the most cynical response to that, which is the government will keep the letter of a commitment it made to somebody but, practically, it will weaken it in such a way so that it will do nothing. I have thought about this over past couple of weeks, about why these things have been brought forward for debate, and I think that is a better explanation of how these things got on the order paper and why they are before us now, in this relatively meaningless context.
The irony is that we on this side of the House feel strongly about these issues. We have spoken about them and fought for them for many years. We are opposing a bill that purports to do what we want. Canadians will be sitting at home thinking that the Conservative Party talks about getting tough on crime all the time, that the Liberals have brought something forward saying it will get tough on crime, yet people in the Conservative Party oppose it. I think it is a little Alice in Wonderland-ish for viewers at home.
I want to go on the record for those people who may be watching this today. The Canadian people are being sold a bill of goods by the government. The bill says that it will do something, but it will not do much. It is the placebo bill. It looks like a remedy and it looks like something that would attack an ailment in society, but it will have no impact. Police officers say that. Members on this side of the House who have tracked this issue for years say that.
In conclusion, this is a sad day for Parliament and it is a sad day for the government. I can only presume it is doing this in a deliberate, calculating and cynical way. It is a particularly sad day that the legacy of a member of this place, who felt very strongly and who fought throughout his political career to try to make real change by improving on issues that he knew affected his constituents, is being sullied in this way by the government.
October 25th, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to put some comments on the record concerning Bill C-64, a bill to amend the Criminal Code in regard to vehicle identification numbers.
Auto theft is a huge problem in cities all across Canada. In fact, across Canada in 2003, 170,000 vehicles were stolen.
Today I would like to talk about my home province of Manitoba. As the member of Parliament for Kildonan--St. Paul, I have to say that the crime rates and the rate of vehicle theft are extremely high. Under the guidance of the present Liberal government, we have had real problems controlling this.
In 2004 there were 13,425 vehicles stolen. After talking to community people and in schools and in speaking with people in the justice field in Manitoba, I must say that it all stems from the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which the present government put forward. When the Youth Criminal Justice Act was changed, there were no teeth in it and, over a decade, the Liberal government has not been able to keep the citizens of Canada safe.
Today when we talk about Bill C-64, we talk about it because a very honourable man, Chuck Cadman, put forward an initial proposal that had some teeth in it. Chuck Cadman knew the seriousness of the stolen vehicles issue, the danger that it put youth in, and the problems it put on the backs of families when they were unable to pay for the damage from what I call the joyriding or the stolen cars.
In Winnipeg, as I said before, it is a real problem. In 2005, on average, a vehicle is stolen in Winnipeg every hour, so when we hear the Liberal Party talking about being tough on crime, it is rather worrisome to hear the hyperbole in this House of Commons without any action being put in place.
Chuck Cadman put forth an idea in this country, the idea that people had a right to be safe. He put that forward because in his own life he had experienced a very tragic event, so he started looking at all the aspects of how we could make innocent victims safe.
With the stolen vehicle problem, people in Winnipeg and Manitoba are very fearful of having their vehicles stolen and having no recourse. For the youths and others who steal these cars, because it is not only youths who do it, there are very few or no consequences for their actions. As I said earlier, that is largely due to the Liberal government's watering down of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It has no teeth. The youths know it. It has no credibility.
Thus we see the litany of the history in over a decade since the Liberals came to power. We see the litany of a history of ineffectiveness, of keeping crime under wraps in Canada.
Chuck Cadman put forward some really good ideas. I want to put this on the record, because in order to better reflect Mr. Cadman's initial desire to create a useful tool for enforcement agencies to tackle auto theft and organized crime, the legislation should remove part of proposed section 377.1(1). This was recommended by Chuck Cadman.
As we know, members opposite in the Liberal government are touting these two bills as the Cadman bills. In actual fact they are not the Cadman bills, nor do they have the intent that Chuck Cadman had when he put these bills into play.
He said, in proposed section 377.1:
Everyone commits an offence who, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse....
Here is what was added:
--and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
This last part was added to Chuck Cadman's original bill and adds to the Crown's job of proving the offence. The phrase “reasonable inference” is ambiguous and could give rise to holes in the bill's successful implementation. Mr. Cadman put the onus of proof for a lawful excuse on the person indicated, which is not included in this bill, Bill C-64.
The problem with the history that the Liberal government has left with Canadians in terms of dealing with the justice system is that we now have a justice system in disrepair. We now have an environment of fear in Canadian cities and on Canadian streets about the safety of the innocent victims who are there every day.
Just a couple of weeks ago, when we voted on a bill to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, members opposite defeated that bill. The Liberal government said no. In this country, 14 year olds now can lawfully have sex with adults. That is wrong.
Then the government used Chuck Cadman's good name and said it would be tough on crime. The only problem is that the bills that have been brought forward, like this one, Bill C-64 on vehicle identification number removal, do not reflect the spirit of what Chuck Cadman meant when he wanted to make sure that there were some teeth in the bill.
Let us look at the gun registry. Everyone knows that we want guns off the streets. We know now that there is more gun violence across Canada than ever before. This is another historic blueprint that the Liberal government has put on the backs of Canadian citizens. There is a lot of money for scandal. There is a lot of money for Liberal-friendly people, but there is no money for soldiers or police forces or for putting more police officers on the street.
When we talk about vehicle identification removal, we have to put the teeth into everything so that there are consequences for the crimes committed. When in Manitoba in the city of Winnipeg a vehicle is stolen every hour and when we have diminished police resources and a Youth Justice Act that has no teeth, we have big problems.
Also today, I would like to applaud this honourable former member of Parliament, Chuck Cadman, who did everything he could to make Canadian streets safer.
Motor vehicle theft costs Canadians an estimated $600 million a year. The impact that this crime has on families is phenomenal. Clearly in this decade it is so regrettable that the current Liberal government is unable to get a plan forward that can protect the citizens of Canada.
For my province of Manitoba, I have to say quite clearly that Canadians can take a lot of hope from the policies we have on this side of the House and from the information and the plan we on this side of the House have.
October 24th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-64, a bill designed to amend the Criminal Code with respect to vehicle identification numbers.
While I can agree in part with the spirit of the proposed legislation, like many Liberal bills that I have seen over the course of the last year, I cannot support the legislation as written. As we have seen countless times, the spirit may be strong but the devil is in the details. It always seems that when the Liberals put forward legislation, they either water it down to make the original intent almost worthless or they alter it to a point where I think most Canadians cannot accept it. I wish I knew the reason why they do this.
Had the legislation been presented in the form that it was originally presented in as a private member's bill, I would support it. I think most of the members of my party and most Canadians would support it. However, that is not the way the legislation has been written.
Mr. Chuck Cadman originally put forward a private member's bill to deal with this issue and this bill does not reflect his intent. I find it offensive to hear the justice minister say that this bill has been presented in memory of Mr. Chuck Cadman. It diminishes his memory.
Chuck Cadman would not want a bill that is written this way to be presented before the House, and that is quite clear. Any member who purports the bill to be a Chuck Cadman bill is being more than just slightly disingenuous. This is not the type of bill he would support himself if he were with us today.
I want to speak for a few moments on Mr. Cadman himself. I respected him so much for what he did. We all know the history. Any Canadian who has passing knowledge or interest in Canadian politics knows the story of Chuck Cadman and the tragedy he encountered when his 16 year old son was killed in a vicious attack. Rather than going into a shell and becoming a recluse, he decided to become an advocate for and a tireless worker on behalf of victims across Canada. After working in that regard in British Columbia, he decided to seek public office and was successful in his attempt.
Until the time he died, Mr. Chuck Cadman never for one moment forgot the reason he came to this place, and that was to advance the cause of victims' rights across Canada. It was to address issues of crime and law and order in a positive and meaningful way by bringing forward legislation that would hopefully put an end to the type of violence that Chuck Cadman experienced in his life. He would never have agreed with the wording contained in Bill C-64.
I did not have the honour and the privilege of knowing Chuck Cadman. I had the honour of shaking his hand once and introducing myself but that was the extent of it. I certainly will not purport to say that I knew him or that I was a friend of his because I was not. I respected him as a man and as a legislator.
If we are going to say that we are honouring Chuck Cadman's memory by bringing forward legislation, then we should do so in a way that is respectful to his memory. In my view this legislation is anything but respectful of the late Chuck Cadman. It does not accurately reflect what he would have us do.
Quite frankly, when it came to this bill, Chuck Cadman would have been ashamed to allow his name to be associated with it. Let us back up a moment and talk about what he tried to do in his private members' bills with respect to vehicle identification numbers.
Mr. Cadman quite simply stated that it should be a crime for anyone to obscure, alter or deface a vehicle identification number, bottom line, full stop. If people do that, they are guilty of a crime and should be punished accordingly. I cannot think of anything that is simpler or more direct than that. Mr. Cadman was correct that it should be a crime. Currently, it is not.
If a person is caught in possession of a vehicle that has its vehicle identification number altered, defaced or destroyed, that person can be charged with a crime. However, the sheer act of defacing or destroying a VIN currently is not a crime. Mr. Cadman sought to redress that. He sought to put a bill into place that would make the alteration, destruction or tampering of a vehicle identification number a crime.
What did the government do? Again the devil is always in the details. The government does not seem to get it when it comes to taking a private member's bill that made perfect sense, redrafting it in the same language of that bill and then presenting it to the House. It seems incapable of doing that, and I do not understand why.
What it has done with this legislation is, first. add a caveat that states that if there are circumstances that come into play that might make it okay, then perhaps there is no crime. Second, it puts the onus on the Crown. In other words, Mr. Cadman said that if someone destroyed or defaced a VIN, that person would be guilty and would have to prove otherwise. That individual would have to go to court and convince the judge that there was a lawful excuse why he or she did that.
It seems the Liberals have it all backward. They suggest that the crown prosecutors have to prove a person who defaced a VIN did not have a lawful excuse and is guilty. That is completely backward.
What Mr. Cadman attempted to do in all his private members' bills was to put the onus on the individual. If individuals were caught tampering with a VIN, those individuals would have to prove that they had a lawful excuse to do it. If they could not, they would be guilty.
I do not think we could have anything more direct, to the point or simple as that. Yet the government sought to change that intent. It sought to make not the individual who tampered with the VIN prove why he or she did so. This legislation says that the Crown has to prove it, and it has loopholes. It allows individuals to come up with perhaps a convoluted message that might prevent the Crown from successfully prosecuting its case. Why in the world would any government or political party want to water down a bill to that extent? It is beyond me.
For the Liberals to bring forward Bill C-64 in this form and suggest this is something that Chuck Cadman would support, is utterly and entirely wrong. Not only is it disrespectful of Mr. Cadman's memory, but it borders on being untruthful.
Earlier in my remarks I said that at best the Liberals could be considered disingenuous in their remarks. If the Liberals truly wanted to bring forward legislation, they would have simply picked up a copy of Chuck Cadman's earlier private member's bill, replicated the language and presented it. They could take credit for it. I know Mr. Cadman would not have a problem with that. He was a man without ego. He did not look for personal self-glorification, saying that he had a private member's bill, brought it forward and his name would go down in history. In my view he did not care about all that. All he wanted were results. Yet the government cannot even present the results that Mr. Cadman so tirelessly worked for, for many years. That is absolutely a shame.
Although I do not know this to be true, I would suspect very strongly that if one would ask Mr. Cadman's widow, Donna Cadman, if she would support this bill, she would say no. I also suspect that in the upcoming days and perhaps weeks, Donna Cadman will speak out against the bill. There will be no better proof than that as to why the government is wrong in its attempts to portray this bill as a Chuck Cadman bill. We will see what we will see.
I cannot suggest that this is something unique, that this is something at which the government has failed. There is a consistent pattern of the government on issues of crime, particularly motor vehicle theft. There is a continuing pattern where the government has failed to understand the realities of what is needed in terms of law and order, crime and punishment.
I will give a further example of what I speak. Recently, in the last few months, one of our colleagues, the hon. member for Langley, introduced a private member's bill that would increase the penalties of those individuals who stole cars. The bill sets out severe penalties for the first, second and third time offences for individuals who have stolen motor vehicles. From my perspective, as the member for Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre, I heartily endorsed that bill.
In the capital city of Saskatchewan, which is part of my riding, Regina has been known in years past as the national stolen car capital of Canada, on a per capita basis at least. We have a terrible problem with car thefts in Regina. We have had gangs that had monikers and reputations as being car thieves. For those from Saskatchewan, the infamous Oldsmobile gang is one that I would draw to the attention of members of the House. They would steal nothing but Oldsmobiles. To them it was perhaps a badge of honour. We consistently saw youth offenders primarily steal time and time again motor vehicles from the city. Sometimes they were for joyrides. Other times they were stolen to perpetrate more insidious and serious crimes such as drug trafficking and that type of thing. In all cases, the number of thefts of motor vehicles in Regina was absolutely staggering.
The member for Langley brought forward a bill that would put severe penalties and deterrents upon those individuals who might be willing to or thinking of stealing a motor vehicle. If memory serves me well, and perhaps some of my hon. colleagues can refresh my memory in case I am wrong, the penalty for the first time was up to a maximum of $1,000 or a year in jail, or both, as determined by the judge. The second offence was more serious. I think it was $5,000 and up to two years and a third offence, perhaps $10,000, et cetera.
The Liberal government voted against the legislation. Did the Liberals bring forward any alternative legislation? No. When the justice minister talked about the bill the only thing I can remember is that he related it back to another issue that members on this side have, which is with mandatory minimum sentencing. The justice minister consistently said that mandatory minimums did not work because statistics and empirical evidence suggest that the judges will always go to the lesser amount as indicated on the mandatory minimums. They will not increase the sentencing. He said that was wrong and that they did not want that. The problem is that right now the sentences do not even reach the level of mandatory minimums that we were suggesting.
How in the world can the justice minister say that empirical evidence suggests that mandatory minimum sentencing does not work when in fact the sentences that are currently being given out are less than what we would suggest as the mandatory minimum? It makes no sense to me and yet we have a government that continually says one thing and does another. It says that it is tough on crime and yet I have seen no evidence from the government that would suggest it actually wants to get tough on crime.
Bill C-64 is another example. We had a private member's bill sponsored by Mr. Cadman that would have been direct, effective and would have acted as a deterrent and should have been supported by all members of the House but what did we see? Time and time again, when Mr. Cadman wanted to bring forward legislation such as this, members on that side of the House voted against it.
We have heard the government on different issues say that the reason it will not support certain things is that it wants to bring forward its own legislation, a government initiative, that will make the bill stronger, better worded and more effective. However, time and time again, when we do see legislation brought down by the government, it is not complementary legislation. It is not legislation that accurately reflects the intent of the private member's bill. It is something that is weakened, watered down and does absolutely nothing to accurately reflect the intent of the original bill. This is what is happening with Bill C-64.
Chuck Cadman would have voted against this legislation, not because he was soft on crime, far from it. We all know his record and his background. He would vote against this legislation as introduced by the government because it does not reflect his private member's bill. However we heard the justice minister stand in his place and say that this was in honour and in memory of Chuck Cadman.
I cannot think of anything more offensive than a member of Parliament trying to say that his government is honouring the memory of one of our fallen colleagues, a man who was so widely respected that after losing the nomination in his home riding as a Reform member, he ran as an independent and won overwhelmingly with, I believe, a larger plurality than he had received in the previous election. For an independent to win with that margin of victory in parliamentary circles is unheard of. That is the level of respect people had for Chuck Cadman. The Liberals are sullying his reputation and for that they should be ashamed.
October 24th, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC
Madam Speaker, it is hard to imagine. Mr. Cadman was a crusader of criminal justice system reforms under the Young Offenders Act, street car racing, vehicle identification numbers and many other issues which he brought to the floor of the House. He came up with two bills, which we are now debating as government bills, Bill C-64 and Bill C-65.
On the vehicle identification numbers he came up with Bill C-413 and then reintroduced it a couple of times in the form of Bill C-287. Why did the Liberals oppose those bills? The subject matter was there. They were effective bills. A person who had experience in and passion for the criminal justice system reforms drafted those bills. However, the government opposed those bills, but after the confidence vote on May 19 suddenly it became evident to the Liberals that they should come on board and support the bills.
I sincerely doubt the intention of the government. It has no integrity when it comes to its track record on these issues. When my late colleague came up with the bill, the government opposed it. Now it suddenly wants to support it. There is some sort of a catch. I cannot understand what that catch is, but my senses tell me that the Liberals are after political opportunism. There may be a byelection in that riding very soon.
If the Liberals were really sincere about honouring the legacy that Mr. Cadman left behind, they would adopt the bill as it was written by Mr. Cadman. Rather, they are only using the name and the shell, but they have changed the content and have completely watered it down.
I can only imagine from talking to Dane Minor who was a close friend of Chuck Cadman. I worked with Chuck Cadman for almost eight years in the House. We shared so many things together during our campaigns. In our ridings we had joint town hall meetings on crime and other issues.
I could say that he would be disappointed. I am very sure he would have voted against Bills C-64 and C-65 as written by the Liberals.
October 24th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.
Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to vehicle identification numbers.
Bill C-64 would make it a criminal offence to alter, remove or obliterate the vehicle identification number, commonly known as a VIN, on a motor vehicle. The current Criminal Code has no offence that deals specifically with VIN tampering. However, under section 352.2 of the Criminal Code, a tampered with VIN can be proof of property obtained by crime.
Auto theft in B.C. is epidemic. As the member who spoke before me mentioned, we had 37,500 vehicles stolen last year. The RCMP has labeled Surrey, British Columbia, the car theft capital of North America. On a per capita basis, more automobiles are stolen in Surrey than in any other North American city, more than Toronto, more than Los Angeles, and even more than New York City.
Over 6,000 cars are stolen each year in the communities in Surrey. Sixteen cars will be stolen by the end of any given day. Since the time we began speaking on this bill today, some cars have probably already been stolen in Surrey.
Local newspapers jokingly refer to car theft as Surrey's fastest growing industry, but it is no joking matter. Almost all the vehicles stolen are used to commit other crimes.
Stealing a vehicle is one thing, but the thieves then involve that vehicle in other crimes or sometimes in joyriding, often with fatal consequences. So far this year seven people have died in British Columbia as a result of auto theft.
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia estimates that auto offences cost Surrey drivers $13 million annually.
The RCMP claims that it has done all it can to stop car thieves and now it is up to the courts. We have a court system that is a revolving door. The car thieves take advantage of our weak laws, our laws without teeth, and of the loopholes that exist within the system.
The courts refuse to treat auto theft as a serious crime. The RCMP auto theft task force complains that thieves receive virtually no punishment but a slap on the wrist. In fact, when the punishment is not severe, that becomes a motivation to commit the same crime again. There is no deterrent in place.
Meanwhile, the same individuals are arrested over and over again. One man arrested last summer in Surrey was already facing seven separate trials for auto theft. Another thief was pulled over while driving a stolen car to his court hearing on auto theft charges; he was going to court on auto theft charges and he stole a car to get there. In fact, once a thief stole a car and another thief stole his stolen car.
This crime is so rampant that about half of the 13,000 cases handled by Surrey provincial court last year involved car theft. Ninety per cent involved repeat offenders.
Most car thieves are supporting drug addictions. This was graphically displayed earlier this year when an RCMP bait car equipped with a surveillance camera caught a Surrey car thief on film. The thief was high on crystal meth, which is a serious problem in Surrey. According to a survey, 10% of school students under the age of 18 have used crystal meth. The government is sitting on its hands doing nothing to prevent it or stop it.
The thief, high on crystal meth and waving a gun, sped through our city streets. The image was later seen on news broadcasts across the country.
My former colleague and neighbour in Surrey, member of Parliament Chuck Cadman, sought to address auto theft and assist police by introducing Bill C-413 in March 2003.
He reintroduced his private member's bill in February 2004 and then again in November 2004, as Bill C-287. These two bills, neither of which moved beyond first reading, sought to make it a criminal offence to tamper with vehicle identification numbers.
Now, in introducing Bill C-64, the justice minister invokes the name of Mr. Cadman, saying that the bill is intended as an appropriate tribute to his legacy.
I would like to mention what happens when private members' bills are introduced. Of course we have made some progress in the House, in that at least one private member's bill or motion is votable in the House, but during the days when I was a member of Parliament representing the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance, when a good idea used to come from a private member, the government would completely mitigate it, reducing the volume, criticize it and oppose it vigorously.
Then, after opposing it, the Liberals sometimes had the audacity to reintroduce the bill if they thought was a good idea. The Liberals have stolen many of my bills, including those on foreign credentials, protection for firefighters and whistleblower legislation. They opposed the bills, but when we continued to raise our voices they stole the bills.
In this case, the government opposed the bill, which they now try to own on their own terms. First they criticize and oppose and then they steal the bill, mess it up and reintroduce it.
However, there are two major differences between Mr. Cadman's bills and the government bill. Bill C-413 and Bill C-287 put the onus on the person charged to explain why he has a vehicle with a stolen vehicle identification number. In contrast, Bill C-64 requires the Crown to prove that a person caught with a stolen vehicle knows that it was stolen.
Bill C-413 and Bill C-287 amended section 402 of the Criminal Code, which deals with fraudulent transactions. In contrast, Bill C-64 amends section 377 of the code, which deals with property offences. It is the same section which now indirectly covers vehicle identification number tampering.
Like Bill C-65, the proposed legislation is a watered down version of Mr. Cadman's initial proposal. In order to better reflect Mr. Cadman's initial desire to create a useful tool for our law enforcement agencies to tackle auto theft and organized crime, the legislation should remove part of subsection 377.1(1) so that the onus is placed on the people caught with an altered vehicle identification number to explain themselves, as was the original intention of Chuck Cadman.
While the Insurance Bureau of Canada is pleased that the government is finally moving on vehicle registration numbers, it is seeking specific amendments to the Criminal Code that would impose tougher penalties for auto theft, including mandatory minimum prison sentences, to send an even stronger message that auto theft is treated more seriously than property crime.
According to an Insurance Bureau spokesperson:
Right now, auto theft is seen by criminal organizations as a relatively low-risk, high-profit activity to raise funds for additional activities. Far from being a victimless crime, auto theft is an inherently violent criminal offence that has a devastating impact in communities right across the country in terms of fatalities and injuries, not to mention the cost to insurance policyholders. The evidence of the impact of auto theft is clear.
Statistics from the Insurance Bureau show that the rate of car theft is 64% higher than it was a decade ago. I do not know how the Liberals can stand there and say the crime rate is falling. Either they do not know the figures, they are manipulating them or the calculations are done differently over there. Statistics from the Insurance Bureau show that the rate of car theft is 64% higher than it was a decade ago.
While the rate of recovery of stolen vehicles in the early 1990s was 95%, today it sits at 60%. The decline in the recovery rate can be attributed to the proliferation of organized vehicle theft.
Organized criminal groups make a profit by exporting stolen vehicles to foreign countries or selling their parts. Because the parts of a car are sometimes worth more collectively than an intact car, many stolen cars are delivered to chop shops. These shops specialize in stripping cars, disposing of identifiable parts and selling others through a national network. Chop shops can meet the demands for parts more quickly and typically more cheaply than legitimate parts dealers.
Like the most recent trend in human identity theft involving frauds such as credit card fraud, bank fraud or other financial frauds, the trend is the same in auto identity theft. A VIN is just like DNA, but the thieves can remove it skilfully.
It is hard work. Thieves know that the vehicle identification number is unique and different on every car. First, they copy the vehicle identification number from the Internet, from car dealerships or from cars in malls or junkyards. They make perfect duplicates of the vehicle identification number plates and paperwork. Finally, they steal a similar car and replace its VIN with the copied one. Now the car has been cloned. The stolen car can no longer be identified as stolen; it has a new identity. This crime is highly profitable and very low risk and the chance of getting caught is slim to none.
Experts estimate that there are currently about 50,000 cloned cars in North America, but the number is growing by leaps and bounds. This type of crime only further emphasizes the need for a vehicle identification number tampering law.
I will conclude by saying that it is time this Liberal government did something about auto theft. The Conservatives have consistently supported the efforts of Chuck Cadman in tackling this issue by supporting him on this bill. The Liberals, on the other hand, did not support his bills when he was a caucus member of the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance or the Conservative Party. They only decided to support the legislation after Mr. Cadman voted to save the Liberal government in the confidence vote on May 19 of this year.
My riding is next to the Surrey North constituency. My constituents are mad. They are very upset that the Liberals are trying to gain politically by using Chuck Cadman's name while watering down his legislation. If the Liberals really wanted to honour Chuck Cadman or his legacy, they should have introduced the bill with the same wording and with the same intent that Mr. Cadman had in mind.
I have a friend, Dane Minor, who was a very close friend of Chuck Cadman and is still a good friend of the Cadman family. He worked with Chuck from the beginning when Chuck helped to found CRY. He had known Chuck for a long time and knew him well. He said in a letter, and I do not have a copy of his letter with me, that he was encouraged when he first saw that the Liberals were reintroducing Chuck's bill in the House, but when he saw the content of the bill, he said that he was mad as hell. He is disappointed that the Liberals are using Chuck's name on a watered down version of the bill.
Legislation making it a criminal offence to tamper with a vehicle identification number could provide law enforcement with another tool to use in its battle against auto theft. It would also serve as a deterrent to criminals. Other countries have had similar legislation in place for years. It is about time that we did the same, but in the right way.
Bill C-64 is not as good as the private member's bill on which it is modelled. I recommend that it be amended suitably. If it is, the bill should help tackle organized crime and auto theft by giving enforcement agencies another tool.
I used to be a member of the subcommittee on organized crime. I had the opportunity to have lots of meetings with the Vancouver Port Authority, the RCMP, the border patrol and many other law enforcement agencies. They told the subcommittee that organized crime is on the increase to the extent that if they have 10 leads on different organized crimes, they do not have enforcers to even follow up with one of those leads.
The criminals have state of the art technology, whereas our law enforcement agencies are struggling to maintain their old equipment, thanks to the cuts made by the Liberal government.
We have to give our law enforcement agencies the tools, resources, manpower and the equipment so that they are light years ahead of the organized criminals. Unfortunately, they are light years behind the state of the art technology that organized criminals are using. Whether it is a marijuana grow op, crystal meth, ecstasy or any kind of drugs that infiltrate the younger society, the government has absolutely no control over it. The hands of the law enforcement agencies are tied. As my colleague mentioned, the Liberals have taken the handcuffs from the criminals and put them on the hands of the judges.
I urge the House that until the bill is amended, we should look into it and make every effort to make it strong. Again, the Liberals should use the original bill the way it was designed if they really want to honour the legacy. Otherwise they should stop using the name of Chuck Cadman.
October 24th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC
Madam Speaker, my community is known as the auto theft capital of North America. This is not something nice to boast about. What a shame. Every day 16 cars are stolen, approximately 6,000 cars a year. Seven people have died in B.C. as a result of auto theft. It costs Surrey drivers $30 million a year in insurance.
The police try their best to stop these thefts. They lack the resources to get the job done. The police are also hindered by a justice system that treats car thieves with kid gloves. Car thieves receive no real punishment as 90% of car thieves are repeat offenders.
We need laws with teeth to put a stop to this sort of crime. The Liberal government has been in office for 12 long years and nothing has been done. Bill C-64 is a baby step forward and nothing has been done. The Criminal Code needs to be strengthened to include mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.
October 24th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to take part in this debate.
We are in favour of Bill C-64, which amends the Criminal Code by creating the offence of altering, obliterating or removing a vehicle identification number. There was no such provision in the Criminal Code before. The bill now includes these offences, as follows:
Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1):
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
We feel this bill represents a step forward by providing some means to combat this problem of auto theft, which exists all over the world. In 2004, nearly 170,000 vehicle thefts were reported in Canada.
My Conservative colleague who has just spoken feels that these sentences seem inadequate. I would like to hear what sort of sentences she would like to see in a bill like this.
Several speakers have indicated that this bill was not along the lines of what Mr. Cadman would have wanted. What teeth could we have added to improve it. Perhaps she could go into more detail on this.
October 24th, 2005 / 5:15 p.m.
Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC
Madam Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to speak to Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code on vehicle identification numbers.
Auto theft is a Canadian problem. According to estimates, over 170,000 cars are stolen each and every year. The costs are also enormous, with auto theft costing Canadians over $600 million. Auto theft ends up costing everyone high insurance rates and facilitates other crimes such as elicit drug trafficking. As well, some people inadvertently buy stolen property, which ends up costing unsuspecting victims money.
Auto theft ends up empowering criminal organizations. Cars are cheap to steal and in British Columbia they are easy to transport because of our close proximity to the American border and the Vancouver port.
Criminal organizations are drawn to auto theft because of the enormous profit potential and the relatively low risk of detection. This is clearly a booming industry and the government needs to act before it gets even worse.
Auto theft does not just result in property loss. Vehicle theft contributes to over 56 deaths a year in Canada. In Surrey, the police videotaped one car thief in a bait car. The driver was on crystal meth, a drug the government continues to not take seriously despite the ruined lives.
This driver exhibited erratic and wild behaviour. He was screaming, flailing his arms and clearly not paying any attention to the road. He put his life and the lives of Surrey residents in danger. We are blessed that such a man did not kill anyone on the road that day. Unfortunately, 56 Canadians were not so lucky and paid the ultimate price as a result of vehicle theft.
Chuck Cadman originally decided to combat auto crime with his two private members' bills. It is too bad the Liberals do not.
Auto theft is a major problem in my riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells. Surrey has had the unfortunate title of being the auto theft capital of North America. Over 8,000 vehicles were stolen in 2003 alone. That is almost one in 50 people in Surrey who have a car stolen per year. At this rate, everyone in Surrey will have their car stolen once in their lifetime. While much work has been done by local and provincial governments to curb auto theft in Surrey, the federal government has lagged on this issue.
In Surrey, municipal and provincial governments instituted the bait program. Bait operates throughout the greater Vancouver area and has been credited with lowering auto crime in the lower mainland. Police officers, like the name suggests, bait criminals with cars that can be easily stolen. The police then arrest the car thieves by electronically shutting off the engines when the cars are at low speed or at a stop light.
In Victoria, the program has had great success, lowering auto theft by almost 36%. In Surrey, the program is credited to lowering auto theft by 13%. I would like to congratulate Surrey and the lower mainland cities for their own aggressive actions against car thieves. The same congratulations cannot be given to the federal government. It has been soft on auto crime and it continues to be so.
Currently, there is no law that makes altering, removing or destroying vehicle identification numbers illegal. This bill supposedly seeks to fill that legal void, but for reasons I will shortly explain does not. Bill C-64 is another one of the sham Cadman bills. Along with Bill C-65, today's bill is an insult to the legacy of Chuck Cadman. The Liberals did not support Mr. Cadman's private member's legislation when he was in the House as a Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative member. They have now cynically brought back legislation that may be similar in appearance but not similar in effect.
The Liberals in the past have tried to paint him as cruel and unsophisticated on the issue, saying that we need nuance in the law. Chuck understood the victims and understood criminals. Repeat offenders do not deserve the legal system's mercy. They deserve jail, so that good Canadians are not subjected to violent criminal actions.
Bill C-64 seeks to make it a criminal offence to alter or destroy vehicle identification numbers. Vehicle identification numbers are serial numbers placed throughout a car to identify it. It is a kind of car genetic code. Insurers and police use vehicle identification numbers to track cars that have been stolen and also to prevent stolen cars from being sold on the black market.
The idea behind vehicle identification numbers was to prevent thieves from easily reselling stolen property. Because vehicle identification numbers had to be registered with insurance companies, they could be cross-referenced with stolen vehicles. This essentially made it very difficult to resell stolen merchandise with the original vehicle identification number.
However, by altering or destroying vehicle identification numbers, thieves have found a way around the practice. It also makes stolen cars easier to transport across borders and through ports. Vehicle identification numbers would be effective if they were not easily destroyed.
In Chuck's original bill it read: “Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse”. However, the Liberals have now amended that clause to read: “—and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.
The Liberal amendment adds an additional burden of proof on prosecutors and law enforcement. Thanks to liberal judges, such clauses are routinely interpreted to establish a burden of proof on the prosecutor and have been used so in other circumstances.
We must be clear with what type of criminality we are dealing. We are not simply dealing with joyriding teenagers which is also problematic. Rather, we are dealing with sophisticated criminal organizations who know how to avoid the law at all costs. To think that criminal organizations and their lawyers will not exploit this loophole is naive at best.
Criminal organizations are becoming a problem all across Canada. Increasingly, they are also developing ties to international terrorist organizations. The nexus of crime, drugs and terrorism is seen in places like Afghanistan. To combat these groups we need tough laws that will actually act as a deterrent. Bill C-64 will not act as a deterrent. It will be very difficult to actually prosecute people under this law. Without jail time staring them in the face, these criminals will not be deterred.
I have grave issues with the Liberal amendment to Chuck's bill. It will undoubtedly prevent prosecutors from actually using the law. The high burdens of proof contained will provide an easy loophole for criminals, criminal organizations and their lawyers to exploit. Let us send a message to the criminals. Let us vote for Chuck's bills, not these Liberal fakes.
I am hoping that members from all parties will join with us in the Conservative Party in amending these bills to reflect Chuck's intentions. In that way members of the House can honour the true legacy of Chuck Cadman. The residents of Surrey, including those in my riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells, demand nothing less.
October 24th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
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.