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
Not active, as of Oct. 25, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle.
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.
October 24th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to express my support today for this important government bill, Bill C-64, aimed at combating the involvement of organized crime in the theft of motor vehicles by making it an offence to tamper with a VIN.
The bill was inspired by a private member's bill brought forward to Parliament by our late colleague, Chuck Cadman, namely Bill C-287. In summary, Bill C-64 would make it an offence without lawful excuse to alter, obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
It is proposed that anybody who commits this offence would be liable, if proceeded with by indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or would be liable to a summary conviction. By virtue of section 787 of the Criminal Code, those people convicted of a summary conviction offence where no specific penalty is provided face up to a maximum term of imprisonment of six months and/or a $2,000 fine.
As previously indicated, Bill C-64 was inspired by private member's Bill C-287. Bill C-287 would have made it an offence for anybody without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on the person, to alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle. Bill C-287 provided that if proceeded with by an indictment, an offender would face up to five years imprisonment. Furthermore, if proceeded with by summary conviction, the offender would face up to six months imprisonment and/or a $2,000 fine.
There are clearly similarities and differences between the current government bill and Bill C-287. Many members have indicated concern with the notable difference between the two bills. It has been significantly contentious in debate. I have listened with great interest to both points of view and would like to present my thoughts on the matter now.
First and foremost, Bill C-287 placed what is known as a persuasive burden on the accused to prove the existence of a lawful excuse for tampering with a VIN. Therefore the bill required the accused to prove on the balance of probabilities that he or she had a lawful excuse.
A foundational element of our criminal justice system is that an accused person will not be convicted of a criminal offence if he or she raise a reasonable doubt. Under Bill C-287, people accused of VIN tampering would face the prospect of a conviction even though they may have raised a considerable doubt as to their guilt. Therefore Bill C-287 and this reverse onus raises significant charter considerations.
Instead, Bill C-64 would require an accused to raise the defence of lawful excuse based on the usual tests in criminal law for raising a defence, namely the test of raising sufficient evidence on each element of the defence for it to be considered by the judge or the jury.
By adopting an offence, which would not on its face attract charter litigation, we are contributing to the utility of this offence as a prosecutorial tool as there is more likelihood that prosecutors will proceed on this VIN tampering charge to trial. In other words, it not only can be proclaimed but it can be applied as well.
I think all hon. members would agree that we want to ensure that the laws we pass in this place can and will be used for years to come.
In addition, Bill C-64 would require that the alteration, obliteration or removal of the vehicle identification number be done under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identity of the vehicle. This element was not included in Bill C-287.
The purpose of this element of Bill C-64 is to distance the offence from these people, such as legitimate auto wreckers or mechanics who may in the course of their work alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number. This consideration was made as it would be bad policy indeed to craft an offence under which a large group of legitimate workers might be caught under its scope.
I think all members would agree that the manner in which the government bill addresses this issue is sound.
Various key justice system stakeholders have called on the Government of Canada to enact an offence for VIN tampering.
First, the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, a multi-stakeholder group established in May 2000 representing stakeholders from mainly the police community and the insurance industry, released a subcommittee report in March 2003 entitled “Organized Vehicle Theft Rings”. This report, among other proposals, recommended the creation of a distinct VIN tampering offence in the Criminal Code.
In addition, in August 2003 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to create a Criminal Code offence specifically prohibiting the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number.
As well, in 2000 the Canadian Association of Police Boards passed a resolution calling on the federal government to enact legislation to combat theft in their communities which would include the creation of a Criminal Code offence for removing or obliterating a VIN number.
I am pleased to say that we have answered these calls with Bill C-64.
In 2004, there were nearly 170,000 motor vehicle thefts in Canada. This translates to a rate of roughly 530 vehicle thefts per rate of 100,000 people. My family and I are among that number, having had our vehicle stolen from our home last January. I share with many Canadians the feeling of violation and concern that comes with having a vehicle stolen from one's property.
I am pleased to note a slight decline in thefts since 2003 which in that year was 550 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people.
In order to compare certain provincial rates with the national rate, in 2004 the rate of motor vehicle thefts in B.C. was 889 per 100,000 and in Manitoba, it was 1,364 per 100,000. On the other end of the spectrum, Prince Edward Island had a rate of 187 per 100,000 and Ontario had 337 per 100,000.
Despite these variations in the rate of theft from province to province, this crime is still far too frequent in Canada. That is why, in addition to the current bill before the House, the Government of Canada is also committed to examining the issue of motor vehicle thefts more generally with our provincial and territorial partners.
In this regard, on January 25, at the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice meeting, as brought forward by my home province of Nova Scotia, all ministers agreed to send the matter of Criminal Code amendments affecting the categorization of motor vehicle thefts and increased penalties for those who steal vehicles and drive recklessly to their senior officials for study and report. Therefore, FPT officials are now working collaboratively on assessing whether a separate indictable offence is needed under the Criminal Code for auto theft and whether the current penalties are suitable for the crime.
In assessing whether Bill C-64 would truly add an additional useful tool for law enforcement, I would outline the existing ways that motor vehicle theft and related offences are dealt with under the code.
The Criminal Code addresses the crime of motor vehicle theft predominately through its theft provisions. If an offender is convicted of theft over $5,000, he or she would be subject to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on indictment.
In addition, those who engage in motor vehicle theft and related crimes are often charged with the offence of fraud. This offence carries a maximum of 14 years on indictment.
The offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, such as joyriding, is a straight summary conviction offence and therefore an offender faces a maximum six month term of imprisonment or a $2,000 fine or both when convicted.
As other speakers have noted before, the offence of possession of property obtained by crime is particularly relevant to those who engage in VIN tampering. Since there currently is no specific Criminal Code prohibition against VIN tampering, those who engage in this activity are often charged with the possession of property obtained by crime offence. The punishment for this offence, if the property is over $5,000, is 10 years imprisonment on indictment.
All too often those who commit motor vehicle theft flee from a lawful pursuit by a law enforcement personnel. In doing so, these offenders endanger the lives of not only themselves but innocent third parties, law enforcement and others. If no one is injured as a result of this flight, then the offender would face up to five years imprisonment. Although, in the event that bodily harm results from this activity, the offender faces up to 14 years imprisonment. Finally, if death results the offender faces a maximum term of life.
I think all hon. members would agree that these existing offences provide a wide range of tools and sanctions that would be complemented by the addition of a VIN tampering offence.
I am encouraged also by the recent changes brought forward by my colleague the Minister of Transport. These regulations regarding the mandatory installation of vehicle immobilization devices have been noted as leading to the significant reduction of motor vehicle theft, especially in the cases involving youth. I look forward to a time when all vehicles manufactured in Canada have these important anti-theft devices installed.
I suspect all hon. members can agree that the creation of a Criminal Code offence for the intentional alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number serves many purposes. Obviously it fills an existing gap in the Criminal Code in a meaningful way. It also provides a useful new tool for police and crown prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of organized vehicle thefts.
Finally, it responds to the calls of key justice system stakeholders to enact such an offence. At the same time it honours the commitment of our colleague, the late Chuck Cadman, to these and other justice system issues by bringing forward a legislative reform that was advanced by that honourable and distinguished member of the House.
Therefore, I join other members of the House in supporting this bill. I urge all members to do the same.
October 21st, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
Bill Casey North Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River for allowing me to share his time.
He mentioned “out there in the real world”. It made me think of my case. I was first elected in 1988. I am the longest serving member of Parliament in my province, and I have seen a dramatic change in the last five or six years in the way law enforcement is handled.
When I first became a member of Parliament, there virtually were no law enforcement issues. Now it has become one of the major issues I deal with and one of the most complicated simply because the government shortchanges the RCMP. It does not have the tools, or the funds or the police officers to do the minimum level of law enforcement and it makes everybody's life very difficult. I think it reflects on everyone's attitude on law enforcement and the justice system, as does this bill.
We really area proud that at least Chuck Cadman's initiative is recognized. However, we are not happy with the way it has been recognized. Chuck's initiative was to establish a law that would make it illegal to remove, obliterate or change serial numbers of vehicles. It was a clear and simple law. It would be up to the person to explain why the VIN was obliterated.
However, the Liberals have take the onus off the owner. It is up to the police now to prove the owner did it for wrongful purposes. It takes away the whole purpose of the bill. That is why the Conservatives will not support it.
What is wrong with asking owners to explain why they are driving around in cars with VINs that have obviously been scratched out or changed? It is their responsibility. They should be charged and held responsible to prove that it was for legitimate reasons. Why the government would not do that? If it did, I would support the bill. However, it reflects its whole attitude on crime.
When the last speaker talked about the real world, I was in the real world a couple of weeks ago. I went to a meeting of scared citizens in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. This is a community where people do not usually lock their doors. They leave their keys in their cars. It is a very safe community and it has been that way for decades. Now all of a sudden they are faced with property damage and thefts, a scary atmosphere for them to live in and raise their kids. What impressed me the most was that speaker after speaker got up and said that they were scared for the well-being and security.
There were two big issues. One is the RCMP is not available like it used to be. There was a detachment in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. The building became unusable because of mould. The RCMP has not replaced it because it does not have the funds. Stewiacke has lost its RCMP presence, the only police presence in the community.
The other issue is the Youth Criminal Justice Act is simply not working for the people in Stewiacke. It is causing them a great deal of grief.
Last week a person from the community of Debert came to see me. This is another traditional small community in Nova Scotia where people did not lock their doors and they would leave their keys in their cars. They cannot do it any more because of inadequate police protection. People have had their cottages burned and windows smashed. They have had things stolen from their garages and yards. The RCMP has said that it has done the best it can, but it does not have enough manpower. It also does not have the proper equipment. If the RCMP had the equipment and the manpower, it could do it.
I have spoken to RCMP officers at every detachment. They have said that if someone is on maternity leave, or on sick leave or is seconded on a murder investigation somewhere else, there is no replacement. An RCMP detachment, which supposedly has six people on record on the job, may have as little as three or none. There is no allowance for replacement officers. We have to deal with that.
In February I raised the question with the minister of public security. It came up because there was a rumour that the northeast drug section would be disbanded, one of the most successful drug enforcement offices in eastern Canada. The reason was the RCMP did not have the resources and the manpower to run this important drug enforcement agency. A moratorium has been put on the closure, but still the drug section is not there the way it was. The RCMP says it is back again, but the officers have been seconded and, again, we do not have the people we need.
The most senior RCMP officers in the province have told me they simply do not have the money to hire the RCMP officers to provide a minimum level of law enforcement in Nova Scotia.
I asked the minister on February 3 to ensure that it had the resources. I brought up the business about filling the vacancies. She said:
However, let me reassure the hon. member that we have provided additional resources not only to the RCMP, but to other of our programming as it relates to a national drug strategy. The RCMP resources have been augmented nationally...
It certainly does not show. The RCMP tell me not only has it not been augmented, but it has been reduced, plus its workload has dramatically increased. With the advent of 911 and all the other cutbacks in government services, the front line for many people on whatever the issue is the RCMP, and it simply cannot handle it. The RCMP needs more resources.
As I did in February, I call upon the government to enhance the resources, to improve and increase them. The RCMP is trying to stretch its meagre resources now to cover our part of Nova Scotia. I read every day in the newspapers that there are other parts of the province suffering the same problems.
I have experienced them myself. In the case of Stewiacke, the RCMP has put a used mobile home in front of the former RCMP station, which is a temporary facility, and I am pleased it has done that. Since it is used, it will be converted. The Minister of Public Works has agreed to upgrade it as quickly as possible to ensure it is available. However, it is just a mobile home. It is not good enough for the long term, but at least we will have a police presence again.
I know this is not all due to the RCMP or to one single thing, but we have to address the RCMP. It needs the tools, the resources, the money and the manpower to do the job. We need a more aggressive approach to law enforcement and the justice system.
In my view it is an amazing development. When I first started in Parliament, I had no justice or policing issues. Now it is one of my biggest problems and it is difficult to solve because the Liberals will not provide the resources to supply a minimum level of law enforcement.
October 21st, 2005 / 1:05 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member across the way had been allowed a little more time for questions and comments I would have asked him if he knew about the change the government made in Bill C-64 from Mr. Cadman's bill, to place the offence under rights of property, under section 377.1, as opposed to what Mr. Cadman intended which was to put it under fraudulent transactions in section 397. By moving it to an offence against rights of property, the government removed all charter provisions as a mitigating factor. However that was the argument he was just resorting to so obviously he has not read the bill and does not understand the bill.
I wish to notify the Chair that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
We have spoken at some length here today to why we find ourselves in opposition to Bill C-64. Obviously the intent to bring down legislation that alters our justice system and holds those who would alter or obliterate a vehicle identification number is something we support. However, as has been pointed out by a number of my colleagues, the legislation is not in the form intended by the original sponsor, our colleague, the late Chuck Cadman.
We have been through that in a number of speeches today that we believe this has been watered down. We were into a debate with a Liberal colleague a few moments ago where we clearly showed our concern that by changing the definition to include the phrase “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”, that would put a double onus on the crown to prove this was an illegal action.
To be quite honest, I do not understand why the government always sides with the criminal and always wants to handcuff our crown attorneys, our prosecutors, by making it so difficult for them to do their job. We see it with legislation the Liberals bring forward all the time. As the Liberal member just said, they are so worried that the accused might actually have to prove that he is innocent at some point that they make it virtually impossible for our crown prosecutors to get a conviction.
I want to move beyond this legislation in the sense of looking at what would likely happen if the crown actually did get a conviction under this. The Liberal who just spoke said that he would be supporting this, that it is getting tough on crime and that it would come with a maximum sentence of five years in prison. We are going to get tough with these guys because a lot of the time when people obliterate or change the vehicle identification number, it is because it is a criminal activity that is involved. It is not someone out joyriding. In many cases it is organized crime that is heisting very expensive motor vehicles for profit in a very organized manner. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles are stolen in this country and we need to get tough.
The Liberals bring in this bill that says a maximum of five years. I want to talk about what will likely take place even if we haul a Hell's Angel into court. What will likely happen is that they will receive a conditional sentence.
What is a conditional sentence? A conditional sentence is something the Liberals brought into being less than a year after they took office in 1993. I believe it was half way through 1994. I and a lot of my colleagues in the Reform Party at that time raised concerns that conditional sentencing might be used for violent crime and drug trafficking, things we felt, and I think the majority of Canadians felt, were totally unacceptable.
People who commit horrific crimes, especially violent crimes, such as sexual assault, common assault, manslaughter and murder, should do jail time, not just because they may or may not be an additional threat to society were they to be left at large, but as a deterrent, to send the message that those types of activities are totally unacceptable in a civilized society. We need to send the message that when people do those types of crimes they do serious jail time.
What did the Liberals do? By September 3, 1996, they brought in what I would classify now as their infamous conditional sentencing. The justice minister at the time was a fellow by the name of Alan Rock, he of the infamous gun registry. If we believe the Liberals, it was with the best of intentions that they wanted to bring it in. They said repeatedly in debate and in committee where it was studied that they wanted to ensure that people, especially young people who made one error in judgment, whether it was vandalism, shoplifting or something like that, would not go to jail and be mixed in with hardened criminals. It was an admirable objective. Nobody had any problem with that.
However we said at the time that the Liberals should specify those crimes where judges will not be able to use conditional sentencing because they are so serious. We asked them to put that in.
I went beyond that as a private member in this place. I drafted a private member's motion, first introduced in early 1998, less than a year and a half after conditional sentencing came into existence in our country. I specified which crimes would be excluded for use by the courts for conditional sentencing.
What is conditional sentencing? Conditional sentencing is imposing certain conditions. What are those conditions, usually? It is like Paul Coffin. He stole a million dollars from the taxpayers and was given a conditional sentence. What was it? It was a curfew, something we would give to a wayward teenager, telling them they must be back home by 9 p.m., or some silly thing. Conditional sentencing usually means house arrest. Instead of going to jail, a person has to serve his or her time sitting at home. That will certainly provide a great deterrent.
After some nine years that conditional sentencing has been law, I have introduced motions and bills to limit the use of conditional sentencing and exclude violent crime from its use. Now the justice minister is saying, in the dying days of this Parliament, which we all know will end, at a maximum, by next spring, that he will bring in some changes to conditional sentencing. I will wait to see what those are. I can almost guarantee the House that they will be just like those in the bill we are debating today, Bill C-64. They will perhaps restrict but they will provide enough legal loopholes that defence lawyers will be able to keep their clients out of jail. I would almost guarantee that is what will happen because the government always comes down on the side of the accused, the criminal, and Canadians are getting more than a little bit tired of it.
October 21st, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my support for Bill C-64, a government bill that would provide a new offence for altering, removing or obliterating a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle. This bill is important as it addresses a gap that currently exists in the Criminal Code.
At present, there are offences in the Criminal Code that can and are being used to address the problem of automobile theft in Canada. These include, notably, the specific offences of theft and possession of stolen property. There is also the offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, sometimes referred to as the joyriding offence. Also relevant is the offence of fleeing in a motor vehicle to evade a peace officer, an offence that is frequently engaged in by persons who have stolen cars.
However, while these offences can be and are being used, they do not fully address the activity that is proposed to be directly criminalized in Bill C-64. Currently, the activity of altering a vehicle identification number is most closely associated with the offence of possession of property obtained by crime, in section 354 of the Criminal Code.
When people are found to be in possession of stolen vehicles, it is not at all uncommon to find that those vehicles have had their vehicle identification numbers tampered with. Indeed, section 354 already includes a provision with respect to vehicle identification numbers. In particular, section 354 includes a provision stating that evidence that a person is in possession of a motor vehicle which has had its vehicle identification number wholly or partially removed or obliterated is considered to be evidence that the vehicle was obtained by an offence.
Why then is it worthwhile to also provide for the offence proposed under Bill C-64? The answer is that the proposed new offence does not address possession itself, which is already criminalized, but the actual act of tampering with the vehicle identification number.
A further understanding for the rationale underlying the proposed new offence can be found in part in the very placement of the proposed new offence in the Criminal Code. The offence would be added as new section 377.1. It would not appear adjacent to the possession offence at section 354 but rather adjacent to provisions such as the illegal damaging of documents and offences in relation to registers of information. These offences are designed to protect the integrity of certain important documents and registries of information in Canada.
The vehicle identification number system is itself an important record of information. Each vehicle is given a unique number to confirm its identity and origin. This number, properly remaining in place, plays a vital role in respect of detecting and retrieving a stolen vehicle after a theft. In addition, it can also be used to track recalls, registrations, warranty claims and insurance coverage. It has been referred to as the automotive equivalent of human DNA.
The government has a clear interest in protecting the integrity of this system. Therefore, it is proposing the offence under Bill C-64 which would address the altering, removing or obliteration of 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.
This proposed new offence would clearly and directly recognize that tampering with a vehicle identification number for this purpose is wrong. The offence would recognize the act as a key and central aspect of a chain of activities involved in the theft of a motor vehicle and the reselling of vehicles or their parts, activities that are frequently engaged in by well organized crime rings.
This chain of activities, that also includes the transportation of stolen vehicles or their parts to foreign countries for resale, generates very considerable profit for organized crime in this country and abroad. It also deprives Canadians of their motor vehicles, which are, of course, extremely significant physical possessions, in monetary and practical terms, for individuals and families.
While insurance can provide compensation for this theft, the amount of theft contributes substantially to insurance costs that are a burden to society at large. The government has a clear and direct interest in addressing this chain of activities and, therefore, indirectly criminalizing one of the central acts that facilitates it.
The additional proposed offence may perhaps be seen as a subtle addition to the already existing offences in the Criminal Code, such as theft and possession of property obtained by crime, but it is an important and justified one for the reasons that I have outlined.
I observe as well that the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have called upon the government to pass a distinctive offence of tampering with a vehicle identification number.
It is important to note as well that the creation of a distinct offence of this nature would more clearly help to indicate a perpetrator's potential involvement as part of an organized vehicle theft ring. In this regard, the fact of charges and prosecution under the proposed new offence would be of value to police and the Crown prosecutors in subsequent investigations and prosecutions.
It is also important to observe in this regard that the proposed new offence, with its maximum punishment of five years imprisonment, can qualify as a criminal organization offence under the Criminal Code. Where this is demonstrated, additional criminal law provisions can come into play, including the possibility of an additional conviction for one of the core criminal organization offences found in the Criminal Code, such as participation in the activities of a criminal organization, the possibility of consecutive sentencing for offences arising out of the same transaction, and a deeming of an aggravating factor on sentencing and reduced parole eligibility.
I recognize that questions have been raised as to whether appropriately severe sentences would be available for the proposed new offence where the offence has been committed in connection with organized crime. It should be underlined that this would be available by virtue of these additional criminal organization provisions of the Criminal Code that are designed for this very purpose. I would also underline that another piece of legislation currently before this House, Bill C-53, would provide for aggressive additional proceeds of crime measures in respect of criminal organization offences.
Therefore, these aggressive new proceeds of crime measures, if passed by Parliament, would also be available for the proposed new vehicle identification number tampering offence where it is demonstrated that this tampering was done for a criminal organization.
It must be recognized that not every person who alters, moves or obliterates a vehicle identification number necessarily does so in a criminal context. There may be innocent, lawful explanations for such activity. In recognition of this, the offence criminalizes the act of tampering with the vehicle identification number only where circumstances give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so for the purpose of concealing the identity of the vehicle. Further, the provision would recognize the possibility of lawful excuse. These are appropriate safeguards in respect of the offence.
I recognize that questions have been asked as to why it was advisable to add the words “under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”, if the proposed provision also makes reference to the possibility of lawful excuse. The reason is that in certain cases, like legitimate wrecking of an automobile, VINs are regularly obliterated.
In view of these regular circumstances, it is appropriate to more clearly identify a specific wrongful purpose in the definition of the offence itself. The defence of lawful excuse, as appropriate, would be left for circumstances where persons engaged in the act with the apparent wrongful purpose but nevertheless had an excuse for doing so.
It must also be acknowledged that a private member's bill, Bill C-287, introduced by the late Chuck Cadman, provided a critical part of the inspiration for the current government bill. It contains somewhat different language with respect to the lawful excuse element. In particular, Mr. Cadman's bill proposed including the words “the proof of which lies on the person” in the reference to lawful excuse. These additional words are now part of the government bill.
The inclusion of such words would put a persuasive burden on an accused to prove a defence. This is contrary to general traditions under Canadian criminal law under which the persuasive burden remains on the Crown with respect to guilt or innocence.
This is also, in particular, a concern under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In general, whenever an accused is required to disprove, on a balance of probabilities, any factor affecting the verdict of guilt or innocence, charter concerns can arise with respect to the presumption of innocence.
It is not the general practice under the Criminal Code for reverse burdens to be put on an accused with respect to guilt or innocence itself. Convictions are regularly obtained under existing provisions of the code with the full persuasive burden remaining on the Crown.
This is a normal part of our legal tradition in Canada. The government had no intention of leaving the proposed new measure open to a charter doubt. A reverse burden in this case was considered by the government not to serve any necessary purpose. Defence can be effective without it and so it was not included in the government bill.
This bill is an important addition to the criminal law tool kit. It will fill the gap that currently exists in the Criminal Code of Canada. It will address an activity that is part of the cycle of auto theft for profit, frequently engaged in by organized crime. It provides for an appropriate sentence of a maximum of 5 years' imprisonment for the offence itself. Further, in conjunction with existing and additional proposed measures with respect to criminal organization offences, it allows for the imposition of serious additional consequences where a link to organized crime is shown.
At the same time, the drafting of the offence provides for appropriate safeguards so as to accurately describe the criminal nature of the activity captured and so as not to impose a reverse burden on an accused with respect to guilt or innocence that could affect the charter viability of this particular offence.
The government is confident that this will be an effective and justifiable new provision of the Criminal Code. I call upon members of the House to support it.
October 21st, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, for two days in a row I have had the pleasure to reflect on Bill C-65 and now Bill C-64. The government claims these bills to be representative of what Mr. Cadman, the former hon. member for Surrey, was trying to accomplish during his tour here.
As I said yesterday with respect to Bill C-65, Bill C-64 has been altered with a few words that reflect the mushy, soft on crime Liberal attitude. The bill probably will be supported by my friends to the left, the softy Bloc. The Liberals have watered down both bills because they appear to be too harsh for their souls to comprehend.
Many years ago Mr. Cadman recognized how serious auto theft had become. It is a major problem in many cities all across Canada. Close to 200,000 vehicles are stolen every year. This bill is supposed to make it an offence to alter, or remove, or obliterate vehicle identification numbers, or VIN, on motor vehicles. That was the purpose of Chuck Cadman's private member's bill, which he presented quite some time ago in the House. However, in the opinion of the Liberal government and other softies in here who support being soft on crime, the bill was too harsh.
The government has taken Chuck's bill and added a few words. Section 377.1 states, “everyone commits an offence who wholly or partially alters, removes, or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse”. Chuck Cadman's bill would have made the onus on the person indicted. It would not be up to the Crown to try to justify the altering of the VIN in any way, shape or form.
The government added, “and under circumstances that give rise to reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of a motor vehicle”. That sentence destroys the entire purpose of Chuck Cadman's private member's bill. It has changed his bill completely, even to the point that a number of people who were very supportive of his initial bill are not supportive of this one.
Members of Chuck's family and his campaign team back in Surrey are livid with Bill C-64. I understand that letters have been written by the campaign chairman of his committee to editors of various newspapers. Those people are livid that the government would dare change these things, water down the bills and say that Bill C-64 is in memory of Chuck Cadman. By making these alterations, the government has strongly dishonoured his memory by saying that this is Chuck Cadman's bill when in fact it is not.
It is pretty clear in people's minds that Bill C-64 will put the onus on the Crown to prove someone caught with an altered VIN intended to conceal the identity of a motor vehicle rather than to explain themselves, which was Mr. Cadman's original intention. That is a very strong point.
I was here during Mr. Cadman's tenure. Over the years Chuck fought so hard for these kinds of bills and amendments. The government consistently rejected any form of mandatory licence prohibitions similar to the type that Chuck constantly proposed.
The government ignored the recommendations related to VINs. It ignored the recommendations related to street racing. It continued to soft pedal on all of these efforts to confront crime. Mr. Cadman was definitely committed to seeing that crime fighting efforts were made law in this great country to bring more emphasis to the value of victims rather than constantly seeing perpetrators receive a lot more attention.
Today in question period even the answer that I received regarding the constant idea that the rights of perpetrators seemed to override the rights of victims in all cases indicated that there was an imbalance and that there were efforts to do something about it. When a bill on some very stringent issues regarding Chuck Cadman's ideas is watered down, that is just the opposite. Once again the focus is on the predator and not the victim. The government needs to wake up and realize that is the case.
What is even more disturbing is if this bill were amended, if it passed and became law, where would it go next?. I am really disgusted when I look at some of the things that have happened in regard to decisions that are made in the House of Commons. Let me provide some short examples.
Last week, while visiting my constituents in my riding, I ran across three people who were suffering from hepatitis C. One of them does not have very long to live. I believe some time around April the House concurred in a motion put forward by our health critic, the member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia, that would implement the recommendation in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Health that called for compensation to all victims of hepatitis C. It was passed in the House and all victims of hepatitis C were to receive compensation.
When these three people asked me when they would get their money, I was shocked. I knew it had been approved long ago by this place. What is going on? The House of Commons made a decision that all hepatitis C victims would be compensated, yet to this date they have not been. In other words, the government of the day is refusing to take any action. It is ignoring the decision of the House.
Let me talk further about that to illustrate my worry about these kinds of bills that may pass, and even if they are amended, but do not go anywhere.
Bill C-2, the child exploitation act, has been approved by the House of Commons. It has gone where it is supposed to go. It is supposed to be implemented and become law. This is about child exploitation. Where is it? It is my understanding it is still sitting on the Prime Minister's desk and is not going anywhere. The House of Commons passed that law and it is supposed to happen. Why has it not?
We need answers to these kinds of questions. The decision on hepatitis C was unanimous. Nobody voted against it. Everybody in this place was in favour of giving the victims of hepatitis C a cheque. Today they still have not received them, and I would like to know why. After eight months, the government cannot achieve that? Are the Liberals waiting for everybody to die and then they will not have to bother with it? That is extremely disturbing.
On November 30, 2004, the House approved another motion by the leader of our party which called upon the government to take appropriate measures to sell 11,000 acres of arable land back to the families and farmers whose lands were expropriated to build the Mirabel airport. Guess what? The government has refused to comply with the wishes of the House. It has not done that.
On April 5 the House adopted a motion by the member for Red Deer, concurring in a committee report disqualifying Glen Murray's appointment as chairman of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Today, Mr. Murray still continues to chair the round table. Once again, the government completely ignored the decision of the House of Commons.
On February 15, Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 were defeated in the House of Commons. The trade minister shrugged off the defeat of these two bills that would create a new international trade department separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs. He said that the two branches of government would continue to operate independently, even though Parliament did not give its blessing to do so. Even though they were defeated, the two bills were implemented. I find this amazing. Bills that are defeated are implemented and bills that are passed are not, because they do not suit the attitude on that side of the House.
Bill C-2 on child exploitation was approved and is laying dormant. Will the Liberals get on with it? Is it too harsh? It might be.
I was at committee on Tuesday and one of the witnesses was from the justice department. Guess what one of his statements was when the department objected to a private member's bill, which had been brought forward by my colleague, regarding the penalties for the use of a gun in the commission of a crime? What did the official of the justice department say loud and clear? The bill was opposed because it was cruel and undue punishment. The punishment was too severe for people who would dare break the law in the commission of a crime using a gun. Yet the victims of these crimes never get to cry out about the harsh impacts on their lives from the actions of these perpetrators.
There is way too much of that going on, and it is no wonder. Every time a bill is brought in like Bill C-64, the outfit over there has to water it down because it is too harsh on the perpetrator. Never mind the guys who lose their cars to theft. Let us not get too harsh on those who steal them. How nonsensical can they get? Common sense does not prevail anywhere in the House of Commons. Decisions do not prevail in the House of Commons. It does not matter whether a motion passes, it does not get done.
I do not know if members would like more examples, but I have a ton of them, examples where the Liberals refuse to accept the decisions of the House. I do not know contemptible they can get.
Our health critic also had a motion in regard to the funding required to fight cancer and a few of the other serious diseases we are facing. He introduced a motion calling on the government to fully fund and implement a Canadian strategy for cancer control in collaboration with the provinces and all stakeholders. That was approved by the House, but there has been no action. Nothing is happening. The government refuses to give any effect to the motion. Why?
I am glad to see two or three Liberals here. I hope they are listening closely. Do they know of all the decisions that they took part in making but are not being done? Do they not care about the fact that hepatitis C victims are not being compensated, even though those people over there had a voice in that and voted yes to having it done? Does it not bother those members a little bit that people living in their ridings who have hepatitis C are not being compensated? Are they not bothered that the House is being ignored by whatever little group of individuals who do not care about decisions made here and that they will do it anyway?
Does it not bother those members that two bills designed to split a department were defeated and yet the government went ahead and created the two departments? Does it not bother those members the slightest little bit that these undemocratic, dictatorial decisions are going on right under their noses? Does it not make them squirm in their seats just a wee bit? If it does not, then it ought to make it really hot to sit in those seats. It is absolutely shameful.
And to hear the answer to my question today, that the government realizes there is an imbalance in our law and order and fighting of crime. That was the government's own admission in the answer. Why are we not doing something about it? We have an opportunity to get tough on crime. When we have a chance to get tough on street racing as Mr. Cadman wished, on the stealing of automobiles and the removing of VINs, why do we not do it?
When the Liberals make a statement that there is an imbalance, why does more favour always go toward the predators rather than the victims? This is constantly happening. When they make those statements, why do they allow it? Why do they want to amend those bills to make that happen again?
Why do the Liberals not fess up and look to the people in their ridings? How many people in their ridings are happy that we have a law in the land which says that adult men can have sex with 14-year-old girls? How many people in their ridings are happy about that? About 99% of the people in my riding are not happy about that at all, but that is the law and there is not the courage to change it because somebody over there does not want it to happen. Some soft, mushy idealist over there says that it would be too harsh, that we could not do it because it would make it difficult for those adult men who like to prey on young women who are kids. Like it or not, 14 year olds and 15 year olds are still kids. They are young girls just coming to the point of life where they can enjoy things, yet we dare allow the possibility of endangering them.
I know that questions are going to come up after this speech but boy, I would like some answers to come out of the mouths of those people over there before they ask the questions. I would like them to explain to me why they do not honour democracy, that when a decision is made in the House it is done. If they doubt it, I will give them a copy of the 14 things I know about that have been decided on but which have not been accomplished. They could take it up in the Liberal caucus if they wanted to, but it would not make any difference because they are puppets of a regime that refuses to honour the decisions of the House. That is what has to stop.
Then above all things, the most absolutely ridiculous, the most undemocratic decision I have ever heard of was to stifle the opposition by coming back in the fall and saying that there will be no opposition days. What a shameful, undemocratic disgrace the government brings to the House of Commons.
The Liberals ought to be apologizing to their constituents on a daily basis for their inaction on decisions made here and for their unwillingness to come down hard on criminals and help victims to a larger degree than they ever imagined. That is what a Conservative government would do and I would love to be part of that.
October 21st, 2005 / 10:55 a.m.
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
Let us say that this is a good step forward because, at present, there is nothing in the Criminal Code to bring those who tamper with VINs to justice. As I indicated earlier, I do believe that the bill can be improved. However, as far as the principle is concerned, I think that passing Bill C-64 would be a step forward.
October 21st, 2005 / 10:50 a.m.
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-64, which will provide the police with an additional tool in the fight against networks active in the theft, appearance alteration and resale of motor vehicles. Those networks, too often, enable criminal organizations to finance other criminal activities.
It is important to recall that this bill was introduced by the Minister of Justice on September 28, 2005 and that it is identical, almost verbatim—still, not enough to satisfy my Conservative colleagues—to private member's Bill C-287 tabled on October 17, 2004, by the late Mr. Chuck Cadman, who, until his untimely passing, was the member for Surrey North.
As I indicated, this bill amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number, or VIN, on a motor vehicle. One of the means used by offenders to facilitate the theft, appearance alteration and resale of motor vehicles is VIN tampering. In fact, motor vehicle theft is endemic; it is becoming increasingly widespread. In 2004, approximately 170,000 vehicle thefts were reported in Canada. This is a very lucrative enterprise, one which often enables crime organizations to raise money to fund other criminal activities.
Therefore, by making it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle, it will be possible to lay charges more easily against the perpetrators of this crime. By making it an offence to alter a VIN, we have another tool with which to fight against the crime rings that steal, disguise and resell motor vehicles.
With specific regard to Bill C-64, every motor vehicle in Canada must have its own vehicle identification number. The VIN consists of letters and numbers, each representing a specific piece of information such as the make, category, model, year and manufacturer of that car. The VIN is affixed to various parts of each vehicle.
People who alter a vehicle identification number for the purposes of concealing a stolen car cannot currently be charged with a specific offence under the Criminal Code. The closest offence is the possession of property obtained by crime—section 354—which allows an individual to be charged with possession of a vehicle whose VIN has been altered. I want to read it quickly. Under subsection 354(1):
Every one commits an offence who has in his possession any property or thing or any proceeds of any property or thing knowing that all or part of the property or thing or of the proceeds was obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from
(a) the commission in Canada of an offence punishable by indictment; or
(b) an act or omission anywhere that, if it had occurred in Canada, would have constituted an offence punishable by indictment.
Subsection 354(2) states:
In proceedings in respect of an offence under subsection (1), evidence that a person has in his possession a motor vehicle the vehicle identification number of which has been wholly or partially removed or obliterated or a part of a motor vehicle being a part bearing a vehicle identification number that has been wholly or partially removed or obliterated is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the motor vehicle or part, as the case may be, was obtained, and that such person had the motor vehicle or part, as the case may be, in his possession knowing that it was obtained,
(a) by the commission in Canada of an offence punishable by indictment; or
(b) by an act or omission anywhere that, if it had occurred in Canada, would have constituted an offence punishable by indictment.
Until now, section 357 of the Criminal Code has been used to prosecute individuals found in possession of vehicles with an altered or obliterated VIN. The Criminal Code, however, does not at present include any offence regarding the alteration, obliteration or removal of a VIN. Bill C-64 will therefore remedy that shortcoming.
This new offence would be added after section 377 which deals with destruction, defacing, obliteration, or injury of documents. Anyone found guilty of this new offence would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. There would also be the option of proceeding by summary conviction with a maximum fine of $2,000, six months imprisonment, or both.
The wording on this new offence would be:
377.1 (1) 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
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “vehicle identification number” means any number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing the motor vehicle from other similar motor vehicles
(3) 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; or (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
October 21st, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-64, a government bill aimed at combating the involvement of organized crime in the theft of motor vehicles by making it an offence to tamper with a vehicle identification number. I will simply refer to that as a VIN for the purposes of my remarks today.
This important bill was inspired, as has been mentioned earlier, by the late Chuck Cadman and a private member's bill brought forward by him, namely Bill C-287. Of course, while Mr. Cadman would not have claimed to be the originator of the thought, he certainly was the promoter of the initiative to make the act of changing the vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle a criminal offence.
In summary, Bill C-64 would make it an offence without lawful excuse to alter, obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle under circumstances that gave rise to an inference that this was done to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
It is proposed that anyone who commits this offence would be liable, if proceeded with by indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or would be prosecuted by a summary conviction procedure. By virtue of section 787 of the Criminal Code, people convicted under the summary conviction provisions can face up to a maximum term of six months or a $2,000 fine.
As previously indicated, Bill C-64 was inspired by the original private member's bill. That private member's bill would have made it an offence for anyone without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies upon the person, to alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number. That particular bill provided that if proceeded by way of indictment, the prison term would be five years maximum and if by summary conviction the similar six months' imprisonment or $2,000 fine.
Therefore, there are real similarities between this and the private member's bill. However, there are a couple of differences.
First and foremost, the private member's bill placed what is known as a persuasive burden on the accused person to prove the existence of a lawful excuse for tampering with a vehicle identification number. Therefore, that bill required an accused to prove on the balance of probabilities that they had a lawful excuse. That is called a shifting onus or shifting burden in the Criminal Code. We generally do not do it very much at all because it shifts the burden to the citizen to prove that he or she had the right to do what they did. That is not the way we generally prosecute our citizens.
There is a fundamental element in our criminal justice system that an accused person will not be convicted of a criminal offence if they raise a reasonable doubt. Therefore, under the private member's bill a person accused of VIN tampering would face the prospect of a conviction, even though they may have raised a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.
Therefore, Bill C-287 and the reverse onus provision raised significant charter and other criminal justice considerations.
Instead, the government bill, Bill C-64, borrowing very heavily on Mr. Cadman's bill, would require an accused to raise the defence of lawful excuse based on the usual test in criminal law for raising defences, namely, the test of raising sufficient evidence on each element of the defence for it to be considered by a judge or a jury.
By adopting an offence which would not on its face attract charter litigation, we are contributing to the utility of this offence as a prosecutorial tool. We understand now, after many years of the charter, that to place a real conspicuous charter issue into a new Criminal Code provision would place the Criminal Code at considerable risk as a prosecutorial tool with it facing considerable amount of litigation. I think all members would agree that we want to ensure that the laws we pass can and will be used with reasonable utility for years to come by prosecutors and police.
In addition, Bill C-64 would require that the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle ID number would be done under circumstances that would give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identify of the vehicle. This element was not included in Bill C-287.
The purpose of this element of the government bill is to distance the offence from those people such as legitimate auto wreckers or mechanics who may, in the course of their work, alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle ID number. This consideration was made as it would have been bad policy to craft an offence under which a large body of legitimate workers could have been caught under its scope, just on the straight wording of the section.
I think all members would agree that the manner in which the government bill addresses this issue is sound. I hope that is the case on this side of the House, but not on the other side.
Various key justice system stakeholders have called upon the Government of Canada to enact such an offence for vehicle ID tampering.
First, the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, which is a multi-stakeholder group established in May 2000 representing stakeholders mainly from police, community and the insurance industry groups, released a report in March 2003 entitled “Organized Vehicle Theft Rings”. This report, among other proposals, recommended the creation of a distinct vehicle identification number tampering offence in the Criminal Code.
In addition, in August 2003 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to create a Criminal Code offence specifically prohibiting the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle ID number.
Finally, the Canadian Association of Police Boards in 2000 passed a resolution calling upon the federal government to enact legislation to combat theft in their communities, which would include the creation of that type of Criminal Code offence.
I am pleased to say that we have answered all these calls with Bill C-64.
In 2004 there were nearly 170,000 motor vehicle thefts in Canada. This translates to a rate of roughly 530 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people. I am pleased to note a slight decline in the rate since 2003. In that year it was 550 vehicles per 100,000.
In order to compare certain provincial rates with the national rate, in 2004 the rate of motor vehicle theft in British Columbia was 889 per 100,000, a significant uptake. In Manitoba it was 1,364, a significant increase above that of the national average. On the other end of the spectrum, Prince Edward Island had a rate of 187 and Ontario was 337.
Despite these variations in the rate of theft from province to province, the crime is still all too frequent in Canada. That is why, in addition to the current bill before the House, the Government of Canada also is committed to examining the issue of motor vehicle theft more generally with our provincial and territorial partners.
In this regard, on January 25 at the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice meeting, as brought forward by Nova Scotia, all ministers agreed to send the matter of Criminal Code amendments affecting motor vehicle theft or organized motor vehicle theft, increased penalties and reckless driving to senior officials in each of the provinces for further study. Therefore, the federal-provincial-territorial officials are now working collaboratively on assessing whether a separate Criminal Code indictable offence is needed to deal with this category of auto theft and whether current penalties are appropriate.
In assessing whether the government bill would truly add an additional useful tool for our law enforcement, I should outline the existing ways that motor vehicle theft and related offences are dealt with under the code. I do this so we can see how relatively weak the current code provisions may appear.
The code addresses the crime of motor vehicle theft predominantly through its theft provisions. If offenders are convicted of theft over $5,000, they would be subject to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. In addition, those who engage in motor vehicle theft and related crimes are often charged with the offence of fraud. This offence carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment on indictment.
The offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, otherwise known as the joyriding offence, is a straight summary conviction offence. Therefore, an offender faces a maximum six month term of imprisonment or a fine of $2,000 or both once convicted.
As other speakers have noted before me, the offence of possession of property obtained by crime is particularly relevant to those who engage in vehicle identification number tampering. Since there is currently no Criminal Code provision against VIN tampering, those who engage in this activity are often charged with the possession of property offence. The punishment for that offence, if the property is valued over $5,000, is 10 years imprisonment on indictment.
All too often those who commit motor vehicle theft flee when approached by law enforcement. In doing so, these offenders, if they are driving when they flee, endanger the lives of innocent third parties, law enforcement officials and even themselves. If no one is injured as a result of such a flight, then the offender would face up to five years imprisonment. In the event that bodily harm results from that flight, the offender faces up to 14 years imprisonment. Finally, if death were to unfortunately result, the offender faces a maximum term of life imprisonment.
I think all members would agree that these existing offences provide a wide range of tools and sanctions, and will be complemented by the addition of a new VIN tampering offence. The broader issue is whether the code currently brings to bear sufficient focus on the whole range of auto theft and organized crime auto theft offences. The FPT officials who are working on this now will bring public policy focus there.
I also am encouraged by recent changes brought forward by my colleague, the Minister of Transport. New regulations regarding the mandatory installation of vehicle immobilization devices have been noted as leading to the significant reduction of motor vehicle theft, especially in cases of younger offenders. I look forward to a time when perhaps all vehicles manufactured in Canada will have these important anti-theft devices installed.
I think all hon. members can agree that the creation of a Criminal Code offence for intentional alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number can serve many purposes.
First, it fills a gap in the Criminal Code in a meaningful way. Second, it provides a new tool for police and crown prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of organized vehicle theft. Finally, it responds to the call of key justice system stakeholders to enact such an offence, while at the same time honouring the commitment of our colleague, the late Chuck Cadman, to those and other justice system issues by bringing forward a legislative reform that was advanced by the honourable and distinguished member who so sadly is no with us any longer.
I would therefore ask all members to join me in supporting this important Criminal Code amendment.
October 21st, 2005 / 10:25 a.m.
Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC
Mr. Speaker, I just love it when Liberal members hand me gifts like that.
The member for Scarborough—Rouge River knows that Mr. Cadman's intention was that anyone who wholly or in part alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle ID number without lawful excuse is committing an offence, when it is proven that the person has done it, period. That is the offence. That makes it very easy for the crown in any court in this country to convict a person on the act of removing or defacing wholly or in part the VIN of a vehicle. That is the criminal offence Mr. Cadman wanted in his bill.
The government said that would make it too easy for any crown attorney to put someone in jail, so the government added “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. The crown now has to tell the judge that the case has been proven and the person charged did indeed destroy or remove the VIN.
Because the Liberal government added that obligation, it now has to be proven that the individual did it to hide the identity of the vehicle. More time will be needed because this addition in Bill C-64 to section 377.1 of the Criminal Code makes it necessary to prove the person did it because he wanted to hide the vehicle's identification. His lawyer could be right and say he was doing it just because it was fun. The crown has to prove that he really wanted to hide the vehicle's identification number.
That is the part of the bill that the Conservative Party has a problem with. The government has provided a loophole to people who destroy vehicle identification numbers on vehicles. I hope that is clear.
October 21st, 2005 / 10 a.m.
Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code dealing with the tampering or removal of vehicle identification numbers.
The bill has been referred to as being in the memory of Chuck Cadman. Chuck Cadman, as we know, presented a bill to the House after years of imploring the government to deal with the situations of tampering with vehicle ID numbers and the tremendously rising rate of auto thefts across Canada, particularly in the area of British Columbia where Mr. Cadman resided, which was the Surrey lower mainland area where car theft is rampant and has been for years. Mr. Cadman had been imploring the government to deal with this in a substantial way in respect of organized crime that has created these car theft rings. They steal cars and change the ID numbers or destroy them in some way so that they cannot be identified.
The way things are at present is that people who are in possession of vehicles that have tampered ID numbers can be charged with possession of goods obtained through a crime if the crown can prove that case. However the thing that has been missing in the Criminal Code is the crime of the act of changing a vehicle identification number or defacing it in some way that would benefit the criminal involved in the theft of the vehicle.
It is kind of confusing as to why this was not in the Criminal Code because the act of defacing or removing VIN numbers is in fact for criminal intent and not many other reasons, which is why Mr. Cadman was so anxious to get the government for some years to act on this.
Now the government has responded in somewhat of a fashion and has said that it is introducing Bill C-64 to respect the wishes of Mr. Cadman, who was a member in the House. However one has to question the government's sincerity because it has taken the wishes of Mr. Cadman and how he wanted this bill to be dealt with and made some additions to it, which, in effect, have dramatically watered down the original pleas of Mr. Cadman to deal with this.
What Mr. Cadman wanted to have is a bill that said, “Everyone commits an offence who, partially or wholly alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle ID number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse would be subject to an indictable offence”. The crown would have a relatively easy time of proving its case. When someone is charged and appears before the judge, the crown could give the evidence that the person was caught engaged in the act of removing one or more vehicle identification numbers and provide the evidence that he or she did it. Under the wording that Mr. Cadman originally had in his bill, that would be it. The crown's case would be fairly straightforward.
However, the Liberal government, in its wisdom, has altered the bill to make it easier for someone to get off the charge. Instead of the Crown now having to prove in a straightforward way that the people charged were engaged and had altered or defaced, wholly or in part, a vehicle identification number, the Liberals want to give the people charged, despite all the evidence that they did it, some wriggle room in the courtroom.
They want the Crown to prove that the people who took the ID number off the car, defaced it wholly or in part, did it because they wanted to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle. One has to ask, why would someone alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number unless they wanted to conceal the identity of the vehicle? It does not sound like a popular past time to me to just go around doing it for fun and I am sure that my colleagues, even on the Liberal side, would have to agree with me on that.
It defies even imagination why the government would want to add this piece of legislation to the original thought that Mr. Cadman had to arrest the proliferation of vehicle theft. Why would the government want to add this? Now the Crown has to prove that the people really did it because they wanted to conceal the identity.
By looking at the bill, one has to automatically conclude that this is the Liberals up to their old tricks again, of finding ways to keep criminals out of prison rather than to put them in prison for the crimes they commit.
The addition says, “—and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.” This addition adds considerably to the Crown's job of proving the offence. It gets away from something that is very straightforward. When people are caught with a vehicle that is not their's and it is proven that the people removed, or defaced wholly or in part the identity of the vehicle, that is straightforward. That is what Mr. Cadman wanted in his original pleas to the government to do something about auto theft.
The government has said it will do that, but it would add a loophole, so people charged can get out. As everyone knows in this country, Liberals have been and continue to be soft on crime and that is why we have the rate of crime in the country that we do. It is like a revolving door in our courtrooms because of the legislation that the government has passed. There are criminals charged with crimes, anywhere from vehicle theft and altering vehicle identification numbers to crimes like sexual abuse, murder and manslaughter. It is like a revolving door.
The criminals in this country have no fear of the courts because the government has continually adopted a no go to jail policy. It is not like Monopoly where people go to court and get proven guilty. It is like landing on go directly to jail. The government does not play that game. It has a no go to jail policy and its reasoning for all the years that I have been in this place, about 12 or 13 years now, is that we do not want to put in jail people in this country who commit serious crimes. We would rather, as we have seen in so many cases, give them a conditional sentence and put them under house arrest.
We just had one case referred to in this place yesterday. Someone was found guilty of sexual assault and rape of a minor. It was brought up in a question to the Minister of Justice. The person had received, if one can believe it, a two years less a day conditional sentence that allowed the person to be under house arrest.
Is that not something? Some eminent politician said, and I think he is in this chamber, that if a government cannot protect our children, then it has no right to claim to govern this country. The children of our country are the most vulnerable. If a government cannot protect them, then how can Canadians trust it to run this country? No truer words were ever spoken and I thank the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
This addition to Mr. Cadman's original intent of this bill is simply another example of how the Liberals have a habit, almost a thirst, to water down the Criminal Code, so that we do not have to put criminals in jail for the havoc they wreak on society. As I said, the government's excuse for that is that our jails are overcrowded. Our courtrooms are overcrowded and behind schedule in every respect. The government's answer to that is not to expand the court system, not to expand the prisons, but simply not put people in jail any more. That solves the problem.
That is the answer that the Liberal government has given to members of Parliament like myself for the last 12 years that I have been here. The Liberals want to solve the overcrowding conditions in our prisons. They want to solve the workload of our courts and our country. So, this is what they will do: they will just simply not put criminals in jail. They will make it easy for them to get out on bail, so, that will ease the burden on the court system. That is what this Liberal government has been all about.
Our official opposition justice critic said that the two bills tabled by the Liberal government, in fact, soften the impact of the proposed laws of the late Chuck Cadman. Mr. Cadman had been asking the government for many years in this place to implement legislation that would provide stiff penalties for the alteration or removal of vehicle identification numbers.
Chuck Cadman was a tireless fighter for the people of North Surrey and the lower mainland, and for the rights of victims of crime across the country. He believed in what he was doing because he saw that crime happening in his community on a firsthand basis. He was aware of the rapid increase in auto theft.
The lower mainland and the Fraser Valley, as we know, are the areas where auto theft has just expanded at an incredible rate. It is controlled by major crime now. It is costing somewhere around $600 million. A $600 million a year business, and a good portion of that is happening right in the lower mainland and the Fraser valley.
One of Mr. Cadman's priorities in the last number of years was to address the growing concern of the misuse of motor vehicles. Like many regions of Canada, Surrey faced an astronomical increase in the number of auto thefts, as well as an increase in death and injuries caused by the irresponsible use of motor vehicles on public roads. With the theft of vehicles, we are not just dealing with, and the Liberals know this, the fact that the vehicle was stolen and sold for parts or sold overseas on the black market.
However, in the commission of an auto theft, far too often we read in the newspapers that there has been a police chase. When a vehicle has been reported stolen, the police have a responsibility to apprehend the person who is driving it. Far too often we see a tragic result or end to the police attempt to apprehend people because the stolen vehicle has gone through a stop light or rammed another car with a death involved.
Let us give the police credit. They have implemented a number of rules that they operate by whereby they decide when to give up on that chase if they feel that the public is in danger. Even operating within those rules, we must understand that the people driving those stolen vehicles have no responsibility. They just want to get away. Far too often we see it resulting in an automobile accident that causes death and serious injury.
What do we do to curb the actual theft in the first place? Mr. Cadman seemed to think that if we implemented some legislation that made it a little tougher on the people who would steal a vehicle and remove the identification number, that might curtail the actual thought of stealing a car in the first place. There is almost no deterrent at all now. If somehow Mr. Cadman could have had his bill passed in the spirit of what was presented with the strictness of the bill, that would have produced a deterrent for people involved in the theft of vehicles.
The government has said that Bill C-64 was respectful of Mr. Cadman and his wishes, but it has been watered down so much it fails in so many ways to respect what Mr. Cadman wanted in a piece of legislation in the first place. The government continues to practice a policy of governing that is soft on crime and we see it again in this case. It practices a policy to leave even violent criminals out on the street rather than putting them away in jails and protecting society. The government believes that a holistic approach to crime is a better way of keeping our community safe.
I can assure everyone that we in the Conservative Party, as the next government of Canada, for the first time in 12 or 13 years, will take steps that will address crime and the criminals who commit crime in this country in a way that the government has abrogated its responsibility to do.
I cannot wait until I see the minister of justice from the Conservative Party stand in the House introducing real legislation to fight crime in this country instead of watered down mush that comes from the Liberal government. Criminals are laughing at the justice system in Canada and they are allowed to laugh because the Liberal government will not do the right things to address crime. The Conservative Party will do just that after the next election.