An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create an offence of street racing based on dangerous driving and criminal negligence offences.

This enactment increases, in street racing situations, the maximum punishments for some offences and also provides for minimum prohibitions on driving that increase on a second and subsequent offence.

This enactment also makes a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Elsewhere

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

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 9th, 2008 / 7:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recognize I may not have the full allotment of time, but I will give it my best and you can pull the plug if I go over.

I am happy to speak to Bill C-519, introduced by the member for Palliser. We have already told him what a great member he is, so perhaps we should stop that.

The bill addresses an important aspect of the bill system. More specific, the bill provides that where an accused is charged with a serious personal injury offence, as defined under section 752 of the Criminal Code, the prosecution shall present all the relevant evidence in its possession before a justice makes an order for the release of the accused.

Bail has been described earlier. The type of evidence that would be required is all the evidence that is relevant to the release of the accused, including all relevant evidence respecting the alleged offence and its commission.

As the bill summary notes, the purpose of the proposed reform is to ensure that an accused in such a case is not granted bail as a result of an agreement between the prosecutor and the defence counsel without the judge being fully informed by all of the relevant evidence in the possession of the prosecutor. As the member mentioned in his original comments, he personally knew the people involved in the crime of which he spoke and it is important that these relevant pieces are taken into account.

Bill C-519 is a private member's bill, not a government bill. Regardless, I am of the view that the bill is consistent with the government's overall crime platform. The government's criminal law reforms have sought to ensure the justice system operates in an effective manner in order to protect victims.

For example, in the last session of Parliament, Bill C-9 was passed in order to prevent the use of conditional sentences, which also refer to house arrest for offences proceeded on indictment that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. Bill C-18, the DNA databank legislation, also received royal assent, thereby strengthening the Criminal Code regime with this powerful crime solving tool. Also street racing laws were passed with the proclamation of Bill C-19.

In this session of Parliament, Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, received royal assent. This important omnibus bill addresses a broad range of concerns. It tackles serious gun crimes by imposing higher minimum sentences for imprisonment and tougher bail rules. It allows stricter conditions and more effective sentencing and the management of dangerous and high risk offenders. It raises the age of consent for sexual activity to protect our youth from sexual predators. It strengthens the laws against impaired drivers to protect Canadians from those who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 27th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin to speak to Bill C-2, I have to address my hon. colleague's contradictory comments about the lack of mandatory minimums. On the one hand, he lambasted the Liberal Party for not wanting mandatory minimums. On the other hand, he said very clearly that we had them and we called for a strengthening of them.

When the member for Mount Royal was the justice minister, he introduced mandatory minimums for weapons offences. That was a good thing. That is why we support Bill C-2. We have been trying to drive forward much of what is in the legislation. Ironically, we have been obstructed by the government.

I will go through the facts. Unfortunately, in the House one could look at the old adage that “in war, truth is the first casualty”. What we have here is war by another name. Sometimes truth is the first casualty in the House of Commons, and that is sad for the public.

Let me talk about the facts for a minute and give viewers a bit of history on the bill.

Bill C-2 is an omnibus bill involving a combination of five bills, including mandatory minimum penalties. We support mandatory minimum penalties. I caution the government, however, to ensure that the mandatory minimum penalties for weapons offences, violent offences and sexual offences cannot be plea bargained away and that they run consecutively and not concurrently. Too many times people who have committed serious offences receive penalties that get plea bargained away, so there is no effective penalty.

We also support an increase in mandatory minimums for weapons trafficking. My colleague from Mount Royal introduced many mandatory minimums for these offences in the last Parliament.

The Liberal Party supports the provisions for dangerous offenders, impaired driving and reverse onus in firearms offences. Many years ago there really was no penalty for a person using a weapon in the commission of an offence. That was changed by the last government. The Liberal Party supports the changes in Bill C-2.

Let me talk for a few moments about a few facts around the passage of the bill.

On October 26, 2006, our Liberal leader made a first offer to fast track a package of justice bills in the House, including Bill C-9, as it had been amended, Bill C-18, the DNA identification legislation, Bill C-19, the street racing legislation, Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, Bill C-23, the animal cruelty legislation and Bill C-26, respecting payday loans. We also added Bill C-35, on March 14 of this year, a bill for bail reform, and we support that.

On March 21, we attempted to use our opposition day to pass the government's four justice bills: Bill C-18, Bill C-22, Bill C-23 and Bill C-35. The Conservative House leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. Those four government bills would have been fast tracked through this place in the same day, yet the government House leader, for reasons unknown to us and the public, blocked this. Those are facts.

What has been the path of government justice bills through the Senate? Of the six justice bills that had been passed before the summer break, only four went to the Senate. How on earth could the Senate pass bills that it just received prior to the government proroguing Parliament? It could not do that. It is disingenuous for government members to stand and suggest that the Senate was trying to block their bills. By the time the Senate received the bills, the government closed Parliament. Those are the facts. Anybody can check them out if they wish.

We support Bill C-2. However, I want to bore down on a few dangerous issues that the government is pursuing. One deals with the issue of drug trafficking. The government has said that it will increase the penalties for those who traffic in drugs.

There are two populations of traffickers.

There are those parasites in society who are involved in commercial grow operations, frequently attached to organized crime. We should throw the book at them. Those people are a cancer in our society and they deserve to be in jail.

There is another population that will be swept up in the government's anti-trafficking bill. It is the low level dealers who sell small amounts of illegal drugs to people, but they themselves are addicts. In essence, they are selling drugs to pay for their addictions.

If we criminalize people who have addiction problems and throw them in jail, they come out being hardened criminals. We also do not deal with the underlying problem, which we will have at the end of the day when they come out. In effect, we increase public insecurity and costs to the taxpayer. We do not address the underlying problem and we make our streets less safe. That is stupid, not to put too fine a point on it.

If the government goes through with the bill to criminalize people who are addicts, the low level people buying and selling drugs, it will end up with the situation we see south of the border, which has used a war on drugs approach. It has proven to be an abysmal failure.

What we see south of the border is a view of the future for us if the government pursues its course of action. There have been increased rates of both soft and hard drugs use, increased numbers of people have been incarcerated, increased costs to the taxpayer and more violent crime. Society loses.

The government ought to work with the provinces to implement solutions that address some of the underlying problems.

I will get to the organized crime aspects in a moment.

For the drug problems, I cannot overemphasize what a disaster this will be. The government has been warned of this by people across the country.

Let us take two projects, in particular, that have been extremely effective in dealing with people who have intravenous drug use problems. Both of them are found in Vancouver and championed by Dr. Julio Montaner and Dr. Thomas Kerr, superb physicians and research scientists, who have underneath them the Insite supervised injection program and the NAOMI project.

The supervised injection program is a place where addicts can go to a supervised setting and take the drugs they are given. What has that done? It has reduced harm, put more people into treatment, reduced crime and saved the taxpayer money. Fewer people have gone to emergency and there has been less dependence on our health care system. It works.

The other project I would recommend we pursue is the NAOMI project. Before I get to it, I point out that in the eleventh hour the government extended Insite's ability to engage in its program up until June 2008.

All the evidence published from The Lancet to The New England Journal of Medicine shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Insite supervised injection program saves lives, reduces crime and gets people into treatment. It is good for public security and it saves the taxpayer money. Why extend it to only eight months?

If the government gets a majority, it will kill the program. That, in short, will be murder. The government knows full well the program saves lives. To remove that program, would result in, essentially, the killing of people.

A program that works better, which the government does not support but ought to expand, is the NAOMI project. The NAOMI project deals with hard-core narcotics abusers. These people are over the age of 26. They have had five years of drug addictions and two failed attempts at treatment. They are the hard nuts of intravenous drug use.

The NAOMI project took 243 addicts and randomized them into three populations. One population received intravenous heroine, the other one received intravenous dilaudid, which is a prescription narcotic that is legal, and the third was to take oral methadone, which is a weak narcotic.

What happened to those populations? Of the population on IV drugs, more than 85% of people were still taking those drugs, receiving treatment and counselling, getting their lives together, obtaining skills training and being able to live while not being on the street and not engaging in criminal behaviour to feed their addictions. Of the third population, the ones in the methadone program, 50% of people were still in treatment after a year. It works.

What the government should be doing for both Insite as well as NAOMI, is expanding those programs across our country. Our urban centres need it.

In Victoria there are 1,243 people living on the street, 60% of which have what we call dual diagnoses, which means some of them have both a drug problem and a psychiatric problem. I would also add that some people within that population have had brain injuries in the past and have fallen into the terrible spiral of drug use by being on the street. Those people could be you or I, Mr. Speaker, who one day fall off a ladder or get into a car accident, sustain a significant closed head injury, have major cerebral trauma and as a result their lives are affected forever.

Some of those people are on the street and take drugs. Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw the psychiatric patient, who is dealing to pay for his or her addiction, in jail? That is what would happen with the bill that the government has introduced. Those people need medical treatment. They do not need to be in jail.

My plea to the government, to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister is to bury their ideology, follow the facts and implement the solutions that will help people with addictions, keep our streets safe, and reduce costs to the taxpayers. It is a win-win situation for all concerned.

The interesting thing about the NAOMI project is that because NAOMI actually gave the drug to an individual who was proven to be an addict, that person did not have to go on the street to get the drugs. If that were done in a broader sense, it would be horrific to organized crime that benefits from this situation because the NAOMI project severs the tie between the addict and organized crime. That is what we need to do.

Organized crime would be horrified if a forward thinking government one day were to enable drug addicts to receive their drugs. Doing that enables addicts to get into the treatment programs that they need. It enables them to detoxify, obtain addiction counselling, skills training and the psychiatric therapy they need. If we do not do that, we will not make a dent in what we see on the ground. There will not be any affect on addictions and it will actually increase the criminal population in our country.

The other side of this coin, of course, deals with organized crime gangs, as I mentioned, the parasites and cancer in our society. These parasites are essentially people in $3,000 suits who benefit from a substance that is nearly worthless but has a value well beyond what it ought to have because it is illegal.

I have a bill on the order paper that would decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. No one condones anybody using marijuana, everybody wants to prevent people from using it, and everyone certainly encourages children not to use this or any other illegal drug. The fact of the matter is that people do use it and a significant percentage of Canadians have used it at one time in their lives, particularly when they were very young.

Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old who has a joint in his or her back pocket in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old in jail who exchanges or sells or gives a couple of marijuana cigarettes to a friend? That would be trafficking under the government's bill. Do we throw that 18-year-old in jail? Do we give an 18-year-old a criminal record, which is what we have today, affecting his or her ability to work or gain employment and have access to professional facilities for the rest of his or her life? Is that a humane way to deal with our population? It is not.

The worst news for organized crime, in my personal view, would be that marijuana is legal and regulated. It is not to say that marijuana is safe. It is not. It is dangerous, but so are alcohol and cigarettes.

If we can imagine today that cigarettes were going to come onto the market and were proposed as being something that ought to be sold today, do we think for a moment that they would be allowed, with all the cancer, respiratory and cardiac problems that cigarettes cause? No, they would not be, and neither in fact would alcohol. Alcohol would not be allowed today either, for all of the damage it does, but the fact of the matter is that cigarettes and alcohol are legal today.

The groups that benefit the most from the status quo, from marijuana being illegal, and it is just a weed with its value elevated well beyond what it ought to be because it is illegal, are the organized crime gangs. They are making billions of dollars off the status quo, and those billions are used to do any number of things including: trafficking of weapons and people, prostitution, embezzlement, fraud and murder. That is what organized crime is involved with.

What the government should be doing is coming up with a more comprehensive plan to deal with the biker gangs and organized criminal gangs who are--

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 26th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was mentioning, as parliamentarians we have to be cognizant and not pass bad legislation. We have to ensure that we do not interfere in the justice process as well.

These bills were thoroughly debated when they came before committee. Bills have to be handled properly if they are to get through Parliament. If they are to be handled properly, they have to be prioritized. It appears the Conservatives have no priorities. They only want to create a hodgepodge of stuff.

On October 26, 2006, the Liberals offered to fast track a package of justice bills through the House. These included Bill C-9, as it had been amended, Bill C-18, the DNA identification legislation, Bill C-19, the street racing legislation, Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, Bill C-23, the animal cruelty legislation and Bill C-26, respecting payday loans. This offer effectively guaranteed that the Conservatives would have a majority to pass the legislation.

On March 14, the Leader of the Opposition added Bill C-35, the bail reform legislation, to the list of bills the Liberal caucus would fast track. Despite this offer, it took the Conservatives until May 30 to get the bill through committee. If the Conservatives were so keen on being hard on crime, as they have claimed, they should have taken this offer.

According to a report entitled “Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population”, produced by the JFA Institute, the tough measures, which the government claims it is bringing through its omnibus bills, are costly and pointless. The report says that due largely to tough on crime policies, there are now eight times as many people in U.S. prisons and jails as there were in 1970, yet the crime rate today in the U.S. is about the same as it was in 1973. There is little evidence that the imprisonment binge has had much impact on crime.

As legislators, we are supposed to be here to pass good legislation, not bad legislation. We are here to debate and to amend. Amendments were proposed to the bills and the members of the Conservative Party on the committee did not want to pass them.

It is important that we reflect on what these bills talked about.

Bill C-10 talked about minimum penalties. It proposed five years for a first offence and seven years on a second or subsequent offence for eight specific offences involving the actual use of firearms, attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery, extortion and when the offence was gang related or if a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun was used.

The bill was brought to committee and the committee made the necessary amendments. The committee still has very grave concerns that the bill needs to be properly documented and it has to be properly put in place so legislators know the intent of the legislation.

There is the creation of two new offences, an indictable offence of breaking and entering to steal a firearm and an indictable offence of robbery to steal a firearm. There is no difference with the version of Bill C-10, which passed through the House, and the language used in Bill C-2.

The question to be asked is why then group this in an omnibus bill? No one on the government side seems to give us an answer. All the members do is repeat their mantra that they are hard on crime. However, as I pointed out, the U.S. crime policy, which they so desperately want to follow, fails the system. It does nothing right.

Bill C-22, which was the age of protection bill, proposed to raise the age at which youth could consent to non-exploitative sexual activity. The age would be raised from 14 to 16 years of age and the age of protection of 18 years would be maintained for exploitative sexual activities.

Through amendments, the committee brought about a five year close in age. This was not there when it was proposed by the government. Therefore, another question arises. What happened to the good amendments in the mandatory minimum penalties in the age of protection?

What about Bill C-23, which was criminal procedure? According to the Official Languages Act, the committee ensured that there were changes to the bill. We said that a person who was a French-speaking person, if he or she were in court, should get a French counsel. It is important to protect language rights. In a country that has two official languages we have to protect minority rights as well. Why is this bill not mentioned at all?

Bill C-27 deals with dangerous offenders. It would provide that an offender who was serving a long term supervision order in the community and who was violating the conditions of the order would be guilty of an offence and the crown could choose to hold a dangerous offender hearing following convictions.

That was originally proposed by the Liberal justice critic. The bill would expand the possible sentence available to a judge following a finding that an individual would be a dangerous offender. The judge could now impose a long term supervision order or simply impose the sentence for the offence for which the offender had been convicted in addition to the previous option of detention in prison for an indeterminate period, which was previous available.

The Conservatives love to introduce bills. They want to take credit for a lot of things and make it on the six o'clock news. If something does not make the six o'clock news, like Bill C-23 because it was protecting minority language rights, they do not bother.

The last bill I will speak about is Bill C-32, the drug recognition experts to conduct roadside sobriety tests. It is good to promise all sorts of things, but there is no funding. When we do not have funding, how will we get these experts? For example, in Seacow Pond where would we get a person who is an expert?

It is very important that when we prepare bills and we make promises, those promises have to be kept. We have to provide the legislators with enough resources.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

November 23rd, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the so-called tackling violent crime bill, something which our party has been working on for some time. I am quite proud of the work that we have already done on this very issue. It is critically important that Canada have safe communities and that we do everything possible to ensure that.

Canada has long been and continues to be one of the safest countries in the world. Although firearm homicides decreased between 1975 and 2003, even one death, or one violent episode involving guns, is one too many. When our communities challenge that it is decreasing, I am sure the reason is that statistics do not matter if people feel unsafe in their communities. People in my riding are very concerned about this issue, as are people in other ridings. It is important that we do everything we possibly can to ensure the laws are there to protect Canadians.

The Liberal government implemented a wide variety of measures in order to make our streets safer. We had a very successful crime prevention strategy that involved more than imprisonment. There is much more required than just imprisonment, which is why the former Liberal government took a more proactive role with a wide range of measures to stem gun violence and crack down on organized crime.

Since 2002 our anti-gang legislation has meant new offences and tougher sentences, including life in prison for involvement with criminal organizations. It is currently being used in cities like mine, Toronto, where it has been used numerous times. It is a tool the police are very pleased to have and they use it to its maximum amount.

We also broadened powers to seize the proceeds and property of criminal organizations. As well, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy, which is something again, we cared very much about and it was very effective. The decrease in crime clearly is because the Liberal government's crime strategy was effective and it continues to be effective.

Since it was launched in 1998 the national crime prevention strategy has helped numerous communities across Canada by giving them the tools, the knowledge, and the support that they need to deal with the root causes of crime at the local level, which is where it has to start. It has supported more than 5,000 projects nation-wide dealing with serious issues like family violence, school problems, and drug abuse.

These are just some of the measures that my party, while in government, undertook. Our campaign was working, hence, the reason there has been a decrease in crime, especially in violent crime. Whether funding programs to prevent crime or ensuring that violent criminals are brought to justice, the Liberal Party while in government was and now continues to be committed to protecting our communities.

Even though we are now in opposition, we, the Liberals, have been dealing seriously with crime legislation for the past year and a half while the Conservatives have been playing partisan games and doing everything they can to prevent those bills from being passed. We actually put more effort into passing the government's crime bills in the last session than the Conservatives did. So, we will not take any lectures from them on how we should be proceeding. Had they not blocked it, the legislation would have been passed and enacted already.

People will remember that on October 26, 2006 the Liberals made the very first offer to fast track a package of justice bills through this House. In spite of the government saying something different, we made every effort to work with the Conservatives to ensure the passage of anything that would make our country safer. This included Bill C-9, as amended; Bill C-18, on DNA identification; Bill C-19, on street racing; Bill C-22, on the age of consent; Bill C-23, on criminal procedures; and Bill C-26, on payday loans. All were important legislation.

The Conservatives like to claim, as I said earlier, that the Liberals held up their justice bills, but anyone who has been paying any attention knows that simply is not true. We are doing our job as a responsible opposition party. We are certainly not going to play partisan politics with the Criminal Code. I would ask the government to keep that in mind so that we can work together in a positive way to ensure the safety of Canadians and our country.

The Liberal Party, while in government, made great progress on making our communities safer. As I mentioned earlier, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy. We took steps to prevent gun violence by cracking down on organized crime in a very concentrated effort across the country. We focused on attacking the root causes of why people get involved in organized crime. We worked together with all of the crime prevention people across the country and with all of the officials in the various policing jurisdictions, because it certainly takes a coordinated effort in order to tackle organized crime.

When we are back in government, and we look forward to and expect to be the government after the next election, we have our own plans.

A new Liberal government would immediately provide additional funds to the provinces so they could hire more police officers. We would give the RCMP money for 400 additional officers to help local police departments deal with guns and gang activity, organized crime and drug trafficking.

We would also ensure that more money was made available to the provinces to hire more crown attorneys, which continues to be a problem and clogs the courts. It is one thing to arrest people but it is another thing to get them through the system.

We would continue to support reverse onus bail hearings for those arrested for gun crimes. We would establish a fund that would help at-risk communities cover the cost of security in their places of worship, which was started by the previous Liberal government, but which unfortunately was abandoned by the Conservatives.

A new Liberal government would make sure that children in vulnerable neighbourhoods got the very best start in life. We hear that all the time. It costs approximately $120,000 a year for each person who is kept in prison. We would reverse that and invest right at the very beginning. We are talking about early learning programs and high risk communities.

I represent a high risk community and I talk to many of the kids and their parents. Those parents are struggling to keep their kids on the straight and narrow. They truly need a variety of programs and help at that point. I realize that the Conservatives understand that as well. It is important to be investing early so that we can keep kids out of the justice system and make sure they know they have options and alternatives in life so that they are not dragged into the drug and gang culture, which is clearly happening now.

Many of the parents I talk to, the single mothers, are frantic with worry. They are looking for other places to live where it will be safer, where their kids will not be drawn into the gang activity that is very prevalent in my own riding.

By ensuring that children get the best possible start in life, we will be encouraging them to become positive contributing members of society and do not fall victims to poverty and crime. From providing resources for young mothers to interact and to learn about nutrition, to supplying early learning opportunities for their precious children, our communities need our support and we must provide it.

We invested in many worthwhile crime prevention initiatives. A few of those programs are the gun violence and gang prevention fund, support for community based youth justice programs and partnerships to promote fair and effective processes, community investments through the youth employment strategy, and the justice department's programming and partnerships to provide hope and opportunities.

We also committed another $2 million to the city of Toronto in support of programming under the Liberal government's youth employment strategy. This was all part of the $122 million that was dedicated to the youth employment strategy programming to help youth across the country.

Conflict Mediation Services of Downsview was a not for profit organization that helped people and families, workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, its restorative justice program was not funded because priorities have changed of course with the new government, and that no longer fits into that grouping.

In closing, I would like to say that this legislation is important. We look forward to it getting through the House and being enacted as we all move forward in a joint effort to ensure safety. Our communities will appreciate it.

October 30th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you very much, Minister, for your presentation. There are a few facts I would like to raise before asking you two questions. I will be very brief.

On October 26, 2006, the Liberals made the first offer to fast-track a package of justice bills through the House. This included Bill C-9 as it had been amended; Bill C-18, which is the DNA identification; Bill C-19, street racing; Bill C-22, age of consent, which we now find as part of Bill C-9,; Bill C-23, criminal procedure; and Bill C-26, payday loans. This offer effectively guaranteed the Conservative government a majority in the House to pass those pieces of legislation, including the one that is in Bill C-9, the age of consent, at that time. Had the government accepted the Liberal offer, Bill C-22, the age of consent, would have become the law before the end of 2006 and our children would no longer have been vulnerable to sexual predators.

On March 14, the Honourable Stéphane Dion, leader of the official opposition, added Bill C-35, bail reform, to the list of bills that the Liberal caucus was offering to the Conservative government to fast-track. Despite again this offer of majority support, it took the Conservatives until May 30 to actually move it up on the order paper so that it would get to committee.

Finally, on March 21, 2007, Liberals again attempted to use an opposition day motion that, if passed, would have immediately resulted in the passage at all stages of four justice bills: Bill C-18, DNA identification; Bill C-22, age of consent, which is the bill that we see again before the House in your tackling crime bill, Bill C-9; Bill C-23, criminal procedure; and Bill C-35, bail reform. Incredibly, the Conservative House Leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. In other words, the Conservatives have in fact fought the Liberals' attempts three times to pass justice bills, including the one that's incorporated in Bill C-9.

Now, I notice that in Bill C-9, the section that deals with the dangerous offender, two categories of amendments have been brought forward. One deals with the long-term offenders. A breach of supervision orders, for instance, could trigger a new dangerous offender hearing in order to make them liable to the kinds of sentences that dangerous offenders can be liable to. Minister, if you studied the transcripts of the House committee that studied Bill C-27, or was in the process of studying it last spring before the prorogation of the House, you would see that Liberals actually made proposals for the very kinds of amendments that we now find in the Bill C-27 section of Bill C-2, and they received support from the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Tony Cannavino, and from other witnesses who appeared and who thought it was a great idea and that it would actually strengthen Bill C-27 and make the system more effective.

So I'm pleased that the government listened; however, we also made another proposal. Right now the Crown continues to enjoy discretionary authority as to whether or not an application for remand and assessment for a dangerous offender designation will actually be made, and so your reverse presumption will operate and become effective only if the Crown makes that application. Liberals had been proposing that a third conviction automatically trigger a dangerous offender hearing. That would then allow every single offender who had been convicted three times of a type of crime that can lead to a dangerous offender hearing to actually be called before such a hearing, to actually be assessed and evaluated.

May I ask why the government has decided, in its wisdom, not to go forward with an automatic trigger rather than a reverse presumption, which will possibly never or very rarely be put into effect because the Crown retains the discretionary authority to make the application or not?

I am finished.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating what the government considers to be the most important component of the throne speech presented a few days ago, Bill C-2.

First of all, there is a myth that I would like to dispel. On several occasions the members on the government side have unfortunately taken some liberties with the truth. They have suggested that, in this Parliament, the opposition parties—the official opposition, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP—did not cooperate, that they acted like spoilsports and had unduly and excessively delayed passage of the justice bills. We need to set the record straight. This presentation of the facts is false, dishonest and, at the very least, misleading.

Since coming into power in January 2006, the Conservative government has tabled 12 justice bills. They were studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the legislative committee and six of them have received royal assent. Therefore, since the government came into office in January 2006, six bills have been adopted and received royal assent.

I will mention them quickly, for information purposes: Bill C-9, on conditional sentencing; Bill C-17, on the salaries of judges; Bill C-18, on the DNA data bank; Bill C-19, which was meant as a tribute to a Conservative member who unfortunately passed away, and which makes street racing a new offence under the Criminal Code; the fifth bill, namely Bill C-48, on the United Nations Convention against Corruption and on international crime, was fast-tracked and supported by all opposition parties and the government; finally, the sixth one, is Bill C-59, creating a new offence, under the Criminal Code, for the unauthorized recording of a movie in a movie theatre. That legislation was quickly passed, at the request of the Bloc Québécois, which had enlisted the support of the official opposition and of the NDP.

Again, of the 12 bills introduced by the government, six received royal assent. That left six, with four of them being in the Senate. That was the case for Bill C-10, on minimum penalties for offences involving firearms, and for Bill C-22, on the age of protection. The Conservatives proposed to raise the age of protection from 14 to 16 years. As mentioned earlier, opposition parties requested that a close in age provision be included, to provide for a difference of five or two years, depending on the age being considered.

As I just mentioned, Bill C-10 and Bill C-22 were before the Senate. Bill C-23, which is a rather technical bill on the language used during a trial before a jury, was also before the Senate, as was Bill C-35, dealing with the reverse onus, at the pre-trial hearing, for a number of very serious offences. The committee was told that this was already the usual practice, and that a justice of the peace or a superior court judge very rarely grants bail at the pre-trial hearing, when the individual is accused of murder, assault or sexual assault. This was already an established practice.

In summary, six bills have been passed and have received royal assent, and four had already gone through third reading in the House of Commons and were in the Senate. This left us with two bills: the dangerous offenders bill, Bill C-27, which I will address later, and Bill C-32 dealing with impaired driving.

Could the Prime Minister and the Conservative team be asked to be a little more relaxed and show a more nuanced and respectful attitude toward the opposition?

We are going to do our job. In the past, we have given the government our cooperation when that was necessary, but we have introduced amendments because, unfortunately, an entire segment of the Conservative caucus has no idea of nuances. I will give examples. Had Bill C-32 been passed as written, without amendments, anyone driving his or her own car with a passenger on board who was in possession of a small amount of marijuana could have faced prosecution or arrest.

Was that the purpose of the legislation? This bill was intended to address a public safety issue, recognizing that no one should be operating a vehicle on public roadways while under the influence of drugs, and to allow for drivers to be subjected to standardized tests known as standardized field sobriety tests. The intention certainly was not to pass legislation to target drivers carrying drugs without their knowledge. That could happen. I could give three people a ride to my cottage without knowing that one of them has marijuana in his or her pocket. This would have made me liable to prosecution.

This is the sort of excess the Conservatives are guilty of, when we are talking about a bill, a motivation, and an intent that are utterly defensible in terms of public policy. But when the Conservatives are left to their own devices, when they are ruled by that extreme wing of their caucus and blinded by the idea of law and order, they come up with bills that have to be amended.

Conditional sentencing has been mentioned. When we began looking at Bill C-9, the first justice bill the Conservatives introduced—the member for London West will recall—we were told that conditional sentences represented only 5% of sentences.

If you look at all the sentences handed down in all the courts in Canada in recent years for which records have been kept, you see that conditional sentences, which allow offenders to serve their sentence in the community under supervision, represented only 5% of sentences.

If we had adopted the bill as introduced by the Conservatives, all offences punishable by more than two years in prison might have been excluded from this tool judges have for determining how a sentence can be served in the community.

I repeat that I am extremely disappointed with the attitude of the Prime Minister, who asks the opposition to vote for bills, but will not tolerate any amendments to those bills. How can anyone be so authoritarian? How can anyone be so cavalier? How can anyone be so disrespectful of Canadian democracy and tell the 57% or 58% of Canadians who did not elect Conservative members that if their representatives do not fall into line with the Conservative platform, they cannot introduce amendments in this House?

I assure my colleagues that we are going to consider the issue and that we will work very quickly, with all due diligence. And we will introduce amendments if we feel that they are in the interest of the people we represent.

The government wants this bill to go to committee quickly. The leaders have agreed on this. Later today, the whip will introduce a motion, and once again we have offered to cooperate.

Next week, we will have this bill before us, but we will not allow ourselves to be led by the nose by this government. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they were intractable and often mean-spirited. They constantly, systematically filibustered. Never have I seen such filibustering. Sometimes it went on day and night.

The current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food did the filibustering. He led this House in circles regarding employment equity. At the time, I was a young, naive and vulnerable member. I had just been elected and was experiencing my first filibuster. Furthermore, the current Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was uncompromising on the issue of employment equity, which was under the responsibility of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

They cannot have it both ways. A person cannot say that it is fine to filibuster when they are in opposition, only to turn around, once they are in the governing party, and refuse the opposition's right to present amendments. This is irresponsible and disrespectful.

Bill C-2 merges five pieces of legislation. Of those pieces of legislation, the Bloc Québécois supported four of them, with amendments. In committee, of course, we will not ask to repeat the work that has already been done.

However, we have a problem with Bill C-27, concerning dangerous offenders. As we all know, the Criminal Code has included provisions on this matter since 1947. In the past, we did not use the term dangerous offender, but rather habitual criminal. I wonder whether certain members, those who have been practising law for some time, remember that expression. The Liberals already changed those provisions by creating a new category of dangerous offenders—long-term offenders—in Bill C-55.

What is our line of questioning? I would like to be clear. I am telling the government that the Bloc Québécois would like to see three main groups of witnesses. First, we would like to hear constitutional experts on the constitutionality of the reverse onus principle, in the same terms in which this bill was presented.

We would then like to see a second group of witnesses. I would remind the House that when the Minister of Justice appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, he was unable to tell us what it is about the administrative and judicial process for dangerous offenders that is not working.

Currently, a person can be labelled a dangerous offender after committing a first serious offence. Section 753 of the Criminal Code is very clear. If there is any reason to believe that that an individual is likely to cause a death, is out of control, or is likely to reoffend, that person can be declared a dangerous offender after a first offence. I am not saying that this is what usually happens. We are not talking about a large number of people here. About 350 people have been declared dangerous offenders, and some of them have been released under mandatory supervision. Of course, most of them are inside federal prisons.

We will run this by constitutional experts. It is our responsibility to ensure that this bill is not unconstitutional. We will ask people who make their living dealing with this issue before the courts to explain to us which parts of the current legislation are not working.

We will also ask a third group of witnesses about the list of offences. In the bill before us today, five types of offences would result in an individual being declared a dangerous offender. Naturally, most of them are serious crimes, such as attempted murder, murder, homicide and serious sexual crimes.

The government wants to expand this list to include 42 offences. The preliminary list includes 22 offences, one of which is assault. I do not wish to downplay the importance of assault. However, should an individual who has been convicted of assault three times be put on a list of dangerous offenders, with all of the consequences that entails?

There is a list of designated offences, which, I agree, are offences generally punishable by a sentence of more than five years. The question is, do we need to take this further? Is it important to have these two lists of offences?

Why ask this question? We are not questioning the fact that we need provisions in the Criminal Code for people who are so dangerous and present such a risk of recidivism that they need to be designated long term offenders, or dangerous offenders. A dangerous offender is someone who can be imprisoned for an indefinite period. Obviously, they are denied their freedom and denied eligibility for parole. Certainly—and I am not afraid to say so—this is justified in some situations. We understand that for some individuals there is no chance for rehabilitation and they have to be imprisoned for an indeterminate period.

Nonetheless, it is our responsibility to ensure that if we are going to pass legislation that considerably broadens the scope of this rule—which is in fact an exception to the general rule—then we have to be able to verify the facts in committee in order to make sure there is no risk of abuse or excess.

As hon. members know, the Conservatives are driven by partisan political considerations. That is “partisan” with a capital “P”.

As it stands, the crime rate has gone down in Canada. In any event, the homicide rate has gone down. The incidence of violent crime has gone down. I am not saying there has not been a worrisome increase in property crime in certain communities. However, generally speaking, we know full well that for a number of years now, major crime, such as homicide—crimes involving violence—has gone down year after year.

Criminologists who have studied these issues are saying that there is no correlation between a reliance on imprisonment and lower crime rates in a society. We do not live in a safer society and the communities are not safer because of widespread prison sentencing.

We know that the United States has an incarceration rate seven times greater than Canada's. In Canada, there are 132 or 134 prisoners for every 100,000 people.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not realize we were going to be moving on this quickly, which is a good development because it will move these bills along, as opposed to the government's approach, which has been one of delay.

In that regard, I want to do a quick resumé of what has happened in this Parliament starting in roughly mid-February of 2006, at which time we were faced with a large number of crime bills by the government. I took the opportunity to go through the list of bills that have been dealt with in one form or another.

The list was quite lengthy, starting with Bill C-9, which was a bill on conditional sentencing. That went through both Houses and has royal assent. There was one on the Judges Act, Bill C-17, and it also went through all stages. Another one relating to DNA identification went through all stages. As for Bill C-19 on street racing, a particularly emotional point for the Conservative Party, we got that one through. There was one on criminal interest rates, Bill C-26, and it got through. There was one, Bill C-48, which dealt with international crime syndicates and the need to fight corruption at that level, coming out of the UN, and it got through. The next one, dealing with the illegal recording of movies, went very quickly through the House with all parties cooperating. It never even went to committee.

In addition to that, we have had Bill C-22, which actually is part of Bill C-2, the bill that is before us now, passed at second reading in the Senate. It went through the House all the way to the Senate. We have had Bill C-10, an important bill on mandatory minimums, go through this House and into the Senate, where it was at first reading.

Similarly, Bill C-23 went through this House and got to the Senate, but it is not part of this bill. I am not sure if the government is going to bring that one back or not. On Bill C-35, which was the bill dealing with bail reviews involving alleged gun crimes and the reverse onus being placed, again, it got through all the work in this House and went to the Senate.

The final bill with regard to work that we had done and which was almost through this House was the bill dealing with impaired driving. That had cleared the committee and was coming back to the House. It would have been back in the House if we had not prorogued in the middle part of September.

These are all the bills we have had from the government. The final bill was still in committee and we had just started on it. We had three or four meetings taking witnesses on that bill, which deals with dangerous offenders and amendments to recognizance in the Criminal Code.

In addition, there were at least four to six private members' bills, all of them coming from the Conservative Party interestingly enough, which we dealt with and passed or dealt with in some fashion. One had to be withdrawn. We dealt with those as well.

All of that work was being done at the justice committee, with the exception, and this is really interesting, of two bills that went to special legislative committees. Because the justice committee's workload was so great, we moved them into special committees. However, we worked on those bills and got them through.

All of that is work we have done in a little over 18 months, yet in spite of that, there are two things the government does. It constantly complains about the length of time it takes, in regard to which the Conservatives could have done much better by originally having omnibus bills. I have said that in the House to the point where I am almost sick of hearing it myself, and I am sure everyone else in the House is, but it is the way they should have conducted themselves. Of course, though, because of their political agenda of wanting to highlight each one of these bills, they did not put them together. They finally came to their senses and realized that it is a way of moving bills through the House more rapidly.

However, we did all of that work, and now what we are hearing, which is the second point I want to make about the government, is that the delay is the fault of the opposition. That is absolutely false.

One can see from the length of the list of bills we have had to deal with, plus the private members' bills, plus working on two legislative committees in addition to all the work that we have done at justice, that nobody in the opposition has done any delaying. The delay with regard to the five bills that are incorporated now into Bill C-2 is entirely at the feet of the government. It prorogued and that cost us a month.

It is interesting to note what could have happened in that one month's time. It is my opinion that all three of the bills that were in the Senate would have been through and ready for royal assent, which again is in the hands of the government. If the government had conducted itself with any kind of efficiency, those bills probably would be law today.

The fourth bill, the one dealing with impaired driving, which again is part of Bill C-2, would have come to the House in the middle part of September when we came back. There was not a great deal of debate, and although I and my party have some reservations about it, we in fact would support it.

The bill would have had some debate in the House at report stage and third reading, but it would have been through the House and at least at first reading in the Senate now, perhaps at second reading. It is not beyond the pale to think that the bill also would have cleared the Senate and would have been ready for royal assent.

This bill bothers me. Of all the ones we have, this one bothers me the most because of the conduct of the government in dealing with the individuals, including the police officers and police associations, who lobbied really heavily to get this legislation, and in particular the families and supporters of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. It bothers me that the government would have misused the loyalty and the support that those groups had given to the bill by leading them to believe that somehow it was the opposition that was holding it up, when in fact it was prorogation. Now there is this tactic of combining that bill with the other bills to actually slow down its passage. Otherwise there is a reasonably good chance it would have been law by now, and if not, it would have been in its final stages at the Senate and it certainly would have been law by the end of the year.

That is much less likely to happen now. It is more likely that this bill will not get final approval and royal assent until well into the spring, no matter what the government tries to do. Quite frankly we will do whatever we can to be cooperative in moving these bills forward.

Our party was quite prepared to have all four of those bills that I have mentioned which form 80% of Bill C-2 back at their original stages, again so they would be law or on the verge of becoming law, that is, receiving royal assent today, as opposed to what is likely to happen now. It is going to be into the new year and maybe well into the spring before these bills become law, assuming of course that the government does not collapse and there is an election, which is another problem.

The government has delayed it, and in addition, it has clearly pushed it back at least until the new year, with the real possibility of an election intervening and a number of these provisions never seeing the light of day until after the election, when we would come back and start the process all over again.

That is reprehensible conduct on the part of the government. The only reason the Conservatives are doing it is so they can stand up in public and say, “We are tough on crime”. They do the macho thing. They beat their chests. They do the King Kong thing as if they are coming out of a jungle. The reality is that the delay is all at their feet.

I am really angry when I think of all the work that so many groups have done, the victims of crime in particular, and now are being misused by the government in such a way.

I am not going to take up much more time but I do want to address the final bill that was at committee. Former Bill C-27 is now part of Bill C-2. It deals with two amendments to the Criminal Code. One would be on the provisions relating to dangerous offenders and the other is with regard to recognizance.

With regard to recognizance, I think I can safely say that all the opposition parties are in support of those provisions. They give additional authority to our judiciary to deal with people who are out in the community on their own recognizance, but we can put additional conditions on them.

The bill provides for things such as requiring them to wear a monitoring device. There is a number of other provisions that would substantially improve security in our communities regarding people who have now been released from charges and who have already served their time. It is a substantial step forward and one that has been needed.

I have said this in the House before, that when I started practising law back in the early 1970s we needed it at that time. Successive governments have tended to shy away from it. Our judiciary has attempted on a number of occasions to introduce these types of control devices, if I could put it that way, in terms of sentencing or conditions imposed on people and it has consistently lost in our courts of appeal. It required legislative intervention. The provision is in this bill and we need to pass that and get it into play so our judges can do a better job of helping protect Canadians, which they want to do.

The other part in this provision, the old Bill C-27 now part of Bill C-2, is with regard to dangerous offenders. We have significant problems with this. Originally when the bill came before the House as Bill C-27, all three opposition parties indicated that on principle they had to vote against it because it has a provision of reverse onus with regard to the dangerous offender.

All of us believe that that part of the bill would suffer a charter challenge that would be successful in striking it down. What I do not think the government has ever understood is that not only would it be struck down, but perhaps the whole dangerous offender section would be struck down. Just as we saw with the security certificates where the Supreme Court said that if it could not be fixed, they were all going down, the same type of thing could happen in a ruling on dangerous offenders. The government has never understood that.

Ultimately, the opposition parties decided that there were perhaps ways of amending this in committee to improve the use of the dangerous offender section, because we know we need to do that, and at the same time make sure that the section was not jeopardized by a successful charter challenge at some point in the future.

We were working on that when we ended in June. We fully expected that was one of the bills for the special legislative committee and that we would be back and working on it in September, that we would complete the witness testimony and improve the bill by way of amendment and if not, then I suppose we would have been faced with a conundrum of whether we could support it or not. That is where we are at this point.

That bill needs significant work in order to be sure that we do not lose the entire dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code. We will be doing that work as soon as we can get the committee up and running again and the bill into the committee.

It is very clear that the government, and I do not say this about the opposition parties, is prepared to play politics with public safety. The Conservatives want to be seen as the champions and they are prepared to take these kinds of manoeuvres of delaying these bills by incorporating them all into Bill C-2 so that they can do that. They want to stand up in the House and in the media and out on the hustings and say “we are the champions of it”, when in fact the truth is just the opposite. They were guilty. They are guilty of delay. The opposition parties are not.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, on Bill C-2 and justice issues in general, I heard just recently in the House the term “a revolving door”. The only revolving door is the justice minister and officials in the Conservative Party going in and out of press conferences announcing and reannouncing the same bills on which they pulled the plug.

With respect to Bill C-2, I have reviewed all the material. I sat in on all the committee hearings. What I have recently discovered, through obtaining a bill briefing, is a note from the Prime Minister about Bill C-2, in that it regurgitates all the bills we dealt with in the last Parliament. The message from the Prime Minister is that he is sorry that he pulled the plug on Parliament and flushed all the good work of the justice committee down the drain.

That is what happened. All these bills were well on their way. They were going through the due process of Parliament, which followed the rules of parliaments before, and they were on the way to being in effect.

The reason we are here today is that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament and those bills were killed in their tracks. It is not true that perhaps that is why the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament but I think it is. In fact, I think that is why we have a new session.

I may be new and I may be in the back row but I read the papers and I know what is going on. Parliament was prorogued and all legislation was stopped in its tracks.

What is important to remind ourselves, and the Canadian public will want to know, is that there were 13 bills in the justice dossier and 7 of them were passed and are now the law of Canada.

As a member of the justice committee, I would expect all parties to tell all members of the justice committee that it was a job well done, that seven out of thirteen justice bills that affect the citizens of Canada are now law. Five of those bills are currently the subject of Bill C-2, which I will turn to, and one, mysteriously, of the thirteen bills, the criminal procedure act, which all parties agreed to unanimously, was a creature of a previous Parliament and which all prosecutors are waiting intently for. These prosecutors are the people who are on the front lines, as well as the police officers, in the criminal justice system. I suppose they are wondering why, despite the offer to fast track the bill by this party and despite the unanimous support by the justice committee, Bill C-23 has not been moved up. Perhaps in the government's haste and the revolving door of the press circle and the press club, it forgot to bring along an important bill.

Overall, the 13 bills, the 7 passed and the 1 dropped by an incompetent justice minister and the parliamentary secretary for forgetting that, and the 5 we are about to discuss, all of these bills need to be enforced. Each police officer, prosecutor, probation officer and corrections official, all those people in the system need to know that if there are 13 new laws, 12 because 1 was dropped by the incompetent ministry, but if there are 12 new bills we need to know we have the resources to put them into effect.

It is urgent for the public to know that despite a promise by the government, the law and order government, the tough on crime government, it is toothless without following up on the promise of 2,500 new police officers and the false promise in the Speech from the Throne for 1,000 new RCMP officers when the RCMP cannot recruit 1,000 officers. It is behind in its recruitment. It is a meaningless, toothless promise to the people of Canada but, even worse, it takes away the hope of the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the prosecutors and the probation officers, all the people who must put into effect, on a daily basis, the laws of the justice system.

I want to emphasize that the party on this side of the House is not so fickle. We support our justice system. We support our judges, our prosecutors, and all of the police officers who are responsible for protecting Canadians.

Over the past 18 months, the Liberal Party has undertaken a thorough review of the legislation pertaining to crime while the Conservatives have been busy playing political games. The Prime Minister put an end to this Parliament's activities and committee work, thereby throwing out the amendments that this bill sought to make to five acts. It is his fault that these five acts have not yet been amended.

We on this side of the House have faith in our justice system and are convinced that it will keep the peace in our communities.

I say that because it should be a non-partisan issue that we all believe in a safe community. We are all here as parliamentarians, surely, to ensure that we have a safe community. We may differ on the avenue to get there, but how much did we, the Liberal Party of Canada and its members on the justice committee, really differ from the plan of the Conservative Party in general and, more importantly, in the organic process which is called the development of criminal law through amendments to the Criminal Code?

I say to the House and to the public: not much.

There were 13 bills proposed. Seven passed and there are five in Bill C-2 that we are substantially in agreement on because they would have been law by now had Parliament not been prorogued, and I must say for the record that there is one that has been dropped by the government and that we are also in favour of.

So how is it that we, in trying to keep the community safe, are against the elements in Bill C-2 and the elements in these bills? I will repeat them: Bill C-9, on conditional sentences; Bill C-18, on DNA identification; Bill C-19, on street racing; Bill C-25, on proceeds of crime; Bill C-26, on criminal rate of interest; and just to add two others that were not part of Bill C-2, Bill C-48, on the implementation of a UN convention against corruption, and Bill C-59, on the unauthorized recording of a movie. These have all been supported.

But there is more. I hear members on the opposite side talk about 13 years of inaction with respect to criminal justice and I think the Canadian public would be interested to know that these laws, while continuing on the evolution of our criminal law and making our community safer, are but part of the Criminal Code of Canada.

On the Criminal Code of Canada, I might say this in a moment of non-partisanship and to congratulate a Conservative politician, albeit a dead one.When Prime Minister John Thompson, a Conservative prime minister, was minister of justice he essentially created and adapted the criminal law of Canada into a code that we would follow in this country. I want to get credit for giving plaudits to a Conservative in this place.

A principal part of the Criminal Code of Canada, which we have been talking about since I have been in Parliament, is sentencing. What is sentencing? The purpose and principles of sentencing are set out in section 718. I hear very often in this place and at the revolving door of the press conference centre for the Conservative Party of Canada that there is but one principle in sentencing, that is, to put the bad guys away.

I know this is a novel concept for those who are directing the Conservative justice agenda, but why do we not refer to what the law says about the purpose and principles of sentencing? They are set out in section 718. I am not going to read this word for word because it tends to be bogged down in particularness and assuredness and literal things that, again, the Conservative justice team really knows nothing about, having adopted and written such sloppy legislation that it had to be sent to committee to be fixed.

However, in general, there are six important factors or principles in sentencing. It is the reason we have sentences for people who have committed crimes. One principle is to denounce unlawful conduct. That is the one I hear about most often from the Conservative justice team. That is a valid principle, but it is one of six.

What are the others? One is to deter the offender from doing it again. That is another one I hear a lot about. The point over here is that those two of the six are very important. We are not shirking the importance of those. The law does not say that any one is more important than the other. It is a guidepost to judges who make our law pursuant to what they read here. It is a guidepost to say that we will denounce unlawful conduct. Yes, we will, by bringing in this sentence. We will deter the person or any person in the public from doing it again. They are two very important objectives.

However, that is where the Conservative justice team stops most of the time. The Conservatives forget that they must separate offenders from society when necessary and that they must assist in rehabilitating offenders. This is not to mean that the criminal gets more justice than the victim. What it means is that if there is a chance to rehabilitate an offender before that offender is reintegrated into society, or after, we ought to take that chance. Society is not safer, and let us remember that this safety is the principal goal of all parliamentarians here, by sending a more dangerous person back into the community after his or her sentence is served. It is a very important principle, as important as deterrence and as important as denouncing unlawful conduct.

The fifth aspect is to provide reparations for harm done to victims. That is very key. I will get into speaking about Bill C-9, which was a failed bill and flawed until it was amended at committee by all parties. One of the key aspects of Bill C-9 was to amend it to allow some white collar criminals, for lack of a better term, who had done a very denunciatory offence, which should be deterred, such as acts of stealing money through a breach of trust from someone, say, the option of a conditional sentence. It was to allow them to make reparations and restitution during the term of their sentence when it might mean the difference between an aged person with a stolen RRSP account getting that money back or not.

It gave back discretion to the judge, which he or she had in the first place, and it was a very necessary amendment to a flawed and hasty bill to make sure that this principle of sentencing, that is, to provide reparation for harm done to victims, was put in place. It was made better law by the intervention of the committee.

The final principle is to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community. What that is about is making sure that these offenders are not so divorced from the community in which they live, so that they know when they have done wrong that they have a responsibility to that community to be remorseful, to make amends and, I think very importantly, to reintegrate into that community if possible. We should never forget that.

The overall principle, and it is written as the fundamental principle in section 718.1 of the code, is that of the proportionality, of the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. This is a very important principle, which judges rely on all the time.

I hear members speak about 13 years of Liberal inactivity. Actually I was not here for any of those 13 years. I was on the outside looking at all of the criminal justice bills that had been brought in during that time. I remember that it was a Liberal minister of justice who brought in the whole concept of mandatory minimums, which at the revolving door of the Conservatives' press circle was as if it was invented by them. I wonder if they invented the laws of gravity and found the North American continent. I suspect not, Mr. Speaker, and I do not suppose you could answer objectively if they say they have somewhere else, but I am not sure that they would not stand here and say that they have.

They did not invent mandatory minimums. The other sentencing principles in section 718.2 were brought in, in successive Liberal governments, by amendments in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2005. All of those amendments in section 718.2 were brought in to recognize the changing nature of our society and to allow judges for the first time in the history of the Criminal Code to take into account these factors when sentencing, either in increasing or in decreasing the sentences, and I am very proud of that.

These factors include evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. It is the first time that it was codified that a judge should take into account hate crimes when sentencing. For any crimes committed based on someone's ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation and other factors, is it not correct, right and fair in this society that those sentences were brought in and that judges should be told to take into account those factors in section 718.2, or whether the violence was against a spouse or common law partner?

Is it not important, for instance, that a judge be given that discretion to increase a sentence if the crime was against a spouse or a common law partner, or if the crime was done to a person of tender years under the age of 18? Is it not important that this be taken into account?

Is it not important, as it says in subparagraph 718.2(a)(iii), whether or not the person who committed the crime “abused a position of trust or authority”, or also whether the person was a member of a criminal organization, or that the offence was a terrorism offence?

All of these factors were in judges' hands before 2005. These were not invented by the Newtons over there in the last 18 months. They were there, it was Liberal legislation, and I presume it had all party support because it makes such sense.

Finally, in the principles of sentencing categories, paragraph 718.2(e) has the all important factor of recognizing that if an offender is of aboriginal origin or from a first nations community special circumstances should be put in place. We found during much of the deliberation at committee that this sentencing principle was often ignored.

I look at the amendments in place with respect to Bill C-10 and Bill C-9. It is a particular affront to this established sentencing principle, and it seems to have been completely forgotten by the Conservative government, that these two important sections of the code had existed before the Conservative government took place and certainly will exist when it moves on into the sunset.

About the laws in Bill C-2 and why it is so easy on this side for us to say we support the bill, it is important to remember that we on this side, and the members of the justice committee from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois will vouch for this, and the members of the justice committee had made Bill C-10 and the mandatory minimum aspect a better bill when it left committee. Arrogantly, and without respect for the work of the all party committee, the Conservative justice team, coming yet again from the revolving door of the press club, suggested that it would put in at report stage the entire bill as it was before.

However, over the summer I think the Conservatives had blueberry festivals and strawberry festivals and must have eaten some humble pie at some festival, as they decided that they would accept the amendments as they came from the committee, reintroducing Bill C-2 with the Bill C-10 amendments to make our community a better place and enlarge upon the mandatory minimums that were already in place under the Liberal justice program before the Conservatives took office.

The other bill that needs clarification on why it is an acceptable bill now, and why it was never acceptable when the amateur Conservative justice team brought the topic up before, is Bill C-22, the age of consent bill.

I have heard well-meaning, honest and forthright members of the House, such as the member for Wild Rose, say that he and his colleagues could never get an age of consent or age of protection bill through the Commons. I was disturbed by that. I asked why we would not protect our young persons. Why would we not get in line with many of the communities around the world which recognize that consent may not be freely given by a 14 year old when the world has become smaller and the age of the predator is upon us?

I looked into it. There were two very fundamental flaws with all bills that were presented as part of a justice package by an opposition entitled the Conservative opposition. They are as follows.

There was absolutely no close in age exemption. This bill, Bill C-22, contains a close in age exemption, making it flexible enough to recognize that not every relationship that is separated by a number of years is a relationship between an innocent young child and a sexual predator.

Finally, as I wrap up, age of consent as presented previously would have criminalized normal adolescent sexual activity which, whether the Conservatives like it or not, is out there, and 14 year olds and 15 year olds having relations are protected by this. It does prevent sexual predators from preying on the young. It is good legislation.

In summary, the five bills in Bill C-2 are good law because the committee made them so. I encourage the Conservative justice team, the Prime Minister and all Conservatives out there to watch what they write, to watch what they present to Parliament, and to not keep going through that revolving door called the press circle to give press releases without having done their homework to ensure that they are passing good laws which will make Canada safer.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join in the debate on Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act.

As the Minister of Justice noted when he spoke in reply to the Speech from the Throne, safe streets and secure communities are the Canadian way of life. This is what I would like to focus my remarks on today, how we are building a stronger, safer and better Canada, beginning with Bill C-2.

I have had many opportunities, as probably all members in the House have had, to talk with my constituents, parents, community leaders, police, lawyers, and many others about their concern with crime and what we should do about it.

What I have heard has likely been heard by all hon. members as they have travelled throughout their ridings and indeed across Canada. Canadians are clearly expecting their government to take concrete and effective action to tackle crime.

Unlike previous governments on this issue, the current government listens. We share these concerns and we have made tackling crime a key priority for our government. We have made it a key priority for our government because it is a key priority for Canadians, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

We know what crime looks like in Canada. Crime statistics have been recorded since 1962 so we have 45 years of information. Statistics Canada reported last July that the overall national crime rate has decreased for the second year in a row.

We all want to see a lower crime rate. So this is the good news. But the national crime rate is an average and does not tell us about some of the more serious problems or localized problems.

The long term trends over the last few generations show us what we all know in the House, that crime has increased drastically. Since the 1970s, for example, the violent crime rate has increased 98%, but the national crime rate does not tell us what may be going on in individual communities. Community leaders, victims groups and law enforcement know their particular challenges, and we are listening to them.

Many Canadians have lost confidence in the criminal justice system and question if it is doing enough to protect them. They know that violent crime is all too common. They dread hearing statistics like those released on October 17 by Statistics Canada.

Those statistics tell us that 4 out of 10, or 40% of victims of violent crimes sustained injuries. They tell us that half of violent crimes occurred at private residences. They tell us that firearms were involved in 30% of homicides, 31% of attempted murders and 13% of robberies committed. They tell us that one out of every six victims of violent crimes was a youth aged 12 to 17 years old and children under 12 years of age account for 23% of victims of sexual assaults and 5% of victims of violent crimes.

Canadians are looking to the federal government to work with them to restore community safety. The government understands the need for leadership in criminal justice and this is what our tackling crime priority, and our commitment in this regard is all about. It is about reducing all crime and providing an effective criminal justice system. Our plan is ambitious, but Canadians can count on us to get it done. As they have seen on other issues, we have been able to get things done for all Canadians.

In the last session of Parliament the government tabled 13 crime bills. This is proof of our commitment to address crime and safety issues in our communities. It is interesting to note that it was 13 crime bills as it was 13 years of Liberal governments that have left us with a revolving door justice system in which Canadians have lost faith, a justice system that Canadians feel puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of everyday, law-abiding Canadians. This is what our government is going to address.

Six of these crime bills, of the 13, received royal assent and are now the law or will soon become the law. For example, one of the government's first bills and first priorities was to curtail the use of conditional sentences or house arrest for serious violent crimes.

We all know the issue of house arrest. In all of our ridings we have heard cases where someone has committed a very serious, sometimes violent, crime and there is an expectation in the community that there will be a severe consequence for someone who commits a severe crime. All too often the community is outraged when it hears that criminals will be serving out their sentence from the comfort of their own home.

Bill C-9, which received royal assent on May 31, 2007, and will be coming into force on December 1, 2007, makes it clear that conditional sentences or house arrest will not be an option for serious personal injury offences, terrorism offences, and organized crime offences where the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more.

This change was a long time coming. It is well past due and Canadians will be better served by a justice system that does not allow, for these serious offences, criminals to serve a sentence in their own home. Canadians wanted this change.

Bill C-18 strengthened the laws governing the national DNA data bank. This will facilitate police investigation of crimes. Bill C-18 received royal assent on June 22, 2007. Some provisions are already in force and others will soon be proclaimed in force.

Bill C-19 made Canada's streets safer by enacting new offences to specifically combat street racing. These new offences built upon existing offences, including dangerous driving and criminal negligence, and provide higher maximum penalties of incarceration for the most serious of street racing offences.

As well, mandatory driving prohibition will be imposed on those convicted of street racing. In the most serious cases involving repeat street racing offenders, a mandatory lifetime driving prohibition can now be imposed.

We also took concrete steps to protect users of payday loans. Bill C-26, which received royal assent on May 3, 2007, makes it an offence to enter into an agreement or an arrangement to receive interest at a criminal rate or to receive payment of an interest at a criminal rate. The criminal rate of interest is defined as exceeding 60% per year.

We also took further measures to combat corruption. Bill C-48 enacted Criminal Code amendments to enable Canada to ratify and implement the United Nations convention against corruption on October 2, 2007. By ratifying the convention, Canada has joined 92 other state parties committed to working with the international community to take preventative measures against corruption.

Our bill to stop film piracy or camcording, Bill C-59, received widespread support. It was quickly passed and received royal assent on June 22, 2007.

Unfortunately, none of our other important crime bills progressed to enactment before Parliament prorogued. That is why the tackling violent crime act reintroduces the provisions of the following bills that died on the order paper.

The bill imposing mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for firearms offences, Bill C-10, is included in Bill C-2 as passed by the House of Commons.

Bill C-22, which increased the age of protection against adult sexual exploitation, has been included, as passed by the House of Commons.

Bill C-32, addressing drug impaired driving and impaired driving in general, has been introduced as amended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and reported to the House of Commons.

Bill C-35, imposing a reverse onus for bail for firearms offences, has been included in this new bill, as passed by the House of Commons. This bill will make it tougher for those who have committed a firearms offence to received bail and be back out on the street.

Bill C-27, addressing dangerous and repeat violent offenders, as originally introduced, is included in this bill, but with some further amendments, which I will elaborate on shortly.

The tackling violent crime act respects the parliamentary process and includes the bills as amended by committee or as passed by the House of Commons, and in the same state that they were when Parliament was prorogued. As a result, these reforms are familiar, or should be familiar, to all members of this House, and so I would call on all hon. members to quickly pass the tackling violent crime act.

Indeed, many hon. members have already stated that they support these reforms. There is therefore no need to further debate these reforms or for a prolonged study of the provisions that Parliament has already debated and committees have already scrutinized. It is time for us all to demonstrate our commitment to safeguarding Canadians and for safer communities, and to quickly move this bill forward.

For those who need more convincing, I would like to reiterate that the tackling violent crime act addresses a range of serious issues that put Canadians at risk: gun crimes, impaired driving, sexual offences against children and dangerous offenders.

We know that Canadians expect their government to take action and to protect them from these crimes. To do so, we need the support of all hon. members, as well as Canadians, our partners in the provinces and the territories, and law enforcement and community groups.

Time does not permit me to address each of the equally important elements of Bill C-2. I know that other members will rise to speak to the reforms that are of most concern to them. I propose to highlight a few of the issues that have been raised repeatedly with me by my constituents, and I am sure by constituents in ridings held by all hon. members, in particular, about impaired driving, the age of consent and dangerous offenders.

Alcohol and drug impaired driving have devastating effects for victims, for families and for communities. Impaired drivers are responsible for thousands of fatalities and injuries each year, not to mention billions of dollars in property damage.

Once the tackling violent crime act is the law, impaired drivers will face tough punishment, no matter which intoxicant they choose, and police and prosecutors will have the tools that they need to deal with these offences.

Although drug impaired driving has always been a crime, until recently, police have not had the same tools available to stop those who drive while impaired by drugs that they have to address alcohol impaired driving. Under this bill, they will.

The tackling violent crime act strengthens the ability of police, prosecutors and the courts to investigate, prosecute and sentence those who endanger the safety of other Canadians through alcohol or drug impaired driving. I know that all hon. members recognize the pressing need to ensure the safety of our streets, highways, communities and our schools. By giving police the tools they need to combat impaired driving, we are doing that.

These reforms were applauded by the stakeholders and supported in the House of Commons. I am sure every member of Parliament in the House has received correspondence urging them to support the bill. There should be no impediments to making progress on this part of the tackling violent crime act.

The act also reintroduces the reforms to raise the age at which young people can consent to sexual activity from 14 to 16 years of age. The bill takes away the ability, and let us be clear on what the bill does, of adult sexual predators to rely on claims that their young victims consented.

Again, these reforms were welcomed by child advocates and supported in the House as part of former Bill C-22, so there is no need for further debate. We can move ahead.

It is worth spending a few moments to focus on the dangerous and high risk offender provisions of former Bill C-27. Some of these provisions have been modified and, therefore, hon. members may want to scrutinize these aspects more than the other reforms included in the tackling violent crime act.

The dangerous offender reforms in Bill C-2 respond to the concerns highlighted in the debates and before the justice committee, and by provincial attorneys general. I am sure that all hon. members will agree that these modifications are welcomed.

As members will recall, former Bill C-27 was tabled in the House last October. That bill included dramatic enhancements to the sentencing and management of the very worst of the worst, those offenders who repeatedly commit violent and sexual crimes and who require special attention, because it has become clear that the regular criminal sentencing regime simply cannot effectively manage the small but violent and dangerous group of offenders.

The tackling violent crime act includes all of the original amendments to the Criminal Code from the former Bill C-27, as well as two important changes which will go further in protecting Canadians from dangerous offenders.

First, let me provide an overview of the provisions brought forward into the House under Bill C-27. It includes the requirement in dangerous offender hearings that an offender be presumed to meet the dangerous offender criteria upon a third conviction for a primary designated offence. In other words, an offence that is on the list of the 12 most violent or sexual offences that typically trigger dangerous offender designations.

Second, the bill would also place a requirement on crown prosecutors to inform the court that they had fully considered whether to pursue a dangerous offender application. This is to prevent these applications from falling through the cracks. This would occur in cases where an offender had been convicted for a third time of a relatively serious sexual or violent offence.

The declaration is intended to ensure more consistent use of the dangerous offender sentence by the Crown in all jurisdictions. Although the Crown must indicate whether it has considered bringing a dangerous offender application, we are not dictating to it that it must do so. We are not attempting to arbitrarily fetter the discretion of the Crown or of the court. Rather, we are providing a way to make sure that the Crown turns its mind to the issue of a dangerous offender application.

Third, Bill C-2 would also bring forward the very significant reforms to the section 810.1 and 810.2 peace bond provisions that enable any person to apply to a court to ask for stringent conditions to be imposed against individuals who are felt to pose a threat of sexual or violent offending in the community.

We have all heard the horror stories from one end of the country to the other of someone who is known to be a threat to commit a sexual or violent offence against an innocent member of the community. There is often great frustration among Canadians at the perceived inability for government, for officials, for police, to act to protect the community from a subsequent violent or sexual offence.

Specifically, we are doubling the duration of peace bonds from one year to two years. We are also providing specific authority for the court to impose conditions regarding curfews, electronic monitoring, treatment requirements and other prohibitions as well as making it very clear that the court may impose any conditions it feels are necessary to ensure public safety.

Since the tabling of the former Bill C-27 last October, provincial attorneys general have raised concerns about violent offenders who are found to be dangerous offenders, but are not receiving indeterminate sentences. This is due to a finding that they could be managed under the long term offender designation.

The long term offender sentencing option currently in the Criminal Code allows a court to sentence an individual to a regular sentence of imprisonment, but add up to 10 years of intensive community supervision to the sentence.

Based on the interpretation of the lower courts of the 2003 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Johnson, many individuals who fully meet the designation of a dangerous offender have nonetheless been given long term offender designation instead. The Crown has been unable to convince the sentencing court that the offenders could not be managed under the less severe sentence option.

The big concern is that some of these individuals may not in fact be suitable for community supervision sentences. Yet, until they commit another violent sentence, their status as a dangerous offender cannot be reviewed by a court. I should mention, and it should be obvious, until they commit another violent offence, then it is too late for the community, for innocent victims and for families.

Given the concerns expressed since former Bill C-27 was tabled, the government has been examining the scope of this problem and developing potential solutions. It is clear that a large proportion of the individuals who meet the dangerous offender criteria, but have been given a less severe sentence, have demonstrated that they simply refuse to cooperate. The majority eventually breach one or more of the conditions of their long term supervision order. This is a clear indicator that the original sentence was based on a flawed presumption that the offender was manageable. As such, there is a real need to revisit the original sentence in order to stop the reoffending right then and there before another tragedy occurs.

The tackling violent crime act addresses this problem and includes new provisions that were not included in the former bill.

First, the tackling violent crime act makes it clear that from now on if offenders meet the dangerous offender criteria, they will always be designated as a dangerous offender first, and that designation is for life. The court must then determine the appropriate sentence, either an indeterminate sentence or a determinate sentence, with or without the long term offender supervision order. Critical to this scheme is that from now on the court must impose an indeterminate sentence unless it is satisfied that the offenders can be managed under a less severe sentence.

Second, in cases where dangerous offenders are able to satisfy the court that they can be managed under the lesser sentence and are subsequently charged and convicted with a breach of a long term supervision order, they can be brought back to the court for a new sentencing hearing. At the new hearing, dangerous offenders will have to satisfy the court once again that they can still be managed under the lesser sentence. If not, the indeterminate sentence must be imposed.

The government believes that the impact of these new reforms will be significant. Because of the clarification to the sentencing provisions, fewer offenders will escape the dangerous offender designation. In addition, for the few offenders who are declared to be dangerous offenders, but given a long term offender sentence, they will know that if they do not abide by the term of their supervision orders once released, they will be returned to court for a new sentencing hearing and an indeterminate sentence will be the likely outcome.

It will not take a second sexual assault or a second violent offence to bring the offender back for a new dangerous offender sentence. This new provision would be available, for example, even if the violation were simply that the offender failed to return to his residence before curfew or consumed alcohol or drugs in violation of a long term offender supervision order.

Our government remains committed to ensuring that all Canadians live in safe and secure communities. The tackling violent crime act will protect Canadians. It is fulfilling our commitments to Canadians. The government is committed to taking action, acting on behalf of the safety of all Canadians. I urge all members to support the tackling violent crime act.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

October 23rd, 2007 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your team a good session, and to welcome the new pages as they start their new jobs.

No one will be surprised if I speak specifically about justice. Overall, the Bloc Québécois was disappointed in the throne speech. Our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, clearly indicated our conditions and expectations.

We also spoke about the Kyoto protocol. We clearly wanted the government to confirm that it would follow through with the commitment we made when Kyoto was signed: to bring greenhouse gases down to their 1990 levels and then reduce them further still. We do not have a green government—this we know. This government is very irresponsible when it comes to the environment, and the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has had many opportunities to speak about this.

We would also have liked the government to agree with the views of many important representatives of civil society and our fellow citizens, that Canada's mission in Afghanistan must end in 2009. Since the beginning of the mission we have been critical of the fact that there has not been a satisfactory balance of development assistance, international cooperation and military objectives.

Obviously we hope that attention will be focused on the entire question of forestry and the manufacturing sector. We know what hard times those sectors have experienced. Certainly we hope that supply management will also be discussed, for it is an extremely important issue in rural communities. And we hope that the government will eliminate the spending power in relation to matters under provincial jurisdiction. There have been calls for this for 50 years, and the Bloc Québécois is certainly not going to be satisfied with the government’s dishonest subterfuge.

With that introduction, we must now talk about the justice system. First, what an exercise in cosmetics this is, what an exercise in stage management! Watching the press conference given by the Minister of Justice, his colleague the Minister of Public Safety, and the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, we had the impression that we were attending a play by Molière, starring Tartuffe. We were given to think that since the Conservatives took power in 2006 the House of Commons has been the victim of obstruction when it comes to the justice system. We were also given to think that the government has been prevented from having its justice initiative passed.

And yet when we look a little closer, we see that since January 2006 the Conservative government has tabled 12 bills relating to the justice system. As we speak, six of those bills have received royal assent and have thus become law. Of those six bills that have become law, three were passed using what is called the fast-track procedure, with the unanimous consent of all leaders in the House of Commons.

So out of 12 bills, six have become law, and three of those were passed with the consent of all parties using the fast-track procedure; four reached the Senate, at first, second and third reading, while both in the House and in committee there were only two bills remaining. It has to be said that in parliamentary history there have been more vigorous examples of obstruction. When six bills receive royal assent, four are being considered in the Senate and only two are left, you cannot, in all honesty, appear at a press conference and say that you have been unable to get your bills passed.

For the benefit of our constituents, I will mention the bills that were passed.

First, there was Bill C-9, on conditional sentences. It is true that we did propose some amendments. It is our job to do that. We are a responsible opposition. What is the role of the opposition? It is to ensure that bill are improved and made as perfect as possible. We would be completely irresponsible if we did not do our work. As far as the bill on conditional sentences is concerned, the government ultimately wanted to do away with that option for judges and we highlighted that.

Bill C-17, which dealt with judges’ salaries, was also passed, followed by Bill C-18, a rather technical bill on DNA data banks. Moreover, in tribute to our unfortunately deceased colleague, Bill C-19, which creates a new offence under the Criminal Code with regard to street racing, was passed unanimously.

Two other bills were passed within 48 hours, which is an indication of the cooperation among opposition parties. One of those two was introduced by the Bloc Québécois, because of incidents of piracy, the unauthorized use of camcorders to record movies in theatres, particularly in Montreal. The other bill dealt with the signing by Canada of an international convention to fight organized crime.

Four other bills were being dealt with in the Senate, or I should say, “the other place.” There was, first, Bill C-10, concerning minimum penalties for offences involving firearms.

Next, there was Bill C-22, which dealt with the age of protection under the Criminal Code. Some of my colleagues followed that subject with a great deal of interest. The Bloc Québécois had asked for a five-year proximity clause. The Bill was before the Senate. In spite of some questions, our position was relatively favourable. The bill had been amended in committee.

Then there was Bill C-23, somewhat technical, on the language of juries and the accused.

I do not want to forget to say, Mr. Speaker, that I am sharing the time allotted to me with the likeable and charming member for Sherbrooke.

Finally, Bill C-35 on reversing the onus of proof was also passed. Some television journalists described this bill as reversing the onus of proof for parole. However, the bill was not about parole but about pre-trial bail hearings.

There were two bills remaining about which we had and still have questions and amendments to propose.

The first deals with drug-impaired driving. We are in favour of the new provision in the bill requiring individuals to take sobriety tests. Peace officers and police could stop people who are driving erratically under the influence of drugs. We were in favour of certain provisions to require people to submit to sobriety tests.

We amended the bill however because, as unlikely as it might seem, it would have been irresponsible to pass this Conservative bill without any amendments. Imagine someone driving along in his car together with a friend. They drive down the road—let us say the Trans-Canada highway, for example, to please some of my colleagues here—and it turns out that the friend, who is driving, has marijuana in his pockets or his luggage. If we had passed this bill, the car owner would have been held liable. That did not seem responsible to us or legally sound.

There was also another bill about which we had a lot of questions. Unfortunately though, I have only a minute left and so I am going to proceed to my conclusion and allow the hon. member for Sherbrooke to take over.

We are going to take our work in committee very seriously. We will not allow ourselves to be dictated to by the government which, in a fit of authoritarianism, might demand that the opposition propose no amendments to Bill C-2.

We will amend Bill C-2 if we think that is the direction in which the testimony we hear is taking us. As always, I can assure the House that the Bloc Québécois will act in a serious, responsible, reasoned way. We would also like to remind the House of the justice proposals we made last June.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

October 18th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate on the Speech from the Throne, a speech that directly addresses Canadians from coast to coast and issues that are very important to us all. One of those issues is safety on the streets and in the communities—the lifestyle that has defined us as a people and as a country for many years.

I would like to focus my remarks today on building a stronger, safer and better Canada.

Since becoming Minister of Justice and Attorney General I have had the opportunity to talk with Canadians from all walks of life, concerned citizens, parents, community activists, police, lawyers, and representatives from non-governmental organizations, about their concerns about crime and how we can better protect our families, our communities and our way of life. I have been impressed by just how much is going on at the community level to address this issue and by the efforts of so many individuals and groups to safeguard their communities, but still more is required.

Canadians are clearly looking for us to demonstrate leadership through concrete action to tackle crime in this country. I am pleased to say that the government has listened. We understand and share this concern. This is why from the very outset tackling crime has been a priority for this government and we have delivered on this priority.

In the last session we came forward with an aggressive criminal law reform agenda that included 12 crime bills. At the time of prorogation, six of those bills had already been passed.

Bill C-19 created a new offence that specifically targeted street racing. I can say that this is very much welcomed in many communities across Canada. This new offence of street racing calls it for what it is, a reckless and dangerous act that too often claims innocent lives. Under this new offence, those who treat our public streets as a racetrack will be dealt with more seriously. This legislation has support right across this country.

Bill C-9 amended the Criminal Code to prevent those convicted of certain serious crimes from receiving conditional sentences, or what is sometimes known as house arrest. Under this law, which will come into force in a little over a month, our message is clear. Those who commit serious violent crimes will serve their time behind bars and not in the comfort of their homes. I cannot really leave this subject without mentioning that members of the official opposition gutted a major part of this bill at committee. That was very disappointing to me.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 8:50 p.m.
See context

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I may be from the west but I am not an Annie Oakley and I have never handled a gun. I do not know if I could shoot, aim or load one but I do know that responsible gun owners in my riding and across the country continue to say that the Liberal gun legislation did not focus resources where they were needed. They believe that the current long gun registration is inefficient, unnecessary, wasteful, intrusive, ill-conceived and badly executed.

I am rising in support of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act for the purpose of non-registry of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted. For the past seven years, as a member of Parliament, I have been told repeatedly by constituents that the registry needs to be replaced. I have been reminded that we promised to do that and I have been encouraged to carry through on that pledge.

I am happy to say that today we are doing that. Needless to say, I am anxious to speak to this bill and express my certainty that it has a speedy passage because it is both necessary and just. However, I thought perhaps a constituent should be allowed to speak first, and since he relies on my presence in this House to make his opinions known, I would like to quote from a letter that he has sent me.

On May 10, 2006, Mervin Hollingsworth wrote:

I want to ensure that our new government follows through with their commitment to repeal the ENTIRE Firearms Act and their pledge to replace that unjust legislation with efficient, effective, rational laws that recognizes the right of responsible citizens to own firearms.

That is why we are here today and that is why I am standing with my colleagues to support Bill C-21.

Although this government has applied the principle of amnesty for long gun owners, vis-à-vis the registry, clearly that is not enough and not what Canadians from coast to coast and a vast majority of my constituents in Blackstrap are demanding from us.

As another constituent, Doreen Ross, put it, she was distressed “over the uselessness of the gun registry in keeping weapons out of the hands of those that choose to conduct themselves in ways that are deadly and illegal”.

Lest there be any in this House or among those listening to my words today who would question whether Mrs. Ross has sufficient knowledge of guns or an adequate knowledge of gun violence, I can only say that she knows the problem well and better than most of us. One of her family members was killed by a man wielding an unregistered gun.

From this tragedy that the gun registry did not prevent, I would turn to a typical story of frustration that the registry has created. Steve Beck from Watrous, Saskatchewan, cannot even shoot a gopher because he has yet to receive confirmation of his registration. He recently called my constituency office to tell us about it.

Ordinary Canadians know that this registry has not kept guns out of the hands of criminals. They know that it has not saved lives. They know that it is not an effective tool in fighting crime, in reducing violence or in making our streets and communities safer.

They do know that it has cost over $1 billion. They do know that it has intimidated, harassed and criminalized law-abiding gun owners and duck hunters. They do know that it is yet another example of how the previous Liberal government created ineffective programs that never dealt with the problems that they were intended to target.

I have been hearing this message from my constituents since I was first elected in the House of Commons and I am happy to be able to deliver on our promise to repeal this registry as Bill C-21 begins its legislative journey to hopefully passage.

Let me be clear that this government is very concerned about gun-related crime. Unlike the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP, this government is committed to effective gun control and tackling the criminal misuse of firearms. We believe in targeting criminals, not farmers and not duck hunters.

The Liberals continuously neglected our licensing system, which is why we allocated $14 million over two years in budget 2007 to improve front end screening of first time firearms licence applicants. This will help prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

The Liberal Party wasted $1 billion on a failed long gun registry, which was acknowledged by the Auditor General, and our government is investing $161 million over two years to add 1,000 more RCMP personnel to focus on law enforcement priorities such as gun smuggling.

We have brought forward 11 new legislative proposals that would help crack down on crime.

The government passed legislation to restrict conditional sentences for violent criminals.

Although Bill C-9 was weakened by opposition parties during justice committee hearings, those convicted of most violent crimes will no longer walk the streets and enjoy the freedom of serving sentences at home.

Bill C-19 bans street racing.

The government raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age to protect children from sexual predators. That was something we tried to do in opposition on at least six occasions, through private members' bills and opposition day motions, but the previous Liberal government kept saying no.

We are trying to impose mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes but the opposition does not like that either.

The government just does not talk about fighting crime. We do not create another committee or another registry to create the appearance of fighting crime. We go to the heart of the criminal justice matter and insist that violent criminals serve their time. We do not blame the victims. We punish the criminals. We do not arrest duck hunters. We try to stop violent offenders. We do this because Canadians told us that they were tired of the Liberal delay, confusion and diversion.

Canadians expected action and the Liberal gun registry was not the kind of action they wanted. Canadians already knew that nobody could find ways to waste a billion dollars like the previous Liberal government. They did not need to be shown again by the example of the gun registry, which has been a disaster for Canadians.

Attempting to count and track every long gun in Canada has been ineffective and expensive. It has misdirected police resources from what is most important, which is going after criminals who use firearms in crime.

Bill C-21 would refocus our gun control efforts on what works in combating the criminal use of firearms by repealing the requirement to register non-restricted long guns and by requiring firearms retailers to record all sales transaction of non-restricted firearms.

Individuals would still be required to have a valid firearms licence and to go through police background checks and safety training in order to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. Individuals would also continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms, such as handguns.

Through a quick background check, our police officers would be able to determine who is in legal possession of firearms and who is not.

In 1995, the Liberal government told Parliament that the long gun registry would involve a net cost of $2 million. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

In May 2000, the Liberals admitted that the costs had actually ballooned to at least $327 million. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

By March 2005, the net cost of the firearms program was over $946 million. Today it exceeds $1 billion. That was in the Auditor General's report 2006, chapter 4.

The $1 billion figure does not even include the costs incurred by law enforcement agencies enforcing the legislation and compliance costs to law-abiding firearms owners and businesses, which likely runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

The Auditor General said that the Liberals misinformed Parliament about many of these costs. That was in the Auditor General's report 2006, chapter 4. However, misinformation has ruled the day.

I will be happy to end my speech by quoting Edward Hudson of Saskatoon. He stated:

Canada's current Firearms Act is not achieving the stated goal of improving public safety.

Historical government data indicate that compliance with both licensing and registration has been grossly overstated by the previous administration.

I do not think the voice of the people can be more emphatic and yet restrained at the same time.

Firearms legislation needs to be refocused toward the criminal use of firearms and away from the regulation of law-abiding citizens and their activities. For these reasons, the current Firearms Act must be repealed and replaced.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 27th, 2007 / 2 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak in support of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), and I thank the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for bringing this important bill forward.

It is clear from reading Bill C-343 that this proposed legislation is directed at combating the high rate of auto theft in Canada. Reducing the rate of auto theft would make Canadian streets safer and would target a major source of profits for criminal organizations.

The bill would amend the Criminal Code to create a distinct offence with enhanced penalties for the theft of a motor vehicle. The bill provides that the sentence for a first offence would be a minimum punishment of a fine of $1,000 or a minimum prison term of three months, or both. A second offence would result in a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000 or a minimum prison term of six months, or both. A third and subsequent offence would result in a minimum fine of $10,000 and a minimum term of two years imprisonment with a maximum of ten years.

The auto theft rate in Canada must be reduced. Statistics Canada reports that more than 160,000 cars were stolen in 2005, which is up from 130,000 in 2003. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that motor vehicle theft costs Canadians over $1 billion a year in insurance costs, health care, court, policing and out of pocket expenses such as deductibles.

While the financial cost of auto theft is a serious concern, an even greater concern is the dangerous driving that often results from the commission of the offence of stealing a car. Dangerous driving can and does result in serious injury and death to innocent Canadians. Such was the case of the tragic death of Theresa McEvoy, a Nova Scotian educator and mother of three children. She was killed on October 14, 2004 when her car was struck by a youth driving a stolen vehicle. Just recently in Regina a young girl was killed when the minivan in which she was driving was struck by a stolen car whose driver was evading the police.

In my own province of Manitoba, the city of Winnipeg has become the auto theft capital of Canada. Manitoba's auto theft rate jumped over 10% in the last two years, despite a $22 million program to put in ignition immobilizers in as many vehicles as possible. In 2006, Manitoba recorded 9,449 vehicle thefts, up from 8,957 in 2005, but still down from the record 10,638 in 2004, one of the worst years ever for car theft, which placed Manitoba on top among provinces for auto theft.

This epidemic often leads to the destruction of vehicles and serious injuries to law-abiding motorists and pedestrians when the stolen vehicles are used as weapons or taken for dangerous joyrides.

Just last month a group of kids in Winnipeg stole vehicles and then targeted joggers, clipping them with their car mirrors. It is these kind of criminals that we need to get off our streets.

There is also a trend in Canada where auto theft is shifting away from random acts of crime toward organized criminal activity. Experts link the recovery rate of stolen cars to the degree of organized crime involvement. The recovery rate for stolen cars is on the decline. For example, in Toronto, over 90% of stolen cars used to be found and returned. Now that rate is less than 70%. In Quebec, less than 50% of stolen cars are recovered.

Out of close to the 170,000 automobiles stolen every year, police and insurance experts estimate that about 20,000 of these cars are shipped abroad to destinations such as eastern Europe, West Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Vehicle theft rings are insidious organizations that the government is determined to fight. They tend to be complex organizations made up of brokers who hire middlemen who, in turn, hire thieves to steal the cars. Typically, the thieves are young people who are instructed to steal the vehicle and deliver it to a set location. At this point, the vehicle is normally chopped and dismantled for parts or re-VINed, where the vehicle identification number is altered, or the car is exported.

Another serious issue is the role of young offenders in motor vehicle theft. Almost 40% of those charged for stealing a motor vehicle are between the ages of 12 and 17. Oftentimes cars are stolen for joyriding but, increasingly, organized crime is recruiting youth to their operations. Youths are required to steal the cars and deliver them to a middleman, while the criminals at the upper levels of the organization are protected from the risk of getting caught by the law.

Canadians know that our government is committed to getting tough on crime. We have introduced a number of pieces of legislation that aim to crack down on serious criminal offences.

Bill C-10 was introduced to increase the mandatory minimum penalty for serious offences involving firearms for gang related offences. For offences committed with a restricted or prohibited firearm, such as a handgun, there are mandatory minimum penalties of five years on a first offence and seven years for a second or subsequent offence.

The government has proven its commitment to combat dangerous driving through Bill C-19, which created five new offences to combat street racing and also provided for mandatory minimum periods of driving prohibitions. I am pleased that the House supported the bill and, indeed, that it received royal assent on December 14, 2006.

Another step that the government has taken to make our roads and highways safer is with Bill C-32. In 2003, alcohol and/or drugs were involved in 1,257 fatalities, 47,181 injuries and 161,299 property-damage-only crashes involving 245,174 vehicles. The total financial and social costs of these losses are estimated to be as high as $10.95 billion.

The bill would significantly increase fines and minimum jail terms for driving while impaired. It also would make it easier to investigate and prosecute impaired driving cases. The bill also deals with those who drive while on drugs, authorizing police to demand roadside physical sobriety tests and bodily substance samples at the police station.

The government has shown its commitment to crime prevention in the 2007 budget in which $64 million over two years were set aside to establish a new national anti-drug strategy to crack down on gangs, grow ops and crystal meth labs, prevent illicit drug use and treat illicit drug dependency. In addition, $14 million over two years have been set aside to combat the criminal use of firearms.

Under the current law, a person who steals a motor vehicle is normally charged with theft over $5,000. Bill C-343 would create a separate, distinct offence for motor vehicle theft.

Another compelling reason for the creation of a distinct offence is that it would make the criminal justice system more efficient. Currently, a prosecutor is often unaware of whether an offender is a career car thief. Normally the offender is simply charged with theft over $5,000 and there is no indication on the record as to the type of property that was stolen. The creation of a distinct offence would help to give the courts a clearer picture of the nature of the offender for bail hearings or when it comes time to handing down a sentence.

I support Bill C-343 and urge hon. members to send the bill to committee so it can be reviewed in greater detail.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 27th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft). It was introduced by the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who is also deputy chair of the committee of the whole.

The bill is meant to address the serious issue of automobile theft. While I appreciate my colleague's efforts in this area, I regret to say that the bill is a very imperfect way of trying to solve this problem. I want to raise a number of concerns that I think, should the bill reach committee, need to be considered as well.

As things stand now, the Criminal Code does have specific provisions to deal with the theft of motor vehicles. These offences would be covered by the general offence of theft as set out in section 322 of the Criminal Code. Punishments are laid out in section 334.

If the value of the stolen goods exceeds $5,000, the theft is an indictable offence punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. If the value of the goods is $5,000 or less, the offence may be prosecuted by way of a summary conviction or an indictable offence. In the first case, it is punishable with a maximum jail term of six months or a fine of $2,000 or both. In the latter case, the maximum penalty is two years of incarceration. In addition, if the circumstances surrounding the theft result in criminal negligence causing death, those convicted are subject to a penalty of life in prison, the most serious sentence in the Criminal Code.

There are also a series of offences in the Criminal Code that deal with related car theft offences. For instance, some offenders may at times decide to flee from law enforcement personnel in stolen vehicles, the member just gave an example, and drive perhaps recklessly to do so. If this occurs and there are no injuries as a result, the offender may be charged with the offence of flight from a peace officer and this offence carries a maximum term of five years of imprisonment. Should flight lead to death, as was the case just given, then the offender is criminally liable to a term of life imprisonment for this terrible crime.

Obviously, society does not accept this type of behaviour and available sentences for this crime reflect that strong message. Also related is Bill C-19 which was passed by Parliament some months ago. It received royal assent on December 14. It dealt with the issue of street racing, one with which our previous Liberal government had been dealing. In any case, Bill C-19 defined street racing and created a set of five specific offences to deal with this issue.

I will recognize that the theft of automobiles may sometimes be undertaken systematically by organized criminal organizations and I might say that in my time as solicitor general, I saw that issue up pretty close.

In this regard the Criminal Code holds a number of additional and useful tools that can apply when auto theft is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization. These additional tools provide for the possibility of consecutive sentencing and reduced parole eligibility.

My point in referring to various sections of the Criminal Code is to show all Canadians that there are already existing and efficient mechanisms to deal with the issue of motor vehicle theft.

Let us now consider the effects of Bill C-343, were it to receive royal asset one day. The bill would add a new section to the Criminal Code, section 334.

On a general level, the bill affects the current motor vehicle theft regime in the following ways.

One, the bill brings in mandatory minimum sentences, be they fines or incarceration.

Two, the bill sets out what are referred to as escalator mandatory minimum penalties which establish increasingly harsher penalties for people who commit the crime time and time again.

Three, more specifically, an offender who was found guilty a third time of motor vehicle theft would automatically be incarcerated for a time period of 2 to 10 years.

Four, the bill erases the distinction given to the value of a vehicle that is stolen as an aggravating factor that would be taken into consideration in sentencing determination upon conviction.

Let us consider the specific sentencing provisions outlined in Bill C-343. Let us first examine the punishments established for summary convictions.

For a first offence prosecuted summarily, the minimum mandatory penalty is three months of incarceration and/or a fine of $1,000. The maximum penalty is a two year prison sentence. Should a second offence later take place and also be prosecuted summarily, the punishment is that of a six month jail term and/or a $5,000 fine. The maximum is also a two year sentence. As I stated previously, the value of the vehicle is of no consequence in these sentencing arrangements.

Should the criminal act be prosecuted by means of indictable offence, the minimum penalty upon conviction would be a three month jail term and/or a $1,000 fine. The maximum sentence would be a five year stay in prison. For a second offence prosecuted by way of an indictment, the penalty would be a six month incarceration and/or a $5,000 fine. The maximum sentence is a five year jail term. Here too, the value of the stolen vehicle has no effect on the sentence.

Finally, in the case of a third offence, the individual may only be prosecuted via indictment and cannot be prosecuted through a summary conviction. Its penalty is a minimum of two years in jail along with a $10,000 fine. Its maximum sentence is 10 years of jail time.

We do have to consider the issue of mandatory minimum penalties and their use.

The minority Conservative government seems to believe that mandatory minimum sentences and mandatory minimum penalties are the ultimate panacea to all crime committed in Canada. However, when they are used as a sweeping blunt instrument like in Bill C-343, they could lead to an immense increase in prison populations and a series of unintended consequences. For instance, the presence of mandatory minimum sentences often affect how a Crown attorney lays charges and conducts plea bargains. Has this been considered by the mover of the bill? I suspect not. It would no doubt have dire consequences for Canada's justice system.

As we on this side of the House know and appreciate, Canada uses mandatory minimum sentences with restraint, preferring an individualized sentencing approach that gives the court the discretion to fashion a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the conduct of the offender, considering also any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

Given this, the broad and generalized use of mandatory minimum sentences in Bill C-343 would be contrary to the established Canadian sentencing principles such as proportionality and restraint in their use. The flexible approach, I believe, delivers quality justice and has the support of many Canadians. We should not disregard these facts.

It would seem that the bill's mover believes that any potential thief would be deterred from a criminal act when he or she realizes that a second or third offence, in this case of auto theft, would yield a certain prescribed penalty. That is not necessarily the case. I realize I am not--

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 27th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to express my support for Bill C-343, introduced by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.

The government agrees that there is a pressing need to reduce the high rate of vehicles stolen every day in this country. This bill, by creating a distinct offence for motor vehicle theft, aims to do just that.

It is true that there are many offences in the Criminal Code that already address motor vehicle theft, such as theft, fraud, joyriding, possession of property obtained by crime, and flight from a peace officer. However, this bill will create a distinct offence, with penalties in the form of mandatory minimum sentences.

The sentence for a first offence will be a minimum fine of $1,000 or a minimum term of imprisonment of three months, or both. A second offence would result in a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000 or a minimum prison term of six months, or both. A third and subsequent offence would result in a minimum fine of $10,000 and a minimum term of imprisonment of two years, up to a maximum term of 10 years.

I am aware that not all members will agree on the penalty that a distinct Criminal Code offence for motor vehicle theft should have. However, I am certain that most members can agree on the utility of creating such an offence. Accordingly, the bill should be sent to the appropriate committee for review on its merits, including the proposed penalties.

I would like to note that the idea of a distinct offence for motor vehicle theft was supported by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre on March 20, 2007, when he introduced Motion No. 295 calling for, among other things, an amendment to the Criminal Code to include auto theft as a distinct, stand-alone offence. Clearly this is an issue that cuts across party lines and is one that most members of the House can support.

Winnipeg holds the dubious distinction of being the car theft capital of Canada. For example, in Winnipeg, the auto theft rate in 2005 was 1,712 thefts per 100,000 population, whereas in Toronto there were 306 thefts reported per 100,000 population.

It is clear that the rate of auto theft in Canada is simply unacceptable. In 2001, the per capita rate of auto theft was 26% higher in Canada than it was in the United States. In the 1999 international crime victimization survey, Canada ranked fifth highest for a risk of car theft, with 1.6% of the population being a victim of car theft. Overall since 2001, the auto theft rate has remained roughly the same.

While in recent years auto theft rates have held steady at unacceptably high rates, the number of stolen vehicles that are recovered has been on the decline. It used to be that over 90% of stolen cars were recovered. Today, that rate has fallen to 70% nationwide, with recovery rates varying by city. In large cities in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, organized crime groups are believed to be more active in thefts, thanks in part to readily accessible ports that allow cars to be shipped out of the country quickly and with relative ease.

Out of the approximately 170,000 automobiles stolen every year, police and insurance experts estimate that about 20,000 of these cars are shipped abroad to destinations such as Eastern Europe, West Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Stealing and reselling a vehicle is an extremely lucrative way for organized criminals to make money.

Let us take, for example, the scenario when a new luxury SUV is stolen. It is valued at $65,000 on the lot. It would cost an organized criminal around $1,000 to pay a youth to steal the car and approximately $1,500 to have the car “re-VINned” if it is being sold in Canada, or if it is exported to another jurisdiction, around $3,000 for shipping and handling. The automobile would likely be sold for around $45,000, resulting in a profit of nearly $40,000 per car.

Clearly the rewards for motor vehicle theft are enormous. There is a great incentive for young future career criminals to get involved in motor vehicle theft rings.

The involvement of youth in motor vehicle theft is a serious problem. Almost 40% of those charged with stealing motor vehicles are between the ages of 12 and 17 years. While vehicles are often stolen by youth for joyriding, it is also frequently the case that youth are enticed by organized criminals to steal an automobile and deliver it to a predetermined location all for a set fee. This involvement in organized crime unfortunately often has the effect of cementing criminal behaviour in young offenders. This influence on Canada's at risk youth is another tragic aspect of motor vehicle theft.

Not all of the news is bad though. Advances in technology, such as alarm systems, steering wheel locks, and GPS tracking units are making it harder to steal motor vehicles. However, as technology advances so do the skills that professional car thieves use to defeat these technologies.

So while the smash and grab method employed by most joy riders will no longer work on newer cars outfitted with sophisticated anti-theft devices, the new career car thief will ultimately find ways to outfox these devices.

It has already been mentioned that auto theft costs Canadians more than a billion dollars a year in insurance costs, medical costs, legal costs, police costs, and costs to the victims, such as insurance deductibles.

However, what about the costs that are impossible to calculate? I am referring to the human toll that motor vehicle theft has on our society. All too often when a car is stolen, the offender will drive erratically or at a high speed and not always because of police pursuit. Each year motor vehicle theft results in over 30 deaths and over 50 people being seriously injured a year in Canada.

Recently, a 10 year old girl in Regina was killed after a driver of a stolen pickup truck smashed into the minivan she was travelling in while he was attempting to escape the police.

As a society we do not tolerate impaired driving and our laws should treat this type of dangerous driving with the same seriousness. It is time that we reaffirm our commitment to making Canada's roads and highways safer.

I am proud that the government is taking a number of measures to tackle crime in Canada. We have introduced a number of pieces of legislation that deal with serious criminal offences.

Bill C-10 was introduced to ensure that criminals who use guns in the commission of an offence or if an offence is gang related receive a very serious sentence with escalating mandatory minimum penalties for first and subsequent offences.

As well, the government also introduced Bill C-35 which seeks to protect the public from gun crime by amending the bail provisions in the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments would reverse the onus to the accused to prove why he or she should not be denied bail when the accused is charged with a serious offence committed with a firearm or charged with smuggling or trafficking firearms.

The government is serious about making our roads and highways safer. We introduced Bill C-19 which created five new offences to combat street racing. It also gets these dangerous drivers off the road by providing mandatory minimum periods of driving prohibition. I am pleased that this bill received royal assent on December 14, 2006.

Another step the government has taken to make our roads and highways safe is with Bill C-32 which aims to significantly increase fines and minimum jail terms for driving while impaired. This bill tackles driving while under the influence of both alcohol and drugs. Although it is already a crime to drive while impaired by drugs, currently police officers have to rely on symptoms of impairment to driving behaviour for an impaired driving investigation. There is no authority in the Criminal Code to demand physical sobriety tests or bodily fluid samples.

Bill C-32 would authorize the police to demand roadside testing and a drug recognition expert evaluation at the police station, and if this evaluation shows impairment, the police will be authorized to demand a sample of bodily fluid to identify that the impairment was caused by an illegal drug. Refusal to comply with these demands would be a criminal offence punishable by the same penalties for refusing to submit to an alcohol breath test.

The government is also committed to crime prevention. The 2007 budget allocates $64 million over two years to establish a national anti-drug strategy to crack down on gangs, grow ops and meth labs, prevent elicit drug use and illicit drug dependency. As well, the government has set aside $14 million over two years to combat the criminal use of firearms.

The hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle has brought forward a very important issue for the House to consider. I urge all hon. members to vote to send this bill to committee for further review.