Bill C-343 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.
Andrew Scheer Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
- May 2, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
May 5th, 2009 / 1:40 p.m.
Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).
The bill is aimed at tackling the separate but related problems of auto theft and trafficking in stolen property and other property obtained by crime. The bill reintroduces offences for tampering with a vehicle identification number and for trafficking in property obtained by a crime, which was initially set out in Bill C-53, a bill that our government introduced in the 39th Parliament.
Bill C-26 also proposes a new distinct offence of theft of a motor vehicle, which is similar to the offence proposed in Bill C-343, a private member's bill introduced by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, which died on the order paper in the last Parliament. I would be remiss if I did not mention at this time the efforts of the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for his outstanding work on behalf of his constituents and for raising awareness of this serious issue.
Auto theft is one of the most pervasive forms of property crime in Canada. While there has been a downward trend in auto theft rates in the last decade, it stills remains one of the highest-volume offences in Canada. In its December 2008 report on motor vehicle theft, Statistics Canada reported that in 2007 approximately 146,000 motor vehicle thefts were reported to the police across Canada, averaging 400 thefts per day.
Motor vehicle theft has created a significant impact on owners, law enforcement and the insurance industry. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that auto theft costs Canadian more than $1 billion each year, including non-insured vehicle theft, policing, health care, legal costs and out-of-pocket costs such as insurance deductibles.
Motor vehicle theft also creates public safety concerns for Canadians, as stolen vehicles are often involved in police chases or dangerous driving, which can result in injury or death to innocent bystanders. Such was the case of the tragic death of Theresa McEvoy, a Nova Scotia educator and mother of three children who was killed on October 14, 2004, when her car was struck by a youth driving a stolen vehicle. Sadly, this is not a rare incident. A study carried out by the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft reported that in the period of 1999-2001, 81 people were killed as a result of auto theft and another 127 people were seriously injured.
The bill therefore proposes that a new offence of motor vehicle theft be added at section 333.1 of the Criminal Code. It is true that many offences in the Criminal Code already address motor vehicle theft, such as theft, fraud, joyriding, possession of property obtained by crime and flight from a police officer. However, the bill would create a distinct offence with an enhanced penalty for a third and subsequent conviction in the form of a mandatory minimum sentence of six months imprisonment.
The creation of this distinct offence is an important measure that will assist prosecutors. A problem currently facing the courts is that very often a prosecutor is unaware that the offender is a career car thief. Normally, the offender is simply charged with theft over $5,000 or possession of property over $5,000 and there is no indication on the available record as to the type of property that was stolen. The result is the prosecutor and the judge do not know if they are dealing with a prolific car thief or with a car thief involved with organized crime. The proposed distinct offence will help give the courts a clearer picture of the nature of the offender for bail hearings and when it comes time to impose a sentence.
In a report published in 2004, Statistics Canada estimated that roughly 20% of stolen cars were linked to organized crime activity. Organized crime groups participate in the trafficking of stolen autos in at least three ways. First, they operate chop shops, where stolen vehicles are disassembled and their parts are trafficked, often to unsuspecting customers. Second, organized crime is involved in the process of altering a car's legal identity through changing its vehicle identification number, commonly known as its VIN. Third, high-end, late-model luxury sedans and sport utility vehicles are exported from Canadian ports to far-off locations in areas such as Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The bill takes serious steps to address organized crime's involvement in motor vehicle theft in a number of ways, including by the proposed creation of two new offences of general application that will target trafficking in property obtained by crime whether stolen property or property obtained by fraud or other crimes. Let me be clear, though. The scope of the proposed trafficking offences is comprehensive and will extend to all forms of trafficking and property obtained by crime, not just stolen autos.
To understand how the proposed offence of trafficking and property obtained by crime would help, consider what ultimately happens to personal property when it is stolen during a typical break and enter. Members in the House probably have constituents who can relate to the offence of break and enter. When thieves break into homes, the first thing they usually do with the goods is sell them to a fence, who buys them at a significant discount and then sells the stolen property at a profit, either to pawn shops, legitimate businesses or directly to customers who have ordered a specific item such as a high-end bicycle or electronics.
In the theft cycle it is the fence who provides the avenue to pursue the financial incentive that motivates the thief to commit the initial crime.
Another example of trafficking involves the stealing of vehicles to export or dismantle for parts. This is a lucrative business for organized crime and one that affects the legitimate retail industry. Stolen parts are easily fenced and often sold to unsuspecting customers or garages. It is far easier to traffic automotive parts than entire vehicles, especially when exporting by sea.
Selling automotive parts can also be more lucrative than selling an entire automobile because parts from cars older than five years old are often worth much more than the vehicle would be worth if it was sold as a whole.
Chop shops that disassemble stolen cars thrive in urban areas, especially those with easy access to ports. Canadian chop shops export automotive parts throughout the world.
Presently the general offence of possession of property obtained by crime in section 354 of our Criminal Code carries a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for property valued over $5,000. It is the principle Criminal Code offence that is used to address trafficking in property obtained by crime. There is no specific trafficking offence that adequately captures the full range of activities involved in trafficking, such as selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending or delivering stolen goods. The current theft and possession provisions also do not recognize organized crime involvement in these activities.
There is an organized nature to the activities involved in dealing in property obtained by crime. Take auto theft as an example. Chop shops often keep as little inventory as possible to avoid detection and to minimize the risk of multiple counts in the event of a raid. The offence of possession of property obtained by crime does not capture the fact that the chop shop operation processes far more motor vehicles than are normally seized during a raid. Additionally, the police often only charge the person who is in possession of the property at the time of the raid. In many cases none of the other players can be fully prosecuted during the existing theft or possession offences.
To more effectively address organized crime, including commercial auto theft, it is necessary to target all the middlemen, including the seller, the distributor, the person chopping the car, the transporter and the person arranging and organizing these transactions. This is also the case in regard to the trafficking of stolen property in general.
The proposed reforms in Bill C-26 will give law enforcement and prosecutors new tools to target those who participate in any part of the entire range of activities that are involved in the disposal of illegally obtained goods. To this end, it will make it an offence to traffic in or possess for the purpose of trafficking in property obtained by crime.
The proposed offences will be based on a wide definition of trafficking. It will include the selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending or delivering of goods or offering to do any of the above. As such this, new law will target all of the middlemen who move stolen property from the initial criminal act through to its sale to the ultimate consumer.
I should mention that there are victims at both ends of the spectrum, the individuals who have had their property stolen and the unsuspecting purchasers of goods obtained through the theft from innocent victims.
This government believes that serious crime should be appropriately punished. Accordingly the proposed trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking offences will have higher penalties than the existing possession offence in section 354 of the Criminal Code. If the value of the item trafficked exceeds $5,000, the maximum penalty will be 14 years imprisonment. If the value is less than $5,000, the matter will be a hybrid offence and will carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment on indictment or six months on summary conviction.
As noted, the movement of stolen property across Canada's international borders, especially automobiles, is a particular problem. However, at our ports now, Canada Border Services Agency officials cannot use their administrative powers under the Customs Act to stop suspected stolen vehicles from leaving our ports. In order for the CBSA to be able to bar the cross-border movement of property obtained by crime, goods must first be classified as prohibited goods for the purpose of importation or exportation.
No such classification is currently set out under federal law. If customs officials come across suspected stolen automobiles, they do not currently have the administrative authority to detain the shipment, or even to determine themselves whether the cars are stolen by accessing databases. They can, of course, refer clear cases of criminal activity to the police, but the application of administrative customs' powers would be far more effective in helping to interdict the export of stolen goods.
To address this concern, I am pleased to say that the bill proposes to supply the necessary express prohibition against the importation or exportation of property obtained by crime. This would trigger the administrative enforcement powers of the Canada Border Services Agency.
In the case of auto theft, for example, CBSA officers would be able to investigate, identify and detain imported vehicles or vehicles about to be exported, and to search databases to determine whether such vehicles were indeed stolen. These actions could ultimately produce evidence that would allow the police to conduct criminal investigations and lay criminal charges.
As I have mentioned, another one of the ways in which organized vehicle theft is facilitated involves disguising the identity of stolen vehicles. This process involves stripping the vehicle of all existing labels, plates and other markings bearing the true vehicle identification number, and then manufacturing replacement labels, plates and other markings bearing a false vehicle identification number obtained from imported or salvaged vehicles.
There is currently no offence in the Criminal Code that directly prohibits tampering with a vehicle identification number. Like trafficking, the current Criminal Code provision used to address VIN tampering is the general offence of possession of property obtained by crime.
The proposed amendment would make it an offence to wholly or partially alter, obliterate or remove a VIN on a motor vehicle. Under the new offence, anyone convicted of tampering with a vehicle identification number could face imprisonment for a term of up to five years on indictment, or punishment on summary conviction.
As of October 1, 2008, when Bill C-13 came into force, the general penalty for an offence punishable on summary conviction is now a fine of not more than $5,000, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. This would be an additional offence. A person could be charged with both the possession of property obtained by crime and the proposed VIN tampering offence, which could result in a longer sentence. In order to ensure that the proposed VIN tampering offence does not capture lawful behaviour such as automobile body repair, recycling and wrecking, the offence also includes an express exemption provision.
This government is serious about fighting crime, and this legislation is a strong measure to help law enforcement and prosecutors punish criminals who commit auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our Minister of Justice, who has carried the ball on a number of significant measures that tackle violent crime, gang crime, organized crime and motor vehicle theft. As he is fond of saying, we are just getting started.
There is so much more we can do, and we are doing that. This bill is a big part of protecting all Canadians from the offence of motor vehicle theft.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft) be read the third time and passed.
Private Members' Business
February 27th, 2008 / 5:45 p.m.
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the report stage of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), and to express my support for the bill. I congratulate my colleague for putting this bill forward because it is a step in the right direction in addressing a serious issue that so many Canadians face today.
I do want to make a note that while the government claims to be tough on crime, it did not take the initiative to bring this bill forward as a government bill. I wonder if it does not understand the seriousness of motor theft. It claims to support the initiative but it could have brought this forward as a government bill. However, I am happy to see it in the House.
We know that auto theft is a serious threat across the country and, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of great concern for many of the residents of the city of Winnipeg.
According to the Winnipeg Police Service website, every hour in Winnipeg a vehicle is stolen and over 90% of the vehicles are recovered. This shows that most vehicles that are stolen on the streets of Winnipeg are stolen for the mere fact that these thieves simply want to go on a joyride, not considering at all the individuals who are affected.
I have had the opportunity in the last months to meet a number of times with the leadership of the District 6 police in the city of Winnipeg, which is the area encompassing the jurisdiction that I represent. I met with Inspector Roy Smith and Staff Sergeant Keith Walker. They spent a fair bit of time with me, giving me some indication of the seriousness of the challenges in Winnipeg with auto theft and with theft in general. They acknowledged that it was going down. It is going down but it is going down with a huge concerted effort and resources of the police department.
Recently I attended the City of Winnipeg's mayor's State of the City speech that he gave to the Chamber of Commerce. He, too, referenced the fact that auto theft did go down by 27% last year, but he also noted that auto theft attempts had gone up by 8.8%. Unfortunately, the problem is not going away, and we know that the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation has undertaken many initiatives to curtail auto theft crime but it is of great significance.
From January 1 to February 17, according to the Winnipeg Crime Stoppers' website, there have been 595 actual car thefts and 589 attempted car thefts. This is a staggering number that appears to be slowly going down in the city but still alarming enough that the issue must be addressed. That does sort of verify the figure of a theft an hour because it is 24 per a 24-hour period. It is simply not acceptable for that to be happening.
We learned from the police that when certain known car theft perpetrators are apprehended and in custody, the numbers go down.
Last September, like other Manitoba members of Parliament and other members of Parliament in my caucus, I was able to meet with the Manitoba delegation that came to Ottawa to address the government and the opposition. My colleagues and I in the Liberal caucus met with Premier Gary Doer; Justice Minister Chomiak; Mayor Katz; Mayor Burgess of Brandon; provincial opposition leaders; Dr. Jon Gerrard and Mr. Hugh McFayden; Chief Dennis Meeches of the Long Plains First Fation and a variety of citizens who have been affected by crime in Manitoba.
They brought forward a number of proposals dealing with criminal activity and offences. The one that resonated with me, and what I heard from the police in District 6, was that if we did one thing, the one most important thing, would be to make auto theft an indictable offence.
The concerns that the delegation brought to the table were those of auto theft. They expressed the need for tougher penalties and called on the Government of Canada to take action. As I mentioned earlier, I am disappointed that making auto theft an indictable offence was not part of the government's crime initiatives.
The Conservatives claim to be tough on crime, but it is part of the game. The tackling violent crime bill was delayed by the Conservatives themselves. They then tried to force it through the Senate. They play games with the safety of Canadians and only take action when they have a political agenda.
I commend my colleague for raising this important issue which must be addressed.
I heard the delegation loud and clear. Bill C-343 is a step in the right direction. It would make everyone who commits a theft of a motor vehicle guilty of an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction, but I feel we can go even further.
In the coming days I will be introducing a bill of my own that would build on the bill put forward by my colleague. My bill would make everyone who commits a subsequent offence guilty of an indictable offence. It would not leave them an option. I think it would deter thieves from creating a second offence.
This is important for the safety of the citizens of my community. I am not aware of the prevalence of auto theft elsewhere in the country, but I do know of it in my own community. I am firmly committed in undertaking every effort to address what has become a very serious issue in the city of Winnipeg.
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.
Justice and Human Rights
Committees of the House
December 10th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
In accordance with the order of reference of Tuesday, October 16, 2007, the committee has considered Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), and has agreed on Thursday, December 6, to report it with amendments.
December 6th, 2007 / 1:35 p.m.
December 6th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
Ben Jillett Investigator, Provincial Auto Theft Team, North American Export Committee
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to address this committee.
I am a director for the North American Export Committee, which is made up of various persons from law enforcement and the private sector in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The mission of the North American Export Committee is to bring together those entities that share a common goal of combatting the exportation of stolen vehicles.
In addition to being a director with the North American Export Committee, I'm an investigator with the Insurance Bureau of Canada in the auto theft services and I'm also seconded to the provincial auto theft team in Toronto, working under Scott Mills. The team is headed up by the Ontario Provincial Police. I am also a retired member of the RCMP and served for 31 years.
As part of my work investigating exported stolen vehicles, I have spent a great deal of time overseas in the repatriation of stolen vehicles. As a matter of fact, in June of this year I presented to the FBI training seminar in Accra, Ghana, about North American stolen vehicles being exported to the west coast of Africa.
The North American Export Committee fully supports Bill C-343 and asks that all members of Parliament approve it in its current form.
More and more, auto theft in Canada is being committed by organized, for-profit crime rings. This is evidenced, in part, by the significant reduction in the recovery of stolen vehicles. The criminals involved in these rings are dangerous repeat offenders. Bill C-343 addresses the increased severity of the problem by making auto theft a separate offence under the Criminal Code, rather than treating it as a simple property crime.
Also, Bill C-343 proposes mandatory minimum sentences, but does so only for third and subsequent offences. The export committee views this as a very reasonable use of mandatory minimum sentencing, as it targets only repeat offenders.
Auto theft is a very expensive crime. As we heard, it's costing Canadians $1.2 billion a year, and in 2006 there were 159,000 vehicles stolen in Canada. Even more troubling, though, is the human cost of auto theft. A study by the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft found that between 1999 and 2001, 81 Canadians were killed and 127 were seriously injured because of auto theft. There is no question that auto theft is a threat to the safety and security of all Canadians.
I would like to share with you a few cases that I am involved in that demonstrate the scope and magnitude of organized crime in auto theft in Canada.
First is Project Ghana, part two. ln January and February of this year, the Ontario provincial auto theft team recovered 50 high-end stolen vehicles that were destined for West Africa. These vehicles were valued at more than $2 million. While those cars were recovered before they left Canada, many others still made it out. Approximately 65 vehicles were found to be stolen from Canada and illegally shipped to Ghana. Most of the vehicles shipped to Ghana had originally been shipped from the ports of Halifax and Montreal.
Ghana and Nigeria in western Africa are major importers of Canadian stolen vehicles, second only to the United States. Organized West African car theft rings are increasing in number, and so is the volume of vehicles stolen by them. It is important to note that the Canada Border Services Agency claims they lack the jurisdiction to identify and seize stolen vehicles at the ports, so they are not doing this job of seizing vehicles at the export levels in Canada.
Next is Project X5. ln August of this year, police arrested 19 individuals involved in operating five auto theft rings in various parts of Ontario. They recovered 14 high-end stolen vehicles worth $1.5 million, as well as $55,000 in cash and more than $800,000 in drugs. The suspects also had false Ontario driver's licences, false Canadian citizenship cards, and a host of bogus social insurance numbers. The cars and the SUVs in this case were destined for West Africa and the Middle East.
Next is Project Eastbound, which was an interprovincial auto theft ring. In October 2006 law enforcement from Ontario arrested and charged 14 individuals relating to the fraudulent registration and sale of stolen vehicles to unsuspecting consumers in Quebec and New Brunswick.
This was a 14-month investigation targeting a group that was involved in the cloning and revinning of stolen vehicles.
In July 2006, members of the New Brunswick RCMP, in conjunction with the Ontario provincial auto theft team, located and seized 24 more stolen vehicles that had been identified as cloned or with false vehicle identification numbers.
In August 2006, 33 search warrants were executed in Quebec by the Ontario provincial auto theft team, with the assistance of members of the Sûreté du Québec, the Montreal Police Service, and various police agencies in the province of Quebec. At this time, a total of 26 vehicles identified as cloned or with false vehicle identification numbers were located and seized. The seized vehicles were all reported stolen between 2005 and 2006, with a value of over $6 million.
In Toronto we had a major crime task force labelled “Project Globe”. This was started in 2005 by the Toronto Police Service. Initially they had identified 75 vehicles that were unlawfully obtained by a Middle Eastern crime group. They had been stolen from various financial institutions through the use of deceptive financing. Once obtained, these vehicles were placed into containers and shipped to the Middle East, namely to Dubai, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Some of these vehicles were later reported stolen here in Canada, and there was an investigation; this is called “theft by conversion”. The total value of these vehicles was over $5 million.
The problem is escalating, and we are currently seeking approximately 100 high-end vehicles that have been shipped to the Middle East from Canada within the last six to eight months.
Organizations involved are known to be involved in other criminal activity, including terrorism, drug trafficking, robbery, carjacking, identity theft and fraud, and other criminal offences.
In July 2007 we were notified by the Hong Kong police that a number of luxury stolen vehicles from Canada, including a Ferrari, four Hummers, a BMW, and Cadillac Escalades, worth over $500,000, had been seized and recovered. They arrested two Indian males carrying Indian passports in Hong Kong, and they had connections leading back to individuals in Canada.
In August 2006 I was contacted by Interpol from Lyon, France, who advised that Cambodian customs had just seized 12 luxury vehicles that had all been stolen from Canada, most of which came from the province of Quebec. These vehicles were packed in shipping containers labelled to contain aluminum doors and windows, along with clothing. These vehicles were seized at a port in Cambodia.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that various investigations have strongly suggested that auto theft is a source of funds for terrorist groups. This has also been supported by informants and was noted in an RCMP criminal intelligence report from November 2001. The same RCMP report went on to say that high-ranking Hezbollah leaders may be driving around Lebanon in cars stolen in Canada by Middle Eastern organized crime groups.
Thieves are not constrained by political borders. Auto theft has proven to be a very lucrative business operating all across this country, the United States, and overseas as well.
The North American Export Committee is certain that Bill C-343 will give law enforcement the tools it needs to properly fight the battle against organized auto theft. As a director with the North American Export Committee, I urge you all to support Bill C-343 in its current form and send it to the House of Commons for third reading and approval.
Thank you for your time, and I'm looking forward to answering any of your questions.
December 6th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
Detective Staff Sergeant Scott Mills Unit Commander, Provincial Auto Theft Team, Organized Crime Section, Ontario Provincial Police
Good morning, and thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm attending today representing the Ontario Provincial Police as a designate for Commissioner Julian Fantino. In addition, I'm attending as a unit commander of the OPP provincial auto theft team, which is under our organized crime section of the investigation bureau.
The mission of the provincial auto theft team is to provide leadership, expertise, and coordination to dedicated investigations targeting organized crime in the enterprise crime of auto theft. The provincial auto theft team with the OPP as a lead agency is mandated to investigate organized crime as it relates to enterprise vehicle theft by gathering intelligence, identifying the persons and groups involved, and taking appropriate action. Most of our investigations are multi-jurisdictional, multidisciplinary, interprovincial and international, which mirrors the organized crime sophistication involved in this type of theft.
The provincial auto theft team is partnered with most major Ontario police agencies, various government regulatory bodies, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The provincial auto theft team welcomes this opportunity to appear before this committee on Bill C-343.Our goal is to work with elected officials to bring about reforms that enhance the public safety and security of our communities.
The safety and security of our communities requires our dedication and determination, and I am dedicated and determined to enlighten all those who will listen to the fact that auto theft is not merely a property crime, but that auto theft and the possession of a stolen vehicle in the hands of a fleeing criminal or an inexperienced driver-offender presents a grave danger to the public. This year alone, personally, my provincial auto theft unit has experienced the death of a 15-year-old youth who fled the police and died behind the wheel of a stolen car. We've had three instances of when desperate auto thieves have attacked or driven directly at police officers, resulting in the officers discharging their firearms, and there have been countless accidents as a result of fleeing stolen vehicles. The danger of this death and violence spilling out onto the innocent public is a reality.
I'm just going to review some national statistics. In 2006 approximately 160,000 vehicles were stolen in Canada, at a cost of well over $1 billion. I'll mirror an earlier statement that the theft rate in Canada is 26% higher per capita than in the United States. The national vehicle theft rate has remained relatively stable in Ontario, but the recovery rate has steadily declined in Ontario. Saskatchewan and British Columbia have the highest theft rates per capita in the country, and the average person arrested in British Columbia and Saskatchewan for auto theft is 14 years of age.
Approximately 54,000 vehicles are stolen annually in Ontario, ranking us fourth overall in North America behind California, with a population of 30 million; Texas, with a population of 21 million; and Florida, with a population of 19 million. In 1990, 90% of all vehicles that were stolen in Ontario were recovered. Today only 60% of the vehicles stolen are recovered. The recovery rates in Ontario are influenced by a number of factors, the largest of which is organized crime involvement.
Vehicles that are not recovered do not simply disappear. Vehicles not recovered are exported to another jurisdiction, where they're no longer sought by the police. They are assigned a fraudulent identity, or what we call “revinning”, and then sold to the unsuspecting public, or they are what we call chopped in a chop shop and the parts are sold on the grey market as legitimate.
Organized enterprise auto theft by professional auto thieves represents millions of dollars in profits for organized crime groups in Ontario. The average person arrested by the provincial auto theft team, which is my unit focused on organized crime, is 34 years of age. Ontario, where the recovery rate has fallen to 60%, is now faced with organized crime groups employing professional thieves who are heavily involved in auto theft as a means to generate revenue. B.C. and Saskatchewan are primarily faced with amateur thieves involved in transportation thefts, or joy riding, and still enjoy a 90% and 94% recovery rate.
Both the professional and the amateur thief present a clear and present danger to the community, leading police on high-speed pursuits, often committing these crimes while high on drugs.
The experience of the provincial auto theft team reveals that presently the penalties in Ontario range from probation to light fines. Repeat offenders face primarily 30 days in custody. We've had occasion to talk to very prolific auto thieves in Ontario, members of organized crime, and they've boasted about not only stealing thousands of vehicles annually, but also that they've been arrested and convicted numerous times and are still active and receiving light penalties.
The provincial auto theft team has conducted surveillance during recent projects. One project, Project Eagle, was concluded in 2006, and we watched thieves exit the courtroom after being convicted for stealing a vehicle and steal another vehicle within an hour.
The provincial auto theft team and the Ontario Provincial Police support this initiative to deter auto theft and make our communities safer. The provincial auto theft team and the Ontario Provincial Police would welcome further changes to the Criminal Code of Canada, similar to those in Bill C-343, that would include possession of a stolen vehicle as a separate offence. The provincial auto theft team would also support legislation that would see any vehicle whose vehicle identification number or any vessel whose hull identification number has been obliterated or removed to be forfeit to the crown.
The provincial auto theft team's focus is on combatting organized crime and those who profit from this enterprise auto theft trade. The provincial auto theft team would support legislation that targets organized crime and creates specific offences for those who engage in the auto theft trade by trafficking in stolen vehicles or parts.
I'd like to quote from Commissioner Julian Fantino in a letter he wrote to the clerk of this committee:
This legislation would make auto theft a separate offence under the Criminal Code and would ensure mandatory minimum jail sentences, particularly for third or subsequent offences. As you're aware, motor vehicle theft costs Canadians in excess of $1 billion annually and continues to threaten the safety and security of our communities and law enforcement personnel. Auto theft is not a victimless crime. It involves home invasions, break and enters, and other crimes that support organized crime. This past summer auto theft resulted in the on-duty death of Constable Robert Plunkett of the York Regional Police.
Auto theft is not a victimless crime. Auto theft must be treated as a serious threat to public safety and viewed as such. The proposals in Bill C-343 represent proactive measures to protect the public. The stand-alone offence of auto theft more accurately represents the seriousness and the sophistication of the auto theft situation than the simple offence of possession of stolen property.
December 4th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
Ken Haywood Founder, Auto Theft Canada
Thank you very much. Thanks for inviting me here.
What am I doing here? My name is Ken Haywood. I was in the automobile business for a long time. Since I retired from the automobile business, I've been trying to do something about auto theft.
In 2005 I attended the IAATI, International Association of Auto Theft Investigators, training conference in New Orleans, just prior to Hurricane Katrina. Following that I attended a two-day session with NCRAT, the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, for which I prepared a position paper for presentation to a forum on auto theft made by Barry Ward, the president of NCRAT. Also in 2005, I attended a CCMTA, Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, auto theft session, followed by a session with North American Export Committee members.
Why am I telling you this? Because when I heard about this bill, Bill C-343, coming up, I thought I would use my resources and get the person who I felt was most informed about this, and that's Sergeant Tim Shields of IMPACT.
We've talked about the number of vehicles stolen. You're going to get this coming around to you. It shows the diversity of this. We've said that the material cost of auto theft is in the neighbourhood of $1 billion per year. The number of fatalities due to the theft of autos is hard to determine, but figures range from 20 to 40 per year. How does one put a dollar figure to that equation in auto theft? The cost of a death caused by stolen autos cannot be calculated.
Transport Canada considered the fatalities due to auto theft of significant meaning when they decided to make it mandatory that all new vehicles have immobilizers installed as of September 1, 2007. I believe that Bill C-343 is a start to reducing auto theft, as was Transport Canada's immobilizer ruling.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, with the support of Project 6116 and the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, calls upon the Government of Canada, through the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, to enact legislation creating a separate offence under the Criminal Code of Canada with respect to theft of a motor vehicle.
I heard from Staff Sergeant Jim Peebles of the Edmonton Police Service auto theft unit that their chief supports Bill C-343. I understand that other parties will be forwarding their expressions to the clerk.
The reason I chose Tim Shields is because he just finished a video called Stolen Lives, the story of how drugs and car thefts steal people's lives. We're going to try to get that out to members of the committee. In the meantime, I asked Tim, who spent I think four or five years in Surrey, and who has a knowledge of drugs....
He wrote me this:
I recently completed producing the documentary film Stolen Lives which examines the addiction of auto theft, and the tragedies in human loss that result. After interviewing dozens of car thieves and being involved in about 100 auto theft investigations in BC, I have learned the following:
1. The number of deaths resulting from stolen car crashes is much higher than reported. In British Columbia alone in 2005, 15 people were killed in stolen car related crashes. I obtained this number by manually reviewing every RCMP news release for the year.
2. Over 90% of auto thefts in BC do not involve organized crime groups. These vehicles are being stolen to help drug addicts commit other crimes or for joy riding.
3. Auto theft is an addiction. Many prolific offenders describe their addiction to auto theft as being even more powerful than their addiction to crystal meth or crack cocaine.The only way to stop this addiction is a long-jail term where treatment can be obtained.
4. Prolific offenders will do anything, including running innocent people down, in order to avoid arrest. They are usually prohibited drivers, high on crack cocaine, and they are behind the wheel of a 4000 pound speeding bullet. Auto theft poses a very real threat to public safety. Auto theft is a violent crime.
5. The charge of “theft of motor vehicle” is very difficult to prove. If an offender is arrested behind the wheel of a car that was stolen one day previously, he can only be charged with possession of stolen property. The charge of theft cannot be proven. If the wording of the proposed bill C-343 is used, the offender could not be charged with theft of a motor vehicle. Can the wording of the bill be changed to include “theft or possession of a stolen motor vehicle”?
I highly recommend that all committee members watch the 34-minute documentary Stolen Lives. This video highlights all the points that were just made. The auto theft issue is not just about stolen cars, it is about stolen lives.
I applaud the work that you are doing and I thank you for your efforts in making Canadians safer by moving forward with this bill.
Sergeant Tim Shields is now with the Kelowna RCMP. He is the executive director of Stolen Lives.
Thank you very much.
December 4th, 2007 / noon
Mark Yakabuski President and Chief Executive Officer, Insurance Bureau of Canada
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As president and chief executive officer of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, it is my great opportunity to be able to address this committee. With me today is Rick Dubin, our vice-president for investigations, who leads our industry's fight against auto theft here in Canada.
I'm mindful of the time limits we have, so I will get right to the point.
Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national trade association representing Canada's home, car and business insurers. Quite simply, we applaud Bill C-343 , are fully supportive of it, and ask that all members of Parliament approve it in its current form to make it the law of the land.
Mr. Chairman, I could end there, but given that you've so graciously allowed us ten minutes, I'll take a bit more time to tell you why this bill is as good as I think it is.
Home, car, and business insurers often serve the role in our society of being the canary in the coal mine, and by this I mean that we are on the front lines of dealing with the social and economic costs related to disturbing developments long before most other parties take notice, whether it be the rise of more frequent severe weather claims as a result of climate changes, the increasing cost of litigation that makes business and voluntary groups vulnerable to vexatious lawsuits, or the incidence of staged automobile accidents by those who prefer to abuse the insurance system. Insurers have already been grappling with the damages caused by these costly events for some period of time, and so it is with auto theft.
For a number of years we have seen not only the costs associated with auto theft rise, but the increasing implication of organized criminal activity in the stealing of automobiles across this country. Because the current penalties associated with it are so lenient and the profits are so great, auto theft has become a major focus of criminal organizations in Canada. Organized crime steals vehicles, chops them up to sell parts of specious quality, uses the vehicle identification number to change the identity of another stolen car then sold to an unsuspecting consumer, and, on top of that, exports thousands of vehicles through Canada's ports each year to Africa, eastern Europe, and the Middle East, where they can fetch a much higher price than they can at home.
In 2006, a total of 159,000 vehicles were stolen in Canada. The cost to auto insurance policyholders was approximately $600 million, as the member for Regina--Qu'Appelle reminded you this morning. Honest Canadian drivers paid on average about $40 of their auto insurance premium last year to finance the costs incurred by car thieves.
A further $600 million was spent in total by police, the health care system, and our courts to deal with the problems associated with auto theft. Ironically, so many of our resources are being spent precisely because car thieves repeatedly come in and out of the justice system. Under the current Criminal Code provisions, jail time is almost never handed out to a car thief. Indeed, our courts are in the practice of applying a catch-and-release approach to repeat offenders, treating auto theft as a largely victimless transgression.
Mr. Chairman, I want to tell you that auto theft is far from a victimless transgression. Last year we witnessed the deaths of two teenagers in a taxi, struck by a stolen vehicle in Ontario, and just recently a York Regional Police officer was killed trying to stop the theft of an airbag from another vehicle. In 2004 it was the death of Theresa McEvoy in Nova Scotia at the hands of a repeat auto theft offender that prompted citizen outrage. Indeed, an earlier study by the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft concluded that 81 people were killed in Canada due to auto theft between 1999 and 2001 alone.
Premier Doer of Manitoba certainly understood the pressing need to address auto theft when he led a delegation to Ottawa earlier this year to talk about criminal justice issues. He even brought with him a victim of auto theft--a gentleman who had been hit by a stolen vehicle--in order to underline his plea for action.
With the involvement of organized crime so pervasive in the business of auto theft today and the profits so lucrative, you will perhaps not be surprised to hear that Canadian and American intelligence authorities suspect that auto theft is a possible means by which terrorist groups are financing themselves. Indeed, Canada is an attractive place in this regard. Our per capita auto theft rate eclipsed that of the United States in the mid-1990s and now stands at 26% higher than our neighbours to the south.
Mr. Chairman, you can understand why more and more citizens and governments in this country are asking for action to deal with auto theft. Fortunately, your committee has Bill C-343 before it. This bill addresses the auto theft reoffender involved in organized crime, which engages in this dangerous activity for profit. It recognizes auto theft as a separate and serious offence under the Criminal Code, a vital step in recognizing the often violent nature of this crime. While it proposes mandatory minimum sentences, it does so only for the third offence.
I have to tell you, as an aside, that I was talking to someone over the weekend and I explained what our proposition was in support of C-343. They said, “You mean you're only going to propose minimum mandatory sentences after the third offence?” I said, “Yes, that's how reasonable the bill is.”
Indeed, this is a reasonable step to deal with the reality of repeat offenders.
Mr. Chairman, Canadians have the right to feel safe in their own communities. On that we can all agree. The growth of auto theft, however, and its increasingly violent nature, are compromising their safety. The growing presence of organized crime in auto theft is an even more troubling development and further threatens the safety and security of Canadians.
Canadians count on their parliamentarians to take action on issues that matter to them and to stay on top of changes in the world that have an impact on their lives. When money laundering by organized crime became a problem, Parliament acted. When issues surrounding privacy and identity theft became a concern for Canadians, parliamentarians took action again.
Now that the nature of auto theft has changed and is threatening the safety and security of Canadians, parliamentarians, I'm proud to say, are again taking action, and that action is before you in the form of Bill C-343.
On behalf of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, our member companies, and the millions of policyholders we serve, I urge you to vote in favour of this bill and to send it to the House of Commons for its third reading and approval.
Mr. Dubin and I would be happy to take your questions after this presentation.