Bill C-26 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Rob Nicholson Conservative
(This bill did not become law.)
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 14th, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to participate in the debate on the motion to prevent debate on the content and substance of Bill C-59. I find it rather odd that the Bloc has supported the government's attempt to stifle any attempt at debate on the substance of this bill.
No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the idea of eliminating parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and our member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with several of Earl Jones' victims to call on the government to quickly bring forward a bill to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served, especially for criminals who commit major fraud and have multiple victims.
No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting that idea. I think it is really dishonest of the government to make that kind of accusation when it knows very well what the Liberals' position is. This was pointed out by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
Now I would like to talk about the debate and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc members want to limit the scope of the debate. Just seven months ago the members of the Bloc rose in the House to criticize the government for doing the exact same thing it is doing now with Bill C-59. The government moved a motion to block debate.
Last June, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House to criticize the government for moving a motion to block debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose a government motion to block debate on Bill C-9, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, by imposing time allocation.
We are opposed to this time allocation motion because we believe that Bill C-59 addresses a very important issue. Furthermore, for two years now, the Liberals have been calling on the government to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes like those committed by Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others.
I think it is a shame that some would have people believe that the Liberals do not want to protect victims. That is simply not true. When the government introduced Bill C-21 on economic crimes and it was referred to committee, the Liberal justice critic proposed an amendment to the bill to eliminate eligibility for parole after one-sixth of the sentence in cases of economic crime. The Conservatives and the Bloc defeated the motion.
Every MP is entitled to his or her opinion on bills that we are called on to debate in the House. It is a fundamental aspect of the democratic process. The operative word here is “debate”, and the collusion between the Conservatives and the Bloc is preventing us from acting as responsible parliamentarians.
We would like to hear from experts. We want to know how this bill will truly address a gap in the law, how it will do justice to victims, how this bill will improve the chances of rehabilitation for those who once lost control of their lives.
Perhaps we should indeed eliminate parole after one-sixth of a sentence for offenders who have committed serious economic crimes and left a number of victims.
However, for non-violent criminal acts that are not fraud, we believe that evidence has shown that parole after one-sixth of a sentence has been very effective and that the rate of recidivism is much lower.
We will never know what the experts might have said since this closure motion eliminates any chance to consult experts. With this government so eager to control everything, it has become somewhat of a tradition to just pass a bill without any idea of the facts that might call it into question.
The Liberals are against this closure motion. It is not justified, and we regret that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit the debate on this bill. As far as the substance of the bill is concerned, in the past and still today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating parole after one-sixth of the sentence for economic crimes.
In order to illustrate the government's intellectual dishonesty, I would like to present a chronology of the Conservatives' failures in their so-called fight against crime.
I am referring here to the various bills that have died on the order paper for all sorts of reasons or that have remained in the House or at committee indefinitely.
Here they are. Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued; Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), died on the order paper before the House had a chance to vote on it; Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), also died on the order paper. It is certainly not the opposition that forced the government to prorogue Parliament.
Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, died on the order paper, and Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, on the faint hope clause, died on the order paper before being brought back this session. One committee meeting was held on Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, before it died on the order paper. Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), which is related to Bill C-59, the bill we are dealing with today, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, died on the order paper. The prorogation of Parliament killed many bills.
Among the bills introduced by the Minister of Public Safety was Bill C-34, the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, which also died on the order paper. The bill to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act died on the order paper. Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, died on the order paper. Bill C-47, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, died on the order paper. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper. Bill C-60, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, died on the order paper.
To date, no meetings have been held to discuss Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), was given first reading 51 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the committee still has not met to discuss that bill.
Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), was fast-tracked at committee in just one meeting and still has not reached second reading. Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, was given first reading 64 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the government delayed it for 26 days at report stage because of the debate on the short title.
Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, was given first reading 89 days after Parliament was prorogued, and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders), was given first reading after 94 days, and we are still waiting. First reading of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act took place 243 days after Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), was given first reading and nothing more.
Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children) only made it to first reading. Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act was introduced at first reading by the Minister of Public Safety 15 days after prorogation. Two committee meetings were held and nothing has happened since. As for Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, we are still waiting. After a few meetings on the subject, the minister was supposed to come back with amendments that he felt were necessary in order to make the bill more comprehensive and definitely more respectful. Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading 104 days after prorogation and we still have not met in committee to discuss it. Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act was introduced for first reading 232 days after prorogation and there it remains. Bill C-52, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations was also introduced for first reading 243 days after prorogation and we are waiting for the next step. The Senate introduced Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act for first reading 49 days after prorogation and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading in the Senate 60 days after prorogation. Bill S-13, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America was introduced for first reading 237 days after prorogation.
I am pointing this out to prove that it is not the opposition parties that are slowing the process down. For all sorts of unknown reasons, the government introduces these bill and then goes no further with them.
To conclude, I would like to question the justification for Bill C-59 and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc felt this was urgent enough to warrant this closure motion, which is an affront to parliamentary dialogue.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
November 5th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I congratulate my colleague on a fine speech. I have just a quick point.
One of the issues here is to create this auto theft as a separate element to our Criminal Code, and I want to get his comments on that.
Yesterday we had a private member's bill by the hon. member for Red Deer about impersonating a police officer, which I think is a great bill and will be voting for it.
In this particular case, in his experience, could he comment on that? Has he seen that sort of practice before? Does he think this is fundamentally a good idea, to separate the idea of auto theft from it?
Could he also talk about how this bill has been so delayed? We have had Bill C-53 and Bill C-26, time and time again, delay after delay, and we finally get around to doing something, which everybody in this House agrees with.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
November 5th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON
Mr. Speaker, as we all know, joyriding has been going on since the invention of the automobile, but it has taken an extremely long time to pass this bill. It first started out as Bill C-53, then it became Bill C-26 and now it is Bill S-9, a Senate bill.
I have two questions for the hon. member. First, why is it taking so long to pass this bill into law?Second, why does the crime prevention government seem to think that putting everybody in prison is the answer? I would like the hon. member to compare, if possible, incarceration to putting immobilizers in all vehicles.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
November 5th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
Mr. Speaker, I would like to expand on my colleague's thoughts. He said that he had a lot of notes and perhaps he would like to continue that theme.
However, I do have a question. This is the third rendition of this particular type of legislation. It has been a long time coming. The member alluded to the fact that some of the measures are soft on crime and questioned whether they are tough on crime. It seems to me that this tough on crime, if we want to call it that, has been a long delayed process between the earlier versions of this bill, Bill C-53, as well as Bill C-26.
One of the things I do like is that auto theft is now a separate offence, which is certainly a step in the right direction, and many stakeholders have said as much. Insurance bureaus believe in that, as was expected, and I believe the people in his province of Manitoba are also supporters of this bill. In Winnipeg, where this is a big issue, the mayor may have had some comments about this.
Now that we are into third reading, perhaps the member would like to comment on whether he was satisfied with the process by which it went through committee and on whether he would like to see this improved upon.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
November 5th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC
Mr. Speaker, this bill is very late in coming to us for adoption. Parliament has been ready to adopt such a bill for at least six years. It follows Bill C-53, which, if I am not mistaken, was introduced by the Liberals in a parliament long ago. It was followed by Bill C-26, which died on the order paper because of the selfish use of prorogation for political reasons, thus putting an end to all the work done by Parliament up to that point. The auto theft situation has changed, and the law definitely needs to be adapted; more precise measures need to be introduced because this type of crime has evolved.
It should be said from the outset that there are two types of automobile thefts. First there are joyrides, meaning that young people steal automobiles because they enjoy driving them around. Then there are those who steal automobiles to sell them elsewhere or, often, to dismantle them and sell them for parts. That is a very organized form of crime and deserves harsher punishments. However, the law has certain ways of fighting this type of crime.
With respect to young people who steal, anyone who has been through that age, anyone who has kids and talks about this knows that young men are really fascinated by cars. Most of the people involved are young men because young women typically consider cars to be just a way to get around. Young men are really eager to drive. This happens in both wealthy and disadvantaged areas, but in the poorer areas, they have fewer opportunities, so they are tempted when there is peer pressure to take a car for a spin. That is the usual way things happen, as we have come to realize over the years.
There was once a minimum sentence for auto theft, and because it seemed too harsh for joyrides, the government came up with a bizarre-sounding charge: taking a vehicle without the owner's permission with the intent to deprive the owner of it “temporarily or absolutely”. That is the definition of theft. It was bizarre to have this additional offence, but this oddity took into account the fact that, in the case of joyrides, police officers and the Crown found it extreme to charge these young people with auto theft and seek the minimum penalty, which was two years in jail at the time, I believe.
Anyway, that minimum sentence was removed a while ago, in 1985, I gather. I am still checking that, but it does not matter. That kind of opportunistic crime can be headed off with restorative measures and rehabilitation.
Then there is the other kind of theft. Nobody likes thieves of any kind, but some are truly despicable, such as those who belong to organizations that steal cars for parts or ship them abroad to sell and make a profit. The act also deals with trafficking in property obtained by crime.
When an individual is knowingly in possession of property obtained by crime, that is a criminal offence that is punishable by the same maximum penalty that applies to the theft offence.
When I was a young lawyer, it was often said in court that if there was no fence, there would be no thief. But that offence is often committed by people who normally live very honest lives otherwise. They could not be identified as having ties to organized crime, but they might be tempted to buy a television or other stolen property. That is the offence of possession of stolen property. Now I think it is safe to say that those who traffic in property obtained by crime are committing a more serious offence than the individual who takes advantage of a situation and buys stolen property.
We should use the opportunity provided by this proposed legislation to add this new offence of trafficking in, importing or exporting property obtained by crime. The new maximum penalty is 14 years, while the penalty for possession of stolen goods is normally two years.
The other advantage of creating the offence of trafficking in property obtained by crime is that customs officials can intervene by consulting the electronic records of stolen vehicles. As soon as they realize that someone is trying to get a stolen vehicle into or out of the country through customs, they can immediately seize the stolen property. They would thus find someone in possession of stolen property, which would be an offence. This would allow them to take action immediately, which they cannot do under current legislation. So this is another area that this bill improves.
The bill makes another improvement in that it finally creates the new offence of tampering with a vehicle identification number without lawful excuse. But why would someone want to tamper with the vehicle identification number? Obviously, because the vehicle was stolen or for some other illegal purpose. Clearly, by doing that, the individual is committing a crime or intending to commit one. The proposed legislation states that not only is this evidence that the individual intends to commit a crime, but it is evidence that a crime is being committed. Once again, I think the maximum sentence is reasonable under these circumstances. So this is another significant improvement brought about by this bill.
The bill also includes minimum sentences. The majority of parliamentarians in this House know that I have reservations about minimum sentences, but my position has never been cast in stone. We accept minimum sentences for the most serious offences, such as murder. However, we generally do not look favourably on minimum sentences because they serve no purpose, as all the research shows.
The odd thing is that, before the government began manifesting this tendency or compulsion to add minimum sentences everywhere and to multiply the number of minimum sentences in the law, it commissioned a study of other studies. A vast number of studies have been carried out. The government asked Department of Justice officials to look at the research on the effectiveness of minimum sentences in Commonwealth countries.
There is always the temptation to establish minimum sentences.They are popular. That is why the government is imposing them. There is no other reason. When we hear them talking about minimum sentences and getting tough on crime, their clapping and their attitude proves that their goal is not to have measures that will effectively fight crime; they are excited by the thought that this will bring them more votes.
That is what happened in the United States.
Everybody wanted to institute minimum sentences for just about anything. As a result, many people are now being jailed in the United States whereas a generation ago, about 30 years ago, the U.S rate of incarceration was about the same as that in Canada and Europe. Today, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. It is seven times that of Canada, and six to eight or ten times that of European countries. Is anyone prepared to say that the United States is seven times safer? No.
The first reason why minimum sentences do not work is that people ignore them. I could challenge my colleagues in this House to tell me how many minimum sentences there are in the Criminal Code and to name five. Most people cannot.
The second reason is that when criminals commit a crime they are not usually thinking about the sentence they will be given if they are caught. Instead, they focus on not getting caught and they take precautions to that end.
For minimum sentences to be a deterrent, people have to be aware of them. Here we have a minimum sentence, but for a third offence. Judges should warn people when they are sentenced for their first offence that if they commit a second offence a minimum sentence will apply. Judges did not do that as much as I would have liked when I was practising. I did it as a lawyer and they knew it. In this case, since we are talking about the third offence, I do not think it is justified and I do not believe this will really have an impact, but let us just say it is more acceptable. We will not vote against this because overall the bill is beneficial, but I do not really see the need for this aspect.
I hope that during sentencing, judges will warn people, especially young people, because they are the ones who matter here. Whether they have stolen cars for joyrides or they are getting into stealing because they are working for an organization that dismantles cars, they need to know that they risk getting a six-month prison sentence for a third offence. Frankly, if I were the judge and I had a young or not so young person standing before me whom I was sentencing for a third offence, I would consider giving him a sentence of at least six months and perhaps more. In these cases, people are warned.
Car theft in Canada has decreased since 1996, but it is still quite prevalent. There certainly are differences from one province to the next, but that has not really been elaborated on. It is not a bad idea to talk about that. In Quebec, we experience a specific phenomenon. From what I know about crime, I know that in Quebec our big ports have a lot to do with it. Organized crime works mainly in stealing luxury vehicles, and it is organized well enough to quickly load cars onto containers that are being shipped abroad. That is why in Quebec we have a rather high rate of automobile theft, but it is much lower than the rate in Manitoba. I understand why and I will leave it to people from that region to talk about the difficulties they encounter. They have come up with a smart approach to tracking car thieves.
Generally speaking, this bill is long overdue. It is scandalous that it was not brought before us when we were all in favour of passing it. We agree because it is—
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
November 5th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-9. This is not the first time we have debated this topic, which is a very serious challenge for the entire country. Many bills have already been introduced about this topic.
This is not the first time that we have stood and talked about doing something with respect to auto theft.
First, before I get into criticizing the government for interrupting its own legislative agenda with the interruption of the sitting of Parliament, one of the most effective ways to battle auto theft and crime in general is to resource our police forces, our prosecutors, our court systems and to restore confidence, which has been diminished in our judicial system by the actions, the words and, in the case of funding, the inactions of the Conservative government.
I met with some representatives of the policing community in Winnipeg. Winnipeg, as members know, once had the dubious distinction of being the auto theft capital of Canada. However, It does not anymore. Therefore, congratulations to the city council and the police forces of Winnipeg. However, another community now has that distinction. Whenever one community falls off the dubious mark, another leaps ahead.
Let us be clear on this. We compliment ourselves in passing laws. We think these great statements and declarations have an effect, and sometimes they do. I do not want to diminish the work of the justice committee, or the Minister of Justice or Parliament itself. However, let us face it, with prorogation, elections, debates and the slowly moving process involving our legislation in our bicameral system, whether it is a Liberal-dominated or now a Conservative-dominated holding up of legislation, the fact is we do not put out a great quantity of precise, surgical legislation for topics like auto theft.
We might ask ourselves, how Winnipeg did it if it did not have our help with this legislation or legislation like it. It did it with resources. It did it with smart tactical policing. It identified groups of what were most likely to be the perpetrators of auto theft and went after them. It also instituted programs outside the Criminal Code and outside strict policing with respect to electronic devices that determined where thefts occurred and where the vehicles would go.
I will take the blame for all of us in Parliament, but we are late at the game in getting to Bill S-9. I have said it before. I hope Bill S-9 does not follow the ill-fated path of its identical twins. We are now into triplets, of which Bill S-9 is a part. Sadly, if this were an obituary in a few months because of an election or something, it would read, “predeceased by identical twins Bill C-53 and Bill C-26” and maybe we would come back again, do another bill and then there would be quadruplets.
The point is we have to get to this bill and we have to pass it. We worked very well at the justice committee, making suggestions, doing the due diligence with respect to Bill S-9, getting statistics and all those sorts of things.
There is no question we want this bill passed. It would give a lot of aid to police services and to communities suffering from epidemics of auto theft.
One thing we know, as the justice committee and parliamentarians in general, is police forces have their hands full, their resources are not necessarily growing and, overall, the criminal element in our country is getting leaner, sleeker, smarter, better resourced, more focused and more efficacious. This is the battle we are fighting on every front, not just auto theft.
However, it particularly bears down on auto theft. The theft of an auto, whether it is for the purposes of committing another crime for temporary use, or committing some other crime of a violent nature so as to hide the identity of perpetrators or the cash value of vehicles, this is an epidemic in our larger communities, for sure. The intelligence of the criminal community in disassembling vehicles, obliterating vehicle identification numbers and transporting parts of cars or whole cars internationally is not in the decline; it is on the rise. Whatever we can do in a modest way to make that better, we should all be for it.
Bill S-9 attempts to amend the Criminal Code. It was introduced, in this case, in the Senate and received first reading on May 4. As I mentioned, it is identical to Bill C-26 and targets motor vehicle theft. It also addresses trafficking in any other property obtained by crime in the exporting and importing of such property.
The raw notion was that we should create a separate offence for auto theft. That, in itself, is a good thing. If we look at the intent of code to develop the importance or hierarchy of offences, one would be surprised perhaps that cattle theft is defined separately in the code, but auto theft is not. Therefore, it is probably time, since the book originates from 1892, that we put auto theft at least on par with cattle theft, with all due deference to ranchers. The auto is the new horse and a way of getting around the community since 1920. Therefore, we are getting in the game and modernizing, and good for us.
It fits very nicely just after section 333 of the code, at about the middle of the section called “PART IX OFFENCES AGAINST RIGHTS OF PROPERTY”. The code speaks first about offences against the person. It speaks mostly about offences against the rights of property. Then it is almost two-thirds caught up with specific offences, modes of trial and procedural aspects of the code, which are so important.
To get back to the very simple nature of the bill, creating the new offence of vehicle theft as punishable is a good thing. We can all support it. It takes it to a maximum sentence of 10 years, which shows that we feel that auto theft is important. It is a serious crime. In the case of a third or subsequent offence, it also provides a mandatory minimum of six months.
There has been a lot of discussion about mandatory minimum sentences in the House and in the newspapers. I think people must understand that this is nothing new, that mandatory minimum sentences in strategic tactical areas have been introduced since the 1980s, more particular under a former Liberal government with respect to specific violent crimes involving guns and organized crime. They were implemented in a very thorough way in 1995. Adding mandatory minimums to a number of offences in the Conservative government's regime has been somewhat scattered, but let us examine it in this case.
If a person steals an automobile with intent to commit another crime, to obliterate the VIN or just simply steals a vehicle three times, is it reasonable that a minimum sentence be applied of six months? We think it is. We think this is a reasonable balance which would meet the test.
The overall test of sentencing in our country in section 718 is proportionality. It bears repeating that section 718 should be the start of any review of offences, any creation of offences, any change to offences because it sets out a scale of how we treat criminals once they have been convicted. Everyone should pay attention to the balance in section 718.
I suppose some would say that we should make rehabilitation of the convicted person the only agenda. I understand and have sympathy for that because every criminal is somebody's son or daughter and every criminal has a very good chance of going back into the community, so we ought to do our best to rehabilitate the incarcerated person. There is no question about that. It is important.
To make it overriding seeks to destroy the balance created within section 718. That balance must include denunciation of the act. In our country the strongest denunciation we give is to offences like murder. Murder in the first degree carries denunciation, meaning a person will be denounced by the judge or a jury of his or her peers by being given a sentence of life in prison with the eligibility for parole, which takes rehabilitation into account.
Therefore, there is a balance regarding deterrence, which is the third factor, suggesting that if the court gives a sentence, through following the laws of Parliament, of severity grave enough to stop someone else from doing the same thing is a good societal reason to up the sentence or consider it.
One of the final considerations in the big four is to remove the person from the public if there is harm.
Keeping all of those in mind, sentences must be proportionate to the offence created. Therefore, we feel that these mandatory minimums placed in this stand-alone section for auto theft are reasonable. They are not new in terms of sentencing and they are something with which we as lawmakers can live.
The stand-alone aspect of the bill is needed. It is modernizing the code. The mandatory minimum that attaches with it is proportionate.
Also, we always have to be mindful of the other provisions in section 718, which specifically suggest that if an aboriginal person is convicted of such an offence, the court must find a way to take into account the special circumstances of the aboriginal community. As we know, aboriginals represent such a high proportion of incarcerated people in our country. There is something wrong that and that is why the section was brought in, under a previous Liberal government. The section suggests to judges that they must take into consideration alternative measures that would better suit the convicted aboriginal person.
I do not see this in any way interfering with the duty of a judge to take that into consideration because the mandatory minimum, frankly, is a short time. Through our committee hearings, we did not hear of the disproportionality of first nations and aboriginal offenders with respect to this proposed offence in auto theft.
That leaves us with the other aspects of the bill, which are quite innovative, and we must compliment the Department of Justice for crafting legislation which is pretty tricky. Those are aspects with respect to giving our Canada Border Services Agency more power with respect to the exporting of vehicles and with respect to the obliteration of the vehicle identification number, or VIN. Those are two topics on which I will spend the rest of my time.
Let us tackle the VIN. I hesitate using the word tackle because it seems every Conservative bill tackles and solves a problem by its short title, when in fact it is a gradual evolution to the good of the Criminal Code. We would prefer the government to be less full of hyperbole and excitement with respect to its bills and concentrate on what is actually happening, which albeit is a good thing. It is evolving the Criminal Code to meet the needs of the changes in society. In this case, the vehicle identification number is something that is a bit tricky.
This is the numbered and lettered code on the dash of a vehicle, which identifies one's vehicle. However, members will know that in recent errors with multifaceted production methods, various parts of automobiles have various identification numbers. In any event, it is the manner in which vehicles are identified. The obliteration of that should be an offence on its own.
If there is a reason to obliterate the number, it has to be a pretty good one. At committee, we could only think of people who were in the automotive repair business and might inadvertently obliterate a VIN in repairs effected in the restoration of vehicles that had been damaged. In the case where the part of the vehicle where the VIN had been damaged, there would have to be a lawful excuse. Therefore, we covered it off, with the help of the Department of Justice, by suggesting that without lawful excuse, the VIN should not be obliterated. However, we wanted to maintain that a VIN alteration was a very serious thing and was something new for the Criminal Code. Bravo for all of us agreeing that this should be the case.
The obliteration of or tampering with the VIN is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. This is in clause 4 of the bill. We thought that exemplified the seriousness with which we viewed tampering with the VIN. Remember that auto theft is a more serious provision because it is a maximum of 10 years. Tampering with the VIN is a maximum of five years. We think this is the right hierarchy.
Another offence that is created is the offence of trafficking in property obtained by crime and possession of property obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking. This is punishable by a maximum of 14 years and is a very important part of the bill.
In the time that I have left, I will speak about CBSA and our borders.
While this bill is about auto theft, I think we realize that from sea-to-sea-to-sea we have a long, undefended, porous border. We do our best, but it is a fantastically large task for the Canada Border Services Agency to patrol our borders with the same efficacy that smaller nations patrol theirs. One can imagine that the borders of Liechtenstein might be a lot easier to guard, because it is a much a smaller country.
In our case, we have to admit that we have long stretches of border that are undefended and not monitored. For someone attempting to smuggle guns in, smuggle drugs out, or import or export cars or car parts, it must be easier for them to do that than it is for the RCMP, CSIS, the Canadian government, and the Canada Border Services Agency to plug the holes. With that in mind, we thought it was a great idea to allow the Canada Border Services Agency, by amendment, to prevent the cross-border movement of property obtained by crime, including stolen vehicles.
It might come as quite a shock to people not on the justice committee that this was not an offence before. It will be now, if this bill passes. If the bill does not suffer the fate of its previous twins, it will be an offence to move property obtained by crime, like a stolen vehicle or vehicle parts, across the border.
We had to have assurances from the justice department that there was no extraterritoriality provision in this. Really, it is saying that the vehicle that just left is a party to an offence, and the offence is the exportation. The vehicle might already be gone, might already be somewhere else, and there might be legal issues with respect to obtaining the evidence of the crime, which is the exportation.
We know that the Canada Border Services Agency does a good job. We know that it needs funding, law, and the tools to prevent exportation of vehicles and vehicle parts.
I will segue into something that is controversial.
We had a long debate, not so much in Parliament but certainly outside of Parliament, about gun control. I think all of us would agree that guns are often instrumental in the commission of crimes, and that many guns come into this country illegally through our border. I think we should stop and reflect on doing something about that.
These illegal handguns come through a porous border, and we must give the Canada Border Services Agency the tools they need to prevent this traffic. In the case of auto theft, it is exportation, going the other way. But we want to give CBSA the tools and resources to prevent the intrusion of guns upon our sovereignty. The saying goes that “guns do not kill people, people kill people”, but guns are the objects that are used.
When the Canada Border Services Agency appeared before us, it presented itself in a most professional and informed manner. I want to commend CBSA as an agency of the government. I want to make sure that the government understands that it is ready, willing, and able to take on the task of defending our border.
This little part in this little act is a salute to the men and women of the Canada Border Services Agency for the fine job they do in all parts of our country, whether it is airports or borders, seaports or rail stations. The Canada Border Services Agency protects us and needs our help. Bill S-9 delivers that help.
I am pleased to support the bill in general and the federal agencies that will be affected.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
October 25th, 2010 / 1:25 p.m.
Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his very interesting and informative speech.
I wonder if he could share his opinion on this kind of bill. This is the third time such a bill has been introduced. First, Bill C-53 was introduced shortly after the 2006 election. Then Bill C-26 was introduced before the 2008 election, when the House was prorogued. Now we are talking about Bill S-9.
Does the member think the Conservatives are simply trying to delay these bills? If the government had really wanted to, we could have passed this bill a long time ago. In his opinion, why has the government not yet addressed this matter?
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
October 25th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to be speaking about Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime). As my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, so clearly stated just moments ago, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. Bill S-9, just like Bill C-26, which went down the drain because of prorogation, and Bill C-53, which went down the drain because of the election, has the very specific goal of reducing vehicle theft. The bill's main measure, which is to create an offence for tampering with an identification number—which is also known as a serial number, just to clarify—is not new. In fact, it was lifted from Bill C-64, which was introduced by the Liberal government in September 2005.
However, Bill S-9 is broader in scope. It also targets the trafficking, export and import of any property obtained by crime and proposes a minimum six-month sentence for a person convicted of vehicle theft for the third time. My colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, explained the Bloc Québécois' position well. Generally, we are against minimum sentences in justice bills because they tie the judge's hands and mean that no matter what happened and despite any exacerbating or mitigating factors, a minimum sentence of x number of months or years must be handed down to the person who committed the crime. This means that one person could receive the same sentence as another even though the crime they committed was not nearly as serious or they played a smaller role in the crime than the second person. The Bloc Québécois feels that is a problem.
However, it is said that when there is recidivism, organized crime is more likely to be involved. When teenagers steal a car and take it for a joyride, the hope is that there is not too much damage, because accidents can be caused by excessive speed. I imagine a person who commits this type of offence already has the makings of a criminal. However, in that case, there is not necessarily recidivism. Criminal groups make money by stealing cars, altering them, chopping them up to sell the parts, or shipping them overseas. If these people are caught more than once, they could receive a minimum sentence. The Bloc Québécois does not really have a problem with that in this particular case because of the way the legislation is drafted.
Bill S-9 is in all respects the same as Bill C-26 as passed, with support from the Bloc Québécois, by the House of Commons during the last session. Furthermore, Bill C-26, which the Bloc Québécois supported at third reading, was practically identical to the version introduced at first reading, which itself was similar to Bill C-53, introduced previously. We are in favour of sending Bill S-9 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Unfortunately, as some hon. members have said and as my colleague, the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, said during a speech on the same subject earlier this year, this committee is overwhelmed because the Minister of Justice has piled on the bills.
Although we may be in favour of some of these bills, we must still study them carefully. We cannot pass a bill without having studied it and heard from witnesses. Sometimes everyone in the House will agree on a bill, because it is clear and well written and we know its purpose and all the ins and outs. In this case, the bill may be fast-tracked, or passed very quickly. However, in most cases, we must study bills in much more detail and send them to committee to ensure that there is nothing fishy going on, and that we are on the right track.
The problem is that there is a lot of jostling in committee. There are bills that everyone agrees on, but members would like to hear from the witnesses. Some political parties want further information, and want to propose amendments. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is very busy right now. So it will be difficult for anything to happen with this bill. I do not know whether the House is unanimous on this bill, but based on what I have heard from the various parties, it seems that we will not have any trouble moving it through. The government needs the support of one party, and the Bloc is in favour of this bill.
A little later, I will give some interesting statistics. According to what I have read on this subject, the number of car thefts has been going down since 1996. Nevertheless, now is the time to act, because it still happens too frequently.
The social and economic consequences of these thefts are a heavy burden, both for individuals and society as a whole. Just think about the insurance companies that are faced with this problem. Insurance companies are no different from other businesses. When they incur costs by compensating people who have had their vehicle stolen, it is the consumer who foots the bill at the end of the day. That is the way things work. It is true that vehicle thefts affect everyone.
The cost of automobile insurance varies based on how often you use the vehicle and where you live. Central Quebec is known as a region with high rates of vehicle theft and possession of stolen vehicles. It is possible that insurance there costs a little bit more. Without repeating what was said earlier, I would say that Winnipeg is, unfortunately, Canada's vehicle theft capital. I am sure that people pay much more to insure a vehicle in Winnipeg than in other municipalities in Canada. Montreal and Toronto also have a high number of vehicle thefts because of the large number of vehicles registered there.
Back when I was a local radio reporter in my region, I witnessed several vehicle seizures. Unfortunately, a number of criminal gangs had chosen Victoriaville and the surrounding area as a location for their illegal activities. Even some very modern garages that sold nice cars were raided, and police seized several vehicles. Charges were laid, and people were sentenced to jail for possession of stolen goods. I sometimes covered these events. Today, there are fewer such garages, no doubt because of those seizures. They may have set up shop elsewhere, or they may be more discreet. Still, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. The scourge persists in my region and all across Canada.
The Bloc Québécois agrees with the new trafficking offence set out in Bill S-9. The purpose of this provision is to curb trafficking in cars and car parts. Organized crime groups get rich by quickly dismantling cars and selling the parts. Some stolen cars immediately leave the country for sale elsewhere, but in general, cars are stolen for parts, so vehicles are stripped right away.
Judging by the list of most frequently stolen cars, thieves are not always after very costly or luxurious vehicles. Some groups put in orders for particular makes of vehicles.
I do not need to list those makes, but I can say that the most popular cars are the ones most frequently stolen. Many of them are compact cars that cost between $20,000 and $25,000. There are so many of these cars on the market that parts are in high demand. That is where possession of stolen goods comes into play. Fenders, engine parts, mufflers, wheels, everything goes. Everything gets recycled and sent to shady dealers for resale. Worst of all, these parts are not necessarily resold for a better price. Consumers who have been in accidents or who have defective parts in their cars buy these parts in good faith, not knowing that they are buying stolen parts. This is a very lucrative market for gang members.
This bill also tackles another problem: vehicle theft for the purpose of joyriding. I am not sure what the correct word for that is in French. Most thefts of this type are committed by young people.
For instance, this happens when someone stops their car in front of a convenience store and unfortunately leaves the keys in the ignition, perhaps even leaving the car running. Sometimes in the winter, people might leave their cars running while they run in to buy some milk. They get out of the car without locking the doors. Someone can walk by more or less by chance and steal the vehicle to go for a joyride. A friend of mine was the victim of this kind of theft and the police found his car in a ditch a few kilometres from where it had been stolen. The young people had simply abandoned the vehicle there, unfortunately with some damage, because they had gone for a joyride in a field. Not everyone commits this kind of vehicle theft for the same reason.
I mentioned statistics earlier. According to the most recent statistics from the insurer's organization, Groupement des assureurs automobiles, there were more than 38,800—that is nearly 40,000—vehicle thefts in Quebec in 2006. That is the equivalent of one motor vehicle theft every 14 minutes. That is a lot of theft. Insurance companies had to pay out $300 million, which has a direct impact on all insurance premiums. Despite those high numbers, Quebec is far from the worst. In fact, per capita, the figures are far lower in Quebec than in the western provinces.
Comparing the number of vehicle thefts in 2006, Quebec had 507 per 100,000 inhabitants and Alberta had 725. The worst rate—and I think some of my colleagues have mentioned this—is in Manitoba. Earlier we heard that Winnipeg was the car theft capital of Canada. In fact, Manitoba had 1,376 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. This is rather frightening, especially if we compare it to the average across Canada, which is 487 per 100,000 people. In all of Canada, approximately 160,000 vehicles were stolen in 2006. As I said earlier, the rate has been going down since 1996, but the statistics show that we are still facing a very serious problem.
The situations in Quebec and the western provinces are different. In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the majority of the cars are stolen for joyrides, simply for the fun of stealing a car and going for a ride. Sometimes cars are used during the commission of another crime. People steal a car to commit a holdup and then abandon the car shortly thereafter. In western Canada, auto thefts are committed by people who are not necessarily seeking monetary gain from this larceny. The purpose is a joyride. These thefts are committed for fun, on a dare, or to get a car to commit another crime.
In Quebec and in Ontario, even though people steal cars for joyriding in those provinces as well, most of the auto thefts are linked to trafficking in and possession of stolen vehicles.
The most commonly stolen vehicles are not the ones we might think. They are not just luxury vehicles with high resale values. The most popular vehicles are stolen for their parts. I have a list from 2006, but most of the media provide a list every year of the 10 most stolen vehicles in Canada. The list is even broken down by most stolen vehicle per province.
For the most part, we are talking about small cars such as the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza and Acura Integra. The Acura Integra no longer exists, but people modify it. They like that model because it is a high performance vehicle and the parts are traded on the market rather easily. These are highly sought after parts. That kind of car is very popular. There are also the minivans used by small families; we see a lot of them on the road. Vehicles are stolen for their parts and not necessarily for their value.
The Library of Parliament put together a very interesting document for the committee to use during its study of this bill. I remember some of the facts that were in it. The Insurance Bureau of Canada, or IBC, estimates that auto theft creates a financial burden in excess of a billion dollars a year. This estimate includes the theft of uninsured vehicles, costs related to health care, court proceedings, police services and legal services, and personal expenses incurred by owners.
Thus, vehicle theft costs our society about a billion dollars a year. There is a direct financial impact on consumers. Auto insurers figure out how much money they lose because of auto theft, and then they pass the cost on to drivers and vehicle owners. These costs also depend on where the vehicle is located and how it is used. For example, members of Parliament who use their cars a lot for work are more likely to have their cars stolen because they travel a lot and park in many places. Their cars are not sitting in garages. They put a lot of kilometres on their cars and are at greater risk of having their cars stolen.
In Canada, the number of motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 inhabitants dropped 15% in 2008, continuing the general decline we have seen since 1997. This drop is due to the fact that we opened our eyes and adopted certain measures. Since September 2007, Canadian auto manufacturers have had to install electronic immobilizers in new vehicles, which makes them more difficult to steal.
Insurance companies are also trying to reduce theft by offering better deals to owners of vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. This may not necessarily be an alarm system; it could be a device with an intelligent key, which makes it more difficult for a thief to start the vehicle.
Luxury vehicles stolen and shipped overseas in containers to Russia, Africa and the Middle East, where they are in demand, as my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie mentioned, are often equipped with a GPS, which makes it easy to locate them.
I would be remiss if I did not mention certain municipal bylaws. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of theft in my region. In Victoriaville, there is now a municipal bylaw prohibiting drivers from leaving their cars running if they are not in them. Another bylaw provides for a fine if a vehicle's doors are left unlocked. If a vehicle is parked in the driveway and the doors are not locked, a police officer can give the owner a ticket. People are increasingly being made aware of the problem of auto theft. Studying this bill in committee will allow us to tackle the problem of auto theft.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
October 25th, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate on Bill S-9. As we already know, this bill is called An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), or the tackling auto theft and property crime act. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada moved second reading of this bill, which we have already started debating.
This bill would create offences in connection with the alteration, removal or obliteration of a vehicle identification number and would also create the offences of knowingly selling, giving, transferring, transporting, sending or delivering property that was obtained by crime. The term “knowingly” is very important, because it shows that the individual who sold, transferred or gave property—a vehicle—must know that it was obtained by crime. Lastly, the bill would create the offence of knowingly being in the possession of property that was obtained by crime, for the purpose of trafficking. The Crown would have the burden of proving that the person in possession of the vehicle knew that it had been obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking.
This bill creates a separate offence for motor vehicle theft, proposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence of six months for a third or subsequent offence and gives the Canada Border Services Agency the authority to identify stolen goods and keep them from leaving the country.
We, the Liberals, are in favour of this bill. We want it to be sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights so that we can hear from witnesses and stakeholders who have thoughts and expertise on the goal of this bill, which we agree with.
We feel that this is a good beginning, even though it is not a comprehensive solution. We believe that some witnesses will also say that it is a step in the right direction and a good start but that it is not a cure-all and it will not fix all of the issues related to vehicle theft and trafficking.
The Liberal Party has always supported legislation that aims to effectively reduce crime and make communities safer. The fact is that vehicle theft rates are going down. The Liberals did not make this up. However, vehicle theft is still a major problem in cities like Montreal and Winnipeg. I am from Montreal, and I have colleagues and family in Winnipeg. So I know what I am talking about. I also had the opportunity, as justice critic in the official-opposition Liberal caucus in 2007-08, to speak with Manitoba's justice minister about this issue as well as youth criminal justice. The minister showed me studies indicating that Winnipeg was close to becoming the vehicle-theft capital of Canada. He told me that this was a serious problem, one that led youth down a criminal path.
Bill S-9 is not perfect, but it is a good start because it updates the Criminal Code, which shows that the government is taking this issue seriously.
That being said, we will see significant reductions in crime rates only if the government invests substantial resources in evidence-based crime prevention programs.
Our party does not play political games with the Criminal Code. Unlike the Conservatives, the Liberals strongly believe that we must fight crime with good laws, not with crude slogans and petty political manoeuvring.
If the government really intended to tackle auto theft and property crimes, the Prime Minister never would have killed Bill C-53, which it did by violating its own fixed election date law in 2008, nor would it have torpedoed Bill C-26 by proroguing Parliament last winter.
This is the third time the Conservative government has introduced the same bill. After the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament in December 2009, it took the government five months to reintroduce exactly the same bill. The Liberals tried to speed it through the House before, and they will do so again this time.
As I said, we are pleased that the government, which torpedoed its own Bill C-26, has introduced Bill S-9, which is an exact replica of its predecessor. We are disappointed that it took the government so long—five months—to reintroduce it. There is no excuse for that.
We are pleased to see that the wording in this bill is harsher than Bill C-53, the first incarnation of this bill. The government has finally decided to add a separate offence for auto theft to the Criminal Code.
As I said, the first auto theft bill introduced by the Conservative government in 2008 did not create a new, separate offence for auto theft. At the time, Liberals, police officers, police corps and provincial governments—the Conservative government's counterparts—criticized this approach. They criticized the government for failing to create a separate Criminal Code offence for auto theft. The government has finally done so in this bill, and we are pleased that it has finally fallen into step with law enforcement in Canada.
Thus, with Bill C-26, the government created a separate offence for theft of a motor vehicle, and this offence is also included in Bill S-9. The mandatory minimum sentence for this offence is six months' incarceration for a third offence or in the case of an indictable offence.
This is important because all studies show that motor vehicle theft in certain cities is quite well organized. The evidence from various police forces, including municipal and provincial forces and our national police force, the RCMP, has clearly indicated that to be the case. When someone is on their third such offence, it becomes quite serious. The criminal justice system must therefore send a clear message that this kind of criminal behaviour is unacceptable.
The new offences provide for a broad definition of trafficking. This would cover selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending or delivering property obtained by crime or offering to do any of those things.
Thus, the new legislative provisions would target all the middlemen involved in moving stolen property, from the initial criminal act through to the ultimate consumer. That is very important. Of course it happens in other cities, but we know that in Montreal and Winnipeg in particular, most motor vehicle thefts are committed by organized crime groups. This means there is a network of individuals whose only goal and mission is to steal cars. The orders often come from outside Canada, with requests for x number of certain models, for instance, Lexus vehicles from a given year, Chevrolets from a given year, specific models and colours of BMWs from another year, and so on. The crime of motor vehicle theft is driven by the network.
So, with these offences and this definition, if the proposed Criminal Code amendment successfully passes in both houses of Parliament, this would allow our police forces to pursue not only the person who committed the actual theft, but also all the middlemen who were knowingly involved in the transaction and allowed the sale, transfer or gift of property or a stolen vehicle, when that individual knew the property or vehicle was stolen.
Let us look at the two proposed offences. Both offences carry heavier penalties than the existing offence of possession of property obtained by crime. If the value of the item trafficked exceeds $5,000, anyone convicted of this offence could face up to a maximum of 14 years in prison. If the value does not exceed $5,000, there would be what is called a hybrid offence, which would carry a maximum prison sentence of five years on indictment or six months on summary conviction.
The bill also introduces a prohibition against the importation or exportation of property obtained by crime that would trigger the administrative enforcement powers of the Canada Border Services Agency, allowing the agency to bar the cross-border movement of stolen goods. In the case of auto theft, CBSA officers would be able to investigate, identify and detain imported vehicles or vehicles about to be exported and search databases to determine whether or not the vehicles are stolen.
I would like to add a few words on the statistics and data that we have on stolen vehicles in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the number of stolen vehicles has decreased almost every year since 1996, by 20% according to 2006 data. Auto theft has major repercussions on car owners, on other victims, on law enforcement and on the insurance industry. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, auto theft costs insurance companies and the general public almost $1 billion a year. That is big bucks.
I do not own a car, but some of my friends and family have been victims of auto theft. I can say that this can be quite disruptive to a person's life by the time they settle things with the insurance company, get a new car and so on.
In 2006, approximately 160, 000 cases of auto theft were reported to the police, or about 438 per day. There tend to be fewer thefts in eastern Canada than in western Canada. According to data from Statistics Canada, Prince Edward Island has the lowest incidence of auto theft, while Manitoba has the highest. The incidence of car theft in Manitoba is almost three times the national average. Montreal, however, was the Canadian city with the highest incidence of auto theft and the lowest number of recovered stolen vehicles in 2007.
I am from Montreal and although I do not own a vehicle, I do know many people who do. Some of them have had their cars stolen. There are criminal networks in Montreal that steal cars for export, filling specific orders. Such car theft is a made-to-measure business.
Here is how a number of stakeholders have responded. The Manitoba Minister of Justice, Dave Chomiak, the mayor of Winnipeg, Sam Katz, and the Winnipeg police, all of whom I have met with, are in favour of this bill. The Insurance Bureau of Canada also supports it.
Mr. Rick Linden, a professor at the University of Manitoba noted that the bill was a good step, but that significant reductions in crime would only occur if we also invest significant resources in evidence-based crime prevention programs.
The Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers is against the bill because it believes it will restrict judicial discretion. The Canadian Association of Crown Counsel is also against it because it believes it will increase the workload of an already overburdened justice system. And yet, the government has failed to announce any new money for its implementation. This is a crucial point. The new offences created by this bill have long been awaited by the Liberals. We are in favour of the bill and its desired outcome. However, we realize that once these offences are passed and come into effect and the desired outcome is achieved, the government will have to allocate additional resources and funding to support the initiatives. The measures will ensure that the police and various stakeholders in our justice system can adequately deal in a court of law with those accused of having committed auto theft. Unfortunately, we have not heard the minister state clearly that the government intends to earmark new money in its next budget to cover these additional costs.
I will conclude my speech by saying that this is a good start and a step in the right direction but not the whole solution. We would like to see the government set aside more resources in order to ensure that our law enforcement system can handle these new offences and that our justice system, courts and prosecutors have the means at their disposal to deal with them.
Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
October 6th, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased once again to speak to the issue of auto theft in this country. I say “once again” because I, quite frankly, do not remember how many times I have been on my feet in the House speaking to bills on auto theft. This is the third incarnation. There was Bill C-53 after the 2006 election; Bill C-26 before the 2008 election because of the prorogation at that time; and now we are on Bill S-9.
There is such a lack of credibility on the part of the government on this issue and on crime bills generally. We have been going at this for over four years. The issue actually preceded that back in the Liberal tenure because there was a bill at that time dealing with the issue of playing with VIN numbers.
With the present government, we had one prorogation and the bill went down, one election and the bill went down and then we had the spectacle of the justice committee not being able to meet because of elections and because the chair of that committee was thwarting the activities of the committee for months at a time. Those things delayed the passage of these bills. In April 2009, it finally went before the committee, which was the first time in a year the justice committee actually dealt with a bill. It sat idle a whole year because of both the actions of the chair thwarting the work of the committee and the election in 2008.
Finally, in 2009 the committee was finally working again and we were dealing with the bill before us today, which, if I have time today, I will actually get to. The committee did a lot of work and extensive evidence was taken. It then went back to the House with all party support and then on to the Senate. When we got to the end of 2009, we all know what happened. We had another prorogation. We had three prorogations, one election and dirty tactics by the chair of the justice committee.
Here we are, four-plus years later, and the bill still has not been passed, a bill that has widespread support in the House from all parties. However, it is because of, quite frankly, the indifference of the government to what is a significant issue in the country and a government much more concerned about protecting its political stature than it is about dealing realistically, effectively and efficiently with a major crime problem in the country.
We already have a backlog in the justice committee because so many other bills have been impacted exactly the same way. This bill will probably go through the House tomorrow and get to committee, which is backlogged significantly. If it is dealt with in its proper order, it is highly unlikely that this bill will get out of the justice committee in 2010. It almost certainly will not be, given the other bills before the committee. It has been my forecast for some time that we will have an election in the spring and that this bill will never become law before the next election. We need to be very clear that the responsibility for that lies entirely in the hands of the government.
All three of the opposition parties have dealt responsibly with the bill. When it was before committee, we did our proper work. We analyzed the problem, saw that the bill would work the way it should work, passed it, and then we see this again and again.
That is the reality of what we are dealing with. It is almost frustrating to say, “Why am I bothering to stand here today, because we are going to have an election before this bill becomes law?”. We will then start all over again and it will be another couple of years before we get it into the books as law.
The bill, as I see it, has only one significant problem, which is where I take some issue with what my colleague from Scarborough said. The mandatory minimum in the bill is only after a person has committed his or her third offence. As my colleague from the Bloc has raised, we are not quite sure what that would do. One of the reasons we should not be supporting mandatory minimums in some cases is that it sets the standard and judges feel compelled to work to that standard.
We can think of any number of scenarios. When a person has been convicted for the third time, six months is a ridiculously low sentence, especially if it involves individuals who are involved in organized crime in the theft of autos. Six months is a joke in those circumstances after a third offence. However, that happens because it is sometimes easier for judges who are overworked to say that the legislature has said that six months is the target after the third offence, so that is what they will invoke, when it should maybe have been two years or a penitentiary sentence, especially if it involved organized crime.
At the end of the day, my friend from Scarborough may be right, we may see an increase in the number of people incarcerated for this theft but it is also possible that we will see a reduction in the amount of time that they spend in our provincial jails.
The member has a very good point, though, in that the government does not know. Its simplistic solution is that everything can be solved by a mandatory minimum penalty. It just throws it at the problem. It has absolutely no idea what the consequences will be of that provision. Will it dramatically increase the prison population? It is building all those jails to the tune of $9 billion and there was another announcement for more jail cells. For those crimes that are not being reported, so we cannot put those people in jail because they will never get to court, we can maybe increase the population here to justify spending that $9 billion. The bottom line is that the government does not know. It has absolutely no idea what the consequences will be of that mandatory minimum in this situation.
The other point of significant concern, which came out of the work done by the justice committee, is that the bill would empower, which is necessary and we are supportive of it, the Canada Border Services Agency to take additional investigative methods to deal with the illicit importing and exporting of mostly autos and auto parts. The CBSA does not have enough jurisdiction right now and it is the agency that is on the front line.
When that was explained to us as we heard the evidence on it, we understood the necessity of it, but what was corresponding to it was that there were no plans by the government to provide the additional resources. This will be a significantly increased workload for the Border Services Agency but there were no plans in the last two budgets to provide additional funding to that agency. I am sure we will hear again, when this issue comes before the justice committee, that the government still has not planned for it. By that, I mean doing a basic business plan. How much more will we need? How many additional staff will we need? How much more equipment and investigative tools will we need? The government has no idea of that at all.
We are seeing this in terms of complaints coming back from governments at the provincial and municipal level, where these additional burdens are being put on our police officers, our prosecutors and our judiciary with no additional resources being provided by the federal government.
In this regard specifically, this is a federal government agency and this responsibility is entirely ours. We do not have any analysis of how much it is going to cost, how many more people, how long it is going to take to get it fully staffed. Are funds going to be available to fully staff it, or are we going to dump this responsibility on the officers who will have no ability to carry it out because they are under-resourced? They are under-resourced now. If we had additional staff at the Windsor-Detroit border, we could be doing much more, for instance, in the illicit import of guns. There is no capacity to do it. Now these officers are going to be forced to do more work with no particular ability to carry it out.
I am not a great fan of making auto theft a separate offence, although there is nothing wrong with doing it. It just does not add anything to the front-line police officer who enforces the law.
I want to acknowledge the work we saw in Manitoba. It came up with a solid, practical solution that dramatically reduced auto theft rates, particularly in the city of Winnipeg. In 2007 Winnipeg was the auto theft capital of the country by a long shot, running at about 1,700 thefts a year. The next closest city was Abbotsford at just under 1,000. Montreal, which traditionally until about 2000-01 had been the auto theft capital in the country, was only at 550 thefts a year.
Those numbers have altered somewhat in the last two years, since the last study available from Juristat. Winnipeg has dropped dramatically. It is no longer the auto theft capital of the country. Abbotsford still is and Edmonton is right behind. Montreal is running fairly close.