Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act

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, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create offences in connection with the theft of a motor vehicle, the alteration, removal or obliteration of a vehicle identification number, the trafficking of property or proceeds obtained by crime and the possession of such property or proceeds for the purposes of trafficking, and to provide for an in rem prohibition of the importation or exportation of such property or proceeds.

Elsewhere

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

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
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Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

This bill has strong support from the government and the opposition parties, which just goes to show how important this bill is.

I will not discuss the bill in detail, since it has been thoroughly studied and I think it is time to move forward with this initiative and to give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to better deal with auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime.

In essence, this bill directly targets the very serious issue of property crimes and, more specifically, auto theft. The bill will add offences to the Criminal Code by creating a separate offence for motor vehicle theft, offences that provide for sanctions for trafficking in property obtained by crime, and also an offence for tampering with vehicle identification numbers.

Auto theft costs Canadians over $1 billion a year, and related cases of dangerous driving make Canadian roads unsafe. Furthermore, it is clear that auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime represent a huge source of revenue for organized crime groups.

With this bill, our government has taken measures to protect Canadians, their property and their communities. That is why I support this bill. I would like to conclude by thanking all the members of the House, including the members of the justice committee, for the work they have done on this important legislation, and I urge members to pass it as quickly as possible.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

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
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a slight disagreement with the member's initial analysis of why Manitoba has been able to achieve success. My colleague gives credit to city council, but in fact, it was the NDP government of Gary Doer that finally came to grips with the issue after 11 years of Conservative government inaction.

We started dealing with this issue when Gary Doer became premier in 1999. The issue was two-pronged. One part was the gang-suppression approach, which was initiated 100% by the province. The second part was the immobilizer program for vehicles. It was run by the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, which is controlled 100% by the province of Manitoba.

Officials from the province of Manitoba came here on September 13, 2007. The federal government did not go to Manitoba with suggestions for change. Manitoba officials came here and demanded that the federal government take action.

B.C. has a bait car program and other provinces have different initiatives.

The member should also know that it was the former Liberal government in July 2003 that mandated that anti-theft immobilizers be required after September 1, 2007 on all vehicles built for sale in Canada.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has indicated for years that if immobilizers had been put in at the factory 20 years ago, they could have been installed for $30 to $50 apiece, and we would have avoided much of the car theft carnage that has developed over the last 20 years.

I wonder if the member would like to make some comments on that. I also have a further question for him.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member was in the House when I gave my first speech on that topic, and I was careful to give credit to Doer, Chomiak, and Katz. It sounds like a law firm, but it is actually the premier, the minister of justice, and the mayor, who has now been returned to office. It is an old habit of mine to give credit to municipal politicians. I am an old municipal politician myself.

I met with some officials of the civic police force in Winnipeg. They were very interested in hunting down people committing auto theft, and they were helped by the provincial legislation on immobilizers. I thought I had covered that in my previous speech.

I am in total agreement with what the member says, particularly the part about the Liberal government and its amendments to the Criminal Code on interlock devices.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the delegation of the provincial government arrived in Ottawa in September 2007, as the member said, it included Attorney General Chomiak, the leader of the provincial Liberal Party, the leader of the opposition in Manitoba, and several people other with interest in this issue.

They were asking in 2007 that the government provide stronger penalties for youth involved in serious crimes, especially those involving auto theft. They wanted first degree murder charges for gang-related homicides. They wanted to eliminate the two-for-one remand credits that we are still dealing with. They wanted to classify auto theft as an indictable, violent offence. We are dealing with this today: making shooting at a building and drive-by shootings indictable offences.

This blows holes in the government's argument that the opposition is soft on crime. That is absolutely untrue. Some of these initiatives have come from the provinces, not from the federal government, so the government should be giving credit to the province of Manitoba for taking this initiative.

With respect to gang suppression, we looked at the immobilizer issue, because we thought that if we could immobilize the cars they could not be stolen in the first place. But that was only part of the problem. The other problem was identifying the 50-odd people who were stealing almost all of the cars. The police gang-suppression unit was formed, and officers monitored and followed these people. By the way, they used a bit of Nova Scotia technology in the process: they adopted a monitoring bracelet that was attached to the offenders' legs. They tested it for a year, and I believe it is still in use in Manitoba right now. But these are the reasons we have had a reduction in auto theft in Manitoba.

I am wondering why this has not spread across the country, why other jurisdictions have not adopted this reasonable approach. Our program to bring more immigrants into the province was very successful. Officials from the province of Nova Scotia came to Manitoba to study it, and I think they implemented it, because it was very successful. I am wondering why other provinces have not stepped up to the plate and followed Manitoba's example in this area, because this is a very serious problem, and it is going to take a number of years for it to resolve itself. I would like to ask the member if he has any further comments on these matters.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, provincial laws vary across the country and it is a matter of provinces being the masters of their own domain. Another example is the coming bill on the reporting of child Internet pornography. Some provinces have laws on the protection of children that are more powerful than the federal law that is coming.

We wondered why other provinces were not following suit. Certainly, it is incumbent upon the Minister of Justice, or one of the two parliamentary secretaries, or the department itself to talk to provinces about whether they wish to enter fields like child protection and auto theft.

I want to finish by saying that on the issue of mandatory minimums there ought not to be a divide. There ought to be a reasoned look at each offence to determine whether a mandatory minimum makes sense. In this case, it does. We agree that, after almost five years now, the Conservative government has learned to bring in reasonable measures. Perhaps Conservatives are actually listening to the people in the Department of Justice who have informed us about proportionality under section 718. We applaud them for listening after five years.

However, there are other opposition members who never, ever, believe in mandatory minimum sentences and insist that they have never been in the Criminal Code. Actually, they have been in the code for a long time. There is a bit of unruffling to do here with respect to how the NDP treats crime and how the Liberal Party, which first introduced mandatory minimums, treats crime. I guess it is like this: the NDP has never met a mandatory minimum sentence they liked, and the Conservatives have never met one they did not like. As usual, we are the balance for the big red tent, and we effect meaningful legislation.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed my colleague's speech. It was very erudite and pointed.

I would like to ask him a fairly simple and short question. The government talks a lot about crime and a lot of its bills are on crime, but if it really wants to reduce crime, one of the most effective ways to do that is to deal with the early learning years. From the prenatal stage to the first 10 years of a child's life, what the child is subjected to can dramatically change the trajectory of that child's life. Subject a child to abuse, poor nutrition, or poor parenting and there can be a poor outcome for the child.

Instead of abandoning early learning head start programs, should the government not be working with the provinces to implement this, which has been proven to reduce youth crime by over 50%?

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, in response to that question, I choose to render homage to my predecessor and a former colleague of my friend who asked the question, Claudette Bradshaw, who founded head start in the greater Moncton area, was the first minister responsible for homelessness, and obviously had a very keen interest in issues of early intervention.

It is where a new Liberal government will go, following in her footsteps, and hopefully soon, better than later.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

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
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise once again to speak to Bill S-9, as it is now called. I have spoken on this bill under other numbers in the past.

I listened very intently to all of the speeches this morning. I want to begin by pointing out that auto theft is something that has been with us for a number of years. It goes back to the 1970s, but I do not think it became a public issue until sometime in the 1980s.

Essentially there was a long delay. I think governments of all political stripes were asleep at the switch for a considerable amount of time, when in fact they could have moved a little earlier than they did.

It is comforting to know that auto theft numbers are dropping because of efforts made by various governments, for example, the Government of Manitoba and the government in Ottawa as well. It was in 2003 that the federal government announced that, effective September 1, 2007, all new cars sold in Canada would have to have immobilizers.

So if we do the calculations and recognize that the average car is on the road for perhaps 15 years, it will be around 2021 before the problem actually solves itself. I do not think we should have to wait that long for the problem to solve itself.

The fact of the matter is that the federal government, as far back as Brian Mulroney but certainly under the 13 years of Jean Chrétien and the Liberals, in any one of those years could have acted and could have enforced the requirement for the mandatory installation of immobilizers, which they did effective September 1, 2007.

Just so members know how effective these immobilizers are and can be, for example, the Ford Motor Company in its 1996 version of the Ford Windstar, on sale in the fall of 1995, the higher end models of those vehicles had factory-installed immobilizers. That was sort of the beginning of immobilizers in mass-produced cars. There may have been some around previously in higher end vehicles.

Gradually over time more and more of these immobilizers became factory-installed. There was an after-market product available to be installed, but there were some problems with them. I checked several years later with the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, perhaps as little as two or three years ago, and was told that no vehicle with a factory-installed immobilizer had been successfully stolen.

Now, they are damaged because the thieves break into the vehicles and, when they cannot steal the car, of course there is still resulting damage to the vehicle. At least they are not running away with the vehicle, taking a potentially lethal object out on the road and perhaps running somebody down or being involved in accidents with the vehicle.

We knew early on that this was a very solid solution to the problem. The question is, Why did the government not act? When I checked back a few years ago with the Insurance Bureau of Canada data and information, I was not surprised but I did read that there was information available that immobilizers could have been factory-installed in vehicles for as little as $30, I believe I read, but it could be a little more than that. It is not a significant expense.

The United States government could have enforced these and made them mandatory. The Canadian government could have done this.

When police started to report rising theft rates of automobiles, and statistics started to show that people were being injured and killed because of auto theft, it would have been prudent for the government to take this issue more seriously and attempt to nip the problem in the bud by forcing immobilizers to be installed at the factories. But that was not done.

In the 1990s, the Conservative government of Gary Filmon in Manitoba attempted to tackle the problem by several means. It did not get to the point of dealing with immobilizers. It was looking at things that, in the end, proved not to work. It planned to sue the offenders and hold off giving them their driver's licences.

Bear in mind that, at least in Manitoba, authorities had determined that level four offenders for car theft numbered around 50 people. In other words, 50 people were stealing most of the cars. The theory was that if we concentrated on those 50 people the numbers would be reduced.

Most of those 50 people were very young. Some were as young as 13 or 14 years old. Trying to sue them would be an impossibility. Holding their driver's licences back did not mean much to them. Making the parents responsible was another attempt by the Filmon government. It passed legislation holding the parents responsible for these kids.

In the end, I do not think the government was able to gain any significant restitution or result from these efforts. Nevertheless, it was an attempt to respond to the problem. The government of Manitoba was still not there in forming a gang suppression unit, immobilizers, or any of the best practices that seem to have helped to solve the problem.

When the NDP government of Gary Doer came into power in 1999, it had a lot of issues to deal with. It was not overly quick to deal with this one. I believe it was 2005 when the provincial government announced an immobilizer incentive program.

I remember that the government was planning to theft-proof 90% of Winnepeg vehicles within five years. The government was going to guarantee a price of $280, taxes included, for the purchase and installation of immobilizers that met Canadian standards. The customer had to pay $140, half the installation cost, to the insurance corporation, which was a government-owned corporation in Manitoba. The government provided interest-free loans and was going to give an insurance reduction of $40 annually.

Guess what? Almost nobody took up the program. After a while, six months to a year, we found that people were not participating.

Finally, the government decided it had had enough and mandated the installation of the immobilizers free of cost, which was $200. The government made it a requirement that immobilizers had to be installed before vehicle registration and insurance could be renewed, thereby ensuring that it was going to be done. Also, there was a reduction in insurance.

One would think that people would be lined up by the hundreds to get this done, given that this program was free and there was going to be an insurance reduction. But the reality is that people complained. People did not want to get their free immobilizers installed in their vehicles. They felt it was their right to drive around without the fear of their car being stolen.

There is this strange train of thought out there. Many people retain a more or less 1950s mentality, and think they should be able to leave their house doors and car doors unlocked and that no one should steal anything. These people are not dealing with reality. The majority of people realize that they are required to take some precautions and lock their vehicles and homes.

Thieves target certain models of cars. Since September 1, 2007, all new vehicles have factory-installed immobilizers. That means that during the last three years of vehicle production all cars had immobilizers installed at the factory.

Manitoba has taken vehicles methodically, group by group, and worked its way down from the highest-theft vehicles to the lowest. Over time, there is a smaller pool of vehicles available for theft. That has been reflected in lower automobile theft rates. Manitoba had an immediate reduction in the first year. The province had a long way to go, because it was the auto theft capital of Canada by quite a long shot. In fact, Manitoba was almost double the national average in auto theft.

The province had a lot of work to do, but it had a good base to start from. Auto theft was cut down substantially. Once, a couple of years ago, no thefts occurred during a 24-hour period. One day in a month a couple of years ago, Winnipeg actually had zero car thefts. Manitoba has started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This problem should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. When governments see a problem, they should be proactive, not reactive. The problem should be studied early on. We should have started studying this problem in the eighties to determine how best to solve it. Putting an immobilizer in a vehicle is a simple solution.

The other part of the approach was to set up a gang suppression unit with the police department, and that has worked very well. The police know who these level four offenders are. They are roughly 50 people. The police targeted these 50 people, and most of them are now in jail, where they are unable to steal cars.

A number of others who are out on bail wear a monitoring device obtained from Nova Scotia, where it evidently works well. There have been incidents of car thieves cutting off their ankle bracelets and escaping, but by and large it has been a decent program. Manitoba set up a pilot project for a year, and I believe it is still going on. So it appears that the pilot worked out okay and is achieving some results, in spite of the odd hiccup along the way.

Manitoba also looked at the bait car program, which is an interesting program that works in some parts of the United States. It also works well in B.C.

However, Manitoba, for one reason or another, decided not to proceed with the bait car program. It could be because we have very cold temperatures for a large part of the year. Vancouver has warmer temperatures to work with. However, to each his own. Evidently, the bait car program worked reasonably well in Vancouver, and that is fine if it is getting results.

The Manitoba government then decided to chase this tough on crime government for some action on crime. To that end, Premier Doer led a delegation to Ottawa on September 13, 2007, and he included in his delegation the attorney general, the opposition Conservative leader, the leader of the Liberal Party in Manitoba, and the mayors of Winnipeg and Brandon. He also included a number of other people.

The province's approach to reducing auto theft and youth crime focuses on four broad areas. One is prevention, with programs like lighthouses, friendship centres, and education pilot projects as well as initiatives like vehicle immobilizers. Another is intervention, with the highly successful turnabout program and intense supervision for repeat offenders. A third is suppression, with more targeted funding for police officers, corrections, and crown attorneys dealing with auto theft. The final area is consequences, which includes lifetime suspensions of driver's licences for repeat offenders.

In addition, the premier cited the success of provincial initiatives dealing with drinking and driving, which helped reduce related fatalities and injuries by 25% from 1999 to 2003. There were also changes that Manitoba was asking the federal government to make.

No other province, to my knowledge, was doing this at that time. The NDP government of Manitoba was actually getting tough on crime. It was coming to Ottawa to talk to the pretend tough on crime government, demanding that the federal government provide stronger penalties for youth involved in serious crimes, especially auto theft. The province wanted to allow first degree murder charges for gang-related homicides. It wanted to eliminate two-for-one remand credits, which the government, to its credit, is doing now. It wanted to classify auto theft as an indictable violent offence, and it wanted to make shooting at buildings and drive-by shootings indictable offences as well. In addition, Manitoba requested the federal government to examine the issue of drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test, with a view to strengthening existing laws.

I ask the member for Sudbury, my colleague, does that sound like a party and a government that is soft on crime? The Manitoba NDP government was asking for things that the tough on crime government here in Ottawa cannot seem to get done at all. It has accomplished only two of the five requests from the provincial government. It is clear that the government that is tough on crime is the NDP government of Manitoba. It is tough on crime, but it is also smart on crime, because it relies on best practices. We do not run off for whatever is politically popular at the time. We proceed with what works, what gets results.

I have explained to the member about immobilizers, how we were able to pilot that program and get drastic results in auto theft reduction. I also explained the gang-suppression unit, which isolated and identified those 50 people.

I have not started even one word of the notes I brought with me today. I am extremely disappointed about that, but I am sure that there will be questions.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

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
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a minority government situation and if it were not for the Prime Minister proroguing the House on two occasions and calling an election, this legislation probably would have been passed long ago.

If the Manitoba government had waited for the federal government to act, auto theft rates would be even higher than they are right now. I do not see where the government has provided a very strong initiative or played a strong role in this whole debate about auto theft.

When the member talks about penalties, I think the penalties will be more important for the criminal elements. I did not get to that in my speech, but a large component of this bill involves professional auto thieves who are stealing for profit. If we take a city like Toronto or Montreal, the police know the cars that are stolen and never get recovered. Those cars are torn part and the parts are sold and shipped out of the country.

However, in Winnipeg, it is a little different. Some of that is happening but most of the thefts are for joyriding and for the commission of crimes. The reason we know that is because 80% of stolen cars in Manitoba are recovered within 24 or 48 hours. I believe in Montreal only about 20% of stolen cars are recovered.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

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
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it has taken so long because the government, in the last few years, has gone through one needless election and two instances of proroguing the House which were both unnecessary. That is why these bills are having to be reintroduced and debated over and over.

I do want to observe that in Manitoba, now that we have the auto theft rates down, we are now finding that the thieves who are out there are, in some cases, commandeering taxis to get from point A to point B. We are in the process of solving one problem but we may now be creating another problem that needs a solution.

In fact, the Manitoba Taxicab Board is currently dealing with that whole issue of how it can install GPS systems and shields in the taxis, and deal with issues where people at 10 in the morning, and these are not only males but females too, are flagging down a taxi and commandeering it for a ride across the city. It is an issue that must be dealt with on a constant basis. We cannot just ignore it. However, we need to do what works and what is effective, as opposed to what gets us a bit of positive publicity at the end of the day.

As I indicated before, the government finally implemented the requirement that immobilizers had to be installed as of September 1, 2007 in all new vehicles in Manitoba. In fact, that was an edict of the former Liberal government from 2003. We can see how long it took. The Liberals announced it in 2003 and it took until 2007 to require the automobile manufacturers to install them in all the new vehicles. We missed four years there. This initiative could have been taken by the Chrétien government the day it came to office. It could have been taken by the Mulroney government before that. The Insurance Bureau of Canada indicated that it was only a $30 or $40 expense to install these in the factory.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

November 5th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few remarks about three aspects of the bill because I want to put on the record the fact that the House has considered and was aware of these things when we passed the bill.

I first want to say that my party and I are supporting the bill. It is quite true that the provisions of the bill have been in the legislative hopper for a number of years now, it being recognized that automobile theft was a significant economic crime here in Canada, but realizing, of course, that throughout the Criminal Code offence of theft and the offence of joyriding were already on the books and being used to enforce the problems of car theft.

However, some car theft rings now have turned this into a major international business, victimizing people in Canada and around the world. Therefore, it was necessary to take a broader and more comprehensive look at the issue of auto theft and this bill is the result.

One of the things I want to point out is the question of a shift of the burden of proof in relation to this offence. Most of us will understand that in the Criminal Code the burden is on the state to prove that the individual has committed a criminal offence and we do not criminalize somebody by saying, “Hey, Mr. Citizen, you prove you are not guilty”.

Clause 4 of the bill states that:

Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse...removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number....

That is saying that if people were to remove a vehicle identification number, it is a criminal offence unless they have a lawful excuse. What is a lawful excuse? I would have thought that people could simply say that they owned the automobile and that they were entitled to do with it whatever they would like to do in terms of how it is described, identified, painted or whatever.

I cannot recall another instance where in setting up a criminal offence we have shifted the burden to citizens to provide a lawful excuse before they are convicted. This might have read a lot better if it had said that it is an offence to obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number with fraudulent intent. That would have been more consistent with the way we currently operate under the Criminal Code.

I am not at all sure that shifting the burden is fair or constitutional, but I did want the House to know that the House and the committee had an opportunity to discuss this. It is not clear that we have an answer, but it has been noted and it will be for others to determine the appropriateness of that innovation where we place upon the person charged with the offence the burden of showing a lawful excuse for something that would otherwise be pretty normal.

The second thing concerns the definition of vehicle identification numbers. It states that it is:

...any number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing it from other similar motor vehicles.

My first reading of that led me to think that included a licence plate. On reading it and discussing it with other colleagues, they felt differently. I am not fully convinced but I did want the House to know that a “number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing it from other similar motor vehicles”, in the views of members but not me, does not include a licence plate.

So I will leave that resolved at least by the majority here in favour of the licence plate not being included in that definition.

Third, on the issue of mandatory minimum, the commercial for this offence says there is a mandatory minimum contained in the bill; and yes, there is. However, I want to point out that it is not in every third offence that a mandatory minimum will apply. That is because it is only where the third or subsequent offence is proceeded with by indictment that it involves a mandatory minimum sentence.

So there could be a third, fourth or fifth circumstance where, in the discretion of the crown attorney, the prosecutor, the Crown will not proceed by indictment, it will proceed by way of summary conviction, and therefore, by the wording of these new provisions, a mandatory minimum will not apply.

The last thing I want to point out is that there have been some references in the bill to the new automobile trafficking, export-import provisions of this bill. These trafficking provisions are actually quite important because they fill a void in the ability of the state to intercept, monitor, surveil and deal with the issue of exporting stolen cars, or even importing stolen cars. It is a lot tougher to import them.

We have referred to our enforcement mechanism as being the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA. I have to say that it is pretty easy to pass a new statute and say that we have an enforcement agency. In fact, the CBSA is not set up or resourced to be a border police agency. Maybe they should; maybe they should not.

It is a border service agency and its three functions are to do immigration processing and verification, food inspection, and tax collection, including dealing with smuggling. That is what CBSA was set up to deal with.

Yet we are passing a bill that seems to be suggesting that the CBSA will now have what would otherwise be police enforcement objectives and goals to accomplish. At the justice committee, we did not look at resourcing or the mandate of CBSA. This is part of a bigger issue involving CBSA. That agency is going to need some scrutiny and some help from the policy-makers to make sure it is properly resourced for all of the functions we expect it to do.

In this case I have a feeling that we are passing a law and saying to CBSA, “Over to you”, when CBSA does not do police work. They do CBSA work in the three categories I mentioned. I should add that they also process goods leaving Canada where there are restrictions placed on the processing, which is why these trafficking provisions in the bill will enable CBSA to play a role in interdicting the export of stolen Canadian automobiles.

The last thing I want to say is that this bill passes another amendment to the Criminal Code. There must be half dozen to a dozen of them in the pipeline. Most of us around this House should by now recognize that the biggest bang for our buck, the most effective tool in dealing with crime, is investigation and enforcement.

We cannot just get rid of a crime problem by passing a law. Even if we pass the law, while it manifests denunciation of these anti-social acts, we only get the guy after the offence has been committed, and then there is the arrest, the investigation, the prosecution, the sentencing, et cetera.

We as a society have to get out in front of these things, and that is why investigation and enforcement is so important. It is the key element of all the many elements involved in crime prevention and reduction of crime.