Debates of Dec. 7th, 1998
House of Commons Hansard #167 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offence.
- Motion No. 300
- Criminal Code
- Appointment Of Commissioner Of Official Languages
- Special Import Measures Act
- Insurance Companies Act
- Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
- Professor Mohamed Elmasry
- Opera Ontario
- Natural Disasters
- Monique Sioui
- National Friendship Centres
- Violence Against Women
- Maria Mach
- The Late Alphonse Piché
- Reform Party
- Bernard Lord
- Boys And Girls Club Of Ontario
- Gun Control
- Apec Inquiry
- Prebudget Consultations
- Professional Sport
- Business Development Bank Of Canada
- Steel Industry
- 1999 Francophone Summit
- Canadian Human Rights Act
- Government Expenditures
- Parliament Hill
- Western Economic Diversification
- Parliament Buildings Renovations
- Employment Insurance
- Points Of Order
- Government Response To Petitions
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Citizenship Of Canada Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Points Of Order
- Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
- Corruption Of Foreign Public Officials Act
- Canada Customs And Revenue Agency Act
- Division No. 299
- Division No. 300
- Division No. 301
- Division No. 302
- Division No. 303
- Division No. 304
- National Defence Act
- Division No. 305
- Railway Safety Act
- Division No. 306
- Division No. 307
Motion No. 300
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker
I would like to inform the House that under the provisions of Standing Order 30 I am designating Tuesday, December 8, 1998, as a day fixed for the consideration of private member's Motion No. 300 standing in the order of precedence in the name of the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.
The other period provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business will run from 6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., after which the House will proceed to the adjournment motion, pursuant to Standing Order 38(8).
It being 11.07 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.
The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-219, an act to amend the Criminal Code (using or operating a stolen motor vehicle in the commission of an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Private Members' Business
December 7th, 1998 / 11:05 a.m.
Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-219. I know that justice issues are very important to my colleague from Wild Rose. This bill is simple. It is not rocket science. A person stealing a vehicle to rob a bank will be subject to a third offence of stealing a vehicle to commit another crime. That third offence will get an automatic one-year sentence added to the sentence for other offences.
We have already heard government members speak in opposition to this legislation. That is most unfortunate, but not really surprising. Once again this government sings the tune that it is in favour of safer streets and more secure communities, but when it gets down to the short strokes it typically fails to dance the dance and continues to maintain the status quo. Government members are quick to cite support from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police when they happen to be on the same page, but they invariably ignore these same chiefs when additional protections are sought. As mentioned by the member for Wild Rose, the chiefs themselves initially proposed this change to our law.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice claims that Canadians are already well served by common law principles of sentencing and current legislation.
Going back to my initial example, yes, there is an offence for stealing a motor vehicle and, yes, there is an offence for robbing a bank and, yes, a judge considers both the theft and the robbery at sentencing. However, we all know that multiple convictions virtually always draw concurrent sentences.
Bill C-219 impresses upon those judges that they are to proceed as always by imposing an appropriate sentence, but that they are then to add another year to the total. As part of their function they are to consider the wishes and instructions of parliament which, if it supports this bill, will serve notice to both potential offenders and the courts that the representatives of the people are seriously concerned with the theft of motor vehicles to commit other offences and we have decided to pronounce additional condemnation.
I will point out some of the justification for this proposal. According to Statistics Canada, some 178,580 vehicles were stolen in 1996. The rate of vehicle theft has been increasing for eight consecutive years, nearly doubling since 1988. In 1995-96 the cost of stolen vehicles and their components amounted to $600 million. That is $600 million a year for vehicle theft.
Both the solicitor general and the justice minister have received strong messages to introduce policy to reduce auto theft. The problem is not just with auto as in car theft; there has been a large increase in the number of trucks stolen in recent years given the tremendous increase in popularity of minivans and sport utility vehicles.
These statistics reveal the nature of the problem of auto theft in Canada. Of course not all stolen vehicles are subsequently involved in other crime. This legislation addresses the problem of the more professional criminal, those who steal a vehicle and then continue on to other criminal activities. Surely these individuals deserve extra attention.
One thing I have learned here is this government's resistance to change. It is most often quite content with the status quo. It only moves on crises. Another is its apparent policy of not permitting any individual member of this place to succeed in bringing forth change. As a member of the committee on justice and human rights, I continue to see this government through ministers and parliamentary secretaries being unwilling to support private member initiatives, especially those of the opposition. We can only hope that members of the government backbench will see the wisdom of Bill C-219.
Opposition to the bill appears to be based solely on the reliance on present laws to properly address the problem. If the present laws are doing the job, then why do we have this epidemic of motor vehicle theft? Why do we have a proliferation of anti-theft devices for vehicles? Why are manufacturers installing satellite tracking systems in many new vehicles? Why, when we walk on virtually any urban street in Canada, do we see a variety of locking bars on steering wheels or little red lights flickering on the dashboard indicating that an alarm system is armed?
The same holds true for vehicles parked on residential driveways and even private garages. Why, when we unwittingly brush against a car in a crowded parking lot, do we run the risk of setting off a chorus of sirens, whistles and klaxons? Obviously the present laws and the present judicial discretion concerning sentencing are not working.
I agree with the Progressive Conservative House leader who said that it would toughen the criminal sanctions for those individuals who use a stolen vehicle to assist in the commission of their criminal act.
In many instances the government has gone out of its way to protect the rights of criminals. It has been much slower to protect the security of the public. We all recognize the tax burden on citizens. We may not be so clear as to how, through increases in crime, citizens are expending an ever increasing proportion of steadily shrinking disposable income on protection devices.
I have already mentioned anti-threat devices on motor vehicles. Home security alarms are just another example of costs to citizens which can be equated to taxes because the expenditures are brought about by the government's failure to provide sufficient protection for properties.
The member for Wild Rose through his private member's bill is at least proposing a method to attempt to protect Canadians from not only motor vehicle theft, but in some cases serious injury or even death. He is merely asking for a consecutive sentence for those professional criminals who steal a vehicle in order to commit another crime. Surely this is a laudable and long overdue initiative. Surely its passage will cause some criminals to have second thoughts about stealing a vehicle to use in other crimes. Surely the sentence imposed through this proposal will act as a deterrent to others.
As I speak of this legislation I cannot help but compare it to another private member's bill which is presently before the justice committee. I refer to Bill C-251, which seeks to impose consecutive sentencing on those convicted of multiple murders or sexual assaults. We know that the vast majority of Canadians are in support of this initiative. I would seriously believe they would also be in support of consecutive sentencing for those who steal a motor vehicle in order to commit another crime. It only makes sense.
As the member for Wild Rose is fond of saying “We need more common sense in this place”. We need to impress upon those who consider making a career of crime that we intend to deal most seriously with their multiple offences.
Here are some numbers from my home city of Surrey, British Columbia. Corporal Greg Roche of the Surrey RCMP auto theft division provided me with statistics for January 1 to October 31 of this year. During that period 3,161 cars were stolen, 823 trucks, 75 motorcycles, and 62 other vehicles such as all terrain vehicles. That is a total of 4,121 stolen vehicles. If we exclude the motorcycles and others, we still have 3,984 cars and trucks in 309 days, or an average of nearly 13 vehicles each day. That is about one stolen vehicle for every 80 residents of Surrey.
About two years ago I was playing in a hockey tournament. My wife and I left the arena around midnight, about a half hour before my daughter left with a friend. Turning a corner, we saw a blaze of flashing emergency lights about five blocks ahead. The road was cordoned off two blocks from the scene but we could see a horrendous car wreck. My heart leaped into my throat because this was the route my daughter would have taken home. After an anxious few minutes spent taking a detour, we turned on to our street and saw her friend's car in our driveway.
The next morning I learned that police had called off a pursuit and parked their vehicles at the side of the road intending to stop a stolen vehicle headed their way. The thief sped past them with his lights out, laughing and flipping them the finger. He blew through a red light and T-boned a small car which was catapulted across the intersection and through a fence. A middle aged woman on her way home from a church meeting died on impact.
That was two blocks from my home and could just as easily have been my daughter and her friend. They had just pulled into the driveway when they heard the impact. The offender, in his early twenties, was well known to police for a long history of auto thefts and other crimes.
I encourage all members to support Bill C-219 and address just one facet of a problem that is epidemic and, in cases such as I have just described, tragic.
Private Members' Business
Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-219, an act to amend the Criminal Code, provides for amendments to Part IX of the code, Offences against Rights of Property.
The hon. member who is proposing this amendment suggests a new and indictable offence of using a stolen motor vehicle in the commission, attempted commission or flight following commission of an offence. Everyone who commits this indictable offence would be liable to imprisonment of a term of one year. The proposal also provides that the sentence imposed for this offence be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed in respect of a different offence.
The proposal does not, as the sponsor of the bill would have us believe, create a minimum jail sentence of one year when a stolen vehicle is used during the commission of a crime. The Criminal Code is very clear in stating that “no punishment is a minimum punishment unless it is declared to be a minimum punishment”. This is subsection 718.3(2). All that the proposal does is create a new indictable offence punishable by a maximum of one year.
The hon. member sponsoring the bill raises the issue of increased car thefts. He pointed out that 80% of the cars stolen are stolen for purposes of joy riding. I would like to point out the following.
There are already common law provisions under the Criminal Code with respect to theft, including theft of a motor vehicle, and to the related sentences.
Under section 334 of the Criminal Code, theft over $5,000 is an indictable offence carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years. Theft not exceeding $5,000 is considered an indictable offence with a maximum sentence of two years, or an offence punishable on summary conviction.
These provisions reflect parliament's recognition that theft of property is a serious offence. In addition, any court which imposes a sentence upon an individual convicted of any criminal offence is already obliged to take into account the circumstances surrounding the offence.
For example, the fact that a stolen vehicle was used in the commission of an offence will invariably be considered as an aggravating factor in sentencing. The conduct of utilizing a stolen vehicle in the commission or attempted commission of the offence will usually result in a harsher sentence.
The government supports the principle that those who use stolen motor vehicles in the commission, attempted commission or flight following commission of an offence ought to be punished. Moreover, in any case where the use of a stolen motor vehicle in a criminal offence endangers the lives or safety of others, the offender should be exposed to harsher penalties.
However our current system, revamped in 1996 through Bill C-41, the sentences reform act, already provides the necessary flexibility in effectively tailored sentences to circumstances such as the foregoing.
It is perplexing to me that the issue of consecutive sentences continues to be raised in the House by certain members including the member responsible for the bill being debated today. The government has already addressed the issue of consecutive sentences in its package of amendments to the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code which came into force in September 1996.
Subsection 718.3(4) of the Criminal Code currently provides judicial discretion to impose consecutive sentences, that is sentences served one after another, where appropriate, for example where the offender is already subject to a sentence of imprisonment or where the offender is convicted of more than one offence before the same court and several periods of incarceration are required.
However, this paragraph is subject to paragraph 718.2(c) of the Criminal Code, which provides that “where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh”. This is the sentencing principle known as the totality principle.
It has also been held that a second crime committed while in flight from a first crime should be subject to a consecutive sentence.
Further, jurisprudence has stated that where there are a number of different offences committed within a short period of time the offences should be grouped in categories and concurrent sentences imposed in respect of the offence in the same category but consecutive sentences for those imposed in respect of other categories, again bearing in mind that the total term should not be excessive. This is consistent with the sentencing process.
As all levels of courts have recognized, including the Supreme Court of Canada, the sentencing process is an individualized one. The court exercises discretion based on the particular facts of the case before it. The court tailors a sentence appropriate to the individual circumstances of the offences and the offender, after having taken into account such things as the aggravating and mitigating factors, the gravity of the offence, the degree of responsibility of the offender, and what sentences others have received for similar offences committed in similar circumstances.
In addition, parliament has enacted provisions which address the purpose, principles and objectives of sentencing which serve to guide and structure the court's exercise of its discretion. In particular, courts are instructed that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that include as their objectives the deterrents and denunciation of unlawful conduct. Courts have all the required tools to address this situation at the present time.
It should also be noted that while the problem of motor vehicle theft is international in scope, the recent international crime victimization survey conducted in 1996 revealed that Canada's rate of vehicle theft ranked as one of the lowest among industrialized countries. In 1995, 18 out of every 1,000 Canadian vehicle owners experienced a motor vehicle theft compared with a rate of 33 per 1,000 owners in England.
In addition, a number of non-statutory measures have been developed to prevent motor vehicle theft in Canada. These have been quoted as examples of reasons for needing more legislation but I think they are more appropriately alternatives to legislation.
Many police departments across the country have set up anti-theft programs involving visible stickers on car windows which signal to the police to stop the car when it is being driven between midnight and 6 a.m. and to check the driver's identification.
In addition, car parts are marked and there are measures against the exporting of stolen vehicles.
These crime prevention programs designed to reduce car theft, together with existing criminal code provisions, provide a comprehensive scheme for addressing the use of stolen motor vehicles to commit crimes.
What is more concerning is the constant occurrence during Private Members' Business of members proposing legislation based on the assumption that the criminal justice system is not working and that it is at a state where Canadians should be tremendously concerned about their public safety. Granted it may be because of demographic reasons, but for whatever reason Canadian society is becoming one that is less and less violent.
It does not serve the public interest well. Not only this member but members from all parties bring forward private members' bills based on the assumption that the criminal justice system is not working. That is a very misleading position for members to bring to the House. More study should be done as to the actual facts and statistics. Inasmuch as that may not be as politically expedient as the contrary, the public interest would be much better served.
Private Members' Business
Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address the House on private member's Bill C-219 as the justice critic for the New Democratic Party and, since it is a private member's bill, as an individual member of parliament from Cape Breton and Sydney—Victoria.
The bill seeks essentially to do two things, as has already been commented upon by the previous speaker from the government. It makes it an offence to use a stolen car in the commission of another offence. It provides for consecutive sentencing of a person for a maximum period of one year should the individual who has stolen the car be convicted.
It is an interesting piece of legislation. The hon. member for Wild Rose was well intentioned when he prepared and submitted the bill to the House. It says a number of things. It speaks to a concern that has been addressed by the member for Wild Rose and other members in the House about crime and how we deal with crime. As the hon. member prior to me indicated, it makes a provision for a maximum sentence of one year if a vehicle is used in the commission of an offence or while fleeing an offence.
The hon. member who spoke prior to me is correct, at least in my experience, when he says that if a vehicle used in the commission of an offence is a stolen vehicle it is an aggravating factor in sentencing. It does not detract from the private member's bill that has been introduced in the House by the member for Wild Rose. It is a reality. It needs to be said that in the commission of an offence, whether that offence is break and enter, robbery or whatever, if the offender has used a stolen vehicle it comes to the attention of the judge.
It comes to the attention of the judge in a number of ways. First, the prosecutor will bring it to the attention of the judge. Second, and in my experience of some years as a criminal lawyer, in most cases the individual will also be charged with theft over a certain amount in addition to the offence for which he or she has been convicted, as referred to by the hon. member. That in and of itself is another criminal offence.
There is also a specific offence under section 335 of the Criminal Code which says that subject to subsection 1.1 every one who without the consent of the owner takes a motor vehicle—and it goes on to define that—or is an occupant of a motor vehicle that is taken without the consent of the owner is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Sometimes it is helpful for people watching or listening to the debate, or those reading Hansard , to have an example because the Criminal Code is such a complicated document. I practised criminal law for some 14 years. It is a comprehensive and complicated piece of legislation.
Let us take the example of an individual who commits a break and enter with a stolen vehicle, not into a dwelling house but into a place of business. That offender would be charged under section 348 of the Criminal Code and would be subject, because it is not a dwelling house, under an indictable offence, to a term not exceeding 10 years.
If the member for Wild Rose has his way and his bill becomes law, the use of the stolen vehicle would add another year to that sentence. I do not think it would make a huge difference when one looks at the other sections of the code, which make it an offence to steal a vehicle in any event—
Private Members' Business
An hon. member
Who gets 10 years.
Private Members' Business
Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS
I am asked who gets 10 years. Again, sentencing is a complicated factor. Some people get five, some people get seven. Even if the offender were sentenced to a lesser amount—and I am not taking away from Bill C-219, I am just providing an example—it would add one additional year.
I have no great problem with that. I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing. I think it would bring home how wrong it is to use a stolen motor vehicle in the commission of an offence. It would add that one year penalty. I would submit that in most cases there would be an additional period of time in any event.
Therefore I have no problem with the bill. It seems to me that it is simply codifying what happens in common law, except—and this is one area that I think is worthy of some discussion and some thought—it makes it a mandatory consecutive sentence, as opposed to providing the judge with the discretion to make it concurrent. Even at that I have no great problem with the bill.
However, I do have a problem with some of the motivation. I only say this because it is an ongoing debate as to whether or not increased penalties prevent crime. I appreciate where the hon. member is coming from when he says that it will teach a lesson to those who decide to steal a car in order to commit a crime. For those very few offenders who do in a premeditated and calculated way determine that they are going to steal a vehicle to commit an offence it may in fact be a deterrent. However, the vast majority of individuals who come before the court because of the commission of a criminal offence rarely plan it. In fact, they say that is why most of them get caught. It is a spur of the moment, poorly thought out action.
It is a criminal action, nonetheless. It is a serious action, nonetheless. But the very real argument that there would be general deterrence or specific deterrence by saying “Listen, buddy, when you decide you are going to steal that car to commit an offence, you had better think twice because you are going to end up serving consecutive time for the commission of the offence”, that thought process does not happen. Nine times out of ten, I would venture to guess, the vast majority of stolen vehicles are stolen on impulse and they are stolen to commit another crime that happens on impulse. The reality is that offenders do not sit down to calculate how much time they might serve for the commission of an offence.
They know they are committing an offence which is why it is wrong. They ought to be punished for it. But if members of the House think they are going to be able affect the thought process of those who commit offences, it simply is not going to happen.
Rehabilitation is an aspect of sentencing that is rarely addressed by these kinds of bills. Rehabilitation is what happens to the offender after the commission of the offence. Hopefully it teaches them not to commit that offence by addressing the root causes of the offence. Rarely in the debates on these kinds of bills are the issues of rehabilitation addressed.
There was another bill mentioned by hon. members in this debate that had to do with consecutive sentencing. I have read the speeches on that bill given by the mover. It is a different bill, so I will not address it too long. However, nowhere in his comments in the House of Commons does the mover of that bill talk about rehabilitation. Until we address that problem, simply thinking that we can scare those who would offend by increasing sentences is simply not going to solve the problem. That being said, for the victim whose car is stolen, if they are seeking some kind of retribution, I suppose the one year sentence makes sense.
For the most part, the one year sentence, whether it be six months, eight months or a year, will be calculated by the judge in determining the sentence if a motor vehicle is used.
It is a worthwhile point of discussion. It is an interesting bill. It is motivated because the hon. member has heard from his constituents and chiefs of police who support it. As a lobby group, the chiefs of police come from a particular point of view, as do other lobby groups which try to effect bills.
Hon. members say that chiefs of police come from a lobby group that protects society. They do. The John Howard Society is a group that wants to protect society in a different way. The key for parliamentarians is not to be dictated to by either lobby group, but to find the balance that reflects the will of Canadians.
I thank the hon. member for introducing the bill. It has given us some thoughtful discussion.
Private Members' Business
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-219. I commend the member for Wild Rose for submitting this private member's bill. I believe it is required in our society to send a message to those who have a tendency or an intent to commit crimes, and in this case to do so with stolen vehicles. Therefore, I commend him for bringing it forward.
As a former police officer, I have to say that I can see a great deal of merit in this bill. I have had experience dealing with young offenders who are intent on breaking the law, stealing motor vehicles, taunting the police and recklessly driving without being chased just to get the attention of the police.
In the early part of my career I saw a number of minor motor vehicle thefts increase to up to a thousand a month in the city of Calgary alone. That was experienced in every city across this country. There was no deterrent sentencing. The young offender would laugh at the thought of even being caught in a stolen motor vehicle. They would deliberately commit some infraction and look for the police so they could taunt them into chasing them. That is a very harsh way of dealing with the freedoms of this country and the young offenders are not being treated accordingly by the courts to deter such criminal activity. There needs to be a deterrent. Bill C-219 is a step in the right direction.
Approximately 80% of the vehicles are recovered. Eighty per cent of vehicles are used for joy riding or crime and then they are dumped. In other words, they are recovered, but there is still a cost to the insurance company.
The other 20% are often used for things other than crime. They are often sent overseas. They are dismantled for parts. Or they become part of some other country's economy. It is unbelievable the number of stolen vehicles that leave this country to become part of another country's economy. All we have to do is go to either one of the coasts where there is a port and look at the container traffic. In those containers there may be two or three stolen vehicles. It is something that the police cannot get a handle on. They know it is happening in a substantial way, but they cannot get a handle on it because it requires extra resources.
I think anyone caught in a stolen vehicle, let alone committing another criminal offence, should have another year added to their sentence.
The member who spoke just before me mentioned sentencing for a break and enter. If a person was caught in a stolen vehicle and had just broken into a shop, that would certainly bring a sentence of 10 years. I do not know of anyone who received 10 years for breaking into a shop. I do not even know of anyone who got 10 years for breaking into a house, let alone breaking into a shop.
The judges already have the latitude to hit an offender with a substantial sentence, but they do not take that opportunity. It is like politicians. They have to be forced to do something. Most of the time they are forced to do something after their constituents get fed up with the way things have been going. In my respectful submission, this also applies to judges. They say they have to go back to case law where it tells them that they have to do this or do that.
Where on earth does case law come in when a person is charged with half a dozen car thefts and a few cases of break and enter? The court then decides it is not going to sentence the person for the six cases of break and enter or the six auto thefts, but that it will apply global sentencing which may amount to what they would get if they had stolen one car and broken into one shop. That is what is happening in our courts.
Provisions for minimum sentencing must be brought into law. If an offender is responsible for car theft, then he should get a minimum of one year.
In that regard, I believe this bill is suitable.
I remember a recent jailbreak from the Drumheller penitentiary where five inmates went on the lam. One inmate was responsible for killing a police officer. Another one was charged and convicted of manslaughter. Two others had been charged with robbery and the last one had been charged with break and enter.
They stole a car to get away from the prison. They drove it as far as Cochrane, which is about 100 miles outside of Drumheller, dumped it and stole another car. They then drove the second stolen car to Coquitlam in British Columbia where they decided to commit one armed robbery and one robbery.
They stole another car which they drove throughout southern British Columbia and then committed another armed robbery in the central part of British Columbia. Here are five inmates on the lam. What happens to them?
They should receive a one year sentence for every car they stole, not some global sentencing that throws it all together into one, which amounts to a few months more in prison. That is not what should happen, but that is what is happening in our courts and that is the way the authorities have handled it. I think it is time for change.
We have to put a screeching halt to what is going on right now by introducing minimum sentencing in our legislation that will change the minds of judges who think they have so much discretion or that they have to do what their predecessors have done, with maybe only one other ruling, and put an end to this whole aspect of global concurrent sentencing.
I believe the meeting in 1996 which involved the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police would welcome such a bill. They would now feel that they are finally getting some support from this House when they stand to speak. The police are charged with a very serious responsibility which is to protect society.
This is not the John Howard Society.
The John Howard Society plays a role but not for the rights of prisoners. Prisoners rights have gone far beyond what they should have gone. The chiefs of police have been shuffled off to the side. They are coming out and saying more and more loudly that they have a problem on our streets and they want some help. It is only the politicians that can actually correct this problem. They can bring in laws which will be much more demanding and place the responsibility on the shoulders of those who commit crime.
I urge members of the House to consider the merits of Bill C-219. I am confident that if they do so they will see the bill is a step in the right direction.
Private Members' Business
David Price Compton—Stanstead, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-219, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to using or operating a stolen motor vehicle in the commission of an offence.
Although my party and the Reform Party do not agree on the remedies in the justice system, we agree that there are many problems in our justice system. We agree that the Liberal government is not always there for Canadians to strengthen the Criminal Code and to toughen provisions when needed.
As mentioned by previous speakers, the bill would amend section 334 of the Criminal Code. The purpose of the amendment is to classify those found guilty of operating or using a motor vehicle which a person has stolen or knows to have been stolen while committing an indictable offence, during flight, or committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence.
The sentence for such an offence would be a term of imprisonment for one year. It would also require that the sentence be served consecutive to any other punishment if it arises out of the same set or series of events that contributed to the conviction of the first offence. All that is to say in plain language that there would be a greater emphasis placed on an offence committed when using a stolen vehicle.
Those who state there are already existing Criminal Code provisions which effectively address this problem are incorrect. The existing provisions may reference the problem it enforced, but the reality is that we need to put greater weight in the Criminal Code to deter those who use stolen vehicles to break the law.
I commend the hon. member's effort in this regard. I am supportive of the bill, as are all members of the Progressive Conservative caucus. It is a positive measure because it addresses two key areas in which there is a need for improvement to our Criminal Code. It would toughen criminal sanctions for individuals who have stolen vehicles to assist in the commission of their criminal acts.
This would be a welcome change because it punishes criminals additionally for the additional step they have taken, namely having stolen a vehicle to commit another offence. The use of a stolen vehicle is as much a crime as any other criminal act and it can be punished separately.
Another area of the intended amendment proposed ensures that the sentence imposed on the criminal, namely the driver, would be served consecutively. It is very much a truth in sentencing provision. For example, if someone is found guilty of an offence under this proposed provision the sentence would be cumulative. It would be served consecutively as opposed to concurrently. This would send a strong message to thousands of Canadians who lose their vehicles to theft or someone who would commit a robbery and forcefully take their vehicles. It would bring about greater accountability. It would certainly send that message to the criminal element.
Crimes involving personal property such as stolen vehicles are particularly offensive to the victims. People, for obvious reasons, attach a great deal of importance to their vehicle as a mode of transportation. When that vehicle is stolen and often damaged or never recovered, the person is generally inconvenienced. There is also that psychological feeling of invasion which people experience when their property is taken or damaged. It is similar to when a person's home is invaded.
We in the Progressive Conservative caucus feel that other amendments are needed to the Criminal Code to deal with crimes involving personal property. Last month my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough introduced Motion No. 515 which called for an amendment to the Criminal Code to include the offence of home invasions.
Progressive Conservatives also believe in a rigorous application of the principle of truth in sentencing. If someone commits a crime, he or she should be punished for that crime. That is why our caucus also supports the efforts of the member for Mississauga East in obtaining passage into law of Bill C-251. The purpose of the hon. member's bill is to amend the code to put greater emphasis on an existing offence. I believe this is positive. I would therefore hope that there is support for this bill which is votable.
We need to remember, however, that no matter how well intentioned legislation is it will go nowhere without the ability to implement and enforce it. I would therefore like to outline some concerns with respect to the government's persistent underfunding of law enforcement.
The justice minister and the solicitor general often state that public safety is a priority with the government. Instead of talking, the government could do a lot to demonstrate its commitment to public safety by supporting legislation such as the initiatives brought forward by the member for Wild Rose, the member for Mississauga East and the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.
Government should pay greater attention to what our police community is saying. Quite bluntly, police officers are getting the shaft from the Liberal government. According to the information revealed by the government's own organized crime summit in April, the national police service needs an additional $200 million over the next four years or it will functionally expire. That will have an impact on every part of the country.
We have already seen a situation evolve where large detachments of the RCMP are underfunded. Even worse, the force's overall budget for the fiscal year is $10 million short to date and the RCMP cadet program has been frozen for the rest of the year.
Sadly the government has for many months displayed a callous and reckless attitude in its approach toward fighting crime. This is a time when the Liberal government seems oblivious to the negative consequences of the government's disbanding of the ports police, as we saw in Halifax and Vancouver. We are also seeing an increasing amount of drug smuggling and illegal contraband material coming into Canada through out ports. Yet this decision was made and followed through against the wishes of many in the community who knew what the ramifications could be.
The solicitor general and the Liberal government decided to cut $74.1 million from the RCMP's organized crime budget for this fiscal year, according to the government's own estimate documents. That is not leadership in providing resources to our law enforcement community. That is a 13% cut in one fiscal year of overall dollars dedicated by the RCMP to fight organized crime.
The RCMP is not the only police force that feels the effects. Municipal and provincial police forces inevitably are forced to pick up the slack. More download. Many of these forces are already burdened by the abandonment of ports police and are struggling to fill the void left by the negative decisions of the government. The Liberal government should stop downloading its financial responsibilities to support young offenders programs and services on the backs of the provinces.
When the Young Offenders Act came into effect in 1984 the federal government guaranteed that it would assume 50% of the costs. Today the federal government only picks up 30% of that tax with the provinces and territories assuming the remaining 70%. Is it any wonder the Minister of Justice cannot get provinces onside to replace the Young Offenders Act?
While I support Bill C-219 I hope government members find the will to vote in favour of the bill. I reiterate the call for the government to stop its destructive policies with respect to our frontline police officers. Talk is cheap. The law enforcement community needs action.
Private Members' Business
John McKay Scarborough East, ON
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite on his initiative. I congratulate any member who has enough fortitude to put his thoughts in writing and to reduce them to a bill so that they can be debated in the House.
While many members opposite might evaluate the bill on a variety of criteria, I evaluate the bill on its merits rather than on its politics. I do not propose to rant about everything that is wrong in the criminal justice system or everything that appears to be wrong in the criminal justice system. I say at the outset that the bill has nothing to do with RCMP budgets, young offenders legislation or a number of other items that are continually raised.
I would like to direct the attention of the hon. members to the Bill C-219 which states:
Every one who, while committing an offence or while attempting to commit an offence or during flight after committing or attempting to commit an offence, operates or uses a motor vehicle that he has stolen or knows to have been stolen is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of one year.
The second section indicates that it will be a mandatory consecutive sentence. In and of itself it appears to be a good initiative. Were it to be taken in isolation, I would say it is a good initiative which deserves a lot of merit. That is on the presumption that the Criminal Code is silent about the issues addressed in the bill: the issues of auto theft, using a stolen vehicle in the commission of a crime, et cetera. My suggestion is that the Criminal Code is far from silent on these issues.
I direct the attention of hon. members to subsection 322(1) of the Criminal Code, entitled the theft section:
Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent,
(a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it;
That is the overall global section attributable to the particular issue the hon. member raises. The more specific section is offences resembling theft and addresses the issue of motor vehicles:
Every one who, without the consent of the owner, takes a motor vehicle or vessel with intent to drive, use, navigate or operate it or cause it to be driven, used, navigated or operated (or is an occupant of a motor vehicle or vessel knowing it was taken without the consent of the owner) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Then there is a subsection which I will not read to hon. members.
I caution hon. members that when one is in a criminal court dealing with issues such as this one, this is the kind of dry legalese that is dealt with by judges on each and every day. The judges have to make decisions as to particular sections of the offence, the most relevant of which is whether the individual took the motor vehicle with intent. I adopt the view of the member opposite, the justice critic, who said something to the effect that some offences were in large measure without intent whatsoever, that in fact the individuals are more pathetic than anything else.
The final section is with respect to how a judge arrives at a sentence. This deals with subsection (2) of the proposed bill. It is dealt with in section 718 of the Criminal Code:
The fundamental purposes of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:
(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;
(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;
Subsection (2) goes on to say:
A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:
(a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant, aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing.
If the Criminal Code were silent on this matter, then the hon. member opposite would have a good point. But the Criminal Code is not silent. The Criminal Code is in and of itself a perfectly adequate piece of legislation to deal with the offences being complained about. This is not to minimize or to suggest that the offences and concerns raised by the hon. member are not important concerns, nor is it to trivialize them or to consider them frivolous. On the contrary, these issues are of unique and considerable importance to Canadians and their justice system.
The manner by which the member attempts to accomplish his perceived goal is possibly naive. If anything it is counterproductive. If he expects this bill will reduce the incidence of auto crime I would suggest he is quite naive. A lot of auto crime or so-called joy riding is impulse crime. It is crime done with very little forethought by foolish people. If the hon. member thinks this bill will reduce the incidence of foolish people in our society, I would suggest that he explain himself a little more on that point.
The member needs to think again if he thinks consecutive sentencing is the be all and end all to all of our sentencing woes in Canada. The understanding among crown prosecutors, defence counsel and judges is that for any particular kind of offence there is a bit of a sentencing envelope. Within that sentencing envelope one will receive his or her sentence. That sentencing envelope is somewhat carefully crafted, with section 718 in mind, as the individual either pleads guilty or is found guilty before a judge.
When the judge hears the representations with respect to the sentencing, he or she takes into consideration all of the principles in section 718. There is the need to denounce the unlawful conduct, the need to create a safe society, the need to deter this kind of offence. Those are the kinds of principles that are taken into consideration within the sentencing envelope.
If the hon. member wishes to add a year, which is what a consecutive sentence is, I would suggest that on the other side something will get discounted because the offence will not stand in and of itself. The offence is contemplated to stand with other offences. The consequence will be that the actual offence may get discounted while the judge takes into consideration his obligation to impose a consecutive sentence. That is ultimately the flaw of the bill in its sentencing principle if intellectually you can get over the point itself.
While the hon. member addresses an issue that is of concern to Canadian society and to all of us, he does not do it through this bill. It removes all discretion from judges. The bill is not necessary. It is counterproductive and ultimately I would suggest it is quite naive.
Private Members' Business
Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB
Mr. Speaker, naive, I think not.
I would like to speak on behalf of victims. I have been a victim of vehicle theft, as have other members I am sure. I will relate my story and its outcome to show one of my difficulties in trying to understand how our legal system works.
It is noon. My company vehicle, filled with stock and equipment, is stolen. Not just the stock and equipment, but the vehicle to go with it. The police are called. After five hours and no action, I went out looking for the vehicle myself. Where did I find it? It drove right by me, right in front of my office. I found the vehicle myself. With a cell phone and modern communications I had the police there within minutes.
The point of this story is not that the vehicle or the stock and material were gone but it is about the person who did it. When he was captured and collared by the police he said “Whoa, three months, I need a rest, and I will be out of there”.
He stole a vehicle with some $10,000 worth of test equipment and expensive gear inside it and he was out running around peddling it. By the time I caught him, half of the equipment was gone. Besides doing that, he ran from the police, rammed a police car and two other vehicles and this individual is going to be out in three months. Why? Because we have a legal system that packages everything together.
I really think this is a perfect example for the bill from the member for Wild Rose. It is absolutely spot on. Give him one year—
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker
I must interrupt the hon. member. The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
Appointment Of Commissioner Of Official Languages
Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
That, in accordance with subsections 49(1) and 49(2) of the Act respecting the status and use of the official languages of Canada, Chapter O-3.01 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, this House approves the appointment of Dr. Dyane Adam as Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada for a term of seven years.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the House and all Canadians, I would like to convey to Dr. Victor Goldbloom, the present Commissioner of Official Languages, our gratitude for his many years of devoted service.
The job of Commissioner of Official Languages is an extremely important one. Parliament created this position in order to protect and promote one of Canada's distinguishing characteristics, its two official languages. The Commissioner of Official Languages is a special ombudsman reporting directly to the Parliament of Canada.
The commissioner's mandate consists in protecting and promoting the language rights of individuals and groups in Canada, and in monitoring the language performance of federal institutions and other bodies covered by the Official Languages Act.
The Commissioner investigates complaints and makes recommendations in order to ensure that Canadians' right to communicate with the institutions of the Government of Canada in either official language is respected.
It is also the commissioner's responsibility to inform Canadians about the Official Languages Act and his role within the Government of Canada, with a view to encouraging it to ensure that both of our official languages are respected, protected and promoted.
The role of the commissioner is clearly focused on people. The commissioner meets regularly with Canadians of all ages and conditions in every province, working with them to enhance respect for our two official languages. The commissioner also meets with officials from the various orders of government and individuals from the private, community and academic sectors.
The commissioner also plays an important role in assisting official language minority communities in developing and enhancing their vitality and obtaining the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution and by the Official Languages Act.
Dr. Dyane Adam clearly has the skills and the experience needed to perform the duties of this position well. She has played a vital role in the area of official languages for many years. She is familiar with the situation of official languages right across the country.
Dr. Adam was involved in founding a number of provincial and regional organizations and participated in a number of francophone and women's projects across Canada. Need I mention that she will, on her appointment, be the first women to occupy this prestigious position.
Dr. Adam helped found the Réseau de chercheures féministes de l'Ontario français and is a member of a number of organizations including the Regroupement des universités de la francophonie hors Québec. For three and a half years, she chaired the advisory committee on francophone affairs of the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training.
I am sure all members will agree with me that Dr. Adam has an impressive track record and is the ideal candidate with her vast knowledge and passionate interest in promoting the protecting the language rights of all Canadians.
This appointment takes effect in August 1999. Dr. Goldbloom has already agreed to assume an acting capacity, the details of which will be arranged in the next few days.
I encourage all members to support the motion to appoint Dr. Dyane Adam to the position of Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada.
Appointment Of Commissioner Of Official Languages
Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this motion for a number of reasons.
I had the pleasure to attend the official languages committee last week to which Mme Adam presented herself and made her qualifications open to the committee. I am really quite impressed. Over the number of years I have been interviewing people at all levels, professionals in particular, Dyane Adam was particularly well suited for the interview and the job. I was quite impressed with the way she handled herself through the interview. Indeed she was calm, cool and collected, which she may have to be in her new job.
My compliments go across the way. It is very unusual to hear that from me, however my colleagues on the other side have been open enough and secure enough in this day and age to put officers of the House of Commons, to put jobs and people before a committee where they can be interviewed. Originally when we talked about this process concerning the privacy commissioner and the information commissioner we said there was really nothing to fear but fear itself. We have gone through these interviews now and we have in fact found that the selection process works in a normal way.
In the case of Mme Adam, I think that had she not worked out in the interview, she would have known it and we would have known it and possibly we would have parted ways at that point. But the contrary did happen and she did rather well indeed.
The government does have the support of this party to have her appointed to the post of official languages commissioner.
While not new, the idea in the House of Commons where we talk about skills, abilities and qualifications as a first criterion for selecting people for jobs rather than who they know and what they did for the party and that sort of thing is the way to go. We do tend to get the best people for the jobs. Someday in the not too distant future we may see that same process for people who are on parole boards or on other commissions. I do not see that as unrealistic. Perhaps my colleagues are now getting the drift that the process we have established is quite a normal process. It happens in business every day.
My compliments to Dyane Adam on this job if she is appointed with the consent of the House. My compliments to my colleagues in the selection process. Although it is a majority government, my compliments to the Liberal government. We know it did not have to do this. It has gone through this process and it is here to stay. That speaks well of everybody.
Ms. Adam's resume is quite impressive. I know the government House leader has spoken on some things in it. I want to add a couple of things about her education. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, a masters in clinical psychology, a professional baccalaureate specializing in psychology and a bachelors degree with concentration in psychology, in and of itself enough to make most companies in the country wish they had somebody with those kinds of qualifications. A few members in the House could probably use a bit of psychology assistance from time to time. Perhaps we will call on her for things other than languages.
Some of her appointments include principal of Glendon College at York University, ministry of education and training, and Laurentian University. She had a private practice in psychology in Toronto, Sudbury and Cornwall. She was at the Cornwall general hospital and it goes on.
I do think the House of Commons has selected the best person for the job given the skills, abilities and qualifications. My compliments to everybody who was involved in the process.
Appointment Of Commissioner Of Official Languages
Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Mitis, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that the Bloc Quebecois supports the government's motion to appoint Dr. Dyane Adam as Commissioner of Official Languages.
In accepting this nomination, Dr. Adam will establish two precedents, becoming the first woman to hold this office and the first person from outside Quebec to be appointed Commissioner of Official Languages.
However, Dr. Adam knows both Quebec and Canada. Born in Ontario, she worked in various Quebec regions before returning to her home province, where she has applied her talents and competence to serving the francophone community with intelligence and sensitivity.
The next official languages commissioner knows that the Canadian Francophonie has many voices. At the Ontario consultation committee for francophone feminists, Dr. Adam unequivocally claimed the right of Franco-Ontarians to speak with many voices. In a paper presented at the seminar entitled “Visibles et partenaires”, Dr. Adam wrote:
This consultation committee is a forum that adheres as closely as possible to a feminist vision of society, where the principles of justice, equity and respect for the diversity of experience of all Franco-Ontarian women prevail.
Dr. Adam also distinguished herself by her vision and her involvement in the Franco-Ontarian distance education network.
This network, which has included Ontario's bilingual universities since 1994, is a consortium whose purpose is to provide education services in French, at the university level. Dr. Adam also worked in the areas of health and communications, always striving to better serve her fellow French speaking Ontarians.
The Bloc Quebecois is confident that this woman will recognize that there are two minorities in Canada, namely the francophone communities outside Quebec and the anglophone community in Quebec. These two minorities live in very different contexts and must be treated in a way that promotes their full development and growth.
In several texts that she has written, including the one on the challenges of post-secondary education in Ontario, Dr. Adam clearly identified the features of the Franco-Ontarian community: small percentage of the overall population, assimilation rate of 40%, scarce human and financial resources, isolation of francophone populations.
We could of course add more, but I am convinced that Dr. Adam, who is a former advisor with the Office of Franco-Ontarian Affairs, is well aware of the differences that exist between, for example, Ontario's francophone communities and Quebec's anglophone community.
The Bloc Quebecois supports Dr. Adam's appointment as official languages commissioner, because we believe her experience is a guarantee that she will recognize the fundamental differences between minority communities in Quebec and in Canada, and that these differences will be reflected in her studies and positions.
The Bloc Quebecois wishes good luck to Dr. Adam in her new responsibilities and offers her its co-operation for future endeavours.
We also take this opportunity to thank Dr. Goldbloom, for the work he has done over the past seven years.