Debates of Oct. 21st, 2005
House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vehicle.
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The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code (vehicle identification number), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code dealing with the tampering or removal of vehicle identification numbers.
The bill has been referred to as being in the memory of Chuck Cadman. Chuck Cadman, as we know, presented a bill to the House after years of imploring the government to deal with the situations of tampering with vehicle ID numbers and the tremendously rising rate of auto thefts across Canada, particularly in the area of British Columbia where Mr. Cadman resided, which was the Surrey lower mainland area where car theft is rampant and has been for years. Mr. Cadman had been imploring the government to deal with this in a substantial way in respect of organized crime that has created these car theft rings. They steal cars and change the ID numbers or destroy them in some way so that they cannot be identified.
The way things are at present is that people who are in possession of vehicles that have tampered ID numbers can be charged with possession of goods obtained through a crime if the crown can prove that case. However the thing that has been missing in the Criminal Code is the crime of the act of changing a vehicle identification number or defacing it in some way that would benefit the criminal involved in the theft of the vehicle.
It is kind of confusing as to why this was not in the Criminal Code because the act of defacing or removing VIN numbers is in fact for criminal intent and not many other reasons, which is why Mr. Cadman was so anxious to get the government for some years to act on this.
Now the government has responded in somewhat of a fashion and has said that it is introducing Bill C-64 to respect the wishes of Mr. Cadman, who was a member in the House. However one has to question the government's sincerity because it has taken the wishes of Mr. Cadman and how he wanted this bill to be dealt with and made some additions to it, which, in effect, have dramatically watered down the original pleas of Mr. Cadman to deal with this.
What Mr. Cadman wanted to have is a bill that said, “Everyone commits an offence who, partially or wholly alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle ID number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse would be subject to an indictable offence”. The crown would have a relatively easy time of proving its case. When someone is charged and appears before the judge, the crown could give the evidence that the person was caught engaged in the act of removing one or more vehicle identification numbers and provide the evidence that he or she did it. Under the wording that Mr. Cadman originally had in his bill, that would be it. The crown's case would be fairly straightforward.
However, the Liberal government, in its wisdom, has altered the bill to make it easier for someone to get off the charge. Instead of the Crown now having to prove in a straightforward way that the people charged were engaged and had altered or defaced, wholly or in part, a vehicle identification number, the Liberals want to give the people charged, despite all the evidence that they did it, some wriggle room in the courtroom.
They want the Crown to prove that the people who took the ID number off the car, defaced it wholly or in part, did it because they wanted to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle. One has to ask, why would someone alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number unless they wanted to conceal the identity of the vehicle? It does not sound like a popular past time to me to just go around doing it for fun and I am sure that my colleagues, even on the Liberal side, would have to agree with me on that.
It defies even imagination why the government would want to add this piece of legislation to the original thought that Mr. Cadman had to arrest the proliferation of vehicle theft. Why would the government want to add this? Now the Crown has to prove that the people really did it because they wanted to conceal the identity.
By looking at the bill, one has to automatically conclude that this is the Liberals up to their old tricks again, of finding ways to keep criminals out of prison rather than to put them in prison for the crimes they commit.
The addition says, “—and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.” This addition adds considerably to the Crown's job of proving the offence. It gets away from something that is very straightforward. When people are caught with a vehicle that is not their's and it is proven that the people removed, or defaced wholly or in part the identity of the vehicle, that is straightforward. That is what Mr. Cadman wanted in his original pleas to the government to do something about auto theft.
The government has said it will do that, but it would add a loophole, so people charged can get out. As everyone knows in this country, Liberals have been and continue to be soft on crime and that is why we have the rate of crime in the country that we do. It is like a revolving door in our courtrooms because of the legislation that the government has passed. There are criminals charged with crimes, anywhere from vehicle theft and altering vehicle identification numbers to crimes like sexual abuse, murder and manslaughter. It is like a revolving door.
The criminals in this country have no fear of the courts because the government has continually adopted a no go to jail policy. It is not like Monopoly where people go to court and get proven guilty. It is like landing on go directly to jail. The government does not play that game. It has a no go to jail policy and its reasoning for all the years that I have been in this place, about 12 or 13 years now, is that we do not want to put in jail people in this country who commit serious crimes. We would rather, as we have seen in so many cases, give them a conditional sentence and put them under house arrest.
We just had one case referred to in this place yesterday. Someone was found guilty of sexual assault and rape of a minor. It was brought up in a question to the Minister of Justice. The person had received, if one can believe it, a two years less a day conditional sentence that allowed the person to be under house arrest.
Is that not something? Some eminent politician said, and I think he is in this chamber, that if a government cannot protect our children, then it has no right to claim to govern this country. The children of our country are the most vulnerable. If a government cannot protect them, then how can Canadians trust it to run this country? No truer words were ever spoken and I thank the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
This addition to Mr. Cadman's original intent of this bill is simply another example of how the Liberals have a habit, almost a thirst, to water down the Criminal Code, so that we do not have to put criminals in jail for the havoc they wreak on society. As I said, the government's excuse for that is that our jails are overcrowded. Our courtrooms are overcrowded and behind schedule in every respect. The government's answer to that is not to expand the court system, not to expand the prisons, but simply not put people in jail any more. That solves the problem.
That is the answer that the Liberal government has given to members of Parliament like myself for the last 12 years that I have been here. The Liberals want to solve the overcrowding conditions in our prisons. They want to solve the workload of our courts and our country. So, this is what they will do: they will just simply not put criminals in jail. They will make it easy for them to get out on bail, so, that will ease the burden on the court system. That is what this Liberal government has been all about.
Our official opposition justice critic said that the two bills tabled by the Liberal government, in fact, soften the impact of the proposed laws of the late Chuck Cadman. Mr. Cadman had been asking the government for many years in this place to implement legislation that would provide stiff penalties for the alteration or removal of vehicle identification numbers.
Chuck Cadman was a tireless fighter for the people of North Surrey and the lower mainland, and for the rights of victims of crime across the country. He believed in what he was doing because he saw that crime happening in his community on a firsthand basis. He was aware of the rapid increase in auto theft.
The lower mainland and the Fraser Valley, as we know, are the areas where auto theft has just expanded at an incredible rate. It is controlled by major crime now. It is costing somewhere around $600 million. A $600 million a year business, and a good portion of that is happening right in the lower mainland and the Fraser valley.
One of Mr. Cadman's priorities in the last number of years was to address the growing concern of the misuse of motor vehicles. Like many regions of Canada, Surrey faced an astronomical increase in the number of auto thefts, as well as an increase in death and injuries caused by the irresponsible use of motor vehicles on public roads. With the theft of vehicles, we are not just dealing with, and the Liberals know this, the fact that the vehicle was stolen and sold for parts or sold overseas on the black market.
However, in the commission of an auto theft, far too often we read in the newspapers that there has been a police chase. When a vehicle has been reported stolen, the police have a responsibility to apprehend the person who is driving it. Far too often we see a tragic result or end to the police attempt to apprehend people because the stolen vehicle has gone through a stop light or rammed another car with a death involved.
Let us give the police credit. They have implemented a number of rules that they operate by whereby they decide when to give up on that chase if they feel that the public is in danger. Even operating within those rules, we must understand that the people driving those stolen vehicles have no responsibility. They just want to get away. Far too often we see it resulting in an automobile accident that causes death and serious injury.
What do we do to curb the actual theft in the first place? Mr. Cadman seemed to think that if we implemented some legislation that made it a little tougher on the people who would steal a vehicle and remove the identification number, that might curtail the actual thought of stealing a car in the first place. There is almost no deterrent at all now. If somehow Mr. Cadman could have had his bill passed in the spirit of what was presented with the strictness of the bill, that would have produced a deterrent for people involved in the theft of vehicles.
The government has said that Bill C-64 was respectful of Mr. Cadman and his wishes, but it has been watered down so much it fails in so many ways to respect what Mr. Cadman wanted in a piece of legislation in the first place. The government continues to practice a policy of governing that is soft on crime and we see it again in this case. It practices a policy to leave even violent criminals out on the street rather than putting them away in jails and protecting society. The government believes that a holistic approach to crime is a better way of keeping our community safe.
I can assure everyone that we in the Conservative Party, as the next government of Canada, for the first time in 12 or 13 years, will take steps that will address crime and the criminals who commit crime in this country in a way that the government has abrogated its responsibility to do.
I cannot wait until I see the minister of justice from the Conservative Party stand in the House introducing real legislation to fight crime in this country instead of watered down mush that comes from the Liberal government. Criminals are laughing at the justice system in Canada and they are allowed to laugh because the Liberal government will not do the right things to address crime. The Conservative Party will do just that after the next election.
Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my hon. friend review the alleged differences between the private member's bill originally submitted by our late colleague, Mr. Chuck Cadman, and the bill that is here now. My friend describes the government bill as watered down. I want him to focus on that and explain to me how is it watered down? How is it his view that it is watered down because it was also the view of a previous speaker from the Conservatives, yet the penalty sections for this new offence are worded identically?
Therefore, if there is some issue here that I do not understand, hopefully the hon. member can correct this for the record. Because if he does not, it is quite possible that his colleagues are going to keep getting up and repeat something that the Conservative Party's research people have produced which, as is so often the case, is inaccurate.
Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC
Mr. Speaker, I just love it when Liberal members hand me gifts like that.
The member for Scarborough—Rouge River knows that Mr. Cadman's intention was that anyone who wholly or in part alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle ID number without lawful excuse is committing an offence, when it is proven that the person has done it, period. That is the offence. That makes it very easy for the crown in any court in this country to convict a person on the act of removing or defacing wholly or in part the VIN of a vehicle. That is the criminal offence Mr. Cadman wanted in his bill.
The government said that would make it too easy for any crown attorney to put someone in jail, so the government added “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. The crown now has to tell the judge that the case has been proven and the person charged did indeed destroy or remove the VIN.
Because the Liberal government added that obligation, it now has to be proven that the individual did it to hide the identity of the vehicle. More time will be needed because this addition in Bill C-64 to section 377.1 of the Criminal Code makes it necessary to prove the person did it because he wanted to hide the vehicle's identification. His lawyer could be right and say he was doing it just because it was fun. The crown has to prove that he really wanted to hide the vehicle's identification number.
That is the part of the bill that the Conservative Party has a problem with. The government has provided a loophole to people who destroy vehicle identification numbers on vehicles. I hope that is clear.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to let Canadians know that I share Prince George with my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George and we make a great team in representing that city.
I listened with great interest to his remarks about this bill, about justice issues in general and about the Liberals' soft on crime approach. I was reminded when I was listening to his remarks that the Liberals always seem to take a good idea and weaken it.
This legislation is a good idea, make no mistake about it, and we are supportive of the idea, but we are opposed because the Liberals have taken a good idea from an opposition member, in this case Chuck Cadman, and they have softened it and weakened it. The Liberals are more concerned about the rights of the criminal than the rights of the victim, whether it is someone who has had their car stolen, or someone who has been harmed and in some cases killed by a street racer, or whether it is someone who has been hurt, raped or murdered. The culprit always seems to get a conditional sentence.
This is something that I and parties I have been associated with have been concerned about ever since the Liberal government brought in conditional sentencing. The justice minister has now made a vague promise to study it and may change it at some point in the near future. I can assure Canadians watching the proceedings at home that when the Liberals change it, they will still leave legal loopholes for criminals to get away with murder.
My colleague from Prince George obviously has followed these justice issues with great interest and has spoken passionately about them over the last 12 years. I wonder if has noticed other areas where the government has left legal loopholes so lawyers can get their clients off without serving appropriate jail time.
Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC
Mr. Speaker, I only have a few minutes to respond to that question. I am sure we could have a four hour emergency debate on the loopholes that the government has left in the Criminal Code, or in many respects, deliberately put in the Criminal Code so that the outcome of the courts would be more appropriate to the Liberals' philosophy that criminals should not go to jail, but rather should serve time in the community so that they could commit more crimes.
Let me deal with the promise made by the Minister of Justice yesterday. After it was brought up that a child rapist was given a conditional sentence under house arrest, he promised he would fix that.
We only have one thing to say to Canadians, to the House and to the Liberals. The Liberals should hang their heads in shame when they think about this. How many promises since 1993 has the Liberal government made to Canadians time after time after time and how many promises have they broken? That is the response that we give to the Minister of Justice. He should not talk about it if he cannot do it.
The Liberals have talked about getting tough on crime so many times and they have not followed through. They came back with some mishmash watered down addition to the Criminal Code that really means nothing except that it will be easier for crooks to get off. That is what they do. They have broken every other promise they have made.
Before the last election the Prime Minister said, “I will fix health care in this country for a generation and I will do it within a year”. It came out a couple of days ago that one year after the Prime Minister made the promise to fix the waiting lists, the waiting time has improved by one day. Instead of 18 weeks, it is 18 weeks less a day. That is the improvement the Liberal government has made in the waiting lists for operations in this country.
The Liberals should be ashamed of themselves. They stand up and so self-righteously declare themselves as the saviours of public health care in this country. That is a joke and a fraud. Private health care in this country has never had such a rapid increase. Under that Liberal government with a Prime Minister who was the second most important person in the Liberal government for so many years, the Minister of Finance, who oversees all the money that goes into health care. It is phony. The Liberals' promises to fix health care are phony. They are now and they always have been.
The Liberals' promises to fix the justice system are phony. They always have been and they still are.
Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-64, a government bill aimed at combating the involvement of organized crime in the theft of motor vehicles by making it an offence to tamper with a vehicle identification number. I will simply refer to that as a VIN for the purposes of my remarks today.
This important bill was inspired, as has been mentioned earlier, by the late Chuck Cadman and a private member's bill brought forward by him, namely Bill C-287. Of course, while Mr. Cadman would not have claimed to be the originator of the thought, he certainly was the promoter of the initiative to make the act of changing the vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle a criminal offence.
In summary, Bill C-64 would make it an offence without lawful excuse to alter, obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle under circumstances that gave rise to an inference that this was done to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
It is proposed that anyone who commits this offence would be liable, if proceeded with by indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or would be prosecuted by a summary conviction procedure. By virtue of section 787 of the Criminal Code, people convicted under the summary conviction provisions can face up to a maximum term of six months or a $2,000 fine.
As previously indicated, Bill C-64 was inspired by the original private member's bill. That private member's bill would have made it an offence for anyone without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies upon the person, to alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number. That particular bill provided that if proceeded by way of indictment, the prison term would be five years maximum and if by summary conviction the similar six months' imprisonment or $2,000 fine.
Therefore, there are real similarities between this and the private member's bill. However, there are a couple of differences.
First and foremost, the private member's bill placed what is known as a persuasive burden on the accused person to prove the existence of a lawful excuse for tampering with a vehicle identification number. Therefore, that bill required an accused to prove on the balance of probabilities that they had a lawful excuse. That is called a shifting onus or shifting burden in the Criminal Code. We generally do not do it very much at all because it shifts the burden to the citizen to prove that he or she had the right to do what they did. That is not the way we generally prosecute our citizens.
There is a fundamental element in our criminal justice system that an accused person will not be convicted of a criminal offence if they raise a reasonable doubt. Therefore, under the private member's bill a person accused of VIN tampering would face the prospect of a conviction, even though they may have raised a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.
Therefore, Bill C-287 and the reverse onus provision raised significant charter and other criminal justice considerations.
Instead, the government bill, Bill C-64, borrowing very heavily on Mr. Cadman's bill, would require an accused to raise the defence of lawful excuse based on the usual test in criminal law for raising defences, namely, the test of raising sufficient evidence on each element of the defence for it to be considered by a judge or a jury.
By adopting an offence which would not on its face attract charter litigation, we are contributing to the utility of this offence as a prosecutorial tool. We understand now, after many years of the charter, that to place a real conspicuous charter issue into a new Criminal Code provision would place the Criminal Code at considerable risk as a prosecutorial tool with it facing considerable amount of litigation. I think all members would agree that we want to ensure that the laws we pass can and will be used with reasonable utility for years to come by prosecutors and police.
In addition, Bill C-64 would require that the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle ID number would be done under circumstances that would give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identify of the vehicle. This element was not included in Bill C-287.
The purpose of this element of the government bill is to distance the offence from those people such as legitimate auto wreckers or mechanics who may, in the course of their work, alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle ID number. This consideration was made as it would have been bad policy to craft an offence under which a large body of legitimate workers could have been caught under its scope, just on the straight wording of the section.
I think all members would agree that the manner in which the government bill addresses this issue is sound. I hope that is the case on this side of the House, but not on the other side.
Various key justice system stakeholders have called upon the Government of Canada to enact such an offence for vehicle ID tampering.
First, the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, which is a multi-stakeholder group established in May 2000 representing stakeholders mainly from police, community and the insurance industry groups, released a report in March 2003 entitled “Organized Vehicle Theft Rings”. This report, among other proposals, recommended the creation of a distinct vehicle identification number tampering offence in the Criminal Code.
In addition, in August 2003 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to create a Criminal Code offence specifically prohibiting the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle ID number.
Finally, the Canadian Association of Police Boards in 2000 passed a resolution calling upon the federal government to enact legislation to combat theft in their communities, which would include the creation of that type of Criminal Code offence.
I am pleased to say that we have answered all these calls with Bill C-64.
In 2004 there were nearly 170,000 motor vehicle thefts in Canada. This translates to a rate of roughly 530 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people. I am pleased to note a slight decline in the rate since 2003. In that year it was 550 vehicles per 100,000.
In order to compare certain provincial rates with the national rate, in 2004 the rate of motor vehicle theft in British Columbia was 889 per 100,000, a significant uptake. In Manitoba it was 1,364, a significant increase above that of the national average. On the other end of the spectrum, Prince Edward Island had a rate of 187 and Ontario was 337.
Despite these variations in the rate of theft from province to province, the crime is still all too frequent in Canada. That is why, in addition to the current bill before the House, the Government of Canada also is committed to examining the issue of motor vehicle theft more generally with our provincial and territorial partners.
In this regard, on January 25 at the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice meeting, as brought forward by Nova Scotia, all ministers agreed to send the matter of Criminal Code amendments affecting motor vehicle theft or organized motor vehicle theft, increased penalties and reckless driving to senior officials in each of the provinces for further study. Therefore, the federal-provincial-territorial officials are now working collaboratively on assessing whether a separate Criminal Code indictable offence is needed to deal with this category of auto theft and whether current penalties are appropriate.
In assessing whether the government bill would truly add an additional useful tool for our law enforcement, I should outline the existing ways that motor vehicle theft and related offences are dealt with under the code. I do this so we can see how relatively weak the current code provisions may appear.
The code addresses the crime of motor vehicle theft predominantly through its theft provisions. If offenders are convicted of theft over $5,000, they would be subject to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. In addition, those who engage in motor vehicle theft and related crimes are often charged with the offence of fraud. This offence carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment on indictment.
The offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, otherwise known as the joyriding offence, is a straight summary conviction offence. Therefore, an offender faces a maximum six month term of imprisonment or a fine of $2,000 or both once convicted.
As other speakers have noted before me, the offence of possession of property obtained by crime is particularly relevant to those who engage in vehicle identification number tampering. Since there is currently no Criminal Code provision against VIN tampering, those who engage in this activity are often charged with the possession of property offence. The punishment for that offence, if the property is valued over $5,000, is 10 years imprisonment on indictment.
All too often those who commit motor vehicle theft flee when approached by law enforcement. In doing so, these offenders, if they are driving when they flee, endanger the lives of innocent third parties, law enforcement officials and even themselves. If no one is injured as a result of such a flight, then the offender would face up to five years imprisonment. In the event that bodily harm results from that flight, the offender faces up to 14 years imprisonment. Finally, if death were to unfortunately result, the offender faces a maximum term of life imprisonment.
I think all members would agree that these existing offences provide a wide range of tools and sanctions, and will be complemented by the addition of a new VIN tampering offence. The broader issue is whether the code currently brings to bear sufficient focus on the whole range of auto theft and organized crime auto theft offences. The FPT officials who are working on this now will bring public policy focus there.
I also am encouraged by recent changes brought forward by my colleague, the Minister of Transport. New regulations regarding the mandatory installation of vehicle immobilization devices have been noted as leading to the significant reduction of motor vehicle theft, especially in cases of younger offenders. I look forward to a time when perhaps all vehicles manufactured in Canada will have these important anti-theft devices installed.
I think all hon. members can agree that the creation of a Criminal Code offence for intentional alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number can serve many purposes.
First, it fills a gap in the Criminal Code in a meaningful way. Second, it provides a new tool for police and crown prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of organized vehicle theft. Finally, it responds to the call of key justice system stakeholders to enact such an offence, while at the same time honouring the commitment of our colleague, the late Chuck Cadman, to those and other justice system issues by bringing forward a legislative reform that was advanced by the honourable and distinguished member who so sadly is no with us any longer.
I would therefore ask all members to join me in supporting this important Criminal Code amendment.
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-64, which will provide the police with an additional tool in the fight against networks active in the theft, appearance alteration and resale of motor vehicles. Those networks, too often, enable criminal organizations to finance other criminal activities.
It is important to recall that this bill was introduced by the Minister of Justice on September 28, 2005 and that it is identical, almost verbatim—still, not enough to satisfy my Conservative colleagues—to private member's Bill C-287 tabled on October 17, 2004, by the late Mr. Chuck Cadman, who, until his untimely passing, was the member for Surrey North.
As I indicated, this bill amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number, or VIN, on a motor vehicle. One of the means used by offenders to facilitate the theft, appearance alteration and resale of motor vehicles is VIN tampering. In fact, motor vehicle theft is endemic; it is becoming increasingly widespread. In 2004, approximately 170,000 vehicle thefts were reported in Canada. This is a very lucrative enterprise, one which often enables crime organizations to raise money to fund other criminal activities.
Therefore, by making it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle, it will be possible to lay charges more easily against the perpetrators of this crime. By making it an offence to alter a VIN, we have another tool with which to fight against the crime rings that steal, disguise and resell motor vehicles.
With specific regard to Bill C-64, every motor vehicle in Canada must have its own vehicle identification number. The VIN consists of letters and numbers, each representing a specific piece of information such as the make, category, model, year and manufacturer of that car. The VIN is affixed to various parts of each vehicle.
People who alter a vehicle identification number for the purposes of concealing a stolen car cannot currently be charged with a specific offence under the Criminal Code. The closest offence is the possession of property obtained by crime—section 354—which allows an individual to be charged with possession of a vehicle whose VIN has been altered. I want to read it quickly. Under subsection 354(1):
Every one commits an offence who has in his possession any property or thing or any proceeds of any property or thing knowing that all or part of the property or thing or of the proceeds was obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from
(a) the commission in Canada of an offence punishable by indictment; or
(b) an act or omission anywhere that, if it had occurred in Canada, would have constituted an offence punishable by indictment.
Subsection 354(2) states:
In proceedings in respect of an offence under subsection (1), evidence that a person has in his possession a motor vehicle the vehicle identification number of which has been wholly or partially removed or obliterated or a part of a motor vehicle being a part bearing a vehicle identification number that has been wholly or partially removed or obliterated is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the motor vehicle or part, as the case may be, was obtained, and that such person had the motor vehicle or part, as the case may be, in his possession knowing that it was obtained,
(a) by the commission in Canada of an offence punishable by indictment; or
(b) by an act or omission anywhere that, if it had occurred in Canada, would have constituted an offence punishable by indictment.
Until now, section 357 of the Criminal Code has been used to prosecute individuals found in possession of vehicles with an altered or obliterated VIN. The Criminal Code, however, does not at present include any offence regarding the alteration, obliteration or removal of a VIN. Bill C-64 will therefore remedy that shortcoming.
This new offence would be added after section 377 which deals with destruction, defacing, obliteration, or injury of documents. Anyone found guilty of this new offence would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. There would also be the option of proceeding by summary conviction with a maximum fine of $2,000, six months imprisonment, or both.
The wording on this new offence would be:
377.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “vehicle identification number” means any number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing the motor vehicle from other similar motor vehicles
(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1): (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB
Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member is probably concerned about the rate of crime, especially those committed by youth and gangs in Quebec. This is a serious problem right across the country when it comes to organized crime running away with vehicles, shipping them off to different parts of the world and selling them there at lower but still very good prices. It is a very lucrative business.
I wonder whether the member would have some comments on how effective, if this bill were to pass, it would be in curbing that kind of activity in his province.
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
Let us say that this is a good step forward because, at present, there is nothing in the Criminal Code to bring those who tamper with VINs to justice. As I indicated earlier, I do believe that the bill can be improved. However, as far as the principle is concerned, I think that passing Bill C-64 would be a step forward.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, in light of one of the concerns raised by the Conservative Party with regard to how the government has altered the requirement to prove intent for criminal activity in altering a vehicle identification number, would the Bloc Québécois be willing to support an amendment that would see the legislation returned to what Chuck Cadman had originally intended, which was to remove that section that we have highlighted as a problem area?
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, while it may be difficult to understand why exactly the identification numbers would be altered, I must say that, on the other hand, our judicial system still provides for the presumption of innocence. I would have to think things over before I could answer that question.
Statements By Members
Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON
Mr. Speaker, last week I had the distinct honour of travelling with the Minister of National Defence to Afghanistan to visit with many of the Canadian troops serving overseas at Camp Julian, Camp Mirage, as well as Camp Nathan Smith.
Spending Thanksgiving week among the Canadian men and women who are risking their lives to help the Afghan people rebuild their country and their lives was an experience I will never forget.
While in Kabul and Kandahar, I was reminded of just how dangerous life can be in that part of the world and how fortunate we are here in Canada to not have to face similar peril.
Our troops are doing a wonderful job and seeing the positive difference that they are making in Afghanistan made me extremely proud to be a Canadian.
On behalf of all hon. members, I would like to thank the Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan for their hard work and dedication, and pray for their safe return.
Statements By Members
Jim Gouk Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, in 1989 the government of the day ordered VIA Rail to sell its new tourism service known as the Rocky Mountaineer. VIA was already heavily subsidized and the government believed that the private sector rather than the taxpayers of Canada should take the risk of developing tourism business.
Now that the private sector purchaser, the Great Canadian Railtour Company, has invested millions of dollars of risk capital and successfully built the service into an internationally known B.C. success story, VIA wants back in and has plans to expand its Vancouver to Jasper service to cream off the business developed through private sector investment.
There is no honest business plan to justify this action by VIA. Its train make-up allows for up to 50 cars on its run but it averages less than half that. If there really were a passenger need, why would it not run more cars at a marginal cost increase instead of doubling their frequency and consequently doubling their cost?
VIA is a government operation and it is up to the government to order the heavily subsidized VIA to cease any consideration of expansion and competition with the unsubsidized B.C. company that invested the money and built the business.
Statements By Members
Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I inform the House of the passing of Ms. Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, on October 14.
The world has lost a dedicated champion in the cause of sustainable development. For more than three decades in her professional life, she brought intelligence, goodwill and persuasive skills to help advance the cause of the environment.
As executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change, Canada had the good fortune to work closely with her in the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal this year. Her spirit will be with us as we gather in Montreal and work collectively to seek a more inclusive global approach to combating climate change.
On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to express my sincere condolences to her immediate family and her colleagues at the UNFCCC Secretariat.