Debates of Oct. 24th, 2005
House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was border.
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Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the conviction of my colleague across the way, I should remind him that this is a government bill inspired by Mr. Cadman's bill. It is a government bill where the government is taking action to prevent crime, as we are also doing on street racing.
It is our goal as a government to ensure that we take the appropriate precautions to protect Canadians, but there are not many Canadians who would want their government to bring forward a bill that did not respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
An hon. member
It's a Liberal bill.
An hon. member
They kicked him out of their party.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)
I can hardly hear the answers, so I can imagine that the other members in the House cannot.
The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I do not get a chance to take part in question period too often, so I enjoy the opportunity for your intervention.
As I was saying, we do want to protect the rights of Canadians by bringing in justice bills that address the needs of Canadians. We brought one in on street racing and we are bringing this one in. We understand that Canadians need to be protected. We have made many improvements in reducing the crime rate over the last decade and we know that we can do more.
We also know that we are not going to do anything that violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I do not think Canadians want us to ignore due process as we go forward in improving this situation so that Canadians can live safely in their homes and on their streets.
October 24th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
Jeff Watson Essex, ON
Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted to do something truly good about protecting citizens, then Chuck Cadman would have been leading debate in the House on his own private member's bill and it would have sought unanimous consent to pass it at all stages so Canadians would have been protected. That would have been a fitting tribute while he was living. That is what it should have done in the House. Instead it brings forward a watered down bill.That is the worst argument I have ever heard over there, that it is somehow doing some on behalf of Canadians to protect them.
I rise on behalf of the people of Essex to speak to Bill C-64. I am here also with thoughts of my former seat mate, Chuck Cadman. I have to be honest, I miss him terribly.
Chuck's brought forward his private member's Bill C-287, on the alteration and obliteration of vehicle identification numbers, because there was no provision for the direct prosecution of a person engaged in the physical act of tampering with a vehicle identification number, a loophole that has been masterfully exploited by organized crime. Instead what we have is Bill C-64, a partial attempt by the Liberal government to address that loophole, which is insufficient.
Also, I am here to talk about what the Liberals have been falsely claiming as a fitting tribute and honour to the late Chuck Cadman, member of Parliament. The only fitting tribute to the memory of Chuck Cadman would be to take his private member's bill, ironically unaltered, and pass it in the House. Instead what we have is the Liberals trying to fulfill a promise they made to Chuck after he gave the government life in that crucial May 19 budget vote.
I was sitting in my seat next to Chuck after that vote. It was interesting to watch the long lineup of Liberal members of Parliament eager to shake Chuck's hand. I thought the most interesting moment of that whole night was when the justice minister was face to face with Chuck. If we can believe it, he looked him in the eyes and said that he did not know why Chuck came to this Parliament, but that he would do something about the issues that were important to him.
It is very interesting that our justice minister did not know that the reason Chuck Cadman came to the House for eight years was because of the death of his son and the fact that the criminal justice system did nothing about it. Shame on the government.
What has the government brought forward instead of bringing Chuck's bill forward and passing? We have a nice little add-on to the bill, and will read it. First I will read the words in Chuck Cadman's bill. It states that every one commits offence who, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse.
The government decided it wanted to make an ad-on to that. It states, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.
That is a substantial change from what Chuck wanted to achieve. Chuck's intention was that we would have a justice system that would get tough on criminals. He was a tireless crusader of rights for victims over the rights of criminals. Chuck's previous private member's bill on the issue put the onus of proof for lawful excuse on the person indicted, on the accused criminal. That tilts the balance in favour of the Crown on behalf of the victims of crime.
What the Liberals have done with Chuck Cadman's idea is change the onus now to put a double onus on the Crown.
It was Chuck Cadman's intention that someone caught with an altered vehicle identification number would have to explain themselves. It is not a great demand to put on somebody who is caught with a vehicle that has an altered VIN. If I were working at a wrecking yard and, as part of the normal process of business, removed a vehicle identification number, I would have a lawful excuse why that vehicle identification number was altered and removed. That would have sufficed under Chuck Cadman's bill. Now, the Crown, on behalf of the victims of crime, has to prove an additional burden that the vehicle identification number was altered or removed to conceal the identity of that vehicle. I can hear the criminal defence lawyers laughing already. Those are the people who the Liberals consulted, between talking to Chuck Cadman and bringing the bill forward.
I was thinking a little about lady justice earlier today. I think we all remember the lady justice symbol of her holding up the two scales, literally weighing the evidence, with a blindfold across her eyes to symbolize her impartiality in the weighing of that evidence.
Under the Liberals there is a new lady justice. Her arms are thrown up in the air in a show of helplessness as criminal after criminal gets soft treatment, or gets day passes to amusement parks or gets house arrest, while victims in our system get re-victimized.
This new lady justice has dropped the scales at her feet because the evidence seems to no longer matter. Witness a lot of the court decisions. The evidence suddenly does not matter any more. This new lady justice still has her blindfold on, not to reflect her impartiality any more but because she needs to shield her eyes from the injustices that are committed. This new lady justice has been brought on by 12 years of Liberals being soft on crime.
Let the numbers speak for themselves. Already this year there have been 64 murders in Toronto, 44 violent crimes committed with guns. The Liberals say that the gun registry that is supposed to protect people. It is their answer to everything, like Kyoto is their answer to everything in the environment. They have a gun registry to protect everybody. It has not. People are being gunned down in our streets.
James Caza has 42 convictions. He is roaming the interior of British Columbia. I am sure the people in British Columbia feel real safe these days.
Serial rapist Larry Fisher was surprised himself that he was let out of jail so quickly. While out on parole he raped and murdered.
Liberal Senator Larry Campbell wants a soft approach on hard drugs like crystal meth.
Legal counsel from the Liberal government testified before the justice committee that mandatory prison terms for criminals would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
A parole board handed out day passes to pedophiles to attend children's theme parks. I have four young kids. I will rethink how I spend my summers. Will we go to Canada's Wonderland? I have no idea who will be roaming around there and who will be a threat to my children.
This is wrong. Canadians should not have to restrict their freedom from operating in society because they do not know what criminals are lurking there, criminals that the Liberal justice system has let go.
The Liberal government opposed Bill C-215, a bill sponsored by my Conservative colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings, which proposed mandatory minimum sentences on indictable gun crimes. The bill has gained support from the victims of crimes and from those who enforce the laws in the land, our police. They know the bill makes sense, but the government does not support it.
The Supreme Court of Canada refused to consider the case of Dean Edmondson who was convicted of sexual assault for trying to have sex with a 12 year old girl. Instead of a prison term, he got house arrest.
It brings me to the obvious question. What is the Liberal priority? The Liberals want to solve overcrowding in our prisons. They want to solve our court backlogs, the mountain of cases that have clogged up our courts. They want to do it by making it easier to stay out of jail, even though these people wreak havoc on society. The Liberals want it to be easier to make bail. They want to make it easier for the courts to give the criminal house arrest and to give concurrent rather than consecutive sentences. God forbid if one were convicted of multiple violent crimes that one would have to serve sentence after sentence. Why not get a group discount? That is what the government approves.
The Liberal priority is to make it easier for a Liberal patronage appointee filled parole board to give day passes to fun parks to convicted pedophiles.
With Bill C-64, Liberal so-called justice means to get the handcuffs off the criminal and put them on our crown attorneys instead. That is what the bill proposes to do. Once again the Liberals are siding with the criminals. They are not standing up for victims of crime. They are siding with the criminals and the Liberal defence lawyers who donate to their election campaigns.
I think we all remember that Allan Rock was the Liberal justice minister for a time. He gave us the failed long gun registry on which the government has spent $2 billion. For what? It is not serving its purpose. It is allowing the criminals to continue wreaking havoc on society. It goes after law-abiding farmers and duck hunters instead.
Allan Rock gave us the Liberal policy of conditional sentencing with no direction to the courts as to which serious violent crimes should be exempted from the concept of conditional sentencing. What is the result? Liberal appointed judges rightly interpret that the Liberal government's desire is to let violent criminals get out of jail free. That is the Liberal priority.
Bill C-2, the Liberals so-called child pornography legislation, is sitting on the Prime Minister's desk. It has the legitimate use defence in it. It used to be called the artistic merit defence. We can dress it up, paint it up or call it whatever, but it is a loophole one could drive a truck through. It leaves our vulnerable children unprotected.
The Liberals voted against raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. That is not much to ask to protect our young adolescents. Instead, the government wants to keep it legal for a 40 or 50 year old man to have sex with a young adolescent.
I think it is clear that the Liberals are soft on crime in general and on vehicle crimes specifically. Our Conservative colleague, my seatmate, had his private member's bill, Bill C-293, a bill I spoke in support of in this House, a bill that proposed mandatory minimum sentences for vehicle theft.
The other so-called Cadman bill, Bill C-65, the companion to this legislation, dealing with street racing, does not honour Chuck. The Liberal government this time left out something very important from that legislation, which was the scale that Mr. Cadman had built into his bill of increasing punishment for repeat offenders. Apparently those who continue to threaten the safety of our communities get a discount for their anti-social choices.
Mr. Cadman was on a crusade for eight years to get tougher on criminals in crimes involving vehicles before his premature demise. During those eight years, seven were under Liberal majority governments, not a minority government like it currently is. The Liberals, if they were serious about vehicle identification number alteration, could have passed Chuck's bill quite easily. They could have rubber-stamped it post-haste. They had majorities for seven years in this House and instead they reserved the right to fast-track things for political pork-barrelling to Liberal cronies and friends. The talk of Liberal concern for Chuck Cadman's crusade is hollow, quite frankly.
The least the Liberals could have done this time around, if they truly wanted to honour Chuck's memory, would have been to bring forward his bill unaltered. I find it a curious irony that we are talking about altering vehicle identification numbers and yet the Liberals altered the bill of the late Chuck Cadman, an honourable and distinguished man, for their own political purposes. It is a moral crime, a crime against Chuck's memory, to allow the Liberal government to alter a good bill.
The Liberals can talk about Chuck's memory all they want but they are waxing poetic. They did not listen to Chuck Cadman at all. The loophole in Bill C-64 is proof of that. The Liberal government listened instead to Liberal defence lawyers and now defence lawyers and organized criminals will have a great time watching the crown frustratingly try to prosecute under this legislation.
I would contend that the Liberals, with their loophole in Bill C-64, have dishonoured the memory of Chuck Cadman. I do not say that lightly. I sat next to the man for my short time in this House and I spent my time getting to know him. He was one of the most decent men I have ever known, a good family man, a devoted husband and devoted father. He was not planning on being a member of Parliament. That was not his design, but he made it his crusade because he loved his son that much, to come here and ensure we had the laws and the direction to the courts that society wants criminals to be prosecuted to the fullest, that they should pay for their crimes, that Canadians should be protected and that they should not be revictimized in this process. Chuck was here to do that. I can say proudly that Conservatives have always stood for the principles in Chuck Cadman's original private member's bill.
Conservatives will continue standing up for safe streets, for healthy communities and on behalf of victims of crime and say, “No way”. The rights of Canadians should be respected in this country.
Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal
Madam Speaker, I have sat in this House for a long time and I have heard good speeches and bad speeches but that sort of fearmongering degrades the House of Commons. I do not think I have ever heard more false morality and more claim to principles in a more rambling, disjointed tirade since I came into this House. It truly is disgraceful. I find it disgraceful that a member so new would sink to those depths in connection with serious legislation and occasionally mention it in the context of Chuck Cadman and enfold Chuck Cadman in his arms. I do not know in what sort of world he lives but he certainly seems to be a very paranoid person.
I have the figures here for crimes committed in the last decade or more for the province of Ontario, my own province. They are not my statistics. I did not invent them and I did not see them in a newspaper. These are the statistics from Statistics Canada.
Our fearmongering friend over there is talking about our children not going to Canada's Wonderland in Ontario out of fear. He knows, or at least he should know, as he is a member of Parliament now and perhaps should remember that from time to time when he is posturing in this particular way, that the overall crime rate in the province of Ontario is at an all-time low. It reached a peak in the early 1990s and has gone down every year since and is now a fraction of what it was before.
This is not to say that there are not serious crimes going on out there. I am simply pointing out, if he looks at the figures, that serious crimes are down perhaps a third of what they were at their peak in the early 1990s when we first came in.
I regret the recent spate of handgun homicides in metropolitan Toronto. It is a terrible thing and it is something we have to deal with but I do not think it has to be dealt with through savage penalties, although they certainly should be the most severe penalties. We need to deal with those communities and do what we can about it. Nevertheless, homicide rates in Ontario reached the world record peak in 1991 and 1992 and have come down virtually every year since. They have gone up very slightly in the last year but they are still a fraction of what they were.
I mentioned property crimes earlier. They, too, are down.
Violent crimes in the province of Ontario, which reached a peak in the years 1991, 1992 and 1993, have come down every year since.
What about offensive weapons crimes. He talked about gun control. It is the same thing. At the beginning of 1994 offensive weapons crimes were at 75 per 100,000 and they are now down to 40 per 100,000 in the province of Ontario.
We should do everything we can to stop every offensive weapons crime. We should work with the communities and punish those involved but we should not go around telling our people and our children that our communities are more dangerous now than they were.
My colleague pretends, in this meandering rhetoric that he has, to having high principles. I represent a rural riding and I have had my problems with the gun registry, as many other people have. However his claim that the gun registry cost $2 billion is not just a lie, it is a big lie. It is something that absolutely cannot be proven. The cost of the gun registry is nothing like $2 billion. It is not even $1 billion. It is not even over $100 million.
Good gun control costs money over a period of 10 years. The registry costs nothing like that. I support expenditures on gun control in Canada so we can continue to bring crime rates down.
Our colleague should apologize for putting fear into the hearts of Ontario families and children by imagining a level of crime that simply does not exist.
Jeff Watson Essex, ON
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for taking six minutes out of the ten minute question and comment period. If he wanted to give a speech he should have waited his turn.
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is there any reason that I should not take six minutes out of a ten minute question and comment period?
The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)
I would like to inform the member that this is questions and comments. He can ask questions or make a comment and it is within the 10 minute purview.
Jeff Watson Essex, ON
Madam Speaker, I was just making a factual statement that six out of ten minutes were wasted on that question.
I do not need lectures on fearmongering from a Liberal government that has made election campaigns on fearmongering. Those members have made their reputation on that and that is what they have made their government on.
I have talked with senior citizens who are afraid to come out of their homes. He can quote any statistic he wants but the reality is that our senior citizens are afraid to come out of their homes at night and even in the daytime. Some of them are even afraid to stay in their homes because young people are breaking in and tying them up. It is happening in my communities. I am not here perpetuating some strange fearmongering. These people are afraid to come out of their homes. I have talked with young women who are afraid to walk the streets after dark.
He can quote whatever statistic he wants but the only reason crime is going down in this country is because of the demographic shift. The population is aging. Crime has not gone down as a result of Liberal policies to get tough on criminals. People are afraid to report crimes. What is the purpose of reporting a crime if the criminal is not going to do the time?
That is the kind of culture that is happening in our communities and the culture I am reflecting here when I talk about what is going on. The Liberals are soft on crime. They have had 12 years to solve this issue and a lot of other criminal justice issues but they have chosen not to and now they want to pontificate here. They want to come off like they are big shots but that does not wash with real people living in our real communities. The Liberals are living in a different Ottawa and in a different Canada than the people I have been talking about.
Marc Boulianne Mégantic—L'Érable, QC
Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the speech made by the hon. member for Essex, particularly where he talked about Chuck Cadman. I was Mr. Cadman's neighbour and we were even seatmates. The hon. member is right. I found it shameful to see what the Liberals did after the vote. Before the vote, they had not talked to him, they had not even saluted him, they had not even seen him when he would come and sit here. But after the vote, they came to see him crawling on all fours. They shook hands with him with a big smile on their faces. What a despicable display of subservience. I saw it, I was there. Mr. Cadman was shaking. They were all happy. Then, we left and it was over. So, the hon. member is right on this. It was shameful on the part of the Liberals.
I want to ask the hon. member if this bill reflects Mr. Cadman's memory, if it reflects the spirit of his legislation.
Jeff Watson Essex, ON
Madam Speaker, the bill does not embody the spirit of what Chuck Cadman was trying to do on this particular issue. It is a very different bill in a very significant way. The bill tilts the balance away from protecting the victims of crime and shifts it on to protecting those who perpetrate crime and who create victims in this country. That is not what Mr. Cadman intended. He was a tireless crusader on behalf of the victims of crime, not only in his community but coast to coast to coast.
If the Liberals really wanted to honour Mr. Cadman they simply would have reintroduced his private member's bill, left it alone and passed it in the House. We would have supported that bill in a heartbeat, as, I am sure would have other parties in honour of Chuck. The bill would have gone through the House and we could have had action on this issue instead of all the phoney rhetoric from that side of the House and the phoney promises from the government.
Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC
Madam Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to speak to Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code on vehicle identification numbers.
Auto theft is a Canadian problem. According to estimates, over 170,000 cars are stolen each and every year. The costs are also enormous, with auto theft costing Canadians over $600 million. Auto theft ends up costing everyone high insurance rates and facilitates other crimes such as elicit drug trafficking. As well, some people inadvertently buy stolen property, which ends up costing unsuspecting victims money.
Auto theft ends up empowering criminal organizations. Cars are cheap to steal and in British Columbia they are easy to transport because of our close proximity to the American border and the Vancouver port.
Criminal organizations are drawn to auto theft because of the enormous profit potential and the relatively low risk of detection. This is clearly a booming industry and the government needs to act before it gets even worse.
Auto theft does not just result in property loss. Vehicle theft contributes to over 56 deaths a year in Canada. In Surrey, the police videotaped one car thief in a bait car. The driver was on crystal meth, a drug the government continues to not take seriously despite the ruined lives.
This driver exhibited erratic and wild behaviour. He was screaming, flailing his arms and clearly not paying any attention to the road. He put his life and the lives of Surrey residents in danger. We are blessed that such a man did not kill anyone on the road that day. Unfortunately, 56 Canadians were not so lucky and paid the ultimate price as a result of vehicle theft.
Chuck Cadman originally decided to combat auto crime with his two private members' bills. It is too bad the Liberals do not.
Auto theft is a major problem in my riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells. Surrey has had the unfortunate title of being the auto theft capital of North America. Over 8,000 vehicles were stolen in 2003 alone. That is almost one in 50 people in Surrey who have a car stolen per year. At this rate, everyone in Surrey will have their car stolen once in their lifetime. While much work has been done by local and provincial governments to curb auto theft in Surrey, the federal government has lagged on this issue.
In Surrey, municipal and provincial governments instituted the bait program. Bait operates throughout the greater Vancouver area and has been credited with lowering auto crime in the lower mainland. Police officers, like the name suggests, bait criminals with cars that can be easily stolen. The police then arrest the car thieves by electronically shutting off the engines when the cars are at low speed or at a stop light.
In Victoria, the program has had great success, lowering auto theft by almost 36%. In Surrey, the program is credited to lowering auto theft by 13%. I would like to congratulate Surrey and the lower mainland cities for their own aggressive actions against car thieves. The same congratulations cannot be given to the federal government. It has been soft on auto crime and it continues to be so.
Currently, there is no law that makes altering, removing or destroying vehicle identification numbers illegal. This bill supposedly seeks to fill that legal void, but for reasons I will shortly explain does not. Bill C-64 is another one of the sham Cadman bills. Along with Bill C-65, today's bill is an insult to the legacy of Chuck Cadman. The Liberals did not support Mr. Cadman's private member's legislation when he was in the House as a Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative member. They have now cynically brought back legislation that may be similar in appearance but not similar in effect.
The Liberals in the past have tried to paint him as cruel and unsophisticated on the issue, saying that we need nuance in the law. Chuck understood the victims and understood criminals. Repeat offenders do not deserve the legal system's mercy. They deserve jail, so that good Canadians are not subjected to violent criminal actions.
Bill C-64 seeks to make it a criminal offence to alter or destroy vehicle identification numbers. Vehicle identification numbers are serial numbers placed throughout a car to identify it. It is a kind of car genetic code. Insurers and police use vehicle identification numbers to track cars that have been stolen and also to prevent stolen cars from being sold on the black market.
The idea behind vehicle identification numbers was to prevent thieves from easily reselling stolen property. Because vehicle identification numbers had to be registered with insurance companies, they could be cross-referenced with stolen vehicles. This essentially made it very difficult to resell stolen merchandise with the original vehicle identification number.
However, by altering or destroying vehicle identification numbers, thieves have found a way around the practice. It also makes stolen cars easier to transport across borders and through ports. Vehicle identification numbers would be effective if they were not easily destroyed.
In Chuck's original bill it read: “Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse”. However, the Liberals have now amended that clause to read: “—and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.
The Liberal amendment adds an additional burden of proof on prosecutors and law enforcement. Thanks to liberal judges, such clauses are routinely interpreted to establish a burden of proof on the prosecutor and have been used so in other circumstances.
We must be clear with what type of criminality we are dealing. We are not simply dealing with joyriding teenagers which is also problematic. Rather, we are dealing with sophisticated criminal organizations who know how to avoid the law at all costs. To think that criminal organizations and their lawyers will not exploit this loophole is naive at best.
Criminal organizations are becoming a problem all across Canada. Increasingly, they are also developing ties to international terrorist organizations. The nexus of crime, drugs and terrorism is seen in places like Afghanistan. To combat these groups we need tough laws that will actually act as a deterrent. Bill C-64 will not act as a deterrent. It will be very difficult to actually prosecute people under this law. Without jail time staring them in the face, these criminals will not be deterred.
I have grave issues with the Liberal amendment to Chuck's bill. It will undoubtedly prevent prosecutors from actually using the law. The high burdens of proof contained will provide an easy loophole for criminals, criminal organizations and their lawyers to exploit. Let us send a message to the criminals. Let us vote for Chuck's bills, not these Liberal fakes.
I am hoping that members from all parties will join with us in the Conservative Party in amending these bills to reflect Chuck's intentions. In that way members of the House can honour the true legacy of Chuck Cadman. The residents of Surrey, including those in my riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells, demand nothing less.
Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to take part in this debate.
We are in favour of Bill C-64, which amends the Criminal Code by creating the offence of altering, obliterating or removing a vehicle identification number. There was no such provision in the Criminal Code before. The bill now includes these offences, as follows:
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
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
We feel this bill represents a step forward by providing some means to combat this problem of auto theft, which exists all over the world. In 2004, nearly 170,000 vehicle thefts were reported in Canada.
My Conservative colleague who has just spoken feels that these sentences seem inadequate. I would like to hear what sort of sentences she would like to see in a bill like this.
Several speakers have indicated that this bill was not along the lines of what Mr. Cadman would have wanted. What teeth could we have added to improve it. Perhaps she could go into more detail on this.