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.

Topics

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague from Saint-Jean on his excellent presentation. I would simply like to ask him the following question: is it not the industry itself which, having profited from this system as it has, has caused us to issue guidelines today?

These days, some banks no longer have branches, and some people sell products without running a store. It is because of an entire industry that we no longer have corner branches. Every company has turned to the telephone.

In a way, that is what we want to defend against. We want to allow citizens who still want to do business with companies that have branches to have that option, instead of doing business with people who call them on the phone. It is one way of doing business. As my colleague was saying, we do not want to do harm to companies that carry on business relations with individuals. What we want to prevent is banks with no branches and stores with no buildings.

I would like to hear my colleague’s response on this question.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent comment. It has often been demonstrated that companies now will stop at nothing to ensure a profit for their shareholders. That includes closing down outlets.

Not for nothing is the Canadian Marketing Association in full change mode. That change is coming fast, because it has to address the disappearance of places of business. What is more, pressure is being placed on the poor telemarketers. I must say, that is an occupation that I would never want. I used to be a vacuum cleaner salesman, and I would visit customers to talk to them and try to sell them a product. The situation now, on the other hand, is that we are getting calls regularly, every day, to sell us vacuum cleaners, encyclopedias, etc.

With the closure of places of business, we are now in a marketing transition. Companies are putting pressure on their own telemarketers, who are paid for each sale. That is why they become so insistent. As a result, the government is obliged to legislate in this matter.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Jean, on his accurate and enlightened remarks on Bill C-37.

Naturally, like him, I am concerned about protecting my fellow citizens against telemarketing abuse. I agree with him on some of the exemptions that should be included in this bill on telemarketing, namely charities such as United Way and the Red Cross. It is important that they not be on the list that will be established.

I also share the concern of the hon. member for Saint-Jean about the abuse that has taken place in the management of the gun registry. We now know that this abuse has resulted in unconscionable costs in excess of $2 billion.

How does the hon. member for Saint-Jean suggest that the Liberal government avoid allocating excessive funding to the establishment of such a registry?

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say that our Liberal friends will have to pay the price for that soon, after the holidays. We are expecting a second report. People have had enough of the outrageous overspending on this kind of programs and registries.

That is why, earlier in my remarks, in reference to the registry per se, I indicated that it would be important that, as is often provided for in legislation, reports be presented to Parliament on a regular basis, every four months or semi-annually for example, as required, so as to know where things stand with the registry and how much it is costing. First, cost guidelines have to be established; then, Parliament would have to be satisfied that these need to be exceeded. The program must not be allowed to operate for one year or two before we realize, much to our astonishment, that it has cost $2 billion, instead of $2 million as originally planned.

My hon. colleague is right. After the gun registry boondoggle, Parliament will have to be vigilant and keep a close eye on the costs associated with this registry.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Telecommunications Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Bill, as amended, read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from October 21 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.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

October 24th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to express my support today for this important government bill, Bill C-64, aimed at combating the involvement of organized crime in the theft of motor vehicles by making it an offence to tamper with a VIN.

The bill was inspired by a private member's bill brought forward to Parliament by our late colleague, Chuck Cadman, namely Bill C-287. 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 give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.

It is proposed that anybody who commits this offence would be liable, if proceeded with by indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or would be liable to a summary conviction. By virtue of section 787 of the Criminal Code, those people convicted of a summary conviction offence where no specific penalty is provided face up to a maximum term of imprisonment of six months and/or a $2,000 fine.

As previously indicated, Bill C-64 was inspired by private member's Bill C-287. Bill C-287 would have made it an offence for anybody without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on the person, to alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle. Bill C-287 provided that if proceeded with by an indictment, an offender would face up to five years imprisonment. Furthermore, if proceeded with by summary conviction, the offender would face up to six months imprisonment and/or a $2,000 fine.

There are clearly similarities and differences between the current government bill and Bill C-287. Many members have indicated concern with the notable difference between the two bills. It has been significantly contentious in debate. I have listened with great interest to both points of view and would like to present my thoughts on the matter now.

First and foremost, Bill C-287 placed what is known as a persuasive burden on the accused to prove the existence of a lawful excuse for tampering with a VIN. Therefore the bill required the accused to prove on the balance of probabilities that he or she had a lawful excuse.

A foundational element of our criminal justice system is that an accused person will not be convicted of a criminal offence if he or she raise a reasonable doubt. Under Bill C-287, people accused of VIN tampering would face the prospect of a conviction even though they may have raised a considerable doubt as to their guilt. Therefore Bill C-287 and this reverse onus raises significant charter considerations.

Instead, Bill C-64 would require an accused to raise the defence of lawful excuse based on the usual tests in criminal law for raising a defence, namely the test of raising sufficient evidence on each element of the defence for it to be considered by the judge or the 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 as there is more likelihood that prosecutors will proceed on this VIN tampering charge to trial. In other words, it not only can be proclaimed but it can be applied as well.

I think all hon. members would agree that we want to ensure that the laws we pass in this place can and will be used for years to come.

In addition, Bill C-64 would require that the alteration, obliteration or removal of the vehicle identification number be done under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identity of the vehicle. This element was not included in Bill C-287.

The purpose of this element of Bill C-64 is to distance the offence from these people, such as legitimate auto wreckers or mechanics who may in the course of their work alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number. This consideration was made as it would be bad policy indeed to craft an offence under which a large group of legitimate workers might be caught under its scope.

I think all members would agree that the manner in which the government bill addresses this issue is sound.

Various key justice system stakeholders have called on the Government of Canada to enact an offence for VIN tampering.

First, the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, a multi-stakeholder group established in May 2000 representing stakeholders from mainly the police community and the insurance industry, released a subcommittee report in March 2003 entitled “Organized Vehicle Theft Rings”. This report, among other proposals, recommended the creation of a distinct VIN 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 identification number.

As well, in 2000 the Canadian Association of Police Boards passed a resolution calling on the federal government to enact legislation to combat theft in their communities which would include the creation of a Criminal Code offence for removing or obliterating a VIN number.

I am pleased to say that we have answered 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 rate of 100,000 people. My family and I are among that number, having had our vehicle stolen from our home last January. I share with many Canadians the feeling of violation and concern that comes with having a vehicle stolen from one's property.

I am pleased to note a slight decline in thefts since 2003 which in that year was 550 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people.

In order to compare certain provincial rates with the national rate, in 2004 the rate of motor vehicle thefts in B.C. was 889 per 100,000 and in Manitoba, it was 1,364 per 100,000. On the other end of the spectrum, Prince Edward Island had a rate of 187 per 100,000 and Ontario had 337 per 100,000.

Despite these variations in the rate of theft from province to province, this crime is still far too frequent in Canada. That is why, in addition to the current bill before the House, the Government of Canada is also committed to examining the issue of motor vehicle thefts 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 my home province of Nova Scotia, all ministers agreed to send the matter of Criminal Code amendments affecting the categorization of motor vehicle thefts and increased penalties for those who steal vehicles and drive recklessly to their senior officials for study and report. Therefore, FPT officials are now working collaboratively on assessing whether a separate indictable offence is needed under the Criminal Code for auto theft and whether the current penalties are suitable for the crime.

In assessing whether Bill C-64 would truly add an additional useful tool for law enforcement, I would outline the existing ways that motor vehicle theft and related offences are dealt with under the code.

The Criminal Code addresses the crime of motor vehicle theft predominately through its theft provisions. If an offender is convicted of theft over $5,000, he or she would be subject to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on indictment.

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 on indictment.

The offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, such as joyriding, is a straight summary conviction offence and therefore an offender faces a maximum six month term of imprisonment or a $2,000 fine or both when convicted.

As other speakers have noted before, the offence of possession of property obtained by crime is particularly relevant to those who engage in VIN tampering. Since there currently is no specific Criminal Code prohibition against VIN tampering, those who engage in this activity are often charged with the possession of property obtained by crime offence. The punishment for this offence, if the property is over $5,000, is 10 years imprisonment on indictment.

All too often those who commit motor vehicle theft flee from a lawful pursuit by a law enforcement personnel. In doing so, these offenders endanger the lives of not only themselves but innocent third parties, law enforcement and others. If no one is injured as a result of this flight, then the offender would face up to five years imprisonment. Although, in the event that bodily harm results from this activity, the offender faces up to 14 years imprisonment. Finally, if death results the offender faces a maximum term of life.

I think all hon. members would agree that these existing offences provide a wide range of tools and sanctions that would be complemented by the addition of a VIN tampering offence.

I am encouraged also by the recent changes brought forward by my colleague the Minister of Transport. These regulations regarding the mandatory installation of vehicle immobilization devices have been noted as leading to the significant reduction of motor vehicle theft, especially in the cases involving youth. I look forward to a time when all vehicles manufactured in Canada have these important anti-theft devices installed.

I suspect all hon. members can agree that the creation of a Criminal Code offence for the intentional alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number serves many purposes. Obviously it fills an existing gap in the Criminal Code in a meaningful way. It also provides a useful new tool for police and crown prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of organized vehicle thefts.

Finally, it responds to the calls of key justice system stakeholders to enact such an offence. At the same time it honours the commitment of our colleague, the late Chuck Cadman, to these and other justice system issues by bringing forward a legislative reform that was advanced by that honourable and distinguished member of the House.

Therefore, I join other members of the House in supporting this bill. I urge all members to do the same.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, whenever we talk about justice issues all we hear from the other side is talk about maximum sentences, and yet when we read the newspapers and when people see these crimes being committed, seldom is the maximum penalty imposed. I know from my own experience in Manitoba that automobile theft is at an all-time high, particularly in the city of Winnipeg.

The member said that changing some of the wording of Mr. Cadman's original presentation would prevent any problems being created with respect to autobody shops that have to change or alter the VINs. The first part of Mr. Cadman's bill stated that everyone commits an offence who wholly or partially alters, removes, or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse. Would an autobody shop that needs to make a necessary change not be covered? Would it not be operating with lawful excuse and therefore not be considered a part of the extension that has been added to this bill?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, there has been some sincere discussion on this bill. I think everybody in the House in general supports this bill in the spirit of our late colleague whom my colleague opposite knew very well.

I am not a lawyer, although dabbling in politics every now and then it has been a frequent accusation that has been levelled my way. I cannot speak to those specifics. I do think the essence of the difference between Mr. Cadman's bill and this bill is the onus of proof in this case is on the prosecution. That is really the basis of our criminal justice system, that the prosecution has to prove guilt.

This question has been asked a number of times and there has been a lot of discussion about it and I am sure we will hear more about it. I am certainly open to different points of view. This bill addresses what I believe to be the original intent of Mr. Cadman's bill, but it charter-proofs it. It also indicates that the onus of proof needs to be on the prosecution and not on the accused.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague and as I said off microphone, I think he should thank God that he is not a lawyer.

We have heard a lot of talk in this House in the last year about crime and punishment for crime. I have to say that this particular bill touches me very personally. It is not something I discuss very widely in public, but in my very early teens I was actually involved in joyriding. I have to think of myself at that time and the crimes and the punishments that we are suggesting and what would have happened in those days had penalties of this type been in place.

I would like to point out to my colleague, that I do not have the figures nationally or for the Atlantic provinces, but I do have the figures for Ontario. I have to point out here that the overall crime rate in Ontario reached a historic peak in the early 1990s at the end of the Mulroney era. As far as I can tell, the overall crime rate here has gone down in a most remarkable fashion every single year since.

Violent crimes in Ontario truly did. They reached the highest level on record in 1993, which is the year the Liberal government came into power. The rate has gone down, not every year, but every year except one since. The rate is now at a level which is close to a historic low. The same is true for crimes involving offensive weapons in Ontario. Crimes involving offensive weapons reached a peak in 1994 and have gone down every year since. There are similar figures for homicides.

I assume motor vehicles are property, and for property crimes we see the same thing. We see an all-time high in 1991 and never reached that again. Property crime has gone down to a historic low according to the last figures I have for 2002-03.

By the way, a lot of the lowering of the crimes has had to do with the prosperity we have created. It also has to do with reaching out to poor communities. I know it also has to do with changes to laws and our more restrictive control of guns and things of that type. Given these sorts of figures and given what has happened since 1993 in crime of all sorts, does a lot of the lowering of the crime rates has to do with the mood in our communities?

I know my colleague is very serious about this issue. I would like my colleague to address that aspect of property crime and remember that one of his colleagues did in fact participate in joyrides in his youth.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his honesty about past misdeeds. I must admit I was not quite as shocked as some might be, having gotten to know him in the past year.

I do think that it speaks to the issue of proportionality when he talks about joyriding versus the issue of organized criminals being involved in tampering, obliterating and violating vehicle identification numbers.

I mentioned my own case of being at home on a January night after my wife and I had just brought our child back from the hospital. He had sustained a small injury. We had parked the car in the garage. Then we woke up at 1:30 a.m. to the sound of the police knocking on our door to tell us that our vehicle had been found some distance away. Our personal experience is all that we could think about at that point in time and about the criminal justice system.

There have been a lot of improvements and the crime rate has in general gone down, as my hon. colleague mentioned. However, it does not in any way reduce the burden of ensuring that we continue to do everything we can. In a small way my family and I suffered a minor inconvenience. In a larger way there are people such as Jason MacCullough of my community who was murdered in 1999 and for whom the community had a walk against violence in his memory last week. Anyone who is a victim of crime is one too many.

We have made some progress in this country, but we are also sensitive to the fact that we must do more to protect Canadians. At the end of the day it is one of the things that they most solemnly look to their government to do on their behalf and we are doing it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the government across the way that there are over 170,000 vehicles stolen annually and that is what the bill is addressing. In the member's comments when he was talking about the onus of proof, if I understand it correctly, I would say that Mr. Cadman's bill put the onus on the person charged to explain why he or she had a vehicle with a stolen VIN.

To me that would be the obvious direction we would want to take. I would suggest that having the crown prove that a person caught with a stolen vehicle knows that it was stolen would simply lead to long, prolonged court cases. It would take forever to find out the truth, as opposed to when a person who is charged has to explain why he or she has a stolen vehicle. I would like the member to explain this to the House and to Canadians.

The member opposite wants to talk about process. We know the Liberal process is to delay, delay, delay and then it issues get out of jail free cards to everyone.

I would ask the member opposite if he would like to explain the difference between putting the onus on the person who is charged to defend why he or she has a vehicle with a stolen VIN and why he would want the crown to prove that a person caught with a stolen vehicle must prove that he or she knew that it was stolen?