House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organizations.

Topics

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to, bill read a third time and passed)

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

The bill is aimed at tackling the separate but related problems of auto theft and trafficking in stolen property and other property obtained by crime. The bill reintroduces offences for tampering with a vehicle identification number and for trafficking in property obtained by a crime, which was initially set out in Bill C-53, a bill that our government introduced in the 39th Parliament.

Bill C-26 also proposes a new distinct offence of theft of a motor vehicle, which is similar to the offence proposed in Bill C-343, a private member's bill introduced by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, which died on the order paper in the last Parliament. I would be remiss if I did not mention at this time the efforts of the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for his outstanding work on behalf of his constituents and for raising awareness of this serious issue.

Auto theft is one of the most pervasive forms of property crime in Canada. While there has been a downward trend in auto theft rates in the last decade, it stills remains one of the highest-volume offences in Canada. In its December 2008 report on motor vehicle theft, Statistics Canada reported that in 2007 approximately 146,000 motor vehicle thefts were reported to the police across Canada, averaging 400 thefts per day.

Motor vehicle theft has created a significant impact on owners, law enforcement and the insurance industry. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that auto theft costs Canadian more than $1 billion each year, including non-insured vehicle theft, policing, health care, legal costs and out-of-pocket costs such as insurance deductibles.

Motor vehicle theft also creates public safety concerns for Canadians, as stolen vehicles are often involved in police chases or dangerous driving, which can result in injury or death to innocent bystanders. Such was the case of the tragic death of Theresa McEvoy, a Nova Scotia educator and mother of three children who was killed on October 14, 2004, when her car was struck by a youth driving a stolen vehicle. Sadly, this is not a rare incident. A study carried out by the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft reported that in the period of 1999-2001, 81 people were killed as a result of auto theft and another 127 people were seriously injured.

The bill therefore proposes that a new offence of motor vehicle theft be added at section 333.1 of the Criminal Code. It is true that many offences in the Criminal Code already address motor vehicle theft, such as theft, fraud, joyriding, possession of property obtained by crime and flight from a police officer. However, the bill would create a distinct offence with an enhanced penalty for a third and subsequent conviction in the form of a mandatory minimum sentence of six months imprisonment.

The creation of this distinct offence is an important measure that will assist prosecutors. A problem currently facing the courts is that very often a prosecutor is unaware that the offender is a career car thief. Normally, the offender is simply charged with theft over $5,000 or possession of property over $5,000 and there is no indication on the available record as to the type of property that was stolen. The result is the prosecutor and the judge do not know if they are dealing with a prolific car thief or with a car thief involved with organized crime. The proposed distinct offence will help give the courts a clearer picture of the nature of the offender for bail hearings and when it comes time to impose a sentence.

In a report published in 2004, Statistics Canada estimated that roughly 20% of stolen cars were linked to organized crime activity. Organized crime groups participate in the trafficking of stolen autos in at least three ways. First, they operate chop shops, where stolen vehicles are disassembled and their parts are trafficked, often to unsuspecting customers. Second, organized crime is involved in the process of altering a car's legal identity through changing its vehicle identification number, commonly known as its VIN. Third, high-end, late-model luxury sedans and sport utility vehicles are exported from Canadian ports to far-off locations in areas such as Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

The bill takes serious steps to address organized crime's involvement in motor vehicle theft in a number of ways, including by the proposed creation of two new offences of general application that will target trafficking in property obtained by crime whether stolen property or property obtained by fraud or other crimes. Let me be clear, though. The scope of the proposed trafficking offences is comprehensive and will extend to all forms of trafficking and property obtained by crime, not just stolen autos.

To understand how the proposed offence of trafficking and property obtained by crime would help, consider what ultimately happens to personal property when it is stolen during a typical break and enter. Members in the House probably have constituents who can relate to the offence of break and enter. When thieves break into homes, the first thing they usually do with the goods is sell them to a fence, who buys them at a significant discount and then sells the stolen property at a profit, either to pawn shops, legitimate businesses or directly to customers who have ordered a specific item such as a high-end bicycle or electronics.

In the theft cycle it is the fence who provides the avenue to pursue the financial incentive that motivates the thief to commit the initial crime.

Another example of trafficking involves the stealing of vehicles to export or dismantle for parts. This is a lucrative business for organized crime and one that affects the legitimate retail industry. Stolen parts are easily fenced and often sold to unsuspecting customers or garages. It is far easier to traffic automotive parts than entire vehicles, especially when exporting by sea.

Selling automotive parts can also be more lucrative than selling an entire automobile because parts from cars older than five years old are often worth much more than the vehicle would be worth if it was sold as a whole.

Chop shops that disassemble stolen cars thrive in urban areas, especially those with easy access to ports. Canadian chop shops export automotive parts throughout the world.

Presently the general offence of possession of property obtained by crime in section 354 of our Criminal Code carries a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for property valued over $5,000. It is the principle Criminal Code offence that is used to address trafficking in property obtained by crime. There is no specific trafficking offence that adequately captures the full range of activities involved in trafficking, such as selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending or delivering stolen goods. The current theft and possession provisions also do not recognize organized crime involvement in these activities.

There is an organized nature to the activities involved in dealing in property obtained by crime. Take auto theft as an example. Chop shops often keep as little inventory as possible to avoid detection and to minimize the risk of multiple counts in the event of a raid. The offence of possession of property obtained by crime does not capture the fact that the chop shop operation processes far more motor vehicles than are normally seized during a raid. Additionally, the police often only charge the person who is in possession of the property at the time of the raid. In many cases none of the other players can be fully prosecuted during the existing theft or possession offences.

To more effectively address organized crime, including commercial auto theft, it is necessary to target all the middlemen, including the seller, the distributor, the person chopping the car, the transporter and the person arranging and organizing these transactions. This is also the case in regard to the trafficking of stolen property in general.

The proposed reforms in Bill C-26 will give law enforcement and prosecutors new tools to target those who participate in any part of the entire range of activities that are involved in the disposal of illegally obtained goods. To this end, it will make it an offence to traffic in or possess for the purpose of trafficking in property obtained by crime.

The proposed offences will be based on a wide definition of trafficking. It will include the selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending or delivering of goods or offering to do any of the above. As such this, new law will target all of the middlemen who move stolen property from the initial criminal act through to its sale to the ultimate consumer.

I should mention that there are victims at both ends of the spectrum, the individuals who have had their property stolen and the unsuspecting purchasers of goods obtained through the theft from innocent victims.

This government believes that serious crime should be appropriately punished. Accordingly the proposed trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking offences will have higher penalties than the existing possession offence in section 354 of the Criminal Code. If the value of the item trafficked exceeds $5,000, the maximum penalty will be 14 years imprisonment. If the value is less than $5,000, the matter will be a hybrid offence and will carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment on indictment or six months on summary conviction.

As noted, the movement of stolen property across Canada's international borders, especially automobiles, is a particular problem. However, at our ports now, Canada Border Services Agency officials cannot use their administrative powers under the Customs Act to stop suspected stolen vehicles from leaving our ports. In order for the CBSA to be able to bar the cross-border movement of property obtained by crime, goods must first be classified as prohibited goods for the purpose of importation or exportation.

No such classification is currently set out under federal law. If customs officials come across suspected stolen automobiles, they do not currently have the administrative authority to detain the shipment, or even to determine themselves whether the cars are stolen by accessing databases. They can, of course, refer clear cases of criminal activity to the police, but the application of administrative customs' powers would be far more effective in helping to interdict the export of stolen goods.

To address this concern, I am pleased to say that the bill proposes to supply the necessary express prohibition against the importation or exportation of property obtained by crime. This would trigger the administrative enforcement powers of the Canada Border Services Agency.

In the case of auto theft, for example, CBSA officers would be able to investigate, identify and detain imported vehicles or vehicles about to be exported, and to search databases to determine whether such vehicles were indeed stolen. These actions could ultimately produce evidence that would allow the police to conduct criminal investigations and lay criminal charges.

As I have mentioned, another one of the ways in which organized vehicle theft is facilitated involves disguising the identity of stolen vehicles. This process involves stripping the vehicle of all existing labels, plates and other markings bearing the true vehicle identification number, and then manufacturing replacement labels, plates and other markings bearing a false vehicle identification number obtained from imported or salvaged vehicles.

There is currently no offence in the Criminal Code that directly prohibits tampering with a vehicle identification number. Like trafficking, the current Criminal Code provision used to address VIN tampering is the general offence of possession of property obtained by crime.

The proposed amendment would make it an offence to wholly or partially alter, obliterate or remove a VIN on a motor vehicle. Under the new offence, anyone convicted of tampering with a vehicle identification number could face imprisonment for a term of up to five years on indictment, or punishment on summary conviction.

As of October 1, 2008, when Bill C-13 came into force, the general penalty for an offence punishable on summary conviction is now a fine of not more than $5,000, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. This would be an additional offence. A person could be charged with both the possession of property obtained by crime and the proposed VIN tampering offence, which could result in a longer sentence. In order to ensure that the proposed VIN tampering offence does not capture lawful behaviour such as automobile body repair, recycling and wrecking, the offence also includes an express exemption provision.

This government is serious about fighting crime, and this legislation is a strong measure to help law enforcement and prosecutors punish criminals who commit auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our Minister of Justice, who has carried the ball on a number of significant measures that tackle violent crime, gang crime, organized crime and motor vehicle theft. As he is fond of saying, we are just getting started.

There is so much more we can do, and we are doing that. This bill is a big part of protecting all Canadians from the offence of motor vehicle theft.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-26, which was formerly introduced as Bill C-53 in the last Parliament. That Parliament was stopped, so we did not get to consider that bill.

This is an act to amend the Criminal Code, specifically with respect to auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime. The theft of autos has become a very prolific business for organized crime in the country. I do not mean to pick on cities, but certainly with respect to Montreal and Winnipeg, we, at the justice committee, have heard time and again about the auto theft challenge for mayors.

Being a former mayor, I understand that complaints about the state of one's city come from the people to the mayors and councillors. It becomes a complaint that resonates through a city, and it can affect the image of a city. No city wants to be called the car theft capital of Canada or a province or a region.

Anything we can do through the Criminal Code, through provincial regulations, through public safety programs, public education programs is important. Initiatives as simple as telling people to lock their cars or not to park their cars in certain areas have started at the municipal level. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has addressed the issue that is so rampant in some of its member cities with respect to how to prevent auto theft, how to avoid the occasion of auto theft.

At the other end, organized crime has made it a business. It has become the Fortune 500, so to speak, of stealing autos in larger centres.

In the middle, all we can do in Parliament is review legislation with a view to making the situation more tolerable in our large cities, and indeed throughout the country, with respect to auto theft. That is one part of this bill.

I would like to say that the Conservatives are learning; they are getting a little better. The parliamentary secretary said such nice things about the Minister of Justice. I would not want that to go to their heads. The fact is that Bill C-53, which when introduced was virtually going to end auto theft according to the Conservatives, has now been changed in this bill, Bill C-26, and it is a separate offence in the Criminal Code in order to deal with auto theft. The Conservatives made it a separate offence, which is a good thing. We applaud that. We will be supporting it.

However, I think it is important for members of the House and the public to know that despite all the rhetoric that appears on CTV, CBC, and all the other networks across this country, from the spokespeople of the Conservative Party, we cannot do everything from this Parliament. It is not possible.

What is possible is to work well with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It is not to make enemies of mayors and councillors, which the government has done so often, but to work in harmony with all levels of government to make auto theft a priority--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but of course the time demands it. There will be 16 minutes and a bit remaining in the time allotted for his remarks once the debate resumes.

The hon. government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been negotiations between all parties and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, the notice period for a Take Note Debate be waived in order to allow for a take note debate tonight that would take note that the seal hunt is a humane and legitimate economic pursuit, and that the European Parliament's recent decision to ban the importation of seal products is misinformed, inflammatory, counterproductive, and should be rejected.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

The member for Hull—Aylmer on a point of order.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, could you delay the vote a little so we can obtain a final, word-for-word copy of the motion? In that way we will be able to make an enlightened decision.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The member is asking that the vote be postponed to later, perhaps around 2:15 p.m.

Snowbirds
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, May 1, I was fortunate to witness the Snowbirds demonstration team, Squadron 431, performing their acceptance show at 15 Wing Moose Jaw. The next day I was able to see them perform again in celebrations for Canadian Forces Day.

Spectacular. Amazing. Unbelievable. I am not sure that any of these words are strong enough to describe the performance of the Canadian Snowbirds. The show is truly a ballet in the sky, and the skill and expertise of the pilots is something to behold.

The Snowbirds are a Canadian icon. They showcase our armed forces throughout North America in a unique and exciting way. They are ambassadors as well as entertainers.

I encourage all of my colleagues and all Canadians to take in a Snowbirds show. Their schedule can be found on website snowbirds.forces.gc.ca.

I ask all members to join me today in wishing the Snowbirds a great 2009 show season.

Bracelet of Hope
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask the House to join me in congratulating Bracelet of Hope, a humanitarian initiative which began in Guelph. Bracelet of Hope is the idea of local physician, Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, and is raising money to support an HIV-AIDS clinic in Lesotho in Southern Africa.

This group raises money by selling bracelets of hope, one of which I have been wearing for several years, successfully raising $1 million to date. The idea has spread around southwestern Ontario as the organizers work toward seeing a bracelet on the wrist of every Canadian.

I invite hon. members to visit braceleteofhope.ca to learn more about this worthwhile initiative.

I ask the House to join me in thanking everyone who has worked on the Bracelet of Hope campaign to help put an end to AIDS in this African country.

This is the kind of news that makes me proud to be a Canadian and very proud to be from Guelph.

The Outaouais Wild Ball Hockey Team
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Outaouais Wild, a ball hockey team representing a Gatineau mental health centre called Centre Inter-Section, has come back to the region with a gold medal from a sporting event held in Montreal from April 29 to May 3, the Défi sportif.

This international event is the only one of its kind in the world, and brings together more than 3,000 mentally challenged athletes representing about fifteen countries and thirteen different sports disciplines.

In its eighth appearance at these games, the Gatineau team beat the Montreal Échelon in the finals.

The Bloc Québécois joins with me in congratulating all of the winning ball hockey team, as well as the centre they represent, Centre Inter-Section.

Pensions
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Iroquois Falls paper mill has been the jewel in the crown of Abitibi for 100 years. Even as AbitibiBowater totters under bankruptcy protection, this mill continues to turn a profit.

Yet, retirees who have spent their entire lives paying into the pension fund are now finding that their pensions are being cut or suspended altogether.

I spoke today with a man who had 35 years of service before he was let go. Then his severance was cut off which left him with no income whatsoever.

Economic restructuring cannot be done on the backs of workers and retirees. All across Canada our pension plans are under attack, whether its Abitibi, Nortel or Air Canada. On top of that, millions of Canadians have not set aside any pension funds whatsoever despite working hard.

There is a pension crisis in this country and we have a government that is completely asleep at the switch.

We need to reform the federal bankruptcy laws to put workers first and not last. We need an overhaul of the Canada pension plan, and finally, we need a government that is willing to stand up for workers, retirees and seniors citizens in this country.