House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pumps.

Topics

The Economy
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

The Economy
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

The Economy
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

The Economy
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 27, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion that Bill S-9, 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.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate on Bill S-9. As we already know, this bill is called An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), or the tackling auto theft and property crime act. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada moved second reading of this bill, which we have already started debating.

This bill would create offences in connection with the alteration, removal or obliteration of a vehicle identification number and would also create the offences of knowingly selling, giving, transferring, transporting, sending or delivering property that was obtained by crime. The term “knowingly” is very important, because it shows that the individual who sold, transferred or gave property—a vehicle—must know that it was obtained by crime. Lastly, the bill would create the offence of knowingly being in the possession of property that was obtained by crime, for the purpose of trafficking. The Crown would have the burden of proving that the person in possession of the vehicle knew that it had been obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking.

This bill creates a separate offence for motor vehicle theft, proposes a mandatory minimum prison sentence of six months for a third or subsequent offence and gives the Canada Border Services Agency the authority to identify stolen goods and keep them from leaving the country.

We, the Liberals, are in favour of this bill. We want it to be sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights so that we can hear from witnesses and stakeholders who have thoughts and expertise on the goal of this bill, which we agree with.

We feel that this is a good beginning, even though it is not a comprehensive solution. We believe that some witnesses will also say that it is a step in the right direction and a good start but that it is not a cure-all and it will not fix all of the issues related to vehicle theft and trafficking.

The Liberal Party has always supported legislation that aims to effectively reduce crime and make communities safer. The fact is that vehicle theft rates are going down. The Liberals did not make this up. However, vehicle theft is still a major problem in cities like Montreal and Winnipeg. I am from Montreal, and I have colleagues and family in Winnipeg. So I know what I am talking about. I also had the opportunity, as justice critic in the official-opposition Liberal caucus in 2007-08, to speak with Manitoba's justice minister about this issue as well as youth criminal justice. The minister showed me studies indicating that Winnipeg was close to becoming the vehicle-theft capital of Canada. He told me that this was a serious problem, one that led youth down a criminal path.

Bill S-9 is not perfect, but it is a good start because it updates the Criminal Code, which shows that the government is taking this issue seriously.

That being said, we will see significant reductions in crime rates only if the government invests substantial resources in evidence-based crime prevention programs.

Our party does not play political games with the Criminal Code. Unlike the Conservatives, the Liberals strongly believe that we must fight crime with good laws, not with crude slogans and petty political manoeuvring.

If the government really intended to tackle auto theft and property crimes, the Prime Minister never would have killed Bill C-53, which it did by violating its own fixed election date law in 2008, nor would it have torpedoed Bill C-26 by proroguing Parliament last winter.

This is the third time the Conservative government has introduced the same bill. After the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament in December 2009, it took the government five months to reintroduce exactly the same bill. The Liberals tried to speed it through the House before, and they will do so again this time.

As I said, we are pleased that the government, which torpedoed its own Bill C-26, has introduced Bill S-9, which is an exact replica of its predecessor. We are disappointed that it took the government so long—five months—to reintroduce it. There is no excuse for that.

We are pleased to see that the wording in this bill is harsher than Bill C-53, the first incarnation of this bill. The government has finally decided to add a separate offence for auto theft to the Criminal Code.

As I said, the first auto theft bill introduced by the Conservative government in 2008 did not create a new, separate offence for auto theft. At the time, Liberals, police officers, police corps and provincial governments—the Conservative government's counterparts—criticized this approach. They criticized the government for failing to create a separate Criminal Code offence for auto theft. The government has finally done so in this bill, and we are pleased that it has finally fallen into step with law enforcement in Canada.

Thus, with Bill C-26, the government created a separate offence for theft of a motor vehicle, and this offence is also included in Bill S-9. The mandatory minimum sentence for this offence is six months' incarceration for a third offence or in the case of an indictable offence.

This is important because all studies show that motor vehicle theft in certain cities is quite well organized. The evidence from various police forces, including municipal and provincial forces and our national police force, the RCMP, has clearly indicated that to be the case. When someone is on their third such offence, it becomes quite serious. The criminal justice system must therefore send a clear message that this kind of criminal behaviour is unacceptable.

The new offences provide for a broad definition of trafficking. This would cover selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending or delivering property obtained by crime or offering to do any of those things.

Thus, the new legislative provisions would target all the middlemen involved in moving stolen property, from the initial criminal act through to the ultimate consumer. That is very important. Of course it happens in other cities, but we know that in Montreal and Winnipeg in particular, most motor vehicle thefts are committed by organized crime groups. This means there is a network of individuals whose only goal and mission is to steal cars. The orders often come from outside Canada, with requests for x number of certain models, for instance, Lexus vehicles from a given year, Chevrolets from a given year, specific models and colours of BMWs from another year, and so on. The crime of motor vehicle theft is driven by the network.

So, with these offences and this definition, if the proposed Criminal Code amendment successfully passes in both houses of Parliament, this would allow our police forces to pursue not only the person who committed the actual theft, but also all the middlemen who were knowingly involved in the transaction and allowed the sale, transfer or gift of property or a stolen vehicle, when that individual knew the property or vehicle was stolen.

Let us look at the two proposed offences. Both offences carry heavier penalties than the existing offence of possession of property obtained by crime. If the value of the item trafficked exceeds $5,000, anyone convicted of this offence could face up to a maximum of 14 years in prison. If the value does not exceed $5,000, there would be what is called a hybrid offence, which would carry a maximum prison sentence of five years on indictment or six months on summary conviction.

The bill also introduces a prohibition against the importation or exportation of property obtained by crime that would trigger the administrative enforcement powers of the Canada Border Services Agency, allowing the agency to bar the cross-border movement of stolen goods. In the case of auto theft, CBSA officers would be able to investigate, identify and detain imported vehicles or vehicles about to be exported and search databases to determine whether or not the vehicles are stolen.

I would like to add a few words on the statistics and data that we have on stolen vehicles in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the number of stolen vehicles has decreased almost every year since 1996, by 20% according to 2006 data. Auto theft has major repercussions on car owners, on other victims, on law enforcement and on the insurance industry. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, auto theft costs insurance companies and the general public almost $1 billion a year. That is big bucks.

I do not own a car, but some of my friends and family have been victims of auto theft. I can say that this can be quite disruptive to a person's life by the time they settle things with the insurance company, get a new car and so on.

In 2006, approximately 160, 000 cases of auto theft were reported to the police, or about 438 per day. There tend to be fewer thefts in eastern Canada than in western Canada. According to data from Statistics Canada, Prince Edward Island has the lowest incidence of auto theft, while Manitoba has the highest. The incidence of car theft in Manitoba is almost three times the national average. Montreal, however, was the Canadian city with the highest incidence of auto theft and the lowest number of recovered stolen vehicles in 2007.

I am from Montreal and although I do not own a vehicle, I do know many people who do. Some of them have had their cars stolen. There are criminal networks in Montreal that steal cars for export, filling specific orders. Such car theft is a made-to-measure business.

Here is how a number of stakeholders have responded. The Manitoba Minister of Justice, Dave Chomiak, the mayor of Winnipeg, Sam Katz, and the Winnipeg police, all of whom I have met with, are in favour of this bill. The Insurance Bureau of Canada also supports it.

Mr. Rick Linden, a professor at the University of Manitoba noted that the bill was a good step, but that significant reductions in crime would only occur if we also invest significant resources in evidence-based crime prevention programs.

The Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers is against the bill because it believes it will restrict judicial discretion. The Canadian Association of Crown Counsel is also against it because it believes it will increase the workload of an already overburdened justice system. And yet, the government has failed to announce any new money for its implementation. This is a crucial point. The new offences created by this bill have long been awaited by the Liberals. We are in favour of the bill and its desired outcome. However, we realize that once these offences are passed and come into effect and the desired outcome is achieved, the government will have to allocate additional resources and funding to support the initiatives. The measures will ensure that the police and various stakeholders in our justice system can adequately deal in a court of law with those accused of having committed auto theft. Unfortunately, we have not heard the minister state clearly that the government intends to earmark new money in its next budget to cover these additional costs.

I will conclude my speech by saying that this is a good start and a step in the right direction but not the whole solution. We would like to see the government set aside more resources in order to ensure that our law enforcement system can handle these new offences and that our justice system, courts and prosecutors have the means at their disposal to deal with them.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Hochelaga for his encouragement.

I am very pleased to take part in this debate on Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime). As suggested in the short title, it will amend the Criminal Code to give it more teeth. Auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime are often related to gangs and organized crime.

Gangs in large Canadian cities such as Montreal and Toronto often make illegal, totally reprehensible profits from stolen vehicles and especially auto parts that are much sought after on illicit markets.

This bill is needed even though Statistics Canada data show that there has been a clear decline since 1996 in the number of vehicles stolen per 100,000 population. I printed out the 2006 Statistics Canada data by province on motor vehicle thefts per 100,000. There has been quite a large reduction since 1999.

The figures show that in 1999, there were 531 vehicle thefts per 100,000 population. In 2006, there were 487 thefts in Canada per 100,000. That is a major reduction. There were some regional disparities, of course. The extent of this illegal activity varies depending on the part of Canada. In Quebec, for example, there were 507 vehicle thefts per 100,000 population, while in Manitoba, there were 1,376. The regional disparity is obvious. This is related to the reasons why malicious people steal vehicles. The reasons are not the same in Montreal as in Ontario and Alberta. Some people steal cars for the money, while others want to go for joyrides, as the literature shows.

First, this bill includes targeted measures to improve the Criminal Code. It will help us get a better picture of all these illegal activities and the black market, whether in regard to exports and imports of stolen or illegally obtained goods or trafficking in them. It also imposes longer sentences. Minimum sentences are introduced in this bill, but I will get back to that later.

The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-9. However, we should not focus simply on punishment but look at the source of the problem as well. We need to realize that the societies where crime is the lowest are often those that deal seriously with major social ills, such as poverty and inequality. Our provinces, municipalities and police forces should look at prevention as well. We need legislation and penalties, of course, but what we need most of all are preventive measures aimed at reducing inequality and poverty.

The new measures to reduce car theft have been debated in Parliament before, in 2005. At that time, the Liberal government had introduced Bill C-64 providing that altering the identification number would be an offence. The vehicle identification number, referred to as the VIN, is used to identify vehicles and their parts. It provides each vehicle with a unique identifier. I will come back to this a little later.

The purpose of Bill S-9 is to extend the reach of the Criminal Code by tackling trafficking in, exporting and importing any property obtained by crime. It also clarifies and extends the reach of the Criminal Code. It provides minimum sentences after an individual has been convicted of motor vehicle theft for the third time. So harsher punishments have been provided for these illegal activities.

Section 354 of the Criminal Code already provided punishments for possession of property obtained by crime, but Bill S-9 clarifies those crimes. It creates an offence for trafficking in property obtained by crime, but it also provides a maximum sentence of 14 years. So this adds to the sentences available for these criminal activities.

But it must be understood that the reasons why individuals steal vehicles are not all the same, from one place to another and one province to another. There are regional disparities in the reasons why an individual steals a vehicle belonging to someone in Quebec or someone in Alberta. In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the reasons for theft are described as “joyriding”. A vehicle is stolen there for amusement, while the situation is different in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Quebec and Ontario, in particular, have become criminal hubs for stolen vehicles, because people want to profit from property obtained by crime in these cases.

We have seen organized rings becoming real hubs of organized crime. The indicator that enables us to identify these various types of theft is what is called the stolen vehicle recovery rate. The ability of the authorities to locate stolen vehicles varies enormously from one province to another. For example, the stolen vehicle recovery rate in Toronto is 75%.

When we come to cities like Montreal, part of which I represent in the House of Commons, we see that the stolen vehicle recovery rate is 56%. Obviously, the authorities are clearly having trouble locating stolen vehicles in Montreal, as compared to Toronto. The reasons are different. Why is it harder? Quite simply because these cities have in fact become organized crime hubs, as I was saying. These stolen vehicles are used for trafficking and exporting. We can see that there are various ways these individuals, acting with malice aforethought, decide to steal vehicles that belong to members of the public.

First, what does the thief do? They start by identifying the vehicle, based on where it is, whether in a private or public parking lot. Then, they steal the vehicle in a very short timeframe. The statistics tell us that the thief manages to steal the vehicle in 30 seconds to three minutes, depending on whether the vehicle has an auto start system and some kind of protection, whether an alarm or something else.

In a trafficking scheme with crime hubs, where does the vehicle go? There are three activities that organized crime groups do to get rid of a vehicle and make huge profits. The first is that the vehicle is chopped, or stripped for parts. Much as a butcher would do, these organized crime groups dismantle the vehicle to take the most important parts. These parts are identified. They know exactly which parts to take from certain vehicles. They know which parts are worth a lot on the market, and this is determined by supply and demand. So, they strip the vehicle for the most important parts. Next, they immediately export the parts after stripping them, because the vehicle is often sent to underground shops, where mechanics strip the vehicles and identify the valuable parts. Then, the vehicles are exported.

Why are the recovery rates lower in areas like Montreal? Simply because Montreal and Toronto are prime strategic locations for organized crime groups that traffic in vehicles or vehicle parts, for two reasons. First, Montreal and Toronto, and particularly Montreal, are right on the border. As a result, it is a strategic location for organized crime groups to export stolen vehicle parts to the United States. In addition, Montreal and Toronto are near waterways. Second, in terms of strategy, as I said earlier, unlike in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it is clear that cars stolen in Montreal and Toronto are not stolen for the purposes of joyriding; they are stolen to be resold.

The second way organized crime groups move a vehicle is to export it to where there is a clearly targeted market. Where are these markets, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada? Essentially, these markets are in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, South America and Africa.

Resellers export car parts that are in very high demand to these markets by ocean freight. It is estimated that the sale of a Jeep Cherokee can directly generate $97,000 for organized crime. For some organized groups, it pays to sell stolen vehicles. That has to be taken into consideration.

It is often thought that luxury vehicles are in demand in these markets. However, that is not the case. Quite often, the vehicles or parts in demand are not high-end but have a high resale value. In 2006, the 10 most stolen cars in Canada were the 1999 Honda Civic SiR two-door, the 2000 Honda Civic SiR two-door, Subarus, Acuras, Dodge Caravans, Dodge Grand Caravans, Audis and Dodge Shadows. Luxury vehicles are not necessarily the most frequently stolen. The two most stolen automobiles are plain Honda Civics because their parts have a resale value on the black market.

There are three types of operations: chopping for parts, exporting, and changing identification numbers of parts and vehicles. In addition, parts and vehicles are cloned. How is the identification changed? Organized groups find vehicles involved in accidents, obtain their vehicle identification number or VIN, and copy it onto a stolen vehicle. The identification is changed in the third step in the process, which is also when cloning takes place, once again using the VIN. For example, thieves will go to a shopping centre parking lot, obtain a VIN, and copy it onto a stolen vehicle.

That is how organized crime works and why the VIN is important and central to Bill S-9. We cannot simply create an offence for the possession of property obtained by crime, which has been covered so far by section 354 of the Criminal Code. We have to have provisions covering the VIN. When the vehicle identification number has been altered, there must be better regulation and offences with minimum sentences. That is why we are supporting Bill S-9.

Cars are stolen for two reasons. The first is that there is a black market with well-targeted operations. The Criminal Code must have more teeth and prohibit tampering with the VIN. This would be one measure among others to reduce auto theft and fight this problem.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech. In the spirit of that, I just want to go to one particular item and see how he feels about it, and that is the mandatory minimum sentence for a third offence on automobile theft. Does the member think this part of the bill is really necessary?

Certainly, as he is pointing out, when we differentiate the type of theft taking place, such as a joyriding offence, it may have some extenuating circumstances. It may be that in the crowd of people that young people are sometimes in, these offences could be taken a bit differently.

When the judge is looking at an offender who has stolen a vehicle for the third time for profit, would we not expect that the judicial system could come up with a decent sentence for that person?

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. In fact, I considered that issue before giving my speech in the House. As everyone knows, the Bloc has always been opposed to minimum sentences. We have always opposed them on principle.

The bill includes minimum sentences, but only after a third offence, not a first or second offence. At a certain point in time, we have to realize what is going on. There is a difference between stealing a car to go joyriding and stealing a car for other illegal purposes. If this bill included minimum sentences for a first or second offence, the Bloc would not support it. Because minimum sentences will apply only to a third offence, the Bloc can support this bill.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge some of the points that the member brought up, but I am going to raise a particular provincial issue.

The former member for Winnipeg North, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, consistently raised issues in the House around the impact of federal legislation on provinces. In the province of Manitoba, the issue of auto theft was raised as a result of the good work of Judy Wasylycia-Leis. Winnipeg, at one time, was the leading car theft capital of Canada. In 2007, about 1,700 auto thefts occurred there. Manitoba did not wait for the federal government to act. It put a plan in place that has substantially reduced the number of auto thefts in the province.

One of the big challenges for many provinces is federal legislation that impacts provincial governments. There is little consultation with provincial governments, nor are there resources for them to implement some of the legislation, such as police officers, prisons and what not.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on what he sees as a potential impact on provincial governments with this kind of legislation.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. The answer is in the explanations I gave in my speech on the motives that compel someone to commit this crime. In the province the member referred to, these offences are not associated with a specific illegal act or organized crime group, but rather with delinquency. The provinces have certain obligations when it comes to health services and social services.

As I mentioned earlier, in Quebec, this activity and offence is not related to joyriding, in other words, young people deciding to steal a vehicle for a day or an evening simply for fun. In Montreal, motor vehicle theft is directly related to organized crime. Thus, the federal government is responsible through the Criminal Code. Young people going through a delinquent phase must not be subject to the Criminal Code, quite simply because they are not planning to sell stolen car parts outside the country, in the Middle East or Africa, for example.

I believe it is important to distinguish between the two offences. One of them is often committed by young people for various reasons, and the other is usually committed by an organized network of criminals. In the first instance, the provinces have an important obligation in terms of supervision and reducing juvenile delinquency, particularly in cities like Winnipeg.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise two concerns with the member. The first one is probably more a commentary than a question.

The government sitting across the way continually tells the House that it is tough on crime and that it is getting down to serious work, yet if we look at the history of this bill, the first time we saw it was in 2006. We saw it again in 2008. Then we had prorogation and we had to start all over again.

People in my community of Hamilton Mountain were upset about the prorogation for a whole host of reasons, but one of them was that we keep repeating the same work, over and over again, instead of finding the time to deal with the real economic issues that are so hurting our communities. We should be talking about job creation. We should be talking about how to stop foreign takeovers. Yet what are we doing? We are debating the same bill for the third time.

Let me get to the question that I want to pose to the member.

I find the provisions in this bill with respect to mandatory minimum sentences troubling, and in particular, the fact that they would not kick in until after the third offence. I think we can think of a number of scenarios. When a person has been convicted for the third time, six months might be the mandatory minimum sentence. That is a ridiculously low sentence, especially if it involves individuals who are involved in organized crime and the theft of autos.

I wonder if the member could elaborate on his views both with respect to mandatory minimums in this bill and mandatory minimums in general.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we reject outright the principle of minimum sentences. However, in the bill, a minimum sentence of six months' imprisonment applies in the case of a third offence. A minimum sentence applies for a third offence because there are two reasons for committing such an offence. It may be committed by an organized crime ring for the purpose of selling parts abroad. Or a car may be stolen by 18- or 19-year-olds who want to go joyriding one evening.

The penalty and the sentence must fit the crime. The same six-month sentence cannot be handed down for an 18-year-old who decides to steal a car and for someone found guilty of trafficking cars. The sentences must be fair. The Bloc Québécois has always opposed the principle of minimum sentences because it wants judges to assess the situation of the accused who is brought to trial and sentenced.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was listening closely to the member from Hamilton Mountain and I would like some clarification, although I am sure she might give some later on. She must have been telling the Minister of Justice and Attorney General that she was advocating the three strikes and you are out policy. If that is the case, then I am wondering why her party has not supported the crime and justice legislation in the past like we have. When we are trying to make amendments, make things tighter and respond to the call of Canadians on various issue, all of a sudden I hear this and it kind of shocks me.

I will now move on to speak to Bill S-9. I listened earlier to my Liberal colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and her perspective on this legislation. I also listened very carefully to what the Bloc Québécois member from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie had to say. Some of the comments I heard from the Liberal speaker and the Bloc speaker were very constructive. However, some of the comments from the NDP puzzled and shocked me as to where it was coming from.

Bill S-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), is important. I agree with the comments that were made earlier that this type of initiative was before the House back in 2006. Why it took so long is beyond us, but, of course, we did have prorogation and we did have elections that the Prime Minsiter called prematurely.

I and I know my constituents would have thought that one of the first pieces of legislation, along with so many other important pieces of legislation, would have been this type of legislation, seeing what the numbers are out there. We heard some of the numbers earlier today. When we discuss these numbers, it is very difficult to talk about where the numbers in auto theft are higher. I think every member who sits in this honourable House has great respect, whether it is in the provinces of Manitoba, Quebec, P.E.I., Ontario, or in my lovely city of Toronto, but at the same time we need to talk about these statistics, where they come from and where they are accumulated so that the resources could be attached to them as legislation will be applied.

For example, the member from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie gave us some statistics about the recovery percentages in Ontario as opposed to Quebec and how they were much higher in Ontario. Also, auto theft as a whole in Ontario is quite less than most other provinces. That just goes to take away the notion that Toronto has high crime rates. That is not the case in auto theft crimes and I want to put that on record.

Nevertheless, as we talk about crime in general, one crime is one too many, which is why, as my Liberal colleague said earlier, we want to support this legislation. I, for one, on behalf of my constituents in Scarborough Centre, in the city of Toronto and in the province, want to support this legislation. We want to see it go to committee because we believe some good work and good suggestions could be made in committee to fine-tune this bill so that we can finally get a bill out there to do the work that Canadians have asked us to do, which is to tighten up the Criminal Code.

I would like to point out what I think are faults with some of the suggestions in this bill.

The bill would make it a crime to alter, destroy or remove a VIN, vehicle identification number. The member spoke earlier of the significance of it, the role that it plays and how important it is. It would also make it a crime to knowingly sell, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver goods that have been acquired criminally.

We heard earlier today from other speakers about how people steal a car, take it apart and sell different parts or put a car in a crate and ship it abroad. They also can change the vehicle identification number with what was described as a makeover. The member talked about three specific areas: chopping, exporting and the makeover. The bill addresses those specific areas.

The bill would make it a crime to possess property known to be obtained through crime for the purpose of trafficking. For example, if people who need a door, a bumper or an auto part goes to an autobody shop to buy a door for x amount of dollars, knowing very well what the market price is, the moment they pay 30% to 50% less their antenna should go up. They should ask themselves why, if they go to the depot and pay so much, this person is charging so little. Those people should immediately step away from that transaction because they will also be subject to a criminal charge if this legislation is passed.

If everyone who engages in that type of exchange avoids it, then hopefully there will be no market for it. In the early nineties, there was a huge underground cigarette economy. Revenue for the country was down because of loss of taxes and there was a free fall for everyone. I say quite proudly that when we took office we lowered the federal taxes on cigarettes and all of a sudden we eliminated that underground economy. How can we eliminate the selling or chopping of parts? We can do it through legislation and the notification to purchasers of said parts. If they know they could be fined and imprisoned, they will avoid buying, which means it would eliminate a market for that area.

The Canada Border Services has a very important role to play. We have seen documentaries where a car is put in a container on a boat and then shipped somewhere across the ocean. We need to be able to provide Canada Border Services with the right type of technology so it can monitor the containers. However, we must remember that not all cars in containers are put there illegally. Some Canadians may decide to get employment outside the country and they put their cars in containers and ship them to wherever their new job is.

However, along the way I think there is technology today that can help Canada Border Services do a better job in pre-screening to ensure that stolen autos leaving the country is addressed as well.

The Liberal Party has always supported legislation to effectively reduce any type of crime. This is one type of crime. My colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine has often talked about what is unacceptable and hurting, if I may say, is that when legislation comes forward on crime and justice issues, sometimes the Conservatives say that we Liberals stand for the criminals. That is not true.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

And they know it.