House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

This bill has strong support from the government and the opposition parties, which just goes to show how important this bill is.

I will not discuss the bill in detail, since it has been thoroughly studied and I think it is time to move forward with this initiative and to give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to better deal with auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime.

In essence, this bill directly targets the very serious issue of property crimes and, more specifically, auto theft. The bill will add offences to the Criminal Code by creating a separate offence for motor vehicle theft, offences that provide for sanctions for trafficking in property obtained by crime, and also an offence for tampering with vehicle identification numbers.

Auto theft costs Canadians over $1 billion a year, and related cases of dangerous driving make Canadian roads unsafe. Furthermore, it is clear that auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime represent a huge source of revenue for organized crime groups.

With this bill, our government has taken measures to protect Canadians, their property and their communities. That is why I support this bill. I would like to conclude by thanking all the members of the House, including the members of the justice committee, for the work they have done on this important legislation, and I urge members to pass it as quickly as possible.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-9. This is not the first time we have debated this topic, which is a very serious challenge for the entire country. Many bills have already been introduced about this topic.

This is not the first time that we have stood and talked about doing something with respect to auto theft.

First, before I get into criticizing the government for interrupting its own legislative agenda with the interruption of the sitting of Parliament, one of the most effective ways to battle auto theft and crime in general is to resource our police forces, our prosecutors, our court systems and to restore confidence, which has been diminished in our judicial system by the actions, the words and, in the case of funding, the inactions of the Conservative government.

I met with some representatives of the policing community in Winnipeg. Winnipeg, as members know, once had the dubious distinction of being the auto theft capital of Canada. However, It does not anymore. Therefore, congratulations to the city council and the police forces of Winnipeg. However, another community now has that distinction. Whenever one community falls off the dubious mark, another leaps ahead.

Let us be clear on this. We compliment ourselves in passing laws. We think these great statements and declarations have an effect, and sometimes they do. I do not want to diminish the work of the justice committee, or the Minister of Justice or Parliament itself. However, let us face it, with prorogation, elections, debates and the slowly moving process involving our legislation in our bicameral system, whether it is a Liberal-dominated or now a Conservative-dominated holding up of legislation, the fact is we do not put out a great quantity of precise, surgical legislation for topics like auto theft.

We might ask ourselves, how Winnipeg did it if it did not have our help with this legislation or legislation like it. It did it with resources. It did it with smart tactical policing. It identified groups of what were most likely to be the perpetrators of auto theft and went after them. It also instituted programs outside the Criminal Code and outside strict policing with respect to electronic devices that determined where thefts occurred and where the vehicles would go.

I will take the blame for all of us in Parliament, but we are late at the game in getting to Bill S-9. I have said it before. I hope Bill S-9 does not follow the ill-fated path of its identical twins. We are now into triplets, of which Bill S-9 is a part. Sadly, if this were an obituary in a few months because of an election or something, it would read, “predeceased by identical twins Bill C-53 and Bill C-26” and maybe we would come back again, do another bill and then there would be quadruplets.

The point is we have to get to this bill and we have to pass it. We worked very well at the justice committee, making suggestions, doing the due diligence with respect to Bill S-9, getting statistics and all those sorts of things.

There is no question we want this bill passed. It would give a lot of aid to police services and to communities suffering from epidemics of auto theft.

One thing we know, as the justice committee and parliamentarians in general, is police forces have their hands full, their resources are not necessarily growing and, overall, the criminal element in our country is getting leaner, sleeker, smarter, better resourced, more focused and more efficacious. This is the battle we are fighting on every front, not just auto theft.

However, it particularly bears down on auto theft. The theft of an auto, whether it is for the purposes of committing another crime for temporary use, or committing some other crime of a violent nature so as to hide the identity of perpetrators or the cash value of vehicles, this is an epidemic in our larger communities, for sure. The intelligence of the criminal community in disassembling vehicles, obliterating vehicle identification numbers and transporting parts of cars or whole cars internationally is not in the decline; it is on the rise. Whatever we can do in a modest way to make that better, we should all be for it.

Bill S-9 attempts to amend the Criminal Code. It was introduced, in this case, in the Senate and received first reading on May 4. As I mentioned, it is identical to Bill C-26 and targets motor vehicle theft. It also addresses trafficking in any other property obtained by crime in the exporting and importing of such property.

The raw notion was that we should create a separate offence for auto theft. That, in itself, is a good thing. If we look at the intent of code to develop the importance or hierarchy of offences, one would be surprised perhaps that cattle theft is defined separately in the code, but auto theft is not. Therefore, it is probably time, since the book originates from 1892, that we put auto theft at least on par with cattle theft, with all due deference to ranchers. The auto is the new horse and a way of getting around the community since 1920. Therefore, we are getting in the game and modernizing, and good for us.

It fits very nicely just after section 333 of the code, at about the middle of the section called “PART IX OFFENCES AGAINST RIGHTS OF PROPERTY”. The code speaks first about offences against the person. It speaks mostly about offences against the rights of property. Then it is almost two-thirds caught up with specific offences, modes of trial and procedural aspects of the code, which are so important.

To get back to the very simple nature of the bill, creating the new offence of vehicle theft as punishable is a good thing. We can all support it. It takes it to a maximum sentence of 10 years, which shows that we feel that auto theft is important. It is a serious crime. In the case of a third or subsequent offence, it also provides a mandatory minimum of six months.

There has been a lot of discussion about mandatory minimum sentences in the House and in the newspapers. I think people must understand that this is nothing new, that mandatory minimum sentences in strategic tactical areas have been introduced since the 1980s, more particular under a former Liberal government with respect to specific violent crimes involving guns and organized crime. They were implemented in a very thorough way in 1995. Adding mandatory minimums to a number of offences in the Conservative government's regime has been somewhat scattered, but let us examine it in this case.

If a person steals an automobile with intent to commit another crime, to obliterate the VIN or just simply steals a vehicle three times, is it reasonable that a minimum sentence be applied of six months? We think it is. We think this is a reasonable balance which would meet the test.

The overall test of sentencing in our country in section 718 is proportionality. It bears repeating that section 718 should be the start of any review of offences, any creation of offences, any change to offences because it sets out a scale of how we treat criminals once they have been convicted. Everyone should pay attention to the balance in section 718.

I suppose some would say that we should make rehabilitation of the convicted person the only agenda. I understand and have sympathy for that because every criminal is somebody's son or daughter and every criminal has a very good chance of going back into the community, so we ought to do our best to rehabilitate the incarcerated person. There is no question about that. It is important.

To make it overriding seeks to destroy the balance created within section 718. That balance must include denunciation of the act. In our country the strongest denunciation we give is to offences like murder. Murder in the first degree carries denunciation, meaning a person will be denounced by the judge or a jury of his or her peers by being given a sentence of life in prison with the eligibility for parole, which takes rehabilitation into account.

Therefore, there is a balance regarding deterrence, which is the third factor, suggesting that if the court gives a sentence, through following the laws of Parliament, of severity grave enough to stop someone else from doing the same thing is a good societal reason to up the sentence or consider it.

One of the final considerations in the big four is to remove the person from the public if there is harm.

Keeping all of those in mind, sentences must be proportionate to the offence created. Therefore, we feel that these mandatory minimums placed in this stand-alone section for auto theft are reasonable. They are not new in terms of sentencing and they are something with which we as lawmakers can live.

The stand-alone aspect of the bill is needed. It is modernizing the code. The mandatory minimum that attaches with it is proportionate.

Also, we always have to be mindful of the other provisions in section 718, which specifically suggest that if an aboriginal person is convicted of such an offence, the court must find a way to take into account the special circumstances of the aboriginal community. As we know, aboriginals represent such a high proportion of incarcerated people in our country. There is something wrong that and that is why the section was brought in, under a previous Liberal government. The section suggests to judges that they must take into consideration alternative measures that would better suit the convicted aboriginal person.

I do not see this in any way interfering with the duty of a judge to take that into consideration because the mandatory minimum, frankly, is a short time. Through our committee hearings, we did not hear of the disproportionality of first nations and aboriginal offenders with respect to this proposed offence in auto theft.

That leaves us with the other aspects of the bill, which are quite innovative, and we must compliment the Department of Justice for crafting legislation which is pretty tricky. Those are aspects with respect to giving our Canada Border Services Agency more power with respect to the exporting of vehicles and with respect to the obliteration of the vehicle identification number, or VIN. Those are two topics on which I will spend the rest of my time.

Let us tackle the VIN. I hesitate using the word tackle because it seems every Conservative bill tackles and solves a problem by its short title, when in fact it is a gradual evolution to the good of the Criminal Code. We would prefer the government to be less full of hyperbole and excitement with respect to its bills and concentrate on what is actually happening, which albeit is a good thing. It is evolving the Criminal Code to meet the needs of the changes in society. In this case, the vehicle identification number is something that is a bit tricky.

This is the numbered and lettered code on the dash of a vehicle, which identifies one's vehicle. However, members will know that in recent errors with multifaceted production methods, various parts of automobiles have various identification numbers. In any event, it is the manner in which vehicles are identified. The obliteration of that should be an offence on its own.

If there is a reason to obliterate the number, it has to be a pretty good one. At committee, we could only think of people who were in the automotive repair business and might inadvertently obliterate a VIN in repairs effected in the restoration of vehicles that had been damaged. In the case where the part of the vehicle where the VIN had been damaged, there would have to be a lawful excuse. Therefore, we covered it off, with the help of the Department of Justice, by suggesting that without lawful excuse, the VIN should not be obliterated. However, we wanted to maintain that a VIN alteration was a very serious thing and was something new for the Criminal Code. Bravo for all of us agreeing that this should be the case.

The obliteration of or tampering with the VIN is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. This is in clause 4 of the bill. We thought that exemplified the seriousness with which we viewed tampering with the VIN. Remember that auto theft is a more serious provision because it is a maximum of 10 years. Tampering with the VIN is a maximum of five years. We think this is the right hierarchy.

Another offence that is created is the offence of trafficking in property obtained by crime and possession of property obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking. This is punishable by a maximum of 14 years and is a very important part of the bill.

In the time that I have left, I will speak about CBSA and our borders.

While this bill is about auto theft, I think we realize that from sea-to-sea-to-sea we have a long, undefended, porous border. We do our best, but it is a fantastically large task for the Canada Border Services Agency to patrol our borders with the same efficacy that smaller nations patrol theirs. One can imagine that the borders of Liechtenstein might be a lot easier to guard, because it is a much a smaller country.

In our case, we have to admit that we have long stretches of border that are undefended and not monitored. For someone attempting to smuggle guns in, smuggle drugs out, or import or export cars or car parts, it must be easier for them to do that than it is for the RCMP, CSIS, the Canadian government, and the Canada Border Services Agency to plug the holes. With that in mind, we thought it was a great idea to allow the Canada Border Services Agency, by amendment, to prevent the cross-border movement of property obtained by crime, including stolen vehicles.

It might come as quite a shock to people not on the justice committee that this was not an offence before. It will be now, if this bill passes. If the bill does not suffer the fate of its previous twins, it will be an offence to move property obtained by crime, like a stolen vehicle or vehicle parts, across the border.

We had to have assurances from the justice department that there was no extraterritoriality provision in this. Really, it is saying that the vehicle that just left is a party to an offence, and the offence is the exportation. The vehicle might already be gone, might already be somewhere else, and there might be legal issues with respect to obtaining the evidence of the crime, which is the exportation.

We know that the Canada Border Services Agency does a good job. We know that it needs funding, law, and the tools to prevent exportation of vehicles and vehicle parts.

I will segue into something that is controversial.

We had a long debate, not so much in Parliament but certainly outside of Parliament, about gun control. I think all of us would agree that guns are often instrumental in the commission of crimes, and that many guns come into this country illegally through our border. I think we should stop and reflect on doing something about that.

These illegal handguns come through a porous border, and we must give the Canada Border Services Agency the tools they need to prevent this traffic. In the case of auto theft, it is exportation, going the other way. But we want to give CBSA the tools and resources to prevent the intrusion of guns upon our sovereignty. The saying goes that “guns do not kill people, people kill people”, but guns are the objects that are used.

When the Canada Border Services Agency appeared before us, it presented itself in a most professional and informed manner. I want to commend CBSA as an agency of the government. I want to make sure that the government understands that it is ready, willing, and able to take on the task of defending our border.

This little part in this little act is a salute to the men and women of the Canada Border Services Agency for the fine job they do in all parts of our country, whether it is airports or borders, seaports or rail stations. The Canada Border Services Agency protects us and needs our help. Bill S-9 delivers that help.

I am pleased to support the bill in general and the federal agencies that will be affected.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a slight disagreement with the member's initial analysis of why Manitoba has been able to achieve success. My colleague gives credit to city council, but in fact, it was the NDP government of Gary Doer that finally came to grips with the issue after 11 years of Conservative government inaction.

We started dealing with this issue when Gary Doer became premier in 1999. The issue was two-pronged. One part was the gang-suppression approach, which was initiated 100% by the province. The second part was the immobilizer program for vehicles. It was run by the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, which is controlled 100% by the province of Manitoba.

Officials from the province of Manitoba came here on September 13, 2007. The federal government did not go to Manitoba with suggestions for change. Manitoba officials came here and demanded that the federal government take action.

B.C. has a bait car program and other provinces have different initiatives.

The member should also know that it was the former Liberal government in July 2003 that mandated that anti-theft immobilizers be required after September 1, 2007 on all vehicles built for sale in Canada.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has indicated for years that if immobilizers had been put in at the factory 20 years ago, they could have been installed for $30 to $50 apiece, and we would have avoided much of the car theft carnage that has developed over the last 20 years.

I wonder if the member would like to make some comments on that. I also have a further question for him.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member was in the House when I gave my first speech on that topic, and I was careful to give credit to Doer, Chomiak, and Katz. It sounds like a law firm, but it is actually the premier, the minister of justice, and the mayor, who has now been returned to office. It is an old habit of mine to give credit to municipal politicians. I am an old municipal politician myself.

I met with some officials of the civic police force in Winnipeg. They were very interested in hunting down people committing auto theft, and they were helped by the provincial legislation on immobilizers. I thought I had covered that in my previous speech.

I am in total agreement with what the member says, particularly the part about the Liberal government and its amendments to the Criminal Code on interlock devices.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the delegation of the provincial government arrived in Ottawa in September 2007, as the member said, it included Attorney General Chomiak, the leader of the provincial Liberal Party, the leader of the opposition in Manitoba, and several people other with interest in this issue.

They were asking in 2007 that the government provide stronger penalties for youth involved in serious crimes, especially those involving auto theft. They wanted first degree murder charges for gang-related homicides. They wanted to eliminate the two-for-one remand credits that we are still dealing with. They wanted to classify auto theft as an indictable, violent offence. We are dealing with this today: making shooting at a building and drive-by shootings indictable offences.

This blows holes in the government's argument that the opposition is soft on crime. That is absolutely untrue. Some of these initiatives have come from the provinces, not from the federal government, so the government should be giving credit to the province of Manitoba for taking this initiative.

With respect to gang suppression, we looked at the immobilizer issue, because we thought that if we could immobilize the cars they could not be stolen in the first place. But that was only part of the problem. The other problem was identifying the 50-odd people who were stealing almost all of the cars. The police gang-suppression unit was formed, and officers monitored and followed these people. By the way, they used a bit of Nova Scotia technology in the process: they adopted a monitoring bracelet that was attached to the offenders' legs. They tested it for a year, and I believe it is still in use in Manitoba right now. But these are the reasons we have had a reduction in auto theft in Manitoba.

I am wondering why this has not spread across the country, why other jurisdictions have not adopted this reasonable approach. Our program to bring more immigrants into the province was very successful. Officials from the province of Nova Scotia came to Manitoba to study it, and I think they implemented it, because it was very successful. I am wondering why other provinces have not stepped up to the plate and followed Manitoba's example in this area, because this is a very serious problem, and it is going to take a number of years for it to resolve itself. I would like to ask the member if he has any further comments on these matters.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, provincial laws vary across the country and it is a matter of provinces being the masters of their own domain. Another example is the coming bill on the reporting of child Internet pornography. Some provinces have laws on the protection of children that are more powerful than the federal law that is coming.

We wondered why other provinces were not following suit. Certainly, it is incumbent upon the Minister of Justice, or one of the two parliamentary secretaries, or the department itself to talk to provinces about whether they wish to enter fields like child protection and auto theft.

I want to finish by saying that on the issue of mandatory minimums there ought not to be a divide. There ought to be a reasoned look at each offence to determine whether a mandatory minimum makes sense. In this case, it does. We agree that, after almost five years now, the Conservative government has learned to bring in reasonable measures. Perhaps Conservatives are actually listening to the people in the Department of Justice who have informed us about proportionality under section 718. We applaud them for listening after five years.

However, there are other opposition members who never, ever, believe in mandatory minimum sentences and insist that they have never been in the Criminal Code. Actually, they have been in the code for a long time. There is a bit of unruffling to do here with respect to how the NDP treats crime and how the Liberal Party, which first introduced mandatory minimums, treats crime. I guess it is like this: the NDP has never met a mandatory minimum sentence they liked, and the Conservatives have never met one they did not like. As usual, we are the balance for the big red tent, and we effect meaningful legislation.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed my colleague's speech. It was very erudite and pointed.

I would like to ask him a fairly simple and short question. The government talks a lot about crime and a lot of its bills are on crime, but if it really wants to reduce crime, one of the most effective ways to do that is to deal with the early learning years. From the prenatal stage to the first 10 years of a child's life, what the child is subjected to can dramatically change the trajectory of that child's life. Subject a child to abuse, poor nutrition, or poor parenting and there can be a poor outcome for the child.

Instead of abandoning early learning head start programs, should the government not be working with the provinces to implement this, which has been proven to reduce youth crime by over 50%?

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, in response to that question, I choose to render homage to my predecessor and a former colleague of my friend who asked the question, Claudette Bradshaw, who founded head start in the greater Moncton area, was the first minister responsible for homelessness, and obviously had a very keen interest in issues of early intervention.

It is where a new Liberal government will go, following in her footsteps, and hopefully soon, better than later.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this bill is very late in coming to us for adoption. Parliament has been ready to adopt such a bill for at least six years. It follows Bill C-53, which, if I am not mistaken, was introduced by the Liberals in a parliament long ago. It was followed by Bill C-26, which died on the order paper because of the selfish use of prorogation for political reasons, thus putting an end to all the work done by Parliament up to that point. The auto theft situation has changed, and the law definitely needs to be adapted; more precise measures need to be introduced because this type of crime has evolved.

It should be said from the outset that there are two types of automobile thefts. First there are joyrides, meaning that young people steal automobiles because they enjoy driving them around. Then there are those who steal automobiles to sell them elsewhere or, often, to dismantle them and sell them for parts. That is a very organized form of crime and deserves harsher punishments. However, the law has certain ways of fighting this type of crime.

With respect to young people who steal, anyone who has been through that age, anyone who has kids and talks about this knows that young men are really fascinated by cars. Most of the people involved are young men because young women typically consider cars to be just a way to get around. Young men are really eager to drive. This happens in both wealthy and disadvantaged areas, but in the poorer areas, they have fewer opportunities, so they are tempted when there is peer pressure to take a car for a spin. That is the usual way things happen, as we have come to realize over the years.

There was once a minimum sentence for auto theft, and because it seemed too harsh for joyrides, the government came up with a bizarre-sounding charge: taking a vehicle without the owner's permission with the intent to deprive the owner of it “temporarily or absolutely”. That is the definition of theft. It was bizarre to have this additional offence, but this oddity took into account the fact that, in the case of joyrides, police officers and the Crown found it extreme to charge these young people with auto theft and seek the minimum penalty, which was two years in jail at the time, I believe.

Anyway, that minimum sentence was removed a while ago, in 1985, I gather. I am still checking that, but it does not matter. That kind of opportunistic crime can be headed off with restorative measures and rehabilitation.

Then there is the other kind of theft. Nobody likes thieves of any kind, but some are truly despicable, such as those who belong to organizations that steal cars for parts or ship them abroad to sell and make a profit. The act also deals with trafficking in property obtained by crime.

When an individual is knowingly in possession of property obtained by crime, that is a criminal offence that is punishable by the same maximum penalty that applies to the theft offence.

When I was a young lawyer, it was often said in court that if there was no fence, there would be no thief. But that offence is often committed by people who normally live very honest lives otherwise. They could not be identified as having ties to organized crime, but they might be tempted to buy a television or other stolen property. That is the offence of possession of stolen property. Now I think it is safe to say that those who traffic in property obtained by crime are committing a more serious offence than the individual who takes advantage of a situation and buys stolen property.

We should use the opportunity provided by this proposed legislation to add this new offence of trafficking in, importing or exporting property obtained by crime. The new maximum penalty is 14 years, while the penalty for possession of stolen goods is normally two years.

The other advantage of creating the offence of trafficking in property obtained by crime is that customs officials can intervene by consulting the electronic records of stolen vehicles. As soon as they realize that someone is trying to get a stolen vehicle into or out of the country through customs, they can immediately seize the stolen property. They would thus find someone in possession of stolen property, which would be an offence. This would allow them to take action immediately, which they cannot do under current legislation. So this is another area that this bill improves.

The bill makes another improvement in that it finally creates the new offence of tampering with a vehicle identification number without lawful excuse. But why would someone want to tamper with the vehicle identification number? Obviously, because the vehicle was stolen or for some other illegal purpose. Clearly, by doing that, the individual is committing a crime or intending to commit one. The proposed legislation states that not only is this evidence that the individual intends to commit a crime, but it is evidence that a crime is being committed. Once again, I think the maximum sentence is reasonable under these circumstances. So this is another significant improvement brought about by this bill.

The bill also includes minimum sentences. The majority of parliamentarians in this House know that I have reservations about minimum sentences, but my position has never been cast in stone. We accept minimum sentences for the most serious offences, such as murder. However, we generally do not look favourably on minimum sentences because they serve no purpose, as all the research shows.

The odd thing is that, before the government began manifesting this tendency or compulsion to add minimum sentences everywhere and to multiply the number of minimum sentences in the law, it commissioned a study of other studies. A vast number of studies have been carried out. The government asked Department of Justice officials to look at the research on the effectiveness of minimum sentences in Commonwealth countries.

There is always the temptation to establish minimum sentences.They are popular. That is why the government is imposing them. There is no other reason. When we hear them talking about minimum sentences and getting tough on crime, their clapping and their attitude proves that their goal is not to have measures that will effectively fight crime; they are excited by the thought that this will bring them more votes.

That is what happened in the United States.

Everybody wanted to institute minimum sentences for just about anything. As a result, many people are now being jailed in the United States whereas a generation ago, about 30 years ago, the U.S rate of incarceration was about the same as that in Canada and Europe. Today, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. It is seven times that of Canada, and six to eight or ten times that of European countries. Is anyone prepared to say that the United States is seven times safer? No.

The first reason why minimum sentences do not work is that people ignore them. I could challenge my colleagues in this House to tell me how many minimum sentences there are in the Criminal Code and to name five. Most people cannot.

The second reason is that when criminals commit a crime they are not usually thinking about the sentence they will be given if they are caught. Instead, they focus on not getting caught and they take precautions to that end.

For minimum sentences to be a deterrent, people have to be aware of them. Here we have a minimum sentence, but for a third offence. Judges should warn people when they are sentenced for their first offence that if they commit a second offence a minimum sentence will apply. Judges did not do that as much as I would have liked when I was practising. I did it as a lawyer and they knew it. In this case, since we are talking about the third offence, I do not think it is justified and I do not believe this will really have an impact, but let us just say it is more acceptable. We will not vote against this because overall the bill is beneficial, but I do not really see the need for this aspect.

I hope that during sentencing, judges will warn people, especially young people, because they are the ones who matter here. Whether they have stolen cars for joyrides or they are getting into stealing because they are working for an organization that dismantles cars, they need to know that they risk getting a six-month prison sentence for a third offence. Frankly, if I were the judge and I had a young or not so young person standing before me whom I was sentencing for a third offence, I would consider giving him a sentence of at least six months and perhaps more. In these cases, people are warned.

Car theft in Canada has decreased since 1996, but it is still quite prevalent. There certainly are differences from one province to the next, but that has not really been elaborated on. It is not a bad idea to talk about that. In Quebec, we experience a specific phenomenon. From what I know about crime, I know that in Quebec our big ports have a lot to do with it. Organized crime works mainly in stealing luxury vehicles, and it is organized well enough to quickly load cars onto containers that are being shipped abroad. That is why in Quebec we have a rather high rate of automobile theft, but it is much lower than the rate in Manitoba. I understand why and I will leave it to people from that region to talk about the difficulties they encounter. They have come up with a smart approach to tracking car thieves.

Generally speaking, this bill is long overdue. It is scandalous that it was not brought before us when we were all in favour of passing it. We agree because it is—

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
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11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin will have five minutes to finish his speech when the House resumes consideration of this bill.

We will now proceed with statements by members. The hon. member for Kitchener Centre.

Parliamentary Debate
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians debate passionately. We debate along cultural lines, religious lines and social lines. A wise man knows passionate debates need to be resolved.

Who is responsible for finding resolution? It is the members of this Parliament who should be reconciling Canadians and who should be listening to one another.

Canadians are debating noble issues. They are debating about issues of fundamental human rights. Does every human being deserve the protection of fundamental human rights? Is a child only a human being when fully born as our law says, or is a child a human being before that?

When rights conflict, how do we balance them?

These are noble questions. My belief is that they deserve noble answers and a respectful dialogue among parliamentarians daring to reconcile, not divide, Canadians.

Citizenship and Immigration
Statements By Members

November 5th, 2010 / 11 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government must establish stronger measures to protect Canadians against people who use a fraudulent marriage as a safe immigration passport to our country.

I have repeatedly asked the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to take action in cases when fraud was perpetrated against the Canadian immigration system, including the ones affecting many victims in my constituency.

To prevent future cases in which marriages with Canadian citizens are entered into for the purposes of obtaining permanent residence status, I call upon the government to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to strengthen the conditional immigration marriage-based system.

Furthermore, the government should establish a period of three to five years of probation for marriage-based immigrants, including a requirement that couples have been living together and intend to continue living together in the future.

Moreover, the government should restrict the finalization of each citizenship application until the probation period is complete and there has been no criminal activity or offences under the immigration act.

I strongly urge the government to take concrete action to stop marriage fraud and protect its victims.

Soprema and Teknika HBA
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, Soprema recently won first prize in the category of companies with 200 to 499 employees in Quebec's Défi Meilleurs Employeurs.

The Défi Meilleurs Employeurs encourages Quebec companies to become better employers by measuring their employees’ productive engagement. It recognizes companies that provide a healthy and stimulating work environment.

Soprema had its employees fill out a survey containing questions on several aspects of the company. According to managers, this award shows that the approximately 275 employees enjoy the work environment at Soprema, which has two factories in my riding in Quebec.

The first prize in the category of companies with more than 500 employees was won for the third time by Teknika HBA, a large engineering consulting firm that also has a branch in Drummondville.

Congratulations to both of these companies, which are now among the best employers in Quebec.

Remembrance Day
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I personally wish to congratulate Mr. Andrew Cohen and the Historica-Dominion Institute for keeping the memory and history of all of Canada alive.

Recently, 34,000 Canadians signed an online petition asking that all Canadians, especially parliamentarians on this side of the House and in the Senate, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month observe two minutes of silence. As Terry Kelly once said, two minutes is “a pittance of time” to reflect, remember and show respect for the 118,000 that have gone before, as well as those who are currently serving and those who will serve in the future.

A tip of the salt and pepper cap to that great organization, the Historica-Dominion Institute, for the great job it does for all Canadians and all of Canada.