An Act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.


Chuck Cadman  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of Feb. 8, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2001 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank all hon. members present for their magnanimity. To begin with, I commend the hon. member for Surrey North. I know he has been a very active member of the justice committee, a great proponent of issues that stem from our current justice system. I also know that he has a keen mind for these issues and a real pragmatic approach.

This is yet another bill coming forward from private members that would strengthen criminal code provisions. I would suggest it is very much aimed at raising the bar in terms of both general and specific deterrents.

Bill C-250 would ensure that a person convicted of more than one theft of a motor vehicle having a value in excess of $5,000 would receive a minimum of four years of imprisonment for every conviction following the first offence.

I will not get into the graphic detail of the range of sentencing. I know other bills have been brought forward. His colleague from Calgary brought forward one dealing with home invasion and break and enters which dealt with a two year minimum sentence requirement. I would certainly in principle agree with the nature of the particular motion and the need to put forward a strong message of deterrence in our criminal code because of the elevated occurrences of these types of offences.

Bill C-250 clarifies and makes more effective subsection 334(a) of the current criminal code which talks about punishment for theft of motor vehicles, which is the focal point of the member's motion.

We did a bit of research with respect to the Insurance Board of Canada. Statistics from 1999, which are the latest available, indicate that over 160,000 incidents of motor vehicle theft were reported to the police, an average of over 450 vehicles per day in Canada. Although there is car insurance, unless it is stolen by a household member or somebody who has been given permission to drive it, insurance in many cases is under comprehensive or specified perils coverage, which does not cover the complete cost of the particular vehicle. The upshot of all this is the components estimate that the cost to Canadian policyholders is in the range of $600 million per year in insurance premiums.

Car thefts in recent years have become far more dangerous. As the hon. member and others mentioned, high speed chases often are the result of motor vehicle thefts. Individuals who are becoming more involved in this activity are doing so in a much more brazen fashion because of the remuneration or the reward. They are doing so in broad daylight. They are doing so often while the vehicle is occupied, while the vehicle is being driven, in a form of car-jacking, which has occurred in some of our big cities in particular.

A huge element of organized crime is often involved that in many instances uses young offenders and drug addicts in the need of quick cash to perpetrate organized theft rings. The focus is usually high priced vehicles: SUVs and foreign vehicles such as the Mercedes and BMW, fan favourites of thefts. They put those vehicles into containers and they are shipped in many cases to Europe, to the Soviet Union, out of the port of Vancouver or Halifax.

A very comprehensive problem is coming to light. It is not uncommon to hear of injuries and even fatalities resulting from car thefts, either by virtue of a motor vehicle accident or the use of violence in the perpetration of the theft.

Individuals who choose to engage in this activity have to be reminded, which is the cut and thrust of the particular bill, that there will be severe consequences and imprisonment if they choose to engage in this type of reckless activity.

As I indicated, I support in principle the hon. member's motion. The attachment of a specific sentence of four years might be deemed excessive, given the sentencing scale that exists for other types of offences.

The bill introduced by his colleague from Calgary is an obvious example of where the crime of home invasion while a person is at home would receive a minimum sentence of two years. On the relative scale one would have to ensure there was parity in sentencing. Judges often look for that.

The degree of violence which is involved, the theft, the recklessness and the value are all sentencing factors, but in principle this is a good bill and I hope hon. members give it due consideration.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2001 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have just arrived in the Chamber and was scheduled to take part in the debate on Bill C-250. Given the time remaining on the clock and given that we started this debate earlier by consent, I wonder if I might seek unanimous consent to participate in the debate for the remaining time that was originally allotted.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2001 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the privilege of speaking to Bill C-250, the bill sponsored by my colleague from Surrey North.

He began his speech by lamenting that even though he got his bill drawn the “impartial” committee decided that it would not be voted on. I would like to say two things about that.

First, I lament with him that his bill is not a votable item. It is very unfortunate that the rules of the House permit certain members of parliament to bring forward private members' bills that lead nowhere. It is wonderful to be able to debate a bill, but we should also be able to vote on it. That would allow members of parliament to show by their votes where they stand on an issue such as this.

Second, the member has been in the House for one term less than I. I have never been picked to present a private member's bill. He is fortunate in that regard. He is ahead of me on that one.

Bill C-250 has to do with auto theft. I always take a step back when I think of this type of crime. Auto theft in Canada takes place at two levels, I think, and they are almost quantum leaps apart. At one level it is mostly youths who take vehicles for what is called joyriding.

Another one of our colleagues from British Columbia had a private member's bill on that particular offence, whereby young people for some reason have it in their heads that it is not wrong for them to hop into a vehicle that is not theirs, take it for a ride and abandon it somewhere else. Some of the young people are repeat offenders. They just do it for a lark and yet what they are doing is very wrong and should not be tolerated.

There is another level, if we can classify auto theft as being at different levels. Joyriding is a low level classification even though some offenders are guilty of very frequently committing the offence. The other level, of course, is the organized one, whereby people actually make a living by taking someone else's property.

It is absolutely true that when people steal vehicles we all pay for it. In regard to the total cost, I think I heard a total of $600 million being bandied about. That is a tremendous cost because we have only 30 million Canadians and I am sure that we do not have one vehicle for every man, woman and child in the country. The amount of money is just atrocious and we all pay for it through higher premiums on our insurance.

Besides that, it is just the wrong thing to do. I really wonder why in our society we have people who actually feel that somehow they have the right to take property that is not their own. Some of them actually even get into the business of stealing vehicles, altering serial numbers and either chopping down the vehicles or putting them into containers and sending them to different parts of the world where they fetch a very good price.

We really need to do something about it. As I have said in some of my previous speeches on justice issues, it seems to me that we have to make sure we do not forget what the purpose of the law is. We cannot pass a law that will make people good and prevent them from committing crimes because it changes them on the inside. That is another function and that is something we really ought to be working on. We should be working on changing the personal convictions of people in terms of what they deem to be right and wrong. It is a big job and one that I think takes place primarily in strong families.

The second aspect of this is of course that the law must act as a deterrent, so my colleague is proposing that there be rather stiff penalties for people who engage in this over and over. It is significant that he does not say that the first time a kid takes a car for a ride in a joyride situation we would lock him up and throw the keys away, as some would accuse us of saying. We in fact favour methods that will retrieve and reform the young guy who starts that.

However, when it is a repeat offence, and particularly in the crime rings where they make huge amounts of money by literally ripping off Canadians, by stealing their vehicles and of course indirectly then charging the insurance companies and all of us through our premiums, those are the people who we want to stop with a law, because obviously they are not induced to stop it by themselves. The law must act as a deterrent.

It is a very honourable thing the member is proposing. He is proposing that there be a minimum four year sentence on this crime so that judges do not have the option of being lenient with repeat offenders. That is what should happen.

I know a person who has now moved into the city of Edmonton but used to live in my riding. His name is Ken Haywood. I think he would probably appreciate me saying this. For a number of years he owned a car dealership in the city of Edmonton. When he retired he sold his business and, because of this theft problem, he became interested in curbing auto thefts.

He been working with all levels of government, both federal and provincial. I visited with him when he was in Ottawa. He has a newsletter that he puts out and also a website. I do not know the address of the website but if people used a search engine and looked for Ken Haywood I am sure they could find it.

He is looking at technical ways of reducing auto theft. He is working with automobile manufacturers as there have been some technical innovations in the last little while. Many of the newer vehicles now have key coding, but a skilled thief can still easily dismantle the key column and drive the vehicle away. In some cases a thief will drive a truck up to the vehicle they want and drag it onto the truck. There are different technical ways that can be used to prevent someone from driving away with a vehicle, but it is pretty difficult to prevent someone from putting a hook to it and dragging it onto a truck.

Mr. Haywood is searching for different and innovative methods. He is very intrigued and interested in tracking methods, including electronic methods in order to identify vehicles making it more difficult to change serial numbers and other initiatives like that.

I want to go on record as saying that I support my hon. colleague. It makes no sense for me to ask other members to support the bill because they will not have a chance to vote on it. That is one of the changes, Mr. Speaker, that you were very interested in. We need to change that in parliament to allow all private members' business to be votable, so that we can come to a conclusion and do something about the problems, instead of just talking about them.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2001 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague from Surrey North for putting Bill C-250 forward. Ever since he arrived here in 1997, the he has repeatedly put forth eloquent and constructive suggestions to the government on a wide variety of issues, in particular the Young Offenders Act. I hope the government has seen the wisdom of what he has been saying and implements many of the suggestions that he has put forth.

Today's bill, Bill C-250, strikes a balance and deals with the issue of theft of cars in a very reasonable way. The scope of the problem cannot be under estimated. More than $1 billion worth of cars are stolen every single year.

In addition about a quarter of a billion dollars worth of damage is done to those cars. It costs taxpayers about a half a billion dollars per year. The rate of increase in car theft is extraordinary. Between 1982 and 1994 the rate doubled and there is no end in sight.

We heard about the various motivations for stealing cars, which I will not reiterate. One of the major reasons is linked to organized crime. The government has put forth a bill that we will support. It is a good start in dealing with organized crime, but there is much more that can and should be done.

RICO like amendments, which were brought in the United States, should be implemented in Canada. That will enable our police forces and courts, in particular, to go after the proceeds from crime. Police forces say that to deal with organized crime we have to go after its money. The courts must go after their money, then we might have a chance to decrease the number of organized crime gangs in Canada. It also involves pushing the limits of our charter. I will encourage the government to do just that.

We have to fight fire with fire. A lot of these organized crime groups hide behind the law when it is convenient for them and abuse it when is convenient for them.

The extent of the problem, and it is perhaps related to the degree of organized crime, can be seen in the numbers and the demographics of theft. My province of British Columbia, as well as Manitoba, have the highest rates of car theft. Many of these cars are going to chop shops where they are pulled apart. The parts are then sold illegally or sent to other countries.

A way to deal with this, which is quite innovative and used in the United States, is to attach transmitters to the cars. The transmitters cost about $600. The United States found that the rate at which cars with transmitters were stolen was 25% less than the risk to other cars. The savings were massive.

We know the cost to us as individuals is huge. Also the cost to insurance companies is large. I believe in Canada in 1996, which is the last year for which I found statistics, it cost insurance companies $600 million in insurance costs. That is huge. We need to somehow decrease those costs because they are ultimately passed on to the consumer.

If we had transmitters on cars then the rate of theft would go down and the cost to insurance companies would go down. We would then a net saving to both the consumer and the insurance company.

Perhaps the insurance companies could decrease the comprehensive insurance costs for car owners who attached transmitters to their cars. This is something that is imminently doable and should be implemented as quickly as possible. I would encourage the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to do that.

We should also look at the issue of drug abuse. Many thefts that take place in our society are attached to drug abuse. Addicts yearning for that next hit have to find the money. Some turn to prostitution but some also turn to theft. To get their fix, the drug abuser will steal something they can sell.

We have to look at a more comprehensive way of dealing with the illicit drug trade. We know if we try to block it off at source, for example Colombia in the case of cocaine and heroin, that it does not work. We have to is take a new approach to drug abuse and deal with it on the demand side. We have to decrease demand. If there is no demand there is no production.

Let us flip the equation around and deal with the demand side. I was in Colombia in February and met with President Pastrana. I was very encouraged to see that he was very much in agreement with North America taking a greater role to decrease demand. At the same time Senator McCain was as were a number of other congressmen and senators from the U.S. For the first time the Americans were saying that they had to get their own house in order. As a nation we also have to do the same. How do we do it?

Thankfully, new medical evidence shows how the brain works with respect to addictions. There are some very exciting programs in Europe that have a 60% one year success rate for hard core narcotics abusers. These programs take a different approach. Not only do they deal with the issues of treatment and counselling, they also involve work and training skills. These programs also get people out of their drug environments for an extended period of time. As we know, that is critically important, because an individual who has a substance abuse problem and is living in an environment where drug abuse is taking place has a very difficult time breaking the habit. These models in Europe, while a bit expensive at the front end, work very well in the long term for decreasing the incidence of drug abuse in society.

Prevention works too and Canada has some exciting models. The Minister of Labour has been a champion of prevention through her head start program in Moncton. There are head start programs around the world that also work very well.

By working with the provinces and using the best of all the models available we will be able to develop a national program for early intervention. We could do this by using existing resources.

However, prevention has to start early, particularly at the prenatal stage because at that time parents can learn how to be good parents. The issue of fetal alcohol syndrome can also be addressed. As members know, fetal alcohol syndrome has been devastating in our society.

By taking the best models from around the world and focusing on strengthening the parent-child bond using existing resources, that kind of head start model would have a dramatic impact on drug use. There is a profound decrease in drug use among children, youth and adults who go through an appropriate head start program.

As I have done in the past, I encourage the Minister of Justice to work with her counterpart, the Minister of Health, and work with the provinces. I urge them to call together the first ministers to implement a head start program using existing resources. This program should not be some huge, dramatic, expensive, bureaucratically bound national program but one that works at the basics of strengthening the parent-child bond.

I want to thank my colleague from Surrey North for putting this bill forward. It focuses on mandatory sentencing and separates auto theft from other thefts. His bill gets to the heart of a significant theft problem in Canada. This bill also implements tough solutions to deal with those individuals who have repeatedly and wilfully demonstrated an abuse of public trust and an abuse of other Canadians. I hope that the government will see fit to implement Bill C-250 as soon as possible.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-250 which would amend part 9 of the criminal code dealing with offences against property. The proposal calls for the creation of a new offence: theft of a motor vehicle with a value of more than $5,000. It then provides for a minimum sentence of four years if convicted a second time for theft of a vehicle over $5,000.

I assume that the purpose of the legislation is to combat the very serious problem of car theft. Unfortunately the bill ignores two basic realities. First, all theft over $5,000 is already an indictable offence under section 322 and 334 of the criminal code. It is already effectively dealt with under the existing sentencing provisions of the code. More important, the legislation would do little to combat the problem of auto theft, a problem that the government is fighting on many fronts in partnership with Canadians from every province and territory.

The proposed amendment to the criminal code sweeps aside the fundamental principles of sentencing currently in place and establishes a very specific regime for an individual facing a second or subsequent auto theft. The theory is that if we catch all the repeat offenders and throw away the key for four years the war against auto theft would be won. I recognize that some convicted criminals reoffend, but imposing a mandatory four year sentence for a second offence does not make sense in light of all that we know about this offence.

Here is what we do know. The vast majority of car thefts are joyriders or individuals who use the stolen vehicle in the commission of another offence. We know this because according to the Insurance Council of Canada the rate of recovery of stolen vehicles is very high, about 70% to 80% in recent years. Further, young offenders commit almost half the reported auto thefts. How does the proposal address these aspects of the problem? We know that hard time in a penitentiary itself does little to rehabilitate offenders, so how do we address this serious problem?

That brings me to the second reality the proposed legislation fails to recognize. While auto theft has been and continues to be a serious problem, it is actively and aggressively being addressed. The problem is being attacked not only by the sanctions available in the criminal code but by every level of government, policing agency, private company, association and by individual Canadians. The existing sanctions within the criminal code and case law effectively achieve the objectives of criminal sentencing for both first time and repeat offenders.

Auto theft falls under the class of offences in the criminal code relating to thefts of property. Section 334 of the criminal code provides that the theft of property exceeding $5,000 is an indictable offence for which the individual is liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years. This provision reflects parliament's recognition that theft over $5,000 is a serious offence and it includes auto theft.

Further, joyriding is a specific offence under the criminal code to take into account the very unique nature of this crime. In addition, if an offender has prior convictions the sentencing judge, under current procedures, is bound to treat this as an aggravating factor that would result in a harsher sentence than would otherwise be imposed. A sentencing court does not stop there, however, nor should it.

The principles of sentencing in Canada require a judge to look at all the circumstances of the crime, including those of the offender and of the victim, the good and the bad, the mitigating and the aggravating. Those circumstances must be weighed in light of the fundamental principles of sentencing. The first and paramount principle of sentencing is that the sentence must be in proportion to the crime or crimes committed, and to the degree of responsibility of the offender.

Put simply, shoplifting by an 18 year old teenager versus the robbing of a convenience store by a professional criminal may both be prosecuted as theft under section 334 of the criminal code. However, to sentence both to six months in jail would not make any sense. The entire sentencing structure of the criminal justice system is built around this basic principle of proportionality. That is why, for example, there is no minimum mandatory sentence for a section 334.

The sentencing court must also consider the remaining well established objectives of sentencing: the protection of society; reparations to and acknowledgements of victims; deterrence to others; denunciation of the crime; and the rehabilitation of the offender. Unfortunately, Bill C-250 would, in too many cases, force the sentencing court to throw away these long established and useful sentencing principles.

The government clearly supports the notion that those who habitually re-offend ought to be punished to a greater extent than the first time offender. However, our current system, recently revamped in 1996 by Bill C-41, the Sentencing Reform Act, provides the necessary flexibility to accomplish this objective.

The determination of sentences therefore requires the consideration of a number of sentencing principles and objectives. In the absence of the proposal contained in Bill C-250, the existing regime enables courts to impose sentences for auto theft that are just and fair to the victim, to society and even to the offender. Many sentencing options are available which can and should be fully considered to tailor the sentence to the specific circumstances of the crime.

While the problem of motor vehicle theft is international in scope, the recent international crime victimization survey conducted in 1996 revealed that Canada's rate of vehicle theft ranked as one of the lowest among industrialized countries.

In 1995, 18 out of every 1,000 Canadian vehicle owners experienced a motor vehicle theft, compared to, for example, a rate of 33 per 1,000 owners in England, and since then we have made considerable progress. We have seen a steady decline in the rate of vehicle thefts every year to 5.3 thefts per 1,000 vehicles in 1999 according to statistics from Statistics Canada.

Recent amendments to the criminal code introduced by the Minister of Justice would make it easier to investigate and prosecute organized crime rings which would put a further dent in vehicle theft. The government is currently co-ordinating a multijurisdictional analysis of the role of organized crime in auto theft as part of our national agenda to combat organized crime.

In addition, a number of non-statutory measures have been employed over recent years to prevent motor vehicle theft in Canada, a measure that the government either initiated or partnered with other governments, agencies, organizations and individuals.

For example, we are actively involved with the provinces and numerous police agencies in the establishment of the national stolen and wrecked vehicle monitoring program designed as a comprehensive database available to the police from coast to coast. This would make it tougher to steal a car at one end of the country and sell it at the other end.

Another initiative involves car manufacturers working in conjunction with the police and insurance companies to design more effective security features for their motor vehicles. The government recently initiated the business action program on crime prevention in partnership with police and insurance companies across Canada to educate Canadians as to what they as individuals can do to fight auto theft.

All these measures are designed to reduce car theft and together with the existing criminal code provisions provide a comprehensive scheme for addressing this serious problem. While the imposition of a four year minimum sentence for a second or subsequent offence may look appealing to a few hardliners, it is simply not a realistic alternative to what already exists. It does not give the police, the prosecutors or the courts any additional tools to combat the problem. As a result, the Minister of Justice cannot support the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2001 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

moved that Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to again rise to speak about one of my private member's initiatives. Once again the Liberal majority on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has decided, for whatever reason, to make this initiative a non-votable matter.

I will not go into a rant about that, but suffice it to say I have to wonder why a select few members of this place are able to control all private members' business to the extent that they and only they decide which issues have even a modicum of opportunity to become law within the country.

It is no secret that many members from all sides of the House have become frustrated and disenchanted with the present scheme, but it will never change unless the government backbenchers forget about the carrots at the end of the stick the Prime Minister continues to hold out for them. Members of this place should be doing what is right for the country. I said I would not get into a rant, so I will move on to Bill C-250.

Bill C-250 is a relatively simple bill. Its purpose is to ensure that a person who is convicted of more than one theft of a motor vehicle receives a minimum of four years' imprisonment for every conviction following the first conviction.

The bill is aimed at the repeat car thief. Before those on the other side and perhaps the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert attack me once again for being too tough on our poor misguided criminal offenders, I will point out that I am specifically aiming the legislation at the professional car thief.

As most of us know, professional car thievery is more and more attributable to organized crime. I will illustrate the affiliation between repeat car thieves and organized crime in a few moments.

It would not be entirely correct to claim that this proposal is only aimed at organized criminals in the normal definition of that term. We have a number of criminal organizations that have developed a specialty of stealing motor vehicles just as a form of illegal activity. They might just be a couple of individuals who want to supplement their annual income or they may in fact live for the benefits of their illegal enterprise.

In any case, auto theft is and should be of great concern to the Canadian public. We are all well aware of our increased auto insurance rates due to the escalation in motor theft. From 1986 to 1997, auto thefts in Canada increased by 94%. In 1997, 187,500 vehicles were reported stolen. The problem costs the insurance industry approximately $600 million annually. It only stands to reason that most if not all of that $600 million cost of motor vehicle theft is passed on from insurance companies to those of us who have to insure our vehicles.

Why has motor vehicle theft become such a growth industry? There are a number of factors.

First, with the sophistication of these professional offenders, there is relatively low risk. Most of us have to leave our vehicles outside at some point during the day: when we go shopping, when we drive them to work, when we leave them at the local transit parking lot, or even overnight while we are sleeping. Motor vehicles are often left unattended for minutes or hours at a time and are so common that thieves can approach them with little fear of attracting attention.

Second, there is a high return. With motor vehicle prices rising toward a common value of $30,000 and beyond, it becomes very profitable for crooks to specialize in auto theft.

Third, there is an avoidance of income taxes. Regardless of what the Minister of Finance says, income taxes are particularly burdensome to most of our citizens. One of the exceptions to the cumbersome weight of taxes is the criminal element. Auto thieves avoid paying high taxes or any taxes at all by chopping or disassembling motor vehicles and selling the parts to the parts industry. They also obtain vehicle identification numbers from wrecks, reattach those numbers to stolen vehicles and essentially put a new and improved auto back onto the streets.

I will divert myself for just a moment to give the House just one example of how devastating this practice of switching vehicle identification numbers, or VINs, can be to the unsuspecting buyer. Just last week it was reported how Tammy Mulvey of Ottawa was victimized by this scheme. She is a 22 year old who works for a mobile canteen company. I can just imagine how proud she was when she purchased her first car for $8,000, a 1993 Honda Civic. I do not know that I can imagine how she felt when the police helped a tow truck driver take it away. It was stolen.

Tammy had little protection. She bought the vehicle with a VIN that was free and clear from problems or legal claims. Unfortunately, that VIN did not belong to the car she bought. It was identified by the police as part of a $10 million international motor vehicle theft ring. Tammy was the loser, a victim because that car actually belonged to someone else. A loss of $8,000 at the age of 22 is a nasty life experience for someone just starting out.

What are some of the other factors that ensure that motor vehicle theft is a growth industry? As the example illustrates, organized crime finds it quite profitable. Organized crime also finds many other uses for its ill-gotten gains. Police are convinced that many, if not most, of the biker gangs drive stolen vehicles and motorcycles. With motorcycles it is relatively easy to have three or four individuals pick up a Harley off the street and throw it into the back of a pickup.

We have all heard stories about how criminals use stolen vehicles to commit crimes, crimes like drug trafficking and armed robbery just to mention a couple. A car is stolen. It is used in the offence and is then dumped through various means.

Stolen vehicles with fraudulent paperwork can become a currency within organized crime activity. These vehicles are traded for other items of value. Stolen vehicles have been bartered for drugs from foreign countries. Apparently it is quite simple to ship motor vehicles in those sealed international shipping containers we have all seen travelling across the world on ships, trains and trucks. Many North American vehicles are worth double their value in many foreign countries.

It has become very profitable for organized criminals to steal a luxury vehicle, put it in a shipping container, put it on a ship and sell it to a wealthy buyer, with no questions asked and no international vehicle tracking system in place. We should recognize that many countries have few car dealerships and high tariffs on imported vehicles. These criminals are filling a void that cries out for this form of activity.

The last thing I will discuss about the causes of auto theft as a growth industry has to do with the little risk of jail time for the offence. We have enough difficulty convincing the Liberal government to impose jail time for violent offences. Auto theft is not a violent offence. Our courts often look at auto theft as being protected by car insurance. We all lose a bit but no one suffers a great deal. That is absolutely wrong headed.

Why should we be sponsoring criminals who refuse to abide by the norms of society and who sponge on all law-abiding citizens? Why should we be permitting organized criminals to expand their enterprises, to expand their influence and to increase the threat to society when it is so easy to address just one aspect of their operations? The bill would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of four years on professional vehicle thieves.

I will now provide some anecdotal support for what I have been saying. An RCMP intelligence report dealing with a multimillion dollar organized crime ring whereby luxury cars were stolen and shipped overseas stated:

These groups, motivated by the low risk, huge profits and light penalties associated with auto theft, are operating virtual stolen-car pipelines.

The ring then funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars to a terrorist organization, according to the RCMP report. We can see how profits from the theft of motor vehicles generates far more serious and dangerous criminal activities. The director of RCMP criminal intelligence said:

There has also been increasing use of violence, including car-jackings and home invasions, to obtain cars.

The president of the Canadian Police Association listed auto theft as one of the major activities of organized crime. Constable Jim Messner of the RCMP auto theft squad in Calgary says that his city has become a shipping hub for stolen high priced vehicles for organized crime rings. He said:

There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of unrecovered stolen vehicles is a result of organized crime. We know organized crime groups have stolen vehicles for a number of things, including transporting contraband.

In one weekend last year, 31 vehicles were stolen in Burnaby, B.C. I do not have the figure for how many were stolen that particular weekend for Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster or North Vancouver, but 31 vehicles for the Burnaby portion of the lower mainland is a symptom of a major problem. In one seven day period last year, 128 vehicles were reported stolen from the streets of Ottawa. According to Statistics Canada about 450 vehicles are stolen every day in Canada.

All these statistics are in spite of car owners having to ensure their vehicles are locked each and every time they are left alone, and in spite of anti-theft devices and car alarms. Motor vehicle theft is a matter of significant public interest. Unfortunately it does not seem to be of any significant government interest as it has decided not to make the bill votable.

In a recent operation against organized crime police from Canada and the United States were able to lay 270 charges and recover close to $10 million in stolen vehicles. Some 193 vehicles were recovered from as diverse a distribution as Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo, Texas, Florida and Panama.

For any of those listening who do the math most of the vehicles recovered were from the high end of the motor vehicle industry. Lincoln Navigators, Volvos and Mercedes were particularly attractive to these individuals. Twenty-five people were arrested and at that time the police had warrants for twenty-four others.

It is most unfortunate that many will get a slap on the wrist for stealing vehicles. The authorities will only be able to guess how many vehicles passed through this organization successfully while our police were forced to expend scarce resources on their enterprise. More than 150 officers were involved in this takedown.

It is obviously time to change the law. It is not right that we merely warehouse these individuals for a few months. For them it is merely an opportunity to rest up before returning to our communities to pick up where they left off. For them these lenient sentences are nothing more than a cost of doing business. We must show that as parliamentarians we are very serious about addressing this form of crime.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 8th, 2001 / 10 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Athabasca for seconding the bill. I have the pleasure to reintroduce legislation to amend the criminal code, specifically concerning the offence of theft of motor vehicles.

This amendment applies only to those offenders who are in the business of stealing motor vehicles. Organized crime and other gang related enterprises are becoming quite active in this type of criminal activity.

The purpose of the legislation is to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of four years of imprisonment on anyone who is convicted of more than one theft of a motor vehicle.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)