An Act to amend the Criminal Code (breaking and entering)

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

Sponsor

Deepak Obhrai  Canadian Alliance

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

Status

Not active, as of March 1, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

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 22nd, 2002 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-386 introduced by the hon. member for Calgary East, an act to amend the criminal code dealing with breaking and entering. Last May an identical bill, Bill C-290, was debated at second reading and dropped from the order paper.

As was stated when the former bill was debated, the safety and security of Canadians in their own homes continues to be a key priority for the Government of Canada. The government has responded to concerns about home invasions through amendments to Bill C-15A, the criminal law amendment act, 2001 which is currently awaiting royal assent. The amendments to the criminal code indicate that where an offender's conduct is in the nature of a home invasion the court must consider it an aggravating factor when determining the sentence to be imposed.

Bill C-386 would amend paragraph 348(1)( d ) of the criminal code of Canada by providing for maximum penalties:

(i) in the case of a first offence, to imprisonment for life, or

(ii) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to imprisonment for life or to a minimum term of imprisonment of not less than two years--

Section 348 of the criminal code currently makes it an offence to enter a place with intent to commit an indictable offence, to actually commit an indictable offence, or to have broken out of a place after having committed or intending to commit an indictable offence. The current maximum penalty for committing any of these acts in a dwelling place is life imprisonment. The offence of robbery also carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

I suspect most Canadians would be surprised that these offences attract such a severe maximum penalty. Surveys conducted by the Canadian Sentencing Commission in the mid-1980s showed that the public had little knowledge of either the maximum or minimum penalties and many people were surprised by the severity of the existing maxima.

The current maximum penalties for breaking and entering and robbery demonstrate that the government recognizes the conduct is of a serious nature which may have significant impacts on its victims. I might add that I know how it feels to have been a victim of a break and enter since I experienced it in my own home.

The sanctity of an individual's home as a place of safety free from intrusion has been recognized in common law for hundreds of years. It is in part for this reason that the criminal code offences of robbery and break and enter of a dwelling house are both subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Section 718 of the criminal code provides that:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute...to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society--

The objectives of sentencing set out in the criminal code include denouncing unlawful conduct, deterring the offender and others from committing offences, and promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders and an acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and the community.

The government shares the concerns of Canadians with regard to the relatively new phenomenon of home invasion robberies; that is, robberies that occur when the home is occupied. Courts across Canada have been imposing stiff sentences for this type of crime that address the sentencing objectives of denunciation and deterrence and highlight the importance of individuals being able to feel safe and secure in their own homes. The government's amendments to Bill C-15A signal that home invasions constitute serious conduct that should be met with significant penalties.

In addition to providing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, which the criminal code already does for breaking and entering in a dwelling house for robbery, Bill C-386 would provide that a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of two years be imposed in the case of a second or subsequent offence.

Canada has historically utilized mandatory minimum penalties with restraint and has allowed courts the discretion to fashion a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the conduct of the offender. It is also interesting to see that other countries are questioning the use of mandatory minimum penalties. The legislature in Australia's Northern Territory recently repealed its mandatory minimum sentences. Courts of appeal in the United States have recently struck down some of California's mandatory minimum penalties as being cruel and unusual punishment.

Judges who have the benefit of being able to consider all the facts and evidence regarding the circumstances of the offence and the offender are well placed to determine the appropriate sentence in an individual case. Those circumstances must be weighed in light of the principles of sentencing. There is no clearly demonstrated need to create a minimum penalty for a second or subsequent conviction for breaking and entering a dwelling house given the high maximum penalty already in the code and the sentencing patterns for this offence.

It is also important to note that courts take into account as an aggravating factor in sentencing the fact that the offender has a previous conviction for the same or a related offence. In fact, the existence of a criminal record is the greatest predictor of a longer sentence length.

With respect to home invasion, the creation of an aggravating sentencing provision in Bill C-15A would encourage judges to use those tough penalties already available which, as noted, many courts have been doing throughout Canada in recognition of the seriousness of the offence and its devastating impact upon its victims.

While I recognize the concerns of the hon. member for Calgary East with respect to the offence of breaking and entering, I do believe that the existing penalty of life imprisonment for this offence and the amendments found in Bill C-15A clearly demonstrate our commitment to providing safe homes for all Canadians.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the bill in respect to break and enter crimes. As my hon. colleague for Calgary East has stated, Bill C-290 provides the courts clear direction from parliament on the seriousness of break and enter crimes.

The bill would set out a minimum two year sentence for repeat and subsequent offences for break and enter crimes in a dwelling house. That needs to be stressed. We are talking about the residence of a person.

The bill would not simply denounce break and enter crime as a serious violation of a person's sense of safety and security. By providing a two year minimum for repeat offenders the bill would prove a very effective deterrent against these kinds of criminals.

Let me give the House a quick but telling example of why Liberal policy with respect to break and enter law has failed and why we need to seriously consider amending the sentencing provisions for break and enter crimes.

In my home province of Manitoba preliminary statistics released by Winnipeg police on March 20 show that Winnipeg's crime rate jumped almost 40% in the first two months of this year. The police service is stretched to the limit as front line officers fight to protect law-abiding citizens.

According to Winnipeg police, these statistics show that certain crimes, particularly break and enter crimes, are on the rise after several years of decline. A member across the way says we should talk to the province or to police. There it is. We are told to blame the province and the police when we have the tools to deal with it here.

It is a typical Liberal response to simply pay lip service to an issue and let someone else deal with it.

I want to compare statistics for the first two months of 2001 with those for the first two months of 2000. I will give the precise numbers. Nine hundred and nineteen residential break and enters were reported in January and February 2001. Seven hundred and ninety-three were reported for the same period last year. This is not just a matter of statistics. This is a matter of personal safety for the people of my province and the people of Canada. People live in fear because of what is happening not only on the streets but in their own homes.

This parliament does not show its citizens the respect to which they are entitled in their own homes. If we let gangs run loose on the streets what courtesy are we showing to citizens? What fears build up in their homes when they cannot even lock the door and know they are safe?

Members across the way say that it is a police problem. It is not a police problem. Police arrest these lawbreakers every day and the turnstile justice system sets them free almost immediately.

The situation is not unique to Winnipeg. As my hon. friend from Calgary has indicated, it is a serious problem in his city as well. It has become such a problem that the Calgary police service has formed a break and enter unit in every district to take over from the single unit which until recently served the entire city.

Officers are becoming increasingly frustrated watching criminals receive little more than a slap on the wrist from the courts. My friend across the way said that we should let judges determine sentences because they have all the facts. Yes, they have all the facts and all the tools, yet they are doing nothing.

When I was in provincial politics one of my constituents suggested that one way to reduce crime in Winnipeg would be to make each judge live on a block in the downtown core. We would perhaps not see the callous attitude with which people in those areas are treated when they come to the courts for justice. Let judges live in the downtown core and deal with gangs not in the courts but face to face when they come through the doors into their homes. It is disgraceful.

The police know what they are talking about. Thinking citizens know what they are talking about. The statistics are clear. The vast majority of break and enter crimes are committed by a very small group of people. Winnipeg City Police have told me that when they put one of these gangs away the break and enter rates drop dramatically. As soon as they are on the street again the rates zoom up.

Incarceration for break and enters into residential homes is a clear deterrent and has a clear impact on this horrific crime. This is not a property crime. This is not a property crime. It is an invasion of people's security. It is a violation of the rights outlined in the section 7 of the charter: the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The charter protects criminals in our courts but parliament does not grant the same courtesy to law-abiding, taxpaying citizens. That is a disgrace.

Break and enter crimes fund gang related activities, such as drug purchases and distribution. The bill's sentencing provisions would cut off what is a real and substantial revenue source for these career criminals.

My friend across the way indicated that the new amendments would give the courts direction. The courts have always had the ability to impose life sentences, although they gave up on that a long time ago. They no longer even take the facts into account.

My learned friend knows that the real purpose behind the Liberal bill is to allow the government to stand and pay lip service knowing that judges will do nothing about this crime. It is a fraud on the Canadian people. That is why my hon. friend from Calgary introduced this private member's bill. It is absolutely necessary.

The terror of this crime is illustrated by a newspaper article in today's Winnipeg Sun . The article describes an ordinary break and enter that turned into a home invasion in which police officers and citizens feared for their lives. I recommend that you read the story, Madam Speaker.

Let us think about it. While people in core areas of Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver are crouched in their homes worried about what is happening to their cities, the government refuses to respond. I ask all hon. members to respond by voting in favour of this very necessary bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2001 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-290, an act to amend the criminal code with respect to breaking and entering, which has been introduced by the hon. member for Calgary East.

The safety and security of Canadians within their own homes is a key priority for the Government of Canada. The government has responded to concerns about home invasions by including section 23 in Bill C-15, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001, introduced on March 14, 2001.

Proposed amendments to the criminal code would indicate that where the offender's conduct was in the nature of a home invasion, the court must consider this to be an aggravating factor when determining the sentence to be imposed.

Bill C-290 would amend subsection 348(1)(d) of the criminal code by providing, in the case of a first offence, for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and in the case of second or subsequent offence, a maximum life sentence and a minimum sentence of two years imprisonment.

Section 348 of the code makes it an offence to enter a place with intent to commit an indictable offence, to actually commit an indictable offence, or to have broken out of a place after having committed or intending to commit an indictable offence. The current maximum penalty for committing any of these acts in a dwelling place is life imprisonment. I would add that the offence of robbery also carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

I suspect most Canadians would be surprised that these offences attract such a severe maximum penalty. In fact, surveys conducted by the Canadian Sentencing Commission in the mid-1980s showed that the public has very little knowledge of either maximum or minimum penalties generally and that many were taken aback by the severity of the existing maxima.

The current maximum penalties for breaking and entering and robbery demonstrate that the government recognizes this conduct is of serious nature which may have significant impacts upon its victims. The sanctity of an individual's home as a place of safety and one free from intrusion has been recognized at common law for hundreds of years. It is, in part, for this reason that the criminal code offences of robbery and break and enter of a dwelling house are subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The criminal code states that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.

The objectives of sentencing in the criminal code include denouncing unlawful conduct, deterring those who would commit offences and promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders in acknowledging the harm they have done to victims and to the community.

The government shares the concerns of Canadians with regard to the relatively new phenomenon of home invasion robberies which occur while the home is occupied. To protect the right of individuals to feel secure in their own homes and to address the need for denunciation and deterrence, courts across Canada have been imposing stiff sentences for this crime.

The proposed amendment signals that home invasions are a serious crime that should be met with significant penalties. In addition to the maximum life imprisonment already in the criminal code for breaking and entering into a dwelling house, Bill C-290 would provide a mandatory minimum of two years' imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.

Canada has historically utilized mandatory minimum sentences with restraint and allowed courts the discretion to fashion sentences proportionate to the gravity of the offence and conduct of the offender. Judges, who have the benefit of knowing all the facts and evidence regarding the offence and the offender, are well placed to determine the appropriate sentence in individual cases. Such circumstances must be weighed in light of the sentencing principles I have outlined.

There is no clearly demonstrated need for a minimum penalty for second or subsequent convictions for breaking and entering into a dwelling house given the high maximum penalty already in the code. Courts also take into account whether an offender has previous convictions for the same or related offences. A prior criminal record is an aggravating factor and the greatest predictor of a longer sentence.

With respect to home invasion, the creation of an aggravating sentencing provision in Bill C-15 would encourage judges to use the tough penalties already available. As noted, courts throughout Canada are already doing so in recognition of the seriousness of this offence and its devastating impact upon victims.

I recognize the concerns of the hon. member for Calgary East with respect to breaking and entering. However I believe the existing penalty of life imprisonment for this offence and clause 23 of Bill C-15 clearly demonstrate our commitment to providing safe homes for all Canadians.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2001 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

moved that Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (breaking and entering), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to speak this afternoon to my private member's bill, Bill C-290, an act to amend the criminal code (breaking and entering).

The purpose of the enactment is to provide for a minimum mandatory imprisonment of two years upon a second or subsequent conviction for breaking and entering where the offence is committed in relation to a dwelling house.

Break and enter crime is much more than a property offence. It is a crime against the person. Canadians view break and enter crime as a very serious and traumatic violation of their sense of safety and security. Victims of house break-ins rarely talk later about the television they lost or the other property that was taken. However, they talk about the fear and the fact that someone invaded the sanctity of their home. This is not a property offence in the same way we view an auto theft.

On April 19, I had a town hall meeting in my riding to discuss break and enter crime. A constituent came forward at this meeting to describe the fear she still feels after break and enter thieves violated her home several years ago. She described how she still feels unsafe in her own home and how she thought about selling her home because she is scared that the thieves will one day come back.

These kinds of stories show the reality of break and enter crime.

To quote Chief David Scott of the Saskatoon Police Service in a recent letter of support for the bill, he said:

You have correctly identified what we so often neglect to realize is the psychological damage and the tremendous trauma suffered by victims of home break and enters.

Constable Guy Baker of District 4 in Calgary said:

The best sentence I ever saw for a repeat offender was three years, however, the effect on the victims lasts forever.

Females feel personally violated and their house no longer has a sense of being a home. Men feel they have failed in their role as the family protector. Children have a hard time sleeping and many children start bed-wetting after their home has been burglarized.

While the psychological impacts of break and enter crime are often devastating in their own right, this can also be a violent crime because every break and enter is potentially a home invasion. In fact, according to statistics from the Canadian Centre for Justice, 58% of break and enter incidents involved a weapon being present.

I would like to quote an Edmonton man who was viciously beaten in a break and enter that turned into a home invasion:

Physically I am okay. Mentally I am not. It's almost like I have to force myself to do things—even to go to work. I don't know what could be enough jail time (for this). There is no justification for what they did.

The bill is a victim's amendment to the criminal code because the result would be fewer victims brought about by imposing a real deterrent on professional break and enter criminals.

Chief Julian Santino of the Toronto Police Service said:

Deterrent sentences such as the one you have proposed are absolutely necessary if we are ever to realize the goal of truth in sentencing.

Sergeant Al Koenig, president of the Calgary Police Association, stated:

A two year minimum sentence will slow down the turnstile treatment of these career criminals.

Staff Sergeant Dan Dorsey of the Calgary Police Service said:

You have to take repeat break and enter offenders out of the circulation because they don't stop. We try to keep the habitual home breakers incarcerated for as long as possible.

Bill C-290 will also cut off what is a real source of revenue for career criminals and organized crime by breaking the cycle of using the proceeds of break and enter crime to finance other criminal activities, including drug trafficking.

Break and enter is a crime once thought serious enough by parliament that it imposed a maximum sentence of life in prison. Today conditional and suspended sentencing has reduced the average jail term served by a repeat break and enter offender to six months. Only one in ten repeat offenders receives a sentence of two years or more.

That said, parliamentarians must provide a clear distinction to the courts about the serious nature of this crime by imposing a minimum sentence. As Chief Alex McCauley of the Sudbury Regional Police stated:

I view incidents of break and enter as a far more serious crime than it appears to be getting credit for, especially in the courts today.

Saskatoon Police Chief Dave Scott said:

I am confident the Canadian public is exasperated and distrustful of the Canadian justice system's ability to deal with this offence appropriately.

The courts do need a clear direction from our legislators regarding Canadian citizens' concern over their personal safety and their homes. A two year minimum would act as a deterrent to potential thieves and would take the professional thief off the streets. It would not add substantial numbers of new prisoners to already overcrowded prisons because of the relatively low numbers of repeat offenders committing a large percentage of break and enter crimes.

Statistics in Calgary suggest that as few as 5% of the repeat professional offenders are committing 80% of the crimes. A two year minimum would also prevent the provincial justice system from imposing different sentences from one jurisdiction to another. An offender in Alberta should be looking at the same sentence as a person from Ontario.

The bill was seconded by the former attorney general from Manitoba, my colleague, who will be speaking shortly on this bill. He said:

The courts need a clear direction from parliament that sets out the concerns that Canadians have over this very serious crime. This bill would provide that direction.

I would conclude by reading the following letter sent to me by a constituent, who said:

Dear leaders of our great country's political parties;

As I'm sure you are all aware, the member for Calgary East is in the process of introducing a private member's bill to give repeat break and enter artists a minimum sentence of two years in custody.

I would like to ask all of you, especially the Prime Minister, to please ask for all MPs in your respective parties to disregard party politics, and vote in favour of this bill. Please do not let a great bill, that could potentially help all Canadians in a great way, get squashed in favour of party politics.

The letter writer was concerned. This crime happens from coast to coast and is not unique to any province. I believe home break and enters to be one of the greatest invasions a family or person can endure. I am sure my family and I would be deeply traumatized by that experience. I believe this is a huge problem and is always in the minds of all Canadians. Please help all of us in this great country feel a little more secure and at ease by helping to reduce such heartbreaking and demoralizing invasions.

I would like unanimous consent from members of the House to make this a votable bill.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

March 1st, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-290, an act to amend the criminal code (breaking and entering).

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to reintroduce my private member's bill that would amend the criminal code to impose a two year minimum sentence for repeat offenders of break and enter crime.

Break and enter crime is not only a property offence. It is a crime against a person. It is a psychologically damaging crime, often leaving victims feeling personally violated and traumatized. It has the potential to be a violent crime because every break and enter is potentially a home invasion.

The bill is a victims amendment to the criminal code because the result would be fewer victims by imposing a real deterrent on professional break and enter criminals.

The bill would also cut what is a real source of revenue for career criminals and organized crime by breaking the cycle of proceeds of break and enter crime being used to finance other criminal activities.

The courts need a clear direction from parliament that sets out the concern Canadians about this very serious crime. I welcome the support of my colleagues for this non-partisan initiative.

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