Mr. Speaker, on March 10, 2004, the hon. Chuck Cadman, member for Surrey North, rose in the House to say:
Yesterday in Surrey, B.C. just before the evening rush hour, an 18-year-old lost control of his muscle car at an estimated speed of 140 kilometres per hour. He demolished a bus shelter, critically injuring a 71-year-old woman. Another car was spotted fleeing the scene, making it obvious to all concerned that this was yet another tragic result of a street race.
As warmer weather approaches, street racing incidents will likely increase and participants are confident they will not spend a day in jail even if they kill or injure. Nationally, insurance claims resulting from street racing more than doubled between 2000 and 2002. A message must be sent to the courts that these crimes are to be treated more seriously.
I urge all members to maintain support for Bill C-338, which the House passed and sent to the justice committee. It will make street racing an aggravating factor for sentencing. If we are really serious about deterring this irresponsible criminal activity, Bill C-338 must become law before the end of this Parliament.
That is what we are talking about and what Chuck wanted us to talk about, and I believe Bill C-65 would give us the instrument to take the essence of his concerns. Bill C-338 was a bill in the 37th Parliament and he brought it back in this current Parliament, now Bill C-230. As he introduced that at first reading I thought it would be interesting just to read maybe what he was thinking the day he came back to the House and decided to put it again. He stated:
Street racing continues to kill or seriously injure innocent people in Canada.
I am reintroducing this legislation to amend the Criminal Code specifically to provide that street racing is to be considered an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing a person convicted of dangerous operation of, or criminal negligence involving a motor vehicle.
In addition, the bill provides that any person convicted under these provisions who was involved in street racing must be subject to a regime of mandatory national driving prohibitions ranging from one year to life, to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.
The bill received broad support in the last Parliament and I hope that will continue to be the case.
If members would reflect on Mr. Cadman's bill and his statements to the House, I think they would find that Bill C-65 embraces the principles that Chuck included in his bill. There are some differences but the differences are not to an extent that would cause the House some difficulty.
In fact, when I looked at Bill C-65 and I compared it to Bill C-230, and members will know because they are amendments to the Criminal Code, that the bill does not read as a story book, like here is the beginning and the end. One actually has to look at the Criminal Code and look at the context that it is in, and determine whether or not the continuity of the changes make some sense given the historic evolution of the Criminal Code.
Indeed, the Criminal Code is a very complex document. I once tried to print it out from the Internet and I think it was about a foot tall and, quite frankly, was maybe not something one would want to do too often.
One of the points Mr. Cadman raised in the bill had to do with aggravating factors. I do not think there is any disagreement in the House that street racing, where it ultimately leads to bodily harm or criminal negligence causing death, is identified as an aggravating factor in both the bills. That is not a contention.
However there also is the issue of making the prohibition of street racing mandatory.
The differences between Bill C-65 and Bill C-230 are quite stark. Under the Cadman bill, Bill C-230, the maximum penalty for the first offence is three years but under Bill C-65 the maximum penalty can be a life prohibition. It is a more serious recognition of the offence than was contemplated by Mr. Cadman.
There are four offences that are dealt with in these bills to which the reforms apply and the most frequent offences charged in cases involving street racing where death or injury results. This is where the key is. In the discussion with one of the previous speakers, it was noted for the House that street racing as an offence, where there is no death, injury or damage caused, is a provincial jurisdiction and there are laws to deal with the offence of street racing. We are not just talking about street racing in a vacuum. We are talking about street racing where death or injury results.
Obviously these offences are serious. They involve the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing death. Those are the four main issues.
The maximum driving prohibition that is proscribed in Bill C-230 for a first offence involving street racing is a three year ban. It would result in a drastic reduction of the maximum driving prohibition that is currently available under the Criminal Code. There should be a change to that and it would be a change that I am sure Mr. Cadman would have supported.
In this regard, the current Criminal Code discretionary driving prohibitions provide for a period of up to a maximum of 10 years in the case of the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The difference is that in the case of criminal negligence causing death, the existing provisions provide for a discretionary maximum period of a lifetime ban on driving.
I think the fact that we are talking about that incident of criminal negligence causing death is the example Chuck used back in the 37th Parliament and I know that it is the one that motivated him to say that enough was enough and that we needed to deal with this.
Bill C-65 maintains these current maximum driving prohibitions but it does so in the context of a new provision imposing a mandatory driving prohibition period. This aspect of a mandatory penalty has been one that has come up many times in this place with regard to criminality. I think the House recognizes that there are circumstances in which minimum mandatory sentencing may be appropriate. I have argued that in this place myself and we have other legislation in which mandatory minimums are in the laws of Canada now.
The argument about whether or not mandatory minimums are effective and are a deterrent has been passed. That is no longer the point of discussion. It is in fact in current laws and it reflects, not just that there should be a deterrent, and I understand what deterrence is, but I am not sure I understand what people say when they say that minimum mandatory sentences are not effective. They are not effective for what?
In the example of a commercial marijuana grow house operation we have been told time and time again that after a certain number of plants, all of a sudden we are talking about a commercial operation which, more often than not, is involved in other criminal activity, usually organized crime in which the money is being used to fund other criminal activity that is detrimental to society as a whole.
I do not think there is a disagreement with regard to the mandatory side. I am raising these issues because it is quite important not to get distracted by the politics or the partisanship with regard to whether or not the bill is identical. It is important that we take the opportunity to use Bill C-65 as a tool to address the items that our former colleague raised in this place so often. We should continue to consider this as Chuck's bill. I think the House would agree unanimously that it is something we want to make happen. Rather than members saying why they cannot support the bill, they should identify areas in which we could say how we can support the bill and make the bill fit a little closer. I cannot see that it is that different.
Let me move on to the second offence of the four, which is dangerous driving causing bodily harm or criminal negligence causing bodily harm that involves street racing. The maximum driving prohibition in Bill C-65 is higher than in Bill C-230 by five years. The maximum driving prohibition in Bill C-65 for the two offences just named is 10 years. It is incorrect to say that the bill is not as tough. In fact, it is in many respects tougher than what was proposed, maybe not inappropriately as well. I am sure that had the bill had the opportunity to come to the House for debate and to go to committee and be dealt with, we could have resolved some of the questions that are being raised today.
Some members are of the view that a repeat offender scheme similar to what is proposed in Bill C-230, which would create a scheme of higher maximum or minimum driving prohibitions, would be a preferred model but I am not sure. Certainly, with regard to the principle of whether or not there is a repeat offender, there is no question the courts could take that into account. I can recall being in a courtroom watching proceedings and there was a fellow who was charged with auto theft and other theft of auto parts. After they read out the litany of events on this guy's rap sheet, his lawyer argued that the rate of incidence of these crimes was going down. So that is a good thing and we should say that this guy is doing well because he is not stealing as much as he used to.
With some of the problems that we try to address, I sometimes wonder whether the courts do not take them as seriously as we do. I am not sure why but I have heard many anecdotal cases where the courts have not had the resources, or somehow have allowed cases to be thrown out, or summarily dismissed, and arguments where the courts cannot do their job.
We have a serious problem. When we do have laws and we do enforce them but the courts cannot dispose of them in the fashion that was provided for by the legislators, then why are we making laws in the first place? They are either important laws that should be enforced and adjudicated or they are not. However it appears that half of the problem or maybe more than half the problem is with the courts themselves.
I think that is a very important question and I know it crosses jurisdiction in many cases. However, when we pass laws that we ask the provinces, through their provincial police, to enforce, what do we do when they do not have the resources? Do we now have a responsibility to ensure that the laws that we make are in fact enforced?
We have so many cases of marijuana grow houses. In my own community of Mississauga South the chief of police tells me that the police cannot even follow up on all of the tips that they get from people that there are grow houses there. They cannot even investigate them because they do not have the people who are properly trained to deal with those dangerous situations. Why is that? Why is it when we know that most of the moneys that are coming out of these commercial size grow-ops are going to finance organized crime, prostitution, hard drugs, and all of these other terrible things that are placed in our society? It is because communities do not have the resources to have the policing.
I think it is evident as well in the kinds of things that we see even in Chuck Cadman's bill. There are things that we cannot do for some odd reason. I would rather say that I do not want an explanation of why we cannot do it. I want an explanation of how we can.
I always like to come to this place and talk for something and not against something. I want to talk in favour of Bill C-65 because for me it is still Chuck's bill. The arguments that he brought, the statements that he made, the passion that he brought to this place, and the inspiration that he has been not only to members in this place but to Canadians as a whole are the things that we should remember when talking about why we should make this instrument work.
We should deal with it quickly. I want to encourage members to reflect on what we are doing and why we are doing it. To the extent that we discover bottlenecks, pitfalls or some other problems, we have the ability to change them. We can change things at committee stage after second reading. We can change things at report stage if necessary.
If members are still not happy with what comes out of committee, members can pass a motion at third reading to revert it back to committee to reconsider it on certain aspects. We have tools to work with and I would rather say that we can, rather than we cannot.
I think that members are quite familiar with the bill. There is a question that has come up and I would like to perhaps rhetorically pose the question and see if I can provide the answer. It has to do with CPIC and it comes up a lot.
The question is, why is it possible to have higher minimum and maximum driving prohibitions for impaired driving but not for street racing? The answer, whether we like it or not, is that the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, does maintain on the criminal record convictions for the offence of impaired driving. Therefore, it is possible to quickly see a prior conviction, given the offender notice and a higher penalty for a repeat offence, but not with regard to street racing.
That is a mechanical problem. It is a functionality problem that I think we need to consider. I know that the justice committee always has CPIC present at the table. If we are told that CPIC cannot do what we would like it to do, why do we not find out how we can do it, so that we can pass Chuck Cadman's bill?