Bill C-287 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (vehicle identification number)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Chuck Cadman Independent
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Not active, as of Nov. 17, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)
October 24th, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC
Madam Speaker, it is hard to imagine. Mr. Cadman was a crusader of criminal justice system reforms under the Young Offenders Act, street car racing, vehicle identification numbers and many other issues which he brought to the floor of the House. He came up with two bills, which we are now debating as government bills, Bill C-64 and Bill C-65.
On the vehicle identification numbers he came up with Bill C-413 and then reintroduced it a couple of times in the form of Bill C-287. Why did the Liberals oppose those bills? The subject matter was there. They were effective bills. A person who had experience in and passion for the criminal justice system reforms drafted those bills. However, the government opposed those bills, but after the confidence vote on May 19 suddenly it became evident to the Liberals that they should come on board and support the bills.
I sincerely doubt the intention of the government. It has no integrity when it comes to its track record on these issues. When my late colleague came up with the bill, the government opposed it. Now it suddenly wants to support it. There is some sort of a catch. I cannot understand what that catch is, but my senses tell me that the Liberals are after political opportunism. There may be a byelection in that riding very soon.
If the Liberals were really sincere about honouring the legacy that Mr. Cadman left behind, they would adopt the bill as it was written by Mr. Cadman. Rather, they are only using the name and the shell, but they have changed the content and have completely watered it down.
I can only imagine from talking to Dane Minor who was a close friend of Chuck Cadman. I worked with Chuck Cadman for almost eight years in the House. We shared so many things together during our campaigns. In our ridings we had joint town hall meetings on crime and other issues.
I could say that he would be disappointed. I am very sure he would have voted against Bills C-64 and C-65 as written by the Liberals.
October 24th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.
Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-64, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to vehicle identification numbers.
Bill C-64 would make it a criminal offence to alter, remove or obliterate the vehicle identification number, commonly known as a VIN, on a motor vehicle. The current Criminal Code has no offence that deals specifically with VIN tampering. However, under section 352.2 of the Criminal Code, a tampered with VIN can be proof of property obtained by crime.
Auto theft in B.C. is epidemic. As the member who spoke before me mentioned, we had 37,500 vehicles stolen last year. The RCMP has labeled Surrey, British Columbia, the car theft capital of North America. On a per capita basis, more automobiles are stolen in Surrey than in any other North American city, more than Toronto, more than Los Angeles, and even more than New York City.
Over 6,000 cars are stolen each year in the communities in Surrey. Sixteen cars will be stolen by the end of any given day. Since the time we began speaking on this bill today, some cars have probably already been stolen in Surrey.
Local newspapers jokingly refer to car theft as Surrey's fastest growing industry, but it is no joking matter. Almost all the vehicles stolen are used to commit other crimes.
Stealing a vehicle is one thing, but the thieves then involve that vehicle in other crimes or sometimes in joyriding, often with fatal consequences. So far this year seven people have died in British Columbia as a result of auto theft.
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia estimates that auto offences cost Surrey drivers $13 million annually.
The RCMP claims that it has done all it can to stop car thieves and now it is up to the courts. We have a court system that is a revolving door. The car thieves take advantage of our weak laws, our laws without teeth, and of the loopholes that exist within the system.
The courts refuse to treat auto theft as a serious crime. The RCMP auto theft task force complains that thieves receive virtually no punishment but a slap on the wrist. In fact, when the punishment is not severe, that becomes a motivation to commit the same crime again. There is no deterrent in place.
Meanwhile, the same individuals are arrested over and over again. One man arrested last summer in Surrey was already facing seven separate trials for auto theft. Another thief was pulled over while driving a stolen car to his court hearing on auto theft charges; he was going to court on auto theft charges and he stole a car to get there. In fact, once a thief stole a car and another thief stole his stolen car.
This crime is so rampant that about half of the 13,000 cases handled by Surrey provincial court last year involved car theft. Ninety per cent involved repeat offenders.
Most car thieves are supporting drug addictions. This was graphically displayed earlier this year when an RCMP bait car equipped with a surveillance camera caught a Surrey car thief on film. The thief was high on crystal meth, which is a serious problem in Surrey. According to a survey, 10% of school students under the age of 18 have used crystal meth. The government is sitting on its hands doing nothing to prevent it or stop it.
The thief, high on crystal meth and waving a gun, sped through our city streets. The image was later seen on news broadcasts across the country.
My former colleague and neighbour in Surrey, member of Parliament Chuck Cadman, sought to address auto theft and assist police by introducing Bill C-413 in March 2003.
He reintroduced his private member's bill in February 2004 and then again in November 2004, as Bill C-287. These two bills, neither of which moved beyond first reading, sought to make it a criminal offence to tamper with vehicle identification numbers.
Now, in introducing Bill C-64, the justice minister invokes the name of Mr. Cadman, saying that the bill is intended as an appropriate tribute to his legacy.
I would like to mention what happens when private members' bills are introduced. Of course we have made some progress in the House, in that at least one private member's bill or motion is votable in the House, but during the days when I was a member of Parliament representing the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance, when a good idea used to come from a private member, the government would completely mitigate it, reducing the volume, criticize it and oppose it vigorously.
Then, after opposing it, the Liberals sometimes had the audacity to reintroduce the bill if they thought was a good idea. The Liberals have stolen many of my bills, including those on foreign credentials, protection for firefighters and whistleblower legislation. They opposed the bills, but when we continued to raise our voices they stole the bills.
In this case, the government opposed the bill, which they now try to own on their own terms. First they criticize and oppose and then they steal the bill, mess it up and reintroduce it.
However, there are two major differences between Mr. Cadman's bills and the government bill. Bill C-413 and Bill C-287 put the onus on the person charged to explain why he has a vehicle with a stolen vehicle identification number. In contrast, Bill C-64 requires the Crown to prove that a person caught with a stolen vehicle knows that it was stolen.
Bill C-413 and Bill C-287 amended section 402 of the Criminal Code, which deals with fraudulent transactions. In contrast, Bill C-64 amends section 377 of the code, which deals with property offences. It is the same section which now indirectly covers vehicle identification number tampering.
Like Bill C-65, the proposed legislation is a watered down version of Mr. Cadman's initial proposal. In order to better reflect Mr. Cadman's initial desire to create a useful tool for our law enforcement agencies to tackle auto theft and organized crime, the legislation should remove part of subsection 377.1(1) so that the onus is placed on the people caught with an altered vehicle identification number to explain themselves, as was the original intention of Chuck Cadman.
While the Insurance Bureau of Canada is pleased that the government is finally moving on vehicle registration numbers, it is seeking specific amendments to the Criminal Code that would impose tougher penalties for auto theft, including mandatory minimum prison sentences, to send an even stronger message that auto theft is treated more seriously than property crime.
According to an Insurance Bureau spokesperson:
Right now, auto theft is seen by criminal organizations as a relatively low-risk, high-profit activity to raise funds for additional activities. Far from being a victimless crime, auto theft is an inherently violent criminal offence that has a devastating impact in communities right across the country in terms of fatalities and injuries, not to mention the cost to insurance policyholders. The evidence of the impact of auto theft is clear.
Statistics from the Insurance Bureau show that the rate of car theft is 64% higher than it was a decade ago. I do not know how the Liberals can stand there and say the crime rate is falling. Either they do not know the figures, they are manipulating them or the calculations are done differently over there. Statistics from the Insurance Bureau show that the rate of car theft is 64% higher than it was a decade ago.
While the rate of recovery of stolen vehicles in the early 1990s was 95%, today it sits at 60%. The decline in the recovery rate can be attributed to the proliferation of organized vehicle theft.
Organized criminal groups make a profit by exporting stolen vehicles to foreign countries or selling their parts. Because the parts of a car are sometimes worth more collectively than an intact car, many stolen cars are delivered to chop shops. These shops specialize in stripping cars, disposing of identifiable parts and selling others through a national network. Chop shops can meet the demands for parts more quickly and typically more cheaply than legitimate parts dealers.
Like the most recent trend in human identity theft involving frauds such as credit card fraud, bank fraud or other financial frauds, the trend is the same in auto identity theft. A VIN is just like DNA, but the thieves can remove it skilfully.
It is hard work. Thieves know that the vehicle identification number is unique and different on every car. First, they copy the vehicle identification number from the Internet, from car dealerships or from cars in malls or junkyards. They make perfect duplicates of the vehicle identification number plates and paperwork. Finally, they steal a similar car and replace its VIN with the copied one. Now the car has been cloned. The stolen car can no longer be identified as stolen; it has a new identity. This crime is highly profitable and very low risk and the chance of getting caught is slim to none.
Experts estimate that there are currently about 50,000 cloned cars in North America, but the number is growing by leaps and bounds. This type of crime only further emphasizes the need for a vehicle identification number tampering law.
I will conclude by saying that it is time this Liberal government did something about auto theft. The Conservatives have consistently supported the efforts of Chuck Cadman in tackling this issue by supporting him on this bill. The Liberals, on the other hand, did not support his bills when he was a caucus member of the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance or the Conservative Party. They only decided to support the legislation after Mr. Cadman voted to save the Liberal government in the confidence vote on May 19 of this year.
My riding is next to the Surrey North constituency. My constituents are mad. They are very upset that the Liberals are trying to gain politically by using Chuck Cadman's name while watering down his legislation. If the Liberals really wanted to honour Chuck Cadman or his legacy, they should have introduced the bill with the same wording and with the same intent that Mr. Cadman had in mind.
I have a friend, Dane Minor, who was a very close friend of Chuck Cadman and is still a good friend of the Cadman family. He worked with Chuck from the beginning when Chuck helped to found CRY. He had known Chuck for a long time and knew him well. He said in a letter, and I do not have a copy of his letter with me, that he was encouraged when he first saw that the Liberals were reintroducing Chuck's bill in the House, but when he saw the content of the bill, he said that he was mad as hell. He is disappointed that the Liberals are using Chuck's name on a watered down version of the bill.
Legislation making it a criminal offence to tamper with a vehicle identification number could provide law enforcement with another tool to use in its battle against auto theft. It would also serve as a deterrent to criminals. Other countries have had similar legislation in place for years. It is about time that we did the same, but in the right way.
Bill C-64 is not as good as the private member's bill on which it is modelled. I recommend that it be amended suitably. If it is, the bill should help tackle organized crime and auto theft by giving enforcement agencies another tool.
I used to be a member of the subcommittee on organized crime. I had the opportunity to have lots of meetings with the Vancouver Port Authority, the RCMP, the border patrol and many other law enforcement agencies. They told the subcommittee that organized crime is on the increase to the extent that if they have 10 leads on different organized crimes, they do not have enforcers to even follow up with one of those leads.
The criminals have state of the art technology, whereas our law enforcement agencies are struggling to maintain their old equipment, thanks to the cuts made by the Liberal government.
We have to give our law enforcement agencies the tools, resources, manpower and the equipment so that they are light years ahead of the organized criminals. Unfortunately, they are light years behind the state of the art technology that organized criminals are using. Whether it is a marijuana grow op, crystal meth, ecstasy or any kind of drugs that infiltrate the younger society, the government has absolutely no control over it. The hands of the law enforcement agencies are tied. As my colleague mentioned, the Liberals have taken the handcuffs from the criminals and put them on the hands of the judges.
I urge the House that until the bill is amended, we should look into it and make every effort to make it strong. Again, the Liberals should use the original bill the way it was designed if they really want to honour the legacy. Otherwise they should stop using the name of Chuck Cadman.
October 24th, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
Jeff Watson Essex, ON
Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted to do something truly good about protecting citizens, then Chuck Cadman would have been leading debate in the House on his own private member's bill and it would have sought unanimous consent to pass it at all stages so Canadians would have been protected. That would have been a fitting tribute while he was living. That is what it should have done in the House. Instead it brings forward a watered down bill.That is the worst argument I have ever heard over there, that it is somehow doing some on behalf of Canadians to protect them.
I rise on behalf of the people of Essex to speak to Bill C-64. I am here also with thoughts of my former seat mate, Chuck Cadman. I have to be honest, I miss him terribly.
Chuck's brought forward his private member's Bill C-287, on the alteration and obliteration of vehicle identification numbers, because there was no provision for the direct prosecution of a person engaged in the physical act of tampering with a vehicle identification number, a loophole that has been masterfully exploited by organized crime. Instead what we have is Bill C-64, a partial attempt by the Liberal government to address that loophole, which is insufficient.
Also, I am here to talk about what the Liberals have been falsely claiming as a fitting tribute and honour to the late Chuck Cadman, member of Parliament. The only fitting tribute to the memory of Chuck Cadman would be to take his private member's bill, ironically unaltered, and pass it in the House. Instead what we have is the Liberals trying to fulfill a promise they made to Chuck after he gave the government life in that crucial May 19 budget vote.
I was sitting in my seat next to Chuck after that vote. It was interesting to watch the long lineup of Liberal members of Parliament eager to shake Chuck's hand. I thought the most interesting moment of that whole night was when the justice minister was face to face with Chuck. If we can believe it, he looked him in the eyes and said that he did not know why Chuck came to this Parliament, but that he would do something about the issues that were important to him.
It is very interesting that our justice minister did not know that the reason Chuck Cadman came to the House for eight years was because of the death of his son and the fact that the criminal justice system did nothing about it. Shame on the government.
What has the government brought forward instead of bringing Chuck's bill forward and passing? We have a nice little add-on to the bill, and will read it. First I will read the words in Chuck Cadman's bill. It states that every one commits offence who, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse.
The government decided it wanted to make an ad-on to that. It states, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.
That is a substantial change from what Chuck wanted to achieve. Chuck's intention was that we would have a justice system that would get tough on criminals. He was a tireless crusader of rights for victims over the rights of criminals. Chuck's previous private member's bill on the issue put the onus of proof for lawful excuse on the person indicted, on the accused criminal. That tilts the balance in favour of the Crown on behalf of the victims of crime.
What the Liberals have done with Chuck Cadman's idea is change the onus now to put a double onus on the Crown.
It was Chuck Cadman's intention that someone caught with an altered vehicle identification number would have to explain themselves. It is not a great demand to put on somebody who is caught with a vehicle that has an altered VIN. If I were working at a wrecking yard and, as part of the normal process of business, removed a vehicle identification number, I would have a lawful excuse why that vehicle identification number was altered and removed. That would have sufficed under Chuck Cadman's bill. Now, the Crown, on behalf of the victims of crime, has to prove an additional burden that the vehicle identification number was altered or removed to conceal the identity of that vehicle. I can hear the criminal defence lawyers laughing already. Those are the people who the Liberals consulted, between talking to Chuck Cadman and bringing the bill forward.
I was thinking a little about lady justice earlier today. I think we all remember the lady justice symbol of her holding up the two scales, literally weighing the evidence, with a blindfold across her eyes to symbolize her impartiality in the weighing of that evidence.
Under the Liberals there is a new lady justice. Her arms are thrown up in the air in a show of helplessness as criminal after criminal gets soft treatment, or gets day passes to amusement parks or gets house arrest, while victims in our system get re-victimized.
This new lady justice has dropped the scales at her feet because the evidence seems to no longer matter. Witness a lot of the court decisions. The evidence suddenly does not matter any more. This new lady justice still has her blindfold on, not to reflect her impartiality any more but because she needs to shield her eyes from the injustices that are committed. This new lady justice has been brought on by 12 years of Liberals being soft on crime.
Let the numbers speak for themselves. Already this year there have been 64 murders in Toronto, 44 violent crimes committed with guns. The Liberals say that the gun registry that is supposed to protect people. It is their answer to everything, like Kyoto is their answer to everything in the environment. They have a gun registry to protect everybody. It has not. People are being gunned down in our streets.
James Caza has 42 convictions. He is roaming the interior of British Columbia. I am sure the people in British Columbia feel real safe these days.
Serial rapist Larry Fisher was surprised himself that he was let out of jail so quickly. While out on parole he raped and murdered.
Liberal Senator Larry Campbell wants a soft approach on hard drugs like crystal meth.
Legal counsel from the Liberal government testified before the justice committee that mandatory prison terms for criminals would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
A parole board handed out day passes to pedophiles to attend children's theme parks. I have four young kids. I will rethink how I spend my summers. Will we go to Canada's Wonderland? I have no idea who will be roaming around there and who will be a threat to my children.
This is wrong. Canadians should not have to restrict their freedom from operating in society because they do not know what criminals are lurking there, criminals that the Liberal justice system has let go.
The Liberal government opposed Bill C-215, a bill sponsored by my Conservative colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings, which proposed mandatory minimum sentences on indictable gun crimes. The bill has gained support from the victims of crimes and from those who enforce the laws in the land, our police. They know the bill makes sense, but the government does not support it.
The Supreme Court of Canada refused to consider the case of Dean Edmondson who was convicted of sexual assault for trying to have sex with a 12 year old girl. Instead of a prison term, he got house arrest.
It brings me to the obvious question. What is the Liberal priority? The Liberals want to solve overcrowding in our prisons. They want to solve our court backlogs, the mountain of cases that have clogged up our courts. They want to do it by making it easier to stay out of jail, even though these people wreak havoc on society. The Liberals want it to be easier to make bail. They want to make it easier for the courts to give the criminal house arrest and to give concurrent rather than consecutive sentences. God forbid if one were convicted of multiple violent crimes that one would have to serve sentence after sentence. Why not get a group discount? That is what the government approves.
The Liberal priority is to make it easier for a Liberal patronage appointee filled parole board to give day passes to fun parks to convicted pedophiles.
With Bill C-64, Liberal so-called justice means to get the handcuffs off the criminal and put them on our crown attorneys instead. That is what the bill proposes to do. Once again the Liberals are siding with the criminals. They are not standing up for victims of crime. They are siding with the criminals and the Liberal defence lawyers who donate to their election campaigns.
I think we all remember that Allan Rock was the Liberal justice minister for a time. He gave us the failed long gun registry on which the government has spent $2 billion. For what? It is not serving its purpose. It is allowing the criminals to continue wreaking havoc on society. It goes after law-abiding farmers and duck hunters instead.
Allan Rock gave us the Liberal policy of conditional sentencing with no direction to the courts as to which serious violent crimes should be exempted from the concept of conditional sentencing. What is the result? Liberal appointed judges rightly interpret that the Liberal government's desire is to let violent criminals get out of jail free. That is the Liberal priority.
Bill C-2, the Liberals so-called child pornography legislation, is sitting on the Prime Minister's desk. It has the legitimate use defence in it. It used to be called the artistic merit defence. We can dress it up, paint it up or call it whatever, but it is a loophole one could drive a truck through. It leaves our vulnerable children unprotected.
The Liberals voted against raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. That is not much to ask to protect our young adolescents. Instead, the government wants to keep it legal for a 40 or 50 year old man to have sex with a young adolescent.
I think it is clear that the Liberals are soft on crime in general and on vehicle crimes specifically. Our Conservative colleague, my seatmate, had his private member's bill, Bill C-293, a bill I spoke in support of in this House, a bill that proposed mandatory minimum sentences for vehicle theft.
The other so-called Cadman bill, Bill C-65, the companion to this legislation, dealing with street racing, does not honour Chuck. The Liberal government this time left out something very important from that legislation, which was the scale that Mr. Cadman had built into his bill of increasing punishment for repeat offenders. Apparently those who continue to threaten the safety of our communities get a discount for their anti-social choices.
Mr. Cadman was on a crusade for eight years to get tougher on criminals in crimes involving vehicles before his premature demise. During those eight years, seven were under Liberal majority governments, not a minority government like it currently is. The Liberals, if they were serious about vehicle identification number alteration, could have passed Chuck's bill quite easily. They could have rubber-stamped it post-haste. They had majorities for seven years in this House and instead they reserved the right to fast-track things for political pork-barrelling to Liberal cronies and friends. The talk of Liberal concern for Chuck Cadman's crusade is hollow, quite frankly.
The least the Liberals could have done this time around, if they truly wanted to honour Chuck's memory, would have been to bring forward his bill unaltered. I find it a curious irony that we are talking about altering vehicle identification numbers and yet the Liberals altered the bill of the late Chuck Cadman, an honourable and distinguished man, for their own political purposes. It is a moral crime, a crime against Chuck's memory, to allow the Liberal government to alter a good bill.
The Liberals can talk about Chuck's memory all they want but they are waxing poetic. They did not listen to Chuck Cadman at all. The loophole in Bill C-64 is proof of that. The Liberal government listened instead to Liberal defence lawyers and now defence lawyers and organized criminals will have a great time watching the crown frustratingly try to prosecute under this legislation.
I would contend that the Liberals, with their loophole in Bill C-64, have dishonoured the memory of Chuck Cadman. I do not say that lightly. I sat next to the man for my short time in this House and I spent my time getting to know him. He was one of the most decent men I have ever known, a good family man, a devoted husband and devoted father. He was not planning on being a member of Parliament. That was not his design, but he made it his crusade because he loved his son that much, to come here and ensure we had the laws and the direction to the courts that society wants criminals to be prosecuted to the fullest, that they should pay for their crimes, that Canadians should be protected and that they should not be revictimized in this process. Chuck was here to do that. I can say proudly that Conservatives have always stood for the principles in Chuck Cadman's original private member's bill.
Conservatives will continue standing up for safe streets, for healthy communities and on behalf of victims of crime and say, “No way”. The rights of Canadians should be respected in this country.
October 24th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to express my support today for this important government bill, Bill C-64, aimed at combating the involvement of organized crime in the theft of motor vehicles by making it an offence to tamper with a VIN.
The bill was inspired by a private member's bill brought forward to Parliament by our late colleague, Chuck Cadman, namely Bill C-287. In summary, Bill C-64 would make it an offence without lawful excuse to alter, obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
It is proposed that anybody who commits this offence would be liable, if proceeded with by indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or would be liable to a summary conviction. By virtue of section 787 of the Criminal Code, those people convicted of a summary conviction offence where no specific penalty is provided face up to a maximum term of imprisonment of six months and/or a $2,000 fine.
As previously indicated, Bill C-64 was inspired by private member's Bill C-287. Bill C-287 would have made it an offence for anybody without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on the person, to alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle. Bill C-287 provided that if proceeded with by an indictment, an offender would face up to five years imprisonment. Furthermore, if proceeded with by summary conviction, the offender would face up to six months imprisonment and/or a $2,000 fine.
There are clearly similarities and differences between the current government bill and Bill C-287. Many members have indicated concern with the notable difference between the two bills. It has been significantly contentious in debate. I have listened with great interest to both points of view and would like to present my thoughts on the matter now.
First and foremost, Bill C-287 placed what is known as a persuasive burden on the accused to prove the existence of a lawful excuse for tampering with a VIN. Therefore the bill required the accused to prove on the balance of probabilities that he or she had a lawful excuse.
A foundational element of our criminal justice system is that an accused person will not be convicted of a criminal offence if he or she raise a reasonable doubt. Under Bill C-287, people accused of VIN tampering would face the prospect of a conviction even though they may have raised a considerable doubt as to their guilt. Therefore Bill C-287 and this reverse onus raises significant charter considerations.
Instead, Bill C-64 would require an accused to raise the defence of lawful excuse based on the usual tests in criminal law for raising a defence, namely the test of raising sufficient evidence on each element of the defence for it to be considered by the judge or the jury.
By adopting an offence, which would not on its face attract charter litigation, we are contributing to the utility of this offence as a prosecutorial tool as there is more likelihood that prosecutors will proceed on this VIN tampering charge to trial. In other words, it not only can be proclaimed but it can be applied as well.
I think all hon. members would agree that we want to ensure that the laws we pass in this place can and will be used for years to come.
In addition, Bill C-64 would require that the alteration, obliteration or removal of the vehicle identification number be done under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identity of the vehicle. This element was not included in Bill C-287.
The purpose of this element of Bill C-64 is to distance the offence from these people, such as legitimate auto wreckers or mechanics who may in the course of their work alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number. This consideration was made as it would be bad policy indeed to craft an offence under which a large group of legitimate workers might be caught under its scope.
I think all members would agree that the manner in which the government bill addresses this issue is sound.
Various key justice system stakeholders have called on the Government of Canada to enact an offence for VIN tampering.
First, the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, a multi-stakeholder group established in May 2000 representing stakeholders from mainly the police community and the insurance industry, released a subcommittee report in March 2003 entitled “Organized Vehicle Theft Rings”. This report, among other proposals, recommended the creation of a distinct VIN tampering offence in the Criminal Code.
In addition, in August 2003 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to create a Criminal Code offence specifically prohibiting the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number.
As well, in 2000 the Canadian Association of Police Boards passed a resolution calling on the federal government to enact legislation to combat theft in their communities which would include the creation of a Criminal Code offence for removing or obliterating a VIN number.
I am pleased to say that we have answered these calls with Bill C-64.
In 2004, there were nearly 170,000 motor vehicle thefts in Canada. This translates to a rate of roughly 530 vehicle thefts per rate of 100,000 people. My family and I are among that number, having had our vehicle stolen from our home last January. I share with many Canadians the feeling of violation and concern that comes with having a vehicle stolen from one's property.
I am pleased to note a slight decline in thefts since 2003 which in that year was 550 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people.
In order to compare certain provincial rates with the national rate, in 2004 the rate of motor vehicle thefts in B.C. was 889 per 100,000 and in Manitoba, it was 1,364 per 100,000. On the other end of the spectrum, Prince Edward Island had a rate of 187 per 100,000 and Ontario had 337 per 100,000.
Despite these variations in the rate of theft from province to province, this crime is still far too frequent in Canada. That is why, in addition to the current bill before the House, the Government of Canada is also committed to examining the issue of motor vehicle thefts more generally with our provincial and territorial partners.
In this regard, on January 25, at the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice meeting, as brought forward by my home province of Nova Scotia, all ministers agreed to send the matter of Criminal Code amendments affecting the categorization of motor vehicle thefts and increased penalties for those who steal vehicles and drive recklessly to their senior officials for study and report. Therefore, FPT officials are now working collaboratively on assessing whether a separate indictable offence is needed under the Criminal Code for auto theft and whether the current penalties are suitable for the crime.
In assessing whether Bill C-64 would truly add an additional useful tool for law enforcement, I would outline the existing ways that motor vehicle theft and related offences are dealt with under the code.
The Criminal Code addresses the crime of motor vehicle theft predominately through its theft provisions. If an offender is convicted of theft over $5,000, he or she would be subject to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on indictment.
In addition, those who engage in motor vehicle theft and related crimes are often charged with the offence of fraud. This offence carries a maximum of 14 years on indictment.
The offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, such as joyriding, is a straight summary conviction offence and therefore an offender faces a maximum six month term of imprisonment or a $2,000 fine or both when convicted.
As other speakers have noted before, the offence of possession of property obtained by crime is particularly relevant to those who engage in VIN tampering. Since there currently is no specific Criminal Code prohibition against VIN tampering, those who engage in this activity are often charged with the possession of property obtained by crime offence. The punishment for this offence, if the property is over $5,000, is 10 years imprisonment on indictment.
All too often those who commit motor vehicle theft flee from a lawful pursuit by a law enforcement personnel. In doing so, these offenders endanger the lives of not only themselves but innocent third parties, law enforcement and others. If no one is injured as a result of this flight, then the offender would face up to five years imprisonment. Although, in the event that bodily harm results from this activity, the offender faces up to 14 years imprisonment. Finally, if death results the offender faces a maximum term of life.
I think all hon. members would agree that these existing offences provide a wide range of tools and sanctions that would be complemented by the addition of a VIN tampering offence.
I am encouraged also by the recent changes brought forward by my colleague the Minister of Transport. These regulations regarding the mandatory installation of vehicle immobilization devices have been noted as leading to the significant reduction of motor vehicle theft, especially in the cases involving youth. I look forward to a time when all vehicles manufactured in Canada have these important anti-theft devices installed.
I suspect all hon. members can agree that the creation of a Criminal Code offence for the intentional alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number serves many purposes. Obviously it fills an existing gap in the Criminal Code in a meaningful way. It also provides a useful new tool for police and crown prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of organized vehicle thefts.
Finally, it responds to the calls of key justice system stakeholders to enact such an offence. At the same time it honours the commitment of our colleague, the late Chuck Cadman, to these and other justice system issues by bringing forward a legislative reform that was advanced by that honourable and distinguished member of the House.
Therefore, I join other members of the House in supporting this bill. I urge all members to do the same.
October 21st, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
Bill Casey North Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River for allowing me to share his time.
He mentioned “out there in the real world”. It made me think of my case. I was first elected in 1988. I am the longest serving member of Parliament in my province, and I have seen a dramatic change in the last five or six years in the way law enforcement is handled.
When I first became a member of Parliament, there virtually were no law enforcement issues. Now it has become one of the major issues I deal with and one of the most complicated simply because the government shortchanges the RCMP. It does not have the tools, or the funds or the police officers to do the minimum level of law enforcement and it makes everybody's life very difficult. I think it reflects on everyone's attitude on law enforcement and the justice system, as does this bill.
We really area proud that at least Chuck Cadman's initiative is recognized. However, we are not happy with the way it has been recognized. Chuck's initiative was to establish a law that would make it illegal to remove, obliterate or change serial numbers of vehicles. It was a clear and simple law. It would be up to the person to explain why the VIN was obliterated.
However, the Liberals have take the onus off the owner. It is up to the police now to prove the owner did it for wrongful purposes. It takes away the whole purpose of the bill. That is why the Conservatives will not support it.
What is wrong with asking owners to explain why they are driving around in cars with VINs that have obviously been scratched out or changed? It is their responsibility. They should be charged and held responsible to prove that it was for legitimate reasons. Why the government would not do that? If it did, I would support the bill. However, it reflects its whole attitude on crime.
When the last speaker talked about the real world, I was in the real world a couple of weeks ago. I went to a meeting of scared citizens in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. This is a community where people do not usually lock their doors. They leave their keys in their cars. It is a very safe community and it has been that way for decades. Now all of a sudden they are faced with property damage and thefts, a scary atmosphere for them to live in and raise their kids. What impressed me the most was that speaker after speaker got up and said that they were scared for the well-being and security.
There were two big issues. One is the RCMP is not available like it used to be. There was a detachment in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. The building became unusable because of mould. The RCMP has not replaced it because it does not have the funds. Stewiacke has lost its RCMP presence, the only police presence in the community.
The other issue is the Youth Criminal Justice Act is simply not working for the people in Stewiacke. It is causing them a great deal of grief.
Last week a person from the community of Debert came to see me. This is another traditional small community in Nova Scotia where people did not lock their doors and they would leave their keys in their cars. They cannot do it any more because of inadequate police protection. People have had their cottages burned and windows smashed. They have had things stolen from their garages and yards. The RCMP has said that it has done the best it can, but it does not have enough manpower. It also does not have the proper equipment. If the RCMP had the equipment and the manpower, it could do it.
I have spoken to RCMP officers at every detachment. They have said that if someone is on maternity leave, or on sick leave or is seconded on a murder investigation somewhere else, there is no replacement. An RCMP detachment, which supposedly has six people on record on the job, may have as little as three or none. There is no allowance for replacement officers. We have to deal with that.
In February I raised the question with the minister of public security. It came up because there was a rumour that the northeast drug section would be disbanded, one of the most successful drug enforcement offices in eastern Canada. The reason was the RCMP did not have the resources and the manpower to run this important drug enforcement agency. A moratorium has been put on the closure, but still the drug section is not there the way it was. The RCMP says it is back again, but the officers have been seconded and, again, we do not have the people we need.
The most senior RCMP officers in the province have told me they simply do not have the money to hire the RCMP officers to provide a minimum level of law enforcement in Nova Scotia.
I asked the minister on February 3 to ensure that it had the resources. I brought up the business about filling the vacancies. She said:
However, let me reassure the hon. member that we have provided additional resources not only to the RCMP, but to other of our programming as it relates to a national drug strategy. The RCMP resources have been augmented nationally...
It certainly does not show. The RCMP tell me not only has it not been augmented, but it has been reduced, plus its workload has dramatically increased. With the advent of 911 and all the other cutbacks in government services, the front line for many people on whatever the issue is the RCMP, and it simply cannot handle it. The RCMP needs more resources.
As I did in February, I call upon the government to enhance the resources, to improve and increase them. The RCMP is trying to stretch its meagre resources now to cover our part of Nova Scotia. I read every day in the newspapers that there are other parts of the province suffering the same problems.
I have experienced them myself. In the case of Stewiacke, the RCMP has put a used mobile home in front of the former RCMP station, which is a temporary facility, and I am pleased it has done that. Since it is used, it will be converted. The Minister of Public Works has agreed to upgrade it as quickly as possible to ensure it is available. However, it is just a mobile home. It is not good enough for the long term, but at least we will have a police presence again.
I know this is not all due to the RCMP or to one single thing, but we have to address the RCMP. It needs the tools, the resources, the money and the manpower to do the job. We need a more aggressive approach to law enforcement and the justice system.
In my view it is an amazing development. When I first started in Parliament, I had no justice or policing issues. Now it is one of my biggest problems and it is difficult to solve because the Liberals will not provide the resources to supply a minimum level of law enforcement.
October 21st, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my support for Bill C-64, a government bill that would provide a new offence for altering, removing or obliterating a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle. This bill is important as it addresses a gap that currently exists in the Criminal Code.
At present, there are offences in the Criminal Code that can and are being used to address the problem of automobile theft in Canada. These include, notably, the specific offences of theft and possession of stolen property. There is also the offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, sometimes referred to as the joyriding offence. Also relevant is the offence of fleeing in a motor vehicle to evade a peace officer, an offence that is frequently engaged in by persons who have stolen cars.
However, while these offences can be and are being used, they do not fully address the activity that is proposed to be directly criminalized in Bill C-64. Currently, the activity of altering a vehicle identification number is most closely associated with the offence of possession of property obtained by crime, in section 354 of the Criminal Code.
When people are found to be in possession of stolen vehicles, it is not at all uncommon to find that those vehicles have had their vehicle identification numbers tampered with. Indeed, section 354 already includes a provision with respect to vehicle identification numbers. In particular, section 354 includes a provision stating that evidence that a person is in possession of a motor vehicle which has had its vehicle identification number wholly or partially removed or obliterated is considered to be evidence that the vehicle was obtained by an offence.
Why then is it worthwhile to also provide for the offence proposed under Bill C-64? The answer is that the proposed new offence does not address possession itself, which is already criminalized, but the actual act of tampering with the vehicle identification number.
A further understanding for the rationale underlying the proposed new offence can be found in part in the very placement of the proposed new offence in the Criminal Code. The offence would be added as new section 377.1. It would not appear adjacent to the possession offence at section 354 but rather adjacent to provisions such as the illegal damaging of documents and offences in relation to registers of information. These offences are designed to protect the integrity of certain important documents and registries of information in Canada.
The vehicle identification number system is itself an important record of information. Each vehicle is given a unique number to confirm its identity and origin. This number, properly remaining in place, plays a vital role in respect of detecting and retrieving a stolen vehicle after a theft. In addition, it can also be used to track recalls, registrations, warranty claims and insurance coverage. It has been referred to as the automotive equivalent of human DNA.
The government has a clear interest in protecting the integrity of this system. Therefore, it is proposing the offence under Bill C-64 which would address the altering, removing or obliteration of a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
This proposed new offence would clearly and directly recognize that tampering with a vehicle identification number for this purpose is wrong. The offence would recognize the act as a key and central aspect of a chain of activities involved in the theft of a motor vehicle and the reselling of vehicles or their parts, activities that are frequently engaged in by well organized crime rings.
This chain of activities, that also includes the transportation of stolen vehicles or their parts to foreign countries for resale, generates very considerable profit for organized crime in this country and abroad. It also deprives Canadians of their motor vehicles, which are, of course, extremely significant physical possessions, in monetary and practical terms, for individuals and families.
While insurance can provide compensation for this theft, the amount of theft contributes substantially to insurance costs that are a burden to society at large. The government has a clear and direct interest in addressing this chain of activities and, therefore, indirectly criminalizing one of the central acts that facilitates it.
The additional proposed offence may perhaps be seen as a subtle addition to the already existing offences in the Criminal Code, such as theft and possession of property obtained by crime, but it is an important and justified one for the reasons that I have outlined.
I observe as well that the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have called upon the government to pass a distinctive offence of tampering with a vehicle identification number.
It is important to note as well that the creation of a distinct offence of this nature would more clearly help to indicate a perpetrator's potential involvement as part of an organized vehicle theft ring. In this regard, the fact of charges and prosecution under the proposed new offence would be of value to police and the Crown prosecutors in subsequent investigations and prosecutions.
It is also important to observe in this regard that the proposed new offence, with its maximum punishment of five years imprisonment, can qualify as a criminal organization offence under the Criminal Code. Where this is demonstrated, additional criminal law provisions can come into play, including the possibility of an additional conviction for one of the core criminal organization offences found in the Criminal Code, such as participation in the activities of a criminal organization, the possibility of consecutive sentencing for offences arising out of the same transaction, and a deeming of an aggravating factor on sentencing and reduced parole eligibility.
I recognize that questions have been raised as to whether appropriately severe sentences would be available for the proposed new offence where the offence has been committed in connection with organized crime. It should be underlined that this would be available by virtue of these additional criminal organization provisions of the Criminal Code that are designed for this very purpose. I would also underline that another piece of legislation currently before this House, Bill C-53, would provide for aggressive additional proceeds of crime measures in respect of criminal organization offences.
Therefore, these aggressive new proceeds of crime measures, if passed by Parliament, would also be available for the proposed new vehicle identification number tampering offence where it is demonstrated that this tampering was done for a criminal organization.
It must be recognized that not every person who alters, moves or obliterates a vehicle identification number necessarily does so in a criminal context. There may be innocent, lawful explanations for such activity. In recognition of this, the offence criminalizes the act of tampering with the vehicle identification number only where circumstances give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so for the purpose of concealing the identity of the vehicle. Further, the provision would recognize the possibility of lawful excuse. These are appropriate safeguards in respect of the offence.
I recognize that questions have been asked as to why it was advisable to add the words “under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”, if the proposed provision also makes reference to the possibility of lawful excuse. The reason is that in certain cases, like legitimate wrecking of an automobile, VINs are regularly obliterated.
In view of these regular circumstances, it is appropriate to more clearly identify a specific wrongful purpose in the definition of the offence itself. The defence of lawful excuse, as appropriate, would be left for circumstances where persons engaged in the act with the apparent wrongful purpose but nevertheless had an excuse for doing so.
It must also be acknowledged that a private member's bill, Bill C-287, introduced by the late Chuck Cadman, provided a critical part of the inspiration for the current government bill. It contains somewhat different language with respect to the lawful excuse element. In particular, Mr. Cadman's bill proposed including the words “the proof of which lies on the person” in the reference to lawful excuse. These additional words are now part of the government bill.
The inclusion of such words would put a persuasive burden on an accused to prove a defence. This is contrary to general traditions under Canadian criminal law under which the persuasive burden remains on the Crown with respect to guilt or innocence.
This is also, in particular, a concern under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In general, whenever an accused is required to disprove, on a balance of probabilities, any factor affecting the verdict of guilt or innocence, charter concerns can arise with respect to the presumption of innocence.
It is not the general practice under the Criminal Code for reverse burdens to be put on an accused with respect to guilt or innocence itself. Convictions are regularly obtained under existing provisions of the code with the full persuasive burden remaining on the Crown.
This is a normal part of our legal tradition in Canada. The government had no intention of leaving the proposed new measure open to a charter doubt. A reverse burden in this case was considered by the government not to serve any necessary purpose. Defence can be effective without it and so it was not included in the government bill.
This bill is an important addition to the criminal law tool kit. It will fill the gap that currently exists in the Criminal Code of Canada. It will address an activity that is part of the cycle of auto theft for profit, frequently engaged in by organized crime. It provides for an appropriate sentence of a maximum of 5 years' imprisonment for the offence itself. Further, in conjunction with existing and additional proposed measures with respect to criminal organization offences, it allows for the imposition of serious additional consequences where a link to organized crime is shown.
At the same time, the drafting of the offence provides for appropriate safeguards so as to accurately describe the criminal nature of the activity captured and so as not to impose a reverse burden on an accused with respect to guilt or innocence that could affect the charter viability of this particular offence.
The government is confident that this will be an effective and justifiable new provision of the Criminal Code. I call upon members of the House to support it.
October 21st, 2005 / 10:50 a.m.
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-64, which will provide the police with an additional tool in the fight against networks active in the theft, appearance alteration and resale of motor vehicles. Those networks, too often, enable criminal organizations to finance other criminal activities.
It is important to recall that this bill was introduced by the Minister of Justice on September 28, 2005 and that it is identical, almost verbatim—still, not enough to satisfy my Conservative colleagues—to private member's Bill C-287 tabled on October 17, 2004, by the late Mr. Chuck Cadman, who, until his untimely passing, was the member for Surrey North.
As I indicated, this bill amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number, or VIN, on a motor vehicle. One of the means used by offenders to facilitate the theft, appearance alteration and resale of motor vehicles is VIN tampering. In fact, motor vehicle theft is endemic; it is becoming increasingly widespread. In 2004, approximately 170,000 vehicle thefts were reported in Canada. This is a very lucrative enterprise, one which often enables crime organizations to raise money to fund other criminal activities.
Therefore, by making it an offence to alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle, it will be possible to lay charges more easily against the perpetrators of this crime. By making it an offence to alter a VIN, we have another tool with which to fight against the crime rings that steal, disguise and resell motor vehicles.
With specific regard to Bill C-64, every motor vehicle in Canada must have its own vehicle identification number. The VIN consists of letters and numbers, each representing a specific piece of information such as the make, category, model, year and manufacturer of that car. The VIN is affixed to various parts of each vehicle.
People who alter a vehicle identification number for the purposes of concealing a stolen car cannot currently be charged with a specific offence under the Criminal Code. The closest offence is the possession of property obtained by crime—section 354—which allows an individual to be charged with possession of a vehicle whose VIN has been altered. I want to read it quickly. Under subsection 354(1):
Every one commits an offence who has in his possession any property or thing or any proceeds of any property or thing knowing that all or part of the property or thing or of the proceeds was obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from
(a) the commission in Canada of an offence punishable by indictment; or
(b) an act or omission anywhere that, if it had occurred in Canada, would have constituted an offence punishable by indictment.
Subsection 354(2) states:
In proceedings in respect of an offence under subsection (1), evidence that a person has in his possession a motor vehicle the vehicle identification number of which has been wholly or partially removed or obliterated or a part of a motor vehicle being a part bearing a vehicle identification number that has been wholly or partially removed or obliterated is, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, proof that the motor vehicle or part, as the case may be, was obtained, and that such person had the motor vehicle or part, as the case may be, in his possession knowing that it was obtained,
(a) by the commission in Canada of an offence punishable by indictment; or
(b) by an act or omission anywhere that, if it had occurred in Canada, would have constituted an offence punishable by indictment.
Until now, section 357 of the Criminal Code has been used to prosecute individuals found in possession of vehicles with an altered or obliterated VIN. The Criminal Code, however, does not at present include any offence regarding the alteration, obliteration or removal of a VIN. Bill C-64 will therefore remedy that shortcoming.
This new offence would be added after section 377 which deals with destruction, defacing, obliteration, or injury of documents. Anyone found guilty of this new offence would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. There would also be the option of proceeding by summary conviction with a maximum fine of $2,000, six months imprisonment, or both.
The wording on this new offence would be:
377.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “vehicle identification number” means any number or other mark placed on a motor vehicle for the purpose of distinguishing the motor vehicle from other similar motor vehicles
(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1): (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
October 21st, 2005 / 10:35 a.m.
Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-64, a government bill aimed at combating the involvement of organized crime in the theft of motor vehicles by making it an offence to tamper with a vehicle identification number. I will simply refer to that as a VIN for the purposes of my remarks today.
This important bill was inspired, as has been mentioned earlier, by the late Chuck Cadman and a private member's bill brought forward by him, namely Bill C-287. Of course, while Mr. Cadman would not have claimed to be the originator of the thought, he certainly was the promoter of the initiative to make the act of changing the vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle a criminal offence.
In summary, Bill C-64 would make it an offence without lawful excuse to alter, obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle under circumstances that gave rise to an inference that this was done to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.
It is proposed that anyone who commits this offence would be liable, if proceeded with by indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or would be prosecuted by a summary conviction procedure. By virtue of section 787 of the Criminal Code, people convicted under the summary conviction provisions can face up to a maximum term of six months or a $2,000 fine.
As previously indicated, Bill C-64 was inspired by the original private member's bill. That private member's bill would have made it an offence for anyone without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies upon the person, to alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number. That particular bill provided that if proceeded by way of indictment, the prison term would be five years maximum and if by summary conviction the similar six months' imprisonment or $2,000 fine.
Therefore, there are real similarities between this and the private member's bill. However, there are a couple of differences.
First and foremost, the private member's bill placed what is known as a persuasive burden on the accused person to prove the existence of a lawful excuse for tampering with a vehicle identification number. Therefore, that bill required an accused to prove on the balance of probabilities that they had a lawful excuse. That is called a shifting onus or shifting burden in the Criminal Code. We generally do not do it very much at all because it shifts the burden to the citizen to prove that he or she had the right to do what they did. That is not the way we generally prosecute our citizens.
There is a fundamental element in our criminal justice system that an accused person will not be convicted of a criminal offence if they raise a reasonable doubt. Therefore, under the private member's bill a person accused of VIN tampering would face the prospect of a conviction, even though they may have raised a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.
Therefore, Bill C-287 and the reverse onus provision raised significant charter and other criminal justice considerations.
Instead, the government bill, Bill C-64, borrowing very heavily on Mr. Cadman's bill, would require an accused to raise the defence of lawful excuse based on the usual test in criminal law for raising defences, namely, the test of raising sufficient evidence on each element of the defence for it to be considered by a judge or a jury.
By adopting an offence which would not on its face attract charter litigation, we are contributing to the utility of this offence as a prosecutorial tool. We understand now, after many years of the charter, that to place a real conspicuous charter issue into a new Criminal Code provision would place the Criminal Code at considerable risk as a prosecutorial tool with it facing considerable amount of litigation. I think all members would agree that we want to ensure that the laws we pass can and will be used with reasonable utility for years to come by prosecutors and police.
In addition, Bill C-64 would require that the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle ID number would be done under circumstances that would give rise to a reasonable inference that it was done to conceal the identify of the vehicle. This element was not included in Bill C-287.
The purpose of this element of the government bill is to distance the offence from those people such as legitimate auto wreckers or mechanics who may, in the course of their work, alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle ID number. This consideration was made as it would have been bad policy to craft an offence under which a large body of legitimate workers could have been caught under its scope, just on the straight wording of the section.
I think all members would agree that the manner in which the government bill addresses this issue is sound. I hope that is the case on this side of the House, but not on the other side.
Various key justice system stakeholders have called upon the Government of Canada to enact such an offence for vehicle ID tampering.
First, the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft, which is a multi-stakeholder group established in May 2000 representing stakeholders mainly from police, community and the insurance industry groups, released a report in March 2003 entitled “Organized Vehicle Theft Rings”. This report, among other proposals, recommended the creation of a distinct vehicle identification number tampering offence in the Criminal Code.
In addition, in August 2003 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to create a Criminal Code offence specifically prohibiting the alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle ID number.
Finally, the Canadian Association of Police Boards in 2000 passed a resolution calling upon the federal government to enact legislation to combat theft in their communities, which would include the creation of that type of Criminal Code offence.
I am pleased to say that we have answered all these calls with Bill C-64.
In 2004 there were nearly 170,000 motor vehicle thefts in Canada. This translates to a rate of roughly 530 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people. I am pleased to note a slight decline in the rate since 2003. In that year it was 550 vehicles per 100,000.
In order to compare certain provincial rates with the national rate, in 2004 the rate of motor vehicle theft in British Columbia was 889 per 100,000, a significant uptake. In Manitoba it was 1,364, a significant increase above that of the national average. On the other end of the spectrum, Prince Edward Island had a rate of 187 and Ontario was 337.
Despite these variations in the rate of theft from province to province, the crime is still all too frequent in Canada. That is why, in addition to the current bill before the House, the Government of Canada also is committed to examining the issue of motor vehicle theft more generally with our provincial and territorial partners.
In this regard, on January 25 at the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice meeting, as brought forward by Nova Scotia, all ministers agreed to send the matter of Criminal Code amendments affecting motor vehicle theft or organized motor vehicle theft, increased penalties and reckless driving to senior officials in each of the provinces for further study. Therefore, the federal-provincial-territorial officials are now working collaboratively on assessing whether a separate Criminal Code indictable offence is needed to deal with this category of auto theft and whether current penalties are appropriate.
In assessing whether the government bill would truly add an additional useful tool for our law enforcement, I should outline the existing ways that motor vehicle theft and related offences are dealt with under the code. I do this so we can see how relatively weak the current code provisions may appear.
The code addresses the crime of motor vehicle theft predominantly through its theft provisions. If offenders are convicted of theft over $5,000, they would be subject to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. In addition, those who engage in motor vehicle theft and related crimes are often charged with the offence of fraud. This offence carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment on indictment.
The offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent, otherwise known as the joyriding offence, is a straight summary conviction offence. Therefore, an offender faces a maximum six month term of imprisonment or a fine of $2,000 or both once convicted.
As other speakers have noted before me, the offence of possession of property obtained by crime is particularly relevant to those who engage in vehicle identification number tampering. Since there is currently no Criminal Code provision against VIN tampering, those who engage in this activity are often charged with the possession of property offence. The punishment for that offence, if the property is valued over $5,000, is 10 years imprisonment on indictment.
All too often those who commit motor vehicle theft flee when approached by law enforcement. In doing so, these offenders, if they are driving when they flee, endanger the lives of innocent third parties, law enforcement officials and even themselves. If no one is injured as a result of such a flight, then the offender would face up to five years imprisonment. In the event that bodily harm results from that flight, the offender faces up to 14 years imprisonment. Finally, if death were to unfortunately result, the offender faces a maximum term of life imprisonment.
I think all members would agree that these existing offences provide a wide range of tools and sanctions, and will be complemented by the addition of a new VIN tampering offence. The broader issue is whether the code currently brings to bear sufficient focus on the whole range of auto theft and organized crime auto theft offences. The FPT officials who are working on this now will bring public policy focus there.
I also am encouraged by recent changes brought forward by my colleague, the Minister of Transport. New regulations regarding the mandatory installation of vehicle immobilization devices have been noted as leading to the significant reduction of motor vehicle theft, especially in cases of younger offenders. I look forward to a time when perhaps all vehicles manufactured in Canada will have these important anti-theft devices installed.
I think all hon. members can agree that the creation of a Criminal Code offence for intentional alteration, obliteration or removal of a vehicle identification number can serve many purposes.
First, it fills a gap in the Criminal Code in a meaningful way. Second, it provides a new tool for police and crown prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of organized vehicle theft. Finally, it responds to the call of key justice system stakeholders to enact such an offence, while at the same time honouring the commitment of our colleague, the late Chuck Cadman, to those and other justice system issues by bringing forward a legislative reform that was advanced by the honourable and distinguished member who so sadly is no with us any longer.
I would therefore ask all members to join me in supporting this important Criminal Code amendment.
October 20th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
Mark Warawa Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise again in the House and speak to what is being touted as the government's bill to honour our former colleague, Chuck Cadman.
I remember a few months back being at the funeral honouring Chuck. The Prime Minister was there along with many of us to honour and remember Chuck. There was a promise made at his funeral that the Prime Minister would bring Chuck's bills before the House to honour him. That made many of us very happy because Chuck had introduced numerous bills over the years. Of course his wife, Dona Cadman, and his family were there, so it was wonderful to hear that the Prime Minister was going to do that in Chuck's memory.
Chuck in dealing with auto crime had presented some bills in the House. Bill C-413 was introduced in March 2003 and then was reintroduced in February 2004 and Bill C-287 was introduced in November 2004. Unfortunately the government never did support those bills of Chuck's regarding VIN altering.
Today we have been dealing with Bill C-65 on street racing and Bill C-64 on vehicle identification altering. However, our excitement that the Prime Minister was going to do the right thing was short-lived. There was a comment made by the justice minister that these bills were invoked in the name of Mr. Cadman saying that they were intended as an appropriate tribute to his legacy.
Chuck Cadman worked very hard to make Canada a safer place and to fight for victims' rights. He did an incredible job. Some of us here still have that passion to work for Chuck. It is unfortunate that Chuck did not see those bills passed while he was with us.
On October 1 a local newspaper, Now , ran an article titled “Chuck's bill likely to be law”. The community was excited that Chuck's bills were going to become law, that the Prime Minister was going to keep his promise. People were excited. Then we looked at the bills and found that they were not Chuck's bills at all. The government was using Chuck's name and had altered and watered down his bills. We became very disappointed.
Dane Minor was Chuck's campaign manager and worked for years with Chuck. He wrote a letter to the editor about Chuck's bills becoming law. It stated:
I read this article with a growing sense of disgust. Several weeks ago the prime minister announced on the front pages of national and local papers that his government would pass Chuck's private member bill into legislation as an honour to Chuck. My immediate reaction was a positive one. It would be a fitting memorial to Chuck. Then the justice minister announced his watered down version. This isn't Chuck's bill in either intent or design. It is a cynical attempt by the Liberals to use Chuck's good name while doing little or nothing to change the existing laws.
One of the things that drew Chuck into the political arena in the first place was a visit by a former justice minister to supposedly discuss the Young Offenders Act with Chuck. The man blew into town, spent five minutes getting his picture taken shaking Chuck's hand and went back to Ottawa saying meetings with victims showed his government cared about victims and the faults of the YOA. Chuck was disgusted and it was incidents like these that led him to become a MP to truly change things.
This “new” legislation from the Liberals is the same type of political stunt. [The] Justice Minister...said his government tweaked both bills to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and address “operational deficiencies”.
There is a word here I will not repeat.
Chuck had one of the best legal advisors in Ottawa on his staff and his bills were well within the Charter. The ultimate ridiculousness of [the justice minister's] version was the reason for removing penalties for repeat offences: “because the police across this country don't have tracing or tracking records so we would know if it was a first, second or third tracking offence.”
If the Liberals truly want to honour Chuck Cadman I suggest they pass his laws as written and actually give the police the resources to find out how many previous offences there were. If they don't have the courage to do that, at least have the decency to stop using his name in a self serving bid to gain political points.
That was from Dane Minor's letter. I phoned Dona shortly after that. I asked Dane if it was okay to read the letter in the House and he said yes. I asked Dona if she was okay with that and she said yes too. She asked the House not to present Mickey Mouse watered down bills but to pass Chuck's bills the way Chuck had written them. They were good bills. If we pass the Liberal bill, all it does is protects the criminals. That is what I heard from Dane and Dona.
For years I was involved with dealing with auto theft. Like Chuck, I spent a number of years working for ICBC and I dealt with crashes and auto crime.
I found some very interesting statistics on auto crime. The typical auto thief is a 27-year-old male. He is addicted to crystal meth. He has 13 prior criminal convictions and he is stealing the vehicle to commit another offence.
There are auto thieves who are stealing the car for a joyride. Some steal cars for transportation to get from point A to point B, some to their court hearing. There are some kids who steal vehicles. There are vehicles being stolen by organized crime. Primarily the number one offender is the typical thief who is addicted to crystal meth and is stealing it to commit another crime.
The bill presented by the government as a bill to honour Chuck, this watered down version which I do not support because of why the Liberals have done it, is to deal with the changing of the vehicle identification number. That can be done in a number of different ways and it is connected with auto crime, with organized crime.
It is a small minority of the vehicles that are being stolen. Last year there were 170,000 vehicles stolen. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that it is costing Canadians over $1 billion a year. When we include the police costs and the loss to Canadians it is $1 billion a year for auto theft. A portion of those are vehicles that are being stolen to change the VIN. What kind of theft is that? What do they do with the vehicles? Why are they changing the vehicle identification numbers?
Some of them steal the car to sell it for parts. We have heard that. That is a percentage of them. They will take the car apart and sell the pieces. A lot of the new vehicles, in fact most of them, have a VIN attached to every panel and every fender. Every component in the car will have the VIN hidden on it. That is something we may want to consider.
If we are talking about amending the bill to make it a bill that would work, we are talking about altering on a vehicle but it could be a vehicle or components of a vehicle. That is a big problem. The car is stolen and then parted out because the thief thinks that the parts are not traceable. Another way that organized crime operates is to steal an expensive vehicle, alter the VIN and then sell it.
I have constituents in my riding of Langley who bought a motor home. It was their dream to buy a motor home. They bought it from a reputable dealer, or so they thought, and it turned out to be a stolen vehicle, a vehicle that had an altered VIN. My constituents had taken out a mortgage. They were going to sell their house. The motor home was going to be their home. It was a beautiful $140,000 motor home. It turned out to be stolen. It was taken from them.
The province of B.C. refunded the PST because of the fraudulent VIN. My constituents had done the due diligence. They did a check on the vehicle and everything was fine. They had it checked out, but it turned out to be a stolen vehicle. The VIN had been changed to the legitimate VIN of a vehicle that was not stolen.
This is all too common. Thieves will steal the registration from another vehicle. The registration has a VIN. The thieves will put that legitimate VIN from a vehicle that is not stolen onto the stolen vehicle so the buyer does not realize it is a stolen vehicle. My constituents bought the vehicle. Unfortunately, it was taken back. The police found it.
I wonder if I am going over my time, Mr. Speaker, because I am getting some heckling from my honoured colleagues across the way. I would ask them to be patient.
October 20th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the hon. member agree with me at least on a couple of occasions with respect to my speech. That is somewhat encouraging. However, what really troubled me in this whole process is when the hon. member indicated that Bill C-64 was not tough enough.
When we are dealing with sentencing, could the hon. member tell me what he means when he says it is not tough enough?
October 20th, 2005 / 4:10 p.m.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand to address Bill C-64 as the justice critic for the official opposition.
Before I deal specifically with this bill, let me say that I made a note of the parliamentary secretary's comments about the weight category and the immobilizing system that we will be required to put into a motor vehicle.
I noted that there does not seem to be any difficulty with the Liberals weighing a motor vehicle and then determining whether or not there should be an immobilizer, but they had the audacity to stand up the other day and say it would be too difficult to prove whether somebody could traffic drugs within 500 metres of a school. They said that would be too difficult for prosecutors to figure out, yet to get the weight of a motor vehicle in order for there to be an immobilizer did not seem to be any problem.
I think this again basically points out that this government is not particularly serious about addressing certain key problems. It will go after certain pet projects regardless of the difficulties that might be involved, but when it comes to taking forceful, effective steps against criminals, this government will bend over for the criminals every time.
Bill C-64 is professed to be an embodiment of Chuck Cadman's Bill C-287, which he tried to bring forward in the House in November 2004, asking for the support of the government. Of course the government turned Mr. Cadman down.
Looking at this from a purely political perspective, the government is saying that it should get something that looks like what Mr. Cadman wanted, but it also wants to make sure that nobody is actually effectively prosecuted or actually goes to jail for doing this, so it will make this look like Mr. Cadman's bill although it has some very serious deficiencies.
The government and the parliamentary secretary have said that this bill is going to address a gap in the law. That is clear. There is a gap in the law. Mr. Cadman understood that perfectly, coming from the motor vehicle theft capital of Canada. He understood that there was a serious gap in the law.
So what have the Liberals done? The Liberals have taken Mr. Cadman's bill in an attempt to address the gap and then created a loophole in order for criminals presently escaping through the gap to simply escape through a loophole that has been created in the legislation itself.
Speaking as a former prosecutor myself, I know that prosecutors do the best they can with the tools they are given, but why we do not give them the right tools? Why do we not give them the proper tools when they are asking for them? I can tell members what prosecutors are saying: that this bill creates the loophole that Chuck Cadman's bill was supposed to address, both substantively in terms of addressing the gap, and now the loophole.
Motor vehicle theft is a significant concern for Canadians and it is clear that nothing has been done about it over the last decade. For my home province of Manitoba, recent Statistics Canada figures from 2003 indicate that it has the highest rate of auto theft in the country, at 1,148 per 100,000 people, totalling 13,206 auto thefts that year.
Throughout the 1990s under this government, auto theft in Manitoba increased by over 250%. That was despite the fact that provincial governments attempted to do what they could in terms of prosecuting. Special units were brought forward to apprehend these individuals. More resources were brought forward, everything, but the main thing they could not do was change the Criminal Code. That was the problem.
We know that very few individuals commit most of the motor vehicle thefts, yet the issue of repeat offenders receiving mandatory jail sentences has never been addressed. One individual steals hundreds of cars in the course of a year and simply continues to receive probation, house arrest or some other kind of nebulous disposition under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
I do not have to make up those kinds of statistics. We can all look at what is happening in the courts every single day. The courts keep saying that we should speak to our parliamentarians about the reason they are giving such meaningless dispositions because, they say, that is what Parliament has told them to do.
So what I am saying to the government is that as we are taking steps to fix the law, why do we not actually fix it rather than pretend to fix it? What interest is there in our society to keep on seeing motor vehicle thefts increase at the rate at which they are presently increasing?
One of the biggest problems is inadequate sentences. I know that the Liberal justice minister says mandatory prison sentences do not work, but one thing that we do know about mandatory prison sentences is that when these individuals are in jail, they are actually not stealing cars. They are actually being stopped from stealing cars. So for those who are responsible for stealing cars--and some of these young kids are stealing cars every day of the year--if we actually put them in jail, there would probably be one less auto theft per day. Some of these young individuals steal literally hundreds of cars in the course of a year.
There are many innocent victims of auto theft. The vehicle owner, the insurance company and subsequent owners who unknowingly purchase stolen vehicles or stolen auto parts all experience a loss. The 2003 study for the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated that the direct dollar losses from motor vehicle theft in Canada are estimated at about $600 million per year. Local organized crime organizations are drawn to the industry because of the enormous profit potential and the relatively low risk of detection. The parliamentary secretary pointed that out. Increasingly, motor vehicles are not recovered when stolen.
It is not just kids doing this anymore, although they are dangerous enough in terms of using these motor vehicles. It is not just organized crime individuals who use these cars for break-ins all over the place. I know that in my province and in the city of Winnipeg this happens all the time. We also know now that organized crime groups are actually taking the cars for resale elsewhere. These cars never show up again. It is a booming industry that this government needs to shut down.
Motor vehicle theft does not only involve property loss, and I have talked about the property loss, but it has a significant impact on injury statistics. From 1999 through 2000, 56 people died as a result of auto theft. Studies indicate that vehicle theft is a serious road safety issue, resulting in a number of fatalities per year.
In fact, one police officer told me of a particular meth addict who is always stealing cars. His way of avoiding the police is taking the stolen car and driving it headlong into oncoming traffic on a freeway knowing that the police will not chase him because of the danger to innocent lives. However, even those few minutes in which this individual is racing down a freeway the wrong way are, I would suggest, a significant issue.
These kinds of occurrences are no longer exceptional. People are doing this because they know the police are restrained from high-speed chases. They know that the police act in a responsible manner.
What police expect of us as parliamentarians is that when they catch these individuals there should be appropriate penalties put in place so that they will not put other people's property and lives at risk.
The government refused to support Mr. Cadman's legislation. It did not come to him at that time and say, “Let us amend this. Let us make this work”. It simply said no. This really indicates that the government had no intention of ever following through on the real legislation that Mr. Cadman proposed. So while the government dithered on real legislation, hundreds of thousands of cars were stolen, millions of dollars were lost and, indeed, innocent lives were lost.
The government has finally taken notice of this bill for purely political reasons. Currently, the action of obliterating, altering and removing a VIN is not a specified criminal act. Section 354(2) of the Criminal Code treats tampering with a VIN in an evidentiary context, establishing that in the absence of evidence to the contrary a tampered VIN is proof of property obtained by crime. There is no law for the direct prosecution of a person engaging in the physical act of VIN tampering. This was the gap that I think the parliamentary secretary pointed out. It is a gap that needs to be addressed. Bill C-64 attempts to address this gap by creating this new criminal offence.
If the government brought forward the bill that Mr. Cadman wanted, I do not think we would have any problem supporting that bill. We would have to examine it again, but generally speaking we have always been supportive of Mr. Cadman's efforts in that respect, but we are concerned about this bill.
The new offence would be punishable for up to 5 years imprisonment. This is the same old story. We provide a substantive offence. Even in this case, I do not know if 5 years is a substantive enough offence when it usually is organized crime that deals with this kind of VIN tampering. The fact that we are limiting it to 5 years indicates that the government does not take this crime seriously enough. The other point is the government has not excluded house arrest for this type of offence. Criminals can still get house arrest for this offence, and that is not acceptable.
I would like to quote Mr. Cadman's explanation of his bill's purpose. He stated:
A conviction under the proposed law would clearly separate persons involved in auto theft rings from auto thieves who steal for destination driving or the short term use of the vehicle in the commission of a crime. The criminal record of the person convicted would set out that the person was involved in VIN tampering and this information would assist in future investigations of repeat offenders. The use of progressive sentencing for repeat offenders would be facilitated because the information concerning past actions would be readily available.
We do not see the idea of progressive sentencing to punish those who are repeat offenders. There is no acknowledgement here that Parliament needs to send a message to those few individuals who are constantly stealing vehicles on a daily basis.
Mr. Cadman was right to legislate a bill which clearly criminalized the tampering of VIN. Currently, the charge does not reflect the actual actions of the suspects and it is impossible to use progressive sentencing on repeat offenders, which Mr. Cadman advocated. Again, the government has left this matter out of the bill.
Today, investigators must arrest and charge suspects who engage in VIN tampering with possession of property obtained by crime. Clearly, that is not adequate. VIN tampering is not the same auto crime category as a 16 year old caught stealing a motor vehicle. We have the potential to differentiate crucial elements involved in auto theft and we should empower our peace officers with the powers they need to clamp down on auto theft.
Not only are we missing the boat in terms of sending a clear message to the more serious organized crime elements in this bill, there is another substantive problem and that is what the government has added to Mr. Cadman's original Bill C-284. This addition adds to the difficulty of the crown prosecutors job of proving the offence. The phrase that the government has added is “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.
This makes it an offence for somebody who alters or removes the VIN on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse. It already has given the individual the opportunity to demonstrate that he or she had a lawful excuse. They the government adds a superfluous element that now it becomes incumbent upon the Crown to prove that. That is the additional element “under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”.
As a former prosecutor, I know that the government's bill, if passed, will put an onus on the Crown that is far too high and is not constitutionally required. When the police catch someone and prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime, there was nothing in Mr. Cadman's original bill that did not say the Crown did not have to prove every element of the crime. It has to prove every element of the crime.
Once the Crown proves every element of the crime, then it falls upon the individual to demonstrate that he or she had no lawful excuse. That is a standard practice in Canadian criminal law. There is nothing unconstitutional about that nor is there anything wrong with that. As long as the Crown is required to prove every essential element of the crime, then it is open for the government in its legislation to require on a balance of probabilities that the individual must demonstrate that he or she had some lawful excuse.
The government has added this, quite frankly, to the detriment of an effective prosecution.
I want to state for the record that if this bill should pass or if the government wants our party or my vote in order to pass this bill, let us take out that superfluous clause which does nothing to advance the interests of law enforcement. Indeed it only hinders law enforcement and is not constitutionally required.
The Conservatives will stand up for Mr. Cadman's original proposal, which called for the onus of proof to fall on the accused on a balance of probabilities once the Crown had proven all essential elements of the crime. That is what Mr. Cadman wanted. That is reasonable in Canadian law. Why then has this added phrase been put in there? Essentially, it is because the government has absolutely no desire to crack down on the problem of organized crime tampering with VIN. If the government were serious about, it would drop that phrase.
The Conservatives will continue to stand up for the rights of victims over the rights of criminals. While Mr. Cadman's original bill addressed the gap, I can only repeat again that this bill attempts to pay lip service to the gap and creates a loophole which will leave the law in exactly the same state as it is today.
Why are we going through this entire effort, if there is no advancement in this fight against what is such a scourge in our country today?
November 17th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.
Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-287, an act to amend the Criminal Code (vehicle identification number).
Mr. Speaker, I am reintroducing my bill to amend the Criminal Code with respect to auto crime by adding a section that makes tampering with a vehicle identification number, or VIN, a criminal offence. It makes it a criminal offence to alter, deface or remove a vehicle identification number.
For years police have been asking for this. Auto theft is a major problem in many Canadian cities and this simple amendment would provide law enforcement with another tool. Auto crime investigators need a Criminal Code section prohibiting the obliteration, alteration or removal of a vehicle identification number to combat auto theft rings operated by organized crime.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)