Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you, colleagues, for allowing me a few moments of the committee's valuable time to come and speak about my private member's bill and hopefully answer any questions you might have.
I thought this would be a very high-profile bill, and when I walked outside I thought it would have a whole lot of media interest, but unfortunately, they're somewhere else. I thought if maybe I showed up in handcuffs, we might be able to draw some of them in here to pay attention to this.
I won't repeat everything I said at second reading, because I think members have either already heard the speech or have access in Hansard to the full spiel that I gave in the House. But I do want to cover a couple of points, and then of course I look forward to a cordial and meaningful discussion with my colleagues regarding any specific points they may raise with me.
I should first thank the Insurance Bureau of Canada. I believe they're testifying later today. They've done a tremendous amount of work, analyzing and tracking statistics, analyzing trends, and really providing a lot of background information to both lawmakers and law enforcement to come up with new ways of reducing auto theft in Canada.
My private member's bill would do a few important things that many stakeholders for years have been calling for. First, the bill would create a separate and specific criminal offence for stealing a motor vehicle—a car or truck. Currently, the most likely charge arising from someone stealing a car is being charged with theft over $5,000. If the vehicle is worth less than that, of course, the lesser charge, along with a lesser sentence, is applied.
That raises a good point that many law enforcement people and the insurance bureau have brought up in the past—that is, why should it matter if you steal a motor vehicle worth more than $5,000 or less than $5,000? The impact of the theft is the same on the family that has suffered the loss. Whether it's a brand-new Nissan Altima or a 1993 Ford Windstar, it's still a theft. It's a theft of a motor vehicle, and the impact on the family that relies on that vehicle is the same. Why should there be a higher penalty for stealing from the rich than stealing from the poor or the working class who can't afford the luxury vehicles?
There are also several requests from law enforcement, and I believe you've been given a few documents, one of which was the resolution passed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, calling on the Government of Canada to enact legislation creating a separate offence under the Criminal Code of Canada with respect to theft of motor vehicles. The reasoning behind that is similar to the reasoning behind the difference between the Criminal Code conviction for break and enter and the Criminal Code conviction for theft. There's an explanation in your package in regard to why they're calling for that particular part of the bill.
The second major thing my bill would do, if passed, is establish minimum sentences for a first, second, and subsequent offence. As currently written, on the first offence a conviction will result in a fine of not less $1,000 or imprisonment for a term of not less than three months. It then escalates on the second offence. On the third offence, there would be the mandatory minimum sentence of a term of not less than two years and a fine of not less than $10,000. I didn't arrive at these numbers purely in a vacuum. Le Groupement des assureurs automobiles, the Quebec group of automobile insurers, talk in their documents about the problem with fines as currently stipulated not being enough to discourage organized crime. If you're engaged in motor vehicle theft for the purposes of gang activity or organized crime, when you get caught, some of the fines that are being handed out are just not enough to discourage this. It just becomes a cost of doing business and not a real deterrent.
There are a considerable number of stakeholders calling for these kinds of measures, calling for tougher penalties and separate offences for theft of motor vehicles. The Premier of Manitoba has been very vocal. He led a delegation from Manitoba here just recently, calling for many of the things that are contained in my bill. In addition, you'll find mayors of towns like Regina and Windsor also very much interested in getting the assistance they need to combat car theft.
Many police forces around Canada are trying innovative things at the local level, such as using bait cars, and different kinds of strategies to reduce auto theft, such as working in different communities with outreach programs to try to get people, especially young people, away from turning to crime to finance their activities. They've also expressed a need for help at the federal level, specifically with the Criminal Code. They can do a lot at their end, but they need help at the national level.
I've also included some statistics in your kits that look at the way the theft of motor vehicles has exploded in the last 10 years. It's becoming a major problem. The Insurance Bureau of Canada will tell you later today that more and more it's being linked to organized crime. It's no longer the idea of younger people being out for a joy ride or addicts stealing your car for cash for their next fix. Especially in eastern Canada, along the Quebec-Windsor corridor, it's becoming theft for export. You'll see that the recovery rate in Quebec is down significantly--56% of cars stolen are recovered. That compares with the recovery rate in the Toronto area in 2002, which was 75%. The inference there is that more and more of these cars aren't being found because they're being chopped and shipped. They're being sent overseas.
I have a statistic that I used at second reading. In 1996 Polish police reported the seizure of 11,000 vehicles from North America, 70% of which were Canadian. That's just one country in the European Union. That's a pretty significant number of stolen vehicles they're recovering, and 70% of them are from Canada.
We're seeing a lot of exports in stolen vehicles. I think what this bill would do is really make it tougher for organized crime to rely on people to go out and steal cars for them because these people would be in jail longer.
I'm not sure how much time I have left, Mr. Chair, so I'll try to wrap up relatively quickly.
I know there's a lot of talk these days about mandatory minimums. I know there are some concerns that the opposition has expressed, and I would certainly love to have a further discussion on that today.
I think one of the biggest things this bill would do is especially target the repeat offender, the depiction of a young person who is maybe at the entry level, so to speak, of an organized gang or crime group. This would have a significant impact on individual deterrence. I truly believe that. He or she would no longer be able to count on doing what they do, and then if they get picked up, it might be a few days out of their crime cycle and then they're right back out to it.
Le Groupement des assureurs automobiles has also said that in Quebec it takes several convictions before any jail time is realized. As I said, it's just the cost of doing business. The low fines and lack of jail time make it relatively easy for these people to continue to engage in these kinds of activities.
That's why I feel there are two major prongs of this bill. Establishing a separate offence is something the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have been calling for to help in their crime tracking and analysis. It also helps down the line for further prosecutions if you can look at someone's rap sheet and see not just a generic conviction of theft of over/under $5,000, but actually a specific offence for theft of a motor vehicle, establishing tougher penalties, and indeed mandatory minimums on the third offence.
I think it targets the habitual reoffender while allowing the judge discretion on the first- and second-time offenders. There's a lot more leeway there. If there are young people, first-time offenders, who through youthful exuberance are out joyriding or trying to impress their friends, the judge would have the ability to look at the facts and determine what sentence would be appropriate, but nonetheless a clear message would be sent to habitual reoffenders that consistently breaking the law, consistently stealing cars, will result in real jail time.
I think the time for my statement is up. I'd be happy to have a further discussion with my colleagues.