Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-219. I know that justice issues are very important to my colleague from Wild Rose. This bill is simple. It is not rocket science. A person stealing a vehicle to rob a bank will be subject to a third offence of stealing a vehicle to commit another crime. That third offence will get an automatic one-year sentence added to the sentence for other offences.
We have already heard government members speak in opposition to this legislation. That is most unfortunate, but not really surprising. Once again this government sings the tune that it is in favour of safer streets and more secure communities, but when it gets down to the short strokes it typically fails to dance the dance and continues to maintain the status quo. Government members are quick to cite support from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police when they happen to be on the same page, but they invariably ignore these same chiefs when additional protections are sought. As mentioned by the member for Wild Rose, the chiefs themselves initially proposed this change to our law.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice claims that Canadians are already well served by common law principles of sentencing and current legislation.
Going back to my initial example, yes, there is an offence for stealing a motor vehicle and, yes, there is an offence for robbing a bank and, yes, a judge considers both the theft and the robbery at sentencing. However, we all know that multiple convictions virtually always draw concurrent sentences.
Bill C-219 impresses upon those judges that they are to proceed as always by imposing an appropriate sentence, but that they are then to add another year to the total. As part of their function they are to consider the wishes and instructions of parliament which, if it supports this bill, will serve notice to both potential offenders and the courts that the representatives of the people are seriously concerned with the theft of motor vehicles to commit other offences and we have decided to pronounce additional condemnation.
I will point out some of the justification for this proposal. According to Statistics Canada, some 178,580 vehicles were stolen in 1996. The rate of vehicle theft has been increasing for eight consecutive years, nearly doubling since 1988. In 1995-96 the cost of stolen vehicles and their components amounted to $600 million. That is $600 million a year for vehicle theft.
Both the solicitor general and the justice minister have received strong messages to introduce policy to reduce auto theft. The problem is not just with auto as in car theft; there has been a large increase in the number of trucks stolen in recent years given the tremendous increase in popularity of minivans and sport utility vehicles.
These statistics reveal the nature of the problem of auto theft in Canada. Of course not all stolen vehicles are subsequently involved in other crime. This legislation addresses the problem of the more professional criminal, those who steal a vehicle and then continue on to other criminal activities. Surely these individuals deserve extra attention.
One thing I have learned here is this government's resistance to change. It is most often quite content with the status quo. It only moves on crises. Another is its apparent policy of not permitting any individual member of this place to succeed in bringing forth change. As a member of the committee on justice and human rights, I continue to see this government through ministers and parliamentary secretaries being unwilling to support private member initiatives, especially those of the opposition. We can only hope that members of the government backbench will see the wisdom of Bill C-219.
Opposition to the bill appears to be based solely on the reliance on present laws to properly address the problem. If the present laws are doing the job, then why do we have this epidemic of motor vehicle theft? Why do we have a proliferation of anti-theft devices for vehicles? Why are manufacturers installing satellite tracking systems in many new vehicles? Why, when we walk on virtually any urban street in Canada, do we see a variety of locking bars on steering wheels or little red lights flickering on the dashboard indicating that an alarm system is armed?
The same holds true for vehicles parked on residential driveways and even private garages. Why, when we unwittingly brush against a car in a crowded parking lot, do we run the risk of setting off a chorus of sirens, whistles and klaxons? Obviously the present laws and the present judicial discretion concerning sentencing are not working.
I agree with the Progressive Conservative House leader who said that it would toughen the criminal sanctions for those individuals who use a stolen vehicle to assist in the commission of their criminal act.
In many instances the government has gone out of its way to protect the rights of criminals. It has been much slower to protect the security of the public. We all recognize the tax burden on citizens. We may not be so clear as to how, through increases in crime, citizens are expending an ever increasing proportion of steadily shrinking disposable income on protection devices.
I have already mentioned anti-threat devices on motor vehicles. Home security alarms are just another example of costs to citizens which can be equated to taxes because the expenditures are brought about by the government's failure to provide sufficient protection for properties.
The member for Wild Rose through his private member's bill is at least proposing a method to attempt to protect Canadians from not only motor vehicle theft, but in some cases serious injury or even death. He is merely asking for a consecutive sentence for those professional criminals who steal a vehicle in order to commit another crime. Surely this is a laudable and long overdue initiative. Surely its passage will cause some criminals to have second thoughts about stealing a vehicle to use in other crimes. Surely the sentence imposed through this proposal will act as a deterrent to others.
As I speak of this legislation I cannot help but compare it to another private member's bill which is presently before the justice committee. I refer to Bill C-251, which seeks to impose consecutive sentencing on those convicted of multiple murders or sexual assaults. We know that the vast majority of Canadians are in support of this initiative. I would seriously believe they would also be in support of consecutive sentencing for those who steal a motor vehicle in order to commit another crime. It only makes sense.
As the member for Wild Rose is fond of saying “We need more common sense in this place”. We need to impress upon those who consider making a career of crime that we intend to deal most seriously with their multiple offences.
Here are some numbers from my home city of Surrey, British Columbia. Corporal Greg Roche of the Surrey RCMP auto theft division provided me with statistics for January 1 to October 31 of this year. During that period 3,161 cars were stolen, 823 trucks, 75 motorcycles, and 62 other vehicles such as all terrain vehicles. That is a total of 4,121 stolen vehicles. If we exclude the motorcycles and others, we still have 3,984 cars and trucks in 309 days, or an average of nearly 13 vehicles each day. That is about one stolen vehicle for every 80 residents of Surrey.
About two years ago I was playing in a hockey tournament. My wife and I left the arena around midnight, about a half hour before my daughter left with a friend. Turning a corner, we saw a blaze of flashing emergency lights about five blocks ahead. The road was cordoned off two blocks from the scene but we could see a horrendous car wreck. My heart leaped into my throat because this was the route my daughter would have taken home. After an anxious few minutes spent taking a detour, we turned on to our street and saw her friend's car in our driveway.
The next morning I learned that police had called off a pursuit and parked their vehicles at the side of the road intending to stop a stolen vehicle headed their way. The thief sped past them with his lights out, laughing and flipping them the finger. He blew through a red light and T-boned a small car which was catapulted across the intersection and through a fence. A middle aged woman on her way home from a church meeting died on impact.
That was two blocks from my home and could just as easily have been my daughter and her friend. They had just pulled into the driveway when they heard the impact. The offender, in his early twenties, was well known to police for a long history of auto thefts and other crimes.
I encourage all members to support Bill C-219 and address just one facet of a problem that is epidemic and, in cases such as I have just described, tragic.