House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.


Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thank the minister for introducing this bill in light of the fact that last Friday when I asked her a question about it, it was suggested that I had my research all wrong and that it would be introduced on Monday. I was vilified by the government benches for having lousy research—

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know the hon. member is always very interested in justice issues, but the Chair rules that he does not have a point of order and is clearly engaging in debate.

Returning to the Minister of Justice, I will hear her point of order. She has completed her remarks.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Anne McLellan Liberal Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the government House leader has consulted with the House leaders of other parties. I would move, with consent:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. Minister of Justice have the consent of the House to move the motion?

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Does the House give its consent to the motion proposed by the Minister of Justice?

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 4:35 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I move that we now see the clock as 5.30 p.m. and proceed to the consideration of private members' business.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

moved that Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to again rise to speak about one of my private member's initiatives. Once again the Liberal majority on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has decided, for whatever reason, to make this initiative a non-votable matter.

I will not go into a rant about that, but suffice it to say I have to wonder why a select few members of this place are able to control all private members' business to the extent that they and only they decide which issues have even a modicum of opportunity to become law within the country.

It is no secret that many members from all sides of the House have become frustrated and disenchanted with the present scheme, but it will never change unless the government backbenchers forget about the carrots at the end of the stick the Prime Minister continues to hold out for them. Members of this place should be doing what is right for the country. I said I would not get into a rant, so I will move on to Bill C-250.

Bill C-250 is a relatively simple bill. Its purpose is to ensure that a person who is convicted of more than one theft of a motor vehicle receives a minimum of four years' imprisonment for every conviction following the first conviction.

The bill is aimed at the repeat car thief. Before those on the other side and perhaps the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert attack me once again for being too tough on our poor misguided criminal offenders, I will point out that I am specifically aiming the legislation at the professional car thief.

As most of us know, professional car thievery is more and more attributable to organized crime. I will illustrate the affiliation between repeat car thieves and organized crime in a few moments.

It would not be entirely correct to claim that this proposal is only aimed at organized criminals in the normal definition of that term. We have a number of criminal organizations that have developed a specialty of stealing motor vehicles just as a form of illegal activity. They might just be a couple of individuals who want to supplement their annual income or they may in fact live for the benefits of their illegal enterprise.

In any case, auto theft is and should be of great concern to the Canadian public. We are all well aware of our increased auto insurance rates due to the escalation in motor theft. From 1986 to 1997, auto thefts in Canada increased by 94%. In 1997, 187,500 vehicles were reported stolen. The problem costs the insurance industry approximately $600 million annually. It only stands to reason that most if not all of that $600 million cost of motor vehicle theft is passed on from insurance companies to those of us who have to insure our vehicles.

Why has motor vehicle theft become such a growth industry? There are a number of factors.

First, with the sophistication of these professional offenders, there is relatively low risk. Most of us have to leave our vehicles outside at some point during the day: when we go shopping, when we drive them to work, when we leave them at the local transit parking lot, or even overnight while we are sleeping. Motor vehicles are often left unattended for minutes or hours at a time and are so common that thieves can approach them with little fear of attracting attention.

Second, there is a high return. With motor vehicle prices rising toward a common value of $30,000 and beyond, it becomes very profitable for crooks to specialize in auto theft.

Third, there is an avoidance of income taxes. Regardless of what the Minister of Finance says, income taxes are particularly burdensome to most of our citizens. One of the exceptions to the cumbersome weight of taxes is the criminal element. Auto thieves avoid paying high taxes or any taxes at all by chopping or disassembling motor vehicles and selling the parts to the parts industry. They also obtain vehicle identification numbers from wrecks, reattach those numbers to stolen vehicles and essentially put a new and improved auto back onto the streets.

I will divert myself for just a moment to give the House just one example of how devastating this practice of switching vehicle identification numbers, or VINs, can be to the unsuspecting buyer. Just last week it was reported how Tammy Mulvey of Ottawa was victimized by this scheme. She is a 22 year old who works for a mobile canteen company. I can just imagine how proud she was when she purchased her first car for $8,000, a 1993 Honda Civic. I do not know that I can imagine how she felt when the police helped a tow truck driver take it away. It was stolen.

Tammy had little protection. She bought the vehicle with a VIN that was free and clear from problems or legal claims. Unfortunately, that VIN did not belong to the car she bought. It was identified by the police as part of a $10 million international motor vehicle theft ring. Tammy was the loser, a victim because that car actually belonged to someone else. A loss of $8,000 at the age of 22 is a nasty life experience for someone just starting out.

What are some of the other factors that ensure that motor vehicle theft is a growth industry? As the example illustrates, organized crime finds it quite profitable. Organized crime also finds many other uses for its ill-gotten gains. Police are convinced that many, if not most, of the biker gangs drive stolen vehicles and motorcycles. With motorcycles it is relatively easy to have three or four individuals pick up a Harley off the street and throw it into the back of a pickup.

We have all heard stories about how criminals use stolen vehicles to commit crimes, crimes like drug trafficking and armed robbery just to mention a couple. A car is stolen. It is used in the offence and is then dumped through various means.

Stolen vehicles with fraudulent paperwork can become a currency within organized crime activity. These vehicles are traded for other items of value. Stolen vehicles have been bartered for drugs from foreign countries. Apparently it is quite simple to ship motor vehicles in those sealed international shipping containers we have all seen travelling across the world on ships, trains and trucks. Many North American vehicles are worth double their value in many foreign countries.

It has become very profitable for organized criminals to steal a luxury vehicle, put it in a shipping container, put it on a ship and sell it to a wealthy buyer, with no questions asked and no international vehicle tracking system in place. We should recognize that many countries have few car dealerships and high tariffs on imported vehicles. These criminals are filling a void that cries out for this form of activity.

The last thing I will discuss about the causes of auto theft as a growth industry has to do with the little risk of jail time for the offence. We have enough difficulty convincing the Liberal government to impose jail time for violent offences. Auto theft is not a violent offence. Our courts often look at auto theft as being protected by car insurance. We all lose a bit but no one suffers a great deal. That is absolutely wrong headed.

Why should we be sponsoring criminals who refuse to abide by the norms of society and who sponge on all law-abiding citizens? Why should we be permitting organized criminals to expand their enterprises, to expand their influence and to increase the threat to society when it is so easy to address just one aspect of their operations? The bill would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of four years on professional vehicle thieves.

I will now provide some anecdotal support for what I have been saying. An RCMP intelligence report dealing with a multimillion dollar organized crime ring whereby luxury cars were stolen and shipped overseas stated:

These groups, motivated by the low risk, huge profits and light penalties associated with auto theft, are operating virtual stolen-car pipelines.

The ring then funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars to a terrorist organization, according to the RCMP report. We can see how profits from the theft of motor vehicles generates far more serious and dangerous criminal activities. The director of RCMP criminal intelligence said:

There has also been increasing use of violence, including car-jackings and home invasions, to obtain cars.

The president of the Canadian Police Association listed auto theft as one of the major activities of organized crime. Constable Jim Messner of the RCMP auto theft squad in Calgary says that his city has become a shipping hub for stolen high priced vehicles for organized crime rings. He said:

There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of unrecovered stolen vehicles is a result of organized crime. We know organized crime groups have stolen vehicles for a number of things, including transporting contraband.

In one weekend last year, 31 vehicles were stolen in Burnaby, B.C. I do not have the figure for how many were stolen that particular weekend for Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster or North Vancouver, but 31 vehicles for the Burnaby portion of the lower mainland is a symptom of a major problem. In one seven day period last year, 128 vehicles were reported stolen from the streets of Ottawa. According to Statistics Canada about 450 vehicles are stolen every day in Canada.

All these statistics are in spite of car owners having to ensure their vehicles are locked each and every time they are left alone, and in spite of anti-theft devices and car alarms. Motor vehicle theft is a matter of significant public interest. Unfortunately it does not seem to be of any significant government interest as it has decided not to make the bill votable.

In a recent operation against organized crime police from Canada and the United States were able to lay 270 charges and recover close to $10 million in stolen vehicles. Some 193 vehicles were recovered from as diverse a distribution as Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo, Texas, Florida and Panama.

For any of those listening who do the math most of the vehicles recovered were from the high end of the motor vehicle industry. Lincoln Navigators, Volvos and Mercedes were particularly attractive to these individuals. Twenty-five people were arrested and at that time the police had warrants for twenty-four others.

It is most unfortunate that many will get a slap on the wrist for stealing vehicles. The authorities will only be able to guess how many vehicles passed through this organization successfully while our police were forced to expend scarce resources on their enterprise. More than 150 officers were involved in this takedown.

It is obviously time to change the law. It is not right that we merely warehouse these individuals for a few months. For them it is merely an opportunity to rest up before returning to our communities to pick up where they left off. For them these lenient sentences are nothing more than a cost of doing business. We must show that as parliamentarians we are very serious about addressing this form of crime.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

4:50 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-250 which would amend part 9 of the criminal code dealing with offences against property. The proposal calls for the creation of a new offence: theft of a motor vehicle with a value of more than $5,000. It then provides for a minimum sentence of four years if convicted a second time for theft of a vehicle over $5,000.

I assume that the purpose of the legislation is to combat the very serious problem of car theft. Unfortunately the bill ignores two basic realities. First, all theft over $5,000 is already an indictable offence under section 322 and 334 of the criminal code. It is already effectively dealt with under the existing sentencing provisions of the code. More important, the legislation would do little to combat the problem of auto theft, a problem that the government is fighting on many fronts in partnership with Canadians from every province and territory.

The proposed amendment to the criminal code sweeps aside the fundamental principles of sentencing currently in place and establishes a very specific regime for an individual facing a second or subsequent auto theft. The theory is that if we catch all the repeat offenders and throw away the key for four years the war against auto theft would be won. I recognize that some convicted criminals reoffend, but imposing a mandatory four year sentence for a second offence does not make sense in light of all that we know about this offence.

Here is what we do know. The vast majority of car thefts are joyriders or individuals who use the stolen vehicle in the commission of another offence. We know this because according to the Insurance Council of Canada the rate of recovery of stolen vehicles is very high, about 70% to 80% in recent years. Further, young offenders commit almost half the reported auto thefts. How does the proposal address these aspects of the problem? We know that hard time in a penitentiary itself does little to rehabilitate offenders, so how do we address this serious problem?

That brings me to the second reality the proposed legislation fails to recognize. While auto theft has been and continues to be a serious problem, it is actively and aggressively being addressed. The problem is being attacked not only by the sanctions available in the criminal code but by every level of government, policing agency, private company, association and by individual Canadians. The existing sanctions within the criminal code and case law effectively achieve the objectives of criminal sentencing for both first time and repeat offenders.

Auto theft falls under the class of offences in the criminal code relating to thefts of property. Section 334 of the criminal code provides that the theft of property exceeding $5,000 is an indictable offence for which the individual is liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years. This provision reflects parliament's recognition that theft over $5,000 is a serious offence and it includes auto theft.

Further, joyriding is a specific offence under the criminal code to take into account the very unique nature of this crime. In addition, if an offender has prior convictions the sentencing judge, under current procedures, is bound to treat this as an aggravating factor that would result in a harsher sentence than would otherwise be imposed. A sentencing court does not stop there, however, nor should it.

The principles of sentencing in Canada require a judge to look at all the circumstances of the crime, including those of the offender and of the victim, the good and the bad, the mitigating and the aggravating. Those circumstances must be weighed in light of the fundamental principles of sentencing. The first and paramount principle of sentencing is that the sentence must be in proportion to the crime or crimes committed, and to the degree of responsibility of the offender.

Put simply, shoplifting by an 18 year old teenager versus the robbing of a convenience store by a professional criminal may both be prosecuted as theft under section 334 of the criminal code. However, to sentence both to six months in jail would not make any sense. The entire sentencing structure of the criminal justice system is built around this basic principle of proportionality. That is why, for example, there is no minimum mandatory sentence for a section 334.

The sentencing court must also consider the remaining well established objectives of sentencing: the protection of society; reparations to and acknowledgements of victims; deterrence to others; denunciation of the crime; and the rehabilitation of the offender. Unfortunately, Bill C-250 would, in too many cases, force the sentencing court to throw away these long established and useful sentencing principles.

The government clearly supports the notion that those who habitually re-offend ought to be punished to a greater extent than the first time offender. However, our current system, recently revamped in 1996 by Bill C-41, the Sentencing Reform Act, provides the necessary flexibility to accomplish this objective.

The determination of sentences therefore requires the consideration of a number of sentencing principles and objectives. In the absence of the proposal contained in Bill C-250, the existing regime enables courts to impose sentences for auto theft that are just and fair to the victim, to society and even to the offender. Many sentencing options are available which can and should be fully considered to tailor the sentence to the specific circumstances of the crime.

While the problem of motor vehicle theft is international in scope, the recent international crime victimization survey conducted in 1996 revealed that Canada's rate of vehicle theft ranked as one of the lowest among industrialized countries.

In 1995, 18 out of every 1,000 Canadian vehicle owners experienced a motor vehicle theft, compared to, for example, a rate of 33 per 1,000 owners in England, and since then we have made considerable progress. We have seen a steady decline in the rate of vehicle thefts every year to 5.3 thefts per 1,000 vehicles in 1999 according to statistics from Statistics Canada.

Recent amendments to the criminal code introduced by the Minister of Justice would make it easier to investigate and prosecute organized crime rings which would put a further dent in vehicle theft. The government is currently co-ordinating a multijurisdictional analysis of the role of organized crime in auto theft as part of our national agenda to combat organized crime.

In addition, a number of non-statutory measures have been employed over recent years to prevent motor vehicle theft in Canada, a measure that the government either initiated or partnered with other governments, agencies, organizations and individuals.

For example, we are actively involved with the provinces and numerous police agencies in the establishment of the national stolen and wrecked vehicle monitoring program designed as a comprehensive database available to the police from coast to coast. This would make it tougher to steal a car at one end of the country and sell it at the other end.

Another initiative involves car manufacturers working in conjunction with the police and insurance companies to design more effective security features for their motor vehicles. The government recently initiated the business action program on crime prevention in partnership with police and insurance companies across Canada to educate Canadians as to what they as individuals can do to fight auto theft.

All these measures are designed to reduce car theft and together with the existing criminal code provisions provide a comprehensive scheme for addressing this serious problem. While the imposition of a four year minimum sentence for a second or subsequent offence may look appealing to a few hardliners, it is simply not a realistic alternative to what already exists. It does not give the police, the prosecutors or the courts any additional tools to combat the problem. As a result, the Minister of Justice cannot support the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wish to compliment my hon. colleague, the member for Surrey North, for his work on this non-partisan bill and for his presentation to us today. The bill is meant to add to the protection of Canadians.

As individuals, certain things that come under special categories are perhaps more personal to us than other things. If I were to start down the list, my family would be number one in importance, my home would be next and my car would follow. I am only one of many individuals who would say that we do love our cars.

I remember the first car I bought after joining the workforce and being able to spend more than a couple of hundred dollars on it. One day I came out of my house and noticed that my car had been smashed by a hit and run driver. I was thankful that it was not stolen. It was not a car in the category of cars we are talking about today, but I will never forget the agonizing feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I saw what had happened to my car. We need to recognize that a car may be in a special category.

I realize minimum sentences are something that we have been reluctant to put into Canadian law in many cases. However there are quite a number of cases where there are minimum sentences. I do not think this is something that would be put forward only by hardliners or those who would be considered extremists in one way or another.

Canadians want protection from crime and from risk of injury, especially protection from fear associated with the different crimes committed in Canadian cities. Canadians expect and desire this from their government. Therefore, many of my constituents seem to be quite prepared to be a little more tough on crime, if that is what this would be, especially on theft.

There are a number of instances where minimum sentencing is used, for instance in the firearms, bookmaking, living on the avails of a person, wounding with intent and some impaired driving conditions.

I also want to again reiterate that the Canadian Police Association has listed car theft as one of the main avails of organized crime. I also read the comments of the RCMP member from Calgary. He stated that that place was perhaps a hub for organized crime and car theft. He agreed that many other police groups across the country would see this as a very important problem which needs to be addressed.

The costs associated with auto theft are staggering and rising. It is a waste of our personal resources. We have a major problem that is simply not going to go away, as just business as usual. Without penalties that would increase enough to exceed the benefits of crime, it is hard for us to think about deterring it.

My city of Regina is notorious for auto theft and vandalism. This again is a little different category. Just this week my executive assistant was shot at in Regina. We are becoming famous for shootings in Regina. A couple of weeks ago several vehicles were shot at. We were lucky that my assistant's car was not hit with a real bullet. It was a paint gun.

The problem illustrated here is the fact that there is such little respect for personal property belonging to others. This causes fear, loss of work, police costs associated with this, the removal of the paint from the car and all the effort and energy that went into dealing with this sort of misdemeanour.

This kind of disrespect springs out of the lack of accountability in so many areas of those who would be involved in the life of crime. Auto theft in Canada is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and is rising. I would ask at what point would we as parliamentarians be prepared to act.

Province-wide, Saskatchewan shows that the number of claims have moved from 2,700 in 1999, at a cost of $8.7 million to 2,944 in the year 2000, at a cost of $9.3 million. By March 1 we had 563 claims at a cost of $1.9 million. Breaking that down to the city of Regina, in 1999 there were 1,437 claims costing $3.9 million. In the year 2000 there were 1,574 claims costing $4.4 million. This year's bill to March 1 is already up to $900,000.

It is important to note that these costs do not even include the articles taken from vehicles. They do not include the damage to vehicles that were eventually recovered and then repaired at cost less than the $700 or so deductible that we have in our insurance plan in the province of Saskatchewan.

Police costs also must figure into the cost of car thefts. One of our goals should be to curb auto theft to the point that perhaps we could divert some of those police funds and associated costs to crime prevention of other types.

Cost of courts is also an ingredient. Auto thefts place a burden on our court system and they will be a demand for more judges and court officials to deal with an ever increasing crime load in this area, if something is not done.

Then of course there are always rehabilitation and detention costs for those who have offended and those who are apprehended.

Canadians are tired of having to pay for all of this over and over. They expect that we would be sensitive enough to adjust the penalties imposed in order to be a little stronger deterrent to crime, especially as it relates to organized crime.

Insurance costs to individuals are something that we need to really remember. Insurance rates rise. When we consider the $600 million that auto theft costs the country each year, it costs us as individuals even more than that because our rates rise. We also have to pay the deductibles and those kinds of things. It becomes very important economically. It is the inconvenience of it as well.

In Saskatchewan, if we do not lock our cars when we are out, even if we hop out for a moment for a cup of coffee at Robin's, then there is a question as to whether or not the insurance will even cover that. There are all kinds of minor inconveniences from security at home to security when we are on the road or whatever that must be taken into account simply because we do not get serious enough with those who would steal our vehicles.

The council also reported that there were 165,000 vehicles stolen across Canada in 1999. It is unacceptable to have 450 vehicles stolen each day in Canada.

The bill is targeted at organized crime and does not increase the punishment for a young offender who steals the vehicle for a joyride. That is another important issue which needs to be dealt with. I am glad the hon. parliamentary secretary pointed out that the bill does not address the crimes committed, the joy rides, by young offenders. May I add, unfortunately neither does the new young offenders bill. The new youth criminal justice act also fails to address this problem. I am glad the parliamentary secretary noted that. It would be wonderful if we could make some changes in the young offenders bill perhaps to address that.

However this bill targets a certain level of car theft, that which would be carried out by organized crime, so we need not cross the two.

The bill seeks to increase the penalties and drive back organized crime related to auto thefts to make it more of an infraction, to give a little encouragement to the courts to be stronger when these offences are repeated and repeated. There is no issue respecting judicial discretion, but parliament must determine the penalties and the judiciary must honour and respect the wishes of parliament. If not, who speaks for Canadians?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague from Surrey North for putting Bill C-250 forward. Ever since he arrived here in 1997, the he has repeatedly put forth eloquent and constructive suggestions to the government on a wide variety of issues, in particular the Young Offenders Act. I hope the government has seen the wisdom of what he has been saying and implements many of the suggestions that he has put forth.

Today's bill, Bill C-250, strikes a balance and deals with the issue of theft of cars in a very reasonable way. The scope of the problem cannot be under estimated. More than $1 billion worth of cars are stolen every single year.

In addition about a quarter of a billion dollars worth of damage is done to those cars. It costs taxpayers about a half a billion dollars per year. The rate of increase in car theft is extraordinary. Between 1982 and 1994 the rate doubled and there is no end in sight.

We heard about the various motivations for stealing cars, which I will not reiterate. One of the major reasons is linked to organized crime. The government has put forth a bill that we will support. It is a good start in dealing with organized crime, but there is much more that can and should be done.

RICO like amendments, which were brought in the United States, should be implemented in Canada. That will enable our police forces and courts, in particular, to go after the proceeds from crime. Police forces say that to deal with organized crime we have to go after its money. The courts must go after their money, then we might have a chance to decrease the number of organized crime gangs in Canada. It also involves pushing the limits of our charter. I will encourage the government to do just that.

We have to fight fire with fire. A lot of these organized crime groups hide behind the law when it is convenient for them and abuse it when is convenient for them.

The extent of the problem, and it is perhaps related to the degree of organized crime, can be seen in the numbers and the demographics of theft. My province of British Columbia, as well as Manitoba, have the highest rates of car theft. Many of these cars are going to chop shops where they are pulled apart. The parts are then sold illegally or sent to other countries.

A way to deal with this, which is quite innovative and used in the United States, is to attach transmitters to the cars. The transmitters cost about $600. The United States found that the rate at which cars with transmitters were stolen was 25% less than the risk to other cars. The savings were massive.

We know the cost to us as individuals is huge. Also the cost to insurance companies is large. I believe in Canada in 1996, which is the last year for which I found statistics, it cost insurance companies $600 million in insurance costs. That is huge. We need to somehow decrease those costs because they are ultimately passed on to the consumer.

If we had transmitters on cars then the rate of theft would go down and the cost to insurance companies would go down. We would then a net saving to both the consumer and the insurance company.

Perhaps the insurance companies could decrease the comprehensive insurance costs for car owners who attached transmitters to their cars. This is something that is imminently doable and should be implemented as quickly as possible. I would encourage the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to do that.

We should also look at the issue of drug abuse. Many thefts that take place in our society are attached to drug abuse. Addicts yearning for that next hit have to find the money. Some turn to prostitution but some also turn to theft. To get their fix, the drug abuser will steal something they can sell.

We have to look at a more comprehensive way of dealing with the illicit drug trade. We know if we try to block it off at source, for example Colombia in the case of cocaine and heroin, that it does not work. We have to is take a new approach to drug abuse and deal with it on the demand side. We have to decrease demand. If there is no demand there is no production.

Let us flip the equation around and deal with the demand side. I was in Colombia in February and met with President Pastrana. I was very encouraged to see that he was very much in agreement with North America taking a greater role to decrease demand. At the same time Senator McCain was as were a number of other congressmen and senators from the U.S. For the first time the Americans were saying that they had to get their own house in order. As a nation we also have to do the same. How do we do it?

Thankfully, new medical evidence shows how the brain works with respect to addictions. There are some very exciting programs in Europe that have a 60% one year success rate for hard core narcotics abusers. These programs take a different approach. Not only do they deal with the issues of treatment and counselling, they also involve work and training skills. These programs also get people out of their drug environments for an extended period of time. As we know, that is critically important, because an individual who has a substance abuse problem and is living in an environment where drug abuse is taking place has a very difficult time breaking the habit. These models in Europe, while a bit expensive at the front end, work very well in the long term for decreasing the incidence of drug abuse in society.

Prevention works too and Canada has some exciting models. The Minister of Labour has been a champion of prevention through her head start program in Moncton. There are head start programs around the world that also work very well.

By working with the provinces and using the best of all the models available we will be able to develop a national program for early intervention. We could do this by using existing resources.

However, prevention has to start early, particularly at the prenatal stage because at that time parents can learn how to be good parents. The issue of fetal alcohol syndrome can also be addressed. As members know, fetal alcohol syndrome has been devastating in our society.

By taking the best models from around the world and focusing on strengthening the parent-child bond using existing resources, that kind of head start model would have a dramatic impact on drug use. There is a profound decrease in drug use among children, youth and adults who go through an appropriate head start program.

As I have done in the past, I encourage the Minister of Justice to work with her counterpart, the Minister of Health, and work with the provinces. I urge them to call together the first ministers to implement a head start program using existing resources. This program should not be some huge, dramatic, expensive, bureaucratically bound national program but one that works at the basics of strengthening the parent-child bond.

I want to thank my colleague from Surrey North for putting this bill forward. It focuses on mandatory sentencing and separates auto theft from other thefts. His bill gets to the heart of a significant theft problem in Canada. This bill also implements tough solutions to deal with those individuals who have repeatedly and wilfully demonstrated an abuse of public trust and an abuse of other Canadians. I hope that the government will see fit to implement Bill C-250 as soon as possible.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the privilege of speaking to Bill C-250, the bill sponsored by my colleague from Surrey North.

He began his speech by lamenting that even though he got his bill drawn the “impartial” committee decided that it would not be voted on. I would like to say two things about that.

First, I lament with him that his bill is not a votable item. It is very unfortunate that the rules of the House permit certain members of parliament to bring forward private members' bills that lead nowhere. It is wonderful to be able to debate a bill, but we should also be able to vote on it. That would allow members of parliament to show by their votes where they stand on an issue such as this.

Second, the member has been in the House for one term less than I. I have never been picked to present a private member's bill. He is fortunate in that regard. He is ahead of me on that one.

Bill C-250 has to do with auto theft. I always take a step back when I think of this type of crime. Auto theft in Canada takes place at two levels, I think, and they are almost quantum leaps apart. At one level it is mostly youths who take vehicles for what is called joyriding.

Another one of our colleagues from British Columbia had a private member's bill on that particular offence, whereby young people for some reason have it in their heads that it is not wrong for them to hop into a vehicle that is not theirs, take it for a ride and abandon it somewhere else. Some of the young people are repeat offenders. They just do it for a lark and yet what they are doing is very wrong and should not be tolerated.

There is another level, if we can classify auto theft as being at different levels. Joyriding is a low level classification even though some offenders are guilty of very frequently committing the offence. The other level, of course, is the organized one, whereby people actually make a living by taking someone else's property.

It is absolutely true that when people steal vehicles we all pay for it. In regard to the total cost, I think I heard a total of $600 million being bandied about. That is a tremendous cost because we have only 30 million Canadians and I am sure that we do not have one vehicle for every man, woman and child in the country. The amount of money is just atrocious and we all pay for it through higher premiums on our insurance.

Besides that, it is just the wrong thing to do. I really wonder why in our society we have people who actually feel that somehow they have the right to take property that is not their own. Some of them actually even get into the business of stealing vehicles, altering serial numbers and either chopping down the vehicles or putting them into containers and sending them to different parts of the world where they fetch a very good price.

We really need to do something about it. As I have said in some of my previous speeches on justice issues, it seems to me that we have to make sure we do not forget what the purpose of the law is. We cannot pass a law that will make people good and prevent them from committing crimes because it changes them on the inside. That is another function and that is something we really ought to be working on. We should be working on changing the personal convictions of people in terms of what they deem to be right and wrong. It is a big job and one that I think takes place primarily in strong families.

The second aspect of this is of course that the law must act as a deterrent, so my colleague is proposing that there be rather stiff penalties for people who engage in this over and over. It is significant that he does not say that the first time a kid takes a car for a ride in a joyride situation we would lock him up and throw the keys away, as some would accuse us of saying. We in fact favour methods that will retrieve and reform the young guy who starts that.

However, when it is a repeat offence, and particularly in the crime rings where they make huge amounts of money by literally ripping off Canadians, by stealing their vehicles and of course indirectly then charging the insurance companies and all of us through our premiums, those are the people who we want to stop with a law, because obviously they are not induced to stop it by themselves. The law must act as a deterrent.

It is a very honourable thing the member is proposing. He is proposing that there be a minimum four year sentence on this crime so that judges do not have the option of being lenient with repeat offenders. That is what should happen.

I know a person who has now moved into the city of Edmonton but used to live in my riding. His name is Ken Haywood. I think he would probably appreciate me saying this. For a number of years he owned a car dealership in the city of Edmonton. When he retired he sold his business and, because of this theft problem, he became interested in curbing auto thefts.

He been working with all levels of government, both federal and provincial. I visited with him when he was in Ottawa. He has a newsletter that he puts out and also a website. I do not know the address of the website but if people used a search engine and looked for Ken Haywood I am sure they could find it.

He is looking at technical ways of reducing auto theft. He is working with automobile manufacturers as there have been some technical innovations in the last little while. Many of the newer vehicles now have key coding, but a skilled thief can still easily dismantle the key column and drive the vehicle away. In some cases a thief will drive a truck up to the vehicle they want and drag it onto the truck. There are different technical ways that can be used to prevent someone from driving away with a vehicle, but it is pretty difficult to prevent someone from putting a hook to it and dragging it onto a truck.

Mr. Haywood is searching for different and innovative methods. He is very intrigued and interested in tracking methods, including electronic methods in order to identify vehicles making it more difficult to change serial numbers and other initiatives like that.

I want to go on record as saying that I support my hon. colleague. It makes no sense for me to ask other members to support the bill because they will not have a chance to vote on it. That is one of the changes, Mr. Speaker, that you were very interested in. We need to change that in parliament to allow all private members' business to be votable, so that we can come to a conclusion and do something about the problems, instead of just talking about them.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I stated at the beginning of the debate, the standing committee in its infinite wisdom decided to deem the bill as not votable.

What we are doing today is placing the issue on the political agenda. Hopefully in some not too distant future, the government would change and realize the importance of amending the criminal code to address the shortcomings of the sentencing provisions concerning auto theft.

The Minister of Justice is on record as recognizing the issue. In 1999 she stated “The public has a very strong interest in dealing with auto theft. It is a growing crime in terms of the number of people whose property is being stolen”. However, rather than deal with the criminals who are creating this strong interest and concern over property, she put some money toward educating Canadians on how not to leave their keys in the ignition. I wonder if the minister is aware of the term punched ignition switch.

It seems to be the way of the government, spend tax dollars to make it appear that something is being done. Heaven forbid that we should try to hold criminals accountable for their actions.

Earlier I deliberately avoided mentioning youth involvement in the auto theft industry. Whenever I bring up youth crime I am criticized and characterized as wanting to gang up on our youth by locking them up and throwing away the key. Those who know me know differently.

However according to police statistics, about 40% of the cars in Canada are stolen by youths between the ages of 12 and 17, and only 12% are ever caught. What does that teach impressionable youth? It teaches them that they can steal cars and get away with it. Who do organized crime recruiters seek out? I suggest that young car thieves with successful and profitable track records appear quite attractive to organized crime recruiters.

We need to address youthful criminality early. We should not and cannot wait until it is too late and they develop into more professional and experienced criminals. We are doing an injustice to those youth by allowing them to get away with the crime at an early age. We are doing an injustice to our society by permitting the initial training ground in crime to flourish and mature into more sophisticated activity.

For those who think that car theft is not really a danger to our society, I wish to relate the instance of the 13 year old driver of a stolen car who was involved in a crash that killed 16 year old Sarah Machado in Vancouver. The 13 year old driver was linked to an organized ring of juvenile thieves, many too young to drive legally. According to evidence obtained by the police the 13 year old driver was being followed by friends in two stolen Jeep Cherokees. As they were not involved in the crash, they escaped.

Let us think about that for a moment. An organized ring of offenders as young as 13 and 14 involved in stealing motor vehicles. Why? It is because it does not seem like much of a concern to the government.

If we refuse to address these crimes within Canada I ask that we think about what we are doing to foreign countries. As I have said, an increasing number of stolen vehicles are making their way into sealed shipping containers. They make their way to the docks in Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax and are shipped overseas. It has been described as our fastest growing export business. I do not think this is what the Minister for International Trade has in mind when he promotes exports. When these illegal exports reach other countries I do not think it is a legitimate businessman who takes ultimate possession of the vehicle.

We are helping corrupt those other countries by assisting their own illegal organizations and by inducing individuals to become involved in the questionable activity of buying hot motor vehicles.

Some might think I am exaggerating the problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that the ordinary thief who steals a Jeep Grand Cherokee earns a tax free $150 to $500 upon delivery. The ringleader of the organized crime enterprise pays about $2,500 for the Jeep to be packed in a container and shipped abroad. When the Jeep arrives at its destination it is sold for twice the Canadian market value, in the neighbourhood of $100,000, a nice tidy profit to the crime boss of about $97,000 for just one motor vehicle.

Surely we should have more serious punishment for multiple car thieves. We need to discourage the activity to a far greater degree than we are at present.

In my home town of Surrey it is said that there is a motor vehicle theft every 90 minutes. Last year Surrey RCMP had three officers in its stolen auto unit. They have little hope of keeping pace with the crime. As parliamentarians we must do our utmost to provide them with the tools to control this illegal and mushrooming activity. The bill would have been a step in the right direction.

The parliamentary secretary said the statistics are going down. A few years ago I was returning home from playing a recreational hockey game. When I rounded a corner with my wife on our final six blocks home I saw flashing red lights in the distance and knew there had been a serious car accident.

My daughter and her friend had left the arena about a half hour before us and this was directly on our way home. As hon. members can imagine, my heart went into my throat. Fortunately it was not my daughter or her friend. I found out from friends on the police force that it was a 34 year old lady who had been on her way home from a church meeting, travelling along 88th Avenue through a green light.

Another fellow going north on 144th Street, a young man with a serious lengthy record of multiple auto theft and well known to police, was driving past the police and giving them the finger, yelling at them and not paying any attention. He ran through a red light and T-boned the lady's car and killed her. He drove her right across the street, through a fence and into a yard and killed her instantly.

When dealing with these kinds of things let us forget about statistics. I do not care if the statistics are coming down. This was a person involved in multiple repeat auto thefts.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have just arrived in the Chamber and was scheduled to take part in the debate on Bill C-250. Given the time remaining on the clock and given that we started this debate earlier by consent, I wonder if I might seek unanimous consent to participate in the debate for the remaining time that was originally allotted.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

For the record, the time remaining would be approximately five minutes. At 5.40 p.m. and no later the Chair would have to intervene. First and foremost the member would require consent of the House.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yes, we will be happy on this side of the House to give our consent, provided the member agrees not to move any motions and that we recognize that the debate has concluded. There is no room for any further motions. With that proviso we are happy to give our consent.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair can certainly be helpful also. The member has already had the floor under right of reply. It is simply a matter of being able to put on record what the member had intended to put, had the proceedings taken place at the normal hours.

Today, being slightly different, I think we can all understand the circumstances. Does the hon. member for Pictou-Antigonish—Guysborough have consent of the House?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank all hon. members present for their magnanimity. To begin with, I commend the hon. member for Surrey North. I know he has been a very active member of the justice committee, a great proponent of issues that stem from our current justice system. I also know that he has a keen mind for these issues and a real pragmatic approach.

This is yet another bill coming forward from private members that would strengthen criminal code provisions. I would suggest it is very much aimed at raising the bar in terms of both general and specific deterrents.

Bill C-250 would ensure that a person convicted of more than one theft of a motor vehicle having a value in excess of $5,000 would receive a minimum of four years of imprisonment for every conviction following the first offence.

I will not get into the graphic detail of the range of sentencing. I know other bills have been brought forward. His colleague from Calgary brought forward one dealing with home invasion and break and enters which dealt with a two year minimum sentence requirement. I would certainly in principle agree with the nature of the particular motion and the need to put forward a strong message of deterrence in our criminal code because of the elevated occurrences of these types of offences.

Bill C-250 clarifies and makes more effective subsection 334(a) of the current criminal code which talks about punishment for theft of motor vehicles, which is the focal point of the member's motion.

We did a bit of research with respect to the Insurance Board of Canada. Statistics from 1999, which are the latest available, indicate that over 160,000 incidents of motor vehicle theft were reported to the police, an average of over 450 vehicles per day in Canada. Although there is car insurance, unless it is stolen by a household member or somebody who has been given permission to drive it, insurance in many cases is under comprehensive or specified perils coverage, which does not cover the complete cost of the particular vehicle. The upshot of all this is the components estimate that the cost to Canadian policyholders is in the range of $600 million per year in insurance premiums.

Car thefts in recent years have become far more dangerous. As the hon. member and others mentioned, high speed chases often are the result of motor vehicle thefts. Individuals who are becoming more involved in this activity are doing so in a much more brazen fashion because of the remuneration or the reward. They are doing so in broad daylight. They are doing so often while the vehicle is occupied, while the vehicle is being driven, in a form of car-jacking, which has occurred in some of our big cities in particular.

A huge element of organized crime is often involved that in many instances uses young offenders and drug addicts in the need of quick cash to perpetrate organized theft rings. The focus is usually high priced vehicles: SUVs and foreign vehicles such as the Mercedes and BMW, fan favourites of thefts. They put those vehicles into containers and they are shipped in many cases to Europe, to the Soviet Union, out of the port of Vancouver or Halifax.

A very comprehensive problem is coming to light. It is not uncommon to hear of injuries and even fatalities resulting from car thefts, either by virtue of a motor vehicle accident or the use of violence in the perpetration of the theft.

Individuals who choose to engage in this activity have to be reminded, which is the cut and thrust of the particular bill, that there will be severe consequences and imprisonment if they choose to engage in this type of reckless activity.

As I indicated, I support in principle the hon. member's motion. The attachment of a specific sentence of four years might be deemed excessive, given the sentencing scale that exists for other types of offences.

The bill introduced by his colleague from Calgary is an obvious example of where the crime of home invasion while a person is at home would receive a minimum sentence of two years. On the relative scale one would have to ensure there was parity in sentencing. Judges often look for that.

The degree of violence which is involved, the theft, the recklessness and the value are all sentencing factors, but in principle this is a good bill and I hope hon. members give it due consideration.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

5:40 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, on February 28 of this year I raised a question with the Prime Minister concerning the upcoming summit of the Americas in Quebec City. At that time I expressed concern to the Prime Minister about the efforts in Quebec City to effectively turn the city into an armed militarized fortress during the summit. At the same time I asked the minister about the contempt for democracy involved in failing to make public the text of the agreement that was being negotiated.

In the few minutes I have available to me this afternoon, I will follow up and voice my very serious concerns about what did take place in what I consider to be a very serious abuse of police powers in Quebec City.

Thomas Berger, a respected former judge, an outstanding civil libertarian and lawyer, wrote a book called Fragile Freedoms . What I think is abundantly clear is that our constitutional freedoms, the freedom of speech, the freedom of association, the freedom to peaceful and non-violent dissent, came under assault in Quebec City.

I am not in any way condoning the violent actions of a very small number of protesters who hurled paving stones and other objects at police officers. Certainly I condemn those actions unreservedly, as well as the actions of a small number of protesters who attacked and beat a police officer. That was reprehensible and unacceptable.

There were over 50,000 protesters who marched in a peaceful demonstration on Saturday, but there were also many others who peacefully and non-violently, close to the four kilometre wall of shame in Quebec City, chose to demonstrate against the profoundly undemocratic nature of the FTAA negotiations that were taking place inside the wall.

I personally witnessed attacks by the police on peaceful demonstrators, the excessive use of tear gas and the use of plastic bullets, which was absolutely reprehensible and unacceptable. Indeed independent observers, including la ligue des droits et libertés and the five observers appointed by the Quebec government, came to the conclusion that the use of plastic bullets was totally unacceptable and that there had been abusive and excessive use of tear gas on Saturday.

My colleagues and I are calling for an independent inquiry into this gross misconduct by the police force, by the Sûreté du Québec, by the RCMP and by two other police forces involved. This is not democracy. This is the antithesis of democracy.

I point out that one of the demonstrators, Éric Laferrière, had to undergo an emergency tracheotomy because he was hit in the throat by a plastic bullet. As the Speaker knows, I was struck by a plastic bullet as well. In a democracy this is an outrage.

I will as well draw to the attention of the House the appalling treatment of Jaggi Singh. Jaggi Singh was a demonstrator who was arrested in Quebec City and who remains the only demonstrator not to have been freed on bail. His offence was supposedly using a weapon, a 25 foot catapult that hurled teddy bears. In fact this was no threat to anyone.

I have to ask: Why is Jaggi Singh the only protester who was arrested during the protest who remains in jail? Why does the crown believe that he who was not convicted of any violent offence is dangerous enough to be kept in prison? This is an outrage. I would hope that the government would recognize that there must be an independent inquiry into the appalling conditions that people were held in Orsainville prison, as well as the very serious abuses by the police in firing tear gas and plastic bullets at peaceful, non-violent demonstrators.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the summit of the Americas was an essential step in promoting balance and a collaborative vision for deepening co-operation among the nations of the western hemisphere.

Certainly economic integration was on the summit agenda. However the summit was much more a vehicle than just to promote economic growth. The summit declaration and action plan supported Canada's interest in strengthening democracy and human rights, increased people's access to benefits of growth and provided opportunities for all nations in the Americas to improve the quality of life of their citizens.

The leaders and peoples of the Americas know that democracy, human rights and observance and respect for the rule of law are the best ways to ensure human security and the well-being of our citizens, both individually and collectively.

The Quebec City summit produced a clear and vigorous commitment to democracy and equity, a commitment that extends to our democratic institutions, our electoral machineries and to impartial systems of justice, as well as the protection of human rights and freedom of expression.

As the Prime Minister said, it was not responsible for an elected member of parliament representing the diverse views of his electorate to encourage civil disobedience in the context of the summit of the Americas.

With respect to the summit, the government worked closely with the province of Quebec and the municipalities involved to provide the most appropriate policing and security measures for what was the largest international summit ever held in Canada.

The Government of Canada was committed to ensuring the safety of everyone at the summit of the Americas, including community residents, protesters, observers, police officers, as well as visiting dignitaries and delegates. Security measures at the summit struck an equitable balance between protecting the rights of protesters to demonstrate and maintaining public safety and public order during an international event.

Through the summit of the Americas, Canada worked to expand opportunities for more countries to participate in the benefits of globalization, including democracy, human rights and stronger economies. Through the security arrangements on site, we ensured that this dialogue and collaborative effort was supported in the most responsible and appropriate manner possible.