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.