House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-65.


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11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Chuck Strahl)

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

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11:15 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I assume that my answer will have to be very brief.

Within the next few days, we will be asked to vote on proposed amendments to the Criminal Code. I do not think that the law can be made tougher without at the same time implementing preventive strategies. That is why I insisted on prevention in my response to my hon. colleague's question. The police have to play that role with traffic offenders. There can indeed be some danger involved in the performance of these duties. It is not about carrying a big stick. However, offenders have to be warned.

In Montreal, once a week, the police visit the places where street racers gather. Each evening, they have to give out 90 tickets to car owners who have modified their cars to increase performance in street races.

There is therefore a need to prevent street racing and to indicate what modifications can or cannot be made to the cars. The police force has to play its full role in educating and raising awareness. Then, the highway safety code can be enforced. For example, drivers can first be warned that their cars have been illegally modified and be fined $400. Later, if this approach is not successful, the illegal modification of vehicles will become a criminal act.

At present, the places where these drivers gather are easy to find. In Montreal for instance, every Thursday night, young people converge on specific locations to participate in street races. So, there has to be prevention combined with fines. If need be, the Criminal Code should be used as a last resort. I believe that individual citizens have to be made aware of the risk that the Criminal Code could be used.

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11:20 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 10, 2004, the hon. Chuck Cadman, member for Surrey North, rose in the House to say:

Yesterday in Surrey, B.C. just before the evening rush hour, an 18-year-old lost control of his muscle car at an estimated speed of 140 kilometres per hour. He demolished a bus shelter, critically injuring a 71-year-old woman. Another car was spotted fleeing the scene, making it obvious to all concerned that this was yet another tragic result of a street race.

As warmer weather approaches, street racing incidents will likely increase and participants are confident they will not spend a day in jail even if they kill or injure. Nationally, insurance claims resulting from street racing more than doubled between 2000 and 2002. A message must be sent to the courts that these crimes are to be treated more seriously.

I urge all members to maintain support for Bill C-338, which the House passed and sent to the justice committee. It will make street racing an aggravating factor for sentencing. If we are really serious about deterring this irresponsible criminal activity, Bill C-338 must become law before the end of this Parliament.

That is what we are talking about and what Chuck wanted us to talk about, and I believe Bill C-65 would give us the instrument to take the essence of his concerns. Bill C-338 was a bill in the 37th Parliament and he brought it back in this current Parliament, now Bill C-230. As he introduced that at first reading I thought it would be interesting just to read maybe what he was thinking the day he came back to the House and decided to put it again. He stated:

Street racing continues to kill or seriously injure innocent people in Canada.

I am reintroducing this legislation to amend the Criminal Code specifically to provide that street racing is to be considered an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing a person convicted of dangerous operation of, or criminal negligence involving a motor vehicle.

In addition, the bill provides that any person convicted under these provisions who was involved in street racing must be subject to a regime of mandatory national driving prohibitions ranging from one year to life, to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

The bill received broad support in the last Parliament and I hope that will continue to be the case.

If members would reflect on Mr. Cadman's bill and his statements to the House, I think they would find that Bill C-65 embraces the principles that Chuck included in his bill. There are some differences but the differences are not to an extent that would cause the House some difficulty.

In fact, when I looked at Bill C-65 and I compared it to Bill C-230, and members will know because they are amendments to the Criminal Code, that the bill does not read as a story book, like here is the beginning and the end. One actually has to look at the Criminal Code and look at the context that it is in, and determine whether or not the continuity of the changes make some sense given the historic evolution of the Criminal Code.

Indeed, the Criminal Code is a very complex document. I once tried to print it out from the Internet and I think it was about a foot tall and, quite frankly, was maybe not something one would want to do too often.

One of the points Mr. Cadman raised in the bill had to do with aggravating factors. I do not think there is any disagreement in the House that street racing, where it ultimately leads to bodily harm or criminal negligence causing death, is identified as an aggravating factor in both the bills. That is not a contention.

However there also is the issue of making the prohibition of street racing mandatory.

The differences between Bill C-65 and Bill C-230 are quite stark. Under the Cadman bill, Bill C-230, the maximum penalty for the first offence is three years but under Bill C-65 the maximum penalty can be a life prohibition. It is a more serious recognition of the offence than was contemplated by Mr. Cadman.

There are four offences that are dealt with in these bills to which the reforms apply and the most frequent offences charged in cases involving street racing where death or injury results. This is where the key is. In the discussion with one of the previous speakers, it was noted for the House that street racing as an offence, where there is no death, injury or damage caused, is a provincial jurisdiction and there are laws to deal with the offence of street racing. We are not just talking about street racing in a vacuum. We are talking about street racing where death or injury results.

Obviously these offences are serious. They involve the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing death. Those are the four main issues.

The maximum driving prohibition that is proscribed in Bill C-230 for a first offence involving street racing is a three year ban. It would result in a drastic reduction of the maximum driving prohibition that is currently available under the Criminal Code. There should be a change to that and it would be a change that I am sure Mr. Cadman would have supported.

In this regard, the current Criminal Code discretionary driving prohibitions provide for a period of up to a maximum of 10 years in the case of the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The difference is that in the case of criminal negligence causing death, the existing provisions provide for a discretionary maximum period of a lifetime ban on driving.

I think the fact that we are talking about that incident of criminal negligence causing death is the example Chuck used back in the 37th Parliament and I know that it is the one that motivated him to say that enough was enough and that we needed to deal with this.

Bill C-65 maintains these current maximum driving prohibitions but it does so in the context of a new provision imposing a mandatory driving prohibition period. This aspect of a mandatory penalty has been one that has come up many times in this place with regard to criminality. I think the House recognizes that there are circumstances in which minimum mandatory sentencing may be appropriate. I have argued that in this place myself and we have other legislation in which mandatory minimums are in the laws of Canada now.

The argument about whether or not mandatory minimums are effective and are a deterrent has been passed. That is no longer the point of discussion. It is in fact in current laws and it reflects, not just that there should be a deterrent, and I understand what deterrence is, but I am not sure I understand what people say when they say that minimum mandatory sentences are not effective. They are not effective for what?

In the example of a commercial marijuana grow house operation we have been told time and time again that after a certain number of plants, all of a sudden we are talking about a commercial operation which, more often than not, is involved in other criminal activity, usually organized crime in which the money is being used to fund other criminal activity that is detrimental to society as a whole.

I do not think there is a disagreement with regard to the mandatory side. I am raising these issues because it is quite important not to get distracted by the politics or the partisanship with regard to whether or not the bill is identical. It is important that we take the opportunity to use Bill C-65 as a tool to address the items that our former colleague raised in this place so often. We should continue to consider this as Chuck's bill. I think the House would agree unanimously that it is something we want to make happen. Rather than members saying why they cannot support the bill, they should identify areas in which we could say how we can support the bill and make the bill fit a little closer. I cannot see that it is that different.

Let me move on to the second offence of the four, which is dangerous driving causing bodily harm or criminal negligence causing bodily harm that involves street racing. The maximum driving prohibition in Bill C-65 is higher than in Bill C-230 by five years. The maximum driving prohibition in Bill C-65 for the two offences just named is 10 years. It is incorrect to say that the bill is not as tough. In fact, it is in many respects tougher than what was proposed, maybe not inappropriately as well. I am sure that had the bill had the opportunity to come to the House for debate and to go to committee and be dealt with, we could have resolved some of the questions that are being raised today.

Some members are of the view that a repeat offender scheme similar to what is proposed in Bill C-230, which would create a scheme of higher maximum or minimum driving prohibitions, would be a preferred model but I am not sure. Certainly, with regard to the principle of whether or not there is a repeat offender, there is no question the courts could take that into account. I can recall being in a courtroom watching proceedings and there was a fellow who was charged with auto theft and other theft of auto parts. After they read out the litany of events on this guy's rap sheet, his lawyer argued that the rate of incidence of these crimes was going down. So that is a good thing and we should say that this guy is doing well because he is not stealing as much as he used to.

With some of the problems that we try to address, I sometimes wonder whether the courts do not take them as seriously as we do. I am not sure why but I have heard many anecdotal cases where the courts have not had the resources, or somehow have allowed cases to be thrown out, or summarily dismissed, and arguments where the courts cannot do their job.

We have a serious problem. When we do have laws and we do enforce them but the courts cannot dispose of them in the fashion that was provided for by the legislators, then why are we making laws in the first place? They are either important laws that should be enforced and adjudicated or they are not. However it appears that half of the problem or maybe more than half the problem is with the courts themselves.

I think that is a very important question and I know it crosses jurisdiction in many cases. However, when we pass laws that we ask the provinces, through their provincial police, to enforce, what do we do when they do not have the resources? Do we now have a responsibility to ensure that the laws that we make are in fact enforced?

We have so many cases of marijuana grow houses. In my own community of Mississauga South the chief of police tells me that the police cannot even follow up on all of the tips that they get from people that there are grow houses there. They cannot even investigate them because they do not have the people who are properly trained to deal with those dangerous situations. Why is that? Why is it when we know that most of the moneys that are coming out of these commercial size grow-ops are going to finance organized crime, prostitution, hard drugs, and all of these other terrible things that are placed in our society? It is because communities do not have the resources to have the policing.

I think it is evident as well in the kinds of things that we see even in Chuck Cadman's bill. There are things that we cannot do for some odd reason. I would rather say that I do not want an explanation of why we cannot do it. I want an explanation of how we can.

I always like to come to this place and talk for something and not against something. I want to talk in favour of Bill C-65 because for me it is still Chuck's bill. The arguments that he brought, the statements that he made, the passion that he brought to this place, and the inspiration that he has been not only to members in this place but to Canadians as a whole are the things that we should remember when talking about why we should make this instrument work.

We should deal with it quickly. I want to encourage members to reflect on what we are doing and why we are doing it. To the extent that we discover bottlenecks, pitfalls or some other problems, we have the ability to change them. We can change things at committee stage after second reading. We can change things at report stage if necessary.

If members are still not happy with what comes out of committee, members can pass a motion at third reading to revert it back to committee to reconsider it on certain aspects. We have tools to work with and I would rather say that we can, rather than we cannot.

I think that members are quite familiar with the bill. There is a question that has come up and I would like to perhaps rhetorically pose the question and see if I can provide the answer. It has to do with CPIC and it comes up a lot.

The question is, why is it possible to have higher minimum and maximum driving prohibitions for impaired driving but not for street racing? The answer, whether we like it or not, is that the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, does maintain on the criminal record convictions for the offence of impaired driving. Therefore, it is possible to quickly see a prior conviction, given the offender notice and a higher penalty for a repeat offence, but not with regard to street racing.

That is a mechanical problem. It is a functionality problem that I think we need to consider. I know that the justice committee always has CPIC present at the table. If we are told that CPIC cannot do what we would like it to do, why do we not find out how we can do it, so that we can pass Chuck Cadman's bill?

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11:40 a.m.


Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga South for sharing the information with us today. I will try to get to a question as soon as I can.

In the points he made he suggested that perhaps the problem was with the courts themselves in enforcing the current laws and that this bill would somehow assist by having a stronger maximum sentence. The point is that if they are not enforcing the sentences that exist now, how will increasing maximum sentences help the courts enforce it more?

We both know, and I think the member knows deep down inside, that the true answer is in the minimum, not the maximum. The true answer is in the first offence and the elevation for the second and third offences. It is in the minimum sentence that is given to people who commit bodily harm or kill someone through street racing. The protection of the innocent is the reason for these laws. People are being killed and hurt on our streets by street racers.

We talked about how much tougher it is because of the maximum sentences. I guess I will ask the question again. Who has been given the maximum sentence? The courts are not enforcing this to any degree and we know people are not getting the maximum sentence, so the importance is in the minimum sentences.

The member stated that we need to get behind this legislation, that it is great legislation, and that we should get behind the memory of Chuck Cadman. And if we indeed wanted to change it, we could change at committee, debate it in the House, and maybe even at third reading send it back to the committee again. I ask the obvious question. Why not just bring good legislation to the House in the first place?

Trying to get it changed after the fact is just a way of dealing with the problem the member mentioned of trying to print off the Criminal Code. He said he was a foot deep in paper. I will suggest that he was a foot deep in water because he and his party have watered down the Criminal Code in this country.

I will out and out ask him to not talk about maximum sentences. We know the courts are not giving them. Let us talk about minimum sentences. Does he truly believe that the setting of minimum sentences is the true action and the true way of reflecting what Chuck Cadman might have wanted?

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11:40 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, let us be careful in being clear on what we are talking about. If we are talking about minimums and maximums, are we talking with regard to driving prohibitions or are we talking about jail time? There is a difference. The member is not clear, so I cannot answer the question.

He knows, however, that where there is bodily injury or death in a motor vehicle accident of any kind, whether street racing is involved or not, there are laws covering it. The issue comes down to what street racing is in the scheme of determining the penalties. I think there is some agreement, whether it be through Bill C-230 or Bill C-65, that it is an aggravating circumstance which should be taken into account.

I think the courts already have the penalty regime. The issue now is, what are the courts doing with the penalty regime they already have? If the member's assertion and the House's opinion is that the courts are not applying the laws to the extent they should, that they are not reflecting the passion that Chuck Cadman brought to this place and laid out this problem, then maybe we have to find out what we can do to deal with that problem which is not on the floor before us and clearly is a problem not only for Bill C-65 but many other pieces of legislation.

I must tell the member that I do not disagree with him, but I cannot fix it in Bill C-65. It is a whole other subject. Why not have a take note debate on how we are going to deal with providing the resources that our policing authorities at all levels need and what direction we have to give to the courts to ensure that the legislation we pass is not only good legislation but is enforced and properly adjudicated?

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11:45 a.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I was listening to the member opposite speak today about Bill C-65 and how important it is, Mr. Cadman's name keeps coming up all the time. I must admit that I was a little taken aback when the announcement was made on front pages of newspapers across the country that Cadman's private member's bill would be honoured and brought forward.

Yet this morning we are debating the bill and talking about the inadequacies. We are talking about the lack of enforcement. We are talking about things that should have been in the bill and things that our very honourable former member of Parliament had very close and near and dear to his heart.

We have to be very careful when we address issues in this House. As a former justice critic for Manitoba and as the mother of a police officer, I listened to so much rhetoric and eloquent speeches from the other side of this House from the government. It saddens me because we have, as I said before, within these last few days had members opposite vote against raising the age of consent and talk about trafficking in persons. We have had nothing about the gun registry being shut down to put those much needed forces on the street, those front line police officers. Now today we are dealing with the street racing issue.

Street racing is primarily a provincial jurisdiction until someone is seriously injured or killed. If anyone has ever been in a police force or seen how police work, they have a list of priorities before they get to the street racing. If there is a murder, a stabbing, or a break-in, they take priority. So we can have the cars racing on the streets until something happens. We do not have the police resources to deal with it.

Members opposite are not putting the teeth into the justice system, and not coming up with the solutions. It has been over a decade that this government has been in power. There is a lot of consternation among the public. In my city, we have the highest homicide rates in the country. Can the member please tell this House why Mr. Cadman's private bill was not adequate, in view of the discussions we have had this morning.

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11:45 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry but I do not agree with the member at all. I wish I could give my speech again, then maybe she would understand why I could make that comment.

In fact, Bill C-65 is more punitive than Bill C-230 in every aspect of offence and repeat offence. The only problem, and I raised it at the end, was the fact that it was possible to have higher minimum and maximum driving prohibitions for street racing as for impaired driving. That was a problem with the CPIC.

Again, I do not disagree with the member when she says that we are not giving it any teeth. Even the laws we have now are not being enforced in many cases to the fullest extent possible. We often see cases thrown out or we see conditional sentencing or house arrest and this kind of thing. Those are the kinds of things that we should talk about. We have talked about this, and I have talked about this, many times in this place. It is an issue that is important to the House. It is important to many pieces of legislation current and past, and we have not dealt with it.

If the opposition thinks that one bill, Bill C-65 or whether it is Bill C-230 is going to do it, or if we put Chuck's Bill C-230 through as is, it will not change the fact that unless the adjudication of these cases is handled to the fullest extent that was provided within the laws and fairly takes into account the aggravating circumstances, then we have not made any accomplishment on what the member wishes to accomplish.

I am with the member. If she wants to begin dealing with the issue of resources for policing authorities and with the directions to the courts, I would be happy to work with anybody in this place who wants to find out how we can. Do not ever tell me why we cannot, just tell me how we can.

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11:50 a.m.


Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I get started on my comments on Bill C-65, I would like to respond to the previous speaker who said he was open to any suggestions about how we could improve policing and the courts.

He has been part of a government that has been in control of this country for the last 12 years. His government has wasted billions of dollars on a gun registry. Maybe those billions should have gone to policing. That could have stopped street racing.

The government could have done all kinds of things. All kinds of suggestions have been brought forward in the House, so as for him standing up and asking for ideas on how to do this, let me say that we have given him a lot of ideas. Taking the $2 billion that was thrown away on a gun registry and putting it toward front line police would have been a great start and it would have helped Mr. Cadman in his pursuit of more justice in this country.

Mr. Speaker, in addressing the issue of Bill C-65, I will be splitting my time with the member for Vegreville--Wainwright.

Mr. Speaker, we were talking a little about Chuck Cadman. You and I were colleagues of his. There is a reason why Chuck was successful. We all have talked about it to some degree here today. On all the issues he brought forward to the House in a personal way in his private member's bills and through his support on the justice committee and others, the fact was that when he took on dealing with an issue he was right.

His perspective, his ideas and his amendments to the Criminal Code were exactly what is needed to create a safer society for the citizens of Canada. That was his approach. He wanted to make Canadians feel safer and actually be safer in their homes and in their lives. Many of the issues that he brought forward, and the issue that brought him to the House of Commons in the first place, which he campaigned on for many years, did just that. He wanted to make changes to the Criminal Code that would bring in stronger laws and provide more deterrents just to make Canadians safer in their homes and safer on the streets.

When Chuck brought an issue forward, there were a number of things that he went through. He was very resourceful. He was very pointed. His issues were well researched. He did not bring anything forward that was not of substance and that he had not looked into from all angles. He researched the Criminal Code and consulted widely with Canadians and experts in these areas. So when he brought an issue forward, it was always one that people would take note of. We only wish the government had taken note more often of some of the things he brought forward.

He did this in such a way that there was little to argue with. He would counter all of the arguments. He would do the research. He would make sure that when he made a suggestion about an amendment to the code it would stand alone and stand the test of scrutiny. With these things in mind, Chuck would formulate ideas and changes, as he did with the bill on street racing.

He did not stop there. He had a way of managing the situation when it came to the House. We have all brought private members' bills forward, but when he brought his bills forward he would work with members of all parties. He was not afraid to consult with the party critics or committee members from all parties to see how they felt, to see if he could garner their support.

In many cases, I believe, he did alter what he was working on to some degree to make sure it gained the support of the other parties in the House. He was willing to do that. He did it in his style, which was not at all one of confrontation. His style was one of working together to come up with the best possible scenario for Canadians as a whole. That was his main mandate.

The fact is that the main function of a government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. I think that was very high on Chuck's list of important issues. He worked hard to maintain that type of focus. He felt that if we were actually going to protect Canadians, then we had better do it in a meaningful manner.

I do not appreciate the fact that people stand in the House and say that the law is the law, but then we have the justice system we do, especially when that is said by a member of the government that appoints the senior judges in this country, a government that is responsible for seeing that resources are in place to protect Canadians. As for them saying that, it is all fine and dandy, but the justice system is failing. We know that it is.

That is why we need changes such as those that Chuck Cadman brought forward, changes to strengthen laws and to have strong minimum sentencing to deter people from committing crimes.

Let me talk about what he said when he introduced his bill. I have retrieved the comments that he made back in October of 2003 on Bill C-338, the predecessor of Bill C-230. He went into all of the issues that had brought him to bringing forward the bill. There was the fact that on the streets of the big cities there had been slaughter from street racing, that innocent people had been mowed down and killed, and there was the fact that there seemed to be enough disposable income among car enthusiasts so that they could soup up these cars to do extraordinary things.

I am an old hot rodder myself; I still have an old muscle car that I tour around in and take to shows. That horsepower has to be treated with respect because it is dangerous, but these modern vehicles are something else. The technology that can be put into a very small car to make it go fast is unbelievable, and people will do it. In most instances, the people behind the wheel do not have the experience or the driving capability to handle that kind of horsepower.

The government tries to address these issues in Bill C-65, but I believe it fails because of its sentencing aspects. The basic premise of the bill, of course, is to make sure that street racing is added to the list of aggravated instances and crimes. That is the right thing to do, but in the end, as we have seen time and time again with this Liberal government, it completely fails to deliver the goods when it comes to the sentencing.

For the government to tie Chuck's name to this I think is right because this is an issue that he brought forward, but the government fails him miserably when it comes to putting forth the very essence of what he was trying to do. The fact is that the legislation the government has brought forward is going to fail and does not go as far as Chuck would have wished it to go. The bottom line in what he was trying to do was protect Canadians. He tried to send a message to the government through his private member's bill that this is exactly what the government needed to do.

We can argue all around the issue and say that the bill is on the right track, and maybe it is a small step in the right direction, but if we are going to make it work, if we are going to really have some teeth in it, then the issues and the progressive sentencing and penalties that Chuck had researched and come up with are, I believe, exactly what need to be put in the bill.

The précis the minister put out even indicates that Mr. Cadman's bill included an additional clause with progressively longer periods of mandatory driving prohibitions for repeat offenders lasting from one year to life. He indicates in his own documentation that this was not something that the government was willing to do.

Here is the quandary we always find ourselves in. A small step is good, and if it is the right direction then it is something we basically should support, but when the government totally fails in regard to the original initiative that was brought forward, then that is something we have a problem with and we cannot support.

One thing really made me pay attention here. One of the sentences that Chuck would have had imposed for a first offence was this: “for a first offence, during a period of not more than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than one year”.

He was saying that if the person who committed the crime were put in prison, then the driving prohibition would happen after the person came out. I think the government carried that forward, but Chuck would imposed a pretty serious sentence to start with. If people are going to contemplate street racing and they know that the result of their actions is going to put them in jail and take their drivers' licences away for one to three years on the first offence, and longer if they get a second offence or hurt somebody for life, I would say that these are meaningful sentences which would be a deterrent.

As I pointed out, when Chuck Cadman brought a bill to the House of Commons, it was well researched and well thought out. He looked at the whole scope of what effect it would have on society, not only on the perpetrator but on society in general. I believe he was on the right track with what he brought forward. I believe the government has let him down somewhat in the version it has brought forward.

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Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for that very insightful speech, in which some very important comments were made. One to which I paid special attention was about the fact that it has been over a decade since the current government has been in charge of the laws of the land concerning justice issues.

This morning we are dealing with a very special bill that was pre-empted by a very important person in the House of Commons, Mr. Cadman, the member for Surrey North. The spirit of the bill, its intention, and what is needed here, is the enforcement issue.

At the beginning of the member's speech I heard some reference to the fact that we have all been here to listen and to give advice, but we have seen what has happened with all the justice bills that have come through since the session began. Could the member please comment on the credibility aspect and the feeling Canadians have about the political will of the government to enforce laws that protect our citizens, including laws on the issue of street racing?

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Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague indicated earlier, she comes from a city where crime is a serious issue and the safety of citizens is also of major concern.

The main purpose of a government is the safety and security of its citizens. If a government fails in that, then I think it has failed in every other aspect of government.

I will try to relate the questions of the hon. member to some of the comments Chuck Cadman made. In wrapping up the debate on his earlier bill, he indicated that he brought forward the issue of street racing for some of the victims. He named them in his speech, and I will not do that, but he indicated “and others [who] lost their lives to the deliberate actions of selfish, irresponsible and self-centred individuals in hot cars”.

I think that speaks volumes for the kind of guy Chuck was. He was very pointed about the people he wanted the legislation to target, but he also thought of the other side and worried about the people who had become victims. As we know, the issue of victims' rights is what brought him to the House, and we continue that. Many of his initiatives dealt with victims' rights.

This is about the issue of the rights of the criminal versus the rights of the victim. The best way to have rights for victims is for them not to become victims. The issue is this: if we are going to worry about the rights of victims, then let us not make them victims. Let us have laws in place that stop them from becoming victims. Let us have amendments to the Criminal Code such as those Chuck proposed and which this bill partially addresses. Then we will not have as many victims to deal with.

We can argue about the justice system and the sentencing that exists, but we feel that minimum sentences, with progressively stiffer sentencing, must be put into the Criminal Code in many places.

In closing, I will mention one instance when Chuck and I were together. In Banff we were at a caucus retreat right after we were elected for the first time in 1997. Somebody gave Chuck a message, calling him Mr. Cadman. When Chuck replied, he was referred to as “sir”. He had a pretty good sense of humour and he said, “Boy, that's sure not what they were calling me the last time I was in Banff”. In his earlier life he had played in a band and was hitchhiking across Canada in the 1960s. I think the authorities in Banff took exception to Mr. Cadman at that time, so it just goes to show us. At one time the authorities invited him to leave town and the next time he came back as a member of Parliament.

This is quite an incredible country when we think of the Chuck Cadman story.

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12:05 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-65, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding street racing and to make consequential amendments to another act.

This bill has been touted by the government as a bill which will enact Mr. Cadman's private member's bill, the most recent version of which is Bill C-230 which he introduced roughly a year ago. Bill C-65 does not do that. Later on I will talk specifically about why it does not do that. Like so many others who have spoken here today I want to talk about the contributions that Chuck Cadman made to this place and to this country.

Chuck was a tireless fighter for the people of North Surrey and for the rights of victims of crime right across the country. One of Chuck's priorities in the last number of years was to address the growing concerns about the misuse of motor vehicles. Part of that was his private members' bills on street racing, and his actions day to day to try to make our streets safer and reduce the number of victims. It was a proactive effort.

One of the things that caused Chuck to be respected by members of all political parties is that he really was not politically partisan. He worked with people from all parties in any way he could to further a cause which was important to him, because he knew it was important to other people in his constituency and across the country. Chuck Cadman was a rare individual in this House for his ability to work in a non-partisan fashion.

Personally from time to time I would chat with Chuck and say to him, “Couldn't you just beat up on them a little more? Couldn't you just be a little more partisan? We are right and they are wrong”. That was not the way Chuck was. He gained a great deal of respect from members of all political parties because of that. He was extremely effective, partly because of his hard work and partly because he worked in a non-partisan fashion in this place. We could all learn from that.

The bill that was introduced by the justice minister includes an essential element of Mr. Cadman's recommendations, namely the provision to increase the length of any mandatory driving prohibition for repeat offenders. That is what the government is pointing to, but the government's version of the legislation really does not enact what Mr. Cadman was calling for. It is really important that we point that out.

Chuck's proposed amendments targeted street racing by introducing mandatory driving prohibitions for a number of serious criminal offences and vehicle theft, by making it a crime to tamper with motor vehicle identification numbers. Unfortunately, while over the years Chuck fought so hard for these amendments, the Liberal government consistently rejected any form of mandatory licence prohibitions similar to the type that Mr. Cadman recommended. The government ignored the recommendations relating to vehicle identification numbers which were an important part of Mr. Cadman's package.

While the Liberals continue to soft pedal efforts to confront crime, it is important to make it clear that the Conservative Party is committing to see genuine crime fighting efforts like those put forward by Mr. Cadman make it into the criminal law of Canada. Unfortunately, the two pieces of government legislation do not do that. I want to speak to Bill C-65 specifically and point out in a little more detail what this bill is intended to do.

The bill amends the Criminal Code by defining street racing and by specifically identifying the involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for the following offences: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm; dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death; criminal negligence causing bodily harm; and criminal negligence causing death. It also provides for a mandatory prohibition order if street racing is found to be involved in one of those offences.

The intent of the bill is to prevent street racing by sending a clear message to those who endanger the public that they will face tough long term consequences. The bill also aims to make the streets safer for Canadians. The stated intent of the bill is what Mr. Cadman had in mind. A little later I will get into how we could amend the bill to make it work, but when we look at it, Chuck Cadman had been attempting to legislate changes to street racing since December 2002. Previous versions of the bill included Bill C-338, but the most recent version is Bill C-230, which is the one to which I referred.

The government refused to support the legislation because it called for mandatory driving prohibitions and increased the punishment for repeat offenders. These are measures that the Conservative Party has always supported, will continue to support, and in time, will enact, and the sooner the better.

Bill C-65 is truly a neutered version of Mr. Cadman's past bills. It is touted as being an enactment of them but it is not and I will explain why. Although it provides for mandatory driving prohibitions and the inclusion of street racing as an aggravating factor for sentencing, it fails to include the clauses on repeat offenders which were an essential part of Mr. Cadman's bill. There are amendments which could be made that would fix the bill. I would hope that the House would choose to enact the amendments, or similar amendments, so that the bill would do what Mr. Cadman intended his private members' bills to do.

The amendments would replace proposed paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection 259(2.1) with the following: “(a) for a first offence, during a period of not more than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than one year; (b) for a second or subsequent offence, if one of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), for life: (c) for a second offence, if neither of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not more than five years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, and not less than two years; and (d) for each subsequent offence, if none of the offences is an offence under section 220 or subsection 249(4), during a period of not less than three years plus any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment”.

I believe there would be a lot of support on both sides of the House for these amendments. If these amendments were enacted, I believe that the legislation would do much of what was intended by Mr. Cadman. I certainly hope there is a will in the House to do it. I sense that there is and I hope party discipline will not get in the way. Maybe this is the time for members from all political parties to decide to have a little bit of that non-partisan approach that Chuck Cadman took in his bill.

Chuck Cadman has left a very strong impact on the people of his constituency and on all of us. I certainly hope the House will recognize that by enacting the legislation he fought so hard to have enacted.

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12:15 p.m.


Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the presentation by the member for Vegreville—Wainwright was very well done. The member is a strong advocate for justice issues and does a very good job.

Perhaps the member would comment on what we have seen to be a pattern of government behaviour in its opposition to mandatory minimums, its opposition to positive justice measures. The week before last, the government voted against changing the age of consent from 14 to 16. This is unbelievable. The Minister of Justice said he did not want to criminalize puppy love. I do not know how there can be puppy love between a 14 year old and a 50 year old. There has been a pattern of behaviour on the part of the government in opposition to strong justice measures.

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12:15 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, it seems to be an underlying theme with the government. It has caused great concern to me for the 12 years I have been in this place and it has been getting worse as time has gone on. The fact that it is happening is undeniable. The fact is it is hurting our society. People not only feel more vulnerable, but in fact they are, due to this weakness on the part of government. It is undeniable that is happening.

As to the motives for allowing that to happen, I simply do not understand the motives. Liberal members often say it is because of the charter that they are taking weak measures instead of the strong measures that we suggest which would make a real impact. I would suggest that the government is hiding behind the charter and is abusing the intent of the charter. On many occasions the Liberals are using the charter as a smokescreen, as a way to avoid taking tough action, or as a way to distort reality. They treat the charter as some document more holy than a holy book in this country.

Many Canadians have a great deal of respect for the charter. I would suggest that the government's use and abuse of the charter shows a lack of respect. This lack of respect for the charter is something I cannot understand. The Liberals talk about how important it is to them. They should show it by respecting the intent of the charter. They simply do not. As a result we see weak measures and the charter is used as a smokescreen.

I simply cannot answer the member's question. I cannot understand the motives. This does not seem to make any sense.

The member used the example of the age of consent. We wanted to increase the age from 14 to 16 years when it comes to adults of any age having sex with children, and yet the government refused to do that. The Liberals said that is wrong somehow. I would like them to explain to me how it can be wrong to increase the age of consent for our children to have sex with adults. A 50-year-old man having sex with a 14-year-old girl is legal in our country. I have a problem with that. I see that as wrong.

It is time the government started to take tough action. It can start with Bill C-65. It should do the right thing for a change. Put in place the tough sections of the bill that will make it really work. Do not hide behind the charter or whatever the government is going to hide behind this time.

The member asked a good question, but I really cannot answer it because I cannot imagine what the Liberals' motives are.

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12:20 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express support for Bill C-65, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

Over the past few years there have been horrific instances of innocent people being injured or even killed as a result of street racing. Despite the potential of death or serious injury, as well as criminal sanction, this dangerous phenomena of street racing continues on our streets.

I am pleased to state that the Criminal Code does already have offences that criminalize fatal and injurious collisions where street racing is involved. These existing offences include criminal negligence causing death, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment; dangerous driving causing death, which carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment; criminal negligence causing bodily harm with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment; and dangerous driving causing bodily harm with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

There have been cases where the courts have recognized street racing as an aggravating factor at sentencing, although there is presently no requirement under the Criminal Code that they consider this fact as an aggravating factor. An aggravating factor typically has the result of increasing the sentence that a court would otherwise impose if the factor did not exist.

Furthermore, the courts currently have the discretionary power under the Criminal Code to order a period of driving prohibition if a person is convicted of one of these four offences. These current discretionary periods do not have a minimum period of prohibition and they do allow for a 10 year maximum period where there is a conviction for the offences that I mentioned before.

The goal of Bill C-65 is to make this existing legislative scheme stronger in a balanced consistent manner. In achieving this objective, the government proposal would amend the Criminal Code to explicitly provide for street racing if found by the sentencing judge to be present there is an aggravating factor in sentencing for those convicted of the four noted offences; namely, criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm or death.

Bill C-65 would also include mandatory driving prohibitions where the noted offences are found to involve street racing. There would be a new mandatory minimum driving prohibition period of one year for dangerous driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The maximum driving prohibition term would remain 10 years.

In the case of criminal negligence causing death, the proposal would provide a minimum prohibition of one year and the maximum would remain a lifetime ban.

In all cases, the mandatory minimum driving prohibition would be in addition to any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment.

It is important to recognize that these periods of mandatory driving prohibitions are reflective of those periods which are currently found in section 259, concerning the Criminal Code, that deals more generally with driving prohibition orders.

For the purpose of clarity, under Bill C-65 street racing means operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place.

Some members of the House will certainly recall Bill C-230 brought forward by our late colleague, Chuck Cadman. Bill C-230 was in fact the inspiration for Bill C-65 but there are notable similarities and as well notable differences.

First, it is key that the offences to which the reforms apply are the same as in Bill C-230. Furthermore, both bills specifically identify street racing as an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing and make a driving prohibition mandatory where street racing is found to accompany the offence.

With regard to the differences between this bill and Bill C-230, in Bill C-230 mandatory prohibition periods are tied to second and subsequent offences committed by the same accused. Bill C-65 does not adopt this scheme because the proposed changes pose several practical obstacles

Furthermore, Bill C-65 does not include the mandatory lifetime driving prohibition that was proposed in Bill C-230 for a second or subsequent street racing offence where one of the offences was either dangerous driving causing death or criminal negligence causing death. However this does not mean that Bill C-65 fails to take street racing as seriously as Bill C-230 did. On the contrary, Bill C-65 proposes a maximum driving prohibition for an offence involving street racing which is seven years higher than that proposed by Bill C-230 for a first offence or dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, death or criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

In addition, the government's proposal to adopt a maximum lifetime driving ban for the offence of criminal negligence causing death that involves street racing is significantly higher than the three year maximum driving prohibition proposed by Bill C-230 for the first offence. Bill C-65 also provides a maximum driving prohibition for a second offence of dangerous driving causing bodily harm or criminal negligence causing bodily harm involving street racing of 10 years, which is higher by 5 years than that proposed by Bill C-230 for a second offence of dangerous driving causing bodily harm or criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Therefore, Bill C-65 and Bill C-230 are based on the underlying objective of ensuring that those who street race and commit one of those listed offences are dealt with more severely while also providing for a mandatory period of driving prohibition with a goal of keeping our streets safe.

I would like to now briefly discuss why Bill C-65 does not adopt a subsequent street racing offence scheme which has been requested. If Bill C-65 is passed, offenders who participate in street racing and commit one of the four offences will be convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death or dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm or death.

The finding that an offender has engaged in street racing in the commission of an offence is a factual finding made by the judge. It is not an element of the offence itself and, therefore, not reflected in the charge against the accused. This factual finding is not recorded on CPIC and, therefore, will not show up on the criminal record of the repeat offender.

The only situations where a crown prosecutor would be aware of a previous conviction involving street racing would be where he or she has a practical familiarity with the offender or the facts in the previous prosecution. If this were the case, the crown prosecutor would likely be required to obtain a certified copy of the sentencing hearing transcript or reasons for decisions in the hope that the sentencing judge verbally or in writing expressed the finding that street racing was involved. It would not be readily ascertainable from the charge history of the accused.

It is practically unworkable. As a result, a prosecutor would have great difficulty in knowing whether he or she is dealing with a repeat offender and, therefore, would not know to inform the sentencing judge that this was a repeat offence. As such, a scheme based on repeat offences could not be perfectly effective at achieving its aims. Further, it would likely lead to inconsistent application of the repeat street racing offender scheme. For these reasons, it was not adopted in Bill C-65.

In taking into account repeat offenders when they are known, Bill C-65 proposes a higher maximum driving prohibition period than was proposed in Bill C-230. Furthermore, sentencing judges routinely consider the existence of previous convictions in setting an appropriate and fit sentence even where this is not explicitly required. This element of Bill C-65 is therefore based on practical considerations and achieves a balanced approach.

There are existing tools in the Criminal Code that can be called upon to ensure that these amendments are implemented to their fullest. There may be concerns that driving prohibitions currently imposed are not being respected as certain drivers subject to such orders continue to drive.

Currently, the Criminal Code provides that anyone who operates a motor vehicle while he or she is disqualified to do so is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction. The driving prohibition orders which would be imposed as a result of Bill C-65 apply to this offence provision as well.

Furthermore, it is important to state that the existing provisions of the Criminal Code that deal with seizure and forfeiture of offence related property upon conviction will also apply for any of the four noted indictable offences, as well as for the indictable offence of driving while disqualified.

I am sure we would all agree that this power of seizure and forfeiture, when used, should certainly deter those with existing driving prohibition orders from getting behind the wheel of a car.

In summary, the bill specifies that if street racing is found by a sentencing judge to be involved in an offence of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm or death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death, then the street racing is to be considered as an aggravating factor in setting the sentence.

Furthermore, the bill provides that if street racing is found to be involved in these listed offences, then a period of driving prohibition must be imposed. The range of driving prohibition is 1 year to 10 years for driving causing bodily harm or death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The range is one year to a lifetime ban for an offence of criminal negligence causing death. These prohibition periods would follow any period of imprisonment imposed.

The approach adopted in Bill C-65 is based on practical considerations and is aimed at achieving the objective of making our streets safer. Those who engage in street racing must be discouraged from engaging in this dangerous behaviour and those who street race and ultimately cause bodily injury or death to anyone must be dealt with appropriately. Bill C-65 achieves this objective and, therefore, it has my full support.

I would urge all members to support Bill C-65 so that our police and crown prosecutors will have strong tools to fight against this dangerous phenomena.

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12:30 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's submission on Bill C-65. I certainly support the intent to which he alluded. We need to get tougher with people who commit these types of crimes, and make no mistake about it, these are crimes.

When people wilfully and flagrantly disregard speed limits and participate in street racing, they ultimately not only put their lives at risk but also the lives of their passenger. All too often they take innocent lives, people who are crossing streets at crosswalks. We have to be assured that the laws are respected. If they are not respected, then we have to get tough with those who would commit these types of offences and take innocent lives.

I am constantly reminded of how often this happens in my home province of British Columbia. Almost every week we hear about another tragedy, in particular in the city of Vancouver and the surrounding communities such as Surrey where Chuck Cadman lived. It continues to be a very serious problem in that community as well as others across our land.

I want to be very clear about this. To my Liberal colleague's credit, he referred to the fact that there was a major difference between Bill C-65 and Mr. Cadman's private member's bill, Bill C-230. When it comes to a second offence of either dangerous driving or criminal negligence causing death, Mr. Cadman wanted to send a message to those who would do such a thing that it was intolerable and unacceptable in our society. He wanted to send the message that those who would do such a thing would lose their driving privileges for life. He felt this was serious.

Bill C-65 would provide a range for judges and courts to consider. That was not Chuck Cadman's intent. He wanted to send a message that if someone was convicted of the second offence, they would lose their licence. He felt if they caused an innocent death, they should lose their licence forever. They should lose the privilege of having a licence. It is a privilege, not a right. We do not have a right to drive a vehicle on our roads. It is a privilege to have a driver's licence. We have to take a test to get it. We have to prove that we can operate a motor vehicle in a safe and responsible way. People who commit these crimes do not do that.

With all due respect to my colleague, I believe the government is once more trying to pull the wool over Canadians eyes. Those members say that they are getting tough with a very serious crime when they are not. Bill C-65 would not do that. It still would leave a wide range for a judge or the courts to interpret. The maximum sentence will never be used.

My colleague said that the government had increased the maximum from what Chuck intended in his bills. The point is the maximums are not used in our court system. That is why we need mandatory minimums.

We in the Conservative Party are always careful about the word minimum because it could be misconstrued by the Canadian public. They might think that somehow minimum means a lesser sentence. They need to understand that a mandatory minimum is a threshold. No judge, no jury, no court can go below that threshold. It is a mandatory sentence. We are trying to send the message to people who would conduct themselves in this manner that their behaviour is unacceptable in our society. If they participate and if something goes wrong and innocent lives are taken, they will face that mandatory sentence.

For a second offence of dangerous driving, criminal negligence causing death, Chuck Cadman wanted that sentence to be a lifetime driving prohibition. I do not understand why that member, who I know takes this issue very seriously, would not support amending the bill back to the original intent that Chuck wanted to see.

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12:35 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, the point in Bill C-65 is that under the current provisions and under the laws as they stand today, the judge sentencing has the opportunity to apply a lifetime ban. When we look at dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm or death, or criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death and when we look at street racing as an aggravating factor, that would play into the judge's ability to go to a maximum sentence. This would apply to driving prohibitions and time incarceration.

Through this legislation the courts would have that type of latitude and would be able to reach and address those repeat offenders. I think we are all united in this House that we want this to be addressed. We certainly want the courts to have an impact on this dangerous phenomena. I believe it is within the realm of the judges to provide for those sentences.

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12:40 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I realize that time is short for the questions and comments but I cannot let this go by. Again, with all due respect to my colleague, he just made my point. He used the words “latitude” and “range”. The judge would have that ability to impose a harsh sentence or a maximum sentence. That is not the same as what Chuck intended. Chuck intended to send a message of deterrence to those would be criminals. He intended to send the message that if they did this, this is what they would face.

We are not going to leave it to the judges to determine if it is an aggravating factor, that if they street race every weekend and finally they kill people in a couple of different instances that they may get the maximum sentence or they may face a life without driving privileges. It is not may. It is they will face that.

That is the whole point. That is the part where I as a friend of Chuck's take personal exception to the very fact of the matter that the government is calling these bills the Chuck Cadman legacy bills. I hear this all the time. Yet the intent of what Chuck was trying to do was send this strong message of deterrence so a judge could not say that the young man had a troubled childhood so it would not be fair to take his licence away forever or that it was a couple of mistakes and that it happened to everyone when they were young.

It is a second offence, that is it, they walk for the rest of their life or take the bus.

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12:40 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I believe Canadians have great reservation when we talk about minimum sentencing. If we look at instances, every case is different.

We do not have to look any further than at the Robert Latimer case. If minimum sentences were imposed, I am sure some of the jurors in the Latimer case would have ruled somewhat differently and rendered a different verdict had the judge not had that flexibility.

I believe the flexibility is in here. As well, I believe the meat and the teeth are in the legislation that will provide our judges with the opportunity to rule on these repeat offenders, the people who cause death and bodily harm through criminal negligence.

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12:40 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague on his pertinent remarks this morning on this bill. The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie expressed some relevant thoughts about this problem, which relates to public safety and also, as he said, the environment.

I will try today to make my own contribution to this debate, which affects the people of Quebec and Canada.

I have the pleasure of speaking on Bill C-65, which was introduced by the Minister of Justice on September 28. It seeks to amend the Criminal Code with regard to street racing.

As we know, Bill C-65 is based on Bill C-230, a private member's bill introduced by Mr. Cadman on October 20, 2004. Unfortunately, Mr. Cadman died of cancer in July. This bill has become part of his legacy in the House of Commons, even if, as some Conservative colleagues claim, this bill is not as tough as his. The Bloc Québécois feels, however, that it is a step in the right direction.

The purpose of Bill C-65 is to amend the Criminal Code by clearly defining street racing, that is, operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on public property, and by specifically identifying the involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for offences involving criminal negligence and dangerous driving. I say “specifically” because when someone is found guilty of one of the four offences currently listed in the Criminal Code, namely, criminal negligence causing death, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, the court in imposing a sentence must take the fact that the individual was involved in street racing into account as an aggravating factor in the commission of the offence.

Furthermore, this bill requires the judge to suspend for at least one year the driver's licence of anyone found guilty of such offences committed during street races. As we know, the mandatory automatic suspension of a driver's licence has applied only when a person was found guilty of impaired driving.

Now the bill provides for a mandatory driving prohibition order for a minimum of one year and a maximum of 10 years for criminal negligence causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing death. When an individual is found guilty of criminal negligence causing death, the duration of the order is not limited by the legislation. In such a case, the judge could very well suspend the driver's licence of the guilty party for life.

Our party is in favour of Bill C-65. We believe it is extremely important to define and reinforce the sentences imposed on those who engage in street racing, whose numbers are unfortunately increasing. We are all affected by dangerous driving, whether by the death of a loved one, by injuries suffered or by a personal tragedy. A few years ago I lost a friend when a motorcycle race between him and some friends came to a tragic end. The whole point was to have fun and show off his driving skills, but the misadventure that took his life could have taken other lives as well.

Public roads are not racetracks, nor should they be dangerous to the lives and physical safety of adults and children. As legislators, we must pass laws that ensure the public good and help to protect people. That is what this bill does.

Like driving under the influence, street racing is dangerous and unacceptable, and the consequences must be clear and pre-determined.

This bill toughens the sentences for participating in dangerous, illegal activities. It should help to dissuade people from this practice, which all too often poses a danger to the safety of citizens and infringes on their right to move about safely on our roads.

Some of us know people, have friends, who have been victimized by this kind of behaviour on our roads. All too often, people have seen their lives turned upside down by these dangerous activities. Some people have been killed, while others have suffered traumatic experiences or been injured. Every day there are new victims.

I was speaking earlier about the dangers of impaired driving and the dissuasive legislation regarding this scourge. Over the last few years, we have passed some general dissuasive initiatives, such as legislation to convince people not to drink and drive out of fear of the negative consequences. These negative consequences, such as suspended driver's licences, are designed to prevent offenders from repeating the behaviour. The legislation has been very beneficial on the whole and has helped to reduce impaired driving considerably. However, although the negative experience of arrest, courts and sentences is enough to prevent some people from repeating this behaviour, others seem to treat the experience as just an inconvenience before they return to their old ways.

That is why it is necessary to encourage the development of responsible automobile driving and why it is important to pass preventive legislation. It is important and necessary to punish, but punishment is not enough because it is often too late. As in the case of impaired driving, preventive legislation must be passed to make drivers really think about the dangers of street racing.

I want to come back to the problem of driving. As I said, much work has been done in Quebec to make drivers of all ages more aware of the dangers associated with such behaviour. Tools have been adapted in order to decrease the likelihood of someone drinking and driving. These tools were a key component of past countermeasures, such as informing the public about the danger of this practice and increasing public awareness.

Since street racing is a threat to public safety, just as much as drinking and driving is, the state must implement legislation to cover this new phenomenon and must also conduct a comprehensive public awareness and education campaign.

When it comes to public safety, the rights of the public must always take precedence over the rights of individuals. As my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, said, it is time to give our police forces additional tools so that they can more effectively enforce the law. Prevention is essential, but we also need more appropriate deterrents and punitive measures. We believe that this bill could help counter this phenomenon. The state is responsible for defining the limits of acceptable behaviour in our society. We need to act as responsible legislators for our individual and collective safety.

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12:50 p.m.


Marc Godbout Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated several of the comments made by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé.

As a former teacher, I also appreciated his mention of prevention. This will, in fact, be an important factor for reducing the incidence of the situations addressed by the legislation.

I would like him to give us a few examples of the preventive measures he might be familiar with. They could then be examined and might perhaps improve the situation the legislation is trying to address.

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12:55 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

Let us look at what has been done in Quebec in recent years to raise people's awareness of drinking and driving, to which I referred in my speech. Huge campaigns have been carried out to raise awareness, in the print and broadcast media, in the schools, in the community and so on. This eventually led people to think about it and to understand that drinking and driving is dangerous.

Punitive measures were taken as well, of course, but awareness campaigns reinforced the whole preventive aspect of drinking and driving. That is one example.

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12:55 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-65 was built on the work of Mr. Cadman who spent his life trying to make things right that were terribly wrong in this country.

I heard members praising the bill today, which I am sure had a lot of good intentions along the way, but Mr. Cadman put forth the idea that if people were second time offenders they would not have a licence anymore. They would have to walk. His bill had very strong consequences.

The member referred to the resources the police forces need to work with this issue. Could the member comment on how those resources could be put forward right now? The suggestion I made earlier was to shut down the gun registry and put those resources toward front line police officers on the street.

Now we can feel good about these comments and we can congratulate each other across the way but realistically the public cares about safety. The grandmothers across the street do not want to be hit by racing cars. We do not want to see our young people die because those cars have crashed in a midnight race, which came very close to happening in my city on Portage Avenue a few months ago.

We need to be very realistic. Could the member comment on those two issues?

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12:55 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the Conservative member to know that I can very much relate to what she says.

The bill could have been tougher. The hon. member may be right in that. I do, however, feel that the bill introduced today is a first step in the right direction. It imposes harsher consequences on those who indulge in street racing.

The preventive aspect I referred to is important as well. If we were more able to convince our youth, as well as older drivers, that street racing has its consequences, up to and including death or permanent disability, that would also be important.

I feel that this bill as presented is a first step. Could it have been made tougher? Perhaps. But let us make this move and begin by applying the principles contained in this bill. Let us put preventive measures and public education measures into place. Then we can assess the outcomes. I have no doubt that this is a good start.

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1 p.m.


Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for his comments, which, like those made this morning by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, are full of wisdom. It is extremely dangerous to swallow so-called miracle solutions and say that toughening up the law, beefing up security and increasing sentences will be enough to deal with offences and illegal acts.

My colleague's comments clearly show that we must address issues like this in stages. It is much more complex than one would think. Street racing is also a societal phenomenon. Why and how does it happen? I think awareness needs to raised by going to the heart and source of this harmful activity that can possibly take lives or cause problems stemming from injury or other things. Questions must also be asked.

I would like the hon. member to elaborate on the fact that cracking down is not a miracle remedy. Cracking down can make us truly lose sight of the intended purpose, which is to eliminate street racing. To do so, the best solution, the best way to overcome this, is to get rid of the problem at the source. In our society, illegal behaviour of this kind reflects a certain reality. I think society needs to respond to it in a more comprehensive way and not just with simple solutions such as increasing sentences.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question, and will try to reply as briefly as possible.

As I said in my presentation, we can look at all the drinking and driving awareness programs as an example. Of course there are criminal measures in place to prevent people from drinking and driving, since this can cause accidents and lead to injuries and worse. That was vitally important. The whole educational aspect around drinking and driving has also been extremely important and has had a major impact on our society, on Quebec.

To give an example, today's youth have grown up in an environment of greater awareness of drinking and driving. I know a number of young people who have a designated driver when they are going out to a bar or somewhere else where there will be alcohol. There is more awareness in that age group and they are doing something about drinking and driving. This is a preventive measure that arose out of the awareness campaigns, not the punitive measures that have been adopted. These educational campaigns have also been important.

It would be worthwhile to see the street racing issue we are discussing today, because of this bill, handled in the same way, with both punitive and preventive measures aimed at reducing the problem.