Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today on Bill C-65, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to another act. This bill will toughen current legislation and sentencing with regard to street racing.
Before I begin specific consideration of Bill C-65, I want to say that street racing has been a problem in Montreal, among other places, for a number of years. Many police forces throughout Quebec but especially in Montreal are working to stamp out this scourge, which is ultimately a danger to the public in the Montreal region.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the neighbourhood police station No. 24, just off Decarie Boulevard. In recent years, this police force has tried hard to put a stop to street racing, which endangers the lives of the public. Police forces have, in part, the means to counter this scourge, which is endangering people's lives.
Currently, under the highway safety code, anyone caught street racing or modifying a motor vehicle, may be fined $400 and lose 6 demerit points. The police have adopted a three-pronged approach in order to put an end to street racing.
First, the police are trying to raise public awareness about not souping up motor vehicles for use on highways and Montreal streets. They are reminding the public that it is illegal to modify the exhaust manifold and other components in order to soup up vehicles for races that are completely illegal on Montreal streets and Quebec highways.
Furthermore, as I mentioned, the police have, in part, the means to hand out fines and crack down on street racing. They have tried to crack down on what is known as aggressive driving. This is similar to street racing, but it is also already highly illegal under the highway safety code. So the police have done what they could.
It should be remembered that street racing started around 1998 near the Technoparc in Montreal, where some automobile racetracks opened up. A few years later, however, these racetracks closed down. So the races now take place on the streets of Montreal in two different locations. One is a location with which Montrealers are very familiar, the Orange Julep, at the corner of Décarie and Paré, and the other is near des Sources Boulevard in Pointe-Claire, in restaurant parking lots open at 10 o'clock at night.
People gather in these places. They set rather vague rules, their own rules, thereby contravening the highway safety code. As I said, they modify their vehicles, which is in direct contravention of the highway safety code.
Sometimes these races are quite well organized and planned. Other times, it is just aggressive driving. One person stops his vehicle at a red light alongside another, opens his window and says, “My car is faster than yours”. As soon as the light turns green, the two vehicles start tearing in and out through the streets of Montreal.
The Montreal police forces have gone to considerable lengths to try to prevent this while maintaining a respectful posture. There is station No. 24 in Montreal, which is not in my riding but which has done wonders in this regard. I think now, though, that the law needs to be toughened. These sentences, which used to be at a judge's discretion, need to be made mandatory.
That is what is proposed in Bill C-65, which deals with three aspects of the Criminal Code. First, it defines what street racing is, because the Criminal Code is far from clear in this regard. Second, it states clearly that these street races are an aggravating circumstance. Third, it introduces a requirement for judges to revoke the driver's licence of individuals who are found guilty for a minimum of one year.
At the present time, there are four Criminal Code offences that apply to street racing. First, there is criminal negligence causing death; second, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death; third, criminal negligence causing bodily harm; and fourth, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.
Under the Criminal Code as it currently stands, judges can revoke the driver's licence of an individual if that person was driving under the influence. In cases of dangerous driving and criminal negligence, judges have discretionary power.
In short, Bill C-65 includes a mandatory prohibition from driving for not more than ten years and not less than one year. I believe the law must be given some teeth. Our late colleague, Mr. Cadman's, battle over the past few years must not be in vain.
I have heard certain colleagues in this House say they would vote against this bill because it does not go far enough. It may not go far enough for the Conservative Party, who would like it to be more severe, but it is certainly a step in the right direction, one that provides us with more ammunition. The Criminal Code has an important role to play here. It will further criminalize this scourge, this phenomenon, which we have so far not managed to control with prevention.
Some people may wonder if it makes any sense for people to be able to use our streets as race tracks. The answer is no. There are alternative solutions for people who do want to race. There are places set aside specifically for that. For about $20, people can become members at a track where they can practice what they consider their sport. There is no need to use the streets and highways of Quebec and Canada to practice this sport, which can put others at risk.
We have to realize that this phenomenon is spreading. As I said, our police forces are trying to use the means available to them to fine racers and those who soup up their cars. But the reality is that this approach has not been successful.
I feel that this amendment is exactly what the government ought to have come up with.
The Criminal Code must apply precisely for such cases in Quebec and Canada.
As I was saying, individuals do not hesitate to make changes to their vehicles. People are currently entitled to modify their exhaust pipes to make their cars louder. There is not only a safety risk, but also an environmental risk. How can we allow modified vehicles on the road when we, on this side of the House, are in fact proposing changes to automobile manufacturing standards to make cars less polluting?
We cannot say one thing and do another. We cannot allow these activities on the streets of Montreal when we are proposing stricter pollution standards.
The same is true of noise pollution. Can we allow people to use the streets in residential and urban areas at midnight as racetracks? The answer is no.
Safety should definitely be a motivating factor for strengthening the legislation, but so should the environment.
We wholeheartedly support this bill. We support it because we believe we must provide the police with the tools to do their work. We believe that public safety must be improved. For safety reasons the streets of Montreal or the roads of Quebec must not be used as racetracks. The private sector provides facilities for individuals to practice their sport safely. At the very least it is safer for the public; for those who practice the sport it is another story. That is why we wholeheartedly support Bill C-65.