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House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments and his question are very insightful. I think he has hit the nail on the head: we have to get serious about making sure that we can curtail crime.

Police officers have more to do in terms of paperwork. They lack technology and resources behind the scenes to enable them to do their jobs.

Being a police officer is a very stressful job. Police officers are very committed people who go above and beyond the call of duty every day. They are very brave individuals. From the perspective of being the mother of a police officer, I know the caring that goes into the police regiments that we have across this country.

More important, what we have to do is make sure that more resources are put into police forces so police officers can extend their current role on the street. That role is more than just chasing criminals; it is also a role of befriending young people so they have someone to come to if a drug dealer is pushing them.

Under the Liberal government's watch, crime has risen. Unfortunately, it is out of control now. The only way it will be changed is to have a Conservative government in power that will put some teeth into legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to speak to Bill C-64, which is being touted as part of Chuck Cadman's legacy. Many on this side of the House would challenge the legitimacy of that claim.

I am relatively new to this place, having been elected just over a year ago. As such, I never really had the opportunity to know Chuck Cadman. Before I became a member of Parliament, I heard of Chuck and his story of the tragedy that mobilized him to get involved and ultimately run as a member of Parliament. While here, he continued to do his own thing. He did not change to suit this place. He had his own agenda and he pursued issues that were important to him.

The bill before us is being promoted by the government as part of the Chuck Cadman legacy. Based on all I have heard from people who knew Chuck much better than I did, and having looked at Chuck's draft legislation in comparison to the bill before us, I suggest the government is callously and quite cynically sullying Chuck's legacy and reputation by bringing this forward as something he wanted to see. It is a pale imitation of what Chuck wanted.

We all know that cars and trucks are made up of lots of different pieces. We also know that cars get stolen either in whole or in part. When a set of used tires is purchased from somebody, there is a chance that those tires might have been stolen. Those types of things are hard to track. The police struggle with this, and it is a problem that will not go away.

Each vehicle has an identification number. It is a long tag that is often located just inside the windshield. That VIN identifies the particular vehicle. It is on that basis that the vehicle is registered and licensed so it can be legally driven. That vehicle identification number is one piece of the puzzle of which the law should be able to keep track.

While it may be possible to inadvertently or mistakenly take some piece off a car and sell it or trade it, it is impossible to imagine a situation where a person would accidentally take the vehicle identification number off one vehicle and place it on another. It is beyond reasonable to come up with any scenario where that would happen as an honest mistake or that someone would buy a vehicle knowing that had happened and not think there was something illegal about it.

The world has changed. Cars are more valuable than they ever have been. Many cars stolen these days are exported out of the country. This has made the job of law enforcement even more difficult. It is more difficult to keep track of where these vehicles have come from or where they have gone.

The law needs to change with the times. When there is an obvious loophole or weakness in a law, it is important that something be brought forward to plug that gap. That was Chuck's intention when he brought forward his private member's bill.

In bringing this legislation forward, the government added some words that do not look harmful on first reading. Where I come from we call them legal weasel words. Those words substantively change the impact of the legislation. The reference is, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did it to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. The onus is now on the police to prove that the person who switched the vehicle identification number did so with criminal intent.

I go back to my first point. It is impossible to accidentally do this or do this for any reason other than to conceal the identification of a vehicle. If it were done, it was done with criminal intent. There is no other reason or way to switch that number other than to do it deliberately. This phrase greatly weakens the bill.

If this bill is passed, a year or two from now, people will be able to look back and ask if Bill C-64 had any impact or was it one more watered down bill, full of legal weasel words that had no impact on the ground. The fear of my party and many of my colleagues is that Chuck's bill in its pure form would make a real impact. It would reduce the number of car thefts by empowering police officers to prosecute. Whereas Bill C-64, as put forward, will have no such impact.

That begs the question as to why the government has brought this forward at this time. Why is it pushing something forward that even in private I am sure it would admit would not change much?

It takes me back to last spring when the government was threatened. The Prime Minister and his cabinet were fearful that the government may fall and an election might be caused. In a defensive, save one's own bacon move, the Prime Minister went on his deal making tour last spring. He tried to do everything imaginable to stay in power himself and to avoid any sort of democratic process in this place that could threaten his government.

Before a critical vote on the budget last spring, Mr. Cadman, who was quite ill at the time, was in town. We all remember the attention on Chuck on whether he would say yes or no. On the Monday evening, a day or two before the critical vote, it was reported that the Prime Minister went to visit Mr. Cadman. What any of us would have given to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

We have heard stories about other members who were approached with deals, offered goodies, jobs and cabinet seats if they supported the government. We cannot ask Chuck what he was offered on that day. However, I do not think it is unreasonable to speculate that the Prime Minister may have offered Mr. Cadman his commitment that the government would move forward on at least one or two things about which Mr. Cadman felt very strongly.

We do not know whether that was offered, but it is not beyond the realm of the possible. Knowing why Mr. Cadman ran for Parliament in the first place and knowing why he was here and what he felt so strongly about, such a promise or commitment may have influenced his view on whether the government should continue.

Now we get to the really cynical part that. As Canadians know, Mr. Cadman passed away this summer, so we do not have him here to ask that question. We do not have anyone here to answer the question about what was discussed, what was agreed to, what deal was made and whether the Prime Minister and the government lived up to the terms of what they said they would do.

Again I am going to speculate, but what has been put before the House is the most cynical response to that, which is the government will keep the letter of a commitment it made to somebody but, practically, it will weaken it in such a way so that it will do nothing. I have thought about this over past couple of weeks, about why these things have been brought forward for debate, and I think that is a better explanation of how these things got on the order paper and why they are before us now, in this relatively meaningless context.

The irony is that we on this side of the House feel strongly about these issues. We have spoken about them and fought for them for many years. We are opposing a bill that purports to do what we want. Canadians will be sitting at home thinking that the Conservative Party talks about getting tough on crime all the time, that the Liberals have brought something forward saying it will get tough on crime, yet people in the Conservative Party oppose it. I think it is a little Alice in Wonderland-ish for viewers at home.

I want to go on the record for those people who may be watching this today. The Canadian people are being sold a bill of goods by the government. The bill says that it will do something, but it will not do much. It is the placebo bill. It looks like a remedy and it looks like something that would attack an ailment in society, but it will have no impact. Police officers say that. Members on this side of the House who have tracked this issue for years say that.

In conclusion, this is a sad day for Parliament and it is a sad day for the government. I can only presume it is doing this in a deliberate, calculating and cynical way. It is a particularly sad day that the legacy of a member of this place, who felt very strongly and who fought throughout his political career to try to make real change by improving on issues that he knew affected his constituents, is being sullied in this way by the government.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the Conservative member's comments. It seems likely to us that the Liberals are proposing measures in Mr. Cadman's name following his death and in light of his vote in this House last fall.

In any event, we support this bill. How can the Conservative member be opposed to Bill C-64? This bill gives police another way to fight against the networks for theft, alteration and resale of motor vehicles, which, as we know, enable criminal organizations to exist and expand in our society.

I heard the Conservatives say that the penalties and consequences were not significant enough for them. We, the members of the Bloc Québécois, know that in Quebec, we believe strongly in cracking down and using deterrent action to fight organized crime. And we also believe in preventive measures. We know that cracking down does not solve everything. In my opinion, there are some valid penalities in the bill.

I want to know what the hon. member has to say on this. Does he believe that an additional multi-year prison sentence can further resolve the situation? Personally, I doubt it. What measures would he prefer to see introduced?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the past year I have seen a problem in the public realm identified and someone, whether a private member, a party or the government, brings forward a proposed remedy to that problem. What is difficult is when, as a member of Parliament, one looks at the proposed remedy and comes to the conclusion that it will not fix the problem or that it will do very little to fix it.

The danger is if one supports that measure and it goes forward, the public gets a false sense of security. It gets a false sense that something has been done and that a remedy has been put in place for the problem or the ailment which has been identified.

As members of Parliament, we must decide whether it is better to support a remedy that is imperfect but moves at least in the right direction or whether it is better to hold out for what we think is needed and in that case defeat the imperfect remedy, recognizing that the appetite for another bill will be greatly reduced if we pass the watered down bill. That is a decision members and parties have to make.

In terms of the penalties, the proposed penalties and sanctions against those who are convicted under legislation only become relevant if law enforcement is able to get a conviction. It is like the argument we have in this place about maximum sentences. It is a completely irrelevant argument because no one ever gets a maximum sentence.

In this case I would argue that we need to first look at the threshold or the burden of proof that law enforcement or prosecutors will have to get a guilty conviction and then see whether the penalties prescribed are appropriate. To focus on the penalties and ignore the fact that it is very unlikely that anyone will ever be found guilty under this new law, at the end of the day means that it has negligible impact. Worse than that, it has created a false sense of security among the population that something has been done.

Finally, it probably reduces the chances of bringing forward something in the future that will fix the problem because there is a misconception that the problem has already been resolved.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to represent the constituents of Edmonton--Sherwood Park in this debate today.

As has been noted, Edmonton is the same as other cities in that it has a notable problem of vehicle thefts, from youngsters taking them for little joyrides to organized crime hitting luxury and other desirable vehicles. Sometimes they use vehicles that are just easy to get into and easy to get running. It is a great cost, a great inconvenience and a great affront to law-abiding citizens who work hard to earn the money to pay for their vehicles only to have them ripped off like that. Certainly in principle, and I think I speak on behalf of all of my party, we agree that measures need to be taken in order to reduce this crime.

Members know that I love numbers. I have been a student of math in my life and I like doing little calculations just for fun. It just so happens that 12 years ago today, many of us here were first elected. It was on October 25, 1993 when we came here in significant numbers under what was then the Reform Party. Now we have brought the Conservative forces together under the new Conservative Party. It is wonderful to see that finally Canadians have a real alternative to the Liberals.

I find it ironic that the Liberals are bringing in legislation that purports to strengthen the fight on crime when there is quite ample evidence that the Liberals themselves, and I do not know if it is parliamentary but I think it is a fact, have been engaging in illegal criminal activities. There is ample evidence on the record that this has been taking place in the past and for all we know it is still taking place. Here the Liberals are saying, “We are going to go after the guy that steals the car, but we will see if we can run away with $1 million or $2 million and get away with it”. To me that has a bit of irony.

On that topic, I think of the sentence for Paul Coffin, which is now being appealed of course. He got this huge sentence and he has to give lectures on ethics at universities because he was convicted of a crime, but it is onerous because he does have to be home by nine o'clock, which I think many of us as members of Parliament would welcome. It would be more of a reward than a punishment if we could be home by nine o'clock.

I am getting on to the topic now. A reporter from the Sherwood Park News --

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We are all aware of the sub judice convention, when a matter is before the courts in a criminal case.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think an hon. member who is not participating in the debate seems to have immense knowledge that he will no doubt want to share with us when he has the floor. We will be waiting anxiously for his usual wisdom.

Meanwhile, on a more serious note the sub judice convention is quite clear in a criminal matter, that when an issue is before the courts it cannot be referred to in the House. That is suspended once a verdict has been rendered. I believe our clerks can advise you, Mr. Speaker, but it is reactivated once an appeal has commenced.

The issue that the member has referred to is presently an issue on appeal. Therefore, it is before the courts and therefore, it is sub judice because it is a criminal case.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for that intervention. I would ask all members to be careful when they do use examples that are before the courts. Something that is under appeal is still before the courts.

Perhaps the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park would use a general example without using a specific case in his remarks.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be corrected both by you and the hon. member opposite, who is very sensitive to these things, and I appreciate that.

I will, however, continue to say that the reporter said that she had been in the courts in Sherwood Park and on numerous occasions had seen that youngsters who had been found guilty of shoplifting from the local mall or for taking a car for a joyride, and that is the connection I am making, had received penalties that were more onerous than the aforementioned one which I cannot not talk about and I will not. The general principle is that the Liberals just do not believe in having individuals pay some consequences for disobeying the rules in our society. They think there is nothing wrong with it, but a wink-wink, nudge-nudge and do not do it again does not work.

I have said many times in the last 12 years that I have been in this House that there is no law this place can pass that will make people good, but there is something we can do that will help to restrain those who do not have a built in moral compass that prevents them from doing bad things.

When it comes to things like vehicle theft, we are not talking about joyriders. Most joyriders will pick up a vehicle but they are not going to change the vehicle identification number. They will take it for a little ride and then park it some distance away from where they found it and then those youngsters will go home at three o'clock in the morning to their parents who do not know where they have been, which is a whole other issue to talk about. Those youngsters just took the car for a ride.

When we talk about vehicle identification alteration, we are talking about organized crime. We are talking about big business. We are talking about people who wander around the streets at night in closed trucks. They will suck the vehicles into the truck in a matter of minutes, close the doors and away they will go. They will not be caught. They will change the vehicle identification numbers and then ship the vehicles off in containers to other countries. They will make millions and millions of dollars at our expense. Whether we take the loss personally or whether the insurance companies reimburse the person who suffered the loss, it all comes out of the Canadian economy and out of the pockets of individual Canadians. These property crimes need to be addressed.

I was glad that my colleague who spoke just before me mentioned about the deal. We will never know what kind of a deal was struck. Chuck Cadman was a friend of mine and I knew him well. I know he was a man of principle. Following up on what my colleague said, my conjecture is that the Liberals probably said to him something like, “If you vote with us, we will make sure that some of the things you have been pushing for will happen”. That is conjecture but I think that may have happened and I think Chuck Cadman at that stage would have said, “No deal”. If I know Chuck at all, he was not into cutting deals.

I believe that the Prime Minister and the Liberals are bringing in the two pieces of government legislation simply because their consciences are bothering them like crazy with Chuck Cadman having passed away and they now feel an obligation to try to do something that they had implied or promised that they would do.

However, the Liberals cannot bring it upon themselves to actually follow his advice and put in a bill the same wording as what Chuck Cadman had proposed. What the Liberals have added is absolutely ridiculous. It refers to a person who commits an offence under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle. Huh? What would you say, Mr. Speaker? Hello. Why would someone change the vehicle identification number? Why would someone even bother if the person was not trying to conceal the identity of the vehicle?

We could get into the debate that there are people who sometimes put together one or more vehicles and they have to do this. It is not illegal if they obtained the vehicles they are putting together legally, but the bill covers that. “Lawfully” is in there. That is lawful.

Those other people are doing something that is not lawful and what we are doing is giving them a huge excuse in the courts. There will not be any convictions under this legislation. This is just a feel good measure that was brought in by the Liberals in order to appease their failing consciences, if they have any at all, and I really doubt that they do.

In the 12 years that I have been an MP, some two million vehicles have been stolen. It is time that we addressed this issue in a serious manner. I unfortunately will have to vote against this bill because it goes opposite to what really needs to be done.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague made insightful comments. I am sure the Canadian people wish they could call the government to order and tell the Liberals that we need to get crime under control.

The member made a comment about joyriding. We know that there are not enough police officers on the streets. We know that the present government has not brought crime under control. As the member across the way mentioned, this is a placebo bill. We cannot support this bill because it is a placebo bill.

Perhaps the member could comment on car theft, in that it starts with joyriding, but statistics show that it starts small and grows big. It does not generally grow into very strong, major crimes right off the bat. With this particular bill, it is the second level. First they start with joyriding, and then they start stealing cars and taking them to the chop shops.

Could the member please comment on the kind of environment that we have in Canada that allows for this kind of thing to go on under the present government?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, that was a very insightful question and it is one of the themes that I have been pushing pretty well all my life, certainly long before I became a member of Parliament. I strongly believe that all of our actions, whether they are moral or immoral, good or bad, useful or not useful, are driven by what we think. The first thing, of course, is how we think about these things.

If there were no law for stealing vehicles, no law against murder or robbing banks, for me it would make no difference because I am not going to do those things anyway, even if I were in a country with no laws. Those sorts of things are wrong. I have that built in but a lot of people do not and therefore we need to strengthen our homes, churches and schools in all these areas of thinking.

At one time we had teaching in our schools about what it means to be a good citizen. One of the things I remember learning when I was a youngster in elementary school was that good citizens obey the laws. That is a given and we have that drummed into us. We were taught that by word and by example. We had teachers who gave us those examples. We had parents and grandparents who taught us that and regularly reinforced that.

Indeed, that is the true beginning of prevention of bad behaviours. We need to strengthen that.

I really wish that we had leadership in our country and in our provincial governments that would strengthen that part of our education component.

The member went on to ask a question concerning joyriding and the fact that nothing is being done about it. That is true for all sorts of things, whether it is shoplifting, joyriding, taking a vehicle, stealing other things, petty theft or vandalism. Although we have all been falsely accused of wanting to lock everybody up, that is not what we want.

I have huge compassion for these kids. I have been to the youth detention centre and I see the potential we have there that has the probability of being wasted if we do not turn these kids around. However something needs to be done. We cannot simply say that nothing will happen.

When these youngsters are found and brought in after a joyride, I would like to see them stand in front of the judge with their parents. Let us hold this family unit together and make them mutually accountable. None of us are an island. We all live in families of one sort or another. Let us be together on this. Let us reinforce proper behaviour, instead of blinking our eyes at improper behaviour and thereby encouraging it.

The simple rule in psychology is that whatever behaviour is rewarded is repeated. Whatever behaviour is punished, in whatever form, will generally diminish. We know that with taxation. The Liberals punish us with taxation and consequently our society is not as productive as it could be. That is only one example but there are many examples where this is true.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand today to speak to Bill C-64.

A little later in my speech I want to talk about Chuck Cadman, about some of the things he stood for and about some of the things that were important to him, but I first want to talk about an issue in the bill that I find important.

My colleague who just spoke said that it was not really an issue with the bill but I still want to make people aware of it. There is an entire subculture or industry of rebuilding and restoring vehicles such as motorcycles, cars and those kinds of things. My colleague reassured us that they would not be caught in the bill but I am not quite as confident as he is about that.

I want to make people aware of the fact that there needs to be some exception for people who are doing that kind of business. Obviously, we are not talking about people stealing cars off the street in the middle of the night, stuffing them in trucks, taking them to chop-shops and either chopping them down or changing the VINs on them.

It is important for people to understand that an industry has arisen dealing with restoring older vehicles. That industry is not just something that is being done in people's garages any more. It is a multi-million dollar industry. These restored cars are worth anywhere from zero dollars, which is probably the one I have in my shop at home right now, up to $500,000. I think of some of the late sixties' Corvettes, the Shelby Cobras and those kinds of things that are worth a lot of money. Those cars are getting older and their bodies have been wrecked. People want to restore and rebuild the vehicles. They have the frames and the drive trains. We can actually buy new body parts for many of these vehicles.

I have a concern that those people do not get caught in the legislation. I am not confident that it gives that kind of exception. It talks in the bill about having a lawful excuse. I do not see it in federal legislation. I hope it would be included in provincial legislation when it comes to the licensing of vehicles, which is covered by the provinces.

It is typical of the NDP-Liberal government's legislation. So often it comes forward and it does not seem to work. It restricts regular Canadians and allows the people who it should cover to escape from the law.

Chuck Cadman, as we know, was a fairly ordinary guy. He was a veteran MP when I arrived here but he was one of those folks who was going to be himself and was not going to change, and he did that. He stayed true to what he believed. The issues that brought him here were the issues that stayed important to him right to the end of his time here.

Just on a personal level, one of the reasons I got to know Chuck Cadman was because of his music. He was a former musician and played in a lot of different bands over the years. My son was 13 when I was first elected. When we came down here, Chuck was one of the guys who really fascinated him. He had played with the Guess Who and other bands. My son, Andrew was very interested in music. I always thought it was interesting that there were a lot of people around here who had power and prestige but it was actually Chuck Cadman who really appealed to my son and with whom he felt he had some connection.

Chuck was an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things. The things he focused on really were the prime issues, one of which we partially dealt with last week and the other we are dealing with this week, that being street racing and vehicle theft. He dealt with these issues in a very practical and realistic way. It was typical of him that he would not come forward with something that would not be effective, so the bills that he brought forward were effective.

This letter was read into the record a couple of times last week but I want to reinforce it. Someone who was close to Chuck Cadman, a man by the name of Dane Minor, wrote that one of the things that drew Chuck into the political arena in the first place was a visit by a former justice minister to supposedly discuss the Young Offenders Act with Chuck. The man blew into town, spent five minutes getting his picture taken shaking Chuck's hand, and went back to Ottawa saying that meetings with victims showed his government cared about victims and the faults of the Young Offenders Act. Chuck was disgusted. It was incidents like these that led him to become an MP and try to truly change things.

I would suggest that the government, as that justice minister did, has failed to respect Chuck and what it was that he wanted to take place.

I believe that these two bills that we have looked at, Bill C-64 and Bill C-65, are a dishonour to Chuck's memory. They have been watered down and do not cover the issues that he wanted to cover. It is no wonder Canadians get more and more cynical about the government and what it says that it stands for.

Last week we talked about Bill C-65 which addresses street racing. Again, we wanted amendments which held true to Chuck's intentions with the bill. For example, we wanted Chuck's increase in scale of punishment as offences mounted, which was taken out by the government. His bill read:

(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...and not less than two years;

Those mandatory minimum sentences were important to Chuck.

The fourth part of Chuck's bill read:

(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.

We see some of the same things happening in Bill C-64. It is an act to amend the Criminal Code dealing with vehicle identification numbers and once again we see a watered down version of Chuck Cadman's intent. The Liberals are basically making a mockery once again of what he wanted and what he stood for.

Auto theft is a growing problem in this country, particularly in western Canada. It is a large problem in Regina. I am from a rural area in southwest Saskatchewan so it is not as big a problem there, but it has been a problem for a number of years in Regina. At one point I was talking to a policeman who said that it was really frustrating to deal with the Young Offenders Act because of the way in which it has been set up. They had a young man in custody who was getting out before his 16th birthday. They said that the young man's goal was to steal 250 vehicles before his 16th birthday and because he was getting out a couple of months before his birthday, they actually thought he would probably make that goal. It is good that young people have goals but that probably was not one of the more laudable ones. Auto theft is expensive to Canadians as well. It costs up to $600 million and at some point we need to deal with it.

Currently, the act of changing, obliterating or altering a vehicle identification number is not a specified criminal act. Section 354 of the Criminal Code treats tampering with a VIN in a context establishing that “in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a tampered VIN is proof of property obtained by crime”, but there is no law dealing with the direct prosecution of a person engaged in the physical act of tampering with that VIN tag. This creates a major loophole for organized crime and it needs to be closed. An effective VIN tampering provision would aid significantly in dealing with organized crime and in the prosecution of organized crime rings, but we do not think this bill would do that effectively.

One of the changes that took place in the bill over Chuck's bill concerns section 377(1), which reads:

Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.

It is important to note that the last phrase,“under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”, was added to Chuck's bill and really does water it down. Chuck had put the onus of proof for lawful excuse on the person who is indicted, not on the crown.

Once again, we have a bill where the Liberal government had a chance to do the right thing and it has been watered down. It is frustrating. It gives criminals the out they need and it does not give leeway to regular citizens who have legitimate reasons for dealing with VIN numbers. It reminds me of a lot of other legislation we have seen. I think back to the gun registry where a law was made that really has not accomplished what it set out to do. It has left criminals free to operate and has caused nothing but a great deal of expense, time and problems for regular folks.

In conclusion, I would like to read one more statement by Dane Minor in a letter about Chuck. He states:

If the Liberals truly want to honour Chuck Cadman I suggest they pass his laws as written and actually give the police the resources to find out how many previous offences there were. If they don't have the courage to do that, at least have the decency to stop using his name in a self-serving bid to gain political points.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's very insightful speech today. It indeed honoured the former member of Parliament, Chuck Cadman.

It is a well known fact that we do not have enough police officers on the front lines in our Canadian cities and across the country. A point was well taken about the fact that it is not the intention of members on this side of the House to penalize youth. Our intention is to guide them and to help. Many police officers have a very expanded role that is not talked about very often. They are the first responders on a crime scene. In other words, they are the first people there.

I remember a young child who was brutalized by a perpetrator a couple of years ago and I talked to the police officer who was on the scene. He found her crying in a garage. The young girl's family told me that it was due to the kindness and gentleness of the police officer that the girl now is well adjusted and getting past this crime.

Could the member please comment on the intent and what we as members on this side of the House want to do in terms of curtailing crime and to help the victims of crime in this instance?

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11:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that we do not have enough police officers in this country. This is a topic that is near and dear to my own heart. I come from a rural area and actually the government has removed a number of single person RCMP detachments from my area.

We have an area along the U.S. border which is about 100 miles long and about 50 miles wide that has absolutely no permanent RCMP presence in it at all. Although it is true there are RCMP members coming in and out from other detachments, we do not have anyone who is stationed there on a permanent basis. That is frustrating.

The only good thing about it is that the people in my area are good citizens. As one of the policemen told me, if people there were not such law-abiding citizens, it would be much more difficult for them to be able to enforce the law in the area.

To respond to the member's comment about policemen being first responders on the scene, in a previous life I was involved with the ambulance service in my area for seven years. I always respected the police officers and their professionalism, especially the RCMP in our area, and for the ability that they have to deal with those types of emergency situations.

Canadians are getting frustrated with the government. They are getting frustrated with the levels of crime that are taking place. They want to see real changes. They want to see more police officers on the streets who are able to do their job. They want to see sentences that actually mean what they say they mean when they are given out. Canadians are just tired of a government that at every opportunity wimps out on these issues.

The government has done that with both Bills C-64 and C-65. We would like to encourage the government to stand up and have some backbone for a change and do the right thing.

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11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-64 today. This bill has been touted as being a bill which would enact one of the key issues in Chuck Cadman's private member's bill, but I am disappointed at this weak and unsuccessful attempt. I believe it will do very little to nothing to deal with the problem.

Some amendments must simply be made to this bill, and we will certainly try to make these happen. In the end it will be up to the government and the other parties here in the House to support these changes.

Part of this bill deals with tampering with vehicle identification numbers. It also deals with the whole issue of auto theft which is a huge problem in this country as well as organized crime. Canadians are very much aware that organized crime is a growing problem in Canada. Anything we can do to tone down the success of organized crime is something we should strive to do. This bill unfortunately will do very little to nothing to actually deal with the problem.

The issue of vehicle theft can be demonstrated by a couple of statistics. There is probably over $600 million in costs associated with vehicle theft in this country right now. That is a lot of money, and every one of us feels it whether we have had our particular vehicle stolen or not. We feel it through our insurance rates. Young people can identify with this. When they buy their first vehicle, their insurance rates are very high. That is a result of the increase in vehicle theft. Over 170,000 vehicles are stolen across this country every year. This is a serious problem.

Mr. Cadman should be given a lot of credit for what he has done with respect to this issue. He also deserves a lot of credit for what he has done with respect to victims' rights, and I will talk about that a bit later.

I want to talk about how vehicle theft has impacted my own family. My wife Linda and I have five children between the ages of 23 and 28. All five of them now live in the Edmonton area. Every one of them has either had their vehicle stolen or had the contents of their vehicle stolen in the few years they have been in Edmonton. This has had an impact on their insurance rates as well as everyone else's insurance rates. It is a serious issue.

My oldest daughter had the contents in one of her cars stolen. We all know it is not easy dealing with insurance companies. We never get full value for what has been stolen. We have no hope of really ever getting back any personal items.

I have identical twins who are 26 years old. In one day one of them had the same car stolen twice. It was first stolen from a parking lot in front of his apartment building. Later that afternoon he saw a guy stealing his car the second time. This guy obviously had a serious drug problem. My son hollered at him from his balcony, but the guy went ahead and stole his car.

Over the years all of my children have driven a Toyota Camry. In certain models a thief can get into it with a screwdriver and start it up with the same screwdriver. These models lend themselves to being stolen. It is a popular car and a good car, so it is in high demand when it comes to vehicle theft.

For my son, the second time in one day was almost too much for him. The third time he almost had his car stolen, he hollered that he was coming down to get the guy. The thief did go away, so my son did not actually have it taken that third time, but it was only due to direct intervention by himself.

It is a huge problem. They of course learned after the first time not to leave a fancy stereo in a vehicle because they will lose it and never get anywhere near the value back. They had fancy stereos in their vehicles to begin with. The vehicles themselves were really not worth an awful lot of money but to them they were extremely important. They were students going to university with very little money, struggling to make payments to get through the end of the year, and then they have their cars stolen.

The first time, they had something like 200 CDs in the car, purchased over the years, of their favourite music. Try dealing with the insurance company to get that back. They had to and it was a pain. I do not blame insurance companies. It is a tough thing to deal with. How do they know what CDs they had? They did not have a list made. They remembered their favourites, did the best they could, and they got paid a small percentage of the value of replacing them. To some people that may not sound that important, but it was to them. They felt a deep personal violation.

Next to the home, I think having one's auto broken into is probably the most private and personal space that a lot of people have. Their cars are seen in that way. It is the type of society we are. They certainly felt that personal violation. I would suggest that the law is soft on the people who commit these crimes.

Some of the people who stole vehicles were found. My youngest son has had his car stolen twice in Edmonton. That is not a very good record. My youngest daughter has never had a car stolen, but she has had the contents stolen. So, all five of my children, over a period of the last six years since they have been going to secondary school or starting to work, have had their vehicles or the contents stolen. I doubt that this is an unusual story.

I wonder about the statistics and whether they are complete because in the case of my oldest son, who had it happen twice in one day, he did not report it. After a point, why bother reporting it? Nothing is going to happen. They became wise enough to know not to leave any contents of value in the vehicle. They probably know they should report it, but what is the point? The police say there is nothing they can really do about it, and there is nothing they can do without the law.

That is why what Mr. Cadman was trying to do here is of such value to society and he should be thanked for that. The government, in offering this recognition of Chuck, should have been more generous. The government should have been generous enough to take the intent and content of his bills and put them into its attempt at duplicating his efforts, but it failed entirely. This legislation, Bill C-64, dishonours the memory of Chuck Cadman and we simply cannot support this bill.

We will attempt to have it amended. This is a very small bill. Just so Canadians know, it is a one page bill. It is a very small piece of legislation, just a few amendments to the Criminal Code. I am going to read one of those amendments the government put in. Proposed section 377.1(1) reads:

Every one commits an offence who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse--

That part is good. Unfortunately, the government went beyond that and said:

--and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.

The government has taken away all the value of the first part of that statement by putting in that vague clause which makes it almost impossible for police officers to get the evidence they need for judges to use in the courts so they can make this stick.

I know that people speaking on this bill will deal with the other sections that simply are inappropriate. It is such a simple bill that I do not know how the government could get it so wrong. We are only talking about a few paragraphs.

I encourage the government to honour the memory of Chuck Cadman, who did so much for victims on issues like this, by amending its bill to truly reflect what Mr. Cadman had in mind and what he put on paper in this regard.

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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, I am very aware of the issues related to car theft in my community. That was the impetus behind why Mr. Cadman brought forward this initiative so many years ago. My question for my colleague is, in retrospect, why does he think the government has softened this bill so much?

The issue is of great concern to Surrey and the rest of the country. Mr. Cadman was doing excellent work in bringing forward this legislation and had a really good grasp of the issues. Why would the government then water it down in light of the expertise that was previously in the bill?

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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. If I were to react off the cuff to this, I would be asking if the government has friends in organized crime who are going to benefit from softening this, but of course I know that is not the case.

It is really hard to understand why this has been done. It is a theme that is found in all of the criminal justice legislation that we have seen go through the House. I have been here 12 years and I have seen it in one piece of legislation after another. We hear the Liberals announce that they are going to make a change, get tough on an issue and actually deal with a problem and then we are bitterly disappointed every single time.

If people think I am exaggerating, they should go through all of the criminal justice legislation we have seen in this place in 12 years. They will not find one piece of legislation that actually does what has to be done to deal with the issue. It is a theme.

I am truly at a loss to know why the Liberals just refuse to deal with this in a way that allows our police officers to deal with it. Police officers throw their hands up in hopelessness. They cannot deal with the problem with this kind of legislation. Judges, who tend to be soft on crime anyway, seem to be somehow disconnected from the reality of what goes on in the streets. They cannot deal with it either.

It has to be made much more certain than it is now. This legislation is one more example of what the government has done in how it has weakened it and how it has not respected Mr. Cadman's desires and what he in fact put into his legislation.

I wish I could answer the question. I cannot impugn motives in this place and I honestly do not know the motives. It is very frustrating to me, to my constituents and, I am sure, to the member's constituents.

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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vegreville—Wainwright for trying to explain the motives. He said in his debate that he would talk a bit about victims' rights. I am not certain if he was able to get around to that, so I will ask him if there is more he has to say about victims' rights other than those of his five children whose cars seem to keep getting broken into and stolen.

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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, when break-ins occur and their personal property has been stolen, it is seen by my children as something that is very serious. Certainly victims' rights go well beyond that. The problem in this country is that when it comes to balancing the rights of the criminal with the rights of the victim, for years now this government has chosen to always put more emphasis on protecting the rights of criminals.

I am not one who thinks that criminals should not have certain rights or that their rights should not be protected, but I am one who believes that victims' rights absolutely should be protected and that victims' rights have not been protected in law for some time.

It is a matter of getting the balance. It is nowhere near a balance now. All the focus has been on protecting the rights of criminals and the accused. If I were to be extremely cynical and partisan, I would say that the government is out to get the criminal vote now that it has allowed criminals to vote. I know that is probably going overboard, although with the frustration I feel sometimes, I am not so sure. I do not know, but I do know that the government has not come anywhere near finding that balance. A Conservative government under our leader will do that.

It is interesting that only now have the members across the floor decided to take part in this debate. I do not know where they have been if they are serious about honouring the memory of Chuck Cadman.

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11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.