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.