moved that Bill C-293, an act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is an exciting day for me in being able to have this debate on Bill C-293. I would like to thank my colleague from Wild Rose, Alberta, a good friend and a good Canadian. What we want to do is provide protection for Canadians. That is what this bill would do. The purpose of the bill is to provide direction to the courts regarding sentencing for the offence of theft of a motor vehicle.
Bill C-293 would amend the Criminal Code to provide for minimum sentencing and for fines and/or imprisonment for every person convicted of theft of a motor vehicle a first, second and subsequent time.
The bill provides for minimum sentencing whether the offence is prosecuted by indictment or punishable by summary conviction. The sentence for a first conviction would be three months of incarceration or a $1,000 fine or both. The sentence for a second conviction would be a minimum sentence of six months' incarceration or a $5,000 fine or both. All subsequent convictions would have a minimum sentence of one year of incarceration or a fine of $10,000 or both.
Auto crime is a big problem in Canada and in fact in North America. This year, like last, approximately 200,000 vehicles will be stolen, at a cost of $1 billion to Canadians. That is unacceptable.
A study that came out a year ago, and which was consistent with previous studies, indicated that the typical auto thief is not somebody out joyriding. Rather, he is a 27 year old male, addicted to drugs, who has 10 prior criminal convictions, not charges but convictions, and is stealing a vehicle to commit another crime.
These people are dangerous. There are tragic stories that go along with this and they are not about just the theft of a vehicle. As I said, the people stealing these vehicles are dangerous. Thirty-five people will die this year due to auto thieves driving stolen vehicles. I have some sad stories to share with the House to give us some examples of what is happening out there.
A couple of months ago in Maple Ridge, a driver who dragged a gas station attendant seven kilometres to his death under a stolen vehicle confessed to a friend that he had killed the man. Said a friend, “Somebody jumped in front of him and he kept going, he ran over him...he could hear the guy screaming under the car”. A 16 year old Maple Ridge youth and a 15 year old Pitt Meadows youth were arrested regarding this.
Grant DePatie died on the graveyard shift trying to prevent this auto thief from leaving without paying for gas worth $12.30. That young man stole the vehicle, then went to a gas station and stole some gas. The story goes on: “A trail of blood and flesh led from near the Maple Ridge gas station to the spot where DePatie's body was found”.
What kind of person could do that? He must have had absolutely no conscience. Whoever did that needs to be put away. That happened just a couple of months ago in Maple Ridge.
I have another tragic story, this one about a youth pastor who was killed by an auto thief in Richmond, British Columbia. The driver of the stolen SUV involved in the fatal accident in Richmond had an extensive criminal record, according to court records. Joseph Chan, a 32 year old Coquitlam man, was killed. He was a musician, a gifted pianist, and a pastor to young people.
Auto theft is a serious problem. The police, insurance companies and governments have been working on solutions. Different organizations and task forces look at the three Es, enforcement, education and engineering, to try to solve problems like this.
On education, the insurance companies have been trying to educate people on how to protect their vehicles and keep them from being stolen. They work with the police. They have town hall meetings. Through community policing offices across the country, they hand out brochures. Insurance offices hand out brochures when people renew their insurance policies. The brochures tell people how to protect themselves from auto theft.
One way we can protect ourselves is through engineering. The companies encourage people to use an immobilizer, an electronic device that makes it very difficult to steal a vehicle. It can be installed after market if the vehicle does not have it, but about 65% of the new vehicles come with an immobilizer as standard equipment. As of 2007, it will be standard equipment. That is good news.
We have looked at education and engineering. Now let us look at the enforcement aspect. We need to have enforcement to solve the problem. We are finding that people are trying to protect themselves from auto theft. They do not want to have their vehicle stolen. When they go out to get their car in the morning to go to a doctor's appointment or take their kids to school or go to work, that car should be there. It is their car and they have locked it up, but someone has stolen that vehicle and is using it for another crime, putting our communities at risk.
We have all kinds of groups and programs trying to stop this. Another program I forgot to mention until now is the bait car program. The police set up specially equipped cars in areas where they know a lot of cars are being stolen, mostly in urban areas. When people go to sleep at night they expect their car to be there in the morning, so the police are putting out these bait cars. The police are doing what they can to stop this, including, as I mentioned, education and engineering.
The enforcement component is that the police are trying to catch them and a lot of them are being caught, but the frustrating part is that when they are caught, taken to jail and found guilty, they commonly get probation. They are told to keep the peace and not to steal any more cars.
If they get caught a second time, it is breach of probation. What are they going to get for breach of probation? They are going to get probation. These people are released back into the community to steal another car. They get caught again. They get probation for breach of probation and now this is the third time. Let us say that this time they were involved in a crash and may have killed or seriously injured someone. What do they get? They get probation for breaching their probation.
This is unacceptable. People are dying. People are being injured. There is a criminal element, a small group of people, creating the problem.
What do we need? We need to have direction from the House to the courts that this is a serious problem, not just a property offence. It is a very serious offence that is taking valuable and wonderful Canadian lives, leaving in its wake people who are hurting and lives that are destroyed. As a Parliament, we need to take on our responsibility and give direction to the courts.
How do we do that? We need deterrents. The courts also need direction. As for probation for stealing cars time after time, people charged with the theft of a motor vehicle have gone to court, come out and got into a car, which the police then check. Sure enough, they have come to court in a stolen vehicle. This is very common. They laugh at us.
We need to get tough. We need to give direction to the courts that this is a serious matter. Canadians need to be protected. We need to have minimum sentencing. I do acknowledge that we have to honour and respect the courts, but they need direction and they need to be informed about how serious this problem is.
A year ago, Justice Wally Opal was one of the panellists at an auto crime forum. He shared with us that these people had drug addictions and he had no place to send them. He could not send them to detox and rehab because those facilities were not available. He could not send them to jail because the federal government had instructed the courts not to send these types of people to jail. He had no other choice but to release them back into the community. That needs to change. We need to give the direction to the courts, not Liberal soft on crime direction but strong direction to support the safety of our communities that there has to be a consequence.
I want to give the courts the discretion for minimizing sentencing. Minimum sentencing is a fine or a jail sentence or both on the first offence. We need to look at detox and rehab. I support that. If people have drug addictions which fuels auto crime and break and enters into homes, then they need to deal with their addiction. Those types of facilities and options have to be available to the courts. If people continue living the lifestyle of stealing from people's homes, seriously injuring them and baiting police officers into high speed chases, there has to be a consequence. A second offence has more severe consequences.
Canadians are counting on the government to protect them. They are doing everything they can to protect their vehicles. They lock them in safe areas, they remove valuables from their vehicles and they even have immobilizers. If their vehicles are stolen, we need to provide direction to the courts.
I am flexible. I have met with many of the members to get input. A good compromise and a good step in the right direction is that there will be a consequence and it is progressive. The more times a person steals a car, the more serious the offence. Canadians want that. For a first offence, the sentence would be three months, or a $1,000 fine or both. For a second offence, it would be six months, or a $5,000 fine or both. All subsequent convictions would be a minimum of one year, or a $10,000 fine or both.
When I have made presentations in the community, I ask people if they have been victims of auto theft. At least half the people have had it happen either to them personally or to one of their family members. It is all too common. We need to provide a deterrent and I believe Bill C-293 will provide that direction and deterrent.