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House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member because the House was just getting so lively. However, it being 5:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

(Motion agreed to)

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I want to personally thank all the members of the justice committee for their work on my private member's bill. I very much enjoyed my time before the committee when I had an opportunity to present. I presented along with representatives from the car insurance industry, members of the RCMP and other interested stakeholders who have long been asking for government to make some changes to the Criminal Code to better address the problem of motor vehicle theft in our country.

While I am disappointed that some major tenets of my bill tackling car theft were taken out at committee, I appreciate the fact that the committee passed several aspects, which remain in the bill we are debating today. The portions that were cut out all pertain to the mandatory jail times for repeat car thieves.

I think that was a mistake because it is precisely the repeat car thieves that we need to get tough on. Every region in Canada has been affected by the theft of cars and trucks. Indeed, lives have been lost. In addition, there have been billions of dollars of costs for car owners and insurance premium payers.

However, what remains is something that organizations have been asking for. If the bill as currently worded passes today, we will be establishing a separate offence for theft of a motor vehicle. This is something that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has long been asking for.

The bill also sets out some maximum sentencing provisions. As the maximum penalty is 10 years as the bill is now written, this brings about an interesting set of circumstances. In the last year, the government passed Bill C-9, which limited the use of conditional sentences such as house arrest.

The passage of this bill means that people who commit certain offences that carry maximum penalties of 10 years or greater are ineligible for house arrest. They must actually face time in prison. While theft of a motor vehicle does not automatically fall into this category, Bill C-9 has the effect that crimes which fall under section 752 of the Criminal Code are not eligible for a sentence of house arrest.

In addition to those crimes listed, any “conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage on another person” falls into this category. This would mean that when car thieves steal a car and, after perpetrating the crime, proceed into a high speed chase or dangerous driving, for example, in which they endanger the lives of other motorists, they would be subject to this provision.

So at least some positive aspects of the bill have remained.

I truly believe that when people are convicted of stealing a car or truck for the third time it is time for them to face real consequences. The bill as originally worded contained this provision. It was a “three strikes and you're out” provision, whereby upon the third conviction of theft of a motor vehicle the minimum sentence would be at least two years in jail. I think most Canadians agree that a two year prison sentence is not too harsh for a person who has stolen cars or trucks three times.

The problem is that too often our neighbourhoods are made to be rehab centres. Honest Canadians are forced to live close to all kinds of dangerous and repeat offenders because of a legal system that too often puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of honest citizens.

However, in a minority Parliament I understand that compromises are going to be made, that the opposition has the ultimate say in what kind of bill gets passed, and that there has to be cooperation among all parties. I am very pleased that all parties were able to work together at committee to come up with a version of the bill that was palatable to all the justice critics of the parties and to all representatives on the committee.

I will conclude here. I know that I have an entitlement to a 15 minute time slot, but I have had a number of conversations with members of the other parties and I think that the bill as it is currently worded is acceptable to most members. I am going to conclude my remarks early in the hope that we can finish debate at third reading very quickly to speed up passage of the bill and get it over to the other place in a timely manner.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

There is provision for a five minute question and comment period. Are there any questions or comments for the hon. member?

If not, resuming debate, the hon. member for Hochelaga.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate our colleague on his bill. For several years I have been advocating within my party and elsewhere that we should all have the opportunity to submit a motion or a bill to the House, and that there should be two hours of debate each day for private members' business. The government has a lot of influence in our parliamentary system, but when it comes down to it, we are all parliamentarians. I think this idea will be well-received by the likeable member for Joliette.

That said, today we are discussing the very important matter of car theft. Anyone who has studied law in recent years will know about the distinction made between theft over $5,000 and theft under $5,000. Today, if the House passes this bill—and this seems likely—we will amend section 334.1 of the Criminal Code, so that there is no minimum penalty.

The Bloc Québécois was uncomfortable with the first version of the bill. We do not deny that car theft is an important issue. We believe that car theft is not a victimless crime and that, in some communities, car theft can limit the mobility of individuals and families and can prevent them from earning a living. We agree with having an offence system in the Criminal Code that deals specifically with car theft.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights worked very hard to satisfy the bill's sponsor and to build consensus among all of the parties represented on the committee. We agreed to remove mandatory minimum sentences, and to create a maximum sentence. Now, to reflect current legal practice, a distinction will be made between summary convictions, which carry a two-year prison sentence, and indictable offences, which result in criminal records, require fingerprinting and carry a maximum sentence. The procedure is to be determined by the Crown prosecutor. Judicial independence will be respected. Judges will be given the power to assess each case on its merits. For an indictable offence of auto theft, the maximum sentence will be 10 years in prison.

We have been told that some communities, such as Winnipeg, are deeply concerned about this phenomenon. Winnipeg citizens and the city's chiefs of police appeared before the committee to talk about it.

I would like to conclude with a quotation from Mark Yakabuski, President and CEO of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, home and auto insurance. His statement was compelling, and I would like to close with what he said about the growing auto theft phenomenon.

For a number of years we have seen not only the costs associated with auto theft rise, but the increasing implication of organized criminal activity in the stealing of automobiles across this country. Because the current penalties associated with it are so lenient and the profits are so great, auto theft has become a major focus of criminal organizations in Canada.

He explained that organized crime rings are interested in stealing cars. He went on to say that:

Organized crime steals vehicles, chops them up to sell parts of specious quality, uses the vehicle identification number to change the identity of another stolen car then sold to an unsuspecting consumer—

Under the Criminal Code, that unsuspecting consumer could be charged with possession of stolen goods.

He went on to say that:

On top of that, [organized crime] exports thousands of vehicles through Canada's ports each year to Africa, eastern Europe, and the Middle East, where they can fetch a much higher price than they can at home.

In 2006, a total of 159,000 vehicles were stolen in Canada. The cost to auto insurance policyholders was approximately $600 million—

This is clearly a major phenomenon. As a result, vehicle owners and insured drivers have seen their insurance premiums rise by $40.

The last point I want to make is that a separate offence will be created for auto theft. Depending on the procedure, it may be punishable by sentences of two to 10 years. This bill deserves our support. Auto theft is not a victimless crime. I think that insurance companies have made it clear just how attractive this kind of theft is to organized crime rings, and they have explained how it affects consumers.

I would like to congratulate the bill's sponsor. The Bloc Québécois would like to see this bill passed and receive royal assent.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I echo the comments of my colleague from Hochelaga. This was a good initiative on the part of the member from the Conservative Party who brought this forward. I would like to think that it would have been one of those that the government would have actually moved on at an earlier stage. In any event, we are at that point and it has all party support.

We heard in the course of the testimony at committee that a number of the provinces and their prosecutors at the provincial level felt strongly about the need to create a separate offence. Auto theft had always been covered historically under the general theft provisions of the code, but what they needed to do, because of the high incident rate of auto theft in the country, was to create a separate offence and then be able to deal with it in terms of penalties, with that new evidence going in that it was a specific theft, in the form of an auto theft, particularly if we had repeat offenders, that they could be dealt with more harshly by way of using indictment rather than a summary conviction.

All too often we were hearing of cases where the summary conviction approach was taken, with theft generally, where penalties were being meted out that were not adequate or responsive, particularly, and this is one of the other points that came up repeatedly, with the amount of organized crime that is involved in auto theft now where organized crime figures will actually assign individuals to steal specific cars and then sell them, oftentimes, offshore. We needed stiffer penalties to deal with this specific crime.

We have all agreed that we will shorten our speeches but I want to make one other point, and that is that additional work needs to be done in the preventive area of auto theft.

We took a fair amount of evidence from, and I will signal up your home province, Mr. Speaker, the province of Manitoba and the work it has done on requiring immobilizers to be placed on all vehicles in that province. Immobilizers are a new technology which makes it impossible to steal a vehicle and, so far, the immobilizer has not been broken by either organized crime or thieves generally. If there is an attempt to steal the vehicle, the immobilizer just shuts the vehicle down. It cannot be operated and, therefore, the vehicle is no longer available to be stolen.

The Province of Manitoba has mandated that to have car insurance in that province, people must have an immobilizer on their car. This is a major step forward in simply making it impossible to steal cars. The auto manufacturers, both in Canada and internationally, need to take some lessons from that experience and provide this technology on all new vehicles as they come on to the market. The federal government could be playing some role in that, at least from a policy standpoint, to ensure that happens. If that does occur, this section of the code may, at some point in the future, become one of those sections we go back and repeal because we will no longer have auto theft in this country.

I am maybe being a bit optimistic on that ever happening but hope springs eternal in the human breasts.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the report stage of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), and to express my support for the bill. I congratulate my colleague for putting this bill forward because it is a step in the right direction in addressing a serious issue that so many Canadians face today.

I do want to make a note that while the government claims to be tough on crime, it did not take the initiative to bring this bill forward as a government bill. I wonder if it does not understand the seriousness of motor theft. It claims to support the initiative but it could have brought this forward as a government bill. However, I am happy to see it in the House.

We know that auto theft is a serious threat across the country and, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of great concern for many of the residents of the city of Winnipeg.

According to the Winnipeg Police Service website, every hour in Winnipeg a vehicle is stolen and over 90% of the vehicles are recovered. This shows that most vehicles that are stolen on the streets of Winnipeg are stolen for the mere fact that these thieves simply want to go on a joyride, not considering at all the individuals who are affected.

I have had the opportunity in the last months to meet a number of times with the leadership of the District 6 police in the city of Winnipeg, which is the area encompassing the jurisdiction that I represent. I met with Inspector Roy Smith and Staff Sergeant Keith Walker. They spent a fair bit of time with me, giving me some indication of the seriousness of the challenges in Winnipeg with auto theft and with theft in general. They acknowledged that it was going down. It is going down but it is going down with a huge concerted effort and resources of the police department.

Recently I attended the City of Winnipeg's mayor's State of the City speech that he gave to the Chamber of Commerce. He, too, referenced the fact that auto theft did go down by 27% last year, but he also noted that auto theft attempts had gone up by 8.8%. Unfortunately, the problem is not going away, and we know that the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation has undertaken many initiatives to curtail auto theft crime but it is of great significance.

From January 1 to February 17, according to the Winnipeg Crime Stoppers' website, there have been 595 actual car thefts and 589 attempted car thefts. This is a staggering number that appears to be slowly going down in the city but still alarming enough that the issue must be addressed. That does sort of verify the figure of a theft an hour because it is 24 per a 24-hour period. It is simply not acceptable for that to be happening.

We learned from the police that when certain known car theft perpetrators are apprehended and in custody, the numbers go down.

Last September, like other Manitoba members of Parliament and other members of Parliament in my caucus, I was able to meet with the Manitoba delegation that came to Ottawa to address the government and the opposition. My colleagues and I in the Liberal caucus met with Premier Gary Doer; Justice Minister Chomiak; Mayor Katz; Mayor Burgess of Brandon; provincial opposition leaders; Dr. Jon Gerrard and Mr. Hugh McFayden; Chief Dennis Meeches of the Long Plains First Fation and a variety of citizens who have been affected by crime in Manitoba.

They brought forward a number of proposals dealing with criminal activity and offences. The one that resonated with me, and what I heard from the police in District 6, was that if we did one thing, the one most important thing, would be to make auto theft an indictable offence.

The concerns that the delegation brought to the table were those of auto theft. They expressed the need for tougher penalties and called on the Government of Canada to take action. As I mentioned earlier, I am disappointed that making auto theft an indictable offence was not part of the government's crime initiatives.

The Conservatives claim to be tough on crime, but it is part of the game. The tackling violent crime bill was delayed by the Conservatives themselves. They then tried to force it through the Senate. They play games with the safety of Canadians and only take action when they have a political agenda.

I commend my colleague for raising this important issue which must be addressed.

I heard the delegation loud and clear. Bill C-343 is a step in the right direction. It would make everyone who commits a theft of a motor vehicle guilty of an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction, but I feel we can go even further.

In the coming days I will be introducing a bill of my own that would build on the bill put forward by my colleague. My bill would make everyone who commits a subsequent offence guilty of an indictable offence. It would not leave them an option. I think it would deter thieves from creating a second offence.

This is important for the safety of the citizens of my community. I am not aware of the prevalence of auto theft elsewhere in the country, but I do know of it in my own community. I am firmly committed in undertaking every effort to address what has become a very serious issue in the city of Winnipeg.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sat with members from all parties on the justice committee and in a sense worked with the bill that the hon. member has moved here in the House. This is a bill whose time has come.

I want to address one thing in my remarks which I do not think has been mentioned here tonight and that is that the existence of a separate theft offence will now allow the development of a separate and more focused jurisprudence with respect to the offence of auto theft.

In other words, prosecutors, judges, insurance industry executives, and offenders will be able to observe a specific pattern of sentencing, of procedure, to charge and convict based on certain protocols or understandings in different provinces and different cities with respect to the concept of the second offence.

It is a healthy thing to allow communities to deal with the cause of crime and to try and impose some sense of deterrence, keeping in mind that deterrence for the most part, and I may be disagreeing with my colleague here to some degree, is not based on the seriousness of the penalty attached to the offence. Deterrence is actually more a function of the likelihood to be caught and charged, so that is a police enforcement issue.

I feel that this new section dealing specifically with auto theft would allow for improved mechanisms of enforcement and some of those have already been mentioned in debate here.

I congratulate the member and also indicate my support for the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Resuming debate. If there is no further debate, the hon. member for Regina--Qu'Appelle may want to take advantage of his right of reply and speak for five minutes or less.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

It will be less, Mr. Speaker, as I understand we are sitting late tonight. Out of pity for the chair occupant who has to remain until the end of the evening I will be as brief as possible.

I want to thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River. I have had a number of very good conversations with him about this bill and some of his ideas. I want to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

I would also like to thank the hon. member for Hochelaga and the other parties for supporting my bill.

I want to comment very briefly on the honour I feel I have received from my colleagues. I know it is very rare for a private member's bill to make it this far and it looks like it will make it past third reading tonight.

There are many members of Parliament who have been here a lot longer than I have who have tried to get their private member's bill through and have not been able to do so. To be able to get support of other members of Parliament for this is something I truly appreciate.

I agree with the member for Scarborough—Rouge River that this bill is not as I wrote it. I think it is missing some of the articles I put in, which I think were needed; however, we will not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. I very much--

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

February 27th, 2008 / 5:55 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With the unanimous consent of the House, I would like to move the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, during the debate tonight on the concurrence motion, the Chair shall not receive any quorum calls, dilatory motions, or requests for unanimous consent; at the end of the time remaining for the debate, or when no member rises to speak, the question shall be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have unanimous consent to move the motion?

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft) be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for doing that at this time.

I will wrap up there. I think this is a good bill. It does a lot of what the insurance industry has been asking for along with the associations of police chiefs. I will leave it at that. I sincerely thank all those who have helped me work on this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

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