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House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organizations.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg is to be commended because her city and her province have been leaders in addressing the issue of auto theft.

We heard in the House earlier today that there has been a close working relationship with insurance companies to make sure that immobilizers are used in cars.

We have also heard testimony, and I mentioned it in my speech, about the specific targeting of youth, the ones who are most likely to commit auto thefts, in order to make sure that we can remove those individuals from the communities into situations where they can get the help they need.

One member of the House mentioned earlier today that there was a day this year when there was not one auto theft recorded in the city of Winnipeg. That is remarkable. It means that the city is making progress. We are making progress in British Columbia with the bait car program which has proven to be significant in reducing auto theft crime in our communities.

The member and I are going to work together to address this significant challenge.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Conservative Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in support of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

Over six years ago, my late husband, Chuck Cadman, introduced legislation to address VIN tampering, auto theft and property crime. I am very pleased and I know many of my constituents in Surrey North are too, to see that this government is listening to common sense and working to protect our property and our communities.

Auto theft and other forms of property crime plague Canadian communities and make our streets unsafe. To address this serious problem, Bill C-26 proposes to create a new offence of motor vehicle theft, a new offence to address tampering with an automobile vehicle identification number, and new offences to address trafficking in property obtained by crime.

Trafficking in property obtained by crime is the marketing chain that processes the fruits of theft in other crimes like fraud. One form of trafficking in property obtained by crime is the movement of stolen automobiles and their parts. This is where organized crime is the most involved in auto theft, either through chop shops that dismantle stolen cars for parts, the act of altering a car's VIN number to hide its identity, or the sophisticated international rings that smuggle stolen high-end luxury cars from Canada to far-flung locations in Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe.

It is also important to note that organized car theft rings employ youth. In 2002, 40% of persons charged criminally for stealing a motor vehicle were between the ages of 12 and 17.

Transport Canada reports that organized vehicle theft groups recruit youth to steal cars in order to protect the upper levels of the theft ring. They rely on the legal system to be lenient with young offenders and when apprehended, these offenders are unable to identify other members of the ring because they work in isolation and are purposely not introduced to the other members of the organization.

Motor vehicle theft is an ideal recruitment tool for general involvement in organized criminal groups. Academic research shows that youth whose first offence is motor vehicle theft are most at risk of continuing on the criminal career path.

Section 354 of the Criminal Code, the general offence of possession of property obtained by crime, which carries a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment for property valued over $5,000, is the principal Criminal Code offence that is currently used to address trafficking in property obtained by crime. This possession offence does not adequately capture the full range of activities involved in trafficking.

The proposed offences would provide for a wide definition of trafficking that would include the selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending or delivering of goods, or offering to do any of the above, of property obtained by crime. As such, this new law would target all of the middlemen who move stolen property from the initial criminal act through to the ultimate consumer.

Both proposed offences have higher penalties than the existing offence of possession of property obtained by crime. If the value of the item trafficked exceeds $5,000, anyone convicted of this offence could face imprisonment of up to 14 years. If the value does not exceed $5,000, it would be what is known as a hybrid offence, and subject to imprisonment for up to five years on indictment, or up to six months on a summary conviction. This penalty would be consistent with the existing penalty scheme of the Criminal Code.

It is also worth noting that if any indictable offence is found to have been committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization, there is an additional offence that would also apply. It would be open to the prosecution to prove the additional element of a link to organized crime and obtain a separate conviction under section 467.12 of the Criminal Code. The maximum penalty for this offence is 14 years, which must be served consecutively to any other sentence for the crime in issue.

The proposed trafficking offences would also respond to the concerns of stakeholders, such as the Insurance Bureau of Canada, that have long advocated for stronger enforcement to prevent the export of stolen vehicles.

Under the Customs Act, in order for the Canada Border Services Agency to apply the administrative powers of the Customs Act to the cross-border movement of property obtained by crime, such goods must first be classified somewhere in federal law as a prohibited good for the purpose of importation or exportation. This bill would supply that classification provision.

Today, CBSA officers are only authorized to examine and detain goods entering or exiting Canada in order to determine whether or not the importation or exportation complies with federal legislation controlling the movement of goods across our borders. The CBSA mandate does not include a broad law enforcement role and its officers thus have limited authority to deal with the movement of stolen property. The express prohibition provision in this bill would allow CBSA officers to examine and detain stolen goods, which could ultimately result in the police laying criminal charges.

With this proposed amendment, CBSA officers could identify targets, conduct examinations and detain these goods. They could then search law enforcement databases to determine whether the goods had been reported as stolen and refer the case to the police in appropriate cases.

There is no offence in the Criminal Code that directly prohibits the alteration, obliteration or removal of a VIN. The proposed amendment would make it an offence to wholly or partially alter, obliterate or remove a VIN on a motor vehicle. Under the new amendments, anyone convicted of tampering with a VIN could face imprisonment for a term of up to five years on indictment, or six months, or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both, on a summary conviction.

In order to ensure that honest activities such as automobile body repair, recycling and wrecking are not captured by the offence, there is an express exemption provision in the offence that would exclude its application to legitimate motor vehicle repairs or maintenance.

A conviction for this offence would more clearly and accurately document a person's involvement in an organized vehicle theft ring as part of the person's criminal record. This, in turn, would help police and Crown prosecutors to deal appropriately with these people in subsequent investigations and prosecutions.

Finally, the creation of a distinct offence of motor vehicle theft will send a strong message to auto thieves that the criminal justice system is serious about reducing auto theft rates and putting offenders in jail.

The proposed offence has a mandatory minimum penalty of six months' imprisonment for a third offence. This is a proportionate and reasonable penalty for an extremely serious problem in Canada.

I believe that the government has brought forward a strong piece of legislation that will be of great assistance to law enforcement and prosecutors.

I would urge all members of this House to support Bill C-26 and to send it to committee for further consideration. Our communities need this legislation and they need it now.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns that we have heard and one of the commitments made by the government is the need for more police officers. We understand the government has made a commitment of 2,500 more police officers but has not yet honoured it.

I am advised that the city of Surrey has one of the highest ratios of police officers to residents. I wonder if the member could comment on her government's commitment to increase the number of police officers and what her expectations are.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Conservative Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have made a commitment to getting more police officers. One thing we are having trouble with is recruitment. There is a definite need for more police officers, all over the country.

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5:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about how the government is treating police officers.

A couple of weeks ago, Canadian Police Association representatives, police officers from right across this country, were here. We had the broken promise on the 2,500 police officers that the government committed to and then failed to deliver.

Perhaps most egregiously, we had the broken promise around the public safety officers compensation fund. Conservative members voted for my motion to put this into place for firefighters and police officers, where in the event they died in the line of duty their families would be taken care of. The government has steadfastly refused to move on that.

Does the member think the Conservatives have betrayed police officers, firefighters and public safety officials by refusing to do what they said they would do before they were elected to government?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Conservative Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. I would say that the CPA does not speak for all police officers. A lot of it is for municipalities and others.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it was the member from Surrey North's late husband, Chuck Cadman, who came from ICBC, as did I, and both of us joined the fight against auto crime. I got a chance to spend some time with Chuck Cadman here in the House.

In 2004, I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-293, which is basically the bill that is presented today. I want to thank the hon. member for continuing the work of Chuck and I.

It was the Conservatives who voted in favour of my private member's bill at that time, but the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP all voted against it.

I want to ask the hon. member what she thinks has caused the change. Does she sense that the opposition will now support getting tough on auto crime, or will they permit this very serious crime to continue?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Conservative Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the opposition is with us on this. I think they realize we do have a definite problem in this country, and they are willing to work with the government to help forward our beliefs.

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5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering whether the hon. member could perhaps deal a bit with crime prevention and the fact that the budget is underspent by more than half. Does she see crime prevention as an important part of the solution? Could she speak to that? I am very concerned that we have been underspending that budget and not doing nearly enough on prevention.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Conservative Surrey North, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are working with the provinces on this. Everybody, all municipalities and all governments, have to work together to make this work. I do not think it will be one person or one party that will make a difference. It will be everybody working together.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre. Being one of my associates on the northwestern caucus, she has done tremendous work when it comes to being tough and smart on crime. I have to give her credit.

As I rise today to speak to Bill C-26, auto crime has been a major problem for my constituents in Newton—North Delta and my neighbours in Surrey for years. The city of Surrey has a terrible reputation for car theft, which has only become worse in recent years.

There have been a couple of versions of this bill drafted by the government. I hope that this one will get it right, but it is not quite there, from my perspective.

As far back as 2003, the numbers were bad. There were 8,105 vehicles reported stolen. Cars were often stolen for a short time to allow thieves to commit other crimes, such as robberies, drug dealing, break and enters, and dangerous driving, which has often resulted in fatal collisions or serious injuries.

Recently we have seen how car theft has become a major activity among the gangs, which hold such a terrible grip on our community. This is what makes auto theft so dangerous to the safety of our communities. Auto theft leads to other crimes, crimes that are associated with gang violence.

Yet outside my community, auto theft is a serious problem for all Canadians. Has the government given it a serious response this time around?

Though due attention has been given to criminal organization activity, it is too broadly based. As we all know, tougher action from Parliament is needed to hold criminals accountable.

The government's approach to tough crime legislation is less than adequate. Instead of moving forward with workable legislation, it would rather resort to blaming the opposition for its failure to move legislation forward.

The bill does target the altering or destroying of the vehicle identification number of a stolen car. But criminals often use guns to commit their crimes, and here the government still has done very little. The Conservatives have quietly put off regulations requiring the marking of imported firearms, a regulation that would help stop the flow of illegal firearms and gun crime.

The regulations were supposed to come into effect on December 1, 2007, but the government needlessly postponed this requirement until December 2009. We all know what happened then. No legislation was more important than proroguing Parliament in order to save the Prime Minister's skin.

Like so many other issues, a short-sighted political agenda has again driven counterproductive Conservative policies. Fortunately for the residents of my riding, the City of Surrey thinks further ahead. It believes that crime prevention strategies must be comprehensive and collaborative.

More than five years ago, the Surrey RCMP began a crime reduction initiative focusing on reducing auto theft and property crime. It identified and targeted prolific offenders. Two teams, the auto crime target team and the integrated municipal provincial auto crime team, were created to focus on a few offenders who were responsible for a large number of these crimes. Surrey partnered with the police, courts, corrections services, all levels of government, social service agencies and residential and business organizations. This work helped form the blueprint of the Surrey crime prevention strategy, which is still a pioneering document two years later.

The results speak volumes about this kind of approach. Auto theft decreased in Surrey by 38%, from 2003 to 2006. Furthermore, the program made 737 arrests. From surveillance operations held from April 2004 to December 2006, 100% of charges recommended to the crown were approved. They had an 87% remand success rate. That means that 95% of the cases resulted in guilty pleas.

Members of the auto crime and property crime target teams were proud to accept the 2007 Vehicle Theft Award of Merit, presented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in New Orleans, on October 16, 2007.

The bottom line is that in Surrey, collaboration and cooperation has been the key to successfully targeting auto theft.

What this government must take away from my community's example is the concept of partnership, which is often lost on that side of the House. The Conservatives have dropped the ball so many times in this regard that the police associations I recently spoke with have given up on a real dialogue.

That said, we need some legislation for auto theft, and passing this legislation will help. It will target the transfer of goods that have been acquired criminally and the possession of property known to be obtained through crime for the purpose of trafficking. This will help close the chop shops that sell stolen cars for parts. It will help to shut down the gangs that ship stolen cars abroad to be sold in the black market. This is very important.

However, a crime and punishment agenda that fails to include all levels of the community is limited in its effectiveness.

Closing legal loopholes is necessary, and that is why I am supporting the bill.

While policing and crime prevention still play a vital role, reducing crime requires the attention of everyone in the community. Sometimes success at the community level is about challenging our own way of thinking, and sometimes it is about challenging others, including our own citizens. That is why heavy-handed tactics of the government, including a lack of community consultation on most of its proposed legislation is a huge obstacle in the way of progress.

Before I conclude, I want to re-emphasize that tougher penalties for the type of chronic criminals who commit these crimes are vital to turning the tide. However, it is just as important that the federal government, and everyone in the House, becomes immersed at the community level. That is what I have tried to do, and that is what I will try to keep doing over the next years.

I am proud to say that my communities of Surrey and Delta were very early leaders on this file, but obviously more has to be done and done fast.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-26 is a very good bill and a bill that should be supported. However, the government should be concentrating on things that work rather than just public relations.

I want to point out that the former Filmon government in Manitoba back in the nineties brought in several measures that it thought were good at the time, such as the restitution measures and the denial of a driver's licence to young offenders. However, those measures did not work as auto theft rates at that time kept going up. It was not until the Manitoba government, two years ago, brought in a mandatory immobilizer program in cars, that auto theft rates dropped, which indicates that we are getting results.

We had a federal Liberal government in power for 15 years and all it had to do was mandate automatic immobilizer installation in the factory. The Insurance Bureau of Canada priced it out at around $30. The Liberals never did that. Had they--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the hon. member there to allow time for the hon. member for Newton--North Delta to respond.

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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the legislation, tougher laws are part of the process and we should all support that. At the same time, we need to ensure we have the resources.

The hon. member from Winnipeg South Centre, who sits beside me, is committed to the people of Manitoba. She brings issues forward and we all collectively work together to ensure the lives of the people in Manitoba are taken care of. We are here to duly represent our constituents.

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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the member's comments indicating that he will be supporting Bill C-26.

I specifically would like to know if he is supportive of the minimum mandatory sentences that would impose a minimum jail sentence of six months incarceration for a third or subsequent offence. Does he think that will help in the fight against auto theft in cities such as Surrey, which he represents, where organized crime has been out of control for quite some time now?

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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was happy to see the member for Edmonton—St. Albert in beautiful British Columbia listening to people telling him about crime in my community.

Whenever the issue of crime has been raised in the House, irrespective of who or which party raised it, I have always stood in my place in support of being tough on crime. I have always supported that initiative.

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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP plays an important role in front line policing in British Columbia. I wonder if the member could comment on the Conservative government's broken promise to give pay parity to the RCMP officers to ensure they are paid the same as any other officer and how that might impact morale?

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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to our first responders, particularly the RCMP officers, they cannot raise their own voices because they do not have a union. Their first and foremost priority is saving the lives of Canadian citizens and protecting us and making us safer.

I find it shameful that the Conservative government has withdrawn its support for a raise in pay for these hard-working police officers. I personally see the government--

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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.

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May 5th, 2009 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill, however brief, as I see the clock is moving quickly toward the end of the day.

Much has been said today about the situation of the high auto theft in the city of Winnipeg. I was pleased to be here in Ottawa to hear the delegation that came from Manitoba in September of 2007. We have heard many references to the mayor of Winnipeg attending but many more were with him. The premier was with him, the leaders of the opposition parties were with him, the leaders of the aboriginal community, the mayor of Brandon and several members of the community who had been affected by auto theft and auto crime.

They came forward and had a whole series of representations to make to those they met and they had several meetings here, but a good deal of it focused on auto theft. They asked, quite specifically, for tougher penalties for those involved in serious crimes, particularly motor theft, and they asked, very specifically, to have auto theft made an indictable offence.

On my return to Winnipeg, I began a series of consultations in the community, meeting frequently with the District 6 Police of the Winnipeg Police Force in my own riding, meeting with community members who were involved with crime prevention and meeting with many of the perpetrators of the crimes in a round table with young people involved in auto theft. I heard various interesting things.

We have heard much today about the numbers in auto theft. I have the most recent ones taken off the website today from the Winnipeg Police Department. The combined actual and attempted auto thefts from the beginning of January until yesterday were 1,522, compared to approximately 2,700 last year. Indeed, the numbers are going down and they are going down, as we have heard earlier, because of initiatives taken by the province, initiatives like the immobilizer prevention programming, intervention programming, suppression programming and consequences for young people, which often includes a lifetime suspension of a driver's licence for repeat offenders.

When that delegation came from Manitoba, they asked the federal government to act. They asked the federal government, as I indicated earlier, to make auto theft an indictable offence and to respond with stiffer penalties.

The government took a very long time in responding. I know you, Mr. Speaker, introduced a bill, which I was pleased to support, at one time. I also was pleased to have the opportunity to introduce a private member's bill. However, because of my place on the order paper, my bill has yet to be brought forward in the House. It is Bill C-526, which I introduced originally in March 2008. My bill asked that a person who commits a motor vehicle theft for a second or subsequent offence be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a prison term not exceeding 10 years and would require a mandatory minimum sentence of a year.

I am not, for the most part, someone who endorses mandatory minimums. I think that prevention is equally important. However, I saw first-hand, when I met with this group of young people in a round table, what the impact of the prospect of going to jail had on them and the efforts that they were willing to make through remedial action, programming and supports in the community that would ultimately turn their lives around.

I was quite stunned when I heard a young man say that at the height of his car theft activity he and a partner were stealing up to 21 cars a day. I am not quite sure how they physically managed it but that is what he indicated to me. I asked him why he was here, why he was taking the program that he was and what was he doing. He described the program he was taking. He described the job opportunity that he had and described the fact that he now had a son and wanted a better life for his son.

Therefore, coupled with the requirements for the prospect of incarceration, there must be the opportunities for remediation prevention.

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5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order please. The hon. member will have four and a half minutes left to conclude her remarks the next time the bill is before the House.

The House resumed from May 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, An Act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins, be read the third time and passed.

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5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-11.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #59

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5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)