This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, first, if people are in possession of information about potential violations of the law by employers, we encourage them to contact the appropriate police or departmental authorities. If they are aware of employees being paid in cash without taxes being paid, we encourage them to contact the Canada Revenue Agency.

When we hear these stories of exploitation of live-in caregivers, it is totally unacceptable if employers take away passports and force people to work outside of the requirements of the provincial labour codes. I am working at the federal level to see that the laws are properly enforced and the rights of these workers properly protected.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal MP for Brampton—Springdale is in hot water for hiring two live-in caregivers and then refusing to sponsor their immigration applications, essentially keeping them in a position of involuntary servitude. The abuses the Toronto Star documents include improperly seizing their passports, requiring evening foot massages for the member's relatives, cleaning the chiropractic offices of family members.

Could the minister tell me what more the government can do to protect live-in caregivers from these kinds of tragic abuses?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Again, Mr. Speaker, we have launched consultations with live-in caregivers and those interested in this issue to seek ways that we can better enforce regulations to protect the rights of caregivers. I encourage provincial ministers of labour to do likewise, to follow the excellent lead of the Government of Manitoba in this respect.

Let us be clear. These are often vulnerable workers. They are filling an important labour market need. The program does provide a very important pathway to permanent residency for live-in caregivers, but none of us should tolerate the abuse of their basic rights. I call on the provinces—

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

May 5th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Ricardo Alarcon De Quesada, the President of the National Assembly of the Popular Power of Cuba.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the record on a response I gave yesterday to a question from the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

Yesterday, I stated that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs had met and spoken with Mr. Kulisek in Mexico. In fact, the parliamentary secretary has not met with Mr. Kulisek, but he has met with Mr. Kulisek's wife in regard to this case.

I would also like to mention that our ambassador to Mexico has visited Mr. Kulisek twice, most recently this past April.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this bill was last before the House the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe had the floor and there are 16 and a bit minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call upon the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I intend to use my 16 and a bit minutes to drive home the fact that certainly the official opposition supports this bill, but there are a number of questions as we send the bill to committee that we as parliamentarians might reasonably ask the government.

I left off after my three and a bit minutes of speech before oral questions in suggesting that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and municipalities across the country have been directly and indirectly calling on the federal government to do something about auto theft for some time. As the Insurance Bureau of Canada says in its publications, auto theft is not just an insurance or policing problem, it is not a victimless crime and it is not just a properly crime. Auto theft affects cities and the way we think about our communities. Many mayors are concerned. A mayor's nightmare might be that his or her community ends up in the top 10 list of car theft capitals in Canada. No one wants that.

Unlike a lot of other major crimes that are monitored by the media, such as spousal abuse, sexual abuse, murder and assault, the root causes of which are very difficult and profound for cities and leaders to deal with, auto theft is probably something that can be affected by a community response and not just a federal government response. For example, the communities themselves could help by educating the public as to where not to park and certainly by providing better lighting. That is the minimal end of it.

However, with respect to investment in technology, the government has a very poor record. For instance, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says that investing in industries would give us certain deterrents such as immobilizers. Immobilizers are electronic devices that arm automatically when a vehicle is switched off. They prevent the unauthorized starting of a vehicle. Canada should be a leader in this technology. Instead we heard today about world-leading scientists leaving the country. that is the track record of the government.

Auto theft is a global problem. It is profitable for criminals. It is expensive for law-abiding citizens. In fact, although auto theft might not affect every small community in this country, it does affect everyone's insurance rate. The Insurance Bureau of Canada suggests that up to $35 of one's insurance premium per year is attributable to auto theft. For those of us who have never had a car stolen and paid auto insurance for as many years as we have been paying insurance, one gets the depth of the problem with respect to auto theft. It is a $1.2 billion per year cost that affects not only the people who have had their vehicles stolen, but everyone who pays insurance.

It is an economic issue which the government should be doing more about than presenting a bill. In the last Parliament, Bill C-53, the government's first stab at it, was not really carefully drafted. The Conservatives have come back with advice from the opposition and from the IBC law reform section. They have improved it to put in a separate offence for auto theft. Cheers for that.

There is some literature out there that says that this only affects high-end SUVs and high value import models, but it is not so. To give an idea of how this affects the average Canadian driver, the top 10 stolen vehicles for 2007 include models that are very popular, such as the Honda Civic, the Honda Civic SIR, the Dodge Plymouth Grand Caravan, and everyone who has ever been a van dad or a van mom knows that the Dodge Caravan is a very popular vehicle. Other models in the list are the Grand Caravan Voyageur, the Plymouth Shadow, and the Neon. These are vehicles that average Canadians drive. They are stolen and chopped up sometimes by criminal organizations, which I will get to in a minute.

The statistics indicate that there are over 1,200 instances of auto theft per 100,000 population in the province of Manitoba as a high, down to roughly less than 150 instances per 100,000 population in provinces like Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The mayors of Winnipeg, Abbotsford, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, London and Hamilton must be very concerned that their cities are at the top of the heap when it comes to motor vehicle theft.

We on this side of the House will not be opposing this legislation. The bill will be sent to committee where we will discuss some of the statistics and some of the things that could be done in a better way to tackle the issue of auto theft.

After over three years in government and with cities like that which are not all in Liberal held ridings, and in fact very few of them are, one would think the Conservatives would understand that auto theft is a bigger problem than the bill it brought in two years into its mandate and one which was not really drafted that carefully. Finally, over three years into its mandate, the government has drafted a bill that would do something toward the problem of auto theft.

The mayor of Winnipeg appeared before committee about a year ago. He is looking for federal legislation. With the power the federal government has and the programs and policies it has access to, one would think the federal government would be doing more about auto theft.

People in the cities that I just mentioned from the ground up might push their MP, who in turn might push the Minister of Justice and those responsible for science and technology to do something about auto theft. One would think the government would present a bill that would meet no opposition. After three and a half years, there should be more to it.

The issue of how the Insurance Bureau of Canada has made this information available is quite relevant. The information has been online, for anyone who cared to look at it, for the last seven years. This has been a problem over the last seven years.

I applaud the steps in the bill in defining car theft as a separate offence, and getting at the issue of organized crime as an element, which is the next aspect of my speech. I want to start with how this affects the average Canadian.

Although we think it is important to target organized crime as it profits from the theft of autos and the chop shops and the creation of a whole industry out of the theft of vehicles, the other reality is that only one out of five auto thefts, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, benefits organized crime. The four other auto thefts are auto thefts per se. These are the items that touch every Canadian and the items the government should be doing something about.

Although I said the bill is not perfect, it is a good start in that it is updating the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code is a massive document, a panoply of rights and derogations created by maybe one of the last really good Conservative prime ministers going back two centuries. Sir John Thompson, who was from my part of the world, Nova Scotia, basically wrote or scripted or copied and pulled together the Criminal Code in 1892, I believe.

The Criminal Code has grown. It needs a more wholesome review than just the piecemeal approach that has been taken by legislators for the last 50 to 60 years. We have to look at a more catholic view of codes around the western world, the jurisdictions with common law as their source of law, and do something about reforming the Criminal Code.

As we go along we have to realize, obviously because that document is so old and such a compendium of additions over the last 100 years, that more than Criminal Code amendments could be brought to bear on issues touched by the Criminal Code. The case in point is auto theft and organized crime.

We know that one in five cars in Canada is stolen for the purpose of aiding organized crime or gangs. One of the elements in this bill which has long been suggested is to create a separate offence for tampering with the vehicle identification number. The vehicle identification number is a system of 17 alphanumeric characters that provide a unique identifier for each vehicle.

There are those who will take out the 17 digit VIN unintentionally or perhaps without the purpose of benefiting and aiding gang-related or organized crime coffers. In the code, there is a reasonable hybrid offence dealing with that. In one instance, where it has been proven to the satisfaction of the prosecutor that there was intent for criminal purposes to obliterate the VIN, it is a more serious, indictable offence. However, in the cases where that intent cannot be shown, the hybrid aspect allows a prosecutor to proceed, or I suppose by amendment at a trial, a defendant's lawyer could convince a judge that the case should proceed for sentencing purposes by way of summary conviction. I think the maximum is set at $2,000.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is certainly in favour of such a move, but the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada recently noted:

The Insurance Crime Prevention Bureau has identified an increase in four main fraud techniques that are used by organized crime to steal vehicles. These include: the illegal transfer of Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) from wrecked vehicles to similar ones that have been stolen; a legitimate VIN is used to change the legal identity of a stolen vehicle of the same make, model, and colour, a process called “twinning.”

We would have thought that a VIN might be obliterated by someone selling a vehicle to hide the previous vehicle's imperfections. Mr. Speaker, I do not know how often you have to trade in vehicles, but you want to make sure that the vehicle you have is the vehicle it appears to be from the VIN. However, we are seeing that a vehicle in the wreck heap is actually having its VIN used for another vehicle that has been stolen, thereby purporting to confuse the consumer and perpetuate a fraud.

As in the case of possession of property obtained by crime, in this new aspect of the offence, the property must have been derived from the commission of an indictable offence in Canada or outside Canada. In addition to proving criminal origin, the prosecution would have to prove that the accused had knowledge of the criminal origin. The issue with respect to how this will hurt organized crime will have to be looked at in the discussions at committee.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights just returned from a 12-hour day of hearings in Vancouver with respect to organized crime. The discussion was wide ranging. We discussed aspects with respect to the illegal marijuana grow-ops and the currency of organized crime in that part of the world. We also know from our research looking into this bill and now supporting this bill as it goes to committee that some of the currency of organized crime is in stolen vehicles with or without obliterated VINs.

Further, the stolen vehicles are resold, but there have also been vehicles that have been stolen and chopped up into parts for export. In section 355.1 of the code, the definition of “traffic” covers a wide range of activities, including selling, offering and delivering. As we move this bill to committee, it is important for all of us to be very aware that prosecutors and Department of Justice officials themselves will have to convince us that this is a good bill of goods that we are buying here in terms of trying to use the provisions of auto theft prevention as a means also to prevent profit from going to organized crime.

It is all well and good to go on the news and say that we are fighting organized crime and present an auto theft bill. There are two goals: to prevent auto theft, clearly, and for the first part of my speech I talked about the public, the mayors and the FCM from time immemorial having an interest in having that reduced on its own; and also to reduce the cash stream, the lifeblood and currency of organized crime.

Therefore, we need to get underneath this trafficking definition and ensure that as the new law is enacted it will actually have an effect on organized crime. As I mentioned, four out of five vehicles are stolen not for the purposes of organized crime in Canada. As I mentioned, the onus is a little bit higher when it comes to obliterating the VIN number. There needs to be actual knowledge or intent. As I also mentioned, the definition of trafficking might be easier when it comes to things like drugs. There is an item in a cash consideration.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, from your days in law school, consideration can be a mere peppercorn but it also can be wads of cash. With vehicles and chopped parts, it is not that clear.

I want to say finally that, not as an old grey mayor but an old mayor, I am really compelled to do something for mayors. When we had the mayor of Winnipeg in committee a year or so ago, I felt very strongly that as legislators we had to do all that we could.

This is a nice little bill and we will support it when it goes to committee. We are doing what we can on this side to make places like Winnipeg safe. What we also must remember is that the Conservative members have the levers of power. They have the purses that short term political success brings but they can do a lot more with respect to encouraging a reduction in auto theft. One of those things is to talk to the municipalities more often.

For all those ministers to give a score card to us, but the number of times they have been to FCM, I bet, would be pretty pathetic. We will be support the bill as it goes to committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, being a former mayor, spoke about speaking to the mayors of Sarnia and Winnipeg. I would like to hear his opinion about what the mayor of Moncton has said. He also spoke about what the mayor of Montreal said.

We come from a riding in the east end of Montreal where we are close to a shopping centre. Car theft is predominant and not enough action has been taken.

However, I would like to hear, as a former mayor, what his current mayor has said about the issue and if we will need to get the bill moving fast or if there will be many amendments that his mayor has suggested.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure it is not a competition but in 2007, Montreal had the most stolen vehicles and the fewest recovered of any city in Canada. That is the other aspect. I know that Mayor Katz of Winnipeg was here and he spoke about the tools that the municipalities have which are limited, but they have to do with prevention and awareness.

One of the aspects is that vehicles can be stolen but if they are not being recovered it leads to an inference that there is a higher incidence of organized crime involved with those thefts.

The government could do a couple of things. It keeps really good statistics on this and Juristat is okay but we have no idea as parliamentarians exactly where the hotbed of organized crime input or activity with respect to car theft might be. The government might be able to assist us with that. More important, it might be able to assist municipalities with respect to this. This is the kind of strategic investment that the government should be making in municipalities and communities outside the whole shovel ready infrastructure aspect.

Cities are sophisticated and, by their very nature, cosmopolitan centres of our population. For the first time we have more urban people than rural people. Cities need the tools that the Government of Canada could provide through research and development and technology transfers.

The government needs to get on with this. I have not heard the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs answer a question, make a speech or say anything for a couple of years now. Is this not something that could be discussed, with what must be happening, which, I hope, are meetings with the provincial counterparts who in turn could invite the third sphere of government, as we call it, the third community of interest, those communities and cities out there that need federal assistance with respect to preventing auto theft and making our communities safer.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for his speech and for his work on the justice committee. He and I are both members of that committee and, even though we are often on opposite sides of issues, it is nice to see that from time to time we can actually make common cause work toward the betterment of our Canadian society.

One of the questions I want to ask him has to do with an experience we have had in British Columbia. I, too, speak to our mayors on a regular basis, my mayor, George Perry; the mayor of Langley, Peter Fassbender; the mayor of Mission, James Atebe; and Dianne Watts from Surrey.

One of the strategies that our police force has actually implemented is the bait car program. The bait car program sets up vehicles that are obvious targets for theft. They are rigged with GPS units, tracking devices and, from time to time, even with a video camera. Police have been able to nab thieves because they are going after these high profile automobile targets. They have had considerable success in reducing auto thefts throughout the Vancouver and Fraser Valley regions.

I would ask the member if there has been some exploration of using a bait car program to reduce the incidents of auto theft in his province.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of the justice committee, the member for Abbotsford, for his question and for his hard work. I also compliment him on his past municipal experience. I know he is one of the MPs who understands the statistics I have from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics that cite Abbotsford as the second highest CMA, census metropolitan area, of incidents of car theft at or around 1,000. This must be a very acute problem for his mayor and for himself.

I have read about the bait program and it is a wonderful thing. New Brunswick, of course, which is ranked the third lowest jurisdiction for car theft, has, as the member may know, a much more dispersed population and the program has not been used. Auto theft is a problem, obviously, but it is not as big a problem as we understand it to have been in the western provinces.

It is great that the member has an understanding of the issues that municipalities face. I just wish that all of his colleagues to his left, right, centre, above and below him had the same depth of understanding.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I had to respond when I heard the member ask the question about the bait car program because in Manitoba, I think we did look at that program and decided that was not the way to go.

I can tell the member from New Brunswick what we did in Manitoba that has proven to be very successful. We were the car theft capital of Canada for a few years until three or four years ago when we made the decision to mandate immobilizer use through our public insurance corporation. We had a voluntary program for a couple of years and very few people were taking us up on it. Two years ago we finally made it mandatory for people to install them. We gave it to them for free and we gave an insurance credit for them to do it.

We had one day last month when there were zero car thefts in Manitoba. We have gone from the highest in the country for a number of years to zero one day last month. I think the member should look at the Manitoba program and maybe look for some answers there.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is why in my speech I did not mention that the Insurance Bureau of Canada has recommended or has been pushing the immobilizers. I was not aware of the degree of success. I realize there has been success in Winnipeg.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada talks about the immobilizers automatically interrupting the power and only if one has the correctly coded key can the car be mobilized again. They say, “It is the most effective means of preventing drive-away theft”. It begs the question what not drive-away theft is. It means that when someone steals it but they cannot go anywhere. It is sort of like having a minority government. It is a government but it cannot do what it wishes.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also have the pleasure of serving on the justice committee with the member and I thank him for all his work, insight and experience as a former practising barrister and solicitor.

In his comments, he indicated that he thought Bill C-26 was a good bill but he called it imperfect. I am curious as to how he might improve it and what his thoughts are on the sentencing provision that provides for a sentence of a minimum of six months incarceration following the third or subsequent offence. Has he thought perhaps that is too lenient and that maybe we might want to think of mandatory incarceration on a second offence?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his work on the justice committee. He brings to the justice committee a legal bearing, which is good. It is always nice to welcome a fellow barrister and solicitor.

The issue I referred to in my speech surrounding the bill is the definition of trafficking, as we need to deal with it. This is new territory and the separate offence for auto theft and the level of proof, because in some cases there would be a hybrid way of proceeding, might be difficult. We will need to look at it at committee. In other words, I would like to hear from prosecutors and other people involved with administering the law.

As an aside, there seems to be a bit of a gap in our procedure over here. We often hear from defence lawyers and Department of Justice officials but the separation of powers does not allow us to talk to judges that much. We also do not often t hear from prosecutors but we should because they are the ones who are proffering the indictments and laying the charges in many provinces, sometimes it is the police, but they would give us evidence or give me advice anyway as to how, in some ways, the bill will be a difficult hurdle to prove.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak, and I want to thank the hon. members for listening.

From the outset, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill. Of course, we will take our work seriously during committee meetings, and we will propose amendments. However, we recognize, and have for a few years now, that car theft and the cross-border trafficking of parts used to build cars are an important issue.

When discussing the issue of car theft, we must keep in mind that there are two levels to this. The first is organized crime. One in five cars stolen in Canada is linked to organized crime networks. I have been a member of this House for 16 years now. Despite the fact that I look very young, this is my sixth election campaign. I have been a member of this House for 16 years. I have always been interested in the issue of organized crime, which is now in its fourth generation. Organized criminals are operating in new ways. There is the whole issue of organized crime infiltrating into the above-ground economy. For a long time, the main products in the organized crime line up were drugs, illegal betting and gambling, and the control of certain licensed establishments. But, in the past few years, we have seen organized crime infiltrate into the above-ground economy, including, unfortunately, the construction industry. Members of the RCMP appeared before the committee to name a few of the industries where organized crime was more likely to take hold. They talked about the automobile industry, the landscaping industry and the construction industry. I am not trying to imply that the entire construction industry has fallen prey to organized crime. It is, however, one of the more vulnerable industries. Why? Because there is the possibility of overbilling. There are a lot of contracts out there, and a lot of money is changing hands. The issue of car theft is clearly tied to the issue of organized crime infiltrating into the above-ground economy.

There is also a second level, car theft. These are groups of young people who steal cars for the weekend and commit petty theft. They want to joyride and to have a good time and they cannot really be lumped in with organized crime. In either case, it is, of course, extremely distressing and causes a great deal of inconvenience for the victim. It also has an impact on the way society works.

To give an idea of the extent of this phenomenon, I can say this. In Canada in 2006—quite recently, that is—about 160,000 vehicles were stolen. According to the Groupement des assureurs automobiles, there were more than 38,000 vehicle thefts in Quebec in 2006. That is a significant number. Quebec is not the leading province for vehicle thefts. By comparison, per 100,000 inhabitants, Quebec has 507, Alberta has 725 and Manitoba has 1,376. The average across Canada is 487.

Let me repeat, 38,800 vehicles were stolen in Quebec in 2006. Quebec is not in the lead when it comes to vehicle theft. In Alberta, for example, there are 725 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, In Manitoba, it is 1,376 per 100,000. I heard the testimony from the mayor of Winnipeg when we began hearings on Bill C-53 in the last Parliament. I know that it an extremely serious problem in Manitoba.

BillC-26 is not perfect because it contains mandatory minimum sentences. I will come back to that. Everyone recognizes that the Bloc Québécois is an extremely thorough and consistent party in the positions it takes. Each time that mandatory minimum sentences appear in a bill, we express our reservations and we try to amend the bill by working at the committee stage to have the mandatory minimum sentences removed. I will talk about that later.

But all in all, this is a good bill and the Bloc Québécois, in its legendary wisdom, will support it because, once more, we recognize that this is a major problem all across Canada.

Clause 5—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh! Oh!

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

I would like to appeal to my neo-Bolshevik colleagues and friends in the NDP for some quiet, and for some recognition of the fact that the Bloc Québécois is a very wise party.

I even feel that if the Speaker were to ask for the House's consent on that, he would almost get it.

With that said, let me continue by telling this House that, if clause 5 of this bill is passed, it will amend the section on the possession of property obtained by crime. More specifically, it will create a new offence, trafficking in property obtained by crime. That offence will be punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years. I repeat that the Bloc Québécois never sees a problem with maximum sentences in a bill. Maximum sentences, after all, do not tie judges' hands; they allow judicial discretion to be used, because justice must always be tailored to each individual. Each crime, each offender and each circumstance in which crimes have been committed must be considered. Each aspect must be analyzed on its own merits by a court of law.

Clause 5 of this bill will also define trafficking. “To traffic” is defined as to sell, give, transfer, transport, export from Canada, import into Canada, send, deliver or deal with in any other way, or offer to do any of those acts.

I think the parliamentary secretary explained one of the difficulties that are cropping up at this time. Customs officers sometimes see that material has been imported, or is about to be exported, that would make it possible to rebuild a vehicle. But if these components do not appear on lists of prohibited items, it is impossible for the customs officers who guard our borders to intervene. Clearly this is not a desirable situation and the definition of “trafficking” which we are proposing will allow this situation to be rectified.

Moreover, clause 3 of the bill amends section 353 of the Criminal Code and will create a new offence. In addition to the offence of trafficking in property obtained by crime, an offence specific to tampering with vehicle identification numbers will be created. In Canada, all vehicles must have an identification number, and clearly when a car is stolen, thieves will attempt to alter or falsify that identification number.

If the bill is passed, we will amend section 353.1(1) of the Criminal Code. This new type of offence will specify that: “Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle.”

In this bill, the defence of having a lawful excuse will be permitted. We understand that the fact of altering, removing or obliterating a vehicle identification number while performing normal maintenance work should not lead—and my colleague agrees—to charges being laid under the new offence to be created.

Bill C-26 also introduces a mechanism which includes a minimum mandatory sentence. This is a provision of the bill which the Bloc Québécois is going to attempt to amend in committee. This new provision is clause 331.1, wherein a person who commits automobile theft and is convicted for the third time on proceedings by way of indictment will be sentenced to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months. The Bloc does not agree with this provision of the bill. This is not as serious or as worrisome as other bills the Conservative government has tabled. This minimum sentence will be tempered by the fact that crown prosecutors will have the choice of laying charges by way of indictment. After three indictments, the minimum sentence will apply. However, motor vehicle theft may also be dealt with through summary conviction.

This provision means that the Bloc Québécois in its great wisdom and sense of nuances, and its extremely nuanced vision of justice—a perception of fine distinctions which its spokesperson totally and completely shares—considers that this provision tempers our position with regard to the bill. Since there are no hard core mandatory minimum sentences such as we are used to seeing from the Conservative Party in other bills, we will be able to propose an amendment to the bill and offer our support to the government for Bill C-26.

An explanation is in order. Why is the Bloc Québécois against mandatory minimum sentences? This is a position all of my colleagues, the party's critics and my predecessors in the area of justice have perpetuated. First, there is no correlation between the existence of mandatory minimum sentences and the recidivism rate and crime rates. Rather, the opposite is true: several studies looking at the American model which the Conservative government holds in high esteem have proved that, for instance, where drug trafficking is concerned, mandatory minimum sentences have not caused a decrease in recidivism rates and drug consumption. On the contrary, as my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber said, a man who always has a sense of fine distinctions and is not given to excess, and is thus a man who is capable of assessing the true worth of a bill, we are against mandatory minimum sentences because there is no link between such sentences, recidivism and crime rates, and also because they can have an adverse effect on the system. I invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs to ponder that.

When a crown attorney has a choice between laying charges that entail mandatory minimum sentences and charges that do not entail mandatory minimum sentences, it has been proven scientifically that the prosecutor will chose to lay charges that do not entail those sentences.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is a great committee, one of the best committees a parliamentarian can ever sit on. Yesterday at this committee we heard the testimony of a retired judge, Mr. Jerome Paradis. He came to explain the perverse effect of mandatory minimum sentences and it will be my pleasure to circulate that brief to journalists and to my Conservative colleagues. This is not an opinion held only by the Bloc Québécois, the member for Hochelaga or the member for Jeanne-Le Ber. The opinion comes from a former judge, a magistrate, who administered justice and presided over lawsuits; he came before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to remind us of the perverse effects of mandatory minimum sentences. That is the reason the Bloc Québécois, from its inception, has always been opposed to mandatory minimum sentences. As everyone knows, the Bloc Québécois is the primary political force in Quebec and will remain so, we hope. We will certainly work very hard to keep it that way.

We might think that car theft is a phenomenon that affects mainly luxury vehicles. That would be wrong. I have here a list of the top 10 stolen cars in Canada in 2006. I would appreciate it if no one commented on the merits of each model, since everyone has their own opinion. The most stolen car model on that list is the 1999 Honda Civic two-door. It is followed by the 2000 Honda Civic. The third most stolen car is the little four-door all-wheel drive Subaru. There are in fact takers on the market. In fifth place is the 1999 Acura. The sixth model is the 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan/Voyager. The seventh most stolen model is the 1994 Dodge/Plymouth Caravan. In eighth place we have the Acura Integra. Ninth place is held by a little Audi. And tenth on the list of most stolen cars is the 1994 Dodge/Plymouth Shadow.

These are not necessarily luxury vehicles, but again, the consequences of car theft are easy to understand when you live in a remote community, when you live in the regions and when you depend on it.

I am a member from Montreal, myself. In my riding there are nine metro stations. I can go anywhere in my riding by metro. But I entirely grasp the consequences of these car thefts in communities where there is no public transit.

I would like to point out that there are two kinds of car theft. There is the organized crime kind. In fact, two weeks ago, I presented a motion myself at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights concerning organized crime. We have to be constantly on the lookout for ways to update the Criminal Code and give our police services more effective tools to combat organized crime. I would reiterate that mandatory minimum sentences are not the way to do that.

When I was elected to the House in 1993 I was 31 years old. Obviously, everyone ages in this House. It was explained to me that organized crime was proliferating when we lived in a society where there was a wealth index, where there were communications channels and where there were ways of using stalling tactics in the courts that were authorized by our legislative bodies.

I would like everyone to know that we will be supporting this bill, but that we are going to be making amendments in relation to the mandatory minimum sentences.

I will be pleased to answer any questions my NDP colleagues would like to ask.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member, with whom I have the pleasure of sitting on the justice committee. Generally we agree on many things, but one thing we always and consistently do not agree on is the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences.

My friend, and other members of the committee, specifically from the New Democratic Party, who have concerns about mandatory minimums, will often cite criminology surveys that allege deterrence is not advanced by mandatory minimum sentences.

I would like to ask the member something specifically. He will know, as a lawyer and as a student of criminal law, that there are two aspects to deterrence: one is general, and the other is specific. With respect to specific deterrence and the offender who is involved in serial auto theft, three, four, five, convictions, at what point does society say that enough is enough and we will have to deal with that person's disrespect for the property of others by imposing a jail term? At what point does that serial behaviour become intolerable?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. He is a member of the committee whom I hold in high regard. His opinions are almost always balanced. He is a moderate person, reminding us of St. Augustine, who said that virtue lies in moderation.

That being said, I repeat that it is not a matter of mandatory minimum sentences. From the first offence, the court must assess the context in which the offence was committed, whether it was a repeat offence and what the implications are for the family who was put in the situation of being deprived of a means of transportation. In certain circumstances, we must impose a sentence of six months, one year or two years. However, we always have more success with maximum sentences, which allow the court to assess the circumstances in which the crime was committed.

I would very much like to know to which studies the member is referring to support the principle of mandatory minimum sentences. I have been on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for a number of years, and we have never seen any studies indicating that mandatory minimum sentences were, in any way, deterrents.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are supporting getting Bill C-26 to committee so we can fix some of the many problems. Whenever the Conservatives bring forward justice legislation, they always seem to have things that need to be improved.

I need to ask the hon. member how he feels about the hypocrisy of the Conservatives' one-note approach to justice. We have seen broken promises around police officers, cutbacks in crime prevention programs, and cutbacks in prosecutors across the country. The courts are more and more stuffed up.

Conservatives essentially put forward more legislation when they deal with any justice issues, but they will not do anything else to help the police forces across this country actually deal with issues of crime. They will not put any money into crime prevention. They cut back on prosecutors so the court system simply cannot contend with what is being brought forward.

Given the Conservatives' hypocrisy on crime, does the hon. member really think the Conservatives are credible on this issue?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a fact that, in certain circumstances, the government, despite the compassion we know it has, has been hypocritical—and I hope that that is parliamentary. It is a fact that I, myself, met with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police during their lobby day on Parliament Hill. They told us that, basically, the Conservatives had committed to allowing the provinces to hire 1,000 new community police officers and that, unfortunately, they had not yet fulfilled that promise, which was creating a lot of problems in certain communities.

It has always been our belief that when choosing between creating mandatory minimum sentences and making it possible for police investigations to be resolved more quickly, we obviously want to give more power to the police. So I share the analysis and concern of the hon. NDP member.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that my colleague is going to be supporting the bill. I am anxious to see what kinds of amendments he brings forward. I am afraid he is going to remove the mandatory minimum sentence of six months that the bill now provides for.

In my neck of the woods, which is British Columbia, we have serial car thieves who are convicted, not once, not twice, not 10 times, but 50 and 100 times for stealing cars. They are in and they are out, and they are in and they are out. They are not getting the time they deserve.

I noticed the member referred to the fact that his party, the Bloc, supports maximum sentences. Of course they do. No one ever gets sentenced to the maximum, or even close to the maximum, except when it comes to murder; that is usually life in prison, if it is first-degree murder.

I want to ask the member specifically, as a colleague of mine on the justice committee, whether he is proposing to remove the mandatory minimum sentence of six months from this bill. I hope not. I trust he will be sensible enough to persuade his colleagues to leave that in, because the residents of British Columbia are demanding that we crack down on these serial car thieves, who are a real nuisance and a terror in our communities.