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 #76 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was auto.

Topics

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging the chiefs and their representatives who are here today. It is deeply moving to see them here. I know that this is probably a historic moment for them, a rare moment in one's political career. Treaties have been signed, agreements finalized, and bills passed to bring the treaties into force. That is quite exceptional for this particular Parliament.

I want to emphasize the fact that all four parties have agreed to pass this bill quickly and move it through the legislative process as soon as possible to enable the Maa-nulth First Nations and their communities to live together and organize their territory so that they can be masters in their own house.

The Bloc Québécois fully supports aboriginal self-government. This agreement entrenches the right of these aboriginal peoples to govern themselves. For that reason alone, we would support the principle underlying this treaty.

More generally speaking, the Bloc Québécois cares about aboriginal peoples' demands for self-government. It recognizes aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples entitled to their culture, their language, their customs and traditions, and as peoples entitled to make their own decisions about how they want to express their own identity. That is exactly what the bill will do. The parties have agreed unanimously to pass the bill in the House today.

I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the chiefs and their representatives, who have been negotiating for years. Although I do not have them with me, I did read the voluminous documents about the agreement that were sent to my office. With all due respect, it might take a lawyer or two to interpret them over the coming years to ensure that the Maa-nulth First Nations enjoy all of the rights to which they are entitled under this historic agreement, which will be ratified by Bill C-41.

Where there's a will, there's a way. And that is exactly the case with this agreement. I would like to speak directly to the chief and to tell him, as a Quebecker, I would love to see more agreements like this negotiated. And speaking to the Algonquin communities of Quebec, I hope that these communities will have the opportunity to look at the documents that have been signed and will be passed by this House today, in order to implement this historic agreement. I hope that the Algonquin, Innu and Attikamek communities will be able to examine this agreement carefully, because there are some very important points in it with the potential to affect them directly. I would like to focus on a few of them.

As far as this territory goes, the agreement includes 24,550 hectares of land and a capital transfer of $73 million over a 10 year period. This is not the underlying principle, however. It is not a matter of money, but of respect. I believe that is what has guided the five Vancouver Island first nations. Some of our audience may wonder where this story is unfolding. It is to the west of Vancouver, on Vancouver Island and concerns a community comprised of five Vancouver Island nations . The Maa-nulth have lived on those lands since time immemorial.

The point of interest—and the reason why I am drawing a parallel with what could happen for the aboriginal communities of Quebec—is that the regime that will be adopted today will provide each first nation with the flexibility to manage its lands and to create long-term economic spinoffs. That is important. We are starting to talk seriously about independence.

Federal and provincial legislation, as well as the laws of the Maa-nulth First Nations, will apply on the lands of the Maa-nulth First Nations. This is, in my opinion, the exceptional parallel that could be drawn if the effort were made and there was some leadership. Those are what will be necessary in a number of aboriginal communities in Quebec in order to repeat what has happened in the Maa-nulth First Nations.

I am not necessarily referring to the financial side of it, but with respect to wild life and migratory birds, the Maa-nulth people will have the right to harvest wildlife and migratory birds for food, social and ceremonial purposes within specific areas. This is a great advance.

I have the departmental documents here with me and have even consulted the agreement, and this is really what is in it. Two huge documents were sent to our offices. As far as fishing is concerned, for instance, the Maa-nulth First Nations will have the right to harvest fish and aquatic plants for food, social and ceremonial purposes, provided they respect certain conditions related to conservation.

Maa-nulth commercial fishing will be fully integrated within the general commercial fishery on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This is quite exceptional. I believe that this is an extremely important step, because fishing will be incorporated into the agreement. I think that many white and aboriginal communities could take inspiration from this agreement.

With regard to culture and heritage, each of the Maa-nulth First Nations can make laws to preserve, promote and develop culture and language, conserve and protect heritage resources on its lands, and deal with archaeological materials, sites and ancient human remains. That is another important point.

Interestingly, with regard to governance, the Indian Act will no longer apply to Maa-nulth First Nations lands or members, with the exception of determining Indian status—which is understandable—and a transition period for phasing out the Indian Act tax exemption.

Regarding taxation, the Maa-nulth First Nations governments will have the ability to levy direct taxes on their members within treaty settlement lands, known as the Maa-nulth First Nations lands.

Section 87 of the Indian Act provides for tax exemptions for transaction taxes and other taxes. These exemptions will be phased out after eight and 12 years respectively.

With regard to local government relations, each Maa-nulth First Nation will become a member of its local regional district and appoint a director to sit on the regional district board. In Quebec, this would mean that each nation, such as the Algonquin, would become a member of the regional county municipality.

In closing, I want to wish the chiefs who are here today good luck and to express the hope that the dreams of their elders will become reality and that this historic treaty will reach its full potential.

For my part, I have not seen this often, and I believe that this is the first time five nations have signed a treaty together. It is my hope that this extremely important treaty will serve as an example to other communities and other tribal councils. If that could happen, then the outstanding work they have done will be extremely important to the future of Canada's first nations.

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democrats, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-41, An Act to give effect to the Maanulth First Nations Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

What we are talking about today in the House represents a journey, and it truly is a journey of generations. When I spoke to the chiefs yesterday, they said this particular piece of work started in 1992. One can see that it has literally been years in the making.

I also want to acknowledge the fact that we are talking about five nations that have come together to bring this treaty to fruition. I want to name the nations and the chiefs, four of whom are here in Ottawa today. We have the Uchucklesaht, with Chief Charlie Cootes; the Ucluelet, with Chief Violet Mundy; the Toquaht, with Chief Anne Mack; and the Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k:tles7et'h', with Chief Councillor Therese Smith. We also have the Huu-ay-aht, with Chief Councillor Robert Dennis, who was not able to be here today.

It is important to name the chiefs because they are here to bear witness. They are here to see this historic moment unfolding in the House of Commons. This work is part of that reconciliation process that we have been talking about in the House over this last year, with the one-year anniversary of the apology for residential schools. This is part of that reconciliation journey.

I also want to acknowledge Chief Bert Mack from the Toquaht, who guided his nation as their hereditary chief to this point. I want to acknowledge the elders. In any first nations community, the elders are the very heart and soul of the community. They are the ones who provide the teachings and the guidance. They are the ones who walk with the leaders and they are the ones who provide the guidance to get the leaders to this place today. So I want to acknowledge those elders and raise my hands to the elders and their continuing guidance and wisdom.

We have only a very brief time to talk about this treaty today and about its importance both to the five nations and to their neighbours. However, I want to situate this treaty a little bit, because many people in Canada do not really understand the geography of British Columbia, and Vancouver Island in particular. These five nations' traditional territories are on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is truly some of the most beautiful territory in this country. It is a coastal temperate rainforest and it is very rich in land and sea resources.

In the history, these five nations have been in this territory for thousands and thousands of years. In fact, the teachings say that they have been there since the beginning of time. The rich culture, language and traditions mark that time back through many centuries.

I want to centre the treaty itself around the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I think the United Nations declaration could provide guidance for future treaties, for land claim settlements in this country. Although there are many articles that could have applied to this treaty, I want to quote from article 19, which says:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

With Bill C-41, this very important piece of legislation, we have that free, prior and informed consent. The Maa-nulth nations have been at the table representing their people, making sure that their needs, concerns and wants were understood and were part of that treaty process. Because we have that free, prior and informed consent, we have a piece of legislation that is supported by the five Maa-nulth nations.

It is important to remember that context, because we know that we have other treaty negotiations going on in British Columbia and lands claims throughout the country. If we use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it may help inform these future agreements for other nations.

I also want to touch very briefly on some of the key points. I am going to quote from the Maa-nulth First Nations' own website, because I think their own words are important to have in the House.

What they say on their website is:

The Final Agreement includes a land package as well as funding in the form of a capital transfer, annual resource revenue sharing payments, and ongoing and time-limited funding for each Maa-nulth First Nation.... The Final Agreement also includes self-government provisions and defines each Maa-nulth First Nation's rights to resources such as wildlife, fish, timber and sub-surface minerals.

Although the treaty is not an answer to many challenges that are faced in our communities, it does provide a “tool box” for our people to make our own decisions on our own terms....

A treaty will bring certainty with respect to each Maa-nulth First Nation's Aboriginal rights through the Maa-nulth First Nations traditional territory. The treaty will provide modern governance tools that the Maa-nulth First Nations may use to build strong and workable relationships with other governments, including federal, provincial and local governments on the west coast of Vancouver Island....

[It will also] resolve long-standing issues regarding undefined Aboriginal rights and title, and bring certainty and economic benefits not only to the Maa-nulth First Nations, but also to the entire region.

That is a very important part, because what we know in many first nations communities is that they have the capability, the resources and the will to bring prosperity to their communities. What we need to do is get out of the way and provide the mechanisms through treaties for that right to self-determination, and economic benefits will not only accrue to the first nations in their traditional territories but will also accrue to their neighbours.

We have other examples in British Columbia where we know that, working in partnership, we can bring that prosperity both to the nation and to their neighbours. This treaty is an important aspect of bringing certainty to the nations and to their neighbours. That, in itself, is a cause for celebration.

I want to touch on a couple of other aspects of the final agreement. The final agreement certainly does involve land. It consists of approximately 24,550 hectares of treaty settlement land, including the former reserves. The Maa-nulth First Nation government will have law-making authorities over its land, although federal and provincial laws will continue to apply, along with current Maa-nulth First Nation laws.

There are many aspects of this treaty. Of course, I do not have time to cover them all, but I just want to touch on a couple, because the land aspect is very important. Many first nations will talk about their spiritual, physical, emotional ties to the land and how important it is that those traditional territories are respected. As other speakers have pointed out, we know that this is just a small fraction of the land that was part of the traditional territories of the five nations.

On Vancouver Island, we know forestry is the lifeblood of many of the communities. Under forestry, the Maa-nulth First Nations will own and manage the forest reserves, the forest resources on treaty settlement lands, consistent with provincial standards for private land.

I know elders have often spoken about the importance of culture and heritage, passing on the teachings to the next generation, but also the preservation of language. The language is the heartbeat of the culture. Without the language, it is oftentimes very difficult to transmit the culture. The elders can talk about how the words themselves represent that whole being.

The Maa-nulth First Nations may make laws on treaty settlement lands to conserve and protect Maa-nulth First Nations culture and language, to deal with ancient human remains, and to regulate access to Maa-nulth First Nations cultural heritage resources. Some of the Maa-nulth First Nations artifacts in the Royal British Columbia Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and Parks Canada collections will be transferred to the Maa-nulth First Nations.

There are many aspects of governance and education, but I want to briefly mention implementation. Implementation is an essential part. Implementation is, of course, covered in the final agreement.

Again, according to the words of the Maa-nulth themselves, they talk about “true implementation”. They say true implementation will mean:

Exercising self government by our Constitutions, laws, regulations and policies; Drawing down additional authorities in the Treaty as appropriate for that particular Nation.

Of course, we have seen other modern-day treaties were implementation has been a slow and painful process. I would hope that this is a new era with the implementation agreement that is set out in the final agreement, that we will not see the kinds of stumbling blocks that we have seen with other implementation agreements.

In closing, this is a great day to celebrate and to honour the work that the chiefs, their elders and the communities have done to bring this treaty to the House of Commons. I look forward to support from all parties and in the other place so that this treaty has rapid passage.

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made on Monday, June 15, 2009, Bill C-41 is deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Motion agreed to, bill deemed read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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 CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to voice strong support for Bill C-26. As my colleagues in the House know, this bill targets the pervasive problem of auto theft and the trafficking of property obtained by crime. Time is short, so I will go straight into the substance of this important piece of legislation.

Bill C-26 has three main components. First, it creates a new and distinct offence of motor vehicle theft. Second, it also creates the new offence of altering, obliterating or removing a vehicle identification number. Third, it creates a new offence for trafficking in and possessing for the purpose of trafficking property obtained by crime, including the importing and exporting of such goods.

Let me deal with the first component of Bill C-26. The new separate offence of motor vehicle theft would give the crown prosecutor discretion to proceed either by indictment or by way of summary conviction depending on the seriousness of the particular case. The maximum penalty on indictment would be 10 years' imprisonment while summary conviction would draw a maximum of 18 months.

Bill C-26 does something else that Canadians have long been asking for. It goes after repeat offenders by imposing a mandatory minimum penalty of six months in prison for anyone convicted for a third or subsequent time of stealing a car, provided the third or subsequent offence was proceeded with by way of indictment.

This is a proportionate and appropriate response to the issue of serial car thieves. It gives those who are prosecuting these cases the flexibility to seek the mandatory minimum sentence when, in their opinion, such a penalty is warranted.

I come from the province of British Columbia. British Columbians are incredibly frustrated with the number of serial thieves who are plaguing our communities. In fact, our community has had one of the highest rates of auto theft in the country. In some cases these thieves do not commit auto thefts 20 or 30 times; we are talking about 50 times, 100 times and even more than 100 offences. When they are apprehended, they are immediately released into the community again. This is frustrating to the residents of my community of Abbotsford.

In fact, our justice committee recently had an opportunity to hear evidence from an official from Statistics Canada. Those statistics showed that the highest rates of auto theft are found in western Canada. The city of Winnipeg is the leader, but what really concerns me is that the city of Abbotsford, where I come from, has the second highest level of auto theft in the country. Abbotsford is certainly the auto theft capital of British Columbia.

To be fair, those statistics go back to 2007. I want to be fair and commend our local police department, as well as other police departments in our region for implementing the bait car program.

The bait car program allows police officials to set up cars that are rigged with GPS tracking devices. Video surveillance cameras are set up in the bait cars. The unsuspecting car thief will steal the car and will be immediately apprehended. The evidence will be there to be able to convict the individual. All the evidence shows that the bait car program has had a marked impact on reducing auto theft in our community and in our region.

Abbotsford residents are pleased that they now have a Conservative government in place that takes car theft seriously. They are pleased that they have a government in place that will actually impose a mandatory sentence of imprisonment on serial car thieves.

The second area addressed by Bill C-26 relates to a car's vehicle identification number, or VIN as it is commonly known. Many Canadians know that the removal or alteration of the VIN is a common way for criminals to disguise the identity of stolen vehicles.

Bill C-26 takes deliberate and clear steps to prohibit and punish this behaviour. The proposed amendment would make it an offence to wholly or even partially alter, obliterate, or even remove a VIN on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse.

Under the new offence, anyone convicted of tampering with a VIN could face imprisonment for a term of up to five years on indictment and up to six months on summary conviction. The only exception to this offence is if someone is required to remove a VIN as part of regular maintenance or repair work that is done for a legitimate purpose. That exception would only arise in the rarest of circumstances.

Taken together, these first two components of Bill C-26 will provide our law enforcement officials with a set of tailored strategies that respond to the scourge of auto theft which is endemic in many of our communities.

The bill also assists prosecutors by ensuring that previous auto theft convictions are clearly listed on the criminal records of car thieves. This will provide more guidance to the courts when they have to deal with bail and with sentencing.

Finally, as mentioned before, Bill C-26 also proposes new offences that target the trafficking in property obtained by crime. These provisions are extremely important to Canadians.

As chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I was privileged to be involved in reviewing this bill with other members of the committee. We heard testimony from the director of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, who provided us with statistics which showed that four out of ten stolen vehicles are never recovered. What this statistic suggests is that a substantial number of motor vehicle thefts are committed as part of an organized crime enterprise.

Accordingly, when Bill C-26 creates new trafficking offences, it goes after the chain of criminal acts that yield the financial benefit which makes property crime so lucrative for professional criminals.

Even though Canada's Criminal Code already prohibits the possession of property obtained by crime, simple possession does not adequately reflect the full range of criminal behaviour involved in trafficking in stolen property.

Let me explain a typical chain of property theft within a criminal enterprise.

Typically, a high-end vehicle is stolen; it might be a Lexus, a BMW or a Mercedes, or perhaps a high-end SUV. That vehicle's identification number, its VIN, is then obliterated or removed. The vehicle is passed on, perhaps to a chop shop, where it is disassembled and sold to unsuspecting purchasers. The vehicle may be placed in a container, shipped out of our country and around the world to be sold to unsuspecting purchasers.

The new trafficking offence would define trafficking quite broadly by including the selling, giving, transferring, transporting, exporting from and importing into Canada. It would also criminalize the sending, delivering and dealing with property obtained by crime. Because there are so many middle men in a criminal enterprise that involves auto theft, we have to have a broad definition to reflect that crime. By using that broad definition of trafficking, our government hopes to interfere with the myriad of ways in which criminal enterprises steal property and then market that property to unsuspecting buyers here in Canada and around the globe.

With the amendments contained in this bill, we will be making it much more difficult for professional thieves to flourish in Canada. Simply put, we are doing our very best to remove the profit motive from property crime.

Bill C-26 also proposes strong penalties for the new trafficking offences. Where the value of the property exceeds $5,000, the maximum penalty would be 14 years' imprisonment. Where the value is less than $5,000, the maximum penalty would be five years' imprisonment on indictment or six months' imprisonment on summary conviction.

I strongly support these increased penalties because they properly reflect the additional burden on society created by those who profit from stolen goods.

Evidence before our justice committee estimated that auto theft alone costs Canadians around $1.2 billion every year. There are a staggering 400 car thefts committed every day in Canada. In themselves, these are disturbing numbers, but they fail to take into account the human costs, costs which are unquantifiable but which nonetheless impact on the lives of Canadians every day.

I too have been a victim of auto theft and I can say that it is not a pleasant experience.

The tougher penalties in Bill C-26 send exactly the right message and demonstrate that such crimes will no longer be tolerated by Canadians.

I urge all members of this House to do the right thing, to reflect the wishes of the majority of Canadians, support Bill C-26 and ensure its swift passage into law.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member is the chair of the justice committee and he does a fine job. As a former city councillor of Abbotsford, I know it is difficult for him to get up and say that Abbotsford is experiencing some difficulty with respect to auto theft.

I want to ask him about one part of the bill which could stand to have a little more explanation. That is the prohibition against the importation and exportation of property obtained by crime and the triggering of certain Canada Border Services Agency powers with respect to investigation, identification and the detention of imported or to be exported vehicles that are the products of crime.

I would like the member to explain how that is a good thing. Also, has he or the government discussed this matter with public safety officials? Is there going to be an increase in the budget, the number of officers or a unit itself to cover these new powers?

All too often legislation is brought forward or enacted by the government, but Peter is not talking to Paul. The public safety and justice ministers do not talk enough to know whether there is enough money in the budget to cover correctional services that might be needed in terms of some other bills.

In this very specific case, it ought to be easy for the member, as a member of the government, to tell us if the government has funded the CBSA and whether the CBSA has some plans to put into effect this part of Bill C-26.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is a very valued member of the justice committee, serving as the vice-chair of that committee.

His question is focused on the issue of resources and whether there has been consultation with the Minister of Public Safety. I can confirm that the Minister of Justice has consulted with the Minister of Public Safety on the issue. He has advised us of that.

We have also received assurances from the public safety minister that the resources required to do the job of interdicting the illegal transfer of motor vehicles and other stolen property across our international boundary are in place.

I also want to assure him that our government wants to ensure that the statutory regime that is in place is one that our CBSA officials, our border officials, can use effectively to stop the importation and exportation of illegal, stolen vehicles in Canada.

I think that is the assurance he is seeking. I am confident that we are going to be making significant progress in stopping the importation and exportation of stolen vehicles.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a follow-up to that, we have been pursuing this issue of resources for CBSA. I appreciate the comments from the chair of the committee, but the reality is there has been no indication that an analysis has been done of what additional resources are necessary. Therefore, it is hard to accept with full credibility the Minister of Public Safety's assurance that the resources will be there when an analysis has not been done. Also, because an analysis has not been done, I have a hard time understanding how the government could apportion any additional resources that are going to be required to deal with the export of stolen vehicles and stolen auto parts out of this country to international markets.

I would ask the member if he knows whether an analysis has been done. Up to this point we have been led to believe it has not been done. If it has been done, how much additional resources are going to be put in, in terms of dollars, to the CBSA?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, there was no evidence before committee that the analysis had not been done. Quite frankly, the member may not have appreciated the significance of the portion of the bill that would provide additional powers to the CBSA. It is as much an issue of efficiency and providing our CBSA officials with the tools to more effectively and more efficiently do the job that they have been called on to do to interdict the importation and exportation of stolen vehicles.

The member is also a very valued member of justice committee. We have had a good working relationship on that committee. We as a government and as Parliament are anxious to see the bill move forward to ensure Canadians get the assurance they need that auto theft will be reduced across our country, not just in my home province of British Columbia.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the bill and to let the public know why our members will support the bill.

Bill C-26 has a number of elements that poke at different aspects to the scourge of auto theft. The first element of the bill is to create a separate offence for auto theft. This has been kicked around for some time since 2008. One of the criticisms of a predecessor bill was that there was not a separate offence, but now there is, so this is progress. The offence would carry a mandatory prison sentence of six months for a conviction of a third or subsequent indictable offence.

It will not need to be repeated for members like the member for Abbotsford, the member for Fundy Royal and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who are members of the committee and know this, but there is a difference between a summary conviction offence and an indictable offence. The indictable offence is the more serious offence. It generally carries sentences of two years or more. Therefore, the law intends to impose is a six month conviction for a third indictable offence involving auto theft.

I had the pleasure recently of visiting the Winnipeg area and talking to individuals involved in law enforcement. It is very clear that auto theft is not something that we pick up off the cuff. It is a bit of an expertise-driven occupation. People in places like Winnipeg, Montreal, Abbotsford and other communities across the country are very good at it and they tend to be repeat offenders. It is a commercial business for many of them.

As they get better, the Insurance Bureau of Canada representatives, law enforcement officials, car manufacturers, after market car parts suppliers attempt to catch up with them, but one thing is certain. If these recidivists, specialists in auto theft, are put away after their third conviction by indictable means, then they will not be out doing more auto theft. The evidence we saw in Winnipeg was very clear. Statistically officials can prove that when the known top 30 to 50 car thieves serve time at Her Majesty's pleasure in a facility, then auto thefts go down. Therefore, that part of it is good.

The second part of the bill is the vehicle identification number, VIN, tampering. This is the alphanumeric number and letter combination inside the windshield of every vehicle and in many cases on almost all the important parts of one's motor vehicle. Tampering with the VIN is an offence. We studied it at committee at length. Other than putting some protection in the act to cover the truly innocent person tampering with a VIN, we could find no reason why anyone would tamper with a VIN unless there was fraud involved and theft was a goal. That itself would become an offence, which would help police officials do their job.

The other part of the bill is that the trafficking in stolen goods, particularly stolen motor vehicles, would be an offence. The general offence of possession of property obtained by crime in the current Criminal Code carries a maximum of 10 years for property valued over $5,000. The proposed legislation will give law enforcement or prosecutors new tools to combat those who participate in any part of the trafficking in stolen motor vehicles. There will be a wide definition of trafficking, as indicated by my friend from Abbotsford, which will include the selling, giving, transferring, transporting, importing, exporting, sending of, or delivering of goods or offering to do any of this, and that will trigger the offence of trafficking.

It is intended that this would capture the middlemen who are involved with stolen property. We recognize in today's modern, sophisticated, organized crime culture and business practice that it goes from retailer, wholesaler, distributor, exporter, importer, much in the same way that Wal-Mart probably organizes itself from manufacturer to point of sale contact.

That is why the offence has to be wide in order to catch everyone. It is not one person. Stealing a car, putting it on a boat, transporting it to a foreign location and getting paid on the dock in South America or wherever does not involve just one person. It is a chain of distribution with which we must deal.

The last aspect is something I asked the chair of the justice committee about, and that is the prohibition against importation or exportation of property obtained by crime. While that may not be necessarily groundbreaking, what is important is CBSA officials will have added powers to investigate, identify and detain imported vehicles or vehicles about to be exported and search databases to determine whether those vehicles are stolen. Those are the broad strokes of the bill.

The theft of autos has become a prolific business for organized crime in our country. We have heard about Winnipeg and Abbotsford, but I want to talk briefly about Montreal. Committee members heard that when organized crime was established in a city, it took on the subsidiary of auto theft and made it an expertise-driven crime. We learned that in cases like Montreal, where organized crime seems to be more involved in auto theft than in the western cities of our great country, the amount of vehicles recovered was lessened.

Attempted and actual auto thefts tend to be similar in a place like Montreal, but, to pick on Winnipeg for a moment, the number of attempted auto thefts might be higher per population of 100,000 than in Montreal. However, the actual number of vehicles recovered is also higher. It indicates that auto theft in a place like Montreal, driven almost wholly by organized crime, is for the profit attached to the procurement of vehicles, chopping them up and the exportation or reselling of parts and/or whole vehicles in and around the Montreal area.

On the other hand, in western Canada the experience seems to be more tilted toward vehicles being stolen to further other criminal activities. The Winnipeg Police Association says that many attempted thefts, because many vehicles are recovered, are merely for the purpose of being a mode of transportation or carriage to further implement a crime in a place like Winnipeg. That allows criminal organizations to have getaway cars and vehicles for committing offences and not having them traced back to their vehicles. We have some sort of quixotic idea that young teenagers in a James Dean like setting go out joyriding. Across Canada that is a very minuscule number when it comes to auto theft.

Another piece of the evidence we heard in committee was that the number of youth involved in attempted auto theft in a place like Winnipeg was much higher than in other large centres in the east. This indicates that organized crime is encouraging young members of gangs to steal motor vehicles for further criminal purposes and then abandon the vehicles so they might be recovered.

I say all of that because it is important to have a regional context and a different context for the scourge of auto theft and to react appropriately.

The bill would attack the situation we see in Montreal. There is no question about that. If organized crime can be pinned down, and if these sentences can pick up the middlemen and the repeat offenders, then that is certainly very good progress.

We support the bill, but I do want to put up a red flag or the marker down here. Since so many young offenders are involved in Winnipeg and some other western cities, this legislation may not have the same immediate impact in combatting auto theft.

Let me get back to the image of cities.

I am a former mayor and I know that almost every city councillor and mayor is concerned with his or her city's image. Sometimes things are beyond a council's control and sometimes they are within its control.

As a former mayor of the city of Moncton, I know that citizens' concerns reverberate and are passed on to city council. Complaints reflect negatively on a city's image. No municipality wants to be known as the auto theft capital of the country, the province or the region. That is not a distinction that municipalities like to have.

Anything we could do to amend the Criminal Code through provincial regulations or through public safety programs and public education programs would be important.

The IBC has been telling people to lock their cars or not park their cars in certain areas. Initiatives as simple as this start at the municipal level. The FCM has been very adamant about having an anti-auto theft policy for all its member cities, and that is at the base level of each municipality.

Organized crime has become a Fortune 500 new business category. We need to be more sophisticated in our response to this new burgeoning business.

Thus, I think it is important that members of this House and the general public know that, despite the rhetoric heard on the major television networks like CTV and CBC, and from the Conservative Party spokesperson, we cannot do it all within this Parliament. That is impossible.

We are sitting here in 2009. I have been here since 2006. We are finally getting around to saying that auto theft should be a specific crime, that obliteration or removing of VINs should be a crime, and that we should give border agency officials more power to stop the exportation of stolen vehicles.

What is controversial about that? Nothing. Why was it not done before? Well, the delay has a lot to do with the mood, the temper, the temperament and, dare I say it, the prorogation of this Parliament many times. I think a three and a half year delay on something that communities are looking for is inexcusable.

I also want to take a shot at the government in that there have been many suggestions coming up from officials from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The government should listen to the FCM. It should have a better relationship with the FCM. If it has a member who gets on an open-line show who openly criticizes mayors and councils, the way the member for Nepean—Carleton has done on numerous occasions, some of them who might be former councillors, former mayors or former members of FCM might take that person aside, take them to the woodshed and say, “Don't say that, that's not good for municipal relations”. How can FCM work well with the government when it is being criticized for just standing up for what it believes in?

The important thing about auto theft is it is not a victimless crime. The member for Abbotsford spoke very eloquently about his own experience, which up to this moment I did not know had occurred. It is a violation to the person, having a home entered by a burglar or a car stolen. I remember my uncle, who is deceased now, when he was a provincial court judge. His son's RV was stolen. He had been 30 years on the bench and was fairly hardened. He was mortified and violated, especially from the fact that his dentures were in that RV. When the RV was recovered, he was somewhat more grateful.

It touches a judge, a member of Parliament, all Canadians. That is the point. We must show compassion. We must move this law along. We must show compassion for people who have had auto theft visited upon them.

It is a $1.2 billion business. It includes things like, as IBC would say, the collateral losses in health care costs, court, policing, legal and out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles. In some cases the police authorities will tell us, especially in western Canada, and particularly in Winnipeg, there have been incidents where the stolen vehicle is used to run down someone, to injure someone. So the vehicle itself becomes a weapon.

We know from the Insurance Bureau of Canada that each and every householder, and that includes all of us in here who have motor vehicles, who have insurance, is paying about $37 more per policyholder because of the incidents of auto theft.

The municipalities have been doing a very good job. They have been talking about public education. It is simple to say that when people leave their car, it should be locked, but how many people here or watching have left keys to the vehicle inside the vehicle because they have a second set? That is certainly a no-no. How many people here, because there was a space available, have parked under a tree or in a dark alley? That is a no-no. Never leave a parking lot claim stub in your car when parking at an airport or other large parking lot. Getting car parts marked is something that they suggest can be done.

If parking in a private garage, make sure the garage is locked when leaving. Make sure the garage at home is not accessible. Prevent having a car towed by thieves. This is the evidence we heard about the gangs in Montreal, of organized crime. Immobilizers, which is a very high-tech response to moving a vehicle that is locked, are lauded in some quarters as being very effective. If the car cannot be moved or the wheels cannot be moved without alarms going off, it might make it very difficult to steal a vehicle. What we hear from the police authorities is that in Montreal, for instance, they have such organized units that they come up like a regular towing company and just take the vehicle away without engaging any of the drive mechanisms and without moving the wheels.

To prevent it from being towed, park with the wheels sharply turned or apply the emergency brake. That may not stop the gangs in Montreal, but it might stop other smaller level gangs that have less sophistication.

I want to close with two things. There was a CBC story from Winnipeg. I feel a great empathy for great officers out there, like Officer Pellerin and Officer Sutherland. They have been tracking auto theft for some time in their careers at the Winnipeg Police Force and on behalf of the Winnipeg Police Association.

There are two elements to these last two points. Sometimes, without naming chiefs, mayors or leaders in any way, there is an under-reporting of some crimes. We can imagine that if we are sitting in Winnipeg, Abbotsford or, in the old days, New York, we would want to underplay statistics to improve our civic image. I will close on this. It would be important to have statistics that are accurate. We want to make sure that there is a reporting of statistics that are accurate.

However, here is the story from Winnipeg. There was a long-awaited milestone achieved in Winnipeg when, for the first time in decades, there was not a single auto theft during a 24-hour period. I come from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe. The whole area has about 100,000 people. If a car is stolen, I suspect that it happens maybe once a month.

That is not the smallest place that is represented in this Chamber. I am looking around and I see members from rural parts of Canada. I bet an auto theft in, for instance, the member for Fundy Royal's riding might be a big event. I have seen the parliamentary secretary's second vehicle and I am sure it will never be stolen, but it is a big event and it touches everybody in every community. Imagine it being a big deal in Winnipeg to not have a car theft for 24 hours.

We have to do something. I think this bill will help in that regard. It is also important to help municipalities. Officers Pellerin and Sutherland told me about their very good relationship with their new chief, Keith McCaskill, and Attorney General Chomiak. Things are improving in Winnipeg and Manitoba. However, they need the officers and resources that have been promised again and again by the government. They need support at the municipal level for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to affect its policies.

As a final note, we have to be clear that fudging numbers at the federal and municipal levels is not occurring. Juristat and other Canadian agencies rely on local agencies to feed them numbers. It is incumbent upon the government, public safety and justice to ensure that the feed into the statistical line of information is correct and that we do not have instances such as drive-by shootings not being recorded as organized crime offences.

We will support the bill. Let us get it out of here. Let us get it to the Senate. Let us make it law and let us help cities.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, September 1, 2007, was the date that all new vehicles sold in Canada had to have factory-installed immobilizers in them. However, when I checked further on this, I realized that it was the Liberal government from 2003 that mandated that action to be taken. That is very significant because it means that after that point, with all new cars having the highest quality immobilizers properly installed, Manitoba has had zero auto thefts with that type of immobilizers installed.

The problem should take care of itself over a 10 year period as the older cars disappear. However, I do not think we should be waiting 10 years to deal with this problem. My question comes down to the whole issue of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. If we can show such dramatic results in Manitoba with the mandatory installation of approved immobilizers in older vehicles, why should we not be putting pressure on the Insurance Bureau of Canada to make its member insurance companies follow the same pattern and accelerate what is clearly not a very encouraging situation?

This situation is going to keep going for a lot longer if we do not follow the private insurance companies and require them to take some action here.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I know that this is a burning issue where the member is from. The Manitoba Public Insurance spokesperson, president Marilyn McLaren, said recently that there has been a dramatic decrease in auto thefts. She credits the immobilizer program for certain. What we also heard at the committee, in fairness, is that it is more than immobilizers that will be involved in combatting theft. Anti-theft legislation, of course, is required. As I mentioned, in Montreal the evidence was that regardless of immobilizers, sophisticated thieve rings can still get cars.

It is important to note that putting immobilizers on the new cars is driven by the industry and is a fait accompli. The implication of that to older cars is not as clear, not as cheap and not as effective probably, as the member thinks.

The point is that this just did not come out of the blue. It is not the IBC installing immobilizers, it is in partnership with the police and with the community.

The thought is very good. I applaud his sentiment.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member on his comments and also for supporting this bill.

He quite rightly referred to the fact that different regions of our country have different types of automobile thefts. Because Vancouver is Canada's largest port city by a mile, Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley have more of an organized crime element involved in car theft. In other parts of the country without port cities there is more of a joyriding flavour; although joyriding is probably a misnomer because that criminal activity does not bring joy to any Canadian and, in fact, it victimizes Canadians.

In the member's riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, does he find that organized crime is committing a large number of these auto thefts or is it more the occasional car thief, even though it might be a repeat, who might be doing it either for fun or for some other purpose?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the 2007 statistics, which were lower than they are now, per 100,000 population, were roughly 1,900 for Winnipeg, 1,100 for Abbotsford, followed by Edmonton, Regina and Vancouver. It is not until sixth or seventh place that Montreal appears, and then east of Montreal is not there at all. It is different between east and west.

In my capacity as a mayor and as chairman of the Codiac RCMP commission, I dealt closely with police issues for six years. I can tell the member that auto theft was always regarded as a very serious issue, but it was not linked in those days to organized crime. I do not think that it is as prevalent in the smaller communities of eastern Canada, as the evidence would suggest, as it is out west.

We should continue with the very good working relationships we have at the justice committee to determine why there is that difference. We have some preliminary evidence, but we should determine why that is the case and what we can do to better combat the problem.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech was very informative. The list he provided of preventive techniques that Canadians could use would be a good addition to any member's householder.

At the very end of his speech, the member talked about the cost of enforcement and policing. It has been a concern expressed in this place for a very long time. Whether it be about dealing with grow ops, gang violence and now auto theft, all seem to be related to organized crime.

We continue to pass laws which deal with the problem from a standpoint of penalties, et cetera, but they do not seem to have been much of a deterrent. We also have to be on the ground doing the job.

The Government of Canada is passing these laws and imposing that responsibility upon the provincial and municipal regional jurisdictions to apply the laws, but is there any indication from the policing authorities across the country that they have the resources? It is almost self-defeating if there are not the dollars to enforce the laws that are passed in Ottawa.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the evidence is universal that police authorities, in some cases for some legislation, are saying that they would like to have that legislation, that it would be very helpful, but universally, for instance the Canadian Police Association, they are coming forward and saying that they need the resources to do the work that is required of them.

Many police forces are burdened by the paper trail they have to provide in court proceedings. There are simple issues such as codifying disclosure and modernizing electronic surveillance techniques. Various attorneys general and police forces ask that their time involved in certain issues be cut down and that they be given more weapons and greater resources. It is universal.

The chairman of the justice committee said that the justice minister talks to the public safety minister. They are only a couple of seats away. We do not hear enough that there are sufficient resources to back up, with money and men and women, the laws that are coming out of this Parliament. It is a universal story and it is a sad story.

The Conservatives are the government and they had better fund our police forces to enact and provide for these laws to be real.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for supporting this important bill.

My question is about how all of us, as Canadians, can make our communities safer by making sure our cars are safe.

The issue of immobilizers came up. It is true there are a lot of vehicles that do not have immobilizers. In Canada, a lot of people will leave the keys in the car while warming it up on a cold and frosty morning. In the Lower Mainland, where I am from, there have been a lot of cases where people have driven off in a car that had been warming up in a driveway. Last winter, a car was being fuelled up and the person went in to pay for the gas and left the keys in the ignition.

How important is it for all of us, as Canadians, to do our part to make sure we do not expose our vehicles to being stolen?