Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Hochelaga for his encouragement.
I am very pleased to take part in this debate on Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime). As suggested in the short title, it will amend the Criminal Code to give it more teeth. Auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime are often related to gangs and organized crime.
Gangs in large Canadian cities such as Montreal and Toronto often make illegal, totally reprehensible profits from stolen vehicles and especially auto parts that are much sought after on illicit markets.
This bill is needed even though Statistics Canada data show that there has been a clear decline since 1996 in the number of vehicles stolen per 100,000 population. I printed out the 2006 Statistics Canada data by province on motor vehicle thefts per 100,000. There has been quite a large reduction since 1999.
The figures show that in 1999, there were 531 vehicle thefts per 100,000 population. In 2006, there were 487 thefts in Canada per 100,000. That is a major reduction. There were some regional disparities, of course. The extent of this illegal activity varies depending on the part of Canada. In Quebec, for example, there were 507 vehicle thefts per 100,000 population, while in Manitoba, there were 1,376. The regional disparity is obvious. This is related to the reasons why malicious people steal vehicles. The reasons are not the same in Montreal as in Ontario and Alberta. Some people steal cars for the money, while others want to go for joyrides, as the literature shows.
First, this bill includes targeted measures to improve the Criminal Code. It will help us get a better picture of all these illegal activities and the black market, whether in regard to exports and imports of stolen or illegally obtained goods or trafficking in them. It also imposes longer sentences. Minimum sentences are introduced in this bill, but I will get back to that later.
The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-9. However, we should not focus simply on punishment but look at the source of the problem as well. We need to realize that the societies where crime is the lowest are often those that deal seriously with major social ills, such as poverty and inequality. Our provinces, municipalities and police forces should look at prevention as well. We need legislation and penalties, of course, but what we need most of all are preventive measures aimed at reducing inequality and poverty.
The new measures to reduce car theft have been debated in Parliament before, in 2005. At that time, the Liberal government had introduced Bill C-64 providing that altering the identification number would be an offence. The vehicle identification number, referred to as the VIN, is used to identify vehicles and their parts. It provides each vehicle with a unique identifier. I will come back to this a little later.
The purpose of Bill S-9 is to extend the reach of the Criminal Code by tackling trafficking in, exporting and importing any property obtained by crime. It also clarifies and extends the reach of the Criminal Code. It provides minimum sentences after an individual has been convicted of motor vehicle theft for the third time. So harsher punishments have been provided for these illegal activities.
Section 354 of the Criminal Code already provided punishments for possession of property obtained by crime, but Bill S-9 clarifies those crimes. It creates an offence for trafficking in property obtained by crime, but it also provides a maximum sentence of 14 years. So this adds to the sentences available for these criminal activities.
But it must be understood that the reasons why individuals steal vehicles are not all the same, from one place to another and one province to another. There are regional disparities in the reasons why an individual steals a vehicle belonging to someone in Quebec or someone in Alberta. In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the reasons for theft are described as “joyriding”. A vehicle is stolen there for amusement, while the situation is different in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Quebec and Ontario, in particular, have become criminal hubs for stolen vehicles, because people want to profit from property obtained by crime in these cases.
We have seen organized rings becoming real hubs of organized crime. The indicator that enables us to identify these various types of theft is what is called the stolen vehicle recovery rate. The ability of the authorities to locate stolen vehicles varies enormously from one province to another. For example, the stolen vehicle recovery rate in Toronto is 75%.
When we come to cities like Montreal, part of which I represent in the House of Commons, we see that the stolen vehicle recovery rate is 56%. Obviously, the authorities are clearly having trouble locating stolen vehicles in Montreal, as compared to Toronto. The reasons are different. Why is it harder? Quite simply because these cities have in fact become organized crime hubs, as I was saying. These stolen vehicles are used for trafficking and exporting. We can see that there are various ways these individuals, acting with malice aforethought, decide to steal vehicles that belong to members of the public.
First, what does the thief do? They start by identifying the vehicle, based on where it is, whether in a private or public parking lot. Then, they steal the vehicle in a very short timeframe. The statistics tell us that the thief manages to steal the vehicle in 30 seconds to three minutes, depending on whether the vehicle has an auto start system and some kind of protection, whether an alarm or something else.
In a trafficking scheme with crime hubs, where does the vehicle go? There are three activities that organized crime groups do to get rid of a vehicle and make huge profits. The first is that the vehicle is chopped, or stripped for parts. Much as a butcher would do, these organized crime groups dismantle the vehicle to take the most important parts. These parts are identified. They know exactly which parts to take from certain vehicles. They know which parts are worth a lot on the market, and this is determined by supply and demand. So, they strip the vehicle for the most important parts. Next, they immediately export the parts after stripping them, because the vehicle is often sent to underground shops, where mechanics strip the vehicles and identify the valuable parts. Then, the vehicles are exported.
Why are the recovery rates lower in areas like Montreal? Simply because Montreal and Toronto are prime strategic locations for organized crime groups that traffic in vehicles or vehicle parts, for two reasons. First, Montreal and Toronto, and particularly Montreal, are right on the border. As a result, it is a strategic location for organized crime groups to export stolen vehicle parts to the United States. In addition, Montreal and Toronto are near waterways. Second, in terms of strategy, as I said earlier, unlike in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it is clear that cars stolen in Montreal and Toronto are not stolen for the purposes of joyriding; they are stolen to be resold.
The second way organized crime groups move a vehicle is to export it to where there is a clearly targeted market. Where are these markets, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada? Essentially, these markets are in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, South America and Africa.
Resellers export car parts that are in very high demand to these markets by ocean freight. It is estimated that the sale of a Jeep Cherokee can directly generate $97,000 for organized crime. For some organized groups, it pays to sell stolen vehicles. That has to be taken into consideration.
It is often thought that luxury vehicles are in demand in these markets. However, that is not the case. Quite often, the vehicles or parts in demand are not high-end but have a high resale value. In 2006, the 10 most stolen cars in Canada were the 1999 Honda Civic SiR two-door, the 2000 Honda Civic SiR two-door, Subarus, Acuras, Dodge Caravans, Dodge Grand Caravans, Audis and Dodge Shadows. Luxury vehicles are not necessarily the most frequently stolen. The two most stolen automobiles are plain Honda Civics because their parts have a resale value on the black market.
There are three types of operations: chopping for parts, exporting, and changing identification numbers of parts and vehicles. In addition, parts and vehicles are cloned. How is the identification changed? Organized groups find vehicles involved in accidents, obtain their vehicle identification number or VIN, and copy it onto a stolen vehicle. The identification is changed in the third step in the process, which is also when cloning takes place, once again using the VIN. For example, thieves will go to a shopping centre parking lot, obtain a VIN, and copy it onto a stolen vehicle.
That is how organized crime works and why the VIN is important and central to Bill S-9. We cannot simply create an offence for the possession of property obtained by crime, which has been covered so far by section 354 of the Criminal Code. We have to have provisions covering the VIN. When the vehicle identification number has been altered, there must be better regulation and offences with minimum sentences. That is why we are supporting Bill S-9.
Cars are stolen for two reasons. The first is that there is a black market with well-targeted operations. The Criminal Code must have more teeth and prohibit tampering with the VIN. This would be one measure among others to reduce auto theft and fight this problem.