Mr. Speaker, street racing is an issue in my community of Surrey North and in hundreds of other communities across the country. It is a concern everywhere. It is of particular concern in those communities that have seen a number of deaths as a result of street racing in the last two or three years. Certainly it is a concern in the lower mainland of British Columbia. It is important that we are having this debate today, to raise questions about what is appropriate and how we can end the pain and suffering that we see throughout the country.
In the lower mainland, there are two families that I know well who have family members who have died because of street racing. The family member was not behind the wheel of a car that was street racing, but was killed while crossing the road on foot or was in another car which was hit by another car that was street racing.
It is interesting that I have heard people say about street racing, “Well, there are a lot of hormones in young men and young women and everybody likes speed and the impulse takes over”. If they were speeding maybe, but street racing is planned. In most of the situations in the lower mainland people had actually planned the street race. They called each other and set up a time and a place. It is not simply happenstance. I do worry about it.
I worry also about this as an individual bill. Many people have been saying for quite some time that the Criminal Code in general needs an overhaul. This one aspect on street racing has been singled out and put in a bill. I would suggest that probably many more people are killed as a result of dangerous driving, by one car speeding, not racing, but we have not lifted that item out and said that we would deal with it differently. I would feel more comfortable if this were coming forward in a different context, in a more omnibus approach to changing the Criminal Code and updating a number of aspects that need to be addressed.
I thought about the purpose. I understand the purpose as the bill is written. Some people would suggest it is a deterrent, maybe an educational one. Or is it a singular response to one issue that would be better dealt with in a larger way, say with all actions that have to do with the dangerous operation of a car? Street racing is only one of many.
This piece of legislation reminds me of when a particular province passed a piece of legislation on stalking either women or men; there were more women being stalked at that time, but it had to do with stalking, period. Stalking could have been dealt with legislation that was already in existence, but because the issue of stalking was very much on people's minds, it was dealt with as a single piece of legislation, knowing there was already in legislation ways to deal with that kind of a crime.
One of my colleagues asked the question, and it is one which I am asking myself, if there is already legislation in place, why are judges not using it? We asked that about stalking as well. I truly do not understand. Judges have a fairly wide range of choices when someone charged with street racing comes before them. Many of the choices can be very restrictive. If that is the case, then why are we hearing so much about street racers receiving ankle bracelets and house arrest? We hear that they can leave to go to school and then return home, et cetera. I am very puzzled as to why that legislation is not being used.
There are some things we need to consider in the debate around this legislation. One of them certainly is the issue of resources. In Richmond, B.C. there are tracts of highway, at least in the Lower Mainland, that are more likely to be used for street racing than others. In Richmond there is a very long straight stretch of highway. We have had a number of street racing tragedies in Richmond.
I have also heard the Richmond, B.C. chief of police say that he thinks they are getting at that, but while they are addressing that problem, the police are not answering other calls. They do not have enough resources to place officers along that stretch of road where street racing occurs and to answer the other calls that come in from people who need police attention. The issue of resources is a very critical one.
In my community of Surrey the police are already stretched beyond what they are able to do. It always becomes a choice of which crime is more important, which call is the more important one. I would not want to be the person who has to make that decision. I may make the wrong decision and someone's life may be lost. The resource issue is a very important one.
In some ways Bill C-19 is limited in terms of what it addresses. I am not arguing that street racing is not a very serious crime and has not been treated as a very serious crime. Absolutely, but I would refer to some of the things that people raised earlier. It is important for me to acknowledge that drinking and driving still happens. It happens less, but it still happens.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, except it is mothers, fathers and all kinds of people, but MADD has had an extremely successful impact in its approach to reduce drunk driving and make sure that people are dealt with differently and are more aware of what could happen.
Around the issue of driving too quickly and drunk driving, there is a hospital in Cranbrook where high school students visit the hospital morgue. It is scary, but the students are not necessarily there when something is going on. The students are not there to see an autopsy. They are fairly young high school students. Simply being in a morgue after what is seen on television is a pretty scary experience.
I do not know how many people have ever been to a morgue but, as someone who comes from a nursing background, just being in an empty morgue is pretty chilling. Because of this program in Cranbrook, the community has seen a decrease in the number of teenagers who are drinking and driving, as well as speeding they think. It is not the same as street racing, but it does talk about the importance of the educative factor with young teens.
The health community and the education community are working together to solve a problem that is killing or maiming the future of our communities. They did not wait for the police or someone else to solve the problem. They looked for partners and actually found corporate partners to provide written materials and other materials around this to start educating teenagers in the same way we have tried to do around smoking and other things that are negatively affecting young people.
Education, obviously, needs to include the police force. I think teenagers, in particular, hear things differently from the police than from a doctor or nurse or someone in the school system. By putting those partners together who are willing to do this education means we can pick the right people for the right audience.
I guess there is the strategy to having young women or young men who have been caught street racing going into high schools and talking to students. I do not know a lot of street racers. I have only met the ones involved in programs. However, the ones whose friends were killed while they were street racing had a very important message and they were sincere in their message. They were not doing it as part of community hours or whatever. They were doing it because they wanted the 13 to 17 year olds to personally know the effect this has had, not just on them but on their friend's mom, dad, aunt, uncle, nana, grandad and a circle of friends. When one person dies in this kind of incident sometimes 20, 30 or 40 people are pretty directly impacted by it.
I would like to see the time where we do not have to debate a bill like this and I think that will happen with the kind of education that happens in communities. I do not mean that we should not be debating it today but I would like to look at the root cause, not just the crime, so we can reduce and, hopefully, eliminate street racing. I do not want us to be dealing with this again in five years time because we were not able to reach our younger people and stop them from getting into this position in the first place.
I want to mention my grandson who I usually manage to mention in some speech. He is 11 years old now. Every time he came to stay with me when he was younger, his mom would send along a long list of things he could not watch. She listed 10, 20, whatever it was, things. I understand the effect television, movies and video games have on young people. They see car races as fun. Some video games have car races where the kids get 20 points if they knock the other car into the ditch because they went faster or they were able to cut them off. I cannot believe that does not have an impact on the actions of a six or seven year old when they are older.
I heard others ask about car manufacturers and advertising. If we look at car advertising, it says that if we buy this car it will go from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds or whatever and that is really cool. It is always a nice silver, sporty looking car and it is played as a positive to get there that quickly. If that is what we continue to see then we need to have an affect on advertisers as well because that is what our children see. Even if they are watching a perfectly acceptable television program, not everybody mutes the advertising or puts their hands over the eyes of their young children while the car manufacturers brag about how fast their cars go.
The other important question was whether we need cars to go that fast. Police cars, yes, but does every car we buy need to go 200 kilometres an hour? Given that the speed range in our province is 100 kilometres an hour, and it varies from province to province, I do not know if I need to buy a car that goes 200 kilometres an hour.
This is an important bill to be debating and it is an important time to be doing it. Many people who have had sons or daughters die, either as passengers in the car, as drivers or as someone who has been hit by a car, are watching very carefully. They are suffering pain and they have made their voices heard. If they had not been heard, we would not be here debating it.
What is the best solution? I am sure the solution is multiple but we need to know what the best actions are to take.
I am interested in the debate that is going on currently and will continue to go on. I am glad that my son could only afford a car that was 15 years old and did not go very fast. He did not get the graduation present that others did. A lot of young people who graduate receive fancy new cars that look like they were made to be driven quickly. Maybe parents need to think a little bit when they buy these types of cars.
This is a real issue in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia. Many people know someone who has been involved in just such an event.
I would encourage us to think about whether there are other bills that we should also be looking at to make a more omnibus change to the Criminal Code, which people have been calling for, and to think about the community partners that must be involved in supporting this in order to have a reduction in the community, not only to have legislation but to encourage our community partners to come forward, the health system, the education system, the police system, and work with us as a group, not on individual initiatives, although those are fine too, but in a group to see what we can do so that we are not standing here debating exactly this bill in five years' time, that we will have reached those young people, as we have with alcohol and smoking, and be able to reduce that.