The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-64. I very much have enjoyed the commentary of the previous speakers. It raises that even a bill that is only one clause long and refers to amending the Criminal Code can raise some very important issues, such as sentencing, the unintended consequences and the like
However, on balance I think members will find, as we have in the speeches already, that there is all party support for this, not just because it happens to be coming from one of our former colleagues, Chuck Cadman, but because this fits in with the demands of Canadians to ensure that we fill some of these loopholes.
Bill C-64 would make it an offence to wholly or partially obliterate or remove a vehicle identification number. Canadians will understand that VINs are very unique to all cars and are there for identity purposes, but that car theft in whole or in part is a very serious problem.
In this bill, the punishment for the offence, if it proceeds with indictment, is a five year maximum term of imprisonment, or if proceeded with by summary conviction, a six month term of imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,000. This is not a matter to be taken lightly.
Just for the interest of the House, the term motor vehicle is defined in the Criminal Code and therefore would mean a vehicle that is drawn, propelled or driven by any means other than by muscular power and does not include railway equipment, so we are talking about basically motorized vehicles.
Motor vehicle theft is certainly not a victimless crime and I think that probably all members in the House have had experience in their own ridings and communities. When we talk about the theft of personal property, whether it be from outside or within the home, this is an invasive activity that tends to undermine the safety and security of our communities and creates a lot of consternation. Obviously, we should not consider this to be a victimless crime.
In addition, it has considerable impact on the vehicle owners. There are insurance matters, law enforcement, health care and correctional issues. The consequences and the ripple effect when this kind of thing occurs is staggering.
A report put out in 2000 indicated that the cost to the insurance industry alone from motor vehicle theft claims was in the range of $600 million in the year 1998. We do not have any more recent figures but when we consider the magnitude of that we understand that just because there is insurance and it may be covered, we do not get something for nothing. Obviously, through the insurance premiums we pay, they are geared to the lost records that are incurred with regard to the areas being covered. In this regard this is a major component of the cost of premiums for insuring vehicles.
Vehicle theft can take many forms. It can be a crime of opportunity, thrill, addiction or it can be even more sophisticated, requiring distinct roles and responsibilities, networks and combinations of criminal offences. We have certainly seen many movies on this subject matter itself. I can recall seeing one very recently where the big idea was to steal 60 cars in one night. To see the tools, they obviously did a lot of research, but it is amazing how efficient organized crime can be when it comes to vehicle theft.
One of the ways in which organized vehicle theft is facilitated is through the act of removing a vehicle's existing identity, and that is what this bill is all about, the vehicle identification number.
The first stage of this process involves criminals who work the streets seeking specific models or luxury vehicles. The next stage of the process involves intermediaries, or so-called chop shops, who will take the cars and modify them, disguise them or chop them up for parts. The process requires the vehicle be stripped of all existing labels and plates. It is the kind of thing that is so efficient it is absolutely amazing that it could happen so often without being noticed in communities.
I guess it should not be a surprise to us when we consider the situation of grow houses and the prevalence of grow houses in communities across Canada that seem to be able to operate without detection for very long periods of time, all for the benefit of organized crime.
The primary focus of the bill is to give some of the tools that are necessary to address the situation where the unique identify of a vehicle is disrupted.
Organized vehicle theft is lucrative and comparatively low risk. It also is increasingly international in scope. We have seen many stories where ship containers are being filled with certain cars that are very attractive to international destinations. If we were to look at some of these shipping yards, we would understand why it has been so difficult to detect this. This bill would be extremely important for the law enforcement side.
An example of this elaborate criminal activity was provided in a 1998 report where it was explained how a Vancouver area organized crime group operated by stealing vehicle identification numbers from salvage yards in Vancouver. It would then travel to Toronto, steal the cars that fit the make of the stolen vehicles and then apply the stolen vehicle identification number from the Vancouver vehicle onto the Toronto vehicle.
As we can see, there is some sophistication here, which makes this particular offence quite serious because it is facilitating major activity with regard to organized crime.
One report notes that theft rings need only put out money to pay for the theft of a vehicle and the cost of shipping, which together generally costs less than 10% of the value of the vehicle itself. Obviously, it is an extremely lucrative business and there is a lot of incentive for those who would participate in this criminal activity.
There are a few limited situations where some people may legitimately alter the vehicle identification number in the execution of their lawful work, and the intent of the bill is not to deal with that. We have had discussions through the debate today about the possibility of having an amendment where we are dealing with whether or not there is a need to identify the motivation, whether the motivation for alteration was with regard to taking away the identity of the car.
We also must ensure that those persons who have a legitimate reason, which is part of the bill in terms of requirement for having a lawful excuse, to incidentally tamper with a vehicle identification number, will be protected from criminal prosecution.
The offence, as designed in Bill C-64, accounts for these legitimate behaviours, such as inadvertency, by requiring that the tampering be committed under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did not so conceal the identity of the motor vehicle. The member for Provencher raised some concern about this aspect .
I suspect, being where we are in the legislative process, that work will be done to consider whether or not an amendment or some language amendments may be required to make absolutely sure that the bill is functional in the way that it was contemplated.
The particular circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference are not spelled out in the legislation, nor should they be. They are open-ended to allow for crown prosecutors to lead evidence of intent, such as the application of a replacement vehicle identification number, altered vehicle documents, or fraudulent resale to an innocent buyer. Ultimately, this is a finding the court would make based on the evidence presented by the Crown.
Ultimately, motor vehicle theft is occurring at a very significant rate. I am pleased, however, to note that the rates have decreased slightly in the last year according to the latest reports. This is due in part to the numerous successful law enforcement strategies which are being employed across the country. For example, targeted law enforcement has been extremely successful in the bait car program operated throughout Vancouver, which is run by the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team, also known as IMPACT.
Essentially, bait cars are vehicles that are equipped with GPS tracking technology, as well as visual and audio recording devices. When an offender attempts to steal a car, an alarm is triggered at the monitoring station. Police are notified and are able to safely disable the vehicle, make an arrest and use the recorded evidence of the theft in the prosecution.
The fight against auto theft, organized or otherwise, will require similar creative law enforcement techniques if it is to be ultimately successful.
The situation is clear. Members of criminal organizations are reaping large profits on the backs of legitimate motor vehicle owners.
Therefore, I certainly hope that all members will support the bill, and to the extent that there are any concerns whatsoever, we take the time necessary to make whatever amendments are necessary so that we can pass this bill in honour of our late colleague, Chuck Cadman.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise again in the House and speak to what is being touted as the government's bill to honour our former colleague, Chuck Cadman.
I remember a few months back being at the funeral honouring Chuck. The Prime Minister was there along with many of us to honour and remember Chuck. There was a promise made at his funeral that the Prime Minister would bring Chuck's bills before the House to honour him. That made many of us very happy because Chuck had introduced numerous bills over the years. Of course his wife, Dona Cadman, and his family were there, so it was wonderful to hear that the Prime Minister was going to do that in Chuck's memory.
Chuck in dealing with auto crime had presented some bills in the House. Bill C-413 was introduced in March 2003 and then was reintroduced in February 2004 and Bill C-287 was introduced in November 2004. Unfortunately the government never did support those bills of Chuck's regarding VIN altering.
Today we have been dealing with Bill C-65 on street racing and Bill C-64 on vehicle identification altering. However, our excitement that the Prime Minister was going to do the right thing was short-lived. There was a comment made by the justice minister that these bills were invoked in the name of Mr. Cadman saying that they were intended as an appropriate tribute to his legacy.
Chuck Cadman worked very hard to make Canada a safer place and to fight for victims' rights. He did an incredible job. Some of us here still have that passion to work for Chuck. It is unfortunate that Chuck did not see those bills passed while he was with us.
On October 1 a local newspaper, Now, ran an article titled “Chuck's bill likely to be law”. The community was excited that Chuck's bills were going to become law, that the Prime Minister was going to keep his promise. People were excited. Then we looked at the bills and found that they were not Chuck's bills at all. The government was using Chuck's name and had altered and watered down his bills. We became very disappointed.
Dane Minor was Chuck's campaign manager and worked for years with Chuck. He wrote a letter to the editor about Chuck's bills becoming law. It stated:
|| I read this article with a growing sense of disgust. Several weeks ago the prime minister announced on the front pages of national and local papers that his government would pass Chuck's private member bill into legislation as an honour to Chuck. My immediate reaction was a positive one. It would be a fitting memorial to Chuck. Then the justice minister announced his watered down version. This isn't Chuck's bill in either intent or design. It is a cynical attempt by the Liberals to use Chuck's good name while doing little or nothing to change the existing laws.
|| One of the things that drew Chuck into the political arena in the first place was a visit by a former justice minister to supposedly discuss the Young Offenders Act with Chuck. The man blew into town, spent five minutes getting his picture taken shaking Chuck's hand and went back to Ottawa saying meetings with victims showed his government cared about victims and the faults of the YOA. Chuck was disgusted and it was incidents like these that led him to become a MP to truly change things.
|| This “new” legislation from the Liberals is the same type of political stunt. [The] Justice Minister...said his government tweaked both bills to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and address “operational deficiencies”.
There is a word here I will not repeat.
|| Chuck had one of the best legal advisors in Ottawa on his staff and his bills were well within the Charter. The ultimate ridiculousness of [the justice minister's] version was the reason for removing penalties for repeat offences: “because the police across this country don't have tracing or tracking records so we would know if it was a first, second or third tracking offence.”
|| If the Liberals truly want to honour Chuck Cadman I suggest they pass his laws as written and actually give the police the resources to find out how many previous offences there were. If they don't have the courage to do that, at least have the decency to stop using his name in a self serving bid to gain political points.
That was from Dane Minor's letter. I phoned Dona shortly after that. I asked Dane if it was okay to read the letter in the House and he said yes. I asked Dona if she was okay with that and she said yes too. She asked the House not to present Mickey Mouse watered down bills but to pass Chuck's bills the way Chuck had written them. They were good bills. If we pass the Liberal bill, all it does is protects the criminals. That is what I heard from Dane and Dona.
For years I was involved with dealing with auto theft. Like Chuck, I spent a number of years working for ICBC and I dealt with crashes and auto crime.
I found some very interesting statistics on auto crime. The typical auto thief is a 27-year-old male. He is addicted to crystal meth. He has 13 prior criminal convictions and he is stealing the vehicle to commit another offence.
There are auto thieves who are stealing the car for a joyride. Some steal cars for transportation to get from point A to point B, some to their court hearing. There are some kids who steal vehicles. There are vehicles being stolen by organized crime. Primarily the number one offender is the typical thief who is addicted to crystal meth and is stealing it to commit another crime.
The bill presented by the government as a bill to honour Chuck, this watered down version which I do not support because of why the Liberals have done it, is to deal with the changing of the vehicle identification number. That can be done in a number of different ways and it is connected with auto crime, with organized crime.
It is a small minority of the vehicles that are being stolen. Last year there were 170,000 vehicles stolen. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that it is costing Canadians over $1 billion a year. When we include the police costs and the loss to Canadians it is $1 billion a year for auto theft. A portion of those are vehicles that are being stolen to change the VIN. What kind of theft is that? What do they do with the vehicles? Why are they changing the vehicle identification numbers?
Some of them steal the car to sell it for parts. We have heard that. That is a percentage of them. They will take the car apart and sell the pieces. A lot of the new vehicles, in fact most of them, have a VIN attached to every panel and every fender. Every component in the car will have the VIN hidden on it. That is something we may want to consider.
If we are talking about amending the bill to make it a bill that would work, we are talking about altering on a vehicle but it could be a vehicle or components of a vehicle. That is a big problem. The car is stolen and then parted out because the thief thinks that the parts are not traceable. Another way that organized crime operates is to steal an expensive vehicle, alter the VIN and then sell it.
I have constituents in my riding of Langley who bought a motor home. It was their dream to buy a motor home. They bought it from a reputable dealer, or so they thought, and it turned out to be a stolen vehicle, a vehicle that had an altered VIN. My constituents had taken out a mortgage. They were going to sell their house. The motor home was going to be their home. It was a beautiful $140,000 motor home. It turned out to be stolen. It was taken from them.
The province of B.C. refunded the PST because of the fraudulent VIN. My constituents had done the due diligence. They did a check on the vehicle and everything was fine. They had it checked out, but it turned out to be a stolen vehicle. The VIN had been changed to the legitimate VIN of a vehicle that was not stolen.
This is all too common. Thieves will steal the registration from another vehicle. The registration has a VIN. The thieves will put that legitimate VIN from a vehicle that is not stolen onto the stolen vehicle so the buyer does not realize it is a stolen vehicle. My constituents bought the vehicle. Unfortunately, it was taken back. The police found it.
I wonder if I am going over my time, Mr. Speaker, because I am getting some heckling from my honoured colleagues across the way. I would ask them to be patient.
An hon. member: Take your time.
Mr. Mark Warawa: Thank you. I will take my time. I will ask my hon. colleagues to pay attention because we are talking about a very serious matter.
These constituents of mine lost $140,000. The province of B.C. gave back the PST they had paid. If we do the math, that is 7% of $140,000, which is about $10,000. That is a lot of money. They got back the PST from the province of British Columbia and they asked the federal government to give back the GST.
Unfortunately, the government is refusing to give back the GST to this wonderful couple in the latter years of their life. The province did the right thing, but the federal government loves to overtax Canadians.
My constituents are victims of auto theft. It is a huge problem. Vehicles are broken up for parts or sent overseas or the VIN will be changed deliberately.
As I said, there is an obvious VIN. It is usually on the front left-hand corner of a vehicle, right where the windshield meets. It is out of the way. It cannot be seen from inside. A person must look at it from the outside. There is also a hidden VIN on each vehicle. Sometimes there are a number of them, but primarily there is one on each vehicle. The police can find out from the VIN on a suspicious vehicle if it has been changed.
It is very important to check. It is very important to me. In my former life as a city councillor and working for ICBC as a loss prevention officer, I had to tackle problems, whether they were crashes or crime. We always looked at the three Es: education, engineering and enforcement.
For education, we would tell people that auto crime is a problem in the Vancouver area. We would teach them how to protect themselves from being victims of auto crime. Vehicle owners should not leave their registration in their vehicles. They should leave it at home or keep it on their person, because if somebody breaks into their vehicle and steals their registration, they can actually sell that vehicle without the vehicle owner even knowing it because they have the VIN. They can make a fake VIN and put it on another stolen vehicle. The vehicle owners would not realize that their vehicle has been stolen. It is still in their possession, but thieves have stolen their VIN.
We told people to use a steering lock on their steering wheel. We told people that if they did not have an immobilizer, they should get one. We told them that if they did have one, they should make sure it was a good one that was approved and that worked. A lot of new vehicles have an immobilizer that does not work. People must have a good one.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia have information pages to educate people on what works and what does not work in protecting their vehicle. We told people not to leave valuables in their vehicle because that can attract thieves. We did everything we could through education. In engineering, we had those steering locks and immobilizers. We also had the bait car program through engineering, to try to go after auto thieves.
The very frustrating part was enforcement. The police would try to catch these people, but the courts kept letting them go. I asked the parliamentary secretary what the sentencing was and he said this legislation will be used to combat auto crime.
What is the track record? This is going to be added to other forms of legislation. Bill C-64 is supposed to help combat auto crime. What is the typical sentence?
Right now if someone steals a car and gets caught that person typically says he did not realize the vehicle was stolen. People will claim it was given to them by a friend. That is the excuse they have. In court it is tough to prove that they knew the vehicle was stolen and it is tough to prove that they stole it.
If they are convicted, they get the typical sentence, which is probation. If they get caught again, they receive probation for breaching their probation. These people are repeat offenders. It is a small group of people who are stealing these vehicles. These are high risk people. The typical person stealing vehicles is addicted to drugs and is a high risk individual. Yet these people keep on getting probation for breaching their probation.
There is a sense of frustration within our communities across Canada with the fact that sentencing is not being done appropriately, that the courts are not taking this problem seriously. We are asking for mandatory minimum sentences.
My private member's bill asked for mandatory minimum sentences. I did research. I consulted with my colleagues. I found that the average cost in terms of damage to a stolen vehicle is $4,600. There should be a minimum fine of at least $1,000 if the average cost is $4,600. That seems very conservative to me. The other option was to have the individual serve three months in jail, or both, but of course the Liberals do not support sentencing with consequences. They would prefer to have these people released back into the community with probation.
Chuck wanted to see some consequences. He wanted to see some good legislation and he provided good legislation. His bill would have made it an offence for anyone “who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse”. That would be a good piece of legislation. Right now it is not illegal to do that. It should be. Chuck knew that. As Conservatives we know that and we would support that.
What did the Liberals do? They added this clause: “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. That puts the onus on the Crown to prove the intent of the offender. Why did the person do it? Did the person do it to conceal the identity of the vehicle?
I believe that taking the VIN off a vehicle should be an offence unless there is a lawful excuse. A lawful excuse would be if the vehicle had been damaged severely or was totalled, and if, for example, the front half was going to be taken off another vehicle and those two vehicles put together. That would be a lawful excuse to change the VIN to match the hidden VIN. That can be done.
However, thieves also now have the technology to create a false VIN. If the VIN is taken off because the car is stolen, that is not a lawful excuse. That should be an offence. It seems too obvious. I am not certain why the Liberals do not agree with that. Taking the VIN off without a lawful excuse should be an offence. If someone changes those numbers, or if those numbers are removed or obliterated, that is an offence unless there is a lawful excuse.
I support Chuck's intent. To add that extra watered down onus on the Crown to prove that the offender had the intent to conceal makes it very difficult. I ask the House to support Chuck Cadman's bill, not this one.
This is a watered down version of Chuck's bill. Dona Cadman and Dane Minor are both asking the House not to support this bill because it is using Chuck's name and we should not do that.
We should honour Chuck. If we are going to pass Chuck's bill, let us pass Chuck's bill as written, not a Liberal bill.