Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press The increase in thefts in recent years is “alarming,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told five of his ministers, police chiefs, officials from the auto industry and the insurance sector, including .
Michel Saba – The Canadian Press in Ottawa
February 8, 2024
The federal government is considering toughening penalties for criminals who steal cars, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday at the opening of a one-day national summit in Ottawa on how best to to fight against the scourge of automobile theft.
The increase in thefts in recent years is “alarming”, he told five of his ministers, police chiefs, officials from the automobile industry and the insurance sector, among others.
He attacked his conservative rival, Pierre Poilievre, saying “catchy slogans” and two-minute videos would not solve the problem.
The Minister of Justice, Arif Virani, also affirmed that he will examine the Criminal Code “closely”, although “robust measures” are already planned to combat vehicle theft .
During a press conference, Mr. Virani explained that he wanted to “bridge” the existing provisions that punish theft and organized crime by placing “emphasis on the problem of road piracy.”
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The Minister of Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, also announced that Ottawa will prohibit the importation, sale and use by consumers of devices capable of detecting the signal of electronic keys , which are used to commit these thefts.
“More and more violent”
Vehicle thefts are “increasingly violent,” noted Quebec Minister of Public Security François Bonnardel. Moreover, earlier this week, a Montreal police officer was injured when a car thief drove into her in a vehicle.
“There were places where people came out with guns pointed at the homeowners. […] There are situations where they have broken down residence doors to get keys. This is unheard of,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Mike Duheme in a press scrum.
Many of them, he described, are “young thugs” aged 14 to 18 who have no “human value” when committing their crimes, if although these are “extremely violent”. They would get paid between $1000 and $3000 per flight.
According to the commissioner, the problem is more acute today due to the growing presence of street gangs in society.
And no one is safe. The mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, said she had her own vehicle stolen.
A vehicle is stolen “every five minutes” in the country, illustrated a leader of Équité Association, an organization for the prevention of crime and insurance fraud. Losses from these crimes are estimated at $1.2 billion each year.
In Quebec, there were “three times more” vehicle theft files opened last year compared to 2019, noted the director general of the Sûreté du Québec, Johanne Beausoleil.
She explained that the Port of Montreal is “the preferred transit location” for the export of stolen vehicles in Ontario and Quebec and that the majority of stolen vehicles are shipped to Africa and the Middle East.< /p>
The president of the Association of Police Directors of Quebec and vice-president of the group of police chiefs of Canada, Pierre Brochet, asked the federal government for funds to correct the problem in the short term and make vehicle theft more difficult in the long term.
Mr. Brochet, who also heads the Laval police, drew up a list of issues to work on: the supply and demand of stolen vehicles, organized crime involved in these thefts, investigation and police intelligence work , sentences and bail, technological capabilities including tracking systems and vehicle security by manufacturers.
He suggests “a restructuring” of the Canada Border Services Agency in order to have a “strong organization with a clear mandate”.
Canadian police officers are demanding in particular the possibility of remotely deactivating a vehicle, much like it is possible to do with a telephone, which makes it unusable, mentioned the commissioner of the Provincial Police of 'Ontario, Thomas Carrique.
As he leaves, the federal Minister of Public Safety, Dominic LeBlanc, said that he wants to develop “very quickly” a “concrete action plan” with a “step forward”. follow.”
His Transport colleague, Pablo Rodriguez, called for better information sharing. He reported comments from a trucking company he met recently who told him that they drop off “the trailer” at the customer’s location and leave.
“The person […] puts two cars in [the container], closes it, puts a padlock that we are not allowed to open, and writes “Frigidaires” on it, then we is leaving,” he related.
The oppositions disappointed
During question period in the House of Commons, Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer called on the Liberals to abandon their “soft” approach to crime in order to reduce theft of vehicles.
“The previous Conservative government reduced car theft through common-sense policies, such as tougher penalties for repeat offenders,” he said. The Prime Minister changed that and gave car thieves easy bail and house arrest. »
The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, for his part, expressed regret that elected officials announce decisions before even hearing the experts.
“What is the point of consulting people, first and foremost the police, if all the party leaders line up and then put on an electoral show before even knowing what will come out of the summit about motor vehicle theft ?” he asked.
The New Democratic Party is calling for more investment in the Border Services Agency. “There are still 800 agents missing at the border,” insisted its public security spokesperson, Peter Julian.
Mr. Julian also indicated that he is “not against” the idea of strengthening the Criminal Code and that he is in favor of bail reform.
On Wednesday, the government released $28 million in new money to help combat the export of stolen vehicles, after the Conservative opposition persistently pushed for the problem to be resolved.