The Port of Montreal, a hub for the export of stolen cars

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The Port of Montreal, a hub for the export of stolen cars

Are the authorities doing enough to combat vehicle theft ? A CBC investigation looked into the phenomenon.

The port of Montreal. (File photo)

In Montreal alone, 9,591 vehicles were stolen last year, compared to 6,527 in 2021, and many of them end up abroad, according to police.

As the largest port on Canada's east coast, Montreal is a major hub for the export of goods, and increasingly for vehicle theft , according to experts.

SUVs and pickup trucks are among the most stolen.

According to David Adams, President and CEO of Global Automakers of Canada, the fact that a large number of stolen vehicles transit through the Port of Montreal is an open secret. The question is how bad this situation has to get before the authorities really do anything about it, he says.

The volume of goods and the size of the port, which spans 30 kilometers and regularly handles more than 1.5 million containers a year, makes this task difficult.

A port worker, who asked CBC not to be identified, suggests the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is not doing enough spot checks.

They are not often at the port, he says. Imagine you have to fly anywhere, and you arrive at the airport and they only check once in a while. Or that they are not there when you pass; that's kind of what they do.

The role of the CBSA at the port is to detect contraband, whether it is narcotics, firearms or stolen property including stolen vehicles.


Salvatore Barbieri, CBSA superintendent at the port, acknowledges that this can be a challenge, given the amount of goods imported and exported. The volume of containers entering Montreal, we have to do a risk assessment, he points out.

The CBSA intercepted 1,050 stolen vehicles at the port last year, up from 269 five years earlier.

It's unclear exactly how many stolen vehicles are being shipped out of Montreal, but a growing number of vehicles from Canada are being found overseas, says Renato Schipani, a criminal intelligence agent at Interpol.

We are finding hundreds of Canadian cars stolen in Italy, shipped to the Middle East, then hundreds of Canadian cars tracked and traced in West Africa, he continues.

The stolen vehicles drive up premiums. The amount paid out by insurance companies in Quebec has skyrocketed from about $111 million in 2018 to $269 million in the first nine months of 2022 alone, according to the Insurance Commission. of Canada.

Based on text by CBC's Leah Hendry and Benjamin Shingler