With the number of stolen cars in Canada skyrocketing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is considering stiffer penalties for auto theft.
It’s an idea Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre also proposed this week to crack down on what’s become a national epidemic.
Trudeau raised the possibility of harsher punishments during his opening remarks at the national summit on combatting on auto theft, which began Thursday in Ottawa.
“First things first, we need to stop these criminals who are part of the gangs and organized crime,” Trudeau said.
“We’re also looking at further strengthening penalties for anyone who participates in auto theft.”
On Monday, Poilievre outlined his plan to tackle Canada’s vehicle theft crisis, which includes a mandatory three years in jail for repeat car thieves. In response to that, Justice Minister Arif Virani said that those provisions to punish car thieves already exist in the Criminal Code, and his focus is on organized crime rings driving this issue.
“(What) Pierre Poilievre is desperately missing is that he wants to take extremely punitive measures to 16-year-olds,” Virani said on his way into cabinet on Monday.
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“It’s important to keep people safe in places like Toronto and right around this country. But it’s also important to understand who’s masterminding things behind that 16-year-old. This is organized criminality. Organized crime is behind this. That’s what we’ve heard from police. That’s what we’re trying to address.”
A May 2023 report on auto theft from The Canadian Finance and Leasing Association says that a vehicle is stolen every six minutes in Canada.
In 2022, vehicle thefts rose 50 per cent in Quebec, nearly as much in Ontario, and 35 per cent in Atlantic Canada. There were 9,600 vehicles stolen in Toronto alone that same year, 300 per cent more than in 2015.
Politicians, police and auto execs are meeting in Ottawa to tackle the issue, as the Liberals face increasing public pressure to curb thefts.
— with files from David Baxter
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