Canada has toughened up auto theft laws, including mandatory jail time for repeat offenders. Bill S-9, “Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act,” provides tough action on property crime, including the serious crimes of auto theft and trafficking in property that is obtained by crime. The legislation will receive Royal Assent in the coming days. “Auto theft costs Canadians over $1 billion each year and helps make organized crime profitable,” said The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. “Our government has taken strong action to protect the property of Canadians, and ensure our communities are not endangered by the reckless driving which often results from auto theft.” Trafficking in stolen property, along with drug trafficking and fraud, has been identified as a primary activity for organized crime. Auto theft affects many individual Canadians and businesses – whether through financial loss or as a result of reckless behaviour and high-speed chases. Once this new law comes into force, law enforcement and the courts will have better tools to tackle auto theft and the entire range of activities involved in the trafficking of all types of stolen or fraudulently obtained property. The new legislation includes provisions that:
• create a separate offence of “theft of a motor vehicle”, which carries a mandatory prison sentence of 6 months for conviction of a third or subsequent offence when the prosecutor proceeds by indictment;
• establish a new offence for altering, destroying or removing a vehicle identification number (VIN);
• make it an offence to traffic in property obtained by crime; and,
• make it an offence to possess such property for the purpose of trafficking.
In addition, the Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act will allow the Canada Border Services Agency to detain suspected stolen property before it is exported from the country, which will reduce the exportation of stolen vehicles from Canada by organized crime. “The best way to combat gangs and organized crime is to tackle the illicit activities which make these groups profitable,” said Minister Nicholson. “This legislation does just that and will play an important part in our ongoing commitment to the safety and security of communities across Canada.” The Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act will come into force at a time to be determined, in order to allow the provinces and territories time to prepare for the changes.