Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

May 04, 2010 15:52 ET

Government Introduces Legislation to Tackle Auto Theft and Property Crime

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 4, 2010) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Steven Blaney, M.P. for Lévis-Bellechasse, today announced the introduction of legislation in the Senate tackling property crime, including the serious crimes of auto theft and trafficking in property that is obtained by crime.

"Our government is taking action to protect Canadians, their property and their communities," said Minister Nicholson. "Auto theft is estimated to cost Canadians more than $1 billion each year, and the dangerous driving that sometimes results makes Canadian roads unsafe. Auto theft is also one of the criminal enterprises on which organized crime depends."

Trafficking in stolen property, along with drug trafficking and fraud, has been identified as a primary activity for organized crime. Auto theft affects more individual Canadians and businesses than any other crime – whether through financial loss or as a result of the reckless behaviour of joy riding.

The proposed legislation would give law enforcement and the courts 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 proposed legislation would:

  • create a separate offence of "theft of a motor vehicle", which would carry 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 proposed legislation would allow the Canada Border Services Agency to identify and prevent stolen property from leaving the country, therefore reducing the exportation of stolen vehicles from Canada by organized crime.

"By cracking down on auto theft, our government is disrupting the criminal enterprises that make gangs and organized crime profitable," said Mr. Blaney. "This legislation is an important part of our efforts to tackle crime, and ensure the safety and security of communities across Canada."

For an online version of the legislation, visit www.parl.gc.ca.

(Version française disponible)

Backgrounder: Tackling auto theft and property crime act

Trafficking in (or "fencing") property obtained by crime is a complex criminal industry that moves stolen goods from the initial theft or other crime, to often unsuspecting consumers. Trafficking in stolen goods is what makes property crime profitable, and is a key means of financing organized crime.

Trafficking in stolen cars and auto parts is a particular form of property crime that carries serious economic and public safety costs for Canadians. In 2007 approximately 146 000 vehicles were stolen in Canada; it is estimated these crimes cost Canadians over $1 billion a year.

Organized crime groups tend to participate in auto theft by:

  • Operating "chop shops," where stolen vehicles are disassembled and their parts are trafficked to often unsuspecting customers;
  • Altering, obliterating, or destroying the vehicle identification number (VIN) of a stolen car. All vehicles in Canada are required to have a VIN in order to clearly distinguish one motor vehicle from another. Criminal car theft rings typically replace the VIN of a stolen vehicle with one from a legitimate vehicle of the same make and model, essentially altering the vehicle's identity; and,
  • Exporting stolen high-end sport utility vehicles and luxury sedans.

Auto theft often also results in dangerous driving. "Joy-riding" and high-speed chases compromise the safety of our streets, and pose a significant threat to both citizens and law enforcement in communities across Canada.

The proposed changes

The proposed legislation would give police, border officials, and prosecutors better tools to fight car thieves, particularly organized crime rings by:

  • Creating 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;
  • Establishing a new offence for altering, destroying or removing a VIN;
  • Making it an offence to traffic in property obtained by crime; and,
  • Making it an offence to possess such property for the purpose of trafficking.

In addition, these proposed amendments to the Criminal Code provide for the application of customs powers to allow the Canada Border Services Agency to identify and prevent stolen property from leaving the country, thus addressing the problem of the exportation of stolen vehicles from Canada by organized crime.

For an online version of the legislation, visit www.parl.gc.ca.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Pamela Stephens
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice Canada
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207
    www.canada.justice.gc.ca