Ontario to suspend driving licences of convicted auto thieves

Premier Doug Ford’s government will try to combat auto theft in Ontario by slapping lengthy driver’s licence suspensions on people convicted of the crime.

The government will introduce legislation to suspend the driving licences of convicted auto thieves when “aggravating factors” such as violence or the use of a weapon are involved.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner were scheduled to make the announcement Tuesday during a news conference at an Ontario Provincial Police detachment just off Highway 401 in Toronto.

“Criminals who want to steal a car in Ontario need to know there will be severe consequences for doing so,” said Kerzner in a news release. 

Once the legislation takes effect, anyone convicted of motor vehicle theft under the Criminal Code could face a 10-year licence suspension for a first offence, a 15-year licence suspension for a second offence and a lifetime licence suspension for a third offence.

The legislation will be introduced Thursday, says a spokesperson for Sarkaria. It is certain to pass given the large Progressive Conservative majority at Queen’s Park.

Ontario’s budget includes funding for police in the fight against auto theft

One of the lines in this year’s budget targets a growing crisis in Ontario and across the country. Auto thefts have skyrocketed in recent years with the element of violence also increasing. Dale Manucdoc has more on what the province is doing to help.

The OPP says organized crime targeting luxury vehicles to sell outside of Canada is driving an unprecedented rate of auto theft in Ontario.

Insurance companies say 2023 was the first year ever that auto theft claims in the province exceeded $1 billion. Early indications for 2024 suggest the pace of theft has not slowed down: the OPP said nearly 3,000 vehicles were reported stolen during a seven-week stretch earlier this year.

The Ford government pledged $51 million over three years for the creation of a new organized crime and auto theft task force led by the OPP, as well as for a major auto theft prosecution team.

Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw said in March that 12,000 vehicles were stolen in the city in 2023, which amounts to one theft roughly every 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, York Regional Police reported an 82 per cent increase in auto theft the first six months of 2023 compared with the same time period the previous year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened a national auto theft summit in February, and suggested his government is considering tougher penalties to combat the crime, but has not announced any sentencing changes.

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