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Auto industry wants action on car thefts

Posted on March 7, 2024 by admin

By Steffanie Costigan
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With vehicle thefts up 300 per cent since 2015 the Canadian auto industry is calling for action to put the brakes on a growing problem.

The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, the Canadian Vehicle Manufactures Association, and Canadian Finance and Leasing Association Checklist for Combating Auto Theft met with the federal government in Ottawa recently for a national summit to combat auto theft.

Canadian Automobile Dealers Association national spokesperson Huw Williams said the session was opened by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He noted the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association has been calling on the federal government to help stop the auto theft which has ties to organized crime.

“That session was opened by the Prime Minister, and they had the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of Justice. We’ve been calling as the car dealers association, very proactively for the federal government to take a lead role in stopping organized crime,” said Williams.

Williams said they are aware that Canadian vehicles are being stolen and shipped overseas through federal ports. And these thefts are costing insurers billions of dollars.

“It’s very clear. We know this from the International Police Agency, that Canada is a source country for auto theft, and our cars are being stolen out of Canada, shipped through federal ports to the Middle East, to Africa to other destinations.

“And as a result, it’s costing the Canadian billions in insurance premiums and expenditures, and also Canadians don’t feel safe in their community,” he said.

The federal government announced it would be earmarking $28 million to assist with the fight to stop the export of stolen vehicles. The money is to be used towards giving the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) an upper hand in its capacity to detect and search containers with pilfered autos.

Williams said the funding is helpful, however more needs to be done.

“We think these are positive steps but more needs to be done to make sure that the cars can’t get out of the country because it’s become a cash cow of organized crime.”

It is estimated that 90,000 vehicles are being stolen annually in Canada, resulting in approximately $1 billion in costs to Canadian insurance policyholders and taxpayers.

“We have a stolen vehicle rate that’s much higher and progressing much faster than the U.S. It’s a uniquely Canadian problem where organized crime is taking advantage of the lack of enforcement at our ports.

“As a result, they’re targeting Canadian vehicles that they’re shipping out of the country. And it’s not just a Toronto problem. This is a problem right across the country. I know Alberta dealers are frequently victims of this, our customers are victims of this,” said Williams.

Ideas proposed by the federal Conservatives have put pressure on the Liberal government to take action and consider more severe penalties for criminals stealing Canadian vehicles

Williams shared the high percentage of stolen Canadian cars being shipped overseas and the impact it has on Canadians.

“Well over 80 per cent of the cars that are stolen in Canada are being put on containers and shipped throughout the world. How it hurts us is not only the billion dollar a year insurance cost that we pay on that. But it also undercuts the fabric of Canadian society in terms of the how people feel safe in their cars or in their homes.”

Williams says coordinated efforts between agencies would make it difficult for criminals to steal Canadian vehicles.

“We need a really coordinated effort across all of the agencies, which would include Canada, border services agencies, the RCMP, local police, all to be focused on information sharing and making sure that the international criminal organizations that are operating here aren’t able to just take advantage of Canada as an easy source of stolen vehicle,” he said.

Williams said stopping organized crime in Canada is important for society to function.

“For our society to function, we can’t be undercut by organized crime. The attention paid to stopping organized crime really makes a difference on Main Street. This isn’t a theoretical issue.”

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