Ontario announces new penalties for auto thieves

May 14, 2024 | Headlines, Provincial News

The provincial government is proposing legislation that will suspend the drivers licences of people convicted of stealing cars when violence, threats or weapons are involved.

Prabmeet Sarkaria, transportation minister, and Michael Kerzner, solicitor general, announced the proposal Tuesday.

“This is about the victims who wake up to empty driveways,” Sarkaria said. “At the end of the day, we need these measures in place.”

The announcement from the Ford government is in response to the increase in auto theft across Ontario, with a car stolen every 48 minutes.

The legislation will penalize convicted auto thefts with a 10-year licence suspension for a first offence, a 15-year licence suspension for a second offence and ultimately a lifetime licence suspension for a third offence.

Sarkaria hopes this legislation will close existing loopholes within the Highway Traffic Act and ensures the safety of Ontario drivers.

“I know this legislation is not a silver bullet, but we will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to stop this issue from happening,” he said. “Everyone has the right to be able to get home safely.”

Data released by the Ministry of Transportation has reported approximately 40,510 vehicles of all types were registered as stolen in Ontario between November of 2021 and January of 2024.

“Driving is a privilege, not a right,” Sarkaria said. “The joke is on the criminals who think we will standby and not intervene.”

Kerzner is concerned with the record rates of auto theft in the past year and that thieves are becoming more efficient in their tactics.

“Vehicle theft over the past year has become a major concern within our province,” Kerzner said. “The criminals may be becoming more advanced, but so are we.”

In addition to auto thefts, individuals convicted of stunt driving will also face new penalties.

Stunt drivers could be receiving a minimum mandatory licence suspension, with a one year for a first conviction, three years for a second conviction and a lifetime suspension that is reducible to 10 years depending on circumstances for a third conviction.

In the past year, over 12,000 immediate roadside licence suspensions were issued for street racing and/or stunt driving.

“We are coming down hard on those roadside suspensions,” Sarkaria said. “It’s really important for us to bring safer roads and communities for our people.”

In February, the federal government hosted a national summit on combatting auto thieves that focused on finding solutions to the problems of auto theft.

A year ago, the Ontario government invested just over $50 million in new measures to aid police in their investigations into organized crime networks that profit from stolen vehicles.

“We made two reasonable requests to the federal government at the auto summit,” Kerzner said. “We need them to enforce minimum sentencing and stricter provisions on outgoing cargo at our docks.”

Sarkaria and Kerzner are calling on the federal government to ensure harsher penalties for auto thieves and bill reform to ensure these measures are effective.

“We need the federal government to step up,” Sarkaria said. “This is in support of public safety, and we will leave no stone unturned.”

When asked about the legislation facing a Charter challenge, Sarkaria said they are confident the bill will pass.