Ontario proposes increased licence suspensions for auto theft convictions

May 22, 2024 | GTA/Local News, News

A bill proposing Ontario tougher penalties to combat the increase in auto thefts and carjackings in the province is expected to be tabled on May 23.

Convicted offenders will face harsher penalties and license suspensions under the proposed legislation.

Ontario Transport Minister Prabhmeet Sarkaria said in a media release that auto theft will have grave consequences in the province for convicted thieves.

“Car theft is a cowardly and often violent crime that can traumatize victims and communities who experience it,” Sarkaria said in the statement. “This legislation sends a clear message and uses every tool to keep these criminals off the streets.”

The proposal comes in the wake of alarming records of auto thefts in Ontario.

The government said a car is stolen every 14 minutes in Ontario, and violent carjackings increased by 78 per cent in Toronto since 2021.

Ontario also funded local police forces in 2023 to increase enforcement efforts and to support the creation of an OPP-led task force.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada reported earlier this month that auto theft claims reached $1.5 billion last year.

“The crisis is most significant in Ontario, where auto theft claims costs increased by 524 per cent between 2018 and 2023, surpassing $1 billion for the first time in 2023,” the report stated.

The proposed law entails a 10-year licence suspension for a first-time auto theft conviction, a 15-year suspension for second-time offenders and a lifetime suspension for the third offence for offenders convicted under the Canada Criminal Code.

Licence suspension would be imposed if the court finds the crime was committed under aggravating circumstances. The government said the use of violence, weapons, force, threat or the pursuit of financial gain account as aggravating circumstances.

Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said auto thieves in Ontario must know they will face dire consequences.

“Our government is taking bold action to stop what is a serious and often violent crime,” he said in the media release.

A white SUV parked in the driveway of a home in Etobicoke in the afternoon.

A white SUV parked in the driveway of a home in Etobicoke in the afternoon. Photo credit: Anusha Siddiqui

Ontario has also proposed stricter fines for stunt driving, where those convicted of stunt driving would receive a minimum mandatory licence suspension of one year for the first offence.

The second offence would result in a three-year suspension and the third offence would result in a lifetime licence suspension.

Nando Iannicca, chair of the Peel Regional Police Services Board, said in the statement police will continue to work with the government to keep communities safe from auto theft.

“In Peel, car thefts continue to be a growing problem, and in Brampton and Mississauga, have increased by 187 per cent between 2019 and 2023,” Iannicca said.

A red hatchback car parked on a street in the afternoon in an Etobicoke neighbourhood.

A red hatchback car parked on a street in the afternoon in an Etobicoke neighbourhood. Photo credit: Anusha Siddiqui

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown thanked the government for the proposed legislation according to the government statement.

“A lifetime licence suspension upon third offence for auto theft convictions is a crucial tool in our fight against this escalating crime, “ Brown said in the statement.

He said the government must continue to take strict measures to prevent such crimes.

“Federal government must immediately implement scanners at our ports so we can plug the hole in the bucket of auto thefts in Canada, “ Brown said in the government statement.

Ontario government in collaboration with the federal government is providing more than $250 million to combat gun and gang violence, including auto theft.

The government reported that 2023 saw the largest number of roadside licence suspensions for stunt driving since the COVID-19 pandemic with over 12,000 immediate suspensions.

Amanda Dean of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said auto thefts have become a crisis in Ontario.

“The Insurance Bureau of Canada supports the Ontario government’s continued commitment to combatting auto theft,” Dean said in the statement.

Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said the raise in licence suspensions was an innovative penalty.

“I want to thank the provincial government for its efforts to tackle auto theft head-on,” Del Duca said in the statement.

Etobicoke resident Parmeet Singh said auto theft was a major concern in his neighbourhood of West Humber Boulevard.

“I am not sure how effective this legislation would be because cars are being stolen despite current regulations,” Singh said. “I am skeptical of its efficacy but hoping for the best.”

The opposition parties did not respond to Humber News’ request for a statement.