Lifetime ban? Licence suspension for car thieves could be coming to Ontario

Click to play video: 'Ontario planning licence suspensions for repeat auto thieves'
Ontario planning licence suspensions for repeat auto thieves
WATCH: Ontario planning licence suspensions for repeat auto thieves – May 14, 2024

The Ford government says it plans to suspend some driver’s licences for people found guilty of auto theft offences in legislation set to be tabled later in the week.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria, along with Solicitor General Michael Kerzner, teased the proposed new law Tuesday, which could lead to repeat vehicle thieves having their licences suspended for life in certain cases.

Sarkaria said the plan is to “send a message” to auto thieves.

“Car theft is a cowardly and often violent crime that can traumatize victims and communities who experience it,” Sarkaria said.

The legislation will propose an escalating scale of licence bans for people found guilty by a court of auto theft, according to the province.

If passed, the government said the legislation would apply to people convicted of vehicle theft under Canada’s Criminal Code. First offences could see a 10-year driver’s licence suspension, increasing to 15 years for a second offence and a potential lifetime ban for those convicted three times.

Story continues below advertisement

“Licence suspensions would apply to convictions where the court found that aggravating factors were involved in the commission of the offence, such as violence, use of a weapon, use of force, threat, or pursuit of financial gain,” a news release said.

When to apply the suspension, under those criteria, would be at the discretion of a judge, according to the government.

Both Canada and Ontario have struggled with a growing auto theft crisis in recent years, with a national summit on the issue convened at the start of the year.

So far, the Ford government has focused much of its efforts on making requests from the federal government to make it harder for thieves to get stolen cars out of the country where they can be sold.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Ontario also unveiled funding in 2023 to help local police forces step up enforcement and launched an OPP-led taskforce. In the 2024 budget, the province announced funds to buy police forces four helicopters which can be used in pursuing and locating stolen vehicles.

“Under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government is taking bold action to stop what is a serious and often violent crime,” Kerzner said Tuesday. “Criminals who want to steal a car in Ontario need to know there will be severe consequences for doing so.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown called the threat of licence suspensions a “crucial tool” to combat auto theft. Region of Peel Chair Nando Iannicca said the proposed law would “help deter auto theft.”

Story continues below advertisement

Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah has said Brampton and Mississauga have the highest per capita auto thefts in the province. Data from the force’s website suggests an average of 20 vehicles have been reported stolen daily in the two cities since the start of the year.

Click to play video: 'Car theft continues in Peel Region after government grant to tackle crime'
Car theft continues in Peel Region after government grant to tackle crime

Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca also praised the plan.

“I want to thank the provincial government for its efforts to tackle auto theft head-on,” he said in a statement distributed by the government.

“Too many Vaughan residents have had their vehicles stolen, and we have a duty to protect them and their property. Introducing escalating licence suspensions for criminals who steal cars is a great example of the kind of innovative penalty that we need.”

Opposition parties, on the other hand, are less convinced, suggesting that people willing to steal vehicles are unlikely to fear a licence suspension.

Story continues below advertisement

“If you’re not worried about getting caught, with jail sentences, I’m not sure you’re going to worry about a licence suspension or that’s going to prevent you from stealing another car,” Ontario Liberal MPP John Fraser said.

“As a punishment, they look great, as a measure to prevent it, I’m sure it’s going to be effective.”

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said she wanted to see the proposed bill before coming to a decision on it.

“Like most things this government does, (it) is going to take some fine-tuning,” she said.

“We need to do something. I just want to say once again, there are some things the government isn’t looking at, for example, technical measures that they should be talking to manufacturers about  that would make it harder for the theft to take place in the first place.”

The legislation, which will also increase penalties for people convicted of stunt driving, is set to be tabled on Thursday.

Sponsored content