Published May 14, 5:55 p.m. UTC+5:30Updated May 15, 7:09 a.m. UTC+5:30

The Ontario Minister of Transport wants to send a “strong message” to car thieves. Prabmeet Sarkaria announced on Tuesday that his government would introduce a bill that would deprive thieves of their right to drive for several years.

Under the bill proposed by the Ford government, the driver’s licenses of people convicted of car theft would be suspended for 10 years for the first offense, 15 years for the second and for life for the third.

The license suspension will only take place if the court determines that aggravating factors are involved in the offense. The province cites the use of violence, a weapon, force, a threat or the pursuit of financial gain.

If, as an 18-year-old, you grab a weapon and use it to threaten someone and steal their vehicle, there will be consequences , justified Minister Sarkaria.

Ontario Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria introduced the bill Tuesday morning.

PHOTO: RADIO-CANADA

Car theft is cowardly and often violent. This can traumatize victims and communities , the minister said in a press release earlier today.

Car thefts have increased in the Greater Toronto Area in recent years. In the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, west of Toronto, thefts jumped 187 per cent between 2019 and 2023, according to Nando Iannicca, regional president and CEO of Peel.

During the same period in Toronto, car thefts increased from 5,362 to 12,262, an increase of 128%.

Criminals who want to steal a car need to know that there will be serious consequences if they commit the offense , said Solicitor General Michael Kerzner.

People convicted of car theft in Ontario are currently not subject to a license suspension, according to lawyer Stephen Hebscher, whose firm defends clients accused of committing traffic violations.

Is it constitutional?

Some have doubts about the constitutionality of the bill.

Mr. Stephen Hebscher notes that the bill could be unconstitutional since the law is linked to criminal law. Only the Canadian Parliament is responsible for the latter.

There must be a link between car theft and road safety for the law to be within the limits of constitutional powers , explains Mr. Hebscher by email.

If car theft involves dangerous driving, which already leads to a suspension, one wonders why the Ford government feels the need to pass this bill, if only to give the impression that it take severe action against criminals.

A quote fromMr Stephen Hebscher, lawyer

The minister is nevertheless convinced that his bill would survive a legal challenge.

The criminalist predicts that the bill will absolutely not deter burglars. Studies have consistently shown that it is the risk of being arrested that deters criminals, not the size of the penalty , says Stephen Hebscher.

Chantalle Aubertin, spokesperson for Federal Minister of Justice Arif Virani, did not want to comment on the question of the constitutionality of the Ford government’s bill.

As a Torontonian, Minister Virani understands the urgency of making our neighborhoods safer, particularly regarding the increase in vehicle thefts. “That’s why he’s taking action to strengthen our laws and fight organized crime ,” she said in an email.

We are working with partners from all levels of government acting in their respective jurisdictions and organizations to implement an intelligent and robust plan , added the spokesperson.

Unsolved crimes

Historical statistics show that few car thefts are solved.

In 2010, according to data published by Statistics Canada, only 13.5% of car records were closed, meaning the police charged a suspect (7.4%) or settled the case in another way (6.1%).

A case is closed without charge when the police have identified a suspect and there is sufficient evidence to lay a charge in connection with the matter, but the alleged perpetrator is subject to other measures for various reasons.

Measures against stunts

Ontario is also tackling car stunts, which are causing headaches for some mayors in Toronto’s suburbs.

The province’s new bill would impose a one-year license suspension on people convicted of such an offense for the first time, three years for a second offense and ten years for a third.

Motorists suspended for the third time could have their lifetime suspension reduced to 10 years in certain circumstances.

Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca wants to reduce the number of car stunt gatherings. (Archive photo)

PHOTO: RADIO-CANADA / EVAN MITSUI

Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca, whose municipality imposes fines of up to $10,000 on people participating in stunt gatherings, welcomed the Ford government’s new measures.

Suspensions for car theft represent the type of innovative fine we need , he said in a press release.

This news is also available in English (New window)on the CBC website  and in Arabic (New window)on the RCI website (New window).

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