The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) and other auto industry groups such as the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), the Canadian Finance and Leasing Association (CFLA), the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC), and other stakeholders will take part in a National Auto Theft Summit on Feb. 8 in Ottawa, Ont., — convened by the federal government to tackle the crisis.
Auto theft in Canada, mostly run by organized crimes groups, has skyrocketed and is up 300 per cent since 2015. The numbers are even higher in provinces like Ontario and Québec, which are at the epicenter of the problem. In an interview this morning at his Markham office in Ontario, Tim Reuss, CADA President and CEO, said it’s important that the federal government understands words are not enough.
“The federal government is at least taking notice of the issue. Provincial governments, especially the province of Ontario and local police enforcement have acted on this for quite some time,” said Reuss. “They finally decided to convene the summit and actually last week announced some additional funding for Ontario, specifically to crack down on this.”
CADA, along with CVMA and the CFLA, released a checklist in advance of tomorrow’s meeting to highlight areas that had been addressed and shed light on the remaining issues that need to be taken care of.
“What we are going to make sure is understood, tomorrow in the summit, is that we need a lot more action from the federal government,” said Reuss. “Especially from the Canadian Border Services Agency that needs to conduct a lot more physical examinations of containers leaving the ports in Canada — very specifically, the Port of Montreal.”
Reuss added that the Canadian Border Services Agency “have the right to do that thanks to some changes” that were done years ago. However, he believes they are “plainly just not doing their job.” He also said that the agencies fighting the crisis sometimes lack the necessary resources, citing the Port of Montreal as having only one X-ray machine for 1.7 million containers that go through the port each year. And they do not have enough people to do the inspections.
Reuss said a lot of stolen vehicles are shipped by rail from Toronto, Ont., and other large cities, and that additional enforcement action is needed there too.
Another area that CADA is advocating for the federal government to change is to toughen up the Criminal Code to ensure harsher sentencing for those that are caught stealing vehicles. “What we currently have is basically a catch and release system,” said Reuss. “Thieves are really not deterred from stealing vehicles and are doing so repeatedly on a regular basis.”
Reuss said the federal government is attempting to deflect the issue by citing the need for manufacturers to “harden” their vehicles to make them harder to steal. CADA’s President said vehicles in the United States have the same anti-theft technology, but there is no crisis there. “That argument, quite frankly, has no merit. There are certain things that manufacturers have been doing, and will continue to do, but that does not explain why we have the situation in Canada.”
“Hopefully, these are not just words, but [the] start [of] some additional action from the federal government on this,” said Reuss, citing the work Ontario and the Peel Regional Police have been doing to tackle the problem.