Ontario to suspend driver’s licences of convicted auto thieves, lifetime bans possible

The Ford government is cracking down on the record rate of auto thefts plaguing Ontario. The new legislation would see convicted car thieves lose their driver's licence for a decade to life. Shauna Hunt reports.

In an attempt to diminish the increase in auto theft crimes across the province, the Ford government plans to suspend some driver’s licences for people convicted of the offences.

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Prabmeet Sarkaria, made the announcement alongside Solicitor General Michael Kerzner in Toronto on Tuesday morning.

Legislation is expected to be tabled on Thursday that would suspend the licences of repeat offenders and convicted auto thieves for life depending on certain factors, such as using a weapon or force or the theft being motivated by financial gain.

“Car theft is a cowardly and often violent crime that can traumatize victims and communities who experience it,” said Minister Sarkaria. “Under the leadership of Premier [Doug] Ford, our government is sending a clear message to those who commit these crimes and using every tool in our toolbox to keep them off our streets.”

Once in effect, anyone convicted of an auto theft crime could face a 10-year licence suspension for a first offence, a 15-year suspension for a second offence, and a lifetime suspension for a third offence.

“Criminals who want to steal a car in Ontario need to know there will be severe consequences for doing so,” said Kerzner.

In addition to stiff auto theft penalties, the Ford government is also proposing strengthening punishments for stunt driving.

The tabled legislation would see anyone convicted of stunt driving receive a minimum mandatory licence suspension — one year for a first conviction, three years for a second conviction and a lifetime suspension, reducible to 10 years under specific criteria for a third conviction.

In 2023, over 12,000 immediate roadside licence suspensions were issued for street racing and stunt driving.

Motor vehicle thefts, carjackings an issue in Toronto and GTA

Auto thefts have risen significantly across the province. In March, OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns called the number of motor vehicle thefts in Ontario “unprecedented,” with nearly 3,000 vehicles reported stolen at the time of the press conference.

Thieves have been targeting relatively new vehicles, including high-end pickup trucks and SUVs, which they then export to markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South America.

Myron Demkiw
Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw speaks to the media in Toronto on Sunday, April 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov.

In Toronto, Police Chief Myron Demkiw cited statistics indicating that more than 12,000 vehicles were stolen last year. That amounts to 34 vehicles daily or one vehicle stolen every 40 minutes. The province says that in Ontario, a car is stolen every 14 minutes.

Cases of violent carjackings exploded in the Toronto area between 2021 and 2023, and police have cited concerns about how quickly criminals can steal cars by using various methods to override anti-theft technology, including hacking onboard diagnostics.

“We have had 68 carjackings so far in 2024. That’s a 106 per cent increase compared to the same period last year,” said Demkiw.

One year ago, the Ford government committed $51 million over three years to combat auto thefts aimed at dismantling organized crime groups and bringing criminals to justice.

With files from The Canadian Press

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