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As Car Theft and Carjacking Grow Alarmingly, Canada's Government Schedules a Summit

police seal is stuck on a door and fingerprinting dust marks a recovered stolen car
Car Theft, Carjacking Take Huge Leap in CanadaSteve Russell - Getty Images
  • Car theft in Canada is out of control, and the Canadian government is calling a national summit on the issue.

  • Theft rates are on the rise everywhere, but the biggest jumps have been in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

  • Thieves are quickly getting the stolen vehicles out of the country, with cars and trucks turning up in Africa and the Middle East.

Canada is not normally a country you think of as associated with crime, unless it was that one time thieves stole nearly $20 million worth of maple syrup from Quebec's strategic reserve. But it's not all a paradise for moose and hockey players up north, and some of Canada's major cities are struggling with skyrocketing rates of car theft. Things have gotten so bad that the Canadian government has just announced a national summit on combating car theft, to take place in February.

This is not a case of Doug accidentally leaving the keys in the Zamboni. In Toronto alone in 2022, some 9600 vehicles were reported stolen. According to statistics released in the Canadian government's statement, that's a rise of 300 percent since 2015. Year over year from 2021 to 2022, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario each saw a 50 percent rise in auto thefts, with rates also increasing, but more slowly, in the western provinces. Even more disturbing is the doubling in carjackings reported by Toronto police.

Transatlantic Theft

Last fall, the CBC ran a story on the crime wave, with reporters tracking a cache of stolen Canadian vehicles as far as Ghana. The thieves could not be more brazen—riding in a convoy with Ghana's organized crime fighting division (EOCO), reporters say they saw a Honda CR-V drive past with Quebec plates still attached. Tabarnouche!

One way stolen cars get from a chilly Montreal suburb to West Africa or beyond was related by an obviously frustrated victim of the theft in Toronto and reported by the CBC. Having already had one GMC stolen out from him, Andrew (real name withheld by the CBC) attached Apple tracking devices to his new truck. When he discovered the 2022 GMC Yukon XL missing, he contacted police, then sent the AirTags position to them. An officer tracked the position down to a railyard full of containers, but directed Andrew to contact the railway's private police service, which had authority to conduct a search.

In the delay, the container holding the Yukon left the yard, and Andrew could only watch as his GPS trackers pinged in the Port of Montreal, then Belgium, then the UAE. CBC reporters were able to track the Yukon down to a used car lot, where it still was as of last Monday.

U.S. car thefts are up as well, and the struggles the Canadian government is having is likely a warning. The thefts north of the border show just how effective a trans-national gang of thieves can be, and how a quick and organized crew can pretty easily stay one step ahead of the law, tripping it up with jurisdictional issues.

It also shows that there's a vast and hungry market for stolen vehicles overseas, and it's not for exotics but ordinary family cars and trucks. With the national summit, the Canadian government hopes to have a multi-pronged partnership tackle the issue from ports to railyards, as well as improve overseas cooperation.

And, at the same time, there's a Canadian connection to America's most-stolen car. Stellantis's Brampton, Ontario, plant has just stopped production of the Charger Hellcat and Hemi, both of which have topped the U.S. most-stolen vehicles list for the past three years. There must be something about maple syrup and sticky fingers.

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