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Justice minister’s government car stolen for 3rd time in as many years

Politicians and law enforcement officials are confronting a rising number of auto thefts — and it appears that the office of Canada's justice minister is also a popular target for thieves.

News comes as Ottawa convenes a national summit to discuss how to crack down on auto thefts

A Toyota Highlander parked on Parliament Hill on Thursday, June 15, 2023.

Politicians and law enforcement officials are confronting a rising number of auto thefts — and it appears that the office of Canada's justice minister is also a popular target for thieves.

Justice Minister Arif Virani's government-owned Toyota Highlander XLE was stolen last November but was later recovered, according to documents tabled in the House of Commons last week.

It's the same car that was stolen and recovered last February when David Lametti was justice minister. Another 2019 Toyota Highlander was stolen during Lametti's tenure in February of 2021 — making this latest incident the third time a federal justice minister's car has been stolen in the past three years.

Government-owned vehicles assigned to other federal officials have also been stolen in recent years.

A 2022 Toyota Highlander assigned to Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan was taken last February when he was still the minister of international development. It was later recovered.

Canada Revenue Agency Commissioner Bob Hamilton's 2019 Highlander was stolen in 2022. It still hasn't been found.

Federal ministers met with law enforcement, border officials and industry players Thursday for a national summit to address a rising wave of auto thefts.

"It's unprecedented," RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme said during the daylong meeting.

"And the extreme violence that's associated to that and what we're seeing, it's something that was never seen before."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the gathering that the rise in thefts over the past few years "has been alarming." He hinted at tougher penalties.

"Organized crime is becoming more brazen, and the overseas market for the stolen cars is expanding," he said.

WATCH | OPP commissioner breaks down how the 'complex' auto theft market works:

OPP commissioner breaks down how the 'complex' auto theft market works

11 hours ago

Duration 1:01

During a summit in Ottawa on auto theft, Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique explained the process of stealing a car, and says that it puts lives in danger.

When asked what tougher penalties might look like, Virani said Ottawa already has strong measures to address auto left.

"Right now you have provisions that are set out in the [Criminal] Code that deal with the offences of theft and you have offences that deal with organized criminality. It's sort of bridging the two. It's looking at the specific focus of carjacking, which is unfortunately a new phenomenon here in Canada, but it is something that we need to address," he said.

"It takes an individual to steal the car but it takes a complete criminal operation to get it out of the country for sales in parts of Africa or the Middle East. When we look at organized criminality, we have to look at those chains and how to disrupt them."

When asked about his car being stolen in November, Virani's office declined to comment.

The federal government says an estimated 90,000 cars are stolen annually in Canada, resulting in about $1 billion in costs to Canadian insurance policy-holders and taxpayers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Major

CBC Journalist

Darren Major is a senior writer for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He can be reached via email at darren.major@cbc.ca.

    With files from Kate McKenna and Catharine Tunney

    *****
    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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