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Canada Needs a National Task Force on Stolen Vehicles

Nov 20, 2023 | By: Craig Stewart, Vice-President, Climate Change and Federal Issues, IBC
Canada Needs National Task Force on Stolen Vehicles

On November 14, Équité Association released its annual list of the top 10 most stolen vehicles in the country. While there were not many surprises on the list considering many of the vehicles have appeared on this list several times before, more alarming is the sheer number of vehicles stolen across all makes and models.

Last year marked the first time in history when Canada’s insurers paid over $1 billion in claims for stolen vehicles. Canada’s private auto insurance provinces, namely Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and the Atlantic Region, experienced $1.2 billion in theft claims costs in 2022, tripling from approximately $400 million in 2018. In Ontario, auto theft claims costs were approximately $700 million in 2022, up from approximately $160 million in 2018, a staggering 329% increase.

While high-end, luxury vehicles are lucrative targets, everyday vehicles are also highly desirable. These losses not only have financial impacts for families that own highly targeted vehicles (from Honda CR-Vs to Ford F-150 pickup trucks), they also cause disruption, anxiety and fear.

The public safety impacts of auto theft cannot be understated. As we’ve seen from a number of concerning media stories, criminals are increasingly resorting to violence (carjacking) to steal vehicles. Meanwhile, the illicit proceeds from stolen vehicles are used to fund the trafficking of guns and drugs and other criminal activity in our communities.

That’s why IBC and a growing chorus of voices, including Ontario’s Big City Mayors and Canada’s Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety, are expressing serious concern about the impacts of auto theft on the public and are calling for a coordinated government response to address the crisis.

Reducing auto theft will require all of us to play a part. No stakeholder can combat theft alone.

  • Auto manufacturers took positive steps to update auto theft technologies twenty years ago. Now they must update those technologies and equip vehicles with modern and effective anti-theft safety devices, which make Canadian vehicles more difficult to steal in the first place.

  • Insurers can take proactive steps to educate the owners of vehicles and encourage customers, through incentives, to install after-market tracking devices.

  • Provincial governments must provide more resources for coordinated, inter-agency enforcement. To that end, we are encouraged by the recent Ontario government commitment to create a provincial auto theft team with dedicated prosecutorial support to strengthen provincial capacity to police and deter organized crime’s involvement in auto theft.

  • Law enforcement agencies must do a much better job of sharing intelligence with one another to quickly recover vehicles before they cross provincial borders and even exit the country.

  • Finally and most importantly, given the scope and severity of the crisis, it is incumbent on the federal government to play a leadership role in tackling it. Surveillance must be increased at key ports across the country where vehicles are smuggled into shipping containers. The Canadian Border and Services Agency should be resourced and provide the necessary intelligence to inspect containers before they are loaded onto ships. And importantly, all of these approaches need to be coordinated in a surge effort by all stakeholders to reduce auto theft immediately.

That’s why IBC is calling on the federal government to launch a National Task Force on Stolen Vehicles. The Task Force should convene key experts and stakeholders to validate a suite of solutions needed to reduce vehicle theft in the near term and ensure they are implemented in coordination. Solutions should be ‘whole of society’ with a focus on what all orders of government and the private sector need to execute in collaboration.

As an immediate first step, and in parallel with the launch of the Task Force, the federal government must find ways to immediately empower the CBSA and law enforcement with the controls and resources needed to stop the outflow of stolen vehicles from Canada’s ports in Federal Budget 2024. They must also begin the process of modernizing Canada’s badly outdated vehicle standards, which have not been updated since 2007, before keyless and remote start technologies were introduced.

To learn more about the policy solutions needed to combat auto theft, see our position paper: Auto Theft: A National Crisis.

And, to explore IBC’s consumer education and protection campaign, in partnership with Équité Association, visit:

We believe Canadians deserve protection from theft and the reassurance and the knowledge that their governments are doing everything they can to fight back against theft.

Auto theft hurts everyone. When thieves steal, we all pay.

About This Author

Craig Stewart leads national work on disaster resilience and climate change at Insurance Bureau of Canada. He co-chairs the National Advisory Table on Disaster Resilience and Security which advises federal Ministers on development of Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy and disaster risk reduction generally.

Craig is considered one of Canada’s foremost experts on disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation and has testified at numerous Senate and House of Commons Committees as well as to federal, provincial and territorial Ministerial meetings repeatedly over the past decade.