MONTREAL: Montreal-area resident Zachary Siciliani discovered recently that his car had simply disappeared – likely in one of a rash of vehicle thefts in Canada.

The crime trend, which the Insurance Bureau of Canada has dubbed a “national crisis”, has seen stolen vehicles shipped through the busy Port of Montreal to overseas car lots for sale.

Siciliani told AFP there was no trace of a break-in at the scene, so he thinks thieves probably used a device that intercepts and copies the frequency of electronic key fobs used to open a car’s doors and start the engine, and just drove away with it.

“The advent of technology to start cars (has) provided a level of comfort for users and drivers of vehicles, but it also provided an avenue for organised crime groups to steal vehicles,” Ontario Provincial Police detective Scott Wade told AFP.

Thousands of vehicles have been stolen in major cities in Quebec and Ontario – the nation’s two most populous provinces – over the past several months.

Most of them end up in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. A few have been found by police or intrepid owners using tracking sensors embedded in their cars or trucks.

According to the latest police figures, Montreal and Toronto are the most targeted.

In Toronto, thefts of cars and light trucks between 2021 and 2023 increased by 150 per cent over the prior six years. In that same time span, thefts rose by 58 per cent in Quebec and 48 per cent in Ontario.

The cars were mostly stolen from driveways at night while their owners slept, but some were taken at gunpoint.

In one case, a tow truck operator in Ottawa was arrested for attempting to steal a vehicle parked on a downtown street in broad daylight.


The crime wave has its roots in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, when public health restrictions effectively limited the number of vehicles manufactured, experts say.

The disruption of global supply chains that followed created “very high demand, while supply was at its lowest”, Montreal police spokesman Yannick Desmarais told AFP.

Wade said organised crime networks are now behind most of the thefts in order “to supply foreign markets.”


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