Justice minister's vehicle theft: Security cards and office key stolen

This marks the third instance of a federal justice minister's car being stolen in the past three years. Justice Minister Arif Virani emphasized, 'This is an issue that is affecting all of us.'

Justice minister's vehicle theft: Security cards and office key stolen
Facebook/ Arif Virani
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Several government assets, including security and entry passes for government employees along with an office key, were stolen during the theft of Justice Minister Arif Virani's government-issued vehicle in November 2023.

Despite efforts, these items were not recovered, but the security passes were deactivated upon reporting the theft.

A Department of Justice spokesperson confirmed that the office key belonged to a section of the East Memorial Building in downtown Ottawa, granting access to offices and a kitchen exclusively to employees with security passes.

This incident mirrors a similar occurrence last February when David Lametti was justice minister. Furthermore, during Lametti's tenure in February 2021, another 2019 Toyota Highlander was stolen.

This marks the third instance of a federal justice minister's car being stolen in the past three years, CBC stated.

"This is an issue that is affecting all of us," Virani stated in an interview with CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

On February 8, 2024,  the federal government convened a national summit to address the issue of auto theft. Federal officials engaged with industry leaders, car manufacturers, police chiefs, and provincial and municipal politicians.

A news release from Public Safety Canada stated, “Auto theft is impacting thousands of Canadian households every year, particularly in our urban centres. It increasingly involves organized crime groups, who are using the proceeds of those thefts to fund other illegal activities.”

Coordinating efforts nationwide, the Government of Canada is implementing immediate actions to combat auto theft by:

- Increasing the capacity of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by investing $28 million to conduct more investigations and examinations of stolen vehicles, as well as enhance collaboration on investigations and intelligence sharing with partners across Canada and internationally. This includes exploring detection technology solutions, and exploring the use of advanced analytical tools, such as artificial intelligence.

- Pursuing all avenues to ban devices used to steal vehicles by copying the wireless signals for remote keyless entry, such as the Flipper Zero, which would allow for the removal of those devices from the Canadian marketplace through collaboration with law enforcement agencies.

"Addressing this growing problem requires cooperation and actions from across all levels of government, law enforcement and industry. Ongoing collaboration is vital to protect the threat to the safety of Canadians resulting from vehicle thefts," stated François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "Our government will leverage our existing relationships with industry stakeholders to raise awareness and take concrete actions to help stamp out this scourge."

Last week, the federal government also announced an additional $28 million to aid in reducing the exportation of stolen vehicles. These supplementary funds are intended to enhance the Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) capacity to inspect shipping containers for pilfered vehicles.

The federal government estimates that about 90,000 cars are stolen in Canada each year, costing Canadian insurance policy holders and taxpayers around $1 billion.

"Nationally, the CBSA has increased its efforts, intercepting 463 stolen vehicles in 2018 to more than 1,800 interceptions of stolen vehicles in 2023. The CBSA’s actions have resulted in a 290% increase in stolen vehicle seizures over the past five years," Public Safety Canada stated.

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