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OTTAWA, Ontario — The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association recently gave Canada's Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson praise for the tabling of a bill to crack down on vehicle theft, legislation that it says needs to be passed swiftly.

Bill number S-9, titled "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime)" and also known as the "Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act," was introduced in the Senate and had its first reading on May 4.

As of Thursday, the bill's current status was in committee report presentation and debate(s).

"This legislation is a groundbreaking effort to solve the problem of stolen vehicles and attack organized crime in Canada," Richard Gauthier, CADA president and chief executive officer, noted.

"The high rate of stolen vehicles in Canada is an injustice done against hard-working Canadians by elements of organized crime and has gone on for too long. This legislation will go a long way toward protecting car owners, and will make a strong impact on criminals who have profited from exploiting them," he added.

CADA said it has strived to shed light on the vehicle theft issue for more than a decade, and has pushed for laws aimed at curbing these crimes.

The association contends that its concerns are reflected in the federal government's efforts to tackle this problem. Moreover, CADA suggests that these plans are evident of the government's understanding that vehicle theft can be "the engine of organized crime."

"I am impressed at how creating a new offense for 'theft of a motor vehicle' has been given teeth, with those convicted serving up to six months in prison for repeat offenses," Gauthier suggested. "This package treats the crime with the seriousness it deserves."

The association said it has drawn attention for a long time to the organized crime involvement in the theft of new vehicles in Canada that are then distributed worldwide.

CADA also said it has stressed that all kinds of vehicle owners are affected by these crimes.

"This legislative action plan will protect Canadians from an offense that has for years left far too many individuals, families and businesses victimized by organized criminals," Gauthier stated. "By giving law enforcement officers the tools they need to be effective, the government is displaying the leadership that Canadians need to fight back against organized crime."