Alberta’s justice minister is vowing to crack down on the continuing and, at times, growing trend of copper thefts. 

In a recent virtual roundtable with rural media, including Shootin’ the Breeze, Mickey Amery said his government considers it a serious problem.

“I want to create a very hostile environment for the people committing these crimes. I want to make sure that our Crown prosecution is fully prosecuting in these areas,” the minister said.

“In September of last year, we introduced practice protocol changes which advised the Crown prosecution service that if they see or come across matters of serious criminality or repeat offences, that they take a hard line approach.”

“This is one of those things that we have to take more seriously,” Amery continued.

“Copper thefts, and I think everyone knows this already, when you steal some copper from a worksite, for example, the impact is massive.”

While the financial reward for a thief who has stolen copper pipe might be in the thousands of dollars, it can be in the millions for the company or project targeted, Amery said.

“We are taking this incredibly seriously.”

In 2020, Doug Schweitzer, justice minister and solicitor general at the time, introduced Bill 25 to establish new measures for addressing metal thefts. It required scrap metal dealers to report all transactions involving restricted metals, catalytic converters being just one.

In November of last year, the regulation’s validity was challenged and an Alberta justice dismissed the case against a Calgary metal scrap dealer as “unconstitutional.” Justice Heather Lamoureaux concluded in a written judgement that the act dealt solely with criminal law, which, she stated, is a federal domain.

Amery said his department will be appealing that decision “because we want to make it absolutely clear that we can’t have scrap metal purchased from individuals without accounting for where it came from.”

The justice ministry is also looking at ways of strengthening the scrap metal legislation, focusing on specifics like the thefts of catalytic converters.

“A lot of people have made it an absolute business and they’re down to 30 seconds, maybe a minute, before they dismantle it,” Amery said. “So, we’re looking at other provinces … we’re looking at U.S. states, to see how they’re dealing with this.”

He said one potential tool being considered is the creation of a civil forfeiture act relating to the thefts.

By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 29, 2024 at 12:10

This item reprinted with permission from   Shootin' the Breeze   Pincher Creek, Alberta

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