Okanagan MP pushing for harsher punishment for looters

A member of parliament from British Columbia wants Ottawa to amend the Criminal Code in order to crack down more severely on thieves who steal from homes that residents have been forced to leave during a state of emergency.

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, has put forward a private members bill that would create harsher penalties for people charged with looting if the robbery was committed during a state of emergency or after an evacuation order has been issued.

Albas said not only would the change come down harder on criminals, it would also give people peace of mind when they must evacuate their homes.

"They can know when an evacuation order has been given that the criminal justice system has their back," said Albas.


Zero tolerance

He said it will also let officials focus on public safety, rather than trying to convince people to evacuate who are afraid of leaving their homes vulnerable to thieves.

In Albas' constituency, residents have been affected at various times by both wildfires and flooding. During the 2017 wildfires, a number of homes in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House were ransacked by thieves after thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their residences.

The RCMP arrested more than 10 people for looting.

Albas wants to keep that from happening again.

He said officials should anticipate dangerous weather events and disasters becoming "more regular and more severe" and that amending the Criminal Code sends the the signal that "if people are going to be looting, there are serious consequences."

Albas hopes a change in law will show potential looters that preying on people during emergencies will be dealt with more severely than burglaries.

"We should use the Criminal Code in a way to say we will, as a society, not tolerate this at the same level," said Albas.