Possible Metal Dealers and Recyclers Legislation
Metal theft is a global issue, driven by world metal prices. It affects local residents and businesses, in both urban and rural areas, and is extremely costly to the electricity sector as well as to construction, telecommunication and industrial sectors.
Attempts to steal metal have led to power outages, serious injury, and even death when the thefts have been attempted from live electricity infrastructure. Loss of metal on construction sites can seriously delay work, creating costs that outweigh the value of the metal itself. Other specific types of metal thefts in Canada have included manhole covers, copper pipe stands needed to fight fires in high buildings, catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters (from school buses), commemorative plaques and monuments, as well as copper wire used for telecommunications. Thieves can often sell the metal for cash, so it is hard to trace these transactions and consequently difficult to prosecute. Metal theft is also linked to drug use. More specifically in Manitoba, scrap metal, especially copper, is often sold to recycling companies for cash to purchase methamphetamines.
New Legislation from Other Canadian Jurisdictions
Some Canadian Jurisdictions have implemented new legislation to address the problem of metal theft, such as Alberta (Scrap Metal Dealers & Recyclers Identification Act, 2019 and Bill 25, Protecting Alberta Industry From Theft Act, 2020) and British Columbia (Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, 2012), and several municipalities across Canada. Nova Scotia introduced the Safe Collection of Scrap Metal Act in 2011, but it has not yet come into force.
Alberta and Nova Scotia legislation took the basic approach of requiring metal dealers and recyclers to record seller and transaction information that can be accessed by police for the purpose of police investigations. The basic approach involves:
- Obtaining proof of identification from seller (i.e. make a copy);
- Taking reasonable measures to ensure that proof of identity is valid (i.e. that it is not fake identification);
- Recording and retaining details of transactions, including the description of the metal being sold, the time and date of the transaction and the value of the transaction;
- Informing the seller that information is being collected and may be provided to law enforcement;
- Reporting purchases above a prescribed weight to a law enforcement agency within 24 hours; and
- Immediately reporting the matter to a law enforcement agency, if dealers and recyclers have reasonable grounds to believe the metal is stolen property.
Alberta will soon be modifying its basic approach (September 1, 2020) by:
- Defining scrap metal as new or used items made of nonferrous metals (does not contain a significant amount of iron)that are commonly stolen, including but not limited to aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, and tin;
- Requiring sellers to be at least 18 years of age, and provide government issued photo ID;
- Implementing a central database for reporting within 24 hours the purchase or receipt of restricted metals, including high-theft items like copper wires, cables and cable reels, catalytic converters, metal grave markers, funeral vases, memorial plaques and monuments, lead acid batteries, and traffic and utility fixtures such as signs, manhole covers, and guardrails;
- Requiring all payments to be made using traceable forms of currency;
- Implementing a central database to report the purchase or receipt of restricted metals, within 24 hours of the transaction; and
- Requiring buyers to hold metal (i.e. not sell or recycle it) if requested to by police.
British Columbia has taken a more elaborate approach. In addition to recording seller and transaction information, its legislation also requires:
- Metal dealers and recyclers to be registered in order to operate in BC;
- Metal dealers and recyclers to collect and record the name, address and working phone number of the metal seller and owner;
- Metal dealers and recyclers to obtain and record the paint colour, make and model, and licence plate number and province of issue of vehicles used to deliver metal that is sold to them;
- Metal dealers and recyclers to file daily reports of every transaction with law enforcement;
- That payments to metal sellers of amounts over $50 must be made by cheque;
- That metal sellers are deemed to consent to the prescribed information being provided to police; and
- That Provincial government employed investigators enforce the requirements.
There are over three dozen metal recyclers and dealers in Manitoba, many of them large North American, or International firms, with multiple locations in Manitoba. The purpose of introducing metal theft legislation is to make it more difficult to sell stolen metal in Manitoba by creating a paper trail for law enforcement authorities to investigate; preventing Manitoba being a destination for stolen metal from other jurisdictions; and to address rural crime, as metal thieves may take advantage of isolated locations. Provincial legislation would bring scrap metal dealers more in line with Manitoba pawnshops and Winnipeg scrap metal dealers, which are already required to collect and store personal and transactional information (under municipal by-laws), and thereby protect legitimate scrap metal dealers.