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The day thieves drove off with 1.5 million brand-new toonies

One or two missing toonies probably would be considered pocket change, but not 1.5 million of them.

Daylight theft left police trying to work backward to find $3M worth of stolen coins

The theft of 1.5M toonies

25 years ago
2:01
The National reports on a high-profile theft of 1.5 million toonies that were stolen from a CN yard in July 1996. 2:01

One or two missing toonies probably would be considered pocket change, but not 1.5 million of them.

That was the cash haul on board a tractor-trailer that was driven away from CN's Turcot yard in Montreal back in July of 1996 — just a few months after Canada's new $2 coins had entered circulation.

It was left to the police to try to get those dozens of tonnes of freshly minted toonies back.

The CBC's Ray Fichaud was reporting on the theft on July 26, 1996, almost a week after it had occurred.

Hard to unload so many coins...

Montreal police Chief Insp. Robert Picard said police forces and major financial institutions in Canada had been made aware of the large theft of toonies in July 1996. (The National/CBC Archives)

Fichaud said the thieves had struck during the lunch hour on a weekend and made their way off the property via an emergency exit.

The truck was soon found abandoned, without the coins inside it.

Montreal police Chief Insp. Robert Picard said it could be harder for the thieves to unload the toonies than it had been to steal them, given the high-profile nature of the theft.

"We gave the information to all the police departments across Canada," Picard told CBC News, after news of the theft was made public a few days later.

Picard said financial institutions had been given similar notice of the theft.

...but where did they end up?

Reporter Ray Fichaud showed viewers the lock CN had put on fencing that covered the emergency exit thieves had driven the tractor-trailer through. (The National/CBC Archives)

Christine Skjerven, a CN spokesperson, said the company always took steps to secure its many facilities across Canada.

Fichaud said that in the wake of the theft, CN had closed the emergency exit where the truck passed through, locked the enclosing fencing and placed a heavy metal container there to obstruct access.

"A big heavy container is also a barrier to anybody trying to get back in," Fichaud said.

Follow-up reporting on the toonie heist saw police claim to be watching some suspects, according to what The Canadian Press reported that September.

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