Wil­son Ray­bould said im­paired driv­ing bill would not vi­o­late char­ter rights

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

De­mand­ing a breath sam­ple from a mo­torist is no dif­fer­ent than ask­ing for their li­cence and reg­is­tra­tion, Canada’s jus­tice min­is­ter ar­gued Thurs­day as the fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment de­fended its pro­posed new crack­down on im­paired driv­ing.

Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould tabled a so-called “char­ter state­ment” in the House of Com­mons com­pris­ing the ar­gu­ments why the gov­ern­ment be­lieves the new mea­sures are per­mis­si­ble un­der the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms.

“The Supreme Court of Canada has rec­og­nized as rea­son­able the au­thor­ity, un­der pro­vin­cial law and com­mon law, of po­lice of­fi­cers to stop ve­hi­cles at ran­dom to en­sure that driv­ers are li­censed and in­sured, that the ve­hi­cle is me­chan­i­cally fit, and to check for so­bri­ety,” Wil­son-Ray­bould’s state­ment says.

“The in­for­ma­tion re­vealed from a breath sam­ple is, like the pro­duc­tion of a driver’s li­cence, sim­ply in­for­ma­tion about whether a driver is com­ply­ing with one of the con­di­tions im­posed in the highly reg­u­lated con­texts of driv­ing.”

Bill C-46, which in­cludes new pow­ers for po­lice and harsher penal­ties for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol or drugs, was in­tro­duced in the Com­mons last month along­side the gov­ern­ment’s long-awaited plan to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana for recre­ational use.

The new manda­tory al­co­hol screen­ing mea­sures would mean po­lice could de­mand a breath sam­ple from any driver they law­fully stop — even if they had no sus­pi­cion the per­son had been drink­ing be­fore be­ing pulled over.

The road­side test it­self could not lead to a charge, but it would al­low the po­lice to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing and to sub­ject the driver to fur­ther test­ing.

The bill would also al­low po­lice to de­mand a saliva sam­ple from a driver if they rea­son­ably sus­pect the per­son has drugs in their body, such as by notic­ing un­usu­ally red eyes, ab­nor­mal speech pat­terns or the tell­tale scent of mar­i­juana.

The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion has raised eye­brows among some criminal lawyers, who be­lieve it will be chal­lenged in court.

The state­ment out­lines why the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers the new pow­ers to be con­sis­tent with what the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms guar­an­tees about search and seizure, as well as life, lib­erty and se­cu­rity of the per­son.

The state­ment does come with a ma­jor caveat: “A state­ment is not a le­gal opin­ion on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of a bill.”

The state­ment also says Bill C-46 would help the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment achieve its “com­pelling ob­jec­tive” of cut­ting down on drink­ing and driv­ing. Cur­rently, it can be dif­fi­cult for of­fi­cers to iden­tify a driver who should be ad­min­is­tered a breath test.

“It would re­duce the im­pact of this kind of hu­man er­ror,” it says. “It would also in­crease the de­ter­rent ef­fect of road­side stops by elim­i­nat­ing the per­cep­tion that mo­torists could avoid hav­ing to give a sam­ple by hid­ing their im­pair­ment.”

Re­search done in other coun­tries that have taken a sim­i­lar ap­proach, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Ireland, has shown a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in al­co­hol-re­lated ac­ci­dents and even deaths, the gov­ern­ment ar­gues.

CP PHOTO

Jus­tice Min­is­ter and At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Canada Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould an­nounces changes re­gard­ing the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa, Thurs­day.

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