Pubdate: Fri, 12 May 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Joanna Smith
Page: A4


OTTAWA * 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 government defended its
proposed crackdown on impaired driving.

Jody Wilson-Raybould tabled a "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 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 was drinking before being pulled over.

The roadside test alone 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 scent of marijuana.

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 caveat: "A statement is not a legal
opinion on the constitutionality of a bill."

The statement also says Bill C-46 would help the 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 crashes and deaths, the government argues.

Anthony Moustacalis, president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association,
is concerned the law could lead to a higher number of random stops of
visible minorities.

"I think the one area of constitutional attack would be that, given
the developing statistics on subconscious racism by the police, or
unconscious racism, and the increased empirical data on misuse of
random stops by police for visible and other minorities."

Robert Solomon, national director of legal policy for MADD Canada,
said people already have to go through mandatory screening to do all
sorts of things.

"Mandatory alcohol screening serves exactly the same protective
purpose as airport, border and courtroom searches, but is far more
effective and addresses a far greater risk," said Solomon, a law
professor at Western University in London, Ont.
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