Pubdate: Sat, 13 May 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Daniel Leblanc
Page: A5


A majority of Canadians oppose the federal government's plan to give
greater powers to police officers to obtain breath samples from
drivers in roadside tests, a new poll has found.

As part of its legislative package last month to legalize marijuana,
the government also tabled a bill to update impaired driving laws.

Bill C-46 would drop the requirement for police to have a reasonable
suspicion a driver has been drinking before demanding a breath sample.
For example, officers would no longer need to smell alcohol on the
driver's breath or receive an admission that a driver had been drinking.

The government said the move would create one of the world's strongest
impaired-driving regimes, especially in comparison to jurisdictions in
which cannabis is legal.

However, a new poll by The Globe and Mail/Nanos Research found that
only 44 per cent of respondents supported or somewhat supported the
proposal, while 55 per cent opposed or somewhat opposed it.

The poll echoes concerns in the legal community over the
constitutionality of a system in which police would not have to
justify ordering a test.

A number of legal observers have questioned whether the legislation
complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, given that it would
require giving a bodily sample despite no sign of danger.

On Thursday, Justice Canada issued its legal rationale for the
legislation and its view of how it fits with the Charter's protection
against unreasonable police searches.

According to Justice lawyers, the invasion of privacy would be minimal
in the case of a roadside test in which police officers already have
the right to demand several types of information from drivers.

"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
context of driving," the government's paper said.

"It does not reveal any personal or sensitive information and taking
the sample is quick, and not physically invasive."

According to the government, this measure has helped reduce serious
car crashes by 20 per cent to 35 per cent in countries that have adopted it.

Government officials added the new measure would not allow police to
stop people randomly on the road to ask for breath samples, but would
apply in circumstances such as stopping someone in a RIDE program or
because their car lights are not working properly.

Bill C-46 would also restrict or eliminate some frequently used

For example, the new law would make it a crime to have a blood-alcohol
level that is over the legal limit within two hours of driving. This
would remove the defence that a driver's final drink was just before
they took the wheel, so the alcohol had not yet entered their

"If it passes Parliament, [Bill C-46] will be one of the strongest
impaired-driving pieces of legislation in the world," Justice Minister
Jody Wilson-Raybould said last month. "Ensuring that we have safety on
our roads and our highways is of paramount concern."

Robert Solomon, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario
who is the legal adviser to anti-impaired-driving group MADD Canada,
has said the government's approach sends a strong message.

He predicted that "mandatory breath screening of drivers … is going to
probably make the most significant difference in reducing deaths and

He said 121 countries already have such mandatory screening, and every
jurisdiction has achieved sharp and sustained reductions in crashes.

The Nanos survey was conducted between April 29 and May 5, reaching a
random survey of 1,000 Canadians that is considered accurate within
3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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