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article imageCanada's new impaired-driving laws may be flawed

By Karen Graham     Dec 19, 2018 in Politics
Civil-liberties and racialized-community advocates are slamming Canada’s new impaired driving laws, saying they put excessive powers in the hands of officers to target people who already face over-policing.
People convicted of impaired-driving in Canada will now face stiffer penalties as a result of Bill C-46 which was passed in June and came into effect Tuesday., December 18, 2018.
Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have praised the new rules, citing improved road safety in other countries where stiffer laws and penalties have been put in place.
However, victim's groups and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association are not too happy with the rules, citing the enhanced powers given to police to stop anyone - regardless of if they suspect they may be driving impaired - lowering the bar from the previous legislation, which required that an officer have a reasonable suspicion that a person had been drinking.
Hound Labs is developing a breathalyzer for marijuana and alcohol that could hit the market later th...
Hound Labs is developing a breathalyzer for marijuana and alcohol that could hit the market later this year.
Hound Labs
Police officers are now allowed to use any device to test for impaired driving, just as long as it is approved by the Attorney General. As if this isn't enough, prison terms have been increased from five years to 10 years and gives the Crown the ability to seek dangerous offender designations for dangerous drivers, impaired drivers, hit-and-run drivers and people convicted of fleeing from police.
Under the new rules, anyone who refuses to submit to a breath test could be subject to a criminal offense, reports the Toronto Star. Sgt. Marie Damian, a spokesperson for the RCMP, said the amended bill allows police to better combat drunk driving, which she said is the leading criminal cause of death in the country.
She also noted that the RCMP are guided by a “bias-free policing policy,” which calls for the “equitable treatment of all persons” regardless of race, religion, gender or ethnic background.
Racial discrimination and constitutional rights
In the United States, there is blatant racial profiling that has been going on for a very long time with our police departments and other organizations, groups, and businesses. And there is no excuse for it still going on, in the U.S. and in Canada.
June Francis, director at the Institute for Diaspora research at Simon Fraser University, said, “We are scared ... We don’t often have an opportunity to assert our Charter rights because we are terrified of the consequences. We know this can escalate into the use of force."
While the RCMP asserts it is "unbiased," even when stopped at random, minorities are treated differently and the situation tends to escalate more quickly, Francis said.
Alco-Sensor III  a breathalyzer is a device for estimating blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath...
Alco-Sensor III, a breathalyzer is a device for estimating blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath sample
J. Pelkonen
This behavior can be linked back to the practice of street checks, or carding going on a decade ago. The Toronto Star reported that the city’s police "carded Black people three times as often as others, though they made up 8.4 percent of the Toronto population."
More recently, between 2008 and 2017, Indigenous and Black people in Vancouver were carded at a higher rate than other people - prompting a formal complaint from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
Many defense lawyers cite the difference between giving a "personal, bodily sample," versus being asked for your driver's license and registration. It crosses the line, they say. As far as Francis is concerned, “This should enrage all Canadians. It is opening the door to injustice in other areas,” she said. “They’ve heard it enough and can’t be blind to this anymore.”
Is there racial profiling in Canada? CBC Canada reports that Murray Sinclair of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who [was] a judge from the Court of Queen's Bench in Manitoba, said: "I would get pulled over all the time, whereas my fellow judges would never, ever get pulled over."
More about Bill C46, drivingimpaired, Canada, Drugs, Alcohol
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