The federal government’s bid to enact strict new impaired driving rules alongside its marijuana legalization bill hit a major snag last month when the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee voted to remove a key provision in the legislation. The move divided lawmakers, legal experts, road safety advocates, and Ontario personal injury lawyers.
Bill C-46 was introduced as a companion to Bill C-45, the bill to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in Canada. In addition to addressing issues around marijuana-impaired driving, Bill C-46 proposes allowing police officers to conduct random roadside breathalyzer tests without probable suspicion of impairment.
The provision is controversial, as Ontario personal injury lawyers can understand. Some legal experts believe it violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and “would lead to a decade of Charter challenge litigation,” according to Sen. Denise Batters, who proposed eliminating the provision. Activists have also suggested it would enable police to unfairly target minority communities.
Supporters of the bill see it as essential to ensuring safety on Canadian roads following the legalization of recreational cannabis. According to the National Post, more than 40 countries have enacted random roadside testing programs and experienced reductions in impaired driving fatalities of up to 36 per cent. When Conservative MP Steven Blaney proposed similar legislation in 2016, it received near-unanimous support in the House of Commons and praise from Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Many personal injury lawyers in Ontario believe the policy could significantly improve road safety in the province.
Some of the bill’s supporters believe that politics, not constitutional concerns, inspired the committee’s decision. The Conservative Party of Canada has emphatically opposed the Liberals’ efforts to legalize marijuana, and it was Conservative senators who spearheaded the committee’s vote. Indeed, Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais, who voted to eliminate the roadside testing provision, was an early and vocal proponent of Steven Blaney’s bill just two years ago.
“It appears as though obstruction of the policy agenda of the government of Canada is of higher priority than consistency of policy position,” said Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate.
“This is shocking,” added MADD CEO Andrew Murie, according to the Post. “You kind of wonder if this is based on what they say is legal concerns or is this politics being played out?”
After much debate, the Senate voted in June not to reinstate mandatory roadside testing. The amended bill will now move to the House of Commons, where it will likely be rejected and returned to the Senate. This cumbersome process may delay the bill’s passage, meaning Bill C-45 could be passed without accompanying impaired driving legislation, which puts road users at risk.
If you’ve been injured in an impaired driving accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ team of Ontario personal injury lawyers to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. We can help you understand your legal situation and provide guidance as you pursue fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries.