In a surprise tie vote that stretched across party lines, an attempt to put random alcohol testing back into the Liberal government’s impaired driving legislation failed Tuesday evening.

The chamber rejected – in a 38-38 vote with three abstentions – a move by Independent Sen. Marc Gold that would have put controversial provisions recently stripped out of the bill during a committee review back into the legislation.

Those provisions would have allowed for police to take a breath sample from drivers they pull over without first needing reasonable suspicion of impairment.

Tuesday’s vote puts the Senate on track for a showdown with the House of Commons over the proposed screening measures, which the Liberal government has said are integral to the bill.

Opponents of mandatory screening argue that it’s unconstitutional and could increase the amount of racial profiling in Canada. Proponents say the policy is needed to curb instances of drunk driving in Canada and point to numerous other countries, like Ireland, that have already adopted the measures.

Conservative Sen. Denise Batters warned senators the measures are of “dubious constitutionality” and would saddle the country’s “overburdened court system” with “a decade” of legal challenges.

Liberal Sen. Serge Joyal said the new law would be “challenged the next day” after Royal Assent if the provisions were left in.

Legal experts have been at odds over whether mandatory screening would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it comes to the section on unreasonable search and seizure, but some have insisted it’s squarely unconstitutional.

“We have the responsibility to speak for the minorities and those who don’t have a voice,” Joyal said, urging senators not to leave the provisions up to the courts to decide on.

“We cannot shift the problem to the court. That is not what I call responsible Parliament.”

The Liberal government, though, has repeatedly noted the bill was given a clean bill of health by renowned constitutional expert Peter Hogg.

When Sen. Gold introduced the amendment to bring the measures back into the bill last week, he said it’s “rare for constitutional law to be so black and white.”

“Where the government’s policies are reasonable, where they’re based upon credible scientific evidence, and where its constitutional position is supported by impartial and distinguished academic analysis, we ought to accept the policy decisions that were approved by the elected House of Commons,” he said.

“Yes, our responsibility is to ensure that the laws respect our Constitution and its values, but unless a bill so obviously and unambiguously violates the Constitution — and that is clearly not the case here — the Senate should not substitute itself for the courts.”

Conservative Sen. Vern White, a former police chief, argued Tuesday there’s no reason to believe the provisions would lead to more police profiling.

“Racial profiling exists and it’s wrong, but impaired driving and mandatory testing will not impact on that. Cops that are bad do not need another reason to be bad,” he said. “This is about saving lives.”

MADD Canada has said mandatory testing would be the single most effective policy the government could enact to reduce drunk driving crashes and deaths.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has called it “irresponsible” for senators to remove the provisions from the bill, as mandatory screening was the “centrepiece” of the legislation.

Bill C-46 is expected to come to a third reading vote in the Senate later this week. After that the House of Commons will have to respond to the changes.

The government’s representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, has said removing mandatory screening effectively guts the legislation. Tuesday he said it will likely be “difficult for the House fo Commons to accept” the Senate “carving out” an “important tool” from the bill.

Meanwhile, another significant amendment – this one put forward by Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer – passed Tuesday with a wide spread: 47 to 26 with five abstentions.

That amendment makes it so impaired driving convictions don’t qualify as “serious criminality” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, in a bid to prevent permanent residents and foreign nationals from becoming inadmissible to Canada.


Source: ipolitics


Last updated on: 2018-08-04 | Link to this post