It’s possible, I suppose, that the federal Liberals’ new drunk driving law will be upheld by the courts. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould believes it will be even though it clearly seems to violate the Charter’s protections against unreasonable searches.

The Charter itself recognizes that no right is absolute. Section 1 says all rights are subject to “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

So the Supreme Court might decide that allowing police to demand any driver take a roadside breath test – even if police have no reason to suspect that driver has consumed alcohol or marijuana – might be considered a “reasonable limit” if the changes will save lots of lives.

But the whole thing seems like a dangerous slippery slope.

As of Dec. 18, it became possible in Canada for police to demand every driver they stop blow into a breathalyzer, even if there is no “reasonable suspicion of impairment.”

In effect, the new law presumes you are guilty of driving while impaired by alcohol or weed until you can prove you aren’t.

This is especially paradoxical coming from the Liberals. They have made a big stink about police “carding” – i.e. demanding ID from individuals just walking down the street – because that practice tends to harass many innocent black and Indigenous citizens.

Yet, suddenly they’re okay with, say, your local constabulary setting up a Check Stop and making every driver pulled over blow.

The biggest problem with this is that refusal to blow is a criminal offence. That has been one of the reasons police have had to have a “reasonable suspicion of impairment” before they could demand a breath sample. Once police demanded a sample, motorists had no option.

That is still the case under the new law. If you refuse to blow, you face a minimum fine of $2,000. A third refusal carries a mandatory minimum of 120 days in prison. You’re also likely to have your vehicle impounded on the spot.

Months later you might be able to justify your refusal in court, but at the time the police have the power to punish, so they have always had to have a reason to test you.

Now they don’t.

You can call a lawyer before you blow, but police are not obliged to postpone your breath test until your lawyer arrives. And if you insist they wait, that can be construed as a criminal refusal.

One of the big arguments in favour of the law is that 50% of drunk drivers avoided detection under the “reasonable suspicion” method. If only police could force all drivers or even just random drivers to blow, the argument goes, they would catch many more impaired drivers and save lives.

But if we’re going to permit arbitrary infringement of Canadians’ rights in this area, how long will it be before we permit the government to infringe in the name of other crimes?

Nearly a third of murders (and in some places more), go unsolved. If police had the right to force everyone in a neighbourhood to undergo interrogation, fingerprinting, and DNA sampling, that would help solve a lot of the uncleared cases.

And what about DNA sampling? One of the hottest gifts this Christmas has been home DNA kits. With nearly a quarter million Canadians expected to have been tested by the end of this year, that represents a huge databank that would help police clear up a lot of current and cold cases.

Why not give them arbitrary authority to access your DNA sample? Or to search all laptops for kiddie porn? Or make everyone provide a urine sample to check for illicit drug use?

Our rights are not held at the pleasure of the government no matter how well-meaning.

Source: Toronto Sun


Last updated on: 2019-04-22 | Link to this post