Oakville/Ontario – The Senate of Canada decision to delay further debate on crucial impaired driving legislation for two months is unacceptable and puts the safety of Canadians at risk.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Senate is delaying its work on Bill C-46,” said MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer Andrew Murie. “Lives are being lost to impaired driving every day. The Senate should be moving quickly to pass this legislation and protect Canadians from impaired driving, not holding up the legislation unnecessarily.”
The Bill proposes driving limits for cannabis and other drugs, new roadside testing devices to detect drug-impaired drivers, and mandatory alcohol screening for drivers.
MADD Canada supports the legislation, noting that it will significantly decrease impaired driving and related crashes, deaths and injuries. The proposed mandatory alcohol screening measures, for example, would reduce impairment-related crash deaths and injuries by an estimated 20%. That is approximately 200 lives saved and more than 12,000 injuries prevented each year.
The Bill passed in the House of Commons and has been in the Senate since November. News reports earlier this week indicate the Senate is now postponing further debate on the Bill until May or June while it reviews sections of Bill C-45, the proposed legislation to legalize marijuana.
MADD Canada appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on March 1, urging Senators to move forward with the impaired driving legislation and not let it get caught up unnecessarily in the political debate around legalization.
“We are concerned that some seem to think the impaired driving legislation will not be needed if the legalization Bill is delayed or never becomes law,” Mr. Murie said. “But, as MADD Canada has told Senators, and as the statistics make clear, we have a drug-impaired driving problem in this country now – regardless of legalization – and it must be addressed with strong, effective laws.”
Drugs are present in fatal crashes nearly twice as often as alcohol. In 2013, 1,451 people died in crashes that involved drivers with some alcohol and/or drug presence. Of those, 28.1% involved a positive drug reading, compared to 15.2% with a positive alcohol reading. The remaining 16.4% tested positive for both alcohol and drug presence. Despite the growing prevalence of drugs among drivers, Canada’s existing system does a very poor job of detecting drivers under the influence of drugs. Just 3.91% of all impaired driving charges in 2016 were drug-related. That is just 1,917 charges out of 48,966. The use of new tools to detect drug-impaired drivers, as authorized by Bill C-46, is clearly needed.
MADD Canada is also concerned with comments made by some Senators stating the mandatory alcohol screening provision in Bill C-46 is unconstitutional. The screening procedures at airports, borders and courts can be considerably more invasive and time-consuming than mandatory alcohol screening, and those have been upheld in the courts.
“Mandatory screening will certainly be challenged, as most new laws are,” Mr. Murie said. “But it will be upheld. That is not just our opinion; that is the opinion of Mr. Peter Hogg, Canada’s leading constitutional law scholar as well. The Committee seems to have already concluded that the measure is unconstitutional without consulting experts on the issue.”
For more on the constitutionality of mandatory alcohol screening and its effectiveness in reducing impaired driving, please see “Why Mandatory Screening”, an article authored by three leading academic researchers with expertise and experience in the field of traffic safety.
“Bill C-46 is the most consequential piece of impaired driving legislation that Canada has seen in years, and it is now sitting idle until May or even longer, considering the Senate traditionally shuts down in the middle of June,” Mr. Murie said. “We are looking at a lengthy delay in any real movement to pass and implement these laws. Meanwhile, lives continue to be lost on our roads as a result of impaired driving. That’s unacceptable.”
MADD Canada urges the Senate Committee to reconsider its decision to stop debate, and to move forward with Bill C-46 without undue delay.
About MADD Canada
MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads. For more information, visit www.madd.ca.
For more information:
Andrew Murie, MADD Canada Chief Executive Officer, 416-720-7642 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Dumschat, MADD Canada Legal Council, 1-800-665-6233 ext. 229 or email@example.com
Steve Sullivan, MADD Canada Director of Victim Services, 613-843-8877 or firstname.lastname@example.org