Government proposes random breathalyzer tests
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, October 5, 2009 11:04PM EDT
The federal government is considering tough new legislation that would allow police to perform random breathalyzer tests on drivers, whether they suspect the person has been drinking or not.
The president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Margaret Miller, says the changes could save 20,000 lives a year in Canada, citing similar legislation in Australia and Ireland.
Currently, police officers must have reasonable suspicion, such as seeing reckless driving or smelling alcohol on a driver's breath, before administering a breathalyzer. The new legislation would bypass those requirements.
"The real reason (for the law) . . . is to reduce impaired driving. We know that only one in a thousand people out there is apprehended by the police," Conservative MP Rick Norlock said.
The legislation appears to have all-party support, but there are concerns that the law might not survive a court challenge.
David Eby, the executive cirector of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, expressed worry about automatic testing from police.
"Canadians generally have a feeling that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a good thing, that being free from arbitrary search and detention at the whim of a police officer is a good thing," he said.
And the Canadian Bar Association warns of overcrowding Canada's already crowded courts.
"I think that (this) is a major concern as impaired driving cases right now take up a disproportionate amount of court time (and) they are difficult to prosecute," Eric Gottardi, of the CBA's National Criminal Justice Section, said.
But politicians aren't buying that argument.
"I'd rather have the courts a little clogged with drunk driving changes than our emergency wards full of people caught up in drunk driving collisions," NDP Leader Jack Layton said.
The legislation is expected to be introduced within the next two weeks.
With a report from CTV's Rosemary Thompson