On April 13, 2017, in a highly anticipated move, the federal Government
introduced Bill C-45 in the House of Commons. Bill C-45 is better recognized as
the “Cannabis Act”. The introduction of the Cannabis Act received immense
attention across the country. Concurrently, but receiving significantly less
attention, the Government introduced Bill C-46, creating new rules and changing
some existing ones dealing with impaired driving.
Bill C-46 proposes various changes, including enabling police officers to
demand a breath sample from any driver they lawfully stop, without the need for
a reasonable suspicion of intoxication as the law currently requires. 1 This would
mean drivers stopped at regular spot checks could be required to provide a
breath sample at random.
Lawyers across the country are already questioning the constitutionality of
this provision, with many speculating it will be promptly challenged in court. In
any event, Canadians should be aware of the proposed change, as there is no
guarantee a constitutional challenge would be successful. For their part, the
federal Department of Justice has released a Charter Statement outlining the
rationale behind the Government’s belief that the proposed legislation is
constitutionally valid. In the statement, the Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-
Raybould, suggests that information obtained from a breath sample is no
different than information obtained from a driver’s licence, describing it as
“information about whether a driver is complying with one of the conditions
imposed in the highly regulated context of driving”.
Another proposed change included in Bill C-46 makes it an offence to
have a blood alcohol and/or blood drug concentration over the legal limits within
two hours of driving. 2 This would put an end to the ability of those charged with
impaired driving offences to avoid conviction by claiming they consumed alcohol
and/or drugs immediately before or while driving and therefore would not have
been over the legal limits at the time they were driving since there was not time
for the alcohol to be fully absorbed into their blood stream. This provision does
provide a necessary exception to avoid capturing people who consume alcohol
or drugs after they stop driving, but not where they should have reasonably
expected to be required to provide a sample of a bodily substance.
Speaking about Bill C-46, the Justice Minister said, “This bill, if its
passes, will be one of the strongest impaired-driving pieces of legislation in the
world and I’m very proud of that”. 3 MADD Canada has released a statement
expressing their support of the proposed changes, estimating that they will save
200 lives and prevent 12,000 injuries each year. However, in a recent survey of
Canadians, conducted by Nanos Research, the majority of respondents (55 per
cent) were opposed or at least somewhat opposed to the proposed changes.
Ultimately, the most important opinion on the proposed changes will be
that of the courts, and it will be many months, or more likely years, before the
issue is settled.
Sampson McPhee has prepared this publication to provide legal information of a
general nature. It is not intended to provide legal advice. If you have any questions or
require legal advice one of our lawyers will be happy to assist you. You can reach us by
calling 902 539 2425.
1 Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, s 320.27(2)
2 Ibid s 253(3).
3 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-impaired- driving-changes- 1.4069889