Policy Wanks: Bill C-46

The contentious Bill C-46 aims to revise Canada's impaired driving laws

Bill C-45, the piece of legislation which will make marijuana legal has generated a huge amount of buzz amongst students. While Bill C-45 may be taking the spotlight it’s time that we talked about the sister legislation that was passed in tandem. Bill C-46 is the legislation that will put in place the new impaired driving laws.

The new bill has been the subject of contentions for a number of reasons. Starting off relatively benign is the tool that will be used to detect THC in the saliva. Developed in Germany by Drägerwerk, the Dräger 5000 is the model that the RCMP have committed to using during roadside checks.

The Omega spoke to Kyla Lee, a criminal defence lawyer based in Vancouver specializing in impaired driving laws.

“While the Drager DrugTest 5000 has significant reliability concerns, those could be mitigated by the use of immunity rules that permit it only to give grounds for an arrest and not as evidence in court,” Lee said about the new technology being used. “The powers granted to police, coupled with the elimination of disclosure and defences is worse, in my view.”

Lawyers and marijuana advocates have both criticized what new powers the police will have under this bill. Bill C-46 has essentially acted as a trojan horse for additional alcohol screening and regulations. The two biggest policy changes being the ability of the police to demand breathe samples at random and the lowering of blood alcohol content.

The most controversial policy change is undoubtedly the operational vagueness behind the blood sample process. The bill allows for both a “qualified medical practitioner or qualified technician” to take the samples, wherein the legislation refers to a qualified technician as, “a member of a class of persons that is, designated by the Attorney General.”

This has raised concerns that RCMP members will be able to conduct roadside blood checks due to the unspecified nature of the bill. As it stands right now, If one were to refuse these blood tests, they would be found guilty of driving while impaired and face legal and financial consequences. This fundamentally undermines due process. If you do not consent to your blood being taken you are considered a criminal.

“It shows huge disregard for Charter rights, and will result in the unjust punishment of thousands of people plus hundreds or thousands of unlawful arrests before there is a ruling from a high enough level court to bind everyone,” Lee said about the precedent this bill is setting.

She also pushed back on how effective blood testing is for checking for impairment as well.

“There have been studies, including one here at Matsqui Institution, which found high concentrations of THC in the blood weeks after abstinence from cannabis products,” she said.

“THC also does not break down in a stable way. There are dips and spikes in blood concentration over time and the way that it breaks down will also depend on the manner in which it is ingested.”

While everyone is celebrating the seemingly progressive move of legalizing marijuana, we fail to mention the absolutely regressive legislation that passed under the radar. It’s time to give Bill C-46 the limelight.


UPDATE: Updated a sentence regarding blood tests to say that they must be done by a “qualified medical practitioner or qualified technician.”

One Response

  1. Kerri Gills Oct. 12, 2018