Canada Contemplates Random Breath Tests

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

CBC News reports that Canada’s federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson brought some glad tidings to a recent meeting of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chief executive Andrew Murie, Nicholson promised to consider legalizing random breath tests for Canadian motorists. Surprisingly (at least to me), this is not news. “In June, a House of Commons parliamentary committee recommended changing the legislation to allow for random testing, arguing it is an effective deterrent. The change would also bring Canada in line with a number of other countries in Europe and countries like Australia, which have adopted similar measures.” Hey, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear right? I mean, if a police state saves ONE CHILD, it’s worth it. And MADD reckons it could save HUNDREDS of poor innocent children from the murderous hands of drunk drivers. “Murie said [random breath tests] biggest selling point is that it improves road safety, with drunk driving fatalities dropping 36 per cent in Australia after legislation was introduced, and 23 per cent in Ireland when it made the change.”

Murie said the change would allow police at roadblocks to conduct about three times as many breathalyzer tests because they would not need to spend time determining whether there is “reasonable” suspicion a driver has been drinking.

So where’s the counter-argument re: the right to go about peaceful business unmolested by the government?

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, the former attorney general of British Columbia and a member of the House justice committee, said the question of whether any legislation would be allowable under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would come down to implementation . . .

Dosanjh said the charter does allow for constraints on rights when they are deemed reasonable, but said he would need to see how those constraints are implemented before judging any future legislation.

“For instance… I wouldn’t want the east side of Vancouver monitored more than the west side of Vancouver because there is a clear economic division in the city,” he said.

Identity politics? Is that really the best elected officials can do these days? For shame. I guess we have to leave it to the unelected guardians of individual liberty.

The issue for civil libertarians, however, is that changing the law to allow random testing would be a violation of a person’s right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

“It has no real place in a democratic society,” said Richard Rosenberg of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

“Giving police power to act on a whim is not something we want in an open democratic society.”


Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • AdamYYZ AdamYYZ on Oct 08, 2009

    I am for this idea providing they do it at OPP's strategic R.I.D.E. checkpoints they set up during the usual weekend blitz. If I was pulled over at noon on a work day when I'm out getting lunch because I have a tail light out, I would probably give the cop a real hard time if he asked me to breathalize.

  • Spike_in_Brisbane Spike_in_Brisbane on Oct 08, 2009
    Bunkie Where were you when the Patriot act rolled out. Your post is pre 9/11 history .
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