By on October 7, 2009

You might want to try it with the window down. Or threaten her with a gun instead. Just sayin' (courtesy

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.”


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47 Comments on “Canada Contemplates Random Breath Tests...”

  • avatar

    Before you get too surprised, remember that MADD has heavy lobbying power. Civil libertarians usually don’t.

    And nothing scares a politician more than the thought of not getting re-elected.

  • avatar


    To be safe, let’s just randomly pull ’em out of the car for a roadside urinalysis.

    I absolutely despise drunk drivers, but this is MADD’s solution? I’d rather see breath alcohol ignition-interlocks in every car than subject citizens to this violation of privacy, and I don’t support that measure, either. I usually roll my eyes when people rant about how The Man is keepin’ them down, but this cannot be allowed.

    Get to it, Canadians!

  • avatar

    Clearly, the Irish cops need to increase their arrest-quota for DUI’s by 13 basis points!

    Irish pride is at stake! Can’t let those Aussies take the prize!

  • avatar

    Look at that picture. Did Canada switch to driving on the left side of the road, like the UK, without me hearing about it?

  • avatar

    50merc, it’s from the England, or at least the photo credit indicates as much. I don’t think the TTAC Photo Staff had time to go to BC today.

  • avatar

    DISCLAIMER: If you are easily offended by harmless but humorous stereotypes, this post is not for you. And yes, I know stereotypes are potentially racist and never fairly represent the diversity found in a collected group of individuals…

    The first thing I thought when reading that Ireland and Australia were giving random checks was “Who’s sober enough to administer the test?”

    I will now chuckle at my own crude ignorance.

    (Much love to the Irish and Aussies!)

  • avatar

    Thanks for posting this Robert.

    Doesn’t ‘probable cause’ apply in this country?

    I am sure I’d get in trouble for this but if I was stopped indiscriminantly for a breathalyzer test I’d decline based on principle alone.

  • avatar

    Drunk Driving is NO laughing matter.

    The irresponsible Drunk Criminals kill 15,000 or so people every YEAR in the US alone.

    Obviously the penalties are not even 10% as high as they should be.

    They should be so harsh so that every driver would not even dare THINK of driving drunk, let alone actually do it.

    We are sick and tired of being the victims of the gross stupidity and irresponsibility of morons that drive drunk, or without their seat belts, or while texting, or applying makeup. They have no right having a licence to drive.

  • avatar

    Look at that picture. Did Canada switch to driving on the left side of the road, like the UK, without me hearing about it?

    And why does it look like she is about to really enjoy blowing on that thing?

    I have no problem with the intention of the law. If you are driving you should not be drinking. I just worry about the implementation of it. Am I going to have to pull over with a bunch of people and wait 10 minutes so a cop can give me a breathalyzer? Checkstop is one thing, a quick question or two then a “have a good night” and done. But this would take a lot longer…performing the test, changing the mouthpiece (I would hope) etc will waste my time.

    Giving a random test to someone already pulled over for speeding or some other infraction won’t bother me being that I have a V1 and laser jammer. I never get pulled over anymore so if that’s how it will be delivered, no bother to me.

  • avatar

    When Canada’s ruling “conservative” party gets swept from power, it will be because the party believed in nothing, and stood for nothing. The party has proven it has no respect whatever for individual rights and freedoms; for example it has refused to rein in the federal government’s wildly out-of-control, law-breaking Human Rights Commission

    Recently the conservatives moved forward on an old Liberal Party ruse to replace the GST with a combination sales/GST tax that conceals the true level of both. While not busy stealing rights and money from Canadians, the conservatives spend their time greenwashing themselves with elaborate carbon capture schemes and the ethanol scam. These bums are being kept in power only by the electorate’s sorry experience with the Liberal party, and by the opposition parties’ collective disinclination to contest an election which might leave them with the challenge of running an economy during a depression.

  • avatar

    menno :
    October 7th, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Clearly, the Irish cops need to increase their arrest-quota for DUI’s by 13 basis points!

    Irish pride is at stake! Can’t let those Aussies take the prize!

    Something tells me they won’t have any problem reaching that quota in Ireland…:)

  • avatar

    Oddly enough, I’ve got absolutely no problem with this. I am a resident in Alberta Canada where they are contemplating the same thing. I don’t have a problem with it for a couple reasons. First, I don’t drink and drive, my vehicles paperwork is always in order, I don’t transport illegal drugs or guns or immigrants around in it. I am 100% law abiding and have nothing to fear from the police. Second, you wouldn’t believe how many “functional alcoholics” there are driving around completely smashed, but because they’ve been at it (drinking) for so long and their tolerance for alcohol is so high, that they don’t necessarily display any erratic driving behaviors…until they hit you. If only they had a viable roadside test for pot and other drugs.

  • avatar

    Here’s a surefire way to catch drunks in Canada:
    Pull over every driver leaving the Saddledome parking lot after a Flames / Oilers game.

  • avatar

    Here’s the problem:

    One one hand, driving is a privilege too often assumed to be a right. Driving is, quite literally, the most dangerous thing you will do in a day, nine days out of ten. If you ride a bicycle or motorcycle, it’s the most dangerous thing you’ll do ten days out of ten, because of the risk imposed by drivers. This assumes, of course, you don’t regularly skydive or share needles or have a particularly risky profession. I do believe it’s appropriate to require more training, monitor drivers more closely, and otherwise ensure that the people operating vehicles are being very, very responsible.

    On the other hand, “random” is a phrase that’s rife with the potential for abuse. Nine out of ten police officers are fine, disciplined folk, but that tenth one is not, and ultimately police officers are just people, subject to the same faults and whims. Any enforcement method that allows police officers to use “random” criteria in the absence of clear signs that would otherwise justify enforcement in a non-random way is going to lead to people being abused.

    The correct answer here, then, is likely a significant increase in penalties for drunk driving — such as lifetime loss of license and guaranteed jail time, for starters — coupled with an organized, non-random step up in enforcement efforts.

    Oh, and a quick edit, from the comment prior:

    “Here’s a surefire way to catch drunks in Canada:
    Pull over every driver leaving the Saddledome parking lot after a Flames / Oilers game.”

    Joking aside, you have the right idea, inasmuch as it’s situational profiling akin to checking IDs of patrons entering a bar because that’s the most likely place to catch underage people trying to get hold of alcohol. That’s the kind of organized, non-random enforcement I’m talking about.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Why stop at random breath tests, let’s give the cops the order to put a bullet through the head of anyone who fails or refuses a breath test.

    “Your papers, please”

  • avatar

    There is a reason that the thinking “If I do nothing wrong, I have nothing to worry about” is very, very wrong. The reason is that a society which operates that way becomes fascist very quickly. If you think this way you really should read about the origin of the concept of reasonable search and seizure and why it came about. It has nothing to do with protecting criminals and everything to do with protecting all of us.

  • avatar

    Saw on the news this morning (I always watch the local news, pretty much solely for the weather, in the am) where there was a very short piece on how, in the county just north of where I live, the Sheriff’s office simply marched into people’s homes at will, and demanded breathalyzer tests since they thought underage drinking was happening. No warrant, no nothing. (There were no underage drinkers and no arrests).

    This, in the United States.

    Apparently the ACLU is suing the Leelanau County Sheriff’s office in Michigan over it.

    My wife was scandalized by the news the other day that a woman had her newborn baby stolen, was knifed in stomach at the time of the kidnapping, and when the police found the baby and went to return it, the stazi – I mean the local authority took away the baby AND her other children, even though she hadn’t been accused of harming them.

    This, in the United States.

    I understand that she has been given her children back – for now.

    Well said and +1, dolo54

  • avatar

    Well big surprise there! -Australia and Ireland are populated entirely by criminals and drunks.

    So: Of Course they would be able to throw up some impressive stats by enforcing a few laws over there. -Du-uh!

    In fact, I’m sure the 36 and 23 percent resulted from pulling over Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell alone!


  • avatar

    tparkit, which Canada are you talking about? In the one situated to the north of the U.S., it is the provincial LIBERAL governments of Ontario and B.C. which are harmonizing PST and GST. The federal Conservative government is doing no such thing, in fact it has steadily reduced taxes since being elected. Get your facts straight.

    As for the violation of individual freedoms, all I can say is Welcome to the Nanny State. Next stop: Random anal probes in supermarkets to reduce shoplifting. If it saves one frozen turkey…

  • avatar

    Well, that Andrew guy is a good mother…something. Maybe MADD are too drunk.
    While drinking and driving is stupid, the police bothering people randomly like that is not good.
    A facist, control-freak mind can justify basically any supression of freedom with clever babbling. Why is not anyone going after the alcohol manufacturers?

  • avatar

    I love it. I also vote for a bullet to the brain stem for anyone caught texting while driving.

  • avatar

    I’ve always though Canada and Canadians were pretty cool (except the beer prices in Ontario).

    But they are turning into the biggest sissy state on the face of the earth. If I want a cigar, I have to know what I want, then ask if you have it? What? You can impound my car on the spot for speeding? Now you want to just randomly start pulling people over for breath tests?

    Unfortunately it seems the US is on this same pathway.

    I know drunk driving is bad….but I’ve often thought about it like this…. You could blow a .10, drive “fine” and be involved in some kind of incident. Yet for that, you get a conviction on your record, fines, huge court costs, etc. Then compare that to the person who drives tired, which is apparently just as bad or worse than being drunk, and if the same incident happens, you’re cited for running a red light and that’s it. Why is it that .08 is the limit and anything over, even by 0.01 you pay nothing but hell? Why not drowsy drivers? What about stoned drivers?

    I guess I just don’t buy that 0.08 is the difference between being F’d and being fine.

    Just sayin…

  • avatar

    “Robert Schwartz :
    October 7th, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Why stop at random breath tests, let’s give the cops the order to put a bullet through the head of anyone who fails or refuses a breath test.

    “Your papers, please””

    Can we waterboard them first?

  • avatar

    That’s a pretty kinky picture you picked. Both of ’em using more than subtle welcoming and anticipating smiles. Now just imagine the reality of the situation and the topic…. There is no way it fits the subject, until reading between the lines! So to speak! :)

  • avatar

    Hey don1967, maybe YOU should get YOUR facts straight. The Canadian government — that is, the “conservatives” in Ottawa — bribed the BC government with $1.6 billion in cash in order to persuade BC to combine the sales tax with the GST. Ontario is being bribed with $4.3 billion. The federal “conservatives” are leading the charge, and as millions of Canadians have already done you can read about it in the press. Start here:

  • avatar

    “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” William Blackstone

    “We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security” Dwight D. Eisenhower

    At some point in military matters and law enforcement, we reach a point of diminishing returns and at an enormous cost to personal freedoms.

    I feel that we have reached that point in many parts of the world.

    You’ve got to ask yourself – with increased law enforcement and preemptive war, are we really any safer, or just a lot less free?


  • avatar

    I can imagine that lawyers will benefit from this. Picture this…a random stop for a breathalyzer. Policemen notices a joint on the floor. Driver arrested for possession. Can a person be charged for a crime that would never have been discovered save for a random stop designed to prevent an entirely different offense? Honestly, I don’t even know…and, as I said, this will be great fodder for appellate courts.

    But they are turning into the biggest sissy state on the face of the earth.

    Speaking as a Canadian…are we ever! I am tired of it.

  • avatar

    “Well big surprise there! -Australia and Ireland are populated entirely by criminals and drunks.”

    Soon we’ll all be criminals. That, of course, is the very definition of a police state.

    To quote the Firesign Theatre: “Help! It’s the police!”

  • avatar


    Ok, I know this is about Canada, so sorry to get all US-centric, but in the US driving is not a privilege.

    I understand why a 16 year old says that -it’s been drummed into them in driver education. Anyone 21 or older who says driving is a privilege should be whacked up side the head with a 2×4.

    A privilege can be granted or denied for any reason, or for no reason at all. The reason need not make any sense.

    A driving license can only be denied for safety reasons. e.g., one cannot pass the eye test, the rules test, or the actual driving test.

    Of the three tests, the one which is both the most intellectually challenging and requires the greatest skill is the eye test.

  • avatar

    Drinking and Driving is selfish, stupid,and reprehensible, and I’m outraged at the needless cost of lives.
    So by all means crack down on them – more check stops, jail time, forfeiture of assets, lifetime driving bans etc – but this is going too far.
    And where does it stop? Suddenly roadside urine analysis and Breathalyzer checks before starting your car doesn’t seem so far fetched.
    Even with this law and all the other harsh punishments noted above, there will still be self absorbed assholes who think they can drink and drive and get away with it.
    You can never legislate stupidity, and it will effect the lower economic class far more then the upper, simply because they have better lawyers.
    MADD is just another shrill, anal retentive lobby group that unfortunately has the ear of our gung ho, law and order Conservative government.

    But it doesn’t matter as it will never survive a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms.
    Obviously they expect this to happen and will look for ways around it, but if it becomes law it will be struck down.

    Section 6 – Legal Rights – subsection 8 – Search or seizure – states
    “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure”

    Thank you Pierre Elliot Trudeau, it’s not a perfect document but it’s damn close.

    As for MADD and their relentless drive to curtail our civil liberties – while pretending to represent us – I’d advise them to perform an anatomical sexual impossibility amongst yourselves.”

  • avatar

    menno, you’re referring to Section 13 of the Human Rights Code (“likely to incite hatred”), which is about to be tossed, as the federal Human Rights Commission itself has ruled that S.13 is unconstitutional.

  • avatar

    I am Australian and so, by general decree a drunk and criminal. However, I have lived with RBT for many years and it does not bother me. It is quick and easy and well organized. Usually a ‘booze bus’ is parked with about 3 patrol cars and they stop and breathalyze everybody. Sometimes a fourth car is parked down the nearest side street that an avoider might use!

    It is a lot more civilized than being pulled over because you crossed the white line or something and being made to undergo endless sobriety tests before being puffed.

    These roadside stops are usually well lit by flood lights and police flashers and sometimes they are, as suggested, just near a hotel. Believe me, if you see this on the way in, you quickly designate a non-drinker to drive home.

    The Irish numbers are lower probably because they have a more mature attitude to alcohol and allow local pubs in domestic suburbs so you can walk there and home. Aussie pubs have to be in commercial areas and are invariably surrounded by acres of carpark so of course you drive there.

  • avatar

    I really can’t understand what’s so terrible about random testing. Maybe it’s bad because it increases the chance of getting caught?

    Then again, I live in a socialist hellhole country where the police have the right to stop and search any car for any reason, or arrest and hold you for 72 hours because you carried a marker pen in a public place. Perhaps I’m just used to living in a police state.

  • avatar

    This shouldn’t surprise anyone, after all this is the People’s Republic of Canada.

    Vote with your feet. No vacationing or travelling in Canada. All of our vacationing is in the U.S. See if they can give me a roadside breathalyzer there.

  • avatar

    The proposal is contemptible, but not worth getting our panties in a twist over. It will not pass constitutional muster. They will never convince the supreme court that there are enough accidents caused by drunks (who have somehow finagled their way through a roadside check) to constitute sufficient danger to society that such a trampling of personal rights is “reasonable.”

  • avatar

    Say hello to 21st century Canada: “Papers please”.

    On this day I am embarrassed to be a Canadian.

  • avatar


    With respect to the American journalist facing Canadian prosecution for “hate speech” because of his article about missing uranium. Why would an American journalist in the United States care about Canadian charges? As long as he stays south of the border, the Canadians can’t touch him.

  • avatar

    First, RBT, next random drug search of your car and then your home, later cameras to monitor your parenting skills. But I guess if you aren’t doing any wrong you have nothing to worry about.

  • avatar

    frizzlefry :
    And why does it look like she is about to really enjoy blowing on that thing?

    Blame TTAC cost cuts… The breathalyzer was photoshopped to a redtube clip.

    I hope RF deletes his browsing history before his wife uses the computer.

  • avatar

    MADD is insane.

  • avatar

    well said. The ability of the government to regulate driving does not mean it is not a right.

  • avatar

    Oh for goodness sakes… sometimes the Libertarian streak in some people causes blindness to real social problems, such as drink driving.

    Australia has had random breath testing (and now drug testing) for over two decades. The test takes around a minute out of a driver’s extremely busy schedule. I haven’t been breath tested at all this year, and only once last year. It’s not like the police are waiting around every corner to hassle drivers.

    What testing does is make drivers think twice about ‘but I only had a few, I’m good!’ Positive breath tests are followed up by a second breath test a while later to discount the possibility of alcohol based breath fresheners causing a false reading. A second positive reading is verified with a blood test.

    It’s hardly ‘police state’ and ‘your papers pleaze’ stuff.

  • avatar

    This is just pre-election pandering to MADD and its supporters. And unfortunately yet another example of the current Conservative government’s inability to wrap their collective heads around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Yes, probable cause is required under our Constitution.

    Unlike Americans, many Canadians are actually supportive of our “activist” judiciary. They protect us when our politicians go on the blink … or refuse to deal with hot button issues. Those very same folks on the bench that interpreted the Charter to bring us legalized gay marriage will shoot down random testing in a heartbeat.

  • avatar

    @ Michal & Spike_in_Irvine


    What a bunch of surrealist ninnies posting here!

    Drive as drunk or drugged as you like on your own property. As soon as you become a potential deadly weapon in a shared space, you just lost your “rights”. It’s not too much to ask to be protected from such selfishness, we expect that daily from law enforcement.

    I want people I care about to arrive home safely.

    @ willman

    How could you forget Mel Gibson!

  • avatar

    “It’s hardly ‘police state’ and ‘your papers pleaze’ stuff.”

    If (and it’s a very big ‘if’), the police can be trusted in every single instance to limit themselves to the specific check, then you are right. But the problem is that some police will go beyond their authority. Worse, the case will then be made that “it’s for the public good” and so we spiral down into a world where the government controls more and more of our behavior.

    The fundamental problem with this is that it violates the most fundamental principle of American notions of justice: you are innocent until proven guilty. Police must have good reason to detain you and if you are not exhibiting any law-breaking or realisitically suspicious behavior, they should have no right to interfere with you under normal circumstances.

    In this respect, MADD is so utterly wrong that, depite their very good intentions, they are nothing less than the enemy of a free society. There is no way that government control is a reliable substitute for individual responsibility.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar


    Where were you when the Patriot act rolled out. Your post is pre 9/11 history .

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