Bill C-46: Life-saving legislation against impaired driving
This new law gives law enforcement the necessary resources to further deter and detect impaired driving.
Bill C-46 was introduced to create new and stronger laws against alcohol- and drug-impaired driving – the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. In 2015, police recorded more than 72,000 impaired driving incidents across the country. The bill proposed to increase maximum penalties and minimum fines for impaired driving offences, especially for repeat offenders. It would also enact new criminal offences for driving with specified blood-drug concentrations, and authorize police to conduct roadside drug-screening tests for suspected impaired drivers. In the case of alcohol, the bill would authorize random roadside screenings, which have effectively reduced the rates of injury and death from impaired driving in other jurisdictions.
The Senate’s Role
The bill arrived in the Senate in November 2017. Senator Gwen Boniface, a former Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, took leadership sponsor of the bill. Over the course of its review, the Senate proposed several amendments. One successful amendment ensures that a three-year review of the impacts of the new law would include an assessment of whether the bill led to discriminatory treatment of any particular group. Another successful amendment, meant to inform courts of the intent of the legislation, specifies the importance of the cautionary approach to impaired driving in the preamble to Bill C-46. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs also heard conflicting testimony about the constitutionality of mandatory roadside alcohol screening, leading the committee to remove that provision of the bill in a 6-5 vote with one abstention.
The House of Commons accepted some Senate amendments but rejected others, including the Senate’s controversial decision to remove random roadside alcohol screening from the bill. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police were among the groups that called for the measure to be put back in the bill. “The Government has taken a firm policy stance in favour of mandatory alcohol screening, a recognized traffic safety measure that has been adopted in many countries. It is a measure that has proven to drastically reduce road traffic deaths, deter impaired driving and save lives worldwide,” Senator Peter Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate, explained in the Red Chamber. The House of Commons also declined an amendment meant to exempt individuals covered under the Immigrant and Refugees Protection Act from inadmissibility for impaired driving convictions if the penalties were less than six months. However, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship committed in a letter to carefully consider and address the immigration consequences of the new law.