Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

June 16, 2015 12:30 ET

Government of Canada Announces Plan to Crack Down on Impaired Driving

Minister MacKay introduces legislation to increase maximum penalties and new mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm or death

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 16, 2015) - Department of Justice Canada

In support of the Government of Canada's commitment to protect Canadians, Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada today announced the introduction of the Dangerous and Impaired Driving Act, comprehensive legislation to reform all transportation related offences in the Criminal Code, including those that relate to impaired driving.

The reforms would crack down on those who drive while impaired and would modernize the Criminal Code provisions related to transportation offences. The proposed changes reflect the Government's commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne to ensure that Canada is a country where those who break the law are punished for their actions and where prison time matches the severity of crimes committed.

Quick Facts

  • The Dangerous and Impaired Driving Act would limit the use of technical defences and tighten disclosure rules related to alcohol impaired driving that have effectively clogged up the courts. The Bill would:

    • simplify proof of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and tighten disclosure rules regarding breath testing;

    • eliminate the 'bolus drinking' defence where the driver claims that the BAC over 80 at the time of testing was caused by heavy drinking just before driving so the alcohol was still being absorbed when stopped and their BAC at the time of driving was under 80; and

    • strictly limit the 'intervening drink' defence where the driver claims the BAC over 80 was caused by drinking after driving.

  • The Bill would harmonize and strengthen penalties for all transportation related offences, including increased penalties for repeat offenders, such as:

    • making all transportation offences prior offences for one another with the effect of increasing penalties for repeat offenders;

    • doubling maximum penalties for offences without bodily harm or death on indictment from five years to 10 years imprisonment and on summary conviction from 18 months imprisonment to two years less a day;

    • making maximum penalties for all indictable offences causing bodily harm 14 years imprisonment with mandatory minimum penalties of 30 days imprisonment on summary conviction and 120 days on indictment; and

    • increasing mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving and refusal offences causing death from a $1,000 fine to 6 years in prison.

  • Drivers impaired by drugs also pose a significant risk to Canadians and the government plans to consult widely following the upcoming report from the Drugs and Driving Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science which will offer their conclusions on the levels of drugs that impair drivers and that could be measured by roadside screening devices.

  • To make offenders more accountable for their crimes, the Bill proposes significant increases in maximum penalties for several transportation offences and introduces new mandatory minimum penalties in impaired driving and refusal cases that cause bodily harm and death.

Quotes

"Our Government is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe for Canadians and their families. I have heard countless times from many Canadians, about the trail of heartbreak and devastation that impaired drivers leave on victims, their families and loved ones. This senseless behaviour has to stop. With today's introduction, this Government is taking an important step to protect Canadians from impaired driving and other transportation offences. We are sending a strong signal to those who choose to drive impaired, that this behaviour is not only unacceptable but is also creating a serious risk to public safety and putting everyone on the road at risk. Those who break the law must face the consequences of their actions and not at the expense of the innocent lives of law-abiding Canadians."

- Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Over the course of the past few years, I have met with many families that have lost loved ones to impaired drivers. Those who choose to drive while impaired must face tough sentences that match the severity of their crimes. This proposed legislation announced today sets a place marker to enhance the public safety of all Canadians while keeping our streets and communities safe.

- James Rajotte, MP for Edmonton-Leduc

The Katherine Beaulieu Foundation commends the federal government for its commitment and determination. In its concern for the victims of the scourge of impaired driving - whether from alcohol or from drugs - the government is showing again today its effectiveness by tabling these stricter measures with the ultimate goal of protecting citizens.

- Lise Lebel, Fondation Katherine Beaulieu

The proposed legislation announced today by the Government of Canada, is a step in the right direction to usher a new era of responsibility on our roads. We trust it will make those who think they can drive while impaired to think twice, and decide not to take the risks they may have in the past, and instead, to plan ahead for a safe ride home. We trust this new proposed legislation will be implemented to improve the public's safety, so all Canadians will have faith again in the Justice system, and our roadways will be safer for all who travel them.

Markita Kaulius, Families for Justice

"As police services continuously face the issue of dangerous and impaired driving and the resulting victimization of innocent lives, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police welcome this Act. It will assist in closing the door to some of the most serious offenders and those who attempt to use loopholes in existing laws rather than accept responsibility for their actions. It modernizes and simplifies impaired driving laws and addresses a number of common occurrences police services must deal with: repeat offenders, failure to stop, refusing to comply with a valid demand to name a few. Ultimately it will assist our officers in our goal of having the safest roads in the world."

Chief Clive Weighill, President, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

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Backgrounder: Criminal Code Reforms for Transportation-Related Offences

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BACKGROUNDER

The Dangerous and Impaired Driving Act - Criminal Code Reforms for Transportation-Related Offences

The Minister of Justice has introduced legislation that would modernize all transportation related offences in the Criminal Code, harmonize and increase penalties including for repeat offenders, simplify proof of blood alcohol concentration, and address new issues following the 2012 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. St-Onge Lamoureux.

Modernization

The various transportation related provisions of the Criminal Code have developed over many decades in response to specific incidents, scientific advances, and court decisions particularly relating to impaired driving. This piece-meal approach has resulted in some inconsistencies, such as how offenders are sentenced following conviction for impaired and dangerous driving.

There have been numerous amendments to transportation-related offences within the Criminal Code, most frequently in the area of impaired driving. While these reforms have strengthened measures to combat impaired driving, they have also added to the complexity of the Criminal Code which has affected the efficiency of investigation, prosecution, and sentencing.

The proposed legislation would amend all transportation-related provisions in the Criminal Code to resolve inconsistencies and increase certain penalties to reflect the seriousness of the conduct.

The proposed legislation would introduce a new Part of the Criminal Code that would restructure, simplify, and add new provisions related to transportation offences.

The Bill proposes three impaired driving offences:

  • operating while impaired;
  • operating with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or over 80 within two hours of driving; and
  • refusing to comply with a valid demand.

And four other transportation-related offences:

  • dangerous operation of a motor vehicle;
  • failure to stop after a collision;
  • flight from police; and
  • driving while prohibited.

Most of the offences would have corresponding aggravating offences of causing bodily harm or causing death.

The offence of driving with a BAC over 80 would be changed to having a BAC of 80 or more within two hours of driving. This would eliminate the bolus drinking defence and strictly limit the intervening drink defence.

  • "Bolus drinking" is the defence used when the accused claims to have quickly consumed several drinks just before driving and therefore claims that their BAC was not over 80 at the time of driving.
  • The "intervening drink defence" is when an accused claims to have consumed alcohol after being stopped by the police or after a collision and therefore claims that their BAC would not have been over 80 while driving.

Strengthened penalties

The proposed legislation would include a harmonized approach to penalties across all transportation-related offences in the Criminal Code.

It would include the following:

  • Escalating penalties for repeat offenders.
  • Making all transportation offences prior offences for one another with the effect of increasing penalties for repeat offenders.
  • Doubling maximum penalties for offences without bodily harm or death on indictment from five years to 10 years imprisonment and on summary conviction from 18 months imprisonment to two years less a day.
  • Increasing mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving and refusal offences causing death from a $1,000 fine to 6 years in prison.

Response to R. v. St-Onge Lamoureux

Included in the legislation is a response to the impact of the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling in R. v. St-Onge Lamoureux. In that case, the court ruled that the accused must point to some evidence of approved instrument malfunction or operator error before a court could consider a "two-beer defence". However, the court suggested that evidence of malfunction could be found in the failure to follow recommended procedures for a breath test program including maintenance. The court's ruling has resulted in a wave of defence applications for disclosure of manuals and maintenance records and other documents relating to the maintenance of the approved instruments. These unintended consequences of the court's ruling have effectively increased court time for impaired driving cases. The proposed Bill would simplify establishing BAC and eliminate the need for expert evidence at trial. Most notably, the legislation would provide that blood alcohol evidence would be considered to be conclusively proven if proper breath test procedures are followed and that only scientifically-relevant information needs to be disclosed for a case of driving over the legal limit.

Contact Information

  • Clarissa Lamb
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-992-4621

    Media Relations Office
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207