MADD Canada

MADD Canada

May 04, 2005 08:45 ET

MADD Canada's 2005 Mother's Day Report

Report concludes, 'Nothing substantive occurred in Parliament'; so MADD Canada appeals to 'the next Parliament' to act on impaired driving crimes Attention: News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor MISSISSAUGA, ON--(CCNMatthews - May 4, 2005) - Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) made their Mother's Day wish of federal MPs today for 'the next Parliament' to pay greater attention to the crime of impaired driving.

MADD Canada is calling for new 0.05% BAC (blood alcohol concentration) legislation, the elimination of conditional sentences for violent impaired driving crimes, and the closing of legal loopholes that allow impaired drivers to walk free of their charges.

"We wish for more effective impaired driving laws to reduce the incidents of drinking and driving and make our roads safer for all motorists," says Karen Dunham, MADD Canada's National President. "MADD Canada's mothers and family members want to put an end to Canadians being needlessly killed and injured in impaired driving crashes. We do not want further families to have to suffer from this senseless crime."

"Today, we have unveiled our Mother's Day wish for the impaired driving legislation we want to see in the next Parliament." Mrs. Dunham explains, "We recently had a very positive meeting with Justice Minister Cotler and, we believe, he appreciates the challenge of revising our impaired driving laws. However, realistically, we can't look for the introduction of any legislative initiative in the weeks ahead - we must look to the next Parliament."

"Parliamentarians can bring about significant changes to our federal laws that will save lives and prevent injuries on our roads." Mrs. Dunham insists, "The combination of a new BAC law, greater support for police, and the closing of legal loopholes in our justice system, all will make for more effective impaired driving laws in Canada."

The MADD Canada proposal for a new Criminal Code offence at a 0.05% BAC limit would have an impaired motorist ticketed as a summary conviction offence. The proposed 0.05% BAC offence will allow police to take impaired drivers off the road in an effective and efficient manner and it will ensure courts are not overwhelmed with impaired driving cases.

Other legislation that the organization is seeking from Ottawa includes measures to enhance police powers in apprehending and charging impaired drivers. MADD Canada wants to eliminate conditional sentences for impaired driving crimes where a person has been killed or seriously injured. Also, it looks to eliminate two defences - the Carter and 'Last Drink' defenses -- which are often used in present-day courts, allowing impaired drivers to walk from the charges.

The national grassroots organization was critical of the inaction in Ottawa through the last year. In the text of its report, MADD Canada states: "In the past twelve months, nothing substantive occurred in Parliament respecting MADD Canada's priority impaired driving policies. All policy debate has been eclipsed by the political agendas that have been playing themselves out."

The National President comments: "We are hopeful that in the next Parliament some of these serious issues will be addressed. In this regard, we cannot wait for the election so that the game of brinkmanship will end and Parliamentarians will get back to debating public policy and Canadians' real concerns."

"The severity of the crime warrants Parliament taking a fresh look at what can be done to fight impaired driving. Impaired driving is Canada's number one criminal cause of death. On average, it kills four Canadians each day and seriously injures another 190 daily. The crime of impaired driving should be a priority for the next Government," says Mrs. Dunham.

Mrs. Dunham observes, "There are many different types of drinking drivers - there are social drinkers, binge drinkers, hardcore alcohol dependents - and, then there are youth. In order to significantly impact the deaths and injuries caused by impaired driving, the Federal Government must take a comprehensive approach to fighting the crime of impaired driving and to impact all types of drinking drivers. It must consider a plan that will include rethinking Criminal Code offences for the crime, enhancing the police's ability to enforce the law, and addressing key judicial issues that are making a mockery of our Canadian justice system."

MADD Canada is a grassroots organization with over 70 local Chapters across Canada and more than 700,000 Canadians who donate annually to the mission of stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime.

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May 4, 2005 / Background Note

MADD Canada Calls for Action on Impaired Driving Crimes

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) urges current and future Parliamentarians to introduce necessary changes to federal impaired driving legislation within the first 18 months of the next Government's mandate. MADD Canada supporters call on the Federal Government to act on the following three policy initiatives.

# 1. Introduce a new 0.05% BAC Criminal Code offence and sanctions that will reduce impaired driving fatalities and create safer roads for all motorists.

A federal 0.05% BAC makes good sense for a number of reasons. Foremost, it saves lives. According to a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health study, a 0.05% BAC will result in a decrease of between 185 and 555 fatalities a year in Canada. A 0.05% BAC will bring down the BAC levels of all drivers - making roads safer for all motorists. Moreover, a 0.05% BAC legal limit is more in keeping with recent real-world experience in fighting impaired driving, leading medical evidence on the affects of alcohol on driving, and what is internationally recognized as a reasonable limit to safeguard the public against the risks of an impaired driving incident. Lastly, a vast majority - four in five Canadians - support a 0.05% BAC limit.

The MADD Canada proposal for a new Criminal Code offence would introduce measures that would get impaired drivers with 0.07 % BAC readings and higher off the roads. The impaired motorist would be ticketed as a summary conviction offence (First offence would carry a $300 fine and a 45-day federal driving prohibition. Subsequent offences would carry a $600 fine and a 90-day federal driving prohibition.) A person can pay the fine and not drive for 45-days without going to court. After two years, if the offender has no additional driving convictions, the 0.05% BAC offence would be dropped from his/her record.

The new 0.05% BAC offence will allow police to take impaired drivers off the road in an effective and efficient manner and it will ensure courts are not overwhelmed with impaired driving cases. It sets the federal legal limit at the internationally recognized level. This 0.05% BAC offence sends the right message to those who drink and drive, that the Federal Government is serious about road safety.

# 2. Enhance police powers to better enable Canadian law enforcement to effectively apprehend and charge impaired drivers.

Today, there are still too many Canadians driving while over the legal impairment limit. A prime reason for this behaviour is that the fear of being caught and charged with impaired driving is non-consequential. It is estimated that 1 in every 445 impaired driving trips results in a criminal charge.

Police must be given the necessary tools (including current technology) to detect and apprehend impaired drivers. Police must be given appropriate statutory authority and a streamlined charging process to ensure effective enforcement and prosecution.

MADD Canada also specifically calls on Parliament to provide the authority for police to demand a breath and/or blood sample from any driver involved in a crash where someone has been killed or seriously injured. This authority should extend to any person who may need medical treatment; police should be given the authority to demand the evidentiary blood samples from hospitals. (A recent BC study showed only 11% of impaired drivers taken to the hospital were convicted.) This is a reasonable demand given that 40% of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol.

# 3. Address sentencing issues for impaired driving that are making a mockery of our Canadian judicial system.

MADD Canada wants conditional sentences eliminated for the crimes of impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm. Canadian courts have been frequently handing out conditional sentences for violent crimes. Parliamentarians never intended conditional sentences to be used for violent crimes. In an impaired driving crash, where a person has been killed or seriously injured, there needs to be an appropriate sentence handed down that both reflects the seriousness of the crime and the value of a life.

MADD Canada also calls for the elimination of the Last Drink and the Carter defences for impaired drivers. Canada is the only country that has these two self-serving defences, in which the burden of proof for the accuracy of BAC samples rests with the Crown. The Carter defence employs a toxicologist to confirm the accused's testimony ("I only had two drinks.") and this negates the police BAC evidence. The Last Drink defence uses a toxicologist to dispute BAC readings, where the accused states he/she consumed a great deal of alcohol just before driving - and that alcohol would not have been absorbed into the blood stream at the time police stopped the vehicle. In both defences, the accused's testimony, along with the defence toxicologist's confirmation, negates the police evidence. These are spurious defences that allow those who can afford a lawyer and toxicologist to walk without consequence for drinking and driving.

For more information, visit or call:
Karen Dunham, National President (506) 635-5800
Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer 1-800-665-6233, ext. 224

/For further information: IN: JUSTICE, POLITICS

Contact Information

  • Karen Dunham / Andrew Murie, National President / CEO
    Primary Phone: 506-635-5800
    Secondary Phone: 800-665-6233 ext. 224