New 2019 Rules for Ontario, Canadian Roads Frustrating for Drivers

Distracted Driving and testing for impaired and drunk driving are just a few of the laws that have recently been enacted in Canada and many Canadian drivers and civil rights advocates are not happy.

Distracted Driving

Since January 1, 2019, stricter rules regarding driver care on the roads came into force in the province of Ontario. Motorists who are distracted by talking and chatting on a mobile phone while driving a car can be fined $1,000, informs CBC News.

Members of the public expressed fears that the new distracted driving law would be used as a precontext for police to racially profile drivers as has been done in the US.

Recently, a number of US states have adopted similar legislation designed to increase the attentiveness of motorists on the roads. Unfortunately, though as observed in the states of Massachusetts and Iowa, the police are stopping black and Spanish-speaking people more often.

In 2016, a University of York study indicated that Canadian police were already stopping black skinned motorists and profiled drivers from the Middle East. This particularly affected young drivers in Ottawa.

“Police can be subjective,” said Sergeant Mark Gatien.

“If the officer doesn’t like the driver’s appearance, he will be stopped,” added Michael Bryant, general manager of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“A policeman can say: “It seemed to me that I saw a mobile phone in your hands” or “It seemed to me that you were lowering your gaze, maybe you texted somebody, that is why I stopped you,” says Bryant.

Bryant believes that law enforcement officers should undergo mandatory training to prevent incidents of racial profiling on provincial roads.

Alcohol Detection

Another new law has many Canadian drivers up in arms. Now, anytime you are stopped by police for whatever reason, they can give you an alcohol detection test to see if you’ve been drinking even if there is no indication that you have and are completely sober. Not only that, but also police can also test you by means of a breathalyzer even if you are not driving at the time but had been driving in the last several hours.

Drivers who refuse to pass a rapid test run the risk of criminal charges and fines for drunk driving. Some drivers are indeed confused since the police need not suspect you for driving drunk.

The new laws also increased financial penalties for motorists. The minimum fine for exceeding the alcohol level is $1000, and for a repeated violation, it goes up to $2000; the driver may also face imprisonment ranging from 30 days to 10 years.

Lawyers across the country are protesting against this law and consider it a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Human rights advocates say this new traffic stop law violates the rights of citizens to be protected from an unreasonable search, enshrined in the Charter. Many Canadians have also taken to social media to indicate their opposition to this the limit on their freedoms.

Saliva Testing for Drugs in Ottawa

Using special testers, police can now check saliva for signs of drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana. However, it is currently forbidden for police to conduct an arbitrary check —they need a reasonable suspicion that a person used drugs before demanding that he or she take a saliva test.

Even though this section of the bill takes effect immediately, independent tests still need to be conducted, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould must also approve the use of the tests. After approval, the testers will be sent to police departments, and officers will also have to be trained in their use.

Canadian police will measure blood for tetrahydrocannabiol within two hours after driving. Thus, the charge of driving while intoxicated can only be brought based on tests, without the need for further evidence.

Civil rights organizations have also sounded the alarm about the new rules, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressed concern that mandatory screening for drugs and impaired driving would unfairly affect racial minorities that the police disproportionately allocates for traffic stops.

Given the imperfection of the scientific basis of evidence of a link between the level of THC in the blood and drug intoxication, it is already assumed by government officials that defense attorneys will be able to challenge the charges without any problems.

Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould said that she has “all expectations” that the law would be challenged in the courts, but she believes that it complies with the constitution and will be subject to legal review.

Melisa Marzett is a content writer who is writing articles for and in love with what she does because she has always had a passion for writing. Apart from work, she loves reading, watching movies, going to the gym, and traveling.

Photo attribution: Tom Stefanac licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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