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Government to Strengthen Impaired Driving Law
Source - Department of Justice - Canada

OTTAWA, June 7, 1999 The Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today introduced legislative proposals in the House of Commons that will toughen the impaired driving provisions in the Criminal Code. The proposals are based on recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in its report, Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving.

"The Committees work shows there is broad public consensus that our criminal law must send a strong signal that impaired driving will not be tolerated," Minister McLellan said. "By moving quickly on this legislation, we are sending that message."

The Governments legislative proposals, based on a draft bill appended to the Committees report, include provisions that will:

  • increase the mandatory minimum fine to $600 from $300 for a first impaired driving conviction;
  • increase the mandatory minimum prohibition from driving from three months to one year on a first offence, from six months to two years on a second offence and from one year to three years on a subsequent offence. The maximum driving prohibition would be increased from three to five years for a second offence and from three years to a lifetime ban for a subsequent offence. These changes would result in a substantial increase in the amount of time impaired drivers are prohibited from driving anywhere in Canada;
  • increase the maximum penalty for driving while prohibited to five years from two years;
  • raise the maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death to life imprisonment from the current maximum of 14 years;
  • allow sentencing judges to require the use of an ignition interlock as a condition of probation, where such a program is available;
  • allow a peace officer to demand a breath sample and, in certain circumstances, a blood sample, where the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person committed a drinking and driving offence within the previous three hours. This is an increase from the current two hours;
  • and specify that a blood alcohol level exceeding twice the criminal offence level must be considered as an aggravating factor by the judge at the time of sentencing.

"We are pleased that the Government has taken this important first step in making it clear drunk driving is unacceptable in todays society," said Susan MacAskill, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). "MADD looks forward to continuing to work with the Government in eradicating impaired driving from our roadways."

"Although changes to the law are necessary in the fight against impaired driving, we know we must do more. Impaired driving is also a health and education issue that requires the concerted effort of all levels of government, communities, families and individuals," said the Minister. "In collaboration with the provinces, territories and organizations like MADD, we will continue to explore a broad range of measures to address this pervasive social problem."

In addition to proposing legislative changes, the Committee recommended increased public information and education on measures that combat impaired driving, more research and policy development on impaired driving issues, and a review to determine if further Criminal Code amendments related to enforcement and prosecution are necessary. The Government will respond to the Committee recommendations not included in the draft bill by the 150-day deadline. As proposed by the Committee, the provinces and territories, who share responsibility in many of these areas, will be consulted.

The Standing Committee conducted its review of impaired driving between December 1998 and May 1999. Appearing before the Committee were individual Canadians, provincial officials, public and private organizations, police organizations, road safety experts, legal experts and scientific experts.


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