Bill C-46 – Getting Tough On Impaired Driving in Canada

Recently the Canadian Government passed Bill C-46, which on its face appears to substantially change the legal landscape concerning impaired driving in Canada. In order to provide Provincial Governments with sufficient time to digest the new law and its implications the law does not take effect until October of 2018.

The new law appears to be an attempt to crack down on impaired driving as part of the legalization of cannabis. Indeed, the new law increases the penalty for impaired driving from 5 years to 10 years. From an immigration standpoint, this means that an impaired driving conviction will now fall within the definition of serious criminality under section s. 36(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which will mean that permanent residents in Canada could face deportation if convicted of impaired driving in Canada.

In addition, the new law removes the language in the criminal code that requires peace officers to have reasonable suspicion before requiring an individual to provide a sample of their breath into an approved screening device (ASD). This change in particular will likely spur considerable litigation under the Charter given the new ability of peace officers to arbitrarily request potentially incriminating evidence from individuals.

The new law also provides for roadside screening for impairment due to cannabis, but how this is going to be accomplished remains to be seen, as no roadside device has yet been approved to accurately assess impairment due to cannabis consumption.

While the Provinces have yet to weigh in on how this new law will be implemented, it is clear that on the Federal level, under the criminal code, the penalties for driving while impaired for citizens and non-citizens alike are now more severe.

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