President’s Perspective – BAC

Yet again, the House of Commons justice committee is considering a lower blood alcohol level for the Criminal Code. Many organizations, safety and other, including the Canada Safety Council, oppose the proposal to move from 80 milligrams of alcohol to 100 milliliters of blood, down to 50. The Canada Safety Council appeared before the Committee on February 25 in support of our longstanding position.

Canada’s practice of not using criminal law for drivers less than 80 mg per cent is in line with the approaches taken in other countries. Canada’s impaired driving laws are among the strictest in the western world. Lowering the criminal limit would nullify many effective countermeasures now in place. If criminal charges were to be laid below the current threshold, that many more, if not all, would be challenged. Our courts can barely handle the significant number of cases before them now. A significant concern and risk in reducing the criminal limit below a point most Canadians would consider unreasonable is that it would encourage contempt, disrespect, and disdain for the law. Unquestionably, this would weaken the resolve of the criminal justice system (police, courts) to enforce the law. The current criminal BAC limit has been universally accepted by Canadians and the criminal justice system for well over 35 years. Tinkering with this criminal limit could well open the doors to a barrage of defense challenges! Frivolous criminalization will not protect the public. There is absolutely no evidence that charging low-BAC drivers under the criminal code would prevent more deaths and injuries than measures now in place in provincial and territorial regulations.

When it comes to dealing with impaired driving, the current administrative and criminal sanctions in place in Canada provide a well thought-out mix of effectiveness, efficiency and severity. Let’s keep it that way. Statistically the higher BAC level drivers cause the most carnage. What is needed is to increase the perception of apprehension, and to improve the system’s efficiency and effectiveness in dealing with impaired driving offenders.

Safety, It’s an Attitude

Jack Smith