Trampling on our rights – Redford Government out of Control
This is my second opinion piece on Bill 26. My first can be found here
Section 11 of the Canadian Constitution protects citizens’ legal rights in criminal proceedings. These proceedings commence the moment a person is charged with an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, provincial or municipal laws. Section 11 of the Canadian Constitution specifically protects:1
- The right to be tried for an offence in a court of law
- The right to be tried in a reasonable (not speedy) time
- The right not to be compelled to be a witness
- The right to be presumed innocent
- The right not to be denied reasonable bail
- The right to trial by jury
- The right not to be found guilty unless action constituted an offence
- The right not to be tried again (Double jeopardy)
- The right to lesser punishment
These are fundamental, inarguable rights provided every Canadian citizen in the most sacred of documents ever created in this country. Unfortunately, we have two Progressive Conservative governments currently set to trample on this entire section of the Canadian Constitution. The federal government, by imposing mandatory sentencing, and taking discretion away from the judiciary, has completely trampled on the right to lesser punishment. The government of Alberta has passed Bill 26, the Traffic Safety Ammendment Act (Danyluk 2011). While I am concerned with the actions of both governments, I am most concerned with the actions of the Redford Government in Alberta, and the troubling issues this act raises.
Forget about the intent of the law. Intent is irrelevant when the charter rights of Canadians are about to be thrown out the window in the name of political expediency. Forget about the fact this law is designed to appease one special interest group, using skewed numbers provided by MADD Canada and not those contained in the vital statistics of Canada or Alberta. Let’s not forget the fact the solicitor general took an oath to uphold, not ignore or destroy the Constitution of Canada. Let’s look at the law as it relates to section 11 of the Canadian Constitution.
Under Bill 26, a police officer is able to suspend your driving privileges, seize your vehicle, and force punitive penalties upon you without you being guilty of an offence. Okay, so the law states you are in contravention of the act if you have .05-.08% BAC in your system. Fine. Oh, wait a minute, NO FINE. Not only is there not a fine accessed for the offence, there is no CHARGE for the offence. All that takes place is your driving privileges are taken away for a period of time, your personal property is seized and held for a period of time, and you have to pay to attend sobriety classes. All without being guilty of an offence, or without being charged with, tried for, or convicted of anything.
The assurance that rights are secure tends to diminish fear and jealousy of strong government; and by making us feel safe to live under it makes for its better support.2
The purpose of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982, was to protect Canadians from the government. It guaranteed the government could not operate in a fascist manner. It was created specifically to protect us from the government having the ability to throw us in jail, seize our property and take away our freedoms without cause or recourse. This law flies in the face of everything the Charter stands for. Police are now judges and executioners. There is no avenue of appeal before punishment is meted out. There is no avenue to prove innocence prior to punishment being levied. It is simply done on the side of the road, without right to legal counsel and without the right to examine the equipment or the officer’s competency to be operating the equipment. We will be presumed guilty. We will be denied a trial. We will be denied the right to lesser punishment. We will not be tried at all. We will simply be punished. But that’s okay. We will not have a criminal record. No, but we will have higher insurance premiums, very expensive processes for getting our property back, and the stigma of being abused by the system.
If this isn’t enough to raise your ire, consider Section 89:
89(1) If a peace officer reasonably suspects that the driver of a motor vehicle
- (a) has a medical or physical condition that affects, or
- (b) has consumed alcohol or otherwise introduced into the driver’s body any alcohol, drug or other substance in such a quantity so as to affect
the driver’s physical or mental ability, the peace officer may (c) in the case of a person who holds an operator’s licence,
- (i) require that person to surrender to the peace officer that person’s operator’s licence, and
- (ii) serve on that person a notice of suspension of that person’s operator’s licence;3
Now police officers, not at all trained in Medicine, beyond standard first aid and CPR, are being permitted to make medical findings, on the side of the road. It will be left up to an officer’s non-professional discretion, whether or not a person is medically fit to drive. Due to a medical condition, I see a doctor annually to keep my Class 1 (instructor’s) licence. Due to my age I have to have a medical every two years, with or without the medical condition. I am certain my doctor, who has practiced medicine for 40+ years, is quite capable of assessing my ability to operate a motor vehicle. Under the Traffic Safety Amendment Act, a police officer, with no medical training can override my doctor’s opinion. What grounds does he need? He saw me twitch? He asked for my license and my hands were shaking while I got it from my wallet? Yes, stress exacerbates my twitches. When my hands are on the steering wheel, or any hard surface, they are very steady. Take them off a solid surface, enhance the twitches with the stress of being pulled over, and a police officer might think I am incapable of driving, though he/she would be wrong. But, and only in Alberta and B.C., he can take my licence and my vehicle for 24 hours, without charging me with an offence, or without my having the ability to appeal or hold the government liable for any loss of wages, or costs associated with towing and retrieving my vehicle said suspension might cause me.
I am not, at all, adverse to laws that keep our roads safe. Unfortunately, this law, as it is written, with the ability of the police to be accuser, judge and executioner, removing pretty much all of our Section 11 rights, is just the wrong way to go about it. Might I suggest:
- The provincial government lobby other provincial governments to then lobby the Federal Government to amend sections 253 and 254 of the Criminal Code of Canada thereby lowering the legal BAC to .05% or
- The provincial government amend the Traffic Safety Act providing for the same charges, rights and dispositions for .05% as are currently in the federal legislation for .08% thus permitting Albertans access to all rights provided for in Section 11 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
My personal aversion to this law is not based on impaired driving. It is solely based on a government, out of control, trampling on the rights of Canadians. If they can do it with this law they will, certainly, do it with other laws. The federal government already has.
More from my site
Section Eleven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Wikipedia [↩]
- Mr. Justice Jackson in the 1943 American case entitled:
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), 319 U.S. 624 United States Supreme Court [↩]
- 2011 Bill 26 Traffic Safety Ammendment Act, Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Fourth Session, 27th Legislature, 60 Elizabeth II, http://www.assembly.ab.ca/ISYS/LADDAR_files/docs/bills/bill/legislature_27/session_4/20110222_bill-026.pdf [↩]