Police are not equipped to handle drug-impaired drivers argues MP at Bill C-45 debate

Published: November 14, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



One Toronto-based member of the Ontario opposition says police in Canada cannot “manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana.” This lack of ability is despite a September government pledge to provide up to $161 million to help police handle drug-impaired driving ahead of marijuana legalization next year.

The Liberal federal government is pushing Bill C-45 (currently in Parliament), which will make it legal for adults to have up to 30 grams of dry cannabis in public. Worries about the legalization have caused debate around how police will manage drug-drivers and how insurance companies will handle the marijuana introduction.

Bob Saroya, Conservative MP for Markham-Unionville, says Canada “is unable” to train police officers “at home on how to recognize marijuana-impaired driving.” Saroya made the remarks in the House of Commons on Nov. 9 while debating Bill C-45.

“There is currently no instrument that can accurately measure the level of marijuana impairment roadside,” Saroya said.  “We do not have the technology or resources, so the government needs to send officers for expensive, lengthy training in the United States.”

This is not the first time concerns have been raised about the countries ability to manage marijuana legalization. Other potential problems were raised at a September hearing for Bill C-45 at the Standing Committee on Health.

The Saskatchewan justice department is “concerned that drug-impaired driving will increase due to legalization, and significantly higher numbers of standard field sobriety testers, SSFT, or drug recognition evaluators, DRE, must be trained and in the field when legalization takes effect very soon from today,” Dale Tesarowski, executive director of corporate initiatives, performance, and planning for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, told the health committee Sept. 11.

Public Safety Canada has been running a pilot program since late 2016, the purpose of the program is to see if police are able to use roadside drug testing equipment under all weather conditions.

“We have listened to the concerns of law enforcement,” said Bill Blair, Liberal MP for Scarborough Southwest and parliamentary secretary to Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, before the Commons Nov. 9. “We have made available $161 million to provide them with training, resources, and access to technology and legal authorities that they have asked for.”

“Bill C-46 would authorize police officers to use roadside oral-fluid drug-screening devices to help them determine whether a driver had drugs in his or her body,” Wilson-Raybould told the Commons Oct. 27. “If police officers had a reasonable suspicion that a driver had a drug in his or her body, they would be authorized to demand a sample of oral fluid for analysis at the roadside. A positive result on the drug screener would be highly indicative of recent drug consumption and could lead to further investigation, either by a drug recognition evaluation officer or through a blood sample taken by a qualified technician.”