Federal funding for the Yukon to strengthen the fight against impaired driving was announced Tuesday by Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.
Also participating in the announcement was Jacquelyn Van Marck, the president of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
The $2.3 million over the next four years will be used to train more RCMP officers in roadside sobriety testing.
It will also help purchase oral fluid screening devices that can test for the presence of drugs, including cannabis, whose consumption became legal in Canada nine months ago today.
It includes training officers as drug recognition experts, of whom there are three in the Yukon currently.
“One of the biggest issues we face is impaired driving, which continues to be the leading cause of criminal death in Canada,” Bagnell told the audience gathered Tuesday morning in the government’s main administration building.
“Thousands more are injured every year.”
The $2.3 million is coming from a five-year, $81-million fund established by Ottawa last year to increase enforcement capabilities in the territories and provinces.
“This includes more drug-recognition experts, who operate in an expert capacity in police detachments,” said Bagnell.
“And it includes more frontline officers on patrol who conduct standard field sobriety testing at the roadside.”
McPhee said 22 officers in the Yukon are qualified to conduct roadside screening. The funding will help raise the number by 15, so that 33 per cent of officers in the Yukon will be qualified by 2023, she said.
“This specialized training produces officers that are adept in a variety of investigative techniques, and ensures that they are able to identify and gather evidence related to alcohol and/or drug impairment at the roadside,” McPhee said.
“In formalizing the agreement, and with the legalization of cannabis last October, our governments worked together to ensure that anticipatory work was completed for the safety of all Yukoners.
The minister called out to Yukoners a couple of times, emphasizing if you’re impaired, don’t drive.
The audience heard how impaired drivers kill people, indiscriminately, and leave families in devastation.
Statistics provided by the RCMP indicate during the annual holiday spot-check season last Dec. 1 to Jan.1, of the 325 vehicles checked, there were nine charges of impaired driving laid.
Another 10 drivers had their licences suspended for 24 hours.
From Jan. 1 this year to June 30, there have been two charges of impaired driving causing death laid in the Yukon, and one of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Sixty-five drivers in the Yukon – more than 10 every month on average – were charged with impaired driving in the first half of the year.
Another 14 were charged with refusing to submit to a test.
Numbers generated by Statistics Canada show the Yukon is among the worst jurisdictions in Canada for impaired drivers.
McPhee acknowledged the presence of the MADD president. She told the audience she knows how hard the organization works to combat impaired driving, but it remains a serious problem in the territory.
Van Marck also called on Yukoners to be part of the solution.
Impaired driving, she reiterated, is the leading cause of criminal death in Canada, and is the number one cause of homicide in the country.
It changes lives, but is 100 per cent preventable, Van Marck told the audience.
She called on Yukoners to pick up the phone and call 911 when they suspect somebody is operating a vehicle while he or she is impaired.
McPhee said the funding will also help support the provision of a data analyst who will help identify local trends of impaired drivers and help focus resources on problem areas.