Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

UNITING FOR A CAUSE – Standing left to right at Tuesday’s funding announcement are Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, Jacquelyn Van Marck, the president of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.

Funding aims to roadblock impaired driving

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.

By Chuck Tobin on July 17, 2019

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.

Comments (7)

Up 2 Down 1

Wilf on Jul 23, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Money needed for housing. Because of the taxes there will be a lot more homeless people that will need housing.

Up 10 Down 1

Wilf on Jul 21, 2019 at 5:05 am

This was already a deal with the RCMP budget.

Up 19 Down 0

Max Mack on Jul 19, 2019 at 6:20 pm

Please look beyond the rhetoric around "impaired" driving. MADD, the police, government agencies, and the politicians are deliberately blurring the line between consumption and legal impairment.

The rate of impaired driving -- using the Criminal Code standard of 0.08 mg/L -- has been declining for over 30 years and was at its lowest point in 2015 (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2016001/article/14679-eng.htm). There is no reason to suspect that this trend has reversed or that more draconian measures will significantly reduce it further.

Also, the vast majority of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal accidents are grossly impaired; not just a little impaired, but far, far over the legal limit. This is not to say that drunk driving is not a problem that should be addressed (it is), but that we should focus on where the problem really lies. Instead, governments' response involves drag-net surveillance and police-state like powers.

Yukon's impaired-driving rate is not comparable to other jurisdictions for many reasons -- too many to list here -- and it is completely disingenuous to do so.

As for the new saliva-testing devices and other Criminal Code changes brought in by Trudeau, suffice it to say there many, many problems both constitutionally and scientifically. Unfortunately, many innocent people will be ensnared in this new police-state environment.

Up 13 Down 9

Seth Wright on Jul 18, 2019 at 9:13 pm

Nothing worse than stoned obese people driving to the store to get some munchies eh Josey? Pony up Coppers, drop the Twinkies, and get those obese stoners off the road...

Up 40 Down 6

Groucho d'North on Jul 18, 2019 at 10:05 am

This funding would have flowed to the Yukon anyway so that law enforcement has the tools and training required to enforce the next evolution of testing for driver impairment. It is a requirement that comes with the legalization of cannabis.
All Larry and his election-rabid Liberal buddies are doing is putting it in a gift wrapped box and making it appear like an extraordinary gift of some kind with value beyond buying votes. This money is something they are obligated to do anyway.
Fund something worthwhile and needed Larry- like more low cost housing and addictions treatment.

Up 30 Down 10

Josey Wales on Jul 18, 2019 at 9:38 am

I am not certain of the numbers, but will speculate that obesity related issues kill more folks in Canada than does impaired drivers.
Funny that...”It changes lives, but is 100 per cent preventable, Van Marck told the audience.”

Wow.... so too is my point, imagine that eh folks?
No special tools nor funding required to rid our core of drunks/ seriously impaired “citizens” whether they stagger or drive.
Just remove your PC goggles and ENFORCE existing laws.
Impaired folks and epidemic obesity does have an effect on our dysfunctional society, we all pay for the lack of personal responsibility.

We should do roadside BMI testing too, if ya fail?
Pay a obesity tax, steering your personal responsibility closer to your own self.
If a carbon tax can allegedly save the planet, then perhaps more personal responsibility can fix our dysfunctional society over time?

I know using terms like personal responsibility is akin to blasphemy up here, and may triggers some zealots, authoritarian junkies, many maaaaany special interests and control freaks....buuut?
I care not remotely.

Up 12 Down 22

Miles Emerson on Jul 17, 2019 at 6:57 pm

This is great news. When impaired drivers feel the heat on the roads they likely will increase their use of local trails on their toys.

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