Nunavut RCMP gets money to help spot stoned drivers

Ottawa contributes $964,800 over five years to train cops in detecting drug-impaired vehicle operators

The federal government is giving Nunavut money to train RCMP members in how to spot cannabis-impaired drivers. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

The federal government is contributing $964,800 over five years to train Nunavut RCMP members in the detection of drug-impaired drivers, a press release from Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada announced on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Bill C-46, passed in tandem with the federal law that created a legalized regime for cannabis in Canada in 2018, gives police new powers to screen drivers for drug impairment.

One of those new police powers is the ability to demand, if there are reasonable grounds, that a driver suspected of being impaired by drugs provide a sample of their bodily fluids for testing.

So the training will prepare police officers to screen drivers suspected of drug impairment, and to determine whether they should be asked to submit bodily fluids.

One set of techniques that RCMP members will be trained in, called “Standardized Field Sobriety Testing,” or SFST, is well-known.

SFST involves things like asking the impaired driver to walk nine steps, heel to toe, in a straight line, or the one-leg stand test, where the subject is asked to stand on one leg with one foot about six inches off the ground while they count aloud in ones.

Also, the money will also be used to train drug recognition experts, or DREs.

DREs are police officers who are trained in a range of techniques, which can include administering breathalyzer tests. If a breathalyzer test shows evidence of alcohol impairment, then the subject is charged and the testing stops.

But if the breathalyzer shows no evidence of alcohol, then a DRE can perform more tests, such as examining the size of the suspected impaired driver’s pupils or checking their pulse or blood pressure.

After that, if the DRE-trained police officer still suspects drug impairment, he can ask for a sample of bodily fluids, usually by way of a saliva or sweat swab.

Under the funding agreement, the Nunavut RCMP will increase the number of front-line police officers trained in SFST techniques to 36 by 2020, that is, about 33 per cent of frontline RCMP members.

But the federal government doesn’t say how may DREs will be trained.

As for bodily fluids, police in Canada are now able to use two different devices for roadside tests on the presence of drugs.

But it remains to be seen whether evidence generated by these devices will stand up in court.

As of November 2018, there were over 14,400 trained SFST officers in Canada and as of Aug. 1, 2019, 1,115 certified DREs.

“When you consume cannabis, regardless of the method of consumption, you cannot—and should not—drive. You pose a deadly risk to yourself and others,” Bill Blair, the minister of border security and organized crime reduction, said in the release.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Weedless Driving on

    Interesting and inevitable. Employees that are service providers, driving around company/organization vehicles and working stoned. Known fact that they park their company vehicles outside drug dealer’s house, they WERE untouchable, so this changes things for the better.

  2. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    About time. This should have been done BEFORE legalization.
    Now funds staffing for enforcing the laws against dealers/potheads buying in front of Northmart and Ventures.

  3. Posted by William Hecht on

    “When you consume cannabis, regardless of the method of consumption, you cannot—and should not—drive. You pose a deadly risk to yourself and others,” Bill Blair

    There is nothing out there that proves this to be true.

    Show me the science Bill!

    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      Mr Hecht. You really need to google it and you will find multiple expert opinions about driving while impaired by marihuana.
      While you are doing that, just so you don’t go defending weed. In Nunavut I believe we have had up to 20 suicides since April 1. Ask the chief coroner how many had signs of marijuana in their systems.
      You might understand why so many people are against both marijuana as well as the beer and wine store here in Iqaluit.

      • Posted by Anonymous for my Career’s Sake on

        Paul, that your comment indicates a direct cause and effect between cannabis use and suicide is frustrating and ignorant. I might as well say “look at how many suicide victims had hair! We should all shave our heads!”. There is no firm scientific evidence to support your allegation. Was the victim suicidal because of cannabis (as your comment alludes to), or were they using cannabis BECAUSE they were suicidal (or for one of the many, MANY other ridiculous social injustices that our families live through every waking moment)?

  4. Posted by Anonymous for my Career’s Sake on

    This, from where I stand, is a waste of money. NOT because the training isn’t needed in theory, but by god- In practice? Not sure about other communities, but here in (redacted) I’ve seen maybe one or two vehicles pulled over in the past 20 years, and only 1 road check during that same time. I would like to see more enforcement of MVA laws across the board. How many people are driving with no license/registration/insurance? I know that I’ll see half a dozen on my drive home from work, but the RCMP don’t have the resources to enforce the law.

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