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A 76-year-old Victoria woman is taking on Canada’s roadside impaired driving test.
Norma McLeod will be working with her lawyers to launch a constitutional challenge against the controversial and “unfair” law that some are saying gives police an unprecedented amount of power, being able to demand a breathalyzer at their will.
“I just feel the police have no sympathy for us who have a hard time breathing, said McLeod. “I have gotten a lot more confident than I was before. Others have come forward with their problems as well.”
Concerns surrounding Canada’s roadside driver tests have bubbled over in recent months, as different stories of police crossing boundaries continue to pop up from province to province.
Recently, a woman in Nova Scotia had her car impounded. Her crime? Having M.S.
Michelle Gray was stopped for a roadside checkpoint. Gray, a medical cannabis product user that aids in her treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms, was stopped at the checkpoint while driving on her way to work.
Gray says she wasn’t worried initially. It had been over six hours since she had last consumed any cannabinoid product, which is the amount of time the federal government enforces for the operation of a vehicle.
But unfortunately for Gray, she tested positive for THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. And although she passed a sobriety test, she still had her licence suspended for one week.
Cases of this nature are not few or far between.
In a story reported by Global News, a man by the name of Art went to his local Ontario Beer Store to return about three dozen beer bottles and 10 wine bottles, which his family had accumulated over the Christmas season.
Not much time had passed, and Art had been pulled over in a traffic stop by a police officer who asked if he had been drinking. Art said he had not.
Art says the officer demanded a roadside breath sample. Art asked the officer what would happen if he did not provide the breathalyzer test, to which the officer informed him that he would face arrest, a criminal charge, and a license suspension. All of this from a 70 year old man who was simply returning bottles to the Beer Store.
Art took the breathalyzer test. He passed the test, and went on to continue his day.
McLeod’s case is of similar nature. She was pulled over after leaving a liquor store near her home. She wasn’t drinking, and showed no signs of impaired driving, but was pulled over anyway. She was then instructed to conduct a breathalyzer test.
After several attempts, she was unable to physically blow hard enough for the breathalyzer to detect anything whatsoever. She then had her car impounded, her licence revoked, and failed an appeal, despite having a doctor note saying she couldn’t blow hard enough to pass the test.
McLeod survived mouth cancer, wears a mouth implement and has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an illness which typically causes chronic bronchitis and asthma symptoms.
“Many people are being caught up in on this without having anything to drink. It clearly is a guilty-until-proven-innocent situation,” says Jerry Steele, one of two lawyers assisting McLeod in her case.
“If we were successful and we were able to strike this legislation as unconstitutional it will go back to what it was like before December 2019, which is police needed at least a reasonable suspicion.”
The law firm states that they are looking to highlight other stories of a similar nature. The lawyers say that predatory policing could be at play, a practice in which officers target elderly citizens who are legally leaving liquor stores.
“When you pull people over who have done nothing wrong, no driving behavior, no admission of consumption, no odour of liquor, nothing to indicate they have consumed alcohol within a very lengthy period of time and then you terrorize them to the side of the road because you have the lawful authority to do so,” said Steele.
For now, McLeod will be taking public transit. In her sickly state, taking transit can be a
“It is a lot of walking. I am huffing and puffing when I am walking to the bus. And I can’t take my dog with me on the bus. I normally take him in the car I miss that too,” McLeod said.
“I just hope they come up with something for people that because of their health issues cannot breathe into the tube.”