“Random” Police Checks Will Erode Freedom

They deceive us; they lie to us; they make promises they know they will never keep; and now, your friendly politicians want you to TRUST them … that taking away just a little part of your rights won’t erode your freedom.

They must be stopped … before you are.

The all-party parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Ottawa has recommended Criminal Code be amended to allow police to “randomly” stop ANYONE in a car ANYWHERE and at ANYTIME … WITHOUT EVEN A HINT OF EVIDENCE ….  just to check them out for possible drunk driving.

And the Tory government is reportedly so enthusiastic about it all that a Bill could be introduced within two weeks.  (No wonder so many Canadians fear giving Harper and the Conservatives a majority! Who knows what other such gems might be up their sleeves.)

The argument is that in a couple of other countries where this has been done, drunk driving deaths and injures have dropped.  But is this the only way to achieve that result?

Make no mistake about it … this new law would be an assault on YOUR civil rights.

Of course, we all want every single drinking driver off the streets, and to feel the full force of the law through the courts. Many would even support tougher penalties for offenders.

But do you really believe all police officers will use this new power without abusing it?  I don’t!

Young people driving hot-looking cars, attractive looking women,  hippy-looking types, blacks, Muslims, Sikhs … all kinds of others, including anyone recognizable or not, like retired old reporters who perhaps did a story (or blog) the cop hadn’t liked  … could be vulnerable and in danger of being victimized, even repeatedly, just because of their “looks”.   And not just asked if they had anything to drink?  But also, where they are going?  Where are they coming from? Without any evidence of  anything being out of order!

At least now, in such cases, citizens have options … including legal recourse … when such arbitrary stops and checks are carried out without well-founded reason.   Like the long-haired guy in West Vancouver who just recently won his case … and damages … for such discrimination.

Can you imagine what would happen if the Criminal Code was amended to give police total discretion to stop anyone driving: and all they have to say is they were  just “suspicious” the driver could be drunk driving!

And what happens if, in the course of looking for drunk drivers, the police officer notices something else … like a bag of weed on the front seat?  Would that charge stand up under our Charter of  Rights and Freedoms?

Would police target people they just “suspect”  for other things, using the drunk driving issue as an excuse?  How could we ever know the difference?

And if you think that would be fine, because “if you have done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t have anything to fear” …   you don’t understand the precious freedoms we have, how fragile they are and how easily they could be lost.

Giving police to stop ANYONE, ANYWHERE,  WITHOUT ANY HINT OF EVIDENCE … just to “check them out” is going too far.

Let them step up Road Checks, where all drivers passing by are stopped and checked out; let them pull over more drivers displaying ANY symptom of being an offender:  but RANDOM stops of anyone THEY select: NO.

This is not some dictatorship  where citizens can be stopped and questionned …. or even shaken down … by police, without reason. Not yet!

And in this day and age, anyone who “trusts” politicians and police when they say they won’t abuse any new arbitrary power, should have their heads examined.

Harv Oberfeld

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22 Responses to “Random” Police Checks Will Erode Freedom

  1. wstander says:

    It used to be that the idea of a “police state” was seen as a bad idea. Now apparently, not so much. Scary.

    (Response: I actually wonder if this is an Opposition plot ..to go along with it in committee…so the Tory government will introduce it and then add to the fear so many have about them being redneck right wingers. h..o)

  2. Curt says:

    The politicians are going way to far this time. I’ve never had any problems, but to think they could stop me for any reason is an insult and I suspect harassment. I do still have rights, this is Canada. Shame on them all for even thinking up this pea brain idea.
    This must be stopped NOW.

    (Response: Exactly … even those who have never had a problem with police ..and undertand and support their valuable role ..should fear this proposed law. h..o)

  3. Henri Paul says:

    Gotta go against you on this one.
    Years back when the anti long rifle advocates were promoting their cause. I cautioned a member of council of a small town that this was the erosion of my civil rights ,he scoffed at me . Well here we are again supposedly, going down that road once again, the difference being for me is ,that the anti gun crusader’s got their wish. and didn’t give a rats arse about my rights. Now its my turn ,as I don’t drink , Im all in favor of this proposed law, if people don’t drink and drive or carry a bag of weed while in the vehicle, then they have nothing to be concerned about. What goes around comes around.

    (Response: I agree with you on the gun law… the only ones actually registering are the honest citizens. I doubt the gangsters/nuts sign up …yet honest gun owners gave up a little bit of their freedom. As for this one, I rarely drink alcohol … and also have nothing to fear in that regard. But that’s not the point .. it’s the abuse I fear…where police stop people just on a “drunk check” pretext … just to check them out, or even harrass them for whatever reason. That’s the loss of a BIG freedom. h..o)

  4. DMJ says:

    This smacks of a Fascism, where the state is all powerful and those who live within its bounds are mere pawns, at the mercy of the state.

    This is more than a slippery slope to a police state, it completely erodes our rights as a citizen.

    I wonder if this could be allowed under the Charter of Freedoms? If not, then good ole P.E.T. was on the right path with the Charter of Rights, if not, then they are not worth the paper they are printed on.

    (Response: I suspect it would NOT pass the Charter court test. But why should someone have to fight in the courts for years, mortgage a house or lose life savings just to get back right we already have! h.o.)

  5. Leah says:

    This must be stopped dead in its tracks. Period.

    The amount I drink in a year (mixed and straight) could easily be put in a quart jar. I have NEVER driven after having even one ounce of liquor, I’ve never had a ticket for any type of driving infraction after 42 years of driving…I have nothing to fear. Right?


    We ALL have reason to detest this idiocy. Just because we may think we’re above this because we don’t drink, therefore; we are better than thou, that it’s nothing we need to concern ourselves with personally, does not mean we’re safe. We are not safe – it’s only a matter of time.

    It appears that every time we give a politician an inch they give the RCMP a mile of rope – to hang us.

    PS: If they’re so worried about drunk driving – why do we have a convicted drunk driver as a sitting Premier? That ought to prove that this is NOT about drunk driving – it’s about removing a citizens rights. End of story.

  6. PG says:

    Well written Harvey.

    Be careful though, if you write something about the Olympics and a possible protest you may also get a visit from the RCMP!

    (Response: If they want to visit me in my leaky condo, I’ll give them an earful! Not about the Olympics … but about the architects, builders, city inspectors, building code geniuses who let thousands of these places to be built … who are the real criminals, and who should be arrested, given very short trials and imprisoned for as long as it takes us to all pay off our new loans/mortgages. There, I think they’ll leave me alone now! h.o)

  7. Henri Paul says:

    Don’t you think one important item here has been over looked by the” anti don’t check me while Im driving lobbyist “?
    Driving is a right not a privilege.
    The same people who say this “checking by the police” violates their rights, are the same people who will tomorrow walk into an airport, and willingly hand over their personal effects to an officer, answer questions asked of them, be submitted to a body search then confined to a secure area, is this not also a violation of one rights? of course it is , but you forfit your rights, if you want to board that plane, these are the rules.
    Now, if you do not approve of these possibly new driving rules, simply don’t drive, just as nobody forces one to fly, the same goes true for driving. Short of this, maybe hire a lawyer to accompany you while you drive.

    (Response: Ahh..but you see, at an airport, ALL passengers are checked …. just like at a drinking/driving roadblock right now. BUT with the proposed law, a hundred can just go right by,or 1,000 … no check, but if the cop chooses you ..maybe because of race, looks or you have a Toronto Maple Leaf bumper sticker, you get hassled. No way we should allow this… at least for the first two reasons. h.o.)

  8. Henri Paul says:

    you have a Toronto Maple Leaf bumper sticker, you get hassled.
    Not only should they be hassled , but immediately hauled to the BC -Alberta border and deported!

    (Response: On this we agree! h.o.)

  9. Crankypants says:

    This proposed law should never see the light of day. It is nothing more than a stripping of our rights as Canadian citizens. The police already have the tools they need to to deal with impaired drivers. If they observe someone driving erratically or unable to keep their car going in a straight line, they have the right to pull said driver over to determine whether alcohol is the problem. They can also utilize road checks more often as a tool rather than just at Christmas time and a few long weekends.

    A law such as this will do nothing to apprehend impaired drivers, but will sure make it easy for the police to harass anyone they wish without impunity.

    (Response: Exactly. I hope everyone will contact their MP and speak out about this before it gets pushed through. h.o.)

  10. Dan R. says:

    They already do it now and have been for numerous years, The Delta Police does it and so does the RCMP. in Surrey.

    When you ask why you are being pulled over they say “Routine Check’ Then they run you through their computer and you are on your way.

    One thing though the Delta police get pretty ignorant when you ask them why you are being given a ‘routine check on the Surrey side of Scott road…

  11. Dan V says:

    Police already abuse the powers they have. I have to go to court to fight a bogus 24 hr suspension merely because an impaired passenger had a joint on them. I should have let him drive his own car home and I wouldn’t be in this mess. Some of these new laws might have some credibility if police didn’t get a commission for every ticket the write.
    Someone said “Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to repeat it”. Pre war Germany used science and law and order as a pretext to justify government ultimate power. I’m starting to see similarities here in Canada. No I don’t think we will go the genocide route but whatever we’re headed for it can’t be good. To say “that’s ridiculous it could never happen here” you would then also have to believe that prewar Germans were evil. No, just naive and gullible.

    (Response: Police don’t get a commission from tickets they write … as far as I’ve ever heard. But your other concerns are exactly what worry me. h.o)

  12. genuine says:

    why don’t they stop gangsters,and check them out ,that would be a little to dangerous,but to stop honest citizens out and about on a mere whim,well if you were a cop who would you stop!their performance in the past has proved that they not only can but will stop and harass anyone!just ask Ian Bush or Robert Damianski,no disrespect directed at the last two mentioned ,they have enough power already,they can kill you for the love of God, fascism that’s what this is ,Harvey should I prepare that attic yet?

    (Response: No … with the chip I think they implanted in each of us last time we were at the dentist ..they can find us anywhere. LOL! h..o)

  13. RS says:

    I don’t see how this would be a big departure from what occurs now. A cop can simply conjure up flimsy excuse for radomly anyone over — you looked like someone else, you weaved slightly back there, you didn’t come to a complete stop, you were 1 km/hr over the the posted limit (And why can cops drive 15-20 km/hr over the speed limit for no apparent reason as indicated by the lack of lights ‘n’ sirens?). And how exactly are “road checks” not a breech of rights and freedoms?

    And don’t even get me going “off road”! Cops harassing openly anti-Olympic advocates and their families and friends, shooting or tazering first and asking questions and covering up later, or in the Robert Dziekanski situation, premeditated tazering, or throwing an unconcious unfortunate out into the elements on a cold rainy night to perish, strip searching a non-pie-wielding lawyer, ‘n’ on ‘n’ on ‘n’ on…

    (Response: Yes, road checks are a breach of freedom in a way …but in my view they fall into the “group” price we pay for driving … like flying or searches entering certain buildings .. where everyone in the group gets checked. But when they start being able to SINGLE out people without any valid reason or evidence …that’s a step beyond the pale. h.o.)

  14. Steve says:

    The politicans are taking the lazy way out on this one. We all know that the police have hours of paperwork to do and lawyers tie up the courts trying all sorts of games to get their clients charges dismissed. What the politicians should do is figure out how to streamline the current process so that people get a fair trial but that charges are not tossed on the stupidest of excuses ( such as the two liars defense ) and that the police time spent on each impaired charge is reduced. Clean up the mess you have first, do not create new ones.

  15. Henri Paul says:

    Dan V // Oct 8, 2009 at 2:28 pm
    Police already abuse the powers they have. I have to go to court to fight a bogus 24 hr suspension merely because an impaired passenger had a joint on them.
    Harv as your well aware, we all have the same rights,the question is, do we all know these rights, and exercise them?
    The answer simply is no.
    Take for example what occurred to Dan V.
    Im assuming here that Dan V didn’t do the following.
    The moment that the cop advises me that I was going to receive a 24 hr suspension, I would request a breathalyzer test and or a blood test, this is my right to request .
    The breathalyzer test is to clear me of drinking, the blood test will clear me of having alcohol and or drugs in my system.
    Upon requesting ( demand if I must) these test, I now stand a good chance of the cop reconsidering a charge. Like I mean one hell of a good possibility of being let go, as this now becomes a charter issue.
    I would venture to bet that many drivers are not aware of their rights, or have doubts that they may fail either of these test, as they may have had a couple of drinks or drawn from the magical weed. Self doubt takes over.
    Over the course of years it became clear to me along with people not knowing of their Charter rights, their also not aware of Employment standards (non union) or labour laws ( unions come in under labour law), Compo regulations.
    Many members of a union do know or understand their own collective agreements in, addition most of them are not aware of the unions Constitution or that there even exist a Constitution.
    I think the reason being for so much apathy about peoples own rights, is that they feel there is some magical , invisible force out there mysteriously watching over and protecting them. Boy are they wrong.

  16. Silverwood P says:

    Becoming a police state? We are a police state…….I am afraid it has come and past some time back….during the Pierre Laporte incident in Quebec when Trudeau brought in the War Measures Act and further brought in what is called the “writ of assistance”.

    This legislation (writ of assistance) has NEVER been withdrawn since.

    I don’t drink at all……….So now I am detained from going on my way because I “look guilty” ???? They better have a very good POBA lawyer at their disposal……..

    There are already random checks for alcohol consumption…they are called Road Checks or Road Blocks….and moreover they already have routine checks for other matters.

    This has nothing to do with alcohol consumption.

    If the Government or the police were ACTUALLY SERIOUS about stopping people from driving while under the influence of alcohol then why are they not outside of EVERY NIGHTCLUB IN THE LOWER MAINLAND AND ELSEWHERE HANDING OUT 24HR SUSPENSIONS TO EVERY PATRON THAT LEAVES THE PLACE?

    Ever been down to Granville St. at 2am? How do YOU THINK these bottom feeders get home without available transit at that time???

    (Response: Designated driver? Taxi? Or am I just naieve! h.o)

  17. Laila says:

    Considering the numerous headlines this year concerning various police officers driving under the influence, my question is this: will this rule apply to them as well? Perhaps someone ought to be in charge of random” police” checks as well.

    (Response: What a great idea ..as long as someone else does it! They’re armed, some are nasty, some are clearly over-aggressive … so sorry, Laila, it won’t be me! 🙂 h.o.)

  18. thecossack says:

    Do you refer to random police checks as in when they are on duty, or as an off duty citizen group subject to specific checks because of their occupation?

    (Response: I assume they would only carry them out while ON duty. h..o)

  19. connie says:

    Don’t look now but these laws are in the Canadian Criminal Code and have been for many years.
    Police State? Bull. If this were a police state you would be long dead for commenting as you have.
    Do you like being on the road with a driver who is high or drunk and you don’t know which one?
    What if a drunk kills your kid?
    If someone talked to you in your workplace the way you talk to cops, what would you do?
    If a dope dealer is taken off the street before he gets to your little sister, is that okay or is the cop being arrogant?
    Can you name ten stories in which cops helped someone or saved a life, found a lost child or a grandmother with Alzheimers or carried a burned body out of a house, risked his life to save some jackass, swam in the North Saskatchewan in March to save a would-be suicide? I can and that’s just one cop. And he has to take the s— you hand out and not blink an eye.
    Since you know that all cops are arrogant, picking on you or your buddies, stopping you for no reason at all, being a bastard for no good reason, what research have you done? Have you gone for a ride-along to have your eyes opened but good? Or are you just a mouthy jerk at home at your computer?

    (Response: Sorry…but I think you are completely over-reacting. After 38 years in reporting, and three years of blogging … I would say not even a half of one per cent of Canadians feel the way you think they do. If anything, most people’s frustration and anger is directed at the courts, not the vast majority of police who do their jobs well and fairly. But clearly, some cops take advantage of their positions .. and the laws must protect us (and you) from those. If, as you say, there are already laws allowing police to stop us to check us out..why is the government proposuing more? Makes me think that’s another reason the stop the random check bill. h.o.)

  20. thecossack says:

    Interesting observations. However, police can randomly stop you at anytime if you are driving to check and make sure you have a valid drivers license. Totally “random” and accepted by law.

    Of course the law, as with any other law under the CCC, it would apply to police as well. If your intent is to give random breath tests to police while on duty, and assuming this would pass constitutional muster, it would also apply to other “on duty” officers of the court by extension, meaning judges, lawyers, sheriffs, corrections and the lot. I did not read that any of the officers were on duty at the time, so where is the empirical data to even support such a proposition?

    If you have learned anything from your own CV, you know that any organization in this country has a make up that parallels society.

    If you could demonstrate to me that the percentage of police officers driving while legally intoxicated was even a blip on some radar, you may start to influence my opinion. I would love to peruse some statistics that even cover the number of impaired police officers off duty in comparison to the general public or some other Canadian organization.

    Under the Charter section 1 reads: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. This does not fit here.

    I think that part of Connie’s point would relate to the 3 million calls for service that the RCMP in Canada respond to every year. If you were to examine the statistics published by all major police forces on the internet, you would find that the RCMP has fewer complaints per officer than its municipal and Provincial counterparts.

    The laws do protect us Harvey, and there is ample recourse for “wronged” individuals to pursue. Spare me the headline analogies though. The system is complicated and unwieldy, as it has evolved due to the laws we have. All we hear about are the most egregious such as Paul. But even it grinds ahead slowly.

    You pose the question why pass this suggested law? It is quite simple in my mind. The legal system is not doing what it should with respect to impaired driving and the first call is always tougher laws, greater sentences, etc. Its a knee jerk reaction to public concern. Instead of fixing the lousy case law that inhibits prosecution and sentencing, its easier to just pass something else. Did you know that case law states that any officer cannot take more than 5 minutes from the time he forms the grounds for impaired, to read the breath demand? Any more than that, and the case goes out the window. Did you also know that the latest move afoot by the defense bar is to subpoena the person who boxes up (randomly) the vials of chemicals that are sent to police departments to be used in the breath tests? The reason? They want to ensure the distribution is totally random. And of course it has been suggested the process of making the chemicals should be examined in each case as well. This is why the conviction rate is revolting. One case of impaired now takes at least two officers off the road for 4+ hours to process. All this even if the driver, pulled over illegally literally falls out of the car reeking of booze and blows .25. But I am sure you already know this from you news coverage and contacts no? This is where journalists and bloggers should be focusing their attention.

    38 years of reporting puts you at an age where you can remember before the breathalyzer was introduced. The primary evidence for conviction was the officers testimony of erratic driving, and physical indicators of the condition of the drunk driver. Too simple I guess.

    (Response: I’m no lawyer/judge but I don’t believe and have heard interviewed lawyers say police CAN’T just stop you to see if you have a driver’s licence without any other indication of anything worng. In fact, in today’s Vanc Sun ..story tells of someone being awarded $13,000 for being wrongfully arrested “without reasonable grounds”. Another story a few weeks ago reported a West Vancouver man was awarded $24,000 for being stopped “without reasonable grounds” just because he was scruffy looking (in their opinion). Meanwhile I do agree with you that the legal system is not doing its job re drunk drivers…but that’s the courts’ fault, not police. Giving police more means to round up/charge suspects will accomplish nothing if the courts still don’t hand out meaningful punishments. h.o)

  21. thecossack says:

    Agreed, but do not confuse a minor detention with an actual liberty depriving physical arrest. Plenty of case law on stopping for license checks. The integrated traffic safety unit of the LMD does this every day. A new law will do nothing to address the overall issue.

  22. mike b says:

    The all-party parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Ottawa has recommended Criminal Code be amended to allow police to “randomly” stop ANYONE in a car ANYWHERE and at ANYTIME … WITHOUT EVEN A HINT OF EVIDENCE …. just to check them out for possible drunk driving. ”

    What section of the criminal code prohibits police officers from pulling over a driver and asking for his license, registration and proof of insurance without cause. I was recently pulled over by montreal police in the province of quebec even though I was not viloating any traffic laws or swerving all over the road as if driving while impaired. When I asked the cop why I was pulled over he said that it was just because they were doing a random “document verification”. I skimmed through that phone book they call the criminal code but I couldn’t find the section which makes what he did illegal, please refer me to it

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