Welcome to Alberta, where you are presumed guilty until found innocent. Where police, and prosecutors can decide your sentence via the charge they will administer. Yup, starting July 1, 2012 you will be found guilty during a road side breathalyser test, by an Alberta law enforcement agent, if you blow over .05. criminal charges placed when you blow .08 and above. Meaning, you will be guilty, until proven innocent. No longer will the onus be on the prosecutor to prove you are guilty. The onus will be on you to prove you are innocent (good luck with that).
Personally, I don’t drink and drive period. Even if I have one, this is because I know my body can’t handle it and although my blood alcohol level might only be .02 I am still in no condition to drive. So the law makes no difference to me personally. I am also all for getting drunk drivers off our streets. However, in this country the last time I checked people are innocent until proven guilty, at least in a court of law- in the court of media this is a different story. However, under this new law brought forth in Alberta you are guilty until proven innocent. That is, the police, and RCMP, can immediately take away your driver’s license, and impound your vehicle. Not just for a set amount of time but until the charges have been cleared up! In other words, the police officer is judge, and jury. This means that you will be without a car until your case is cleared in court. Anyone who knows anything about our justice system should have alarm bells going off here. What happens if a person needs their vehicle for work? Without it they loose their job based on an alleged DUI- that could take the courts over a year to prove. In fact, 12-18 months is the average. Alternatively what if the person is found innocent in a court of law after all. We have now taken their vehicle away, cost them their job (and probably other jobs in the same field), based on guilty until proven innocent. This doesn’t sit right with me.
The government say that they are not targeting those who have the occasional drink with dinner. But given the stiffer penalties for a blood alcohol level of .05-.07 (which btw is not illegal) social drinkers could be targeted. And given that breathalyser have continuously been under scrutiny in regards to reliability, I would be concerned about having a glass of wine and getting behind the wheel. Breathalysers are not a perfect science, they are still technology. Errors with the technology could occur under any of the following circumstances:
- The skill and experience of the tester (in other words new police officers that aren’t familiar with the technology)
- Quality of the equipment used (is it old? Properly kept?)
- Were you exposed to paint fumes, or gasoline? This could cause false blood readings (at least according to the US supreme court)
- The temperature the equipment is kept at (think Calgary, mid December, equipment thrown into the back of police vehicles for 12 hour shifts)
- Calibration of machine
- Recent consumption of alcohol. False readings have been known to occur if someone has drank alcohol within a 15 minute period and then been breathalysed.
In other words erros may be magnified if police do not follow proper procedures, such as calibrating the machine correctly, testing, and environmental factors.
Some have argued that since BC brought in similar laws to this one, a year ago, that drunk driving has decreased 40% (in other words the deterrent is working). Unfortunately, this stat doesn’t take into account that drunk driving has steadily been decreasing in the last decade due to alternative attitudes to drinking. It also doesn’t take into account that this is one of those things you can measure in a year. To see if this law has a real effect they must do a longitudinal study on the data.
Seems to me that other things could be done to catch more drunk drivers. For example, more check stops. I know people that haven’t been through check stops in Calgary in 10+ years. These types of programs are underfunded. Personally, I have been through check stops and the police only, in my experience, mostly just pull over those who appear to be under 30. Because you know, those over 30 never drink and drive. Not to mention check stops are seasonal. They are mainly present between mid Nov-Mid January, and again July-Aug. The rest of the year you never see them, and you definitely don’t hear about them. Maybe let’s fund these programs instead of spending more money on more useless legislation. But alas, useless legislation that violates rights seems to be the Canadian way lately.
Here are some details on the law:
Starting July 1, 2012
Starting September 1, 2012
Starting July 1, 2012
**It is important to know you are entitled to a second test on another device at the scene. And you can also request to be taken to the station to receive a more accurate test**
This law comes into effect July 1, 2012.
Other links to check out
AB Law Enforcement, and Other Emergency Workers, Should be Partially Subject to Distracted Driving Laws
So, since this distracted driving law came into effect in Alberta I have been watching emergency workers. What I have noticed is that police still use their cell phones frequently while on the road. Yes, I am aware that under the new Alberta law emergency personal have an exemption. Last Aug Calgary’s chief of police told media in Calgary that police officers are exempt because they use the equipment for work and have advanced driver training. While, as of yesterday I would tend to agree with the chief today I have decided that this is a weak argument.
I was sitting in a study room exchanging stories with other students about the dumbass things we see people do behind the wheel, you know it seemed more fun then studying. One of the girls made a comment about how she doesn’t understand why emergency personal are not exempt from the law. After a bit of conversation one of the women, who’s husband happens to be a police officer, stated (to my surprise) that it is a bunch of crap that they are not exempt and there is no reason why police officers, and other emergency personal can’t use blue tooth in their vehicles.
I think she may be onto something here. I understand that police need to be able to dial their phones, even when they are behind the wheel (if they are not on duty with a partner). But I am curious why law enforcement officials, who claim that texting, or talking while driving is extremely dangerous, are not utilizing the technology available to them to keep their workers from being distracted, and by extension keep us all, and our roads, safer.
What does everyone else think? Should cities, the government, and policing organizations do everything possible to ensure our emergency workers are going hands free?
Before posting some important information for women in the city of Calgary. I just wanted to say that I hope to be back to regular posts again soon. Had some unexpected health issues arise in December and am just finally starting to Catch up with school.
In the mean time please check out this news story I found on CBC.ca… buried on CBC.ca. Police suspect the above individual of being responsible for 5 sexual assaults in the SW area of Calgary. The description given to police was: white, 45- to 50-years-old, clean-shaven, tanned and had shoulder-length dark-grey hair. He had a thin build.He was wearing a dark jacket, blue sweat pants and black toque.
Finally! A campaign that focuses on the perpetrator instead of the victim. In November of 2010 Edmonton launched the first Don’t be that Guy Campaign. Now Calgary is following in their footsteps and is launching it here. This week you’ll start to notice some in your face posters, such as the one to the left, on CTrains, buses, in nightclub, and in the universities. The posters are mostly targeting men, and will appear in nightclub and university washrooms, as well as other high traffic sites around town.
The DBTGC is being launched by the ‘Sexual Assault Voices of Calgary’. An organization that seeks to change societal thinking: “We are looking at societal change here, it’s important to remember this is not just a police initiative, this involves so many different organizations” says detective Paul Wyatt of the Calgary Police Service’s Sex Crimes Unit. The partners he is refering to includes: Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, Alberta Health Service, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, Calgary Police Service, Calgary Sexual Health Centre, Canadian Red Cross, Connect Family and Sexual Abuse Network and HomeFront.
The in your face campaign is aimed at Men, 18-24, in order to not only take the onus off the victim but bring men into the conversation about sexual assault. The message that this campaign is trying to get across is clear: “if someone is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs they cannot give consent, and sex without consent is sexual assault.” Police Chief Rick Hanson hopes to push the message home as well “You can no longer hide behind the mistaken belief that it’s okay to use drugs or alcohol,as an excuse, or think because a woman did not give you a ‘no’ answer, that it means ‘yes’.”
On every poster the message ” Sex Without Consent = Sexual assault” appears at the bottom. The SAV website also pushes the message that if you have sex without consent, it’s sexual assault:
” sexual assault is any form of sexual activity forced on someone else without that person’s consent. Force can be physical, or through the use of threats, bullying, manipulation, alcohol/drugs or harassment. Any unwanted sexual activity–including kissing, touching, groping, flashing, oral sex, intercourse, photographing, etc.–under ANY circumstances is sexual assault.”
The website includes a section that talks about what consent is and what consent is not. For example, it reads: “Consent is simple. Just ask.” and in contrast to that reads: “Consent is not obtained if the person changes her/his mind. And a person can change his or her mind at ANY time.”
The campaign is meant to change the minds of men, reminding them that the fight against sexual assault involves them as well, and if they see it they too need to step up and say something. “This is a multi-scale approach, not only do we want to get the message out there that it’s never the victims fault, you weren’t in the wrong place, you weren’t drinking too much, you weren’t dressed the wrong way. But we want to target those men to tell them that this behaviour is not acceptable. We also want to target the men who are with them. Those who can stand up to their friends and remind them if you do this you are going to go to jail” says Wyatt. Reminding us that this is a community effort. If we see something we need to stand up against it, and once and for all shake this idea that somehow a women brought on her assault because she was wearing a short skirt and high heels.
We put the onus on the victim too much in our community today, sending the message to perpetrators that it is OK, as a result causing more damage to the victim. As a victim of assault I know that we begin to internalize these feelings. You start to feel that maybe it really is your fault, maybe if you hadn’t had that one extra drink, or worn that short skirt, or walked down that dark street alone, or in my case rollerbladed down that dark pathway, it wouldn’t have happened to us. But it does happen to us. “As a community, it is important for us to stand together and say this type of behaviour is not acceptable and the consequences are too great.” says Laurie Blahitka, of Alberta Health Services.
Not only is this a message about consent, consequences, and victim blaming, it’s also a way to bring men into the conversation. It’s about making men part of the solution too. This is so important because if we remain divided, we’ll never win. As a victim, and an advocate I am so glad to see that people are finally starting to realize it’s going to take the cooperation of all kinds of organizations and people to start changing the minds of society.
I will leave you with a great quote from the SAVCalgary website :
If we keep thinking about the sexual abuses and sexual assaults committed by men as a ‘women’s issue’, we’re not going to do much about truly preventing that violence. The women you care about–and your kids–should live and grow up in a society where male violence against women is not acceptable. Not legally, not morally, not socially.
Today I had a great opportunity! I was able to attend a lecture given by
Calgary’s chief of Police, Rick Hanson. Hanson has an impressive, to say the least, policing record. Including, 36 years of policing experience. Over half of that time was spent in senior positions, either in the Calgary police service, or in the RCMP. He has been Calgary’s chief of police since 2007 and has given his continued support to programs that help a variety of Calgarians. Hanson has been involved in youth intervention programs- such as the ones I am about to talk about, and has been involved in programs that are close to my own heart, those that help victims of domestic violence, and sexual assault.
The chief gave a guest lecture this afternoon to Mount Royal University students, hosted by the Sociology Student Society, on the role that Calgary’s police service plays in preventing youth crime, and rehabilitating youth that have headed down the wrong path or are heading down the wrong path. He spoke about how youth issues have been front and center for the four years that he has been the chief in Calgary. The police department decided that it was time to examine how to address youth crime issues, and more importantly how to prevent youth crime.
While Rick acknowledged that policing and first response will always be the first job and priority of the Calgary police he also was quick to point out that prevention and treatment is something that can’t be ignored. “We must have a first response team, but there is a whole world of prevention out there” Hanson emphasized. The question then becomes, how do you target these young people who come from all different classes, and circumstances? The answer came out of research, lots of it, that all came to the same conclusion. Get to kids early, elementary school early. “The fact is that when people are victimized they want that person to be caught and punished, but ultimately they would prefer they hadn’t become a victim at all.”
This September the Calgary police service, in conjunction with both school boards, and the education department at Mount Royal University, funded by the province, rolled out a new curriculum in select schools to teach kids (and parents) about where they can go if they get victimized. Teaching them to avoid strangers without terrifying them of the world around them. That sort of thing.
While educating kids through a curriculum is the most recent addition in their youth prevention tactics it is not the only program they have going. Hanson says that 2 years ago they began speaking with teachers and social workers. Through their conversations with teachers, social workers, and other youth workers the MASST, Multi Agency School Support Team, was born. The MASS team consists of a police officer and a social worker who, through the help of the school, identify youth that are exhibiting anti social behaviour, offending behaivour, or have signs of victimization.
“Look, we know that 5% of young offenders commit 80% of youth crime. Why wouldn’t we target these kids and invest in them and this type of prevention?” Hanson told students. As an example he sites an 11 year old boy who started skipping school in grade 4. By the time this young boy reached grade 6 he had missed one full year of school. When the MASS team showed up at the house the boy was home, with his 9 year old younger brother, and their mother was still asleep. Upon investigation it was discovered the mother had chronic depression and once she received help and got a better handle on things at home the young boy not only started to attend school, he ended that year on the honour roll (his younger brother paralleled his success).
Another initiative that caught my attention is the plans for a ‘Child Advocacy Center.’ The center is set to open across from the Alberta Children’s hospital, near the Ronald McDonald house. This facility will house everything needed to respond to child victimization in one building . The police, Crown, Alberta health services, and Alberta Youth services all in one building reducing the chance of repeat victimization that children could face by being dragged from one place to another. As it stands today when a child is victimized often their parents have to take them to see all these people which results in dragging their children back and forth across the city, and ultimately having them tell their story multiple times. The idea behind this facility is to put an end to that, and have one central location where a child and their parents can receive help.
Hanson is also a supporter of the safe jail initiative. “I am a firm believer that we don’t need more prisons, we need more health beds.” Currently it is estimated that 50% of people in jails are suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, though some would estimate that it is even higher then this. The problem is you can’t diagnose someone who is addicted to drugs. The answer, he argues, is a safe jail. A jail that is run as if it were a secured detox center. Once someone goes through detox, and gets that diagnosis you have an increased chance of getting them the help they need and curbing their part in the revolving door that jails appear to be. He argues that no one wakes up one morning and says to themselves “hmmm, I think I am going to try crystal meth today”. Instead, Hanson argues that addictions are created to trap people and if you get someone off that addiction they stand a chance.
The presentation today was both informative and eye opening. I was surprised, and thrilled, to learn just how many preventative programs are run by the Calgary police service. I will admit that often I get frustrated when I hear certain types of stories in the media and often think to myself “cops, they think they can just arrest themselves out of anything don’t they?” But today’s presentation opened my eyes to an entire world of policing that I hadn’t given much thought to in the past but has obviously impacted my own communities in positive ways ensuring that some crimes will never happen. And ultimately answering my question. No, police officers don’t necessarily think they can just ‘arrest their way out of any problem’ and that ‘locking people up and throwing away the key’ isn’t a stance that all law enforcement officials have.
To learn more about these programs and others visit the CPS website and click on “youth services.”
Insite, which is located in Vancouver, is the only legal safe injection site in North America. Insite doesn’t provide any drugs but since 2003 it has been operating on a special exemption under the Controlled drugs and substances act to give addicts a safe place to inject their drugs. Insite has been the center of a number of studies, and controversy, since 2003 and has been proven to have benefits to society. The supreme court of Canada made their decision based on the benefits to the community and drug users in Vancouver. A reduction in public injecting, neighbourhood litter (of needles), provides a safe disposal for needles, and syringe sharing (which decreases the spread of disease), and an increase in the use of addiction treatment. There has been several studies also carried out looking at the cost benefit part of Insite. Some of the results included: $6 million in savings on HIV, and hepatitis drugs, and overdose rates dropped in Vancouver. Medical staff are present to provide addiction treatment, mental health assistance, and assistance in the event of an overdose.
Last week the supreme court of Canada made a ruling which could prove to be problematic for the conservatices ‘tough on crime’ agenda. In a
9-0 decision the supreme court of Canada ruled that closing Insite would be against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the right to “security of the person”. Canada’s only safe injection site would remain open. Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin explained: “The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.”
This decision makes me wonder if the crack pipe program in Alberta could have held out. The crack pipe program began running in Calgary in November of 2008. The Alberta Health Region was handing out ‘crack pipe kits’. Each kit contained a glass pipe, mouthpiece, cleaning rod, and screens. The argument was similar to Insite’s argument. It was a way to prevent the spread of disease and bring addicts into contact with health care providers that could assist them. In these ways it was very similar to Insite, but the Alberta health region cracked when they began to feel pressure from the police associations who argued that such programs do nothing except encourage drug use. Given the exemption that Insite received, it could be argued that the Alberta crack pipe program falls under the same category and should also be allowed to operate without fear of prosecution on the parts of the health region officials.
What is important to remember about Insite, or even the crack pipe program in Calgary, is that neither of these places was a place where drug addicts could just go do their thing and leave. Like the crack pipe program had, Insite always has health professionals there to speak with addicts about: counseling options, risks to them, as well as address mental health issues with them and the dangers of drug addiction.
The war on drugs has been nothing short of a failure in the United States, and arguably, in some cases, a waste of money. The United States spends $15 billion annually to try and control drugs. Recently an International panel, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, declared the war on drugs a catastrophic failure. The report had what some would say are some common sense recommendations.
First, don’t treat drug addicts as criminals. The report argues that it is not feasible or safe to treat all the drug addicts in the world as criminals. First because it just simply costs too much money, and secondly because with injection users their is just too high of a risk of the spread of disease. Other countries who have similar programs to our Insite have also reported lower rates of the spread of disease such as HIV, and hepititis saving lives and tax payer dollars (as the tax payer has to front the bill, or at least part of it, for medications to treat these diseases).
Second, don’t waste your time with small time drug dealers. I won’t go into this one. I personally think it speaks for itself.
Third, Decriminalize or legalize certain drugs to undercut organized crime. I can’t say this enough. Legalize weed already. A study done in the US points out that legalizing weed would inject $6 billion into the US economy every year. Studies out of other countries who have decriminalized some drugs have shown that with the legalization of possession, and the means to obtain some drugs in a safe legal manner criminal suppliers became less visible. I am not saying that all organized crime would go away, but at the same time organized crime will never go away. Another interesting side effect of the decriminalization of some drugs could be decreased use. why? Because addicts could seek help without fear of prosecution. This study, done by the Beckley Foundation, on the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal looked at over all drug use and found: the use of weed increased, the use of drug treatment increased (due largely to early intervention), there was a decrease in heroin use, and there was a large reduction in drug related deaths. Of course, if I still haven’t convinced you. I’ll just say: remember prohibition?
Canada needs to take a hard look at statistics, and studies given the new policies that the conservative government wishes to pass before the end of the year. The idea is to get tough on drugs. Canadians should be looking to their neighbours to the south and asking some tough questions. It is no secret that the drug policies is costing Americans billions every year, and that the prisons are so overcrowded that some states, such as California, have had to release non violent criminals to ease the pressure on the system. I am not saying lets legalize heroin I am just saying lets not be stupid about this. Portugal has had success because they implemented education programs, treatment centers, and addicts didn’t have to worry about prosecution. Getting addicts clean from drugs should be a priority. No one wants to do drugs. People don’t wake up one morning and say to themselves “hmmm I think I am going to get addicted to Meth today”. This program has proved effective, and it allows users to come into contact with health professionals. It could be the first step. Until we have better programs implemented this is one way to ensure that needles and other drug related paraphernalia is disposed of appropriately. But more importantly it has been proven to save lifes.
Yup, you read that right. The Calgary police force were out this morning doing something very interesting,and awesome, to help raise awareness of the new distracted driving law that took affect this morning. In conjunction with Cjay92 and AutoTemp Air & Sound Inspector LaGrange, and Reddawg from CJay 92 were out and looking for those violating the law. Instead of issuing them a $172.00 ticket they were issued an education and a blue tooth head set. “Everyone of the people we stopped knew why they were being stopped and were very shocked and grateful to be getting a bluetooth headset instead of a ticket” LaGrange told me in a telephone interview.
According to CJAY92′s Facebook Page they “pulled over a women who was eating and swerving, a guy talking on his cellphone, and a women who was texting and driving”. CJay 92′s Forbes and Friends Morning show say they had a blast doing this with the CPS today. And who wouldn’t!? “the CPS were incredibly nice to work with, thanks Kev, Rick, and Dean” Gerry Forbes, host of Forbes And Friends, posted on the show’s Facebook.
This was a great opportunity for the Calgary police service to educate the public while at the same time making it clear that this is the new law and it is in place for the safety of everyone on the road. “We thought it was Just a great way to drive the point home to talk to them about education and reward them with a tool to improve habits” says LaGrange ” We don’t intend to have a zero tolerance policy what we want to focus on is a change in this culture we have” LaGrange talked to me about how we’ve all created a culture of instant communication and we’ve lost any balance we had. Balance is needed and soon this will evolve just like the seat belt law did when it first came into effect. “People did not like the seat belt law when that took effect but soon it became second nature to them.”
There is no doubt about it we have created a culture of instantaneous communication where we expect ourselves and everyone else to be available all the time. Would it really be the end of the world if we had to wait until we were all the way to work to open that work related email? Updated our Facebook status about the stupid drivers on the road that have already managed to grind our gears that morning? Or text our BFF this crazy thing we just saw happen? Probably not.
I for one am glad that the Calgary police service have every intention of ticketing people who are a danger to themselves and others on the road because of their texting, personal grooming, and other activities they do behind the wheel.
I asked Inspector LaGrange if he thought the new law would change people’s behaviour and in fact make our roads safer as there have been studies suggesting this is not the case. “Time will tell if it impacts safety on the streets, the thing is we will never know the what if. ” Would a drunk driver who was pulled over and arrested have killed someone if they hadn’t been caught? “Even if it saves one person’s life, or stops the millions in property damage each year, it’s worth it.” Given that this law is one of the toughest in North America and doesn’t just ban cell phone use, it will be interesting to see some follow up studies and statistics in the future. Will the extra restrictions in fact make a difference?
For now he says that this weekend will be business as usual. That if you are caught blatantly breaking the law you will be issued a ticket,if you are caught drinking and driving you will be charged. He says that CPS aren’t going to be popping out from behind trees at you, and they won’t be issuing tickets because you are drinking a coffee. They want to catch people who are doing dangerous things behind the wheel: texting, plucking nose haris, reading etc. They don’t want to clog up the courts with people fighting tickets for sipping a coffee anymore then you want to take time off work to go fight the ticket for sipping a coffee.
I know that as far as I am concerned I will be leaving my cell phone on silent mode and in my bag so as to remove any temptation I may have at taking a look at my phone at red lights. I know many others are doing the same thing so I think it’s fair to say that the deterrence has had some effect, at least so far. LaGrange had some good advice for citizens “turn it off when you get in the car, turn it on when you get out of the car”.