HALIFAX — A lawyer for a Nova Scotia motorist whose licence was suspended after her saliva tested positive for cannabis says his firm will use the case to launch a constitutional challenge of Canada’s revamped impaired driving laws.
Jack Lloyd says Michelle Gray’s case shows the law is too broad and too vague, mainly because she was penalized even though police testing later determined she was not impaired.
“The argument is that you’re going to be having people lose their liberty — Michelle was arrested and her personal liberty was taken away from her — and it turned out that she was not guilty of anything,” Lloyd said in an interview Thursday.
“The government’s concern (about cannabis) is overzealous and that’s resulting in harms and loss of liberty for people like Michelle, who are law-abiding and would never dream of driving while impaired.”
Gray uses medically approved cannabis to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
“It’s alarming that these people have so much power, so much leeway to use it at their own discretion,” she said, referring to the RCMP.
Gray said she told police conducting a roadside check in January she had one alcoholic drink over a two-hour period before she got in her car to drive from downtown Halifax to her home in suburban Middle Sackville.
The officer then said he could detect the smell of cannabis coming from her car. That’s when Gray told him she used medical cannabis to treat her MS.
Though Gray passed a roadside alcohol test, a subsequent saliva test showed trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
She was arrested and taken to police headquarters, where she was subjected to a 12-step Drug Recognition Expert Evaluation, which includes balance and memory tests.
“Balance is an issue with my MS … (and) I do have a lot of cognitive issues with short-term memory,” said Gray, adding that she repeatedly reminded the officers about her medical condition.
“During this whole time, my life is flashing before my eyes. I was worried about getting charged and fined.”
But that didn’t happen.
Police told her she had passed the tests, which proved she was not impaired.
However, the results from the initial saliva test prompted police to suspend her licence for a week and impound her car — leaving her with a $400 bill. She also missed four days of work.
On Thursday, the RCMP admitted to making a error, confirming that Gray’s licence should have been suspended for only 24 hours instead of a week.
Gray said the Mounties told her all RCMP officers in the province would now be warned against making similar errors. She said she appreciated the Mounties’ review of her case, but it’s not the police she’s challenging.
“I’m upset with our government for putting me in this position … The police don’t write bills and pass them. The government does,” she said.
Tom Singleton, who has practised criminal law for 25 years in Halifax, said the problem is that the tests police use are too subjective. As well, traces of THC can remain in the body for up to a week after someone uses it.
“Cannabis is legal in Canada, and a lot of people take cannabis … for medical and other health reasons,” he said in an interview.
“Yet, the mere presence of cannabis in your body would allow the police to suspend your licence … There’s way too much authority given to police officers … People don’t realize how draconian some of this stuff is.”
The roadside saliva tests, which require a machine called the Drager DrugTest 5000, were introduced by the federal government in August.
Guidelines on low-risk cannabis use endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association and other health organizations say people should not drive for at least six hours after using cannabis. But the wait time can be longer, depending on the user and the way the THC is consumed.
As well, those who use cannabis regularly are known to develop a tolerance to the drug, which means their impairment would be difficult to gauge through drug testing.
Lloyd, a Toronto-based lawyer with an expertise in cannabis, said his firm plans to file a legal challenge under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which deals with life, liberty and the security of the person.
He said lawyers across the country are contemplating similar cases.
“The situation Michelle was in may happen more frequently in some provinces, but it’s possible everywhere,” he said.
Under the new law, a driver’s licence can be suspended and their car impounded in some provinces if tests show at least 0.2 nanograms of THC in a saliva sample.
“That limit has no rational connection to actual impairment,” Lloyd said.
“Nevertheless, people are being accused of this and their vehicles are being taken away … And in the end, they’ll have a police officer tell them they’re not guilty rather than a court of law.”
— Follow @NovaMac on Twitter
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
Exploring Gros Morne Newfoundland with Gerry Feehan
Exploring Gros Morne Newfoundland with Gerry Feehan
The talk of salt cod and moose started before we’d even made landfall on The Rock. On the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, a wizened fellow regaled us with stories of jigging for fish with his cousin and bagging a bull moose with his wife. It was late September.
He was pleased as punch that the freezer was stocked with sufficient cod and moose meat to see the family through a harsh Newfoundland winter. As
Florence and I drove off the ferry the man motioned us with a gnarly finger. I rolled down the window.
“Safe travels me-son. And don’t drive at night on The Rock,” he warned, “sometimes the moose are so thick you have to get out of the car and push them off the road.”
We were on Newfoundland’s southwest tip. The island is bigger than I had expected. The first road sign we saw proclaimed, ‘St John’s 890km’. But before heading to the distant capital on the Avalon Peninsula we wanted to explore the west of Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse Aux Meadows, where Leif Erickson established North America’s first European settlement 1000 years ago—500 years before Columbus set foot on Hispaniola in the sunny Caribbean.
The drive north from Port Aux Basques was slow going. Along the highway, workers were installing the new transmission line from Muskrat Falls in neighbouring Labrador on the mainland. This project is an expensive undertaking—and considered by some Newfoundlanders just another dam boondoggle. Many Islanders also still bristle at the mention of Churchill Falls, a hydroelectric legacy from the era of Joey Smallwood, Canada’s last Father of Confederation.
Fall colours were near peak as we drove past lovely Corner Brook and leafy Marble Mountain. We enjoyed a late-season round of golf at Humber Valley Resort, ranked Canada’s 6th best public golf course. The rolling fairways were flanked by yellow, gold and red-hued deciduous trees and stoic evergreens. There were no moose on course, but a solitary black fox did greedily eye my ball on the green at the signature par 4 10th. A little further down the TransCanada we made a sharp left at Deer Lake onto Hwy 430, bound for Gros Morne and the rugged west coast.
Gros Morne National Park is remarkably diverse. The pebbled shoreline of Rocky Harbour gives way to a series of finger lakes, forming magnificent inland fjords. South, across Bonne Bay, lie the Tablelands where Earth’s mantle has squeezed to the surface and only the odd pitcher plant and a few other hardy species can survive the acidic, infertile ancient soil. And lording over all is Gros Morne, Newfoundland’s second highest mountain, which we intended to climb.
The night before our ascent we stopped at Park Headquarters to pick up a trail map.
“Be careful me-loves,” warned the ranger, “specially if you see a tick fag.”
“We most certainly will,” I assured her, glancing over my shoulder. In the morning, low dense clouds roiled out over the sea but the sky above Gros Morne was crystal clear. No tick fag up there.
The hard part about summiting Gros Morne Mountain isn’t the summit itself. The top is flat as a pancake, a broad sparse plain where caribou graze on lichen—and rock ptarmigan nest. The difficult portion of the ascent is ‘the Gully’ a breathless hour of bouldering through frost-shattered rock that precedes the Arctic tundra of the plateau. ‘Big Lone Mountain’ tops out at 806m (2600 ft) and since the hike starts pretty much at sea level, the elevation gain is just that. As we exited the Gully, our calm fall day rapidly deteriorated into wintery conditions atop the windswept barren.
We snapped a quick pic at the signpost marking the high point before scurrying toward the descent on the far side of the mesa. There we met two young women who had stopped for a terrifying selfie on the precipice overlooking Ten Mile Pond. I could barely stand upright as we screamed at each other over the wind. The Parks Canada brochure warns trekkers to be prepared for an arduous climb and that “hikers have fallen from the ledge… and died.” Watching the gals pose near the cliff in this gale, I wondered, “Fallen? More likely blown.”
That night, at the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbour, we enjoyed our first Newfoundland kitchen party, where we were screeched in and kissed the cod, courtesy of local celebrity Dave Shears. I joined our host on stage for a couple of songs.
“Stick around and strum a few after the others have left,” he offered, “and we’ll have a cuffer ‘bout dis and dat.”
So, long after the cod had been smooched, the screech ‘inned’ and the bar doors barred, we were still singing, quaffing—and trading yarns with our convivial hosts.
Western Brook Pond is a glacier-carved, masterpiece of nature. A cruise on this fresh-water fjord is mandatory for any visit to Gros Morne. But check the forecast. Chances are that you’ll walk 40 minutes from the parking area to the pier only to find the boat ride has been cancelled due to foul weather.
But even if the outing is kiboshed, the 2km hike through tuckamore forest, with long stretches of boardwalk over peaty bogs and around fragile wetlands, is worth the amble. Luckily we had a good day for it. The boat meandered slowly to the far end of the long, narrow lake, squeezing between sheer, 750m high cliffs. Everywhere waterfalls cascaded to the surface from the dizzying heights. Since Newfoundland is a land of perpetual impromptu music, the boat’s crew couldn’t refrain from scratching their musical itch during the two-hour tour.
When not attending to his maritime duties, the first mate played the spoons. Passengers clapped accompaniment while Celtic jigs blared over the ship’s loudspeakers.
The next evening the live entertainment continued at the Gros Morne Music Festival in Cow Head with fiddling, percussion and a sad, a capella ballad recounting the hard life of early Newfoundlanders. After midnight, walking back to our campground, the wind began to freshen. At 3am we were shaken awake by a strong sou’ wester – and slept only in fits and starts for the rest of the night.
Our plan was to hit the road early for the 350km drive to l’Anse aux Meadows on the extreme tip of the Northern Peninsula. But by morning the gusts were blowing in at 100kph – a sad portent for motor home travel. We decided to hunker down and wait out the tempest. But one by one our resolute fellow campers pulled up stakes. Soon we were the sole remainders. Suffering from FOMO, I threw caution to the gale-force wind, pulled out onto the narrow, winding highway and, as they oddly say in Newfoundland, steered north ‘down the coast.’
Next time: L’Anse aux Meadows and more tales from The Rock.
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He lives in Kimberley, BC.
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He and his wife Florence live in Kimberley, BC!
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Stand Together Against Bullying – Pink Shirt Day 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 is the 14th annual Pink Shirt Day, a globally recognized movement to end bullying in all its forms and encourage the growth of a global community built on acceptance and support regardless of sex, age, background, gender identity, sexual orientation or cultural differences.
Pink Shirt Day originated in 2007 in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, in a local story that captured national – and eventually international – attention, when a new 9th grade student walked in on the first day of school wearing a pink polo shirt.
Travis Price and David Shepherd are the two young men responsible for unintentionally launching the global pink shirt movement. According to Price and Shepherd, a group of students were physically and verbally bullying the young man for wearing pink to school. As senior students, Price and Shepherd saw the situation as an opportunity to set an example and take a stand against bullying in their school.
That night the two went and purchased 75 pink tank tops and released a call on social media (MSN messenger at the time) encouraging their fellow students to show up at school the next day wearing pink. According to Price, in a school of roughly 1000 students, “700 to 850 kids showed up wearing pink. It was incredible.”
Since 2007, the movement has gained exponential traction and is now recognized in communities all around the world as individuals come together in an international display of solidarity against the devastating impacts of bullying.
The global movement to end bullying has led to the creation of countless local, national and internationally available resources, but there is still a long way to go.
Bullying Canada identifies 4 distinct types of bullying: verbal, physical, social and cyber. Short term and long term effects of bullying vary based on each situation, and can lead to damaging and dangerous outcomes for victims, friends, bystanders and countless others. While commonly associated with children and young adults in school, bullying impacts individuals of all ages and backgrounds in many areas of life, including the workplace.
Statistics released by Safe Canada revealed that 47% of Canadian parents have at least one child that has experienced bullying, while approximately 33% of the population experienced bullying as a child, and 33% of teenagers reported being bullied recently. Furthermore, around 40% of Canadians reportedly experience bullying in the workplace on a weekly basis.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with bullying, reaching out is the first step. You are not alone, and help is available. Extensive networks of resources exist in Alberta and across Canada to provide support, aid and solutions for those experiencing bullying.
For support from Bullying Canada, call (877) 352-4497, or email [email protected]
The Alberta 24-hour Bullying Helpline can be reached at 1-888-456-2323, or the online Bullying Helpline Chat can be accessed here.
For more resources on how to identify a bullying situation, get help, or help someone in need, visit https://www.alberta.ca/bullying-how-to-help-others.aspx.
For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.
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