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Police to test doped driver technology
RCMP part of national pilot of devices to assess if a person is impaired by drugs

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Friday, December 23, 2016

Drivers pulled over for a traffic stop by RCMP in the city may be asked to take part in testing a device that checks whether a person's saliva contains drugs like pot or cocaine.

Seven police forces across the country are testing two devices that aid police in assessing whether a driver is impaired by a drug.

The two different models use a sample of someone's saliva and can detect the presence of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and opioids, which include fentanyl. Taking part in the testing is voluntary and anonymous. Drivers can refuse the test without repercussion, said Cpl. Todd Scaplen with G Division traffic services in an interview.

"Nothing has changed in terms of our police work," Scaplen said.

Can a positive result during this pilot project be used as evidence against a person in court?

"Absolutely not," Scaplen said.

He said the police forces are mainly testing the practicality of the devices. The Mounties will record information about things like how the devices perform in the cold and whether a screen is bright enough in the dark. The feedback will be sent to Public Safety Canada.

The information will be used to "help inform how police services counter drug-impaired driving" the department stated in a news release Dec. 14. Two RCMP officers from G Division went to Ottawa in mid-December to receive training on the devices. Scaplen said the feedback so far from the public has been generally positive. Some people have refused to take the test, which takes several minutes.

"With Yellowknife being so far away and isolated, it's a very cool thing that Yellowknife has been selected," Scaplen said.

Although roadside screening devices have been used for years to check for alcohol impairment, there hasn't been widespread use of a similar device for drugs in Canada.

The Criminal Code of Canada allows an officer to demand a person take a field sobriety test. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe an impaired driving offence has been committed, they can then demand a driver undergo further evaluation.

The testing of the devices comes as the federal government plans to introduce marijuana legalization legislation next year.

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