TC reporter nominated for Webster Award for impaired-driving laws series

Times Colonist reporter Louise Dickson is a finalist for the Jack Webster Awards, which recognize excellence in B.C. journalism.

Dickson is nominated in the legal journalism category for a series of articles highlighting the unintended consequences of Canada’s new impaired driving laws and how they jeopardize the rights of ordinary, vulnerable Canadians.

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In July 2018, Dickson outlined changes to Canada’s drinking and driving laws that allow police to demand a breath sample from any driver they lawfully stop. Before the new law came into effect, police had to have reasonable suspicion a driver had alcohol in their body before demanding a roadside breath test.

Under the revised legislation, a driver who refuses or fails to provide a breath sample faces a potential criminal charge with penalties similar to an impaired-driving conviction.

After the law came into effect, Dickson reported on how it allowed a police officer to leave a sick 68-year-old woman standing at a bus stop on a cold February morning after she was unable to provide a proper breath sample.

The Colwood woman was arrested and given an immediate roadside prohibition. Her licence was suspended and her car was towed, even though there was no evidence she had any alcohol in her system. The police officer was suspicious because he had seen her leaving a liquor store that morning.

In an almost identical case, a 76-year-old Victoria woman who had lost half of the roof of her mouth to cancer had her licence taken away for 90 days and her car for 30 days, even though there was no evidence she had any alcohol in her system. She, too, was seen leaving a liquor store in the morning.

Norma McLeod is launching what’s believed to be first constitutional challenge to the changes in impaired-driving laws.

Winners of the awards will be announced Nov. 7 at the annual Jack Webster Awards dinner in Vancouver. The 2019 Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2019 Bill Good Award recipients will also be presented. Nahlah Ayed, host/producer of CBC – Ideas and a veteran foreign reporter, will be featured in an armchair chat.

The Jack Webster Foundation was established in 1986 in honour of legendary B.C. reporter Jack Webster.

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