Times Colonist honoured at Webster Awards for impaired-driving laws series

Times Colonist reporter Louise Dickson was honoured as a nominee at the Jack Webster Foundation Awards on Thursday 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.

Her nomination was in the Excellence in Legal Journalism category.

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The award for legal journalism went to Jason Proctor, Vivian Luk, Stephen Quinn, Geoff Walter and Theresa Duvall of CBC Vancouver for their piece, titled Sanctioned, about the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018 that put Canada in the middle of a trade war with China.

Also nominated in the legal journalism category were Gordon Hoekstra and Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun for a piece on money laundering.

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.

Read the stories

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, now 77, is launching what’s believed to be first constitutional challenge to the changes in impaired-driving laws.

Winners in 15 categories were announced at the annual Webster awards dinner in Vancouver.

The 2019 Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award went to Fabian Dawson and the 2019 Bill Good Award was won by Megaphone magazine.

The Jack Webster Foundation was established in 1986 in honour of legendary B.C. reporter Jack Webster. Details about the 2019 Webster award winners are at jackwebster.com

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