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Comments on Bill 34, Motor Vehicle Amendment Act

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Section 6 adds section 24.1 “Refusal to issue a licence”. Subsection (1)(b) provides that the Superintendent (of Motor Vehicles) may refuse to issue a driver’s licence to a person who owes money to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

Recommendation: The B.C. Civil Liberties Association maintains our opposition to this provision on the basis that debts owed have nothing to do with suitability to drive. If proper vehicle licence and insurance fees are not paid, which is also covered by the new section, it seems reasonable to refuse to issue a licence. However, ICBC should use standard collection procedures for outstanding debts. The new section is a slight improvement over the previous practice in which bad debts to ICBC resulted in licence suspensions. Under the new section 83, motor vehicle licences may be suspended for non-payment of insurance premiums or indebtedness to ICBC. This seems more appropriate than suspension or denial of drivers’ licences.

Section 17 replaces the old section 94, dealing with the Superintendent’s powers to prohibit, with or without a hearing, a person from driving “where the person’s privilege of driving has been suspended or cancelled in any jurisdiction in Canada or in the United States of America”.

Recommendation: We would be prepared to consider narrower powers that do not entirely preclude the Superintendent from taking account of misconduct outside the province, but the powers at present provided in the Act are far too broad and it is clear that at a minimum, there should be the right to a hearing in British Columbia. Furthermore, in no circumstances should a licence be suspended on grounds that would not justify suspension in British Columbia.

Section 18 repeals and replaces the former section dealing with suspension of drivers’ licences. Section 91 of the new Motor Vehicle Act places the onus on the driver to establish that an uncertified record (of point penalties) is not accurate. A similar provision appears in Section 121.2 (6) of the new Act.

Recommendation: Our Association objects to this as a matter of principle.

Section 92 of the new Act treats an absolute or conditional discharge the same as a conviction for purposes of imposing an automatic suspension of a driver’s licence. This provision also was in the old Act.

Recommendation: We continue to insist that absolute or conditional discharges not be treated the same as convictions. What is the point of them otherwise?

Note: There well may be other instances in legislation or regulations where the intent of absolute or conditional discharges is thwarted. We should oppose this philosophy wherever it is found.

Sections 94 (2) and (3) of the new Act treat an absolute liability offence in which guilt is established by proof of driving (while under prohibition or suspension), whether or not the defendant knew of the prohibition or suspension.

Recommendation: The B.C. Civil Liberties Association opposes this provision since there are ways of ensuring that people are aware of a prohibition or suspension of licence.

Section 2O is concerning the sending of notices of conviction or suspensions in B.C. to authorities in other jurisdictions. The main change is that the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles will now be required to notify other jurisdictions whereas the old Act said he or she “may” notify.

Recommendation: Such notifications should be made only for convictions, and not in the case of absolute or conditional discharges, nor for administrative (Motor Vehicle Branch) suspensions.

Section 21 establishes impoundment procedures. This substitutes new section 96 for previous provisions and is less onerous than the Motor Vehicle Task Force recommendation. The impoundment is for only 24 hours. The Task Force’s suggestion of a 14 day impoundment for a second offence was not adopted. It doesn’t apply to stolen vehicles, and requires “all reasonable steps” to notify the owner if the impounded vehicle is not owned by the suspected suspended driver.

Recommendation: Our Association withdraws its opposition to this provision.

Section 30 creates new section 127, to do with the new offence “excessive speeding”. It should be noted that creation of this new offence does not appear to raise any civil liberties issue, but gives rise to concern that it will tend to slacken enforcement of prohibitions against ordinary speeding. One’s personal observation is that since traffic tends to flow a good 10 to 20 m.p.h. above posted limits already, drivers, and perhaps police, may interpret the new offence to mean that speeding is not a serious offence unless it’s “excessive”, and speed even more than they do now.

Section 32 creates new section 214, replacing existing sections dealing with the “roadside suspensions”. The new Section does not include the former provision that the roadside suspension could be terminated if life were endangered.

Note: It is not clear why this was or should have been removed.

General Comment: The new Act continues to provide for roadside suspensions, which we have opposed since they were first brought in about 15 years ago, on the grounds cited in our April 27, 1981 letter to Attorney General Allen Williams, and in previous position papers. However, the new Act does not appear as harsh as it could have been had all the Motor Vehicle Task Force recommendations been implemented in their entirety. It appears that the government has given at least some consideration to issues our Association has raised.