The Harper government has tabled a bill that would restore the power for courts to order offenders to surrender urine samples or other bodily fluids if they are on probation and suspected of violating an order not to drink or take drugs.
The ability to demand random samples was struck down three years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada, which invited Parliament to craft legislation that complies with the Charter of Rights.
"Police and probation officers need to regain the ability to collect breath and other samples from offenders who are under court order to abstain from consuming drugs and alcohol," said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who tabled legislation Friday in the House of Commons.
Until 2006, police and probation officers routinely demanded bodily samples from individuals who were on probation, serving conditional sentences at home, or subject to peace bonds.
A positive sample was used as evidence to prosecute for breaching court conditions, an offence that carried up to a two-year prison sentence.
Failure to abide by restrictions in conditional sentences can result in an offender being sent to prison to serve out the remainder of a term.
"There is no question that a probationer has a lowered expectation of privacy," Justice Louise Charron wrote in her October 2006 decision. "However, it is up to Parliament, not the courts, to balance the probationers' charter rights as against society's interest in effectively monitoring their conduct."
October 31, 2009
The Vancouver Sun