For the first time in two years, Canada Day festivities are back in full force, and with that will come a big celebration that may include putting back a few colds or smoking marijuana, and possibly getting behind the wheel of a boat or vehicle.
RCMP Staff Sargent, Chad McLeod is the province's Traffic Services Section, North District Commander says there are risks to driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.
“There are some serious ramifications for license suspensions, vehicle impoundments, and sanctions from SGI for drivers. If you’re going to drink or smoke weed, don't get behind the wheel of anything. You cannot be impaired by any intoxicating substance while you’re operating either a boat, vehicle, plain train, or even your golf cart.”
Staff Sargent McLeod adds that if people are wishing to drink make sure to have a designated driver, be stationary at your destination, and just make the road safe for everyone.
During a traffic stop, the Saskatchewan RCMP can demand a sample of oral fluid. It is then inserted into the roadside device, and in roughly four minutes, can tell if the person behind the wheel has smoked, vaped, or ingested cannabis recently. The officer can then demand further tests, or call for a drug recognition evaluator to assess the driver.
The RCMP state that last year they had 289 cases where drivers were suspected of driving while impaired by a drug. Of those, 95 have been charged criminally, and they say that number may increase as toxicology results are obtained.
The penalties for driving while impaired by a drug start with a minimum fine of $1,000 and having a license suspended for a year. If an officer detects a driver has recently used cannabis, whether impaired or not, they can have their license suspended and the vehicle impounded for 72 hours.
For those that will be taking in the sunshine over the Canada Day long weekend on the boat, Lindsey Leko, a senior conservation officer said it’s important to stay safe out there.
“Conservation officers and RCMP will start targeting these waters to ensure people are complying with the laws, and making sure everybody is safe as it can be.”
He said it's an offense to consume or possess liquor or cannabis on a boat, including a pontoon boat.
“Everyone seems to think as long as it's got a pail to use the bathroom in, a barbecue on the bow, and a place to lay down it's considered a houseboat, and that is that is not the case,” said Leko. “Actual houseboats have plumbed-in sewer and cooking facilities, with permanent sleeping arrangements.”
He added in order to lawfully consume alcohol on a houseboat, it must be moored permanently on a shore.
Leko said it's an offense under the criminal code of Canada to operate a boat if impaired under drugs or alcohol. In fact, Conservation officers and RCMP will have screening devices on them while doing regular patrols of southern Saskatchewan lakes.
Another thing people need to remember is there must be a life jacket for every person on board.
“It's always a good idea because in the event of an accident or something like that, a lot of times people are propelled forward or thrown overboard, and they're knocked unconscious, or they're wearing clothing that just makes them sink like a rock.”
Some other things to keep in mind are following the speed limits, and having your boating license with you.
(With Files from Trillian Reynoldson)