Paddling Under the Influence Must Remain an Offence, says Clement

October 7, 2017

MP Supports Amendment Made to Bill C-46

PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA – Member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka, Tony Clement, said he is glad to hear the Liberal government is backing down from excluding paddling while intoxicated from impaired driving laws.

Clement has been working with members of Thomas Rancourt`s family. Thomas was an eight-year-old Huntsville boy who died after he fell out of a tipped canoe on the Muskoka River near High Falls in April. An Etobicoke man is facing charges in relation to the drowning death.

“Across Parry Sound and Muskoka there have been too many tragic deaths and accidents as a result of impaired paddling and boating over the years. It would be a gross oversight to not allow the police to lay charges where appropriate,” said Clement. “Changing the law would send the wrong message. It is plain and simple – alcohol and drugs do not mix when out paddling. If anything, the law should be made stronger in this regard, not weaker.”

The Liberal government`s Bill C-46 is amending Canada`s impaired driving laws, and was introduced in conjunction with legislation to legalize marijuana. The original version of C-46 excluded vessels “propelled exclusively by means of muscular power.” The changes raised alarm bells among advocacy groups, including the Canadian Safe Boating Council.

After hearing from members of the Rancourt family, Clement discussed their concerns over C-46 with his Conservative Party colleague, Rob Nicholson, who is Justice Shadow Minister. This week, the Justice committee reviewed C-46 and agreed to amendments that would allow police to continue to lay charges for impaired paddling.

“I wanted to make sure my Conservative colleagues on the Justice committee were aware of the tragic story of Thomas, and would support keeping impaired paddling on the books. I was glad this very point was raised at the Justice committee this week, and the Liberals agreed to keep the law status quo,” said Clement.

“This law should never change.  All boats can be dangerous and throwing alcohol and drugs into the mix is a recipe for disaster. Thomas is deeply missed by so many.  He would be happy that his story is known, and hopefully no other child or person has to die during an activity that should be fun,” said Thomas’s aunt, Jennifer Hooper.

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For additional reference, article from the National Post:
MPs backtrack, drunk canoeing may continue to be treated as impaired driving