A transport truck climbs the hill past the Yukon River Bridge at Marsh Lake Jan. 2. The territorial government has plans to improve the Yukon’s Motor Vehicles Act eventually, not only as it relates to cannabis, but also to a range of other components. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)

Liberals promise to overhaul Yukon’s rules of the road but say it will take years

Current regulations riddled with blind spots, including self-driving cars

The Yukon government is promising a major overhaul of the territory’s Motor Vehicles Act in the next few years but won’t be rushing to make changes in time for cannabis legalization later this year.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn said the Yukon government will rely on the upcoming federal laws related to drug-impaired driving.

In Bill C-46 the federal government is proposing to make changes to the Criminal Code that would penalize anyone caught driving with more than two nanograms of THC in one millilitre of their blood.

Penalties would range from a fine to a mandatory 120 days in jail depending on how much THC was found and whether the driver was a repeat offender.

Under the proposed rules, police will be able to test a driver’s saliva roadside and demand a blood sample.

The current Yukon laws, including the ability for police to tow someone’s vehicle or suspend their license, can still be used if a driver is found to be under the influence of drugs, said Yukon Justice Department spokesperson Dan Cable.

Mostyn said his government does plan on improving the Yukon’s Motor Vehicles Act eventually, not only as it relates to cannabis, but also to a range of other components.

“The piece of legislation we have is not serving the needs of the courts, it’s not serving the needs of the police, it’s not serving the needs of many of our stakeholders, from MADD to lawyers to our citizens most importantly.”

The current legislation, which was drafted in 1977, hasn’t had a major facelift in more than 20 years, he said.

Planning to open it up and “fix” it will take years, the minister said.

“We’ve started looking at that now, but its going to take a long time. This legislation is woven into the fabric of the Yukon’s legislation framework. It’s everywhere. So in order to open it up and fix it, it’s going to take an awful lot of work.”

The act, with 272 sections and “countless subsections,” is “one of the biggest pieces of legislation in the territorial arsenal,” he said.

Mostyn said the act has been amended a number of times since its creation but only in a piece-meal style “opening up, putting little things here, bolting on little addendum.”

In 2009 a territorial court judge said the drafters of the traffic laws produced “a pretty fair approximation of Churchill’s ‘riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’” when the courts were asked to decide which section of the act a woman should be charged under after driving without a license.

“The fact is that what he’s saying is that the existing legislation is so poorly worded and executed that it’s challenging to administer and apply,” Mostyn said.

Mostyn there are “issues” that need fixing related to everything from distracted driving, to speeding fines, driving in work zones, off-road vehicles and international reciprocal agreements.

When it comes to impaired driving the government will also be looking at impaired driving fines and impairment levels among other things, he said.

“There’s so many issues around that one subject. It’s huge.”

Mostyn said the government is still researching exactly what the Yukon changes could look like. After that there will be public consultations.

The minister even touched on the possibility of updating the law to include the possibility of self-driving cars.

“I had a fellow from GM come to me several months ago and say ‘man, if the Yukon had … provisions for self-driving cars in the legislation we might be interested in setting up a test track up here.’ But we can’t because … the legislation is so outdated it couldn’t handle it,” he said.

“There are opportunities here. I’m not saying we’re going to go that route, but this is a world we’re moving into and our legislation is absolutely dead silent on it. In some cases it’s going to inhibit innovation and other things.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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