Yukon getting $2.3M from federal gov't for police training, drug-testing devices

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Yukon is getting federal money for drug-testing devices and for training for officers to test drivers for drug impairment, the federal government announced on Tuesday.

The funding, about $2.3 million, comes from a pot of $81 million previously announced for public and road safety.

"This is about giving the right tools to the RCMP so that individuals who choose to operate a motor vehicle after they've consumed some sort of drug or alcohol will be caught," Tracy-Anne McPhee, the territory's minister of justice, said at the announcement in Whitehorse.

The drug-testing devices include the Drager DrugTest 5000 and another called the SoToxa.

Officers will be trained to perform standardized field sobriety testing (SFST) and so-called drug recognition expert evaluations.

The latter has been deemed flawed by experts, but Larry Bagnell, the MP representing the territory, said at the announcement in Whitehorse that "no government would've implemented something without rigorous scientific testing."

Right now, 22 Mounties have been trained in SFST, and 15 more are going to be trained soon, McPhee said. Yukon's government has committed to have about one-third of its officers trained by 2023.

When an RCMP officer without this kind of training pulls over a suspected impaired driver, McPhee said a trained officer would be made available.

The territory has already spent some money for these efforts, which should be recovered through the aforementioned federal funding, McPhee said.

Part of the funding will also be used on a data collection project which will entail developing a national standardized measurement of drug-impaired driving.

"This work is essential and will provide current local trends regarding drug-impaired driving, inform best practices, and assist with focusing resources on problem areas here in the territory," she said.

McPhee said impaired driving "is a significant problem here in the territory," but didn't have statistics available.

"I will say about impaired driving, generally, is that the legalization of marijuana has brought this matter to the forefront, but it won't significantly change, in my estimation, what's been happening on the streets of the Yukon territory," McPhee said.

When asked to clarify if she doesn't expect the number of drug-impaired drivers to increase, she said: "You'd have to ask people who drive while impaired by drugs, to be frank with you."

That number should be zero, McPhee added.

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