Earlier in March of this year, an 28-year-old woman was charged with impaired driving in the death of the nine-year-old Baeleigh Maurice in Saskatoon on Sept. 9, 2021. The woman, who has not yet been identified, is scheduled to make her first court appearance on April 12.
At the time of the accident, the victim was using a marked crosswalk on 33rd Street West in Saskatoon when she was struck in the intersection by a pickup truck. After the police had received toxicology findings, the driver was charged and taken into custody.
A video showing the collision in which the truck struck the victim was released on social media earlier in January. The video depicts the marked crosswalk where the girl intended to cross the road, and the appearance of a truck that seems to slow down as it approaches. In the video, Baeleigh paused briefly and then begins to cross the road, and a few seconds later, the truck rammed into her without changing its speed.
Notably, according to the Saskatchewan provincial government confirmed, the driver is the first person to face such a charge in Saskatchewan.
This case has also resulted in ongoing debates regarding impaired driving laws. According to some legal experts, impairment by cannabis is more difficult to evaluate compared to alcohol impairment, since there is a current lack of data correlating the amount of THC detected with specific states of impairment.
In his correspondence with Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Saskatoon-based criminal defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle said that even when someone tests positive for cannabis, they may not have been impaired at the time of driving since fat cells can sometimes contain remnants of THC.
“The fact remains that Parliament saw fit to make it so that if an individual is driving a motor vehicle with a certain blood-alcohol level or certain levels of narcotics including cannabis, that they could be convicted if they are in a motor vehicle accident with those drugs in their system. Because that is the law, currently anyone driving a motor vehicle with cannabis in their system, whether it is latent or due to recent consumption, they could be charged and ultimately convicted” said Pfefferle.
In June 2018, Parliament amended the Criminal Code for drug-impaired driving prior to the legalization of cannabis. Furthermore, Saskatchewan has taken a zero-tolerance approach to cannabis-impaired driving, with drivers facing immediate suspensions and vehicle impoundment if they had consumed drugs.
“In practical terms, ‘zero tolerance’ for drug-impaired driving means that drivers should not get behind the wheel with any level of impairing drugs in their system detectable by a federally-approved screening device,” Saskatchewan Government Insurance spokesperson Tyler McMurchy said in his correspondence with Saskatoon StarPhoenix.