Test city workers for drugs and alcohol, mother urges

Feb 23, 2007 | Articles

23 Feb 2007
Montreal Gazette

DAUGHTER KILLED BY SNOW TRUCK IN ’05 Last week’s arrest of a blue-collar worker for drunk driving triggers painful memories

The mother of a woman killed by a snow-removal truck 14 months ago is urging cities and police to test municipal truck drivers for drugs and alcohol in the wake of last week’s arrest of a Montreal blue-collar worker for drug possession and for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

“If you want to work for the city, you should have to be tested,” Jeannette Holman-Price, whose daughter, Jessica, 21, was killed on Dec. 19, 2005, said in a telephone interview from Newfoundland, where she now lives. “It’s common sense.” Canadian law doesn’t allow it, however.

Jessica Holman-Price was struck by a truck driven by a private contractor who was turning from Strathcona Ave. onto Sherbrooke St. W. in Westmount. She fell under the truck while pushing her 10-year-old brother to safety.

Montreal police, who ruled the death an accident, say there was no sign the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and had no reason to administer a breath test.

The driver received a $151 ticket for failing to give priority to a pedestrian.

But Jeannette Holman-Price said the story of Friday’s arrest of a city of Montreal driver who, police allege, smelled of alcohol when they approached him in Plateau Mont Royal borough triggered painful memories and anger.

It was a fluke the driver got caught, Holman-Price said. The police were actually answering a complaint launched by the employee about a smell of gas.

As a minimum, snow-truck drivers should be given a breath test whenever they are involved in an accident, Holman-Price said.

“When they hit a car,” she said, offering an example.

“When they have an accident. When they killed my daughter.”

Breath tests in Canada can be done only when there are reasonable grounds, Montreal constitutional lawyer Julius Grey said. An accident does not by itself constitute reasonable cause, he added.

The driver arrested last week has been suspended without pay. The city of Montreal says it will interview him next week to get his side of the story, city hall spokesperson Natasha Beauchesne said.

The driver could face a long suspension or a dismissal.

He is to be formally charged in April, police say.

The city cannot legally administer drug or alcohol tests to its drivers, “but we’ll follow any changes in the law so if one day it’s permitted in Quebec, we’ll look at it,” Beauchesne said.

jessica-holman-priceHolman-Price said she was angered by comments made by Jean Yves Hinse, the city’s director of professional relations, to The Gazette on Tuesday that the public has no cause to worry about drinking among municipal drivers because last week’s case was only the second in three years.

“It may have been the first time in three years that somebody was suspended, but it does not mean it was the first time in three years that somebody was drunk,” Holman-Price said.

Local 301 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees has not returned The Gazette’s calls this week to comment on the blue-collar worker’s arrest.

Source: Montreal Gazette

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