DUI Metrology Dictionary

Alcohol Test Committee

The Alcohol Test Committee is a committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. See https://www.csfs.ca/what-we-do/csfs-committees/atc-alcohol-test-committee/

Accoording to the CSFS web site, the current committee members are:

Committee Members:

Verna Mendes (Chair) – RCMP
Genevieve Huppe – LSJML
Mike Rosland – RCMP
Josette Hackett – RCMP
Inger Bugyra – Centre of Forensic Sciences
Christine Frenette – RCMP
Randall Beatty – Texas Dept. of Public Safety
Tracy Cherlet – RCMP

LSJML is Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, Ministère de la Sécurité publique, Québec.

All members of the committee appear to be government -employed or -funded forensic scientists and representaives of police services. Members of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science who may include scientists in private practice, do not appear to have any control over the selection of members of the ATC. The ATC appears to self-appoint committee members from the CFS, police, and other provincial or state labs. They do not appoint from scientists in private practice.

Some lawyers seem to be of the view that the ATC is an independent body, composed of independent scientists. The current membership implies that this is not the case.

The Alcohol Test Committee is not mentioned in the Criminal Code of Canada as an entity to which the Attorney General may sub-delegate.

In R. v. St-Onge Lamoureux, 2012 SCC 57, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 187, Justice Deschamps indicated :

"[25] ... The expert evidence filed in the instant case reveals that the possibility of an instrument malfunctioning or being used improperly when breath samples are taken is not merely speculative, but is very real. The Alcohol Test Committee (“Committee”) of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science (“CSFS”) has made a series of recommendations concerning the procedures to be followed by the professionals who operate the instruments and verify that they are properly maintained: “Recommended Standards and Procedures of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science Alcohol Test Committee” (2009), 42 Can. Soc. Forensic Sci. J. 1. The Committee states that before collecting a breath sample, the qualified technician must, among other things, observe the test subject for 15 minutes, conduct a system blank test and a system calibration check, and verify the temperature of the alcohol standard, and that the alcohol standard must be changed after a certain number of calibration checks. The Committee also recommends that approved instruments be inspected on an annual basis to ensure that they continue to meet the manufacturer’s technical specifications. According to the Committee, the calibration and maintenance of instruments are essential “to the integrity of the breath test program” (p. 14).

[26] The Committee’s recommendations shed light on the circumstances that might explain how an instrument malfunctioned or was used improperly. Thus, human error can occur when samples are taken and at various steps in the maintenance of the instruments, which, it should be mentioned, are used Canada‑wide. Hodgson’s report, which the prosecution itself relied on as a source of the statutory amendments, refers to the importance of proper operation and maintenance:

. . . to achieve scientifically sound results in operational use, user agencies must ensure that approved instruments are operated by qualified personnel using procedures based on good laboratory practice. [p. 83]

[43] In its recommendations, the CSFS Committee also suggested mechanisms for ensuring that the instruments function properly and for assuring the quality of breath alcohol analyses. It can be inferred from these recommendations that the instruments may not function optimally if the suggested procedures are not followed."

In R. v. Gubbins, 2018 SCC 44, [2018] 3 S.C.R. 35, Justice Côté (dissenting) indicated :

"[75] Just as the courts subject experts to special scrutiny before allowing them to opine on the “ultimate issue” in a dispute (R. v. Mohan, 1994 CanLII 80 (SCC), [1994] 2 S.C.R. 9, at p. 25), so should this Court exercise caution, in this case, when considering the extent to which the ATC’s updated recommendations are determinative of the relevance of maintenance records, a question of law that is to be decided by the courts. Such caution is particularly warranted in light of the ATC’s composition, as explained by Judge Henderson in R. v. Sutton, 2013 ABPC 308, 59 M.V.R. (6th) 89:

I caution myself that the Alcohol Test Committee is not a truly independent body of scientific experts who offer purely objective opinions on topics relating to breath testing instruments. The Alcohol Test Committee is comprised of scientists who have direct connections with, and are employed by, policing services and Government Agencies. Five of the ten members of the Committee are employed by R.C.M.P. labs across the country. Four of the remaining five members are employed by Government agencies. [Emphasis added; para. 137.]"

End of quote

It is one lawyer's experience that the ATC may resist Freedom of Information applications on the basis that they are not subject to Freedom of Information or Access to Information legislation. The following is an excerpt from the CSFS FORUM Newsletter #49, December 2010, Page 9:

"CSFS e-mail addresses provided to ATC members have proven invaluable in protecting the security of sensitive communications. A recent decision in Ontario has declared that all government e-mails are subject to Freedom of Information (FOi} requests, and the Chair has received numerous Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP} requests via the DOJ and the RCMP. Draft communications or incomplete evaluations can be taken out of context."

It is unclear if the ATC are accountable to any supervising authority other than their individual police or state/provincial lab employers.

Contrary to popular belief among lawyers, the Alcohol Test Committee, DOES NOT exercise metrological authority or metrological supervision over forensic science metrology by police in Canada. The failure of any measurement science entity (e.g. Measurement Canada) to exercise metrological authority and metrological supervision of evidentiary breath-testing forensic science by police in Canada, leaves a huge hole in the reliability of forensic science in Canada.

Excerpt from 2010 ATC response to FOI application
No Supervision by ATC, CFS, or Anyone of Annual/Periodic Inspection SOPs