WINNIPEG — It was a bizarre roadside checkstop that has left some Winnipeggers wondering what their information may be used for.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 8, drivers were being checked at a roadside stop on Century Avenue and asked the standard “have you been drinking” question by Winnipeg police officers.
However, it’s what came next that has left some drivers concerned.
After drivers were cleared by police, they were asked if they would voluntarily complete a survey.
On the side of the road there were approximately five areas set up with tablets and an area set up by Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI).
“We are asking for your help in a voluntary driver safety survey that deals with alcohol, drugs and driving,” read a part of the survey obtained by Global News. “(You will be asked) to provide a breath sample to measure the amount of alcohol in your system… If the test shows that you are over the legal limit, you will be asked to let a non-impaired passenger drive, or we will provide you with a free taxi ride to your destination.”
“They proceeded to hand me a tablet and ask me a bunch of questions,” said Gerry Richardson, an employee at our sister station 680 CJOB. “They asked me if I’d been drinking anything, if I had anything to drink that night, the last time I used heroin, the last time I used cocaine.”
Richardson said it was only after the breathalyzer that the really invasive part of the survey began.
“They handed me a saliva test and said ‘you need to put this swab under your tongue until it turns blue,'” said Richardson.
Participants were given a $10 gift certificate, provided by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for taking the survey.
He said his biggest concern now is that MPI has his DNA.
MPI said it is using the samples to test for drug usage and are trying to determine a baseline before marijuana use is legalized in Canada.
“The goal is to get 1,200 surveys,” said MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley. “From those 1,200 we’ll have a very firm baseline in terms of what actually is happening out there and the impact legalization may have on impaired driving in Manitoba.”
According to the crown corporation, similar surveys were conducted in Ontario in 2014 and British Columbia in 2010 and 2012, although no data was available for any of those.
MPI said all information is voluntary and remains anonymous.
“No names are taken. The information is not shared with anybody else,” said Smiley.
However, privacy lawyers said it does raise concerns for drivers.
“I certainly would be (concerned). What could be more privacy invasive then your DNA,” said privacy lawyer Andrew Buck with Pitblado Law. “If you look at it as something very special, and if you want to commoditize it, a very valuable piece of information. That is one of the things I would be most concerned with giving away.”
Although MPI repeated that the survey was completely voluntary, it has left some people to question the tactics being used.
“When police are asking you to do something people want to comply with police,” said Buck. “So is it really voluntary?”
Global News asked police to explain their officer’s involvement in the roadside checkstop and survey, as it was an armed, uniformed officer who was the first point of contact with drivers. Police refused repeated requests for an interview.
MPI said they will be conducting these surveys every Wednesday through Saturday until the end of September. They will be conducted in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Steinbach and Portage la Prairie.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.