Bill C-46 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs)
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Anne McLellan Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
December 18th, 2001 / 5:05 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act--Chapter No. 40.
Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 32.
Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 33.
Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Republic of Costa Rica--Chapter No. 28.
Bill C-34, an act to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 29.
Bill C-36, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Official Secrets Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act and other acts, and to enact measures respecting the registration of charities in order to combat terrorism--Chapter No. 41.
Bill C-38, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act--Chapter No. 35.
Bill C-40, an act to correct certain anomalies, inconsistencies and errors and to deal with other matters of a non-controversial and uncomplicated nature in the Statutes of Canada and to repeal certain provisions that have expired, lapsed or otherwise ceased to have effect--Chapter No. 34.
Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act--Chapter No. 38.
Bill C-45, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002--Chapter No. 39.
Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs)--Chapter No. 37.
Bill S-10, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Poet Laureate)--Chapter No. 36.
Bill S-31, an act to implement agreements , conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Slovenia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Senegal, the Czech Republic and Germany for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income--Chapter No. 30.
Bill S-33, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act--Chapter No. 31.
December 7th, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, there has been consultation among all parties, and I want to thank in advance all colleagues for their co-operation on the bill. Following that consultation, I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
To deem Bill C-46 to have been referred to the committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed.
December 7th, 2001 / 12:40 p.m.
Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-46 because it is a completion of a number of steps that have been taken. There are more steps, but in the fight against impaired driving, every time we take a positive action in the House it is another step that will go a long way to saving lives and injuries as a result of impaired driving.
Back in the 36th session of parliament, I introduced a private member's motion recommending that the government have a complete review of the criminal code and how it affected impaired driving. We sat on the committee as it was being discussed and had some interesting debate.
That private member's motion then became a votable opposition supply day. For the first time in 13 years in the House of Commons, the federal government, took some very good leadership in allowing the motion eventually to become a reality. A review was made of the criminal code with respect to impaired driving and changes were made. I congratulate the government on that initiative.
At the same time, I have to point out that 13 years was a long time to drag our feet toward dealing with something as important as this, particularly when organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving had been petitioning members of parliament on a regular basis pointing out the need for the overview.
A profound change in thinking took place as a result of that exercise in dealing with the impaired driving issue. I congratulate all members of parliament for this change of attitude toward drunk driving. I believe that, until we got into looking at it in the House and in committee, there was a wide ranging attitude among many people, including parliamentarians, for whom perhaps impaired driving was described as a social ill. I do not fault them for that. I think it is more a lack of education than anything else. By the time we were through the exercise of dealing with impaired driving in the criminal code, I think it became clearly evident to every member of parliament, and indeed a whole lot of Canadians, that impaired driving was a serious crime.
If we have accomplished something in going from one broadly endorsed attitude to another, that is a very positive step. Again, I want to congratulate and commend organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the people who support that organization. I and a number of parliamentarians support it both financially and in spirit.
In the two previous bills we took some great leaps ahead in the fight against impaired driving. Keep in mind that impaired driving kills well over 1,000 people every year and injures in excess of 50,000 every year, just because someone gets behind the wheel when impaired and drives. I heard it incredulously called a mistake in the House a little earlier by a former colleague of mine. Driving while impaired is not a mistake. It is a crime.
The culpability or responsibility for getting behind the wheel begins the moment someone makes a decision to have a drink of alcohol. I do not accept the excuse, and I know the Ministry of Industry does not accept the excuse “I just wasn't thinking”. There is a time to think and that is before we take that first drink. The idea that it was an absence of thought, or a mistake or something just does not fly. It is a crime and if we commit that crime, there are consequences to it.
This bill will remind people of their culpability because they will know that if they get into their vehicle after drinking, they will to have to blow into this device. In fact, there would be a mapping device which would prevent someone else from blowing into it. My colleague from Elk Island had some concerns about that. However the first time people blow into the device they set the standard. It is like an eye scan or a fingerprint. No one else can blow into that device and try to trick it.
Of course we will support this bill. It is a good bill. It is another step in the fight against impaired driving. As parliamentarians know, this is very high on the wish list of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has presented mountains of evidence as to why this device will do the job. I personally, as well as many parliamentarians, have seen the effectiveness of this. We know it is about as foolproof as we can possibly get. The records are there to show how it will stop impaired people from driving.
We will support the bill, as we supported Bill C-18 and Bill C-82.
Just before I close, there is another issue that is very high on the wish list of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. That is the lowering of the BAC, the blood alcohol content, which determines whether a person is impaired or not. MADD has a very good case.
The problem we have is the BAC is at .08 right now. Every study in the world declares that at .08 we are impaired and should not be driving a car. Unfortunately, the courts and the legal system have allowed a margin of error of .02 or .03. Even though there exists no margin of error in the devices which record the blood alcohol content, through courtroom tactics defence lawyers have been able to build in this margin of error which means people cannot get a conviction on impaired driving unless the readout is at least .01.
Therefore, we maintain that if the legally impaired level is .08, let us take into consideration that .03 margin of error, lower the BAC to .05, let them have their .03 and we can start convicting at .08, where we should be, because these people are legally impaired and should not be driving.
I want to congratulate the government for introducing Bill C-46. I hope that it is passed speedily through the House and given speedy royal assent in the Senate. I encourage the government to follow this with another bill calling for the reduction of the BAC to .05. Let us get it to committee, get the experts and let us prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the BAC level should be lowered to .05.
December 7th, 2001 / 12:25 p.m.
Ken Epp Elk Island, AB
My colleague is willing to give me some of his.It was a matter of principle. As I said, I did the same thing with alcoholic beverages. I said I would not drink them.
This came about in a strange way. When I was a youngster we were quite poor. Members who have heard my speeches in the House have heard some of these stories. I made my spending money by picking up beer bottles other people had spread in the ditches, bottles which would not have been there had people not been drinking while driving. Not only did they drink before they were driving. They were drinking while they were driving and tossing the bottles out. It gave me a meagre income. I remember it distinctly. We got 18 cents a dozen, one and a half cents a bottle. I picked them up and used them for spending money.
One time my father provided for me to make restitution for a loss I had been part of. That story has also been told in the House. It took over a year of picking up beer bottles to raise enough money to pay for some broken windows, but that is another story.
During the time I was picking up beer bottles I learned to strongly dislike the smell of beer. It was only many years later that a friend of mine told me there was a substantial difference between a nice cold beer out of the fridge and one that has been laying in the hot sun for two or three weeks. I had a bit of an advantage in the sense of being turned off from that deal.
I am disqualified in the sense that I do not drink. I will never be involved with drunken driving as long as I keep the pledge. I am eminently qualified because I believe very strongly that people must make decisions and follow through on matters of principle.
One matter of principle I strongly believe must be that we do not drink and drive. It impairs one's ability to manage a vehicle, which is a lethal weapon when it gets up to speed on a highway or city street. If there is a lack of ability to control the vehicle for whatever reason the person should be severely restrained by law.
The same principle applies that I have spoken about frequently in the House. It is impossible to pass a law to make people good. The purpose of the law is to restrain those who would do evil. It is evil to drive under the influence of alcohol or anything else that inhibits one's ability to manage a vehicle.
I happen to live out in the country. My riding is mostly rural. We have lots of intersections where there is a stop sign in one direction and free flow in the other. A number of my friends have been severely injured and one was killed because people coasted through stop signs. Whether they were sober or inebriated they went through the stop sign and caused a collision.
There was a young man a couple of miles from our house who was travelling home having visited some family. He and two of his children were instantly killed when someone went through a stop sign. To me that is unconscionable. My wife and I have had several occasions where we had to screech the brakes to come to a stop because someone violated that rule.
When we accept the privileges of which we have so many in our country, many of them have an attached responsibility. That responsibility should be kept and delivered on as a service and as a result of our concern for fellow citizens.
Most people have been speaking in favour of Bill C-46 today. I have severe questions about it. As people who have been watching know, the bill is, among other things, an authorization to use an interlock connect with the ignition so a vehicle will not run unless the person operating it and blowing into the tube is free of alcoholic content in his or her breath.
I am concerned about the authorization. The bill states that it:
--has no effect until the expiry of a period fixed by the court
(a) of at least three months, for a first offence;
(b) of at least 6 months, for a second offence; and
(c) of at least 12 months, for each subsequent offence.
When will we put an end to this? When will we say to people who get picked up driving while under the influence of alcohol that they cannot do that? We can catch them once, twice or three times and the bill simply says “for each subsequent offence”.
I read in the paper not long ago that someone was arrested for drunken driving and it was his 14th offence. There comes a time when we must say to these people that since they have shown a complete lack of responsibility we will remove their driving privileges because they are a danger to everyone else on the road.
I would like to see the offences strengthened. The bill would disable a vehicle from running if the person driving it was not sober. This might prevent someone from driving a vehicle when he or she is not capable of making that judgment. However we need to be careful not to give too much credit to the action we are taking here today.
How about a person who is irresponsible and willing to drive when inebriated? Will that person avoid taking a vehicle that has such a device? I am sure we will have penalties for driving a vehicle that does not have the device if the person has entered into the agreement. On the other hand there are people who drive regularly although they have been disbarred from driving. They do not take responsibility. How about people who might have a friend blow into the device for them?
Those are just some of the ways of circumventing the device. Can we trust these people? They have proven, by the fact that they have driven even once on the road while inebriated, that they are not willing to take responsibility.
This is a crazy story and one I probably should not tell because if the guy who is the object of it hears it I may get into trouble. I was driving in one of my little towns which had a two lane road in each direction divided by a median. As I approached an intersection the road turned from two lanes into four with the addition of right and left hand turning lanes.
I was following a half ton truck on the two lane portion of the road and the driver was literally bouncing off both curbs. He would hit the right curb and then drift over across two lanes and hit the left curb. I realized we were heading out into the country and there would be no other way of stopping him if we did not get a red light at the intersection. Fortunately we did.
I stopped behind him, threw on my four way flashers, jumped out of my car and did something rather bizarre. I ran up to him, opened his door, put my rather substantial body in front of his, reached over and took the key out of the ignition. I know he could have assaulted me but at that stage I was ready to take the risk because we were going out onto a country road with two lanes, one in each direction. The way he was driving I was quite convinced it would result in an accident and possibly even severe injury or death because we were getting into highway speeds. I did it because it was my civic duty.
Hon. members would not believe what the guy said to me. Hansard would not be able to print the words, but I will say that he spoke with slurred speech when asked me what I was doing. I told him that he was going nowhere because he obviously could not drive. He said that he was okay but I told him that he was not and I took away his key. He was so stunned he could not raise any objection.
To shorten the story, in due time the RCMP arrived. When the RCMP officer asked the guy to get up and stand on one foot he could not. As a matter of fact, he could not stand without holding on to his half ton truck. He had to be led by the arm into the police officer's vehicle.
I like to think I saved a life that day. I took a risk but I saved a life. That individual did not take responsibility. We should do everything possible to take people like that off the roads.
I rather doubt anyone in the House or in the country does not have a relative or at least a close friend or acquaintance who has not been affected by drunk driving. I have several. One of my colleagues at NAIT where I taught for many years had the grief of having his young sister killed by a drunk driver. She had just started university. She died as a result of drunk driving. People do not recognize how important it is to stop drunk driving because they do not think it impacts on lives or takes lives.
Another couple I know well was struck on the highway by a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. Their young son who was about 10 years old, a beautiful, brilliant young guy who did well in school, was reduced essentially to being a dependant all his life. He is now in his early twenties and he is still not able to function as an adult. That was taken from him by a drunk driver.
We hear of drunk drivers taking lives, particularly of high school students at graduations and other parties. Thinking of young people, I was given a poignant poem which I will read as part of my speech. It underlines how damaging the activity of drunk drivers can be. I ask members to listen to the poem:
Close to the door he paused to stand as he took his class ring off her hand all who were watching did not speak as a silent tear ran down his cheek and through his mind the memories ran of the moments they walked and laughed in the sand but now her eyes were so terrible cold for he would never again have her to hold they watched in silence as he bent near and whispered the words... “I LOVE YOU dear” he touched her face and started to cry as he put on his ring and wanted to die and just then the wind began to blow as they lowered her casket into the snow... this is what happens to man alive... ...when friends let friends... drink and drive.
December 7th, 2001 / 12:10 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
The hon. member asks who gets the devices? Obviously people who have been caught drinking and driving. This legislation would deal with repeat offenders because unfortunately all too often the biggest amount of damage done to innocent people in society is by repeat offenders.
Bill C-46 would allow provinces that have this legislation in place to apply it for repeat offenders. This was not the case prior to the introduction of Bill C-46. We have an amendment to the criminal code that would allow that to happen. We hope to see a decline in drunk driving once this becomes widespread.
The legislation would put the stamp of approval by amending the criminal code on these programs at the federal level. It is the hope of people such as myself and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, that we would see similar programs in place in all provinces so that we would see rates for drunk driving decline. If habitual drunk drivers were unable to start and operate their vehicles then hopefully this would keep them off the road.
There are a number of other areas that one would hope the government would act upon. I mentioned the MADD organization. It should be given credit for the bill today. It was through its lobbying efforts and those of other organizations and individuals across the nation that the government was made more aware of the importance and urgency in bringing forward legislation like Bill C-46.
There are other suggestions that MADD is making which warrant debate and hopefully legislation. The MADD suggestions and policies include important federal-provincial legislative changes to streamline laws, enhance police authority and increase the effectiveness of enforcement for drunk driving. We need vigilant enforcement of laws and increased support for the police and judiciary. We need greater consistency in enforcing the laws and sentencing offenders.
There is one suggestion which I have discussed many times in my riding of Prince George--Peace River. Other MPs have also discussed it with law enforcement agencies and police officers in their ridings, whether urban or rural. It is the problem police officers experience when they stop someone who is obviously impaired and charge them.
There are problems in making the charge stick in court, getting people off the road, ensuring that they pay the penalty in court and prohibiting them from driving for a period of time. It is hoped that this interlock device would ensure that persons drinking in the future would be prevented from driving vehicles.
Other programs and policies include effectively educating the social drinker and providing treatment and just punishment for hard core drinkers and repeat offenders. If provinces do not have interlock programs in place they could pick up on this issue and have them in all provinces and territories across the nation. It would make quite a difference in keeping repeat offenders off our roads.
Another suggestion is to increase education and public awareness of the seriousness of impaired driving. I speak from experience in my home province of British Columbia where both the provincial and federal governments have been doing a reasonable job. I commend them for the job they have been doing in educating the public on the dangers of drinking and driving.
Operation Counter Attack in British Columbia has been making great strides in keeping drinking and driving to a minimum. Unfortunately the reality is that on average four and a half deaths a day per year are attributed to drinking and driving. People lose their lives to drinking and driving at twice the rate of those who are murdered. That is a horrifying statistic. It points to the importance of what we must do.
I was encouraged by the brief statement made by the justice minister in bringing the bill forward today. She said she did not view the legislation as a magic bullet against drunk driving. I agree with her.
I hope that comment was a signal to all parliamentarians, organizations like MADD and Canadians in the real world outside the Ottawa bubble. The minister intends to bring forward additional legislation in the near future to deal with drinking and driving. Perhaps that legislation would include some of the suggestions I made today in my remarks on Bill C-46.
I conclude by imploring Canadians as we enter the holiday season to travel safely. At this time of year our roads can be dangerous even when the driver is cold sober. With our unpredictable weather conditions we often get freezing rain, especially in the northern areas of the country, and fight snow drifts and blizzard conditions. Roads are dangerous.
On behalf of all parliamentarians I say to people who drink alcoholic beverages over the holidays, as so many of us like to imbibe from time to time, that they should not drive. I ask them to stay off the roads not only to protect themselves and their loved ones travelling with them but to provide an element of safety for all other Canadians who are also using our highways and roads during the holiday season.
December 7th, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute some remarks to the debate on Bill C-46, an amendment to the criminal code dealing with alcohol ignition interlock devices. I also appreciate the opportunity to express my gratitude to the government, which is something in my eight year history as a member of parliament that I have seldom had the opportunity, or one may even say, the will to express. I do thank the government for belatedly moving on this very important issue.
As has been said by a number of opposition members who have spoken to the legislation, there is universal support for it by all parties in the House of Commons. That is why there is agreement to move expeditiously today to deal with all stages of the bill and see it sent to the other place as quickly as possible.
The issue is of importance to me as an individual parliamentarian. I introduced a private member's bill on the issue on October 27, 1997, over four years ago, Bill C-266. For the interest of the House I will read the summary of Bill C-46, the legislation we are debating today, an act to amend the criminal code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs) and the summary of the bill I presented four years ago.
The summary of Bill C-46 states:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to allow the court to authorize repeat offenders subject to driving prohibition orders to drive, if they register in a provincial alcohol ignition interlock device program. The enactment provides that no authorization has effect until a minimum period of prohibition has been completed of 3, 6 or 12 months for a first, second or subsequent offence, respectively.
Bill C-266, an act to amend the criminal code (alcohol sensing ignition control for automobiles), had first reading four years ago on October 27, 1997. The summary of that very short bill stated:
The purpose of this enactment is to allow a judge, in sentencing a person for an impaired driving offence, to suspend part of any fine, imprisonment, prohibition or probation order if the offender undertakes to install an alcohol-sensing ignition control on every motor vehicle the offender operates. Failure to comply with the undertaking would reactivate the suspended part. The court may also make such installation a condition of a probation order.
As I said, I commend the government for moving on this issue. It certainly is something that has been supported not only by me by putting forward private member's legislation, but by a lot of people over the last number of years. I think it was the member from the New Democratic Party who referred to the CBC program Marketplace . Back in 1996 and 1997, in a similar timeframe to when I was drafting my bill, it did programs on the issue and how it would help to keep dangerous drunk drivers off our nation's highways and roads.
The issue is why it takes the government so long to enact something which obviously has universal support among all parties.
As previous speakers have said, it is something that unfortunately does not happen very often in this place. Given the seriousness of a lot of issues facing Canadians from coast to coast, we would think we would see more legislation coming forward that could be unanimously supported and put through this place in a timely fashion. However that does not seem to be the case.
It is especially important, as others have noted, that the legislation would receive all party support at this time of the year. Everybody is well aware that one of the unfortunate byproducts of the holiday season is an increase in the number of people who drink and drive. The unfortunate reality is that we also see an increase in the number of injuries and fatalities on our nation's roads because of that.
It is almost rare to find a Canadian family that has not through its extended family and friends suffered a serious injury or a death from drinking and driving. Young people are paralyzed and spend the rest of their lives in wheelchairs because either they were hit by a drunk driver or they made the tragic error in judgment of getting into a vehicle where the driver was impaired. They pay an horrendous price for it.
It is appropriate that the government has chosen to bring forward the legislation because of the particular time of year. It is also appropriate that all parties in the House would be supportive of it.
I would like to explain the alcohol ignition interlock device. It is a sophisticated breath alcohol testing instrument which is installed in a vehicle in such a way that links its operations to that of the electrical ignition starter and other onboard systems in the vehicle. The instrument is similar in size to and closely resembles a microphone or car phone. Users must take and pass a breath test before the vehicle can be started or driven.
Retests are also required at random times as long as the engine is running. In other words, if drivers have this device installed in the vehicle, not only do they have to blow into the breathing apparatus in order to get the vehicle started but also at random times during the operation of the vehicle, especially if it is a prolonged trip. There would be a warning light or horn sound and at that time drivers would have to blow into the device again to check that they had not been drinking and driving.
December 7th, 2001 / 10:50 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak on behalf of the New Democratic Party in support of Bill C-46. The bill is actually very important. It is fairly rare that everyone in the House agrees on legislation, especially legislation that is relatively brief compared to other legislation, but it is something we believe is in the interest of Canadians.
The bill is about saving lives. It is done through a very ingenious device, a piece of technology. I think sometimes we all question whether technology serves and helps people but in this case it appears that technology, in the form of an alcohol ignition interlock device, is something that can be used in a very simple, cost effective way to prevent deaths on our roads. It would prohibit intoxicated habitual offenders from driving their car. I believe that is a very significant advance. The NDP supports the bill and we urge its approval. The bill has been a long time in coming.
While doing some research on the bill and on the interlock devices, I noted that Marketplace , a very well-known CBC consumer affairs program, aired a program in 1996 on car breathalyzers, as it was called at that time. It aired an update in February of 1997. Obviously the information and the technology have been available for a number of years. It is unfortunate that it has taken so long to come to the House in the form of fairly straightforward legislation.
As others have mentioned today, there is appalling evidence which shows that 70% of people who have lost their licence because of drunk driving will actually get back in their car when intoxicated and drive again. The destruction, the injury and the death that causes on our streets is something we can only begin to understand in terms of the individual tragedies that take place and the impact that has on families and communities. The fact is that 40% of all motor vehicle deaths are as a result of impaired driving. That is about 2,000 Canadians every year. Those deaths are preventable. The thousands of injuries that result from impaired driving are preventable.
While I do support the bill, it is also very important that there be a full array of measures, particularly with regard to prevention. If a person has had too much to drink at home or in a public environment, such as a bar, a pub, a cocktail lounge or a party, and the person gets behind the wheel of a car while impaired, we should not only know whether the person is a repeat offender but we should also focus on the source. I believe that should be part of our alcohol abuse prevention programs.
Alcohol is a source of immense profits for all kinds of different businesses. While most businesses act in a very responsible way, the reality is that in some situations, as people are beginning to become intoxicated and getting over the legal limit, they may actually have alcohol that is being pushed on the table and they are being encouraged to drink more at a drinking establishment. Therefore, I do think it is very important that as part of our overall program of dealing with alcohol abuse we focus on issues of criminality, negligence and liability at the source as well.
It is important to deal with individual intoxicated drivers, particularly where it is a repeat offence. However it is equally important to have preventive education and criminal sanctions for those who push alcohol and do not meet their responsibility to make sure they serve alcohol in a socially responsible way.
December 7th, 2001 / 10:15 a.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (alcohol ignition— interlock device programs).
The shortness of this bill belies its importance. As the Minister of Justice has indicated, it includes in the criminal code a program that some provinces have already put in place. Its effectiveness has been proven in the United States and in some provinces, including Alberta and Quebec, a fact that the minister has emphasized. Later on, I will explain why Quebec created its own alcohol ignition—interlock device program in 1997.
Before dealing any further with this bill, whose shortness, as I said, belies its importance, amending as it does the criminal code, I would like to put on the record a number of statistics and facts. If we are to debate and vote on this bill, it is important to have a good picture of the present situation.
Let us take the situation over 20 years. These are the figures currently available to us, for the period between 1977 and 1996. Let us keep in mind that, at the present time in Canada, 40% of accidents where the driver was at fault and was sentenced to anywhere from licence suspension to imprisonment involved a fatality, and 30% of them injuries. I repeat, among accidents in which the driver was at fault and was sentenced to anywhere from licence suspension to imprisonment, 40% involved a fatality and 30% involved injuries. All of these figures are for 1977-96.
In addition, let us keep in mind that, during that same period, 1977 to 1996, 35,000 people were killed or sustained severe injuries in collisions involving a driver found guilty of impaired driving. This is far from an insignificant number.
This number of 35,000 may seem modest, but if thought of in terms of days, it translates into 4.5 people daily who are killed in accidents involving impaired drivers.
There is a cost attached to this, the personal cost to the impaired driver who receives a sentence, as well as major social and economic costs. The economic costs up to 1996 are estimated at $52.1 billion. So, the costs are high: social, personal and economic.
In addition, the estimated number of injuries to people involved in impaired driving accidents is 1,505,000 in 20 years. This means more than one million people have sustained serious or less serious injuries. This is a significant number. Very often these automobile accidents involve people who have broken the law, have got behind the wheel when they are over the allowed limit, a limit they often are not aware of and are not in a position to assess, because they do not have a breathalyzer available to them.
So, 1.5 million people have been injured in 20 years in accidents involving impaired drivers and costs of $42 million. This is not insignificant.
It is an economic problem, as I have just said because of the costs arising from the collisions, which are sometimes fatal—the luckier ones escape with a few injuries—but significant social costs to our health care system are also involved.
So responsible action is needed both in penalizing and in helping impaired drivers. It is not just a matter of clamping down. History has shown, and I will cite other figures a little later, that simple sanctions—if I can call prison sentences and the suspension and revocation of drivers' licences sanctions—have not in the past prevented people from driving while impaired and even from repeating the offence several times.
Experience has also shown that repression is not always the best solution to the problem of drivers who take the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.
We must come up with, not an alternative, I would say, but with something complementary, between what we have now in terms of sanctions, which I described earlier, and a more humane and supportive approach for the drunk driver.
Not only is the ignition interlock system of help to the accident victim, but it is to the driver who is under the influence as well. It saves lives.
This is why, since 1997, Quebec, along with Alberta and other provinces, have considered the question—and similar programs exist in the States—in an effort to come up with some positive results and render service.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has also considered the matter of drunk driving since 1999. A number of committee sittings have focussed on this matter. A number of witnesses have appeared, including specialists on the matter and parents, who have decided to join together and form a group called MADD, which offers help to the victims.
I would also point out the eloquent figures and studies reported by a witness, who appeared on February 4, 1999 before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I will name him. He is Herb Simpson, a member of the board of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.
Mr. Simpson's testimony was important and eloquent, but I will simply refer to one study that he mentioned. This was a fairly recent study, which concluded that 70% of offenders are often repeat offenders.
The moral of the story is that there is a hard core of drivers who, having driven once while drunk, are arrested and either have their licences suspended or receive some other penalty.
In 70% of cases, these are people who have already been charged once. These are the drivers the study described as hard core, those who, despite government sponsored awareness campaigns, despite promotion and awareness campaigns by citizens' groups, which are doing everything they can to inform the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, still continue to get behind the wheel drunk.
What is worse, these repeat offenders, these hard core, are responsible for 65% of serious accidents. That says a lot. Furthermore, 70% of those arrested for impaired driving have already been arrested once for the same offence. Road safety surveys done after driving accidents reveal that those responsible are often repeat offenders.
Some caution is in order, however. Do these figures mean that the majority of the population continues to repeat the offence and drive while impaired after an initial offence? The answer is no. According to the studies, this group of repeat offenders represents only 1% of the total population of Canada.
I think the three parameters that have been studied—the percentage of repeat offenders; the percentage of repeat offenders involved in serious accidents; and whether people in general are drinking and driving or are repeat offenders, which is not the case—must show to us the policy to be followed.
This policy must be balanced. For example, should we install an ignition interlock device in all motor vehicles? Would this be socially acceptable and economically effective? Should this be the norm? The answer is no. I think there must be a fair balance between sanctions and the ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device must never be considered as an alternative to sanctions, but we must add this provision to the criminal code to provide the judge with the possibility of ordering that this device be installed in motor vehicles.
Our examination of the issue leads us to say yes to an ignition antilock device, especially a device such as this one, for repeat offenders, and not for all Quebecers and Canadians. If this were done, it would not constitute an appropriate, justifiable and balanced response to the sociological reality and the actual facts I mentioned earlier with regard to the three parameters.
Another point that I would like to address deals with criminal law that applies in the case of drinking and driving. One must remember that, in Quebec, it is the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec that has this management responsibility.
We have to remember that if drivers with probationary licences or learners' licences cannot drink any alcohol and drive, which is tolerance zero, nothing prevents drivers with regular licences to drink alcohol before driving. However, the limit of alcohol consumption remains at 0.08%, which means that anyone respecting that limit does not commit an offence.
Another issue deals with sanctions. Are the sanctions provided in the criminal code, and I may quote them later, the true answer to the serious current situation?
Let us not forget that the Bloc Quebecois initiated the fight for the use of an ignition interlock device. This campaign was spearheaded by the Bloc. Through the member for Témiscamingue and chief whip of the Bloc Quebecois, and also my colleague from Berthier--Montcalm, the Bloc Quebecois led the battle in committee. Why? Because the voters in our ridings who came to see us had relatives or children who became the victims of impaired drivers. Several organizations also contacted us.
The first question one should ask is the following: do the sanctions provided in the criminal code appropriately reflect how serious the situation is, especially in the case of repeat offenders? Again, I stress that a difference should be made for impaired driving, not so much in terms of sanctions but in terms of support and proposed solutions, between a first time offender and a repeat offender. The solution cannot be the same in both cases, because numbers, studies and cases have shown that 70% of individuals found with a blood alcohol content higher than 0.08% are often second time offenders. Therefore the solution cannot be the same for everyone.
In this respect, there are two major studies to take into consideration. The first one was conducted in Toronto and involved 27,390 offenders who had committed all kinds of offences. We are not only talking about people who had their driver's licence suspended or revoked. This sampling of 27,000 offenders included people who had received all sorts of sentences, including fines, jail terms, probation periods, driver's licence suspensions and so on. It was found that, in the case of first time offenders, suspending their driver's licence was probably the greatest deterrent, even more so than a jail term. This is quite the paradox. Telling a person that he was under greater risk of losing his driver's licence than going to jail was the most convincing argument to deter him from driving under the influence.
The hard line, which is imposing a life sentence, is not always the best solution. The threat of going to jail does not always deter people from driving under the influence.
Therefore, our approach must take into account not only the facts, but also the attitude, the behaviour and the way a person reacts to awareness campaigns by the government and other groups or lobbies. The situation is very different when the individual is taken into consideration.
Another study conducted in 1991 showed that suspending drivers' licences reduced by 30% to 50% the number of offences related to driving under the influence.
Therefore, revoking a person's driver's licence is the greatest deterrent. A study done in California showed that suspending drivers' licences reduced by 30% to 50% the number of offences related to driving under the influence.
This illustrates the importance of using tools that ensure complementarity between the various sanctions. There is a new element that allows us and societies such as ours to apply modern solutions to complex issues, namely technology.
Twenty or 30 years ago, we could never have hoped to change behaviours and attitudes through effective technological means such as the ignition interlock device. Back then, we could only rely on criminal penalties. Today, technology allows us to use comprehensive and effective programs which, while they do not meet people's needs as such, allow them to behave responsibly by respecting a number of social standards.
This is why the ignition interlock device program is, in my opinion, a good solution that involves new technologies. However, as I said earlier, this program should not replace existing penalties and sanctions.
I would like to remind people of what an ignition interlock device is. It is a breath analyzer. It can be installed in a vehicle and can be connected to the ignition, the starter, the electrical circuits and all the other instrument panel systems.
Moreover, this device can be used to measure the driver's blood alcohol level and to prevent the engine from starting or the car from being used if the alcohol level exceeds a predetermined limit.
The driver has to submit to a breathalyzer test before starting the engine or using the car. Other tests are required on a random basis as long as the engine is running. If those tests are not complied with or the level exceeds the predetermined limit, an alarm goes off and it keeps ringing until the driver passes the test or the engine is turned off.
The new models also contain mechanisms that prevent improper use. This concerns the interlock device technology.
What is the ignition interlock device program set up in Quebec, in Alberta and in the United States used for? This program provides for the monitoring and supervision of all offenders accused of impaired driving. It is enforced by the court officials under a probation order or by the licensing authorities as a prerequisite for the restoration of the driving licence.
The ignition interlock device records the breathalyzer tests results and all the other data pertaining to the program conditions.
These figures may then be studied by program administrators when the vehicle goes in for maintenance. The device must undergo regular maintenance checks every 30 to 60 days. The maintenance requirements must be adhered to strictly, if not, the device will prevent the vehicle from starting.
The purpose of the alcohol ignition interlock device program is not, I repeat, to replace the penalties for impaired driving. Instead, it provides an additional means to lower the number of repeat offences. Enrollment in the program could be in addition to the sentence, as a condition of probation, or a condition to be fulfilled for the reissuing of a driver's license.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the device and the program, because there are not very many provinces that have implemented this type of program. Today, by modifying the criminal code, we are acting at the level of federal legislation, but in the coming months, we will need to ensure that these legislative changes are adjusted to provincial programs in order to lower the rate of repeat offences. Programs such as those that I have just described—despite the fact that described them rather quickly—must be implemented.
Many people believe that this type of provision and measure would cost a great deal, that there are tremendous costs associated with it. I would like to remind the House that it would cost a mere $3 per day to install such a device on the vehicle of a driver accused of impaired driving.
Some people often refer to cost as a factor in the government's policy decisions. However, we must also consider the benefits. Costs must not always be seen as economic costs. They must also be viewed in terms of opportunity costs, and in terms of social costs too, because at the end of the day, as a number of studies have shown, the alcohol ignition interlock device program is very effective.
The arrest rate among offenders whose vehicles were equipped with ignition devices was up to 75% lower than that of offenders whose vehicle was not equipped with the device. This program has lead to some considerable improvements.
You will say we are short 25%. Of course, as is the case with all technology, there are always ways to get around it. I do not need to tell you the ways to get around this type of device, but they do exist. We have to recognize they are effective, if only in the case of drunken driving, because this is the aim of the amendments put forward by the government.
The offenders pay for the program. That is interesting. So, they are prepared to pay the sum, amortized of course, of $3 a day. The offenders are the ones who are prepared to assume the cost of this program.
So, in this regard, I think there is evidence that, even in the case of a repeat offender, the individual, if it is his second time, may determine his blood alcohol level at some point. Imprisonment is not always the best route, especially not life imprisonment.
So there are some people who accept to have a device installed in their vehicle at their own expense. As I have said, 38 states in the U.S., as well as the provinces of Alberta and Quebec, have such a program in place. More than 40,000 ignition interlock devices are in use in the world, 4,500 of those in Canada. I repeat, 40,000 in the world and only 4,500 in Canada. There certainly cannot be more than that number, when these programs are only in place in Alberta and Quebec.
It is clear that, if we were to pass these legislative amendments, and the provinces set up programs such as those already in place in Quebec and Alberta, we would, without a doubt, be in a position to state that Canada is playing a lead role in this novel solution, which places responsibility with the individual, initially, and also makes our roads safer.
Provided actions follow on the decisions we take now or in the days to come, we could see Quebec and Alberta —they having been the first—and Canada as a whole, becoming a world leader in this area. This is nothing to sneeze at.
I should also mention the position of an organization whose representatives I personally met in my riding, because they came to see me. MADD, which helps victims, led an exceptional public awareness campaign in Canada, in November 1999. The organization's representative, Ms. Swinson, appeared before the committee and clearly said that:
New federal acts passed in July allow judges to demand the use of an ignition interlock device as a conditional measure. Moreover, this device is very affordable.
Organizations, groups and boards told my colleagues from Témiscamingue and Berthier—Montcalm about the importance of adopting such legislative changes. I am thinking of the Fondation de la recherche sur les blessures de la route and of MADD.
Does this mean we should go faster and demand that such a device become standard in vehicles in Canada? The answer is no. Why? Because the rate of recidivism is only 1%. That being said, some measures are in order.
I should also mention the position expressed on February 16, 1999, by the Council on Drug Abuse. Mr. Bates appeared before the committee. He said that these ignition interlock devices should be installed in vehicles, subject to two conditions.
First, they should be installed if an individual is guilty and has a blood alcohol level over 0.165—as people know, the current level is 0.08—and, second, if the individual is a repeat offender, one of what I described earlier as hard core drinking drivers.
We must therefore, in my opinion, take responsible action, but only after careful consideration.
In conclusion, yes, we support these amendments to the criminal code; yes, we believe that the alcohol ignition interlock device must be incorporated into the criminal code; and, yes, provincial programs must be put in place. But this device must not become a standard feature of automobiles. And we also agree that these devices should be installed in the vehicles of repeat offenders.
We would thus be able to help Quebecers and Canadians, including those who abuse alcohol, live in a more balanced society as well as continue to be near their families, and to ensure that all of us have a very merry Christmas and a happy 2002.
December 7th, 2001 / 10 a.m.
Anne McLellan Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
moved that Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, members of the House will recall that I indicated in question period on June 12 my interest in bringing forward legislation related to ignition interlock devices as early as this fall. Today I am very pleased to speak to the bill that fulfills this commitment.
I would first like to take a few moments to explain how an ignition interlock device works and how it is an important prevention and rehabilitation tool in the fight against drunk driving.
Where a vehicle is equipped with an ignition interlock device under a provincial program, a driver must provide a suitable breath sample before the vehicle will start. If the analysis of the sample shows a blood alcohol concentration above a prescribed level, the vehicle will not start. At periodic intervals the driver is alerted to stop and provide further breath samples for analysis. The device records the date and time of all samples and the result of analysis.
The existing provincial programs do monitor each device's log. This monitoring occurs each time the interlock equipped vehicle is taken for its interlock maintenance appointment.
In 1990 my home province of Alberta became the first Canadian jurisdiction to pilot a program for repeat offenders who use an ignition interlock device. The province of Quebec introduced a similar program in 1997.
Alberta was the first jurisdiction in North America to offer a program for the use of an ignition interlock device throughout the jurisdiction. An evaluation has shown that offenders on the program in Alberta have lower recidivism than offenders not using an ignition interlock device.
Ignition interlock devices are one part of the combination of measures that can be brought to bear upon the serious health, safety and social issue of impaired driving. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation recommends the combination of ignition interlock device programs and mandatory assessment and education or treatment for convicted impaired drivers.
I am informed that many federally prohibited or provincially suspended drivers will drive while disqualified. Some will never try to re-enter the legal driving system with a valid provincial or territorial driving licence.
An ignition interlock device program extends control over many who would otherwise be in this group and provides monitoring that offers public protection. Such programs can also contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders by modifying impaired driving behaviour, particularly when combined with other measures such as education and treatment.
In May 1999 the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tabled its report on impaired driving, to which it attached a draft bill. The government adopted the measures found in the committee's draft bill and passed Bill C-82 as amended in June 1999.
Among the provisions in Bill C-82 was one that raised the criminal code's minimum period of driving prohibition on a first impaired driving offence from three months to one year. For a second offence the minimum was raised from six months to two years. For a subsequent offence, the minimum period of driving prohibition was raised from 12 months to three years.
Only for a first offender is there a possibility to drive after serving a period of absolute driving prohibition of three months, if the offender is under a provincial program for the use of an ignition interlock device during the remainder of the period of driving prohibition.
While the standing committee's recommendation limited the restricted driving authorization to a first offender who is under a provincial program for the use of an ignition interlock device, the standing committee's report was favourable toward wider use of ignition interlock devices in order to provide public protection and to offer meaningful deterrence to individual offenders.
Experience in Alberta and Quebec has shown ignition interlock devices to be effective.
However, with the 1999 increase in the minimum period of driving prohibition under the criminal code, they have found it difficult to attract repeat offenders to the ignition interlock device program. There is currently no ability to have a second offender use a provincial program for ignition interlock devices until a minimum two year period has expired. For a subsequent offender the minimum period before which an interlock program may be used is three years.
In 2000 the criminal law section of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada unanimously passed a resolution from Quebec. It called for an extension to all impaired driving offenders of the possibility to drive after serving a period of absolute driving prohibition if the offender is under a provincial program for the use of an ignition interlock device for the remainder of the criminal code's period of driving prohibition.
The proposed amendments would permit a judge to authorize a second offender to drive after serving an absolute driving prohibition of six months if that person is on an ignition interlock device program operated by a province or territory for the remainder of the prohibition period. In the case of a subsequent offender, a judge could authorize the person to drive after serving an absolute driving prohibition of 12 months if that person is on an ignition interlock device program operated by a province or territory for the remainder of the prohibition period.
This approach follows the path taken by parliament with respect to first offenders in 1999. It combines a punitive element, namely the period of absolute driving prohibition, with a longer rehabilitative period of prohibition during which the offender may only drive a vehicle that is equipped with an ignition interlock device.
The provinces and territories determine whether to issue a provincial-territorial driving licence. Each province or territory may decide whether it wishes to offer the possibility of an early return to driving with a restricted licence that requires the use of an ignition interlock device. Some provinces may choose to require offenders to serve the full period of federal driving prohibition and the full period of provincial-territorial driving licence suspension before they are allowed or even compelled to drive with an ignition interlock device. Others may choose to offer a reduction in the provincial-territorial driving licence suspension if an ignition interlock device is used after the criminal code's absolute period of driving prohibition is served and during the remainder of the code's period of driving prohibition.
I had the opportunity to meet with Louise Knox who is president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other representatives of the organization MADD on November 26. The representatives of MADD told me that the ignition interlock provisions of the criminal code should be expanded to encourage all impaired driving offenders to participate in an interlock program whether they are first or repeat offenders.
I do not view ignition interlock devices as a magic bullet for the impaired driving problem. However in combination with other countermeasures such as education and treatment they are an important tool in the fight against impaired driving. I look forward to my colleague's support for this important proposal which I believe in some part will make our roads a safer place.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
December 6th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
This will be followed by Bill C-15B, the criminal code amendments, as I announced yesterday to the House leaders of the other parties.
Then, if there is any time remaining today, we will continue with Bill C-27, the nuclear safety bill.
Tomorrow, we hope to pass Bill C-46, the ignition interlock device bill sponsored by the Minister of Justice, at all stages. I thank the leaders of all parties for having consented to move this through all stages before the holidays.
We will then call report stage and second reading of Bill C-23, the competition legislation. If there is any time left tomorrow, we will turn to report stage and third reading of Bill C-43, the technical amendments bill.
On Monday, we will return to the bills I have listed, and those that have not been completed, that is unfinished business from today and tomorrow.
I would remind hon. members that the budget will be presented at 4 p.m. on Monday, of course, and the budget debate, that is the debate on the amendment to the amendment—in the improbable event of some hon. members wishing to propose an amendment to the amendment—would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with division at the end of the day, on Wednesday.
The business scheduled for Thursday and Friday of next week, if the House is sitting, would be Bill C-42.