Evidence of meeting #77 for Justice and Human Rights in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was dre.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Marthe Dalpé-Scott  Co-Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science
  • Evan Graham  National Coordinator, Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Earlier you said that DRE training came from the United States. I'm trying to understand. You say that police officers give the training, but it must come from somewhere. It must have a scientific basis. Police officers didn't create the tests. Surely there are people from a number of disciplines who contributed to that, whether it be doctors, ophthalmologists or chemists. A lot of scientists must have contributed to that.

You're not answering my question when you say that police officers will train the DREs. It's the training as such that I need to understand, the training that you give in order to become a DRE.

9:45 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

The program originated in California in the late seventies, where two traffic officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were encountering more and more drivers who were impaired by substances other than alcohol. They spoke with some of their colleagues in their drug branch who had contacts in the medical community, and they developed a very rudimentary process. That process was initially studied at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and evolved over the years to the program we're using now.

The whole program falls back under the technical advisory panel, where we have medical doctors, ophthalmologists, toxicologists, lawyers, and police officers to put the program in such a fashion that trained DREs who've taken specific training to deliver the program as instructors can go out to train other police officers.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you, Madam Freeman. Thank you, Corporal Graham.

Mr. Thompson.

June 14th, 2007 / 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Thanks for being here.

I have an age-old problem in regard to all of this thing. I'll give you a true story, and I'd like you to respond to how it's different now and how Bill C-32 would make a difference to this particular scenario.

Caroline Bergeson was sitting on a two-lane highway, signalling to turn left. She had her signal lights on; unfortunately, she also had her wheels turned to go left. She was rear-ended by another vehicle, which knocked her in front of a gravel truck, which...I don't have to tell you the outcome of that collision.

The volunteer fire department, which is in a small rural community where this happened, was on the scene, waiting for the ambulances to appear. The driver of the second vehicle that hit Caroline was slightly injured, and they, the volunteer fire department rescue truck, drove him into the closest hospital.

A couple or three days later, the parents of Caroline were informed that after testing and checking of the body, there was no impairment whatsoever, no drugs, no alcohol in Caroline, so that would give them some peace of mind that she didn't have them. That wasn't a problem in terms of what had happened. The parents asked, “What about the driver of the second vehicle?” Testing was never done.

Today, would testing be automatic? Would testing be required of the second driver?

9:45 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

No. This legislation would require that there be some indicators to show that the person may be impaired in order to follow through with an evaluation. Unfortunately, we don't have mandatory testing for persons involved in crashes, so without that component—Unless, again, there was something that would indicate the driver was impaired, they probably wouldn't have been tested.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

He probably wouldn't have been tested, yet today, five or six years later—I can't recall exactly—the Berguson family is still wondering if the guy who ran into their daughter and killed her was under the influence of a drug or alcohol. They'll never know.

This individual had the right to be protected from being examined for that purpose. Why?

9:50 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

Well, I can't say he had the right to be protected from it. Again, it would be up to the investigating officer to ascertain if in fact there are some indicators a person may be impaired. If that were the case, then an investigation would commence to see if in fact the person was impaired.

Oftentimes, especially in the case of a crash where the driver is injured, we can go back to the hospital records to check the samples that they took and in fact get a warrant to get them tested for alcohol or drugs. With the legislation in Canada, we still have to have some grounds to demand that or to follow through to investigation.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

So in that particular scenario, evidently they're saying they had no grounds, yet the volunteer firemen who were first on the scene have repeated to me constantly that in their way of thinking there was every reason in the world why this guy could have been under the influence of some kind of a drug. The police were—

9:50 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

That in itself would be a possibility.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

—a little later getting there than that, but they rushed this guy off to the hospital. Although his injuries were not fatal, he was injured, and they wanted to get him to the hospital.

In my office I have a number of people who have responded to me about their fear of Bill C-32 being so intrusive on the rights of individuals. Do you feel this bill is intrusive?

9:50 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

No, I don't. I think Bill C-32 will make the roads safer for the vast majority of people.

If it goes to court, will it be deemed to be a violation of their rights? Probably, but one that I hope would be acceptable, just the same as a breath test is. Because really all we're doing with the drug evaluation is paralleling the evidence that we gain through a breath test, the difference being that instead of using an instrument to obtain a breath sample for the blood alcohol concentration, we're using a trained police officer to gain the evidence of drug impairment.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

I agree with that scenario, but my biggest fear is the cry from that group of individuals who always seem to make a very loud noise about the rights of the second driver—for example, in my scenario—versus the rights of the deceased. I'm really concerned about that whole scenario, and I want a bill that would strongly indicate that it's essential that these tests take place whenever there's the slightest reason to believe they should be.

9:50 a.m.

Co-Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Marthe Dalpé-Scott

On this question of yours, sir, perhaps I may add something about this fear that somebody in the public could be wrongly accused of anything. As a professional forensic toxicologist for 23 years, I can assure you that.... Mr. Ménard started this line of questioning, and we never got to finish the third step, which was the lab.

If a person had smoked marijuana, but the police officer DRE did not suspect that category being marijuana, or cannabis, the lab, if they happen to find residual marijuana metabolites—breakdown products in the urine—cannot support anything just by the sheer findings. What I am saying is that the observation of impairment, the symptomatology, the clinical symptoms, and the corroboration in the lab by very highly specialized instruments all have to fall in line. So it is not every incidental finding of a pharmaceutical preparation or an illicit preparation; it has to be consistent completely with the physical symptomatology that was observed by the DRE.

There was a concern, Mr. Ménard, and I just want to assure you that it's not because we can find everything under the sky that is a cause for impairment. The lab is only corroborating what is observation. It may not be as strong as what you're wishing for, sir, but I can tell you that we don't go beyond simply supporting or refuting the findings put to us at the lab.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you, and thank you, Mr. Thompson.

I have one question on RCMP policy, and I thought this was generally a point across all police agencies in the country. Are there not strong policies or requirements in place that wherever there's a fatality tests are taken right around?

9:55 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

No, there is not, actually. The coroners will do testing of persons who are deceased. We look at any fatality or serious crash to try to get as much evidence as we can to see if in fact there is some impairment or what the cause of the crash is, as we would with any investigation. But to say that there's a policy that we can actually test people—we still have to fall under the Criminal Code, and in order for us to go forward with an impairment investigation, there have to be some indicators that the person may be impaired. And that may be something as simple as having a paramedic say they smell liquor on the person's breath or that when they were putting them in a gurney they found illicit drugs on them. If we can tie any indicia into that to corroborate it, that enhances our investigation and we can go forward, but if there's nothing, unfortunately our hands are tied.