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 alcohol.

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

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

In an ideal world, how long would it take, after a police officer brought a suspect before the DRE, to have all those tests done?

9:55 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

The tests should take no more than 30 minutes. It may be up to 45 minutes, depending on the physical condition of the person, but it's not an overly long process. We can go from start to finish in a little over half an hour.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

In a rural area you might stop a driver; it might take half an hour to drive to a station, with the anticipation that the DRE is going to be free, and you have to have all this done within a two-hour period.

9:55 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

No. The demand will have to be made within a set period of time; the actual evaluation will be like a breath evaluation. We've got two hours to get it done. There are more factors than that, even for delays. Obviously right to counsel is what we find to be the biggest problem hindering investigations, or holding them up.

Availability of somebody to do the evaluation is probably going to be the biggest impediment we have. Capacity right now is an issue. Since we're still a relatively young program, we're going to be facing that for a couple of years, but eventually we should be in a position for it not to be as major an issue.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you.

Mr. Dykstra is next.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

I wouldn't mind getting your opinion on one of the points that we're trying to come to a conclusion on; it's the whole issue around the drug impairment and the ability to define at a certain point in the beginning of the process if there is a concern around whether the individual is impaired to the point that they shouldn't be driving a vehicle. From an experience perspective, you mentioned earlier that there certainly have been times when officers have definitely felt that and have gone through the process based on that suspicion.

How does that process work in terms of, in the past, being able to say we get 60% or 70% of the...? You have determined and confirm that the individual definitely had an amount of drug in their system that did definitely impair their ability to drive. Were they actually then convicted?

9:55 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

Of all cases going to court using the DRE protocol, in only two that I'm aware of have we not registered a conviction. In both cases it was not issues related to the evaluation that caused the case to be lost, but charter arguments. That said, we've been judicious about which cases go to court. We know they're going to be fairly solid, because we don't want that case lost. But overall we've had very good success in court.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Would Bill C-32 give you the tools you need to be able to take that side of this issue to the next level, in terms of being able to feel more comfortable and also to feel you have the tools within a piece of legislation that allow you to proceed on a more regular basis with individuals you believe are impaired based on their intake of a drug?

9:55 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

Very much so.

We currently are running into a problem, particularly in British Columbia, because we've had the program there for so long. The person speaks to a lawyer, gets off the phone, and says, “I'm not doing this.” Basically B.C. is fortunate in that they've got a 24-hour prohibition for suspected drug usage, but they walk. They can be grossly impaired, but if we can't prove what the impairment is, our position for laying a charge is very difficult.

This legislation would make the police job a whole lot easier with drug-impaired drivers. Quite frankly, I sit on this technical advisory panel of the IACP, and if this legislation passes, we'll be the envy of every agency involved in this program, which is basically every state.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Thank you very much.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Dykstra.

Mr. Moore is next.

June 14th, 2007 / 10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

That's fine, thanks, Mr. Chair.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Mr. Bagnell, go ahead.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Thank you.

Following up on Mr. Thompson's question, wouldn't the fact that the guy ran into the car in front of him be enough evidence to suggest that there might have been a problem?

10 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

That's not necessarily so. He could have had mechanical failure, or it could have been driver inattention—talking on a cell phone, daydreaming, falling asleep. You don't know.

To parallel it in court, when I was doing impaired drivers on a very regular basis and mentioned watery bloodshot eyes, the first thing that came out of the defence was a question about how smoke could cause watery bloodshot eyes, or how being tired could cause watery bloodshot eyes, or how allergies could cause watery bloodshot eyes. The answer is that certainly a whole lot of things can cause watery bloodshot eyes; by itself it's just a clue, but if you tie it with everything else, then it becomes a building block that allows us to go forward with a charge.