Evidence of meeting #4 for Justice and Human Rights in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was criminal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Greg Yost  Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Hal Pruden  Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Phil Downes  Representative, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers
  • Jan Westcott  President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Distillers

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Mr. Westcott, you'll have to wrap up.

4:55 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Distillers

Jan Westcott

All of these warrant our attention. But at a time when public resources are already stretched to the breaking point, we think it would be a serious misapplication of resources to lower the existing 0.08 criminal threshold to target the 5% who had BACs between 0.05 and 0.08, instead of taking more aggressive action to attack the 85% who are seriously beyond the current 0.08 threshold.

I'll stop there. Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Thank you so much.

We'll move on to our first questioner for seven minutes. Mr. Murphy, go ahead, please.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Is it five, six, or seven?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

We're doing it again. It's seven and seven.

Mr. Moore.

February 23rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Are you saying that we start the whole rotation over again? This is all one meeting, is it not?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

It is one meeting.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

I just want to be clear on this. We're starting over from...?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

I'm going from my experience in the last committee when in fact we typically would start over when we had new witnesses.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I'm quite happy, Mr. Chair, to take five minutes because we have only thirty.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Okay, we'll go with five.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Thank you both for your presentation.

Most of my questions will be for Mr. Downes.

I'm a lawyer but not a criminal lawyer. In the first part of your presentation--you might have been joking, and that's fine, since I like a good joke as well as anyone does--you said, and you were speaking for an organization, that you really don't care what the limit is. I'd ask you to revisit that, because whether it's 0.05, 0.06, 0.07, or 0.08, it's a serious offence and it has serious consequences for clients that your group represents. There's a serious public interest in trying to make it work to prevent accidents. Unlike stealing a chicken or breaking and entering, where there is physical evidence of a wrongdoing, this is an offence that prevents a wrongdoing, in a sense. If you're over the limit and driving a car, but you haven't done anything yet, the proof is in the actual potential for doing harm. Therefore, the potential for doing harm as evidenced by a BAC is very much the crux of the matter.

Would you like to revisit that and tell me seriously what criminal defence lawyers think is an appropriate blood alcohol content limit?

5 p.m.

Representative, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

Phil Downes

I didn't mean at all to give the impression that we don't think there's significance to that choice. All I'm saying is that for the purposes of my submission to this committee.... There are many people who can tell you about the research on blood alcohol levels, the effects in other countries, whether it's good, whether it changes behaviour, whether it's a deterrent, and what impact it has on people. I'm not saying that's not an important public policy issue at all. Clearly it is, but for the purposes of my comments to you, what we think is significant is a decision or an issue that we, as criminal defence lawyers, don't have any particular monopoly or insight into. We do, however, have insight into how these issues affect the practice of criminal law and the efficiencies of the criminal justice system.

I take your point, but I wasn't trying to be at all humorous about it. I just think we want to recognize our appropriate place here in terms of the interests we represent.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I get that, but time is short, so I'll move on to the next point about alcohol ignition interlock devices.

I know this is somewhat unrelated to what you do, but in this time when we're asking auto companies for concessions toward greener cars and so on, is it a good time for us to all pitch in and say that the auto makers should move more strenuously toward making these available, affordable, etc.?

5 p.m.

Representative, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

Phil Downes

Again, I don't want to stray outside of our particular expertise, but I think you're absolutely right. They work. They have the deterrent effect, and they prevent people, especially repeat offenders, from drinking and driving.