House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was impaired.

Topics

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader the nature of the business for the remainder of this week and the business for next week, and also those issues that are going through the Senate which should be in this House and not that House.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. House leader of the official opposition for his question.

I wish to announce to the House that tomorrow we will consider, and I hope complete, second reading of Bill C-16, which is the bill responding to the supreme court regarding the warrants of arrest. Starting Monday, we plan to resume where we left off on Bill C-3. Following this, we will proceed with Bill C-12, the RCMP superannuation bill, Bill C-7, the Saguenay Park legislation, Bill C-17, regarding Teleglobe, Bill C-14, respecting drinking water safety, and Bill C-15, the Canada Shipping Act amendments.

I also wish to indicate that we will discuss through the usual channels the scheduling of the motion to join with the Senate in a special joint committee on child custody and related matters. This is an issue that was raised both in this House and in the other place.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day. I expect that the business that I have just announced will probably carry us until Thursday of next week, and hopefully we could conclude next Friday by doing the final reading of Bill C-3 if the committee has concluded its work on that bill, which I hope it will.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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October 30th, 1997 / 3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When the House broke for question period, the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar had the floor. I believe he has four minutes or so remaining in his remarks.

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3:05 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting day so far, not just the debate, but also question period.

As I was sitting and thinking of what I was going to say in these four minutes, I thought I would give an example of how sad some of these drunk driving cases are.

My brother, who is a little younger than I, lives on Highway No. 3. He had his in-laws visit him during the middle of the day one summer to look at the crops. They left at about five o'clock in the afternoon and as they were going down Highway No. 3, his mother-in-law saw a cardbox lying in the ditch. She said “Hey, let's stop and pick up that box. It's junk. Let's clean it up.”

Her husband parked on the gravel shoulder of Highway No. 3. She was in the middle of the ditch when a drunk driver came along. He saw the car sitting on the shoulder of the road and drove on the other side of the car, into the ditch, and killed this woman instantly. She was in the middle of the ditch, not on the road. This happened half a mile from my brother's place.

Every time I go by it, I know what it does to me. How often have I stopped on the road somewhere to pick up something or to go through the ditch and look at the grain. That tragedy will never be erased from my mind. That family is going to suffer for the rest of those people's lives. The grandmother's life was snuffed out. The grandkids were in their early teens or just below. I know it affects my sister-in-law because it happened half a mile from their home. She cannot miss going by that place.

That is one example from hundreds that have happened in this country. It should not have happened.

That accident could have been avoided. It was not night time, it was not dark, it was during broad daylight. But a man was so intoxicated that he did not know the difference between the highway and the ditch. He was not injured, he just instantly killed a mother and a grandmother. I hope people listen to that example and try and imagine the sadness and the effect it had on that whole family.

I hope the debate continues in the friendly way we have seen it develop and that we really do talk about the issue and address it.

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3:10 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment my colleague for his outstanding and eloquent speech.

Drunk driving is an enormous problem, as my colleagues have mentioned, and successive governments have failed in bringing forward legislation to adequately address it. As we have heard before today, more than three people die every day and over 300 are injured every day because of drunk drivers.

I know that drunk driving is a problem in his province as it is in mine. I know that he has seen in his riding, as we all have, people who have died or have been injured by drunk drivers. I would like my hon. friend to give the House his opinions and his views on what the government can do to try to turn the tide in this extremely important social problem.

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3:10 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Portage—Lisgar, MB

I thank my hon. colleague for the question. It is a very hard question to answer. When I moved into the area where I farmed for 35 years, alcoholism was a real problem. It is not just drunk driving.

The education in our schools, in our homes and probably by government programs all point out how serious is the issue of being drunk, whether in a car or on a snowmobile or on a farm implement. A number of accidents have occurred in our community. They did not just happen on the road.

I remember one of my neighbours who had been drinking quite heavily during the day was having problems with his baler. Luckily the good Lord prevented him from being killed. He stuck his head into the bale chamber when the tractor was running to see what was the problem. That is how serious this issue is when your senses are not 100% clear and you do not really know what you are doing.

We have to start really hammering this home to young families. Children have to be educated to know that they have to be responsible for their actions, whether it is being drunk, whether it is being disobedient to law enforcement officers. Education is worth its weight in gold if it can be more or less implemented in all our homes and schools.

We can never imagine what kind of savings this country would have emotionally and financially if we did not have the drunk driving instances, whether on the road or on the farms or on the sports field. We have seen a number of serious accidents in boats where boaters should not have been physically behind the wheel.

I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I hope that adds a bit to the debate.

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3:10 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, this has turned out to be an emotional day as we debate these issues and bring to our conscience the sadness and tragedy caused to so many individuals and their families.

One of the difficulties as we look at this, and it is perhaps even more emotional than we are able to discuss here right now, is that so many people do drink at one level or another. One of the difficulties I see in looking at the serious consequences of this is that those people who do have drink, and who do drive home, and have done this for a long time and have never had any difficulty with it, may be saying “There but for the grace of God go I”, when they see one of these accidents.

When we look at the consequences of what happens, when we look at what is needed to prevent these accidents and those consequences, it is very difficult to accept responsibility for what so many of us do on a day by day basis.

I ask the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar if he does not see the need for toughening up the penalties in our judicial system so there is a line drawn in the sand so we can all understand the basis that this is built upon. If you cross the line, you pay the penalty. That may be a sledgehammer but it is at least the beginning of dealing with a serious problem.

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3:15 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that quick question.

I do not know if he remembers the good old days when discipline was exercised at home and also in the schools. We knew after being disciplined by the teacher that it would be worse at home. Maybe that was a little harsh.

If the fines and the sentence are not deterrents, what is? Why do we have fines at all? We must have fixed discipline, fixed sentences for these accidents. I cannot call them crimes but I guess they are crimes to humanity. When that happens, I think people will start listening and obeying the law.

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3:15 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, officially this is my maiden speech.

I thank the people in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for giving me another opportunity to represent them in this House. For all of us it is an enormous responsibility and an enormous honour to finally be in this arena where we can fight to make our country a better place. I know all of us here are grateful for this. I am extraordinarily grateful to the people of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for giving me that opportunity.

I also thank my colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley who has done a yeoman's job for years, in the last Parliament and now in this one, in fighting for this issue. It is perhaps one of the greatest social issues which extends across boundaries from coast to coast. It affects health. It affects welfare. It affects human beings in so many different areas. In fact it has been somewhat of a silent horror in our midst for many years. My colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley has stood out there, and not alone as we have been backing him, as the point person in fighting for this issue.

Drunk driving is a problem and social ill that costs us over $7 billion per year. As I mentioned in the question to my colleague, it kills over four people every day and injures over 300 people every single day. It has a social cost that goes way beyond that because it affects the family.

I would like to recite a personal situation. When I was working in the emergency department of a hospital in the the riding of my colleague for Prince George—Bulkley Valley, a code blue was called which is a major trauma. An individual was brought in with massive head injuries. He was dying. We could not save this young man.

Shortly thereafter the driver of the car was brought in, absolutely drunk. This individual refused treatment, refused to communicate with us, refused to have a blood alcohol sample taken. At the crash site this individual was trying to drag his nearly deceased friend into the driver's side so the deceased would be the culprit and he would be free.

The difficulties for the police in trying to prosecute this individual were massive. For example they had to observe the blood being taken. It had to be done in a certain fashion. It had to be done within two hours of the accident. If any of those are broken, in the words of a defence attorney who said to me “I am smart. I can get any of these guys off on a technicality”. What kind of message does this send? What kind of judicial system do we have in this country that allows somebody to murder their friend, because that is what it is when you drive a car and you are drunk, and then allows them to get off on a technicality? That hole has to be repaired.

And it is not just one hole, there are many. The justice system we have today has numerous little loopholes that enable people who are guilty of committing murder through drunk driving to get off. This has to change.

My colleagues in the Reform Party have put forth many constructive suggestions to the government. I will name a few. I ask the hon. justice minister to listen to them and adopt these suggestions.

One, when blood is extracted that it can be done in greater than two hours, four hours for example.

Two, that the blood alcohol level be dropped to 55 milligrams per decilitre instead of the 80 milligrams per decilitre which it is today, in terms of defining somebody who is impaired.

Three, that when there is a situation where somebody is involved in a serious traffic accident, a blood sample can be taken automatically.

Four, that if somebody refuses to have a blood sample taken, they will be levelled with a criminal charge of refusal to submit. If someone is innocent they should not have a problem with this. The only reason they would want to refuse was if they were guilty, is it not?

Five, we have to remove the barriers to police officers and enable them to do their job.

Drunk driving is a little window of insight into the difficulties the police have in performing their duties. For example, if an individual is caught driving while drunk, it takes about six hours of the police officer's time to engage in the paperwork in order to prosecute them. Six hours off the beat. Six hours of not being able to find and prosecute criminals. Six hours of time that could be better spent doing something productive and keeping our streets safe. That has to change. The paperwork police officers are mired in today prevents them from doing their jobs and keeping our streets safe.

Six, we have to have a victims bill of rights.

Our house leader put forward a private members bill, a victims bill of rights which the government refused to adopt. This bill of rights is rooted in fairness and sensitivity to the victims. For too long the justice department has taken into consideration the rights of the criminal and in many cases has ignored the rights of the victim. That is going to change. It must change.

We have put forth in two successive Parliaments constructive suggestions, two victims bill of rights that would protect victims during court proceedings. Many suggestions are very constructive.

For example, victims must be kept informed of all proceedings. Victims must have the right to be heard at every stage of the judicial system. Victims must be informed of when and what charges are going to be laid. Victims must have the right to be protected from intimidation. Victims must be able to have time off in order to attend court and that they do not have to bear an economic penalty during the course of their ordeal. There must be no plea bargaining or charges dropped unless the victim is aware of it. Victims must be made aware of the support services available to them.

This is not complex. This is rooted in fairness. Again it is the innocent victims who have been violated through no fault of their own. The least we can do as a caring, sensitive society is afford them the same consideration as we afford the criminals.

My colleague from Lisgar mentioned the aspect of education. Too often we ignore that. We have to address the children early on and the earlier the better. If the education system is involved not only on the issue of alcohol, but also drugs and other aspects of drunk driving and criminal activity, that will have an impact. There are some remarkably effective programs which have been created not only in this country but also in the United States.

Drunk driving is a social ill. People make mistakes. However we must have the legislative framework to enable us to do what we can to ensure that this massive social problem decreases. We cannot ignore the problem any longer.

In the last Parliament very little time was spent on this problem, yet it walks across the social spectrum. It waltzes across many different ministries. It is something which we must be concerned about.

One need not look any further than the victims. It is not only the person who is injured in a car accident who pays the price. Their families, friends and loved ones pay a price too.

I hope that we in this House can take it upon ourselves to support the very fine motion presented by the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley. I am sure there will be unanimous support for it.

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3:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed the debate today because it has been a very different debate for this place. It has been very emotional. A lot of personal stories have come out.

We are seeing consensus building not only in the country, where I think there has been consensus for quite some time, but also in the House of Commons among all parties that this issue needs to be dealt with. I hope that a committee will be struck as a result of this Reform motion which will bring forward strong legislation to deal with this huge problem.

The hon. member outlined the social costs, both financial and personal, of these tragedies to the country.

I would like to relate a story to the House. The first tragedy that I remember was as a very young boy. I might have been about five years old. We had to go back to my Dad's hometown of Minnedosa for a funeral. Actually there were two funerals.

Two of my cousins had graduated from the high school in Minnedosa and were heading to Brandon for the evening. Minnedosa is not a big place so they got together with the high school in Brandon for their celebration. There were five people in the car. The road is as straight as an arrow from Minnedosa to Brandon but unfortunately a drunk driver swerved over and hit their car head on. Two of my cousins were killed as well as others in the car. In the small town of Minnedosa it was a real tragedy.

As is so often the case, the drunk driver walked away from the car. Five kids were killed, but the drunk driver for some reason was not killed. I do not know if it is because these drivers are so drunk or what, but very often they are the only ones who walk away from the scene.

The community was in shock. My aunt, uncle and the extended family were in shock. I always wondered if my aunt, who recently passed away, ever recovered.

I can still remember it. I was five years old. I can remember all the draped coffins at the front of the church. There was such profound sadness. I was very young so I did not really understand it all, except I knew that everyone I knew and cared about was shaken to the core.

That was one of the instances in my life that somewhere along the line I decided as an adult that I would abstain from alcohol. I realize it is a personal choice and I do not say it has to be the choice of a lot of people. Part of it was I wanted to send a message to those people I cared about. The deaths, the broken homes and the social cost of irresponsible drinking especially is just not something I want to participate in. I made the decision a long time ago. I drank an awful lot of Coca-Colas while others around me were doing otherwise, but it has never hurt me. It was triggered really at five years of age when that first tragedy in my life happened.

Perhaps if there is a minute left the hon. member may want to tell it again, because I think these personal stories are a powerful testimony of why change is required. Perhaps he would like to relate other stories from his life as a physician where he has had to deal with this horrible social crime.

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3:30 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend, our whip, for his heartfelt intervention. None of us could have said it more eloquently, I am sure.

Working in the emergency department I have seen a lot of people die. I will have to say this. Of all the people I have seen killed none are perhaps more tragic than those individuals, particularly the young people who have died in a car accident as a result of drunk driving. I remember when I was an intern I was working in the emergency department just before Christmas. One of my colleagues, a fellow emergency room physician, was there. He went home. He was moving to Victoria and he was bringing his family. He was driving to the airport and a drunk driver crossed over the line and killed him. They brought him into the emergency department half an hour later while I was still on shift, and he was almost dead. He did die. You never forget something like that.

I think it is wise for us to remember that on a cold night, on any night, one-fifth of the people who are in their cars driving have been drinking and one out of every 25 is drunk.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to divide my time with the member for Wentworth—Burlington on today's opposition motion about impaired driving. It is true that this problem has caused, and will cause, much sadness in our families. This motion is very important for all Canadians.

According to the statistics, there were over 37,000 cases of impaired driving in Canada in 1995; over 60 resulted in death and over 500 resulted in injury. These are the sad facts.

In the case of Quebec, we know that the Société d'assurance automobile du Québec is going to crack down on motorists. As of December 1, it will be bringing in the toughest measures yet. It is known that fear of the police and of reprisals has the most calming effect on motorists. That is why even tougher measures will be introduced as of this date for those driving while impaired. Drivers who take the wheel while their licence is suspended are also being targeted by the Government of Quebec.

Obviously, everyone wants the slaughter to cease. The finger is always being pointed at young drivers and, effective July 1, 1997, young Quebec drivers with probationary licences cannot drink any alcohol and drive, or their licences will be revoked.

As of December 1, the highway safety code will carry much tougher penalties. Those arrested for the first time for impaired driving will have their licence taken away immediately by the police, and revoked for one year. Repeat offenders will be given longer suspensions, from 24 to 36 months, and their vehicle will be confiscated when they are arrested. They will also be required to go for addiction treatment.

First time offenders will be required to attend the Alcofrein program. Previously, only those ordered to do so by a judge had to attend a three hour information session offered by the Department of Public Safety at minimal cost. The facilitators for Alcofrein make errant drivers aware of their actions and focus their efforts on destroying the myths surrounding alcohol:

I have recently become aware of an article by Isabelle Mathieu that appeared in Le Soleil on September 13, 1997. The headline says “Wake up before disaster strikes” and I would like to read a few excerpts:

Imagine just for one second that your last, slightly alcohol-tinged evening with the love of your life ended up in a ditch, with her dead. For the past two years, that is the horrible scene that plays out in the head of Francis Laroche.

This young man from Beauport, now aged 22, has not forgotten the tragedy, let alone accepted it. He has, nevertheless, agreed to talk about it for the shock value to all drivers who are still continuing to tempt fate.

On October 2, 1995, at 3:15 in the morning, Francis, his 18-year-old girlfriend and three other friends were coming back from partying at a bar in Sainte-Foy. Francis was driving, he had consumed three beers over the course of the evening and felt that he was in full possession of his faculties.

“Before we started out, I said to my girlfriend “Look, I'll blow into the breathalyser and if I'm over 0.08, I'll hand my keys over to you, no problem” recalls Francis. But the bar's breathalyser was out of order that night.

While the five friends were on the Autoroute de la Capitale near Pierre-Bertrand Boulevard, the vehicle in front of them changed lanes abruptly. Francis lost control—

Francis' girlfriend of a year was killed and his three friends were injured. He ended up with a cut on his head, and when he took the police breathalyser test, his level was 0.1130 over the 0.08 limit.

He did not, however, experience any difficulty whatsoever in performing the physical tests such as walking a straight line. Later, the Crown could not, therefore, prove that the accident was directly linked to drinking. In May 1996, Francis Laroche pleaded guilty to the charge of impaired driving. He got off with a $500 fine and a year's suspension. His description of this: “The fine and the rest of it are really secondary compared to the much worse punishment of causing the death of my girlfriend”.

There are stories like this every day.

The legal proceedings weighed very heavily on the young man, whose record had been clean before the accident. “When I was in the cell at the courthouse, I did not believe it. I could not believe I was there”, he recalls. “When I walked in the street, people looked at me. I felt everybody knew. I felt judged, even by someone who had been drinking and driving for 20 years”.

Can this be prevented? Since the beginning of June, alcohol has robbed over a dozen people of their lives on Quebec highways. In 1996, 412 people were killed, while 1,656 were seriously wounded and 6,250 received minor injuries. The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec has paid out $200 million in compensation.

“Delinquent drivers are a minority, but they do so much damage that we hear only about them”, points out Yvon Lapointe, head of the road safety department of CAA-Québec—

Statistics indicate that the number of young people driving while impaired is decreasing more rapidly than is the case for adults. Conclusion: prevention is really working with young people—

In imposing zero tolerance for impaired driving, the government is betting that, after three years of total abstinence when driving as part of the sentence, young drivers will have learned how to control their own consumption—

There is frequent reference to young people. And in the Quebec government's bill:

—young people are presented as irresponsible, incapable of learning caution. The message must be repeated loud and clear: it is only a small minority of young people who drive dangerously and risk causing accidents. In their case, something drastic must be done, I agree. But not in the case of the 97.4 per cent of young drivers who have not been involved in injury-causing accidents, whose only crime is being born after 1972.

We all have a driver's licence. The renewal form asks clearly: “Do you wear glasses?” It also asks if we suffer from any illnesses. But I want to go further. This motion introduced by the Reform Party member is important.

Perhaps there would be agreement on 0.03, 0.05, but I still say the Government of Canada should require zero tolerance for several years after a second offence, as is the case for young people in Quebec.

Drivers of snowmobiles, tractors, motorcycles and boats should not be left out. The police should also be allowed to do their job. When examining the driver's licence of someone they have stopped, they could see the code on it, as they now do for glasses. There would be a code for those with zero tolerance. This would perhaps be a way to reduce the number of accidents.

We will not go that far. In September, and there are accidents every week, in the municipality of Val d'Or in my riding, we lost a young leader, a man by the name of Jean Godbout, who was knocked down by someone over the age of 40 driving in the downtown area. This was a married man with two young children. His mother had already lost one son in the Balmoral mine accident in Abitibi.

This brings sorrow to all families. I understand, and we all understand, that you have just lost the people on whom you counted the most, those close to you. The hardest part about these accidents is saying goodbye to a friend. On behalf of all families, I say that there must be an end to this slaughter in Canada.

Following discussions, and with the consent of all parties in the House, I move:

That the motion be amended:

(a) by deleting the words “a legislative committee” and substituting therefor the words: “the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights”; and

(b) by changing the period at the end to a semi-colon and adding the following: “and that the said Committee, when so instructed, submit its report to the House no later than May 15, 1998.”

This amendment is a clear indication of the commitment of all members in the House.

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3:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the amendment.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow the member for Abitibi in the debate. I certainly agree with his motion. As well, I find myself largely in support of the original motion as proposed by the Reform Party.

I enter the debate cautiously because I am not a great fan of prevention arguments when it comes to crime. I do find, however, that the motion proposed by the Reform Party is moderate and quite reasonable in its approach to the problem.

I come to the crime of drunk driving from a different experience than the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca who told how as a physician he saw the broken bodies of people who were killed by drunk drivers.

In my earlier days in a former life I was a reporter. I not only saw people who were injured and dying in hospitals but I saw the larger consequences beyond the hospitals. That included not just the families of victims. It also included the families of persons who committed the crimes. That made me realize that when dealing with the problem of applying and creating laws we have to remember to look at it as broadly as possible. The human condition is very broad and each one of us sometimes only sees a part of it.

There is a problem with increasing penalties for drunk driving. I certainly agree we should have penalties that serve as deterrents, but I have a problem when we want to create penalties that basically reflect our outrage at the crime. Then penalties become the vengeance of the state rather than penalties of either deterrence or rehabilitation.

I use an example from my own life in earlier years as a young journalist. The drunk driver, a father of young children, had tried very hard over the years to control his habit and had been largely successful. One afternoon coming home from picking up his children from a soccer game he had been to the pub, had drank, was over the limit, was involved in an accident and one of his children was killed.

What happens then? As a young reporter I saw the tragedy of a dead child. There is nothing more heart rending than to see a child that has been killed in an accident. I do not know why it is that we can tolerate seeing dead adults, but as a reporter I could never steel my heart to a dead child.

Later I followed it up and found that the wife and children of that drunk driver were absolutely devastated, not just because of the tragedy but because of the expected loss of the bread winner of the family. They know that he tried very hard to control his weakness, and despite all his efforts it led to this tragedy.

That brings me to the idea that when we look at justice we must always remember that justice must have compassion. I would not want to see the House pass any law that does not give the judge and the courts some discretion in looking at an entire situation, not just at the victim, in this case a child, but at the family of the accused when it is very clear that whatever sentence is coming down is not a question of deterrence. The individual did not want to do it in the first place and nothing would have compelled him to do it other than a psychological weakness.

On the other hand is rehabilitation. There is no doubt we certainly must have penalties but we have to apply the law with compassion.

There is a lot of valid criticism, but I think the weakness is when judges pass sentences that we know are inadequate for the crime, where there are no mitigating circumstances such as I have just described, when looking from the outside we see judges pass a sentence that is far too light for the circumstances of the crime, be it drunk driving, murder or sexual assault.

We just had a very recent incident in Toronto where a judge passed sentence on the most horrendous sexual assault case and most of us feel the sentence was far too light.

The problem is not just looking at the law and considering whether we should revise the penalties, which is what this motion proposes. Because it is moderate I cannot oppose that in principle. We also have to look at the question of who our judges are and how our judges come to be.

We are experiencing in society some serious reservations about the way we appoint judges, the way judges become judges. Our whole court system is predicated on the principle that the judge should be a person of great experience in life, of great integrity and of great professional experience.

It is widely felt across the country that perhaps the judges from the supreme court right down to the provincial court are not all they should be. That may be because of our current method of appointing judges. In many instances judges are political appointees.

I do not want to get into a debate about patronage. In some ways I think patronage is a very good thing, but when it comes to judges I have a great deal of reservation about judges being appointed by any aspect of the political process.

I suggest to my colleagues that if we want better quality judges so we can have better decisions in cases, be it drunk driving or be it supreme court decisions, we must set up a new regime for appointing judges.

Perhaps we need to look at a mechanism of independent appointment coming from perhaps the governor general, where the governor general examines the credentials of potential applicants and ultimately decides who should sit on the bench. Perhaps that would elevate the quality of judges so decisions made in crimes like drunk driving, murder or assault may combine common sense, deterrence, rehabilitation and compassion where necessary; not foolish compassion, not politically correct compassion, but compassion when it is appropriate and right.

I would not want to see our courts and laws become the laws of vengeance. Our courts and laws are there to make society better, to help individual citizens with genuine problems and to protect society where necessary. They are there to help not only the victims but the accused.

This may not be a popular position to take, but there you go, Mr. Speaker.