House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was driving.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 5th, 2003 / 5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5:29 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division at third reading stage of Bill C-46.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from October 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-338, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-338 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I have received notice from the hon. member for Wetaskiwin that he is unable to move his motion during private members' hour on Thursday, November 6, 2003. It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence.

Accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence. Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and the House will continue with the business before it prior to private members' hour.

It being 6:11 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

moved that Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-452, which is an act to amend the criminal code to make it effective in convicting drunk drivers.

I look forward to discussing the contents of my bill in the House today and as it moves through the House in the future. I think Bill C-452 is a true example of a non-partisan bill.

Today I would like to explain to the House why I decided to put this particular bill forward. I intend to outline the contents of my bill, both in specific and general terms, and provide members with some information which will help them in making their decision to support this proposed legislation.

My intent with regard to Bill C-452 is simple. I want to keep drunk drivers off our roads. I want to stop the death and destruction caused by impaired driving. I want to ensure that when people make the decision to drive drunk, they can no longer be protected by the current loopholes in the Criminal Code.

I want to outline how Bill C-452 would prevent impaired drivers from getting off on technicalities.

Bill C-452 would require the courts to use sample test results as proof of the accused's blood alcohol content at the time of the alleged offence. If the accused were to dispute those results, this bill would then place the evidential burden on the accused to establish factors that affect the reliability of those results based on a balance of probabilities.

Bill C-452 would increase the time allowed for the taking of breath samples from an accused to three hours from the current two. I will explain why that is necessary.

The legislation states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more. That is the current Criminal Code. In order to ensure that this law is enforced effectively, Parliament enacted two statutory presumptions.

First, the presumption of accuracy is that the breath or blood tests accurately reflect the driver's blood alcohol content at the time of testing.

Second, the presumption of identity is that the driver's blood alcohol level at the time of testing is evidence of his or her BAC at the time of driving, providing the samples were taken within two hours of the alleged offence.

While Parliament extended the time limit for police to demand breath samples from suspects to three hours in 1999, we failed to make the corresponding changes to the presumption of identity. This means that the Crown has to call a toxicologist to testify in each case that samples are taken more than two hours after the alleged offence.

This is time-consuming and expensive, and often prosecutors will simply choose to drop the charges rather than to spend the time and money it would require to take these cases to court. So, the timeframe for the presumption of identity should be extended to three hours, and my bill would do that.

Once again, I want to be clear about the intention of my bill. The issue of drunk driving, and the pain and destruction caused by drunk driving, has been a concern to me for some time. I want to make Canada's roads safer for all us, for our families and loved ones.

Earlier this year, I met with representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD Canada. They reminded me that drunk driving is still the number one criminal cause of death in Canada.

On average, we lose four Canadians each and every day due to an impaired driver and another 200 are injured each and every day. Those numbers represent hundreds of families who are left to deal with the grief and trauma of having their loved ones killed, or hurt, by a drunk driver. As legislators, we owe it to these Canadians to help reduce this devastation, if possible.

MADD Canada has told me it is possible. It has outlined several areas where our laws are lacking.

When I met with its national president, Louise Knox, several months back, she told me that one major problem stemmed from the fact that the courts have interpreted the Criminal Code in such a manner that breath or blood tests are often thrown out solely on the accused's own testimony, which contradicts the science based test results.

Without these test results being accepted as accurate, the charges are usually dropped or the accused is acquitted. What kind of system is this? What kind of system do we have when an accused's testimony overrides the scientifically tested procedures?

I want to tell the House about the two main defences being used by those accused of drunk driving to avoid punishment. They are exploiting the loopholes in the Criminal Code, which my bill will close.

The first defence is called the Carter defence where the accused testifies that he or she only had a small amount to drink prior to the offence. The defence then calls a toxicologist to confirm that, in fact, the accused's blood alcohol content would definitely have been below the legal limit if such a small amount were consumed.

If the court accepts the accused's evidence, the test results are completely disregarded in the whole process, even if they are consistent with the reading on the roadside screening device, and even if they are supported by the officer's evidence that the accused showed signs of intoxication.

I want to put this defence in perspective. An individual gets picked up due to erratic driving or after he or she has been in an accident. The police suspect impaired driving and do an initial test. It is positive for BAC and is above the legal limit. They then take the individual to the police station to perform another test and once again there is a positive result. So, the police have done their job, right?

Now, we arrive in court. The accused's defence is that he or she drank so little that the test simply must be wrong. That is the sole defence of the accused in many of these cases. The way the Criminal Code is currently written allows judges to throw out the test results which are scientifically based and which have proven to be very accurate.

If a person gets the right lawyer and the right judge, he or she is off the hook for a very serious crime which causes deaths and injuries every day across this country. Or, more accurately, a person gets the wrong lawyer and the wrong judge, and gets off the hook due to technicalities.

My bill would close that loophole and those accused of impaired driving would have to prove on the balance of probability that the test results were wrong.

The second defence that is commonly used, and people often use this technicality as well, is called the last drink defence. In this case, the accused testify that they consumed a large amount of alcohol but that it was consumed immediately before driving. They say that this alcohol would not as yet have been absorbed into the blood stream when stopped by the police. The accused argue that their blood alcohol content was below the legal limit while driving, and only rose above the limit in the interval between when they were stopped and tested.

Again, the breath results are rejected and the accused are acquitted, strictly on their word that they drank a lot, but it was just before they drove, therefore, they could not have been impaired.

These technicalities are simply not an acceptable way for people to get off the hook when they are driving drunk, and getting off the hook when they are killing four people and injuring more than 200 every day.

If this did actually happen, that people did drink too much booze just before getting behind the wheel and then drove, but were not technically over the legal limit when driving, is it unreasonable to change the law to send a clear message that they should simply not drink an amount which would cause them to be impaired and then drive? Better yet, simply do not drink and drive.

What has been the result of these two loopholes being allowed to remain? Despite an estimated 12.5 million impaired driving trips in Canada every year, the majority of offenders are not even stopped by police. We can understand why. Police cannot be everywhere. However even when they are stopped, officers often do not press charges. Police simply do not believe that their work will result in a conviction because the laws are simply not strong enough and there are too many loopholes. Police have told me that the bill would help close the most serious loopholes in the law.

I want to point out that in other countries we simply do not see theses types of questionable offences. For example, the impaired driving legislation in the United Kingdom states that breath and blood tests must be taken into account in all cases and assumes that the blood alcohol content of the accused at the time of driving was not less than that indicated by the test results. The only exception arises when the accused proves that he or she consumed alcohol after driving but before providing the breath or blood sample; and also proves, as a result of this consumption, his or her blood alcohol content would not have exceeded the limit at the time of driving. Obviously this places a much heavier onus on an accused who wishes to challenge the blood alcohol level results from the scientific based testing.

It is similar in the United States. It does not have this problem because the onus is placed on the offender to prove his or her evidence. I believe that Canada is actually the only democratic country that allows these type of defences, and it is absurd that it does. The bill would bring us in line with other democratic countries, and that is important.

Why is the bill important? What are we really talking about here? I want to briefly run through some statistics that will point out the stark realities of drunk driving in Canada. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation has done extensive research on this subject using information from Transport Canada, Statistics Canada and other credited sources.

The statistics are that 85% of Canadians say that they are very concerned about the problem of drinking and driving, and they have good reason. In fact, the death rate from impaired driving is two to three times the national murder rate.

Another statistic: 1,069 people were killed in alcohol related crashes in Canada in 2000 and approximately 75,000 Canadians are impacted by impaired drivers every year. Impaired drivers get behind the wheel of a car 12.5 million times every year but there are only about 70,000 charges laid per year. It is not a very good record. Why is that? The loopholes are a huge part of the problem.

Research has shown that the vast majority of impaired driving trips, 87%, are taken by just 5% of drivers. That partially is because they get a good lawyer, the right judge and they get off on a technicality. This private member's bill would close the loopholes that allow people to get off on a technicality.

In the year 2000, 36% of fatally injured drivers had been drinking prior to the collision. We should note that this reflects driver deaths only, not injuries, nor does it reflect those he or she may have killed or injured as a result of driving impaired.

Given all of that information, I was convinced that I had to do something to ensure that legislation is in place to effectively prosecute those guilty of drunk driving.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank MADD Canada for its dedication to this issue and for the help it provided to me personally in preparing this bill and bringing it to this stage. It has done excellent work in isolating some of the key areas that need to be addressed if we hope to eliminate or even reduce the number of Canadians killed or injured every year due to drunk driving.

I have outlined my bill to the House. I have explained why I have brought the bill forward. I have detailed the lapses in the Criminal Code that make Bill C-452 necessary and important legislation. I have briefly listed some of the statistics which indicate the seriousness of this issue.

I am not naive enough to believe that Bill C-452, on its own, would eliminate drunk driving but I firmly believe it would help. I ask members to join with me in taking the steps laid out in this private member's bill to save Canadian families the unbelievable grief caused through losses and injuries due to drunk driving.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for bringing forward and demonstrating his concern on an issue that concerns all of us. We certainly would like to do everything possible to deal with those who would drive impaired upon our roads.

However, with respect to the specific bill, I have to make certain comments. I understand that the member will maybe re-address the way in which he has approached this matter after my response to his speech.

First, the Criminal Code presently states that, absent evidence to the contrary, the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC as we are referring to it, at the time of driving equals the BAC from the breath test. The code creates a similar presumption relating to blood samples.

Bill C-452 would replace the current presumption but only for breath samples. The new wording would indicate that, absent evidence to the contrary, the BAC at the time of driving was not less than the BAC from the breath test. The presumption that the blood test result equals the BAC at the time of driving would be unchanged, which is inconsistent with the change that is proposed for a breath sample.

Currently, in order to obtain the presumption as it relates to a breath sample, the crown must prove that the first breath sample was taken within two hours of the demand for a breath sample. Bill C-452 would extend this time period to three hours.

Currently, in order to obtain the presumption as it relates to a blood sample, the crown must prove that the sample was taken within two hours of the demand for the blood sample. Inexplicably, Bill C-452 would not increase this time period to three hours in order to match the proposed increase in the time period for the presumption as it relates to breath samples.

Bill C-452 would impose a new and highly unusual requirement upon an accused person. In order to challenge the result of a breath or blood test, an accused would have to prove one of four things: first, the analysis was faulty; second, the equipment was faulty; third, the procedure was faulty; or, fourth, the accused drank alcohol after driving but before the testing. In weighing such a challenge, the bill would permit a court to consider the manner of driving, the behaviour or the result of a breath test or a blood test, including a breath test on an approved screening devise.

Under the charter, the crown must prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the crown leads certain evidence, legislation requiring an accused to raise a reasonable doubt is permissible. Bill C-452, however, goes too far because it would require the accused to go beyond raising a doubt and prove certain facts when the accused is challenging the accuracy of a breath or blood test result.

With respect to showing the equipment, procedure or analysis was faulty, I note that the police and prosecutors are in the best position to prove the equipment that was used was working properly. The accused is in no position to prove the contrary. Reversing the onus to the accused to prove these points is to relieve the crown of its burden to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even without this charter problem, I am surprised that the list from which an accused must prove a fact when challenging the accuracy of a breath or blood test result includes the fact of the accused's drinking after driving but before testing. Where there is credible evidence of such a fact, it goes to what the BAC was at the time of driving. It is evidence that rebuts the presumption that the result at the time of testing is the same as, or not less than, the BAC at the time of driving. Therefore the accused is not challenging the BAC at the time of testing at all.

The accused is simply saying that there is evidence to show that the BAC at the time of driving was not over the legal limit set out in the Criminal Code. It was only drinking after driving but before the test that put the accused over the legal limit by the time the test was taken. There is no challenge to the accuracy of the BAC result at the time of testing. It is just that it cannot be presumed to be the BAC at the time of driving.

Bill C-452 also says that in weighing the accused's evidence on a challenge to the test results, a court could consider the manner of driving and the accused's behaviour. While the manner of driving and the behaviour would be relevant to an impaired driving charge under section 253(a) , they are irrelevant to an “exceeds 80 milligrams percent” charge under section 253(b), for which the issue is straightforward: Was the accused's BAC “over 80” at the time of driving or not?

Bill C-452 has logical gaps when viewed in the light of the Criminal Code's presumption that relates to alcohol concentrations derived from blood samples. Even more problematic, in my view, is the bill's insistence upon changing the fundamental test for a criminal conviction. Where the accused challenges the accuracy of a test result, raising a reasonable doubt would no longer bring an acquittal. Bill C-452 would force the accused to prove a fact relating to equipment, operation and analysis of samples.

Although I started my speech today stating that the hon. member's goals were very laudable, and I commend him for that, I have pointed out a number of reasons why I think the way in which he has brought forward the bill is problematic. For those reasons, I am not able to support the proposed legislation.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to move a motion seeking unanimous consent to move Bill C-462, a bill to amend the Access to Information Act, to committee forthwith.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this bill today, and congratulate the hon. member for Lakeland who has introduced it.

In our society, there has been a trend over the past few years. There was a time when it was almost admirable to drink and drive. When I was young, it was a rather macho thing to do, but then we came to realize this was not a good thing at all. Attitudes changed, as did behaviour. Today, fortunately, fewer and fewer people drive in that condition.

The problem lies with repeat offenders. I think that the contribution of the member for Lakeland needs to be emphasized. The Bloc Quebecois is therefore in favour of the principle of this bill to make it easier to prosecute drunk drivers.

We agree with the idea of increasing from two to three hours the time during which a sample can be taken to verify a person's state of intoxication. I think that all legislation pertaining to this issue must lead to zero tolerance, so that drunk driving becomes a thing of the past.

To achieve such a result, we must ensure that our legislation, which in the past was perhaps too permissive on these aspects, is reinforced and tightened up. The public also needs to know the conditions they must meet for driving their vehicles and the risks they run if they are ever caught drinking and driving, especially, unfortunately, if they have an accident with negative consequences.

The Bloc Quebecois intends to support this bill, which would facilitate proceedings. However, if the bill is referred to committee, we will examine certain aspects of it more closely. For instance, there is a clause in the bill stating that to reverse the presumption by which a sample taken corresponds to the true concentration of alcohol, there must be a preponderance of evidence. The Bloc Quebecois has some doubts as to the constitutionality of reversing this burden of proof. If that were the case, we would want to study this issue further in committee.

Therefore, we agree with the principle of the bill. We believe that it should proceed to the next stage. However, the committee will need to hear from witnesses, verify and perhaps obtain constitutional opinions to ensure that the bill will pass the constitutional test. It is essential that, one, two or three years after the legislation is passed, no one be able to contest it and win on a technicality. It would be better to see how best to improve this bill to ensure it is constitutional and able to achieve the desired results.

Although it appears as if my colleague from the Liberal majority, who just spoke, will vote against this bill, we hope that it will be referred to committee. Perhaps this debate will help convince enough members that it deserves support and referral to a committee. That is our hope.

Then, we could move various amendments, including ones on the reversal of the burden of proof and allowable defences.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois applauds the initiative of the hon. member for Lakeland. This adds to the many means used by society to prevent crime, including, when necessary, coercion. Such means must be reliable and able to produce the desired results so that, ultimately, once the bill has been passed—like all other bills—we see a distinct benefit and an even greater reduction in the number of drunk drivers.

Such behaviour is totally unacceptable in our society and the consequences are often horrific: deaths, accidents and permanent disabilities. Consequently, such behaviour must be prevented insofar as possible. Any initiative to improve this situation will be welcome. We intend to vote in favour of this bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in private member's business, Bill C-452.

Let me begin by congratulating the member for Lakeland for his bill. As we all know in the House, any time we can personally make a contribution to the country and to the safety of Canadians, it is certainly laudable. I know the intent of the member for Lakeland is to save lives. That is also the intent of his legislation, which would help to keep drunk drivers off our roads.

I also agree with the former speaker, the member from the Bloc, that the least we can do with the legislation is pass it, send it to committee, so the committee can do its work, do some research and debate it.

It is really unfair to private members' business. We have good ideas come into the House. The problem we had before we changed the rules for private members' business was we would have one hour of debate on a non-votable bill, then it would be squashed and that would be the end of it. All good ideas should have a clear hearing before the committee. That is my personal opinion. I will certainly say that it is supportable on the part of the Progressive Conservative Party.

I also want to congratulate MADD. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has led the charge in terms of keeping drunk drivers off our streets and highways. However, in spite of all the work Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done, very little change has occurred in terms of the rules and laws in dealing with drunk drivers.

We still lag far behind the world leaders in traffic safety in terms of the high percentage of alcohol related crash deaths and injuries, even though most of the leading countries have far higher per capita rates of alcohol consumption. These nations have succeeded to a far greater extent in inducing their populations to refrain from drinking and driving. Their laws are deterring impaired driving and protecting the public.

In contrast, our laws in this country are shielding impaired drivers from criminal sanctions and discouraging police and prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges. I believe that is the intent of Bill C-452. In fact the preface in the summary says:

This enactment strengthens the laws surrounding the investigation and prosecution of impaired driving and related offences by

I would like to read the summary for the viewing audience. It states:

(a) extending from two to three hours the time allowed for the taking of breath or blood samples from an accused in the investigation of an alleged offence;

(b) allowing a court to use the results of the analyses of the samples, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, as proof that the concentration of alcohol in the accused’s blood at the time of the alleged offence was not less than the concentration shown in the results;

(c) where the accused challenges those results, placing the evidential burden on the accused to establish, on a balance of probabilities, factors that affect their reliability; and

(d) requiring a court to consider other evidence in deciding whether the accused has discharged the burden of proof.

In other words, it tightens up the enforcement powers of the police, and that is where we need to go.

Other ideas for the government, in terms of keeping drunk drivers off the road, is to lower the current Criminal Code blood alcohol concentration to 0.05. That would contribute to reducing impaired driving and its tragic consequences. Moreover, MADD Canada believes that these traffic safety benefits could be greatly increased if Canadian police were given the powers they need to efficiently apprehend impaired drivers and gather the evidence necessary for laying criminal charges.

Although alcohol related traffic deaths have fallen from the record levels of the 1980s, impaired driving remains, by far, Canada's largest single criminal cause of death. Canada lags far behind the world leaders, as I indicated earlier, in traffic safety in terms of the high percentage of alcohol related deaths, even though most of the leading countries have much higher rates of per capita alcohol consumption, but their laws and their enforcement appear to be deterring drinking and driving.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said in Canada. Millions of Canadians continue to drive after drinking, many on a routine basis at levels of impairment that pose substantial risk. Although the estimates vary from year to year, it would appear that there are tens of thousands of drinking drivers on Canadian roads each night.

Relatively few of these drivers ever come to police attention and an even smaller fraction are detained and investigated. Even if the police conclude that a driver is legally impaired, criminal charges may not be laid. The federal impaired driving law has become so technical, time consuming and unrewarding to enforce that many officers are deterred from pursuing criminal charges.

In a recent national survey, 42% of Canadian police officers admitted that they sometimes or frequently released impaired driving suspects with a short term provincial suspension rather than proceed with criminal charges. One-third of the officers indicated that they sometimes or frequently released suspects without any sanction and merely arrange for safe transportation home.

This police reaction is not surprising. The officers who were surveyed indicated that it took an average of 2.6 hours to process a simple impaired driving case to the point of laying the charge. Moreover, the task of gathering evidence against impaired driving suspects had become exceedingly exacting and frustrating. Indeed, three-quarters of the officers stated that they were discouraged because impaired drivers routinely escaped convictions on legal technicalities.

This problem of under-enforcement appears to be getting worse. A government study published in 2000 found that almost half of the police in British Columbia simply refused to lay criminal charges, even if they concluded that the driver was legally impaired. Forty per cent of those who did not lay charges indicated that their reasons included concern that the driver was unlikely to be convicted.

Despite their rhetoric about the toughness of the federal impaired driving laws, the reality is police officers are increasingly reluctant to lay criminal charges. In effect, these barriers to enforcement are resulting in the ad hoc decriminalization of impaired driving. The police must be given the power they need to stop vehicles, detect drinking drivers, gather evidence of alcohol and drug impairment and streamline the process of impaired driving cases.

Just imagine what will happen if we decriminalize marijuana. The House has been busy talking about Bill C-38 this last week. We do not even know how to deal with alcohol. We are still having a problem with drunk drivers on highways. If it gets to the point where we do not deal with drunk drivers on the highways, imagine what the country will be like if we have people high on drugs driving on our highways.

The police should be authorized to stop any vehicle to determine if there is evidence of a violation of the Criminal Code's impaired driving provisions. The police should be authorized to use passive alcohol sensors. If a police officer reasonably suspects that a driver has alcohol or drugs in his or her body, the officer should be authorized to demand a standardized field sobriety test and to videotape it. It should be an offence to refuse to comply with the officer's demands.

If a police officer reasonably suspects that a driver is impaired by drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, the officer should be authorized to demand that the driver participate in a test under the drug evaluation and classification program and videotape it. It should be an offence to refuse to comply with the officer's demands.

If a police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a driver is impaired by a drug, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, the officer should be authorized to demand a saliva, blood or urine sample from the driver. It should be an offence to refuse to provide such a sample.

In closing, let me again praise the member for Lakeland for bringing forth this private member's bill. I know that if it makes it through the House, it will certainly keep drunk drivers off the highways.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-452. I would like to thank the member for Lakeland for bringing the bill forward. Drinking and driving remains a scourge in this country and I hope the bill will be one way to put it to an end.

The BAC, blood alcohol content, has been a police tool to identify drunk drivers since 1969. Since that time, public awareness campaigns, legislative regulations and a commitment from the police have reduced the incidence of drunk driving. Now most reasonable people choose not to drink and drive, and I think we are all glad to see that working throughout the public to a great extent. People are doing their drinking at home or are certainly not getting behind the wheel, and that is what we are all striving for.

However, a small group of Canadians continues to drive drunk. Over the years, some legal defences have been found that keep those drivers on the road without any penalties. Bill C-452 would close a couple of loopholes that allow those defences to be available to people. Those defences are the so-called Carter defence and the last drink defence. Both of these defences involve the accused arguing that, based on the amount of alcohol they remember consuming, they could not have been intoxicated at the time the police stopped them.

These defences ignore the scientific and evidentiary validity of the BAC, proven through empirical measures. It is because of the extensive testing of the BAC that there is a legislative presumption written into the Criminal Code that the BAC from both breath and blood samples, if tested within two hours of the offence, is evidence of the driver's BAC at the time of the driving offence.

Both the Carter defence and the last drink defence turn that presumption around by allowing a witness's recollection of the drinks they consumed to take precedence over evidentiary tests, even if the witness's testimony cannot be substantiated. I believe that is wrong. It is really quite astounding that this has managed to hold up in court.

The bill would place on the accused the responsibility of proving the evidentiary tests incorrect. Many years of scientific study have proven that these tests are accurate, so it would be up to the accused to prove that a technician administered the tests improperly or the equipment malfunctioned.

Bill C-452 would also give police more time to administer breath or blood sample tests to establish BAC. This would allow more time to monitor the fall in blood alcohol levels to confirm accused drivers' claims that their last drink had not entered their bloodstream at the time of the offence.

We can help to stop drinking and driving by giving police and prosecutors these two simple legislative changes. They build on the work that police and the courts have already done to establish the BAC as an accurate measure of a driver's intoxication at the time of an offence. I believe Bill C-452 deserves the support of the House.

Apparently there are other tricks that drunk drivers use to avoid prosecution, which we will need to address in the future. In urban areas such as my riding of Dartmouth, one trick used by people who refuse to stop drinking and driving is leaving the scene of an accident and going immediately to a bar to down a couple of drinks. Then they can claim that their blood alcohol count happened after the accident when they went to the bar to calm their nerves. I must admit the first time that I heard that argument I was astounded. I could not believe that anyone would try to use that as a defence, but the police say that is a claim they often hear.

That points to the pervasive problem with drinking and driving. It is only 5% of drivers on our roads who commit the majority of impaired driving offences. These people refuse to stop driving drunk even though it is a choice they do not have to make; they have often been stopped by the police before and have learned the defences available to them to avoid being charged by the police.

It is our duty as legislators to create laws that our enforcement arm, the police, can actually enforce. Instead, we have the unenviable situation of police officers believing that their work will not matter since the drunk drivers they stop will not be convicted with our present laws.

Research from Mothers Against Drunk Driving proves that legislative measures reduce driving and drinking. This bill would give police and prosecutors more tools to deal with driving and drinking and would send a message to drunk drivers that this House continues its battle to get them off Canadian roads.

I am very pleased to say that I will be supporting this bill. It is an advancement in our cause to stop drinking and driving in this country.