House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak in favour of sending this bill to committee.

First I would like to look at the existing situation. There are some situations that do allow the police to do some work with testing when they are investigating drug-impaired driving, but only in narrow circumstances. Of course if there is a voluntary participation in physical tests for drug impairment, the police may investigate along those lines.

If the police demand a blood sample from a conscious driver based upon an alcohol demand, or if they obtain a voluntary alcohol test sample of blood, the Criminal Code does provide that the sample may be further analyzed for the presence of a drug. However, and this is one of our concerns, there is no blood-drug concentration offence in the Criminal Code. It would be necessary to call an expert scientific witness to explain what impairing symptoms can be linked to the particular concentration of the drug found in the blood, and witnesses would be needed for the actual impairing signs that were observed.

Another provision of the Criminal Code authorizes police to seek a warrant to have a blood sample taken from a driver who is unconscious. The police officer must reasonably believe that the person was committing an impaired driving offence and was involved in a fatal or injurious crash in the previous four hours. This is a very narrow situation, which does not frequently occur. It would mean that police might have a passenger from the driver's vehicle who has given them information sufficient to seek the warrant.

Another way the police might pursue a drug-impaired driving investigation would be to obtain a search warrant to seize a blood sample taken in the course of medical treatment. Again, this would depend on obtaining sufficient evidence from a witness who may have been with the accused when the drugs were consumed.

None of the situations I have described happens very often. Most frequently, the police may suspect the presence of a drug in a driver's body but cannot investigate further. Consequently, it is very important to adopt legislation that authorizes police officers to ask drivers to submit to physical tests and provide samples of bodily substances, so that will our roads may be safer.

A survey by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation revealed that in 2002, almost 20% of Canadian drivers had taken the wheel less than two hours after consuming a potentially impairing drug. This included both legal and illegal drugs.

In my opinion, we must integrate the proposed amendments on drug-impaired driving with other measures, including public education, in order to make them effective.

Evaluation and treatment are also important elements in making our roads safer.

The proposed amendments are a prescription for safer roads. They address a problem that is serious and they do so in a measured way. They are based on the science that particular drug families have particular sets of symptoms that can, through physical testing, be observed by persons who are given proper training.

I am under no illusion that all police across the nation are ready to immediately proceed to drug testing of suspected impaired drivers. There is a need to complete training and to bring in the testing based upon the need and capacity in the various provinces and areas of the country. I am really pleased that some police agencies have already commenced such training and that in some provinces trained officers have already done physical testing for drug impairment, if only with suspects who voluntarily agree to participate in the tests.

I note that British Columbia has been in the vanguard in Canada and that some prosecutors and many police officers in British Columbia have participated in drug recognition training.

It is good to see that police agencies are working together to establish the capacity to train the trainers. This is what we need to transfer knowledge and skill around the country.

It will be up to the police forces to determine where the trained officers are most needed and best deployed. This legislation would enable provinces and police to use a tool that is far better than what now exists under the law in order to investigate drug impaired driving. The legislation does not force them to use this tool if they determine that they do not wish to use it.

It is important to think of the drug impaired driving legislation as covering all drugs and not just cannabis. At the same time, it is important to remember that the drug impaired driving legislation includes cannabis and that it can be seen as part of the measures that are being directed against individuals and organizations that are illegally involved with drugs. These other measures include Canada's renewed national drug strategy, police enforcement against grow operations and the proposal to give tickets to those who possess small amounts of marijuana in an effort to increase enforcement against possession.

The drug impaired driving amendments to the Criminal Code should also be viewed as part of the measures that are being taken to improve road safety in Canada generally. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport administrators report to federal, provincial and territorial transport ministers.

I believe that in the proposed amendments we have a measured response to a serious problem. In fact, Parliament has been addressing the problem of alcohol and drug impaired driving for a long time, and the end is not yet in sight. The first alcohol driving offence was placed in the Criminal Code in 1921 and the first drug impaired driving offence was placed in the Criminal Code in 1925.

With the proposed amendments, the police would have a way to investigate drug impaired driving. They would also be able to investigate drivers who have low alcohol but who are impaired because they have combined alcohol and drugs of impairment.

I am under no illusion that legislation by itself will eradicate impaired driving. Lots of other measures that are non-legislative are needed. However I firmly believe that where legislation can help then it should be put in place. Here I am convinced that the legislation will help.

One of the great difficulties with impaired drivers is that so many of them are persistently doing impaired driving trips. Often they make it home without being apprehended and without crashing. They start to think that they are okay to drive when they are under the influence when in fact they are not. Their so-called successful driving under the influence is rewarded and reinforced by the absence of detection or crash. However many do crash and many are caught. It is at the point of such health and criminal law that these impaired drivers could be assessed and sent for education and treatment. It may well be that many of them face multiple life problems and the saving to society would not only be from avoiding alcohol and drug impaired crashes but many other economic and social costs.

Turning our attention to the consequences of an impaired driving crash that is fatal, the great tragedy is that death is so avoidable. For surviving family members of a fatally injured impaired driver, or that driver's passengers or innocent road users, these deaths are emotionally devastating. We really have to thank our service providers and volunteer organizations that do so much to help the surviving victims of impaired driving crashes.

I will conclude by saying that it is very important that we proceed with the legislation, to take it to committee and to review it fully and completely. Although it may not be a panacea, it would certainly go a long way toward dealing with the issues that we see in drug impaired driving that needs attention.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the admission by the parliamentary secretary that the problem is serious and that the bill is not a panacea were about the only things he got right.

This is in fact a very serious problem. Drug impaired driving will be fuelled by the companion legislation, Bill C-17, which is the decriminalization of marijuana. Bill C-16 would not address that problem.

Bill C-16 is nothing more than window dressing and a very lame attempt by the government to try to deal with a serious situation that it will be creating on our roads, a situation that will directly lead to more deaths and injuries. I want to say, before I begin my debate on the bill, that by its action the government will be killing and injuring more people on the streets of Canada.

The public should also understand that there is no effective roadside testing device like the alcohol technology that has been developed. When a police officer sees a motor vehicle wandering along the road, if the individual is stopped and there is a smell of alcohol on his or her breath, the officer can demand that the person breathe into a roadside testing device. Those are good indicators of the amount of alcohol. There is either a pass, fail or a warning on the machine.

We do not have that kind of technology when it comes to dealing with drug impaired drivers. Drug impaired drivers are no less dangerous than alcohol impaired drivers. In fact, many people do not realize that when the effects of alcohol and drugs are combined, including marijuana, an even greater impairment occurs.

When people say that they are only going to drink a couple of beers, then smoke marijuana and get into a car, that is much more serious than even taking a lot more drinks. The impairment is multiplied. The government needs to know that information when it turns this legislation loose on our public. The technology for that has not been developed. In fact, a justice official said that the RCMP or the other police officers would have all kinds of physical tests. They will make drivers hop on one leg or they will look at the involuntary reaction in their eyes. What nonsense. What is terrible is that it is coming from legal minds in the Department of Justice of Canada. These individuals know better. They know the poor rate of conviction for impaired driving when there are not these technological devices. That is the kind of nonsense they are trying to tell the people of Canada. They should be ashamed for telling Canadians that this kind of detection will result in more convictions.

As a former prosecutor, I know how difficult it is to convict people of impaired driving. Even in the situation where alcohol is involved and where the smell of alcohol is on people's breaths it is difficult to make a charge when there is no alert or breathalyzer to help.

There are situations though where there is no alcohol involved and it is simply drugs and that becomes even more difficult for the purpose of trying to prove that an individual is impaired by his driving through drug use. Hopping on one leg or involuntary reaction in the eye can be excused in many ways and the justice department lawyers, who have been telling that to the justice minister, know that and should be ashamed of themselves.

The statistics are overwhelming in respect of the acquittals for impaired driving. Some provinces will not even bother prosecuting an impaired driver if there was no breathalyzer or no alert. Impaired driving used to be called section 234 when I was prosecuting and .08 was section 236. That was the way it was done. The impaired driver was simply stayed and the prosecutor tried to get them on .08.

There is another thing that Canadians do not realize. Take a look at Martin’s Annual Criminal Code and see how many technical defences there are to impaired driving and .08. It is more difficult to convict someone of impaired driving and .08 than an average murder or an average rape. It is a much more difficult offence.

What will the government do now? It will accelerate the amount of drinking and driving or the use of drugs and driving through these twin laws, Bill C-17 and Bill C-16.

The parliamentary secretary says that we will train the trainers. Is that not interesting. Manitoba and Quebec have the same problem. The government is shutting down RCMP stations in Manitoba. In my home town of Steinbach the RCMP highway patrol was shut down. In Selkirk, Manitoba, the RCMP highway patrol is shut down. Of the 65 highway patrolmen and women in Manitoba, 35 are off highway patrol, leaving long stretches of highway without highway patrol.

Train the trainers: Who will the trainers to train? There are no more RCMP officers left on our roads because of the government's nonsense about things such as the gun registry. It has poured $120 million of money into a gun registry, but it has not hired police officers. The government thinks the bureaucrats will run the justice system. If we do not have police officers out there, our justice system does not work, and the government does not understand that.

Train the trainers: Who will train the trainers? The police will train the trainers. We take more police officers off the street to do the training. Who will pay? It will be the provinces who will pay. In the same way the federal government has downloaded every responsibility in justice on to the provinces, the province will now pay for that training the trainers.

What did the government say? It said that the police would take care of this. It is dumping the problem on the police. It is interesting that in Manitoba the federal government cut the number of highway patrolmen and women to 35. Then it says that the police can take care of this issue.

How will the police officers take care of this issue? They cannot even attend fatals. First responders are out there, not police officers. They deal with gasoline spills, oil spills, bodies on the road, with no police officers available. Train the trainers: we cannot even get police officers on to our street. What nonsense to be telling Canadians that the government is serious about the problem of crime in the streets.

It breaks my heart that 16 years ago the province of Manitoba embarked on an ambitious fight to reduce the amount of drinking and driving on its highways, through administrative suspensions and seizure of motor vehicles. There was no help from the federal government. Certainly the Liberal government has done nothing. The provinces have done it because the federal government does not care about the deaths on our highways.

The federal government has dumped the problem on the police. The administrative suspensions have reduced the number of deaths on the highways. They have reduced the injuries on the highways. I fought to protect those laws in Manitoba. Now those laws have been adopted across Canada. The government is going back on the progress the province made.

The government should immediately withdraw not only this bill, but also Bill C-17 until proper technology is in place. I care about the people in my riding and I care about Canadians even if the Liberals do not. If they do not want to do it, they should step aside. We would get rid of the bill and we would ensure that the technology was in place before we went ahead on something like this.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that any death or loss of life is in and of itself a tragedy, especially if the tragedy could have been avoided, or the death or accident prevented.

That is why we in the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-16. Let us give credit where credit is due. In the previous Parliament, the issue of decriminalization of marijuana, which we support, was debated. Incidentally, I would point out to the NDP House leader that the NDP is not the only party to have passed at a congress a resolution in favour of the decriminalization of marijuana. The Bloc Québécois passed one also, at the instigation of its youth wing. I wish to salute its diligent and efficient work as well as its thorough job on an issue as important as this one.

When the bill on the decriminalization of marijuana was introduced during the previous Parliament, several stakeholders expressed concern about this bill's not having a companion bill on drug-impaired driving. This point was raised a few times in committee. The hon. parliamentary secretary will no doubt remember. Naturally, the Bloc Québécois always welcomes good ideas from witnesses, contrary to the Liberal Party while under the command of the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, who, when he was the government House leader, did not always listen to us. Much to his displeasure, he is left with only 21 members from Quebec, but that is another story.

Witnesses came before the committee to suggest that and, during consideration in committee, I put forward an amendment to the bill on the decriminalization of marijuana. The NDP House leader must recall, because there are similarities between that bill and Bill C-16. At the time, the chair, on the probably wise advice of the clerk, rejected my amendment on the grounds that it did not fit in with the decriminalization bill per se.

As a result, instead of the committee tabling a single report, two reports were tabled: one on the bill on decriminalization and the other calling on the government to quickly present a bill on drug-impaired driving.

Thus, it is thanks to the Bloc, with inspiration from numerous witnesses—I thank them—that the government, having listened to us for once, decided to present Bill C-16. We support this bill. We also agree with referring it to committee for full consideration before second reading.

An aspect of interest to me is the one mentioned by the member for Provencher regarding technology and the possibility of properly screening people under the influence of drugs. This is something that has been pointed out to us many times. I look forward to hearing the witnesses, experts, and police officers who will present their views on this. It would be irresponsible for us to present or support a bill without knowing at second or third reading what its full consequences could be.

Another aspect is the matter of the funding announced by the federal government. If I remember correctly, the figure is $6.9 million. And if I also remember correctly, there are 52,000 police officers in Canada. As well, I believe I recall that we were told in committee that, for a bill like this to be enforced properly, for it to be workable, about 40% of those 52,000—some 20,00 to 25,000—would have to be trained to administer the standard sobriety tests we are talking about today.

Is that $6.9 million sufficient to train this number of officers? I rather doubt it, particularly since—as I said in my speech on Bill C-17—this government has decided to close several RCMP detachments throughout Quebec, if I remember correctly, at Drummondville, Saint-Hyacinthe, and Joliette. My colleague from Provencher has also referred to this.

Yet the mayors, municipal councillors and reeves are asking the government not to close these down. They are in at least some of the regions of Quebec where there is large-scale marijuana cultivation. So, just as the police forces start working together to deal properly with organized crime, this government decides to close down some RCMP detachments.

That government is the same one claiming to be so serious about dealing with organized crime. To paraphrase Yves Boisvert from La Presse , the government will have a test of political will concerning the bill introduced by the Bloc Quebecois and supported by my colleague from Provencher and my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh, the NDP justice critic. This bill involves the reversal of the burden of proof when it comes to those guilty of involvement in organized crime.

If the government is so serious about its desire to fight organized crime. if it wants to show its goodwill, I invite it to do two simple things, and with these I will end my speech.

The first is to tell us in the very near future that it will be supporting Bill C-242 on the reversed burden of proof for persons guilty of involvement in organized crime, and the second is to reverse its decision to close down RCMP detachments all over Quebec. These would be two good ways of proving that it really does have the desire to fight this social, political, economic and societal scourge: organized crime.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-16, which is the companion bill to the bill we debated earlier in the day, the so-called decriminalization of marijuana bill.

I must say this particular bill which deals with drug impaired driving has not received nearly the same amount of attention or scrutiny as the bill that we debated earlier today. In fact, when this bill was introduced in the last Parliament, many of us felt that it had been very hastily thrown together and the government had responded to a criticism that it had not adequately dealt with the issue of drug impaired driving.

I would like to begin my remarks by drawing attention to some of the information that is contained within the government's own background information in presenting this bill. In the backgrounder it is pointed out, for example, that the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec has determined that 30% of fatal accidents in that province involve drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. A traffic injury research foundation poll in 2002 found that close to 20% of Canadian drivers had driven within two hours of taking a potentially impairing drug, whether it was an over the counter legal prescription or an illegal substance.

I find this very interesting because it really highlights that the fundamental issue we are dealing with is not whether or not a substance is legal; it is whether people take prescription drugs, an illegal substance or drink alcohol when they drive. This point really needs to be driven home, excuse the pun. It is very pertinent to the critical issue of education and people taking responsibility for their actions.

While we believe it is very important in dealing with the decriminalization of marijuana to ensure that there is a rules based approach and that there are proper regulations around use, including impairment, while under the influence of drugs, the most important thing is probably education and self-responsibility. If anybody doubts that, one only has to look at the laws we have. There are all kinds of laws around drunk driving. There are all kinds of criminal prohibitions.

There is massive enforcement, although some people would argue there is not enough. I would argue that over the years what has changed in terms of people's attitudes around drunk driving has come from education, from groups like MADD, local organizations, parent groups, youth groups, through peer education and training in schools. People have come to the realization that driving while under the influence of a legal or illegal substance that can impair one's ability is something that is very wrong and which we all have to take responsibility for.

I want to make that point first and foremost. We can always say that we rely on the law and police enforcement to correct a problem, but we should never overlook, but in fact we often do overlook, the significant value of education and a sense of responsibility that we all have.

In dealing with drug impairment, it should be pointed out that this already is an offence. The problem is there is no sound scientific or objective process for having a test done similar to what there is for alcohol. In fact, again reading from the backgrounder prepared by the government, there is no legal limit offence for drugs as there is elsewhere in the Criminal Code for alcohol.

Unlike alcohol, for the vast majority of drugs there is no scientific consensus on the threshold level of drug concentration in the body that causes the impairment and makes driving hazardous. Technology to detect drug concentration at the roadside is neither an available nor an effective option.

Given this background, I think this should give us some real cause for caution in examining what this bill is about. As I say, from the perspective of the NDP, we certainly support the principle and idea that there has to be effective regulation, but I think we have to proceed on the basis that we examine the proposed bill and that we do it, wherever possible, on a scientific and objective basis.

For example, right now police can ask for, and people can voluntarily subject themselves to, a certain level of testing that can involve blood samples, saliva or urine testing. That is now only done on a voluntary basis. Under the bill police powers would be extended to compel that to be a mandatory requirement.

The issue for doing that involves a series of procedures that are known as drug recognition expert training. At this point only 123 officers in Canada have that training. That is obviously a serious shortcoming. In fact, this testing, if we can call it that, is only used by police in Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba. Again, I emphasize it is only when the driver has voluntarily agreed to participate.

If this is to be extended, if it is to be made mandatory, I would certainly echo the concerns of my colleague from the Bloc, of whether or not there are adequate funds to make this happen. This is something of great concern that we will have to examine when the bill goes to committee.

There are other issues. The Canadian Bar Association has raised some questions about whether or not demanding bodily fluid samples without a warrant is something that could be subject to challenges under the charter. This is something that needs to be examined.

From our perspective in the NDP we support the idea that there needs to be clear regulations. We support the idea that there needs to be enforcement. We believe it is very important that the committee hear from expert witnesses on this issue. I think there is some ambiguity about how these tests are applied, about what the longer term consequences are of these tests and whether or not there are areas where they could be considered to be infringing on people's civil liberties based on the fact that they would be mandatory and not voluntary.

I am sure we will have an opportunity at the committee to go through the bill, to put it under the microscope of that kind of examination and to hear from witnesses.

At the end of the day, because there is a nervousness, there is a jitteriness about proceeding with the first bill, we have to be very concerned that the government does not rush through this companion piece of legislation which may have some serious problems with it. We want to make sure that the examination by the committee takes place with expert witnesses with proper training. We must ensure that whatever rules are put in place for drug impaired driving are rules that can be backed up, that can meet various charter tests. We must ensure that adequate training is involved. Most of all, we must understand the importance of providing education to people.

I would say all of the attention is focused on marijuana. If we really want to worry about what is taking place, we should think about the people who are taking prescriptions and getting in their cars and driving in a way that they are impaired and not in full control of their faculties.

In some ways, perhaps this is an opportunity for us to focus on the broader issue because the marijuana bill is before us today. We should not lose sight of the fact that whether it is legal or illegal is not the issue. It is the issue of substance use and what happens when one is impaired and driving. We will give that full examination at the committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, a moment ago I was speaking with a colleague about a time in our country, a long time ago, when people drove while inebriated. If such a driver were stopped by the police, usually he would get into the police car and be taken home, quite politely; the next morning he would go and pick up his car. That was one way to avoid drunk driving, but it certainly did not encourage such individuals not to repeat the offence the next day or the next week.

That is why there were so many deaths and why so many people had such terrible experiences. There were lobbyists on the Hill today, some of them dairy farmers. One farmer from my riding who was here today reminded me that his brother, whom I knew well, too, had been killed in an accident about 10 or 12 years ago, when he and his wife were struck by a drunk driver. Nearly every family has been through this or knows someone who has. There were, sadly, too many victims like that in the past.

At one time, there was reason to wonder why the biggest parking lot in a village belonged to the bar or tavern. Even though drunk driving was not permitted, the business that sold the drinks that got people drunk had a big parking lot. There was a paradox in that, and perhaps it is still true in some cases. Nevertheless, society today has become much more aware of the problem. I am very happy that it is no longer acceptable to drive under the influence of alcohol.

I am coming back to what the hon. member for Vancouver East said, and I think she is right. She mentioned that many people imagine they can drive a vehicle after consuming prescription medication, for instance, that can have as detrimental effect as alcohol. And yet it is just as bad to cause a death or put someone else's life and health in danger whether the driver had three bottles of Labatt's 50 or four pills of some kind. The effects can be as serious in one case as the other.

We have before us today a bill concerning another form of impaired driving, dealing more specifically with those who drive after having used illegal drugs.

If we look at the existing situation, there are some situations that allow the police right now to do some work with testing when they are investigating drug impaired driving, but as we know this is only in limited circumstances. Of course if there is a voluntary participation in physical tests for drug impairment, the police may investigate along those lines. If the police demand a blood sample from a conscious driver based upon an alcohol demand, or if they obtain a voluntary alcohol test sample of blood, the Criminal Code does provide that the sample may be further analyzed for the presence of a drug even though the analysis was taken for the purpose of establishing whether or not there is alcohol.

However, there is no blood drug concentration offence in the Criminal Code. It would be necessary to call an expert scientific witness to explain what impaired driving symptoms can be linked to the particular concentration of the drug found in the blood and witnesses would be needed for the actual impaired signs that were observed.

Another provision of the Criminal Code authorizes the police to seek a warrant to have blood samples taken from a driver who is unconscious. The police officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the person was committing an impaired driving offence and was involved in a fatal or injurious crash in the previous four hours. This is a very narrow situation that does not frequently occur.

It would mean that the police might have a passenger from the driver's vehicle who has given them information sufficient to seek a warrant. Generally, things being what they are, the person driving the car and the passenger are often known to each other, are often friends and so on, and it gets to be very difficult to get that kind of participation.

Another way the police might pursue a drug impaired driving investigation would be to obtain a search warrant to see the blood samples taken in the course of medical treatment. Again, this would depend on obtaining sufficient evidence from a witness who may have been with the accused when the drugs were consumed, not the ideal candidate to stool on the other guy, to put it mildly.

All the situations I mentioned are not an everyday occurrence, to say the least. In most cases, the police may suspect the presence of drugs in a driver's body, but they cannot investigate. It is therefore important to pass legislation to enable the police to demand physical tests and bodily fluids from suspected drivers, which will help make our roads safer.

That is what matters. We talked earlier about the finding in certain jurisdictions, certain provinces, that a disproportionately high percentage of accident victims and drivers involved in accidents have been using drugs.

In his great wisdom, the hon. parliamentary secretary reminded me that the bill before us enjoys the support of various groups in society. I have a bit of a problem with something the hon. member for Provencher said earlier in this House. On behalf of the Conservative Party, he told us he was prepared to pass this bill, if the one on decriminalization were withdrawn.

I tried to analyze all that, but I have a bit of a problem with the hon. member's remarks. Imagine a person who uses drugs and drives illegally. A person who is prepared to drive illegally does not care too much about the substance being legal when they are about to commit an illegal act. I fail to see the link. I think that tying one to the other does not work.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving have indicated, I have been informed, that they support the bill, whether or not the other bill is enacted. Therefore, I fail to understand why the hon. member for Provencher does not feel that the bill should be supported. It is a good measure to increase highway safety overall. I cannot see why any member would not want the bill to proceed in the House to increase the safety of the travelling public in Canada.

Some years ago we moved in very forceful ways, and it was about time, to strengthen the rules about drunk driving. Today, this is another phase of the same thing. It is driving under the influence of another product, but the effect can be equally serious, sometimes fatal, regrettably, and so on.

I hope that all my colleagues, on both sides of the House, will see fit to pass this bill, in spite of our differences of opinion, in certain instances, on the bill on the decriminalization of marijuana. This is a bill that was discussed earlier today in the House.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. member opposite was coming from when he said that we were not supporting the bill. Actually, we are supporting Bill C-16. We believe that something must be done with impaired drug and drunk driving.

The difficulties members in the House have is the fact that these bills are put in but not well thought out. Bill C-17, the marijuana bill, is exactly that. It is not well thought out at all. This bill proposes to support training police officers and spending around $11 million on them. The government wants enough police officers out there on the road to be able to detect drug and drunk driving.

The fact of the matter is there are not going to be enough trained police officers. In fact, the government says that by 2008 there will be several hundred trained which is ridiculous given that the marijuana bill is coming in 2004. It is issues like that where the government seems to be throwing in the bill on drug and drunk driving detection in order to take a little bit of the heat off of the decriminalization of marijuana bill. However, that being said, I can certainly live with any legislation that gives authority to police to determine whether a person is under the influence while behind the wheel.

We have gone so far today with drunk driving that problems have been created as a result. When drunk drivers hit somebody, they take off from the scene of the accident because they are fearful of staying at the scene of the accident and getting a drunk driving charge. More and more hit and run is increasing. That is why we have Carley's law coming to the House again in order to deal with those individuals who try to get away from drunk driving charges and leave the scene of an accident, leaving someone injured or dead.

Regarding Bill C-16, drivers suspected of being under the influence of a drug will by law this time have to submit to a roadside assessment test administered by a police officer. That is a good thing. The problem is that there is actually no roadside assessment test available today to determine whether an individual is under the influence of drugs. So it is one thing to say it; another thing to do it.

The government must commit to get the roadside assessment test in place promptly because we are dealing with the decriminalization of marijuana now. If drug impairment is suspected the individual must be detained at a police station and submit to another drug impairment assessment and a sample of bodily fluids may be taken for testing. That is a good move. The penalties for failing to submit to drug impairment would be equivalent to the penalties currently in place for failing to submit to an alcohol breathalyzer test. That too is good.

I can attest that we are now strengthening drug impaired driving investigations and we are on the right track. However, police officers have many concerns. I was talking to one of the senior police chiefs of one of our largest cities just before I came into the House. He said that it was one thing to try to get tests going which are not done yet and to train their officers, which will require a lot of money, but what are we going to do when we find a person that is under the influence? They are not paying fines today for speeding. How are we going to collect the drug driving penalties? Are we going to be chasing these people just as much as we chase speeders and try to get them to pay their fines? These are some of the many questions the police have on how this will be administered.

We have to deal with those issues in committee. In the meantime, let us not lose sight in Canada that this drug driving legislation, Bill C-16, and the decriminalization Bill C-17 are but two small parts of the problem that exists in drugs in this country.

I have said this and I do not know how many times in the House of Commons over the last five or six years, we have an epidemic in the country. It is drug addiction. We have bad people making a lot of tax free dollars from selling drugs to young people. We have new drugs coming on the market every day. Crystal meth is a serious problem. It is made in basements and in garages.

There are a lot of kids addicted to crystal meth, cocaine and heroin, and methadone, in fact. We have a serious drug problem. The government cannot afford today to tinker with bills that deal with decriminalization of marijuana and yet ignore, on the other hand, the terrible addiction that is taking place and underfunding things like rehabilitation, spending hardly anything relative to many other things in the country, advertising and education of young people.

There is such a thing as a national drug strategy. I know that the government is saying it has one. The fact is we do not. The health department is going around the country now getting focus groups in to talk about what should be in a national drug strategy. We cannot tinker with a system as large as drug addiction and just play with decriminalization of marijuana or drug impaired driving. I think it only stands to reason, and anybody who thinks they can, is sadly mistaken.

I have countless attestations from people who are addicted. They say marijuana got them into it. They have a hundred dollar a day habit. I recently talked to a young lady who has a $300 a day habit. She lives and breathes just to get enough money to get another shot.

While we in the House of Commons are talking about drug and drunk driving and decriminalization of marijuana, there are a lot of catastrophic issues and cases out on our streets. There are parents who do not know where their children are. There are young people trying to sell their bodies to raise enough money to get their next shot. There are bad guys out there stealing us blind and selling drugs to our kids.

For goodness sake, I will say it again, it is irresponsible and reprehensible of the House of Commons to be dealing with just one small aspect of drug addiction. Decriminalization of marijuana, yes, we can deal with it, but for goodness sake, members must get their heads out of the sand.

There are people watching this all across Canada right now saying “My child is addicted and these people are talking about decriminalization of marijuana and drug and drunk driving. Where is the common sense?” While we must deal with these two issues, we must also deal with the important big picture.

I have spent a lot of time with people who are addicted and a lot of time with parents who have children who are addicted. They are hoping that we in the House of Commons have the responsibility and the common sense to deal with some of these things. Please, let us not forget that our country, our parents and our young people need us to deal with drug addiction in totality, not just decriminalization of marijuana and not just drug and drunk driving.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the motion to send the bill on drug-impaired driving to committee.

Bill C-16 is an integral part of the national drug strategy. It is an important part of the continuum of education, public awareness, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement. This is one of the enforcement pieces that makes sure that continuum actually works. This legislation dovetails very nicely with the bill on marijuana that we have recently brought in. It is part of showing that nothing should be cherry-picked or taken on its own. It is part of an overarching strategy and plan.

There are some people who take a lot of relief from seeing that the number of deaths on our roads due to alcohol-impaired driving have dropped dramatically over the past twenty-some years, but I believe that so much more remains to be done to eliminate alcohol-impaired driving that we should not be heaving any sigh of relief at this point.

In public surveys the Traffic Injury Research Foundation has found that hundreds of thousands of drivers, representing some 6% of all drivers, make about five million alcohol-impaired driving trips each year. About 84% of all impaired driving trips are made by only 3% of all drivers. We are talking about a group of people who are in fact abusers of the drug alcohol.

This percentage sounds small, but it represents hundreds of thousands of drivers who put themselves, their passengers, and third party road users at risk. In road fatalities where there is at least one drinking driver, the drinking drivers and their passengers comprise the vast majority of fatalities. Often enough, fatal alcohol crashes are single-vehicle crashes.

We have far less information with regard to drug-impaired driving than we do with alcohol, but studies have shown that drivers using drugs are disproportionately represented in fatal crashes. We also hear of young people in Ontario who drive more often after using cannabis than they do after using alcohol. It is good that they are getting the message about not drinking and driving, but the news that they are driving after using drugs is alarming in the extreme. We also hear of drivers who combine cannabis and alcohol, as well as other drugs, and who have an even greater risk of crashing.

It is surprising that people take these risks while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. Public education messages from government, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, traffic safety organizations, police, health authorities, and educators are so prevalent that it is absolutely impossible to believe that there is a driver in Canada who is unaware of these messages.

Because these impaired drivers are still out there, it is important for members of this House to help the police where legislation can help. The drug-impaired driving amendments that are proposed in this bill could go a long way toward giving police officers the kinds of tools they need.

Sometimes the police may find someone driving who seems impaired, but the alcohol concentration is low on the breathalyzer test. The police have no ability to lay a charge, under paragraph 253(b) of the Criminal Code, of driving while over the legal limit. Given the low reading on the breathalyzer, they may be reluctant to trust their own assessment of the impairment and lay a charge of impaired driving under paragraph 253(a) of the Criminal Code.

Having training that relates to the observation of symptoms of impairment could help police officers to make better observations, not only of drug impairment but also of alcohol impairment, in order to strengthen the case where drugs and alcohol in combination are causing the impairment but the alcohol is only at a very low level.

The proposed amendments do not create a new offence of drug-impaired driving. That offence is already in the Criminal Code, and it carries serious penalties. When the drug-impaired driving causes bodily harm, the maximum penalty is equal to that for manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death.

This proposed legislation would give police officers the authority to demand roadside physical tests, more precise tests at the police station, and a bodily fluid sample. If all these elements align, then a prosecution could proceed.

At the present time, the police can only do physical tests if they have a suspect who voluntarily agrees. Surprisingly, there are many who do voluntarily agree; but not surprisingly, the police are often stopped short in their investigation because impaired drivers do not agree to have the test done.

The training that the police receive relating to drug recognition evaluations can help them in other ways when it comes to ruling out alcohol and drugs as causing impairment.

In policing the roadways or in dealing with persons who are arrested, the trained officer may conclude that medical attention is needed and that there is no drug or alcohol impairment. So there is another part of giving the police these kinds of training and skills.

It is interesting to note that even if a person has taken a drug, they may not be impaired by the amount they have taken, or the impairing effects may have worn off. This proposed legislation addresses drivers who are actually impaired by a drug. A certain threshold that attracts suspicion must be reached before the police can make a demand. If the investigation determines that the person is not impaired, then there will be no charge.

This bill, as I said earlier, shows the government's commitment to deliver reforms to drug-impaired driving as an adjunct to its cannabis reform. I note that a consultation document on drug-impaired driving in the fall of 2003 incorporated discussions among federal, provincial, and territorial officials, and that the comments received from the consultation helped to inform the bill that was tabled as Bill C-32 on drug-impaired driving in the previous Parliament. Of course the drug-impaired driving bill is not limited to cannabis; it addresses all drugs and impaired driving.

It is important to note that independent of the proposed cannabis reform, the drug-impaired driving amendments are necessary, and they should proceed independently. That is precisely why they are in their own bill and not subsumed in another bill, even though they are related.

There are some people who believe that demanding a set of physical tests from a suspect is an intrusion on liberty, but I would remind anyone who thinks this that the police are not on a fishing expedition. They are required to have a threshold of suspicion before making a demand for the physical tests. The drug recognition evaluation officer must have a reasonable belief that a drug-impaired driving offence has occurred prior to demanding these tests, and only when the evaluation officer identifies a class of drugs is there a demand for a bodily sample.

I would like to support this bill. It is a good bill. It gives the police the kind of training that they need to become good drug evaluation officers on the street, and it does not infringe upon the liberties of people on whom that demand is being made.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I don't know why it is, I guess it's just my luck that whenever I get up to speak it always follows a speech from a Liberal who just amazes me on these kinds of issues, one who says the government has been committed and is committed to doing the right thing.

Right off the bat, I want the Speaker to know that I agree with this bill, but where was the member in the eighties, when there were people dying on the highways and they knew darned well it involved drugs? This kind of thing has been going on for ages. All of a sudden, in the year 2004, we want to do something about it.

There has been a huge commitment in the country. It is something the Mothers Against Drug Driving have been calling for for a long time. It is something the police departments have been calling for for quite some time. Now we have heard another one of these kinds of speeches. Really, it irritates me to think that the member has been here for as long as I have, and possibly longer, and finally has come to the point where she can get up and glorify the wonderful government and talk about how they are going to address this terrible issue, which has been going on for ages. Where do they come from? It is really a puzzling part for me.

Only about two hours ago I was asked to speak to a bill about decriminalizing marijuana. They can say what they want, but when we decriminalize marijuana it is going to kill any deterrent for a lot of people where it once existed. If the fact is that they are not going to get a criminal record for using marijuana, I believe it will certainly encourage younger people to maybe do some things with marijuana that they never thought about in the past because they were afraid of getting a criminal record. It was a deterrent, but now we want to decriminalize it, so it might encourage them.

Two hours ago we were talking about a bill that will probably encourage the use of marijuana by our young people. I am sure it will, and I think a lot of people would agree with me. Then we turn around and suddenly find a miracle bill to deal with it because we know it is going to get worse. It has been bad for a long time. We have tried to bring it to the attention of the House a number of times. I had a private member's bill once on behalf of victims.

One set of parents lost a beautiful daughter at age 16. She was run into from behind when she was trying to make a turn off a highway, signalling and everything. All the fire and police department members who were there said there was no indication of any alcohol, but they were quite certain that the driver of the other vehicle was under the influence of drugs, just from the way he was acting. He was driving a huge vehicle, which literally stomped out the little car that smashed the girl to death.

Nobody could do anything about that. Their hands were tied. There was no alcohol, but there was evidence about the existence of drugs in the person who caused the accident. There was nowhere to turn.

That was over ten years ago. I brought the private member's bill in here in 1993 with the hope it would attract some attention in the House, that maybe we ought to look at the possibility of testing drivers who could be under the influence of something other than liquor.

Now, 12 years later, in 2004, I hear a wonderful speech from one of the Liberal members, who all of a sudden has seen the light about bringing in this bill, which I am going to support, and doing it right behind a bill that in my view, and I am sure in the view of others, is going to encourage the use of marijuana.

We might find the odd 17-year-old or 16-year-old who maybe thought about using marijuana but said that they did not want to take a chance because they might get a criminal record. But guess what? We are talking about a 30-gram bag; if we keep it under that, you wouldn't get a criminal record. Does that not sound a little encouraging, rather than discouraging?

We are presenting a bill on one hand that is going to encourage more people to maybe think about using marijuana, and on the other hand we are going to strengthen a bill that is going to make sure that we get them when they start using it and then driving.

Something is wrong with that picture. Bill C-16 should have been introduced without Bill C-17, which could wait quite some time. Bill C-16 should have been brought in a long time ago, but it needs to be strengthened.

We need to start thinking about is how we will provide the tools to police officers so they can detect those people who offend while driving under the influence of any kind of a drug. I hope we do this at committee and in the future when we discuss this bill.

We are quite certain that it will take a lot of training. That training will come from police officers who will train other police officers. From where will these police officer come? They will probably come from the detachments we have in every riding, which are shorthanded now. These detachments need more men and women on the force, but they are not getting them. Now we will take more out of the detachments to do the training. That is fine because we need the training. However, to bring in more police officers and expand the force to some degree will cost money. The government does not know if it can afford that.

I have news for the government. It can afford it. Scrap the useless gun registry for crying out loud and direct that money to training police officers. It should do some training of police officers that will really help save lives and protect society, instead of spending more money on gopher shooters and duck hunters. The government is spending millions of dollars every day on something that as far as I know has not saved a life. I can guarantee that we have lost a lot more lives on the highways due to the influence of some sort. We know it is true for alcohol. We could all bet our last dollar that it is true for drugs.

In my view that would seriously attack the problem. That doing what needs doing. We will pass this bill in 2004. We will try to get the bill through the Senate and it will become law. We hope the Senate will put its stamp of approval on the bill. However, the police force will not be ready. Police officers will be pulled in from everywhere and police will be training police. They will learn more and more. The government will get to spend more money on research as well to ensure it gives them all the tools and the best equipment it can so they do a good job.

This should have been done a long time ago. The government knows this has been a problem. Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been telling the government for years that it is a problem. The police departments have been telling the government for years that it is a problem. Lo and behold we get a wonderful glowing speech from the member across who ought to know better. The Liberals have had opportunity after opportunity to do something about this.

Let us concentrate on getting the right things in place. Let us stop this nonsense about trying to bring in the decriminalization law when we do not even know what it will do. Has anyone really analyzed whether the decriminalization of marijuana will encourage its use? Do not forget it will take away a deterrent? We always talk about having to deter people from different things, and it is important to do this. However, does a bill that will decriminalize marijuana encourage its use? I really wonder if members have seriously thought about that.

I was a principal of a school for 15 years. I saw a number of students who were engaged in the activity of using marijuana. I had to work with them and their parents Over those 15 years there was not one case where any good came from its use. I can name several cases that ended up in severe tragedy, death on the highway, death from suicide and further addictions. Some of those very kids today are on the streets in Vancouver addicted to the hilt.

No good has ever come out of its use. We have to get that through our heads. If we want to pass laws that encourage the use of marijuana, that is absolutely brainless. We should do everything we can to deter it, to stop it and to fight it.

I will support Bill C-16 because we want to get people who are under the influence of drugs off our roads. Let us do a better job of putting something in place that will get people prepared to do it the way it needs to be done, not go at it haphazardly without accomplishing what needs to be accomplished first.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to be here today to offer my support for what I believe is very important legislation. Drug impaired driving legislation is the first step in strengthening the enforcement of drug impaired driving offences.

However, I want to focus on a particularly important initiative which I think is as important as the legislation itself. That is the announcement of additional funding to train law enforcement officers in drug recognition expertise, DRE.

We have heard before that there is currently no roadside mechanism to detect drug impairment. DRE is the only recognized investigative tool to effectively enforce drug impaired driving in Canada. We have heard from the provinces and territories that they lack the capacity to train law enforcement officers in this technique.

We recognize that additional resources are required to ensure that officers are adequately trained to enforce the legislative initiative proposed in the bill. The $7 million in new funding over the next three years will provide law enforcement officers with the necessary tools to detect drug impaired drivers on Canadian roadways. The additional resources will enhance the initial funding of $910,000 provided through Canada's renewed drug strategy and $4.1 million reallocated from within the RCMP to the national DRE program.

The new funding to train law enforcement in DRE is a direct response to concerns raised by both the NDP and the Bloc Québécois when the former Bill C-32 was discussed in this House. We have heard much of that today. The funding also responds to other key stakeholders who expressed serious concerns about the lack of resources allocated to the problem of drug impaired driving including the law enforcement community, provinces, territories and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Funding for DRE training also reflects the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police resolution which called for an integrated model of standardized field sobriety tests and DRE testing. Police officers in Quebec, B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and my own Manitoba who have been trained in DRE are already using these techniques. As well, the RCMP has begun rolling out its national DRE program.

The force recently established a national coordinator to work with provincial and territorial partners to identify DRE training needs and training capacity in their respective jurisdictions. The RCMP is also carrying out training initiatives to bolster the relatively small number of trainers and trained officers currently in Canada.

There are currently 1,794 police officers trained in standardized field sobriety tests, 106 officers are trained in drug recognition expertise and 31 are DRE instructors. With the new funding, we estimate that Canada will have some 3,522 officers trained in standardized field sobriety tests, 394 DRE trained officers and some 174 DRE instructors by 2007-08. This number of trained officers should be sufficient to carry out ongoing training as part of regular police operations.

By incorporating a train the trainer approach, the program addresses the issue of sustainability by building the necessary expertise and the capacity for long term training in the provinces, territories and municipalities. This will ensure that jurisdictions can continue to train others in DRE.

A small but important part of the new funding, about $500,000, will be used for research and a comprehensive evaluation to examine both the implementation of DRE in Canada and its training effectiveness. This will allow us to ensure that law enforcement officers are trained adequately and effectively and that our efforts to stop drug impaired driving are as strong as they possibly can be.

The government wants to provide law enforcement with the powers and the necessary tools to remove drug impaired drivers from Canadian roadways. I would like to add that this initiative is a very good example of the cooperative efforts by many stakeholders including parliamentarians, the RCMP, the law enforcement community, provinces and territories. We support both the proposed legislative amendments and the additional resources for DRE training.

In short, this legislation and related funding is about saving lives by keeping impaired drivers off the roads. That is why I too am happy to support this legislation in the House today.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in favour of sending the drug impaired driving bill to committee. This bill, labelled Bill C-16, is an act to amend the Criminal Code, impaired driving, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The fact that the debate to refer the bill is taking place so soon after its tabling shows the commitment of the Liberal government to having the bill passed and in force as soon as possible.

Under the Criminal Code, the bill is intended essentially to enable a peace officer to require a person suspected of having drugs in his body undergo standardized field sobriety tests. If these indicate impairment, the police officer would also have the right to require the person to accompany him to the police station to undergo a series of tests administered by an expert in drug recognition in order to determine whether the apparent impairment is the effect of a drug.

Bill C-16 is a bill which has widespread support among Canadians and I believe in the House. I would urge all members of the House to support the bill when it comes to a vote, to send it to committee and have it adopted as quickly as possible. We need it, law enforcement wants it, Canadians want it, so let us do the right thing. Let us support it.

The House resumed from October 28 consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 6.15 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, October 28, 2004, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot concerning supply.

Call in the members.

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

Supply
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from November 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, an act to give effect to a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, to make related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

November 2nd, 2004 / 6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-14.

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