House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was impaired.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the fine member for Peterborough.

It is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-32. It is an important piece of legislation that will close some serious holes in our impaired driving laws.

In 2003 impaired driving cost our society $10.5 billion, but there were other more significant costs. In that same year impaired driving took the lives of 1,200 Canadians and over 47,000 Canadians were injured, many of them very seriously. That is more than three people killed and over 125 injured every single day. How do we put a price tag on that? I strongly believe that we can prevent many of these tragedies in the future and it certainly is our duty to try. The legislation introduced today will give police and prosecutors the tools they need to rid our streets of drunk and drugged drivers. Let me begin by discussing the drugged drivers.

In researching this issue I was terrified by the statistics relating to teen drugged driving. According to a 2005 report on drug use by Ontario students, almost 20% of all student drivers reported driving after smoking marijuana. By grade 12 that figure is over 25% and they are not driving alone; 22% of all high school students from grade 9 to grade 12 reported that within the last year, they had been a passenger in a car driven by someone who smoked marijuana.

Of course, it is not just teenagers. A Senate report in 2002 found that between 5% and 12% of all drivers may drive while high. Drugged driving is obviously a very serious problem and as of right now, law enforcement is all but powerless to stop it. Police officers' hands are almost completely tied when it comes to collecting evidence. As Sergeant Brian Bowman of Toronto explained to CBC News:

If we see someone driving erratically, we really have a high hill to climb to prove it's from drug-impaired driving. We almost need the smoke to waft out of the car or have the pills fall out onto the road.

The police cannot even demand a physical sobriety test. This legislation will close that loophole. With this legislation police will now be able to request the performance of a roadside standardized field sobriety test when there is reasonable suspicion that a driver has a drug in his or her body.

They will also be able to demand a drug recognition expert evaluation to be performed at the police station. The DREE system has worked well outside Canada and it will work well here as well. Failure to comply with these demands will be considered an offence under the Criminal Code, just like refusing to take a breathalyzer test. A final deterrent to drug impaired driving will be added by making it a criminal offence to be in control of a motor vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance.

Now let me turn to the drunk drivers. Drunk driving was once winked at, but no longer. Today everyone recognizes that it is a deadly, serious problem. OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino has noted that the leading cause of criminal death in my home province of Ontario is not murder, it is drunk driving.

In my community, I had the opportunity to sit down with members of the Niagara Regional Police Service, to work with local MADD organizations and to meet on a number of occasions with their communications and public relations person, Chris George. In 2003 the Niagara Regional Police Service arrested 28 people during its month long holiday RIDE program. The Niagara OPP laid 99 charges of impaired driving in 2006 alone. The number in my riding continues to increase.

Drugged and drunk driving is listed as one of the top three justice concerns for the people of my community. This bill delivers on that concern. Bill C-32 toughens penalties for drunk drivers and helps prosecutors secure the convictions that are needed to keep the roads safe for responsible drivers.

We have strengthened the mandatory minimum penalties for first, second and third offences. The maximum penalty for impaired driving causing bodily harm will now be 10 years, and for causing death it will be life imprisonment. This is simply the right thing to do.

Our bill will help prosecutors get convictions. When prosecuting drunk drivers, the crown has objective scientific evidence from approved instruments that measure blood alcohol content.

In the 2005 case of R. v. Boucher, the Supreme Court ruled that the credibility of such testimony cannot be called into question by breathalyzer results, not even if someone blew more than twice the legal limit.

The two beers defence is a joke. Testimony from one's drinking buddies should not be allowed to distort objective scientific measures.

Getting this legislation passed should not be a partisan fight. In fact, in 1999 a Liberal dominated justice committee released a report on the issue. The committee's recommendations included the following: allowing imprisonment for life following conviction for impaired driving causing death; allowing for a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment where an accident causes bodily harm; and authorizing the taking of a blood sample for the purposes of testing for the presence of alcohol or drugs based on reasonable and probable grounds. Those were all good ideas agreed to by the Liberal MPs but good ideas nonetheless.

In 2003 the Department of Justice released a consultation document on the issue noting that drug recognition expert programs had been successfully implemented in many American jurisdictions. It was a very good point.

Bill C-32 will protect Canadians from impaired drivers. I encourage all members to support it. We have the opportunity to reach across all party lines and put forward legislation that is tough, that is fair, that is right and that is current with what is happening in jurisdictions around the world.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the member, who made some good points. I would like to ask him a question with regard to drug recognition.

In my previous career in the insurance and investment business, we did a lot of medicals. The medicals could detect the presence of drugs in a person many months prior to taking the medical.

Could the member be more definitive on the way this will be tested? What amounts are being looked at in the bill for drunk driving as well as drug intoxication?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure exactly what the member was asking.

However, in specific relation to driving while under the influence of drugs, currently there is no opportunity for the police or for any crown prosecutors to be able to convict anyone of a drug related driving offence. Bill C-32 creates a platform and an opportunity in three specific areas to do that. One is suspicion, two is possession, and obviously the third relies upon the fact that they will be able to use a standardized test that is used in many other jurisdictions in North America. They will go to the police station and under reasonable suspicion the individual will be tested and evaluated to see if in fact the individual is under the influence of a drug or certainly has driven under the influence of a drug.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate and speak in favour of Bill C-32, a bill that amends the Criminal Code in relation to impaired driving.

A great deal has already been said about the provisions of the bill. I do not wish to go over the same ground. Instead, I want to focus on some of the objections to the legislation that have appeared in the media regarding the bill.

First, there have been some who question whether the bill is constitutional with respect to the drug impaired driving provisions of the bill. I remind the House that this was extensively canvassed when Bill C-16 was considered.

Of course, no government will present to the House legislation that it considers is going to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unless it is convinced that the bill will be upheld as a reasonable limit on those rights. The previous government obviously considered the bill charter compliant or it would not have introduced Bill C-16.

When Bill C-16 was in committee, the then minister of justice, a well known human rights advocate, in his opening remarks on the bill addressed the issue of charter compliance. He said:

Let me deal for a moment with some charter considerations. We know that the demands for alcohol breath tests on approved screening devices at roadside, without a right to contact counsel, have been found justifiable by the courts under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, pursuant to the section 1 demonstrable justification limitation on a right.

The right to counsel must be given following the demand for an alcohol breath test on an approved instrument back at the station and before the approved instrument testing is done.

I anticipate that the same practice would prevail for the DRE evaluations envisaged under Bill C-16. With Bill C-16, we have tried to closely parallel the grounds that our prerequisites for making alcohol breath test demand. I believe that Bill C-16 offers good and important solutions that will be found justifiable under the charter.

Later, in response to a question he went further:

No, I think the court would apply the generic approach with respect to whether a limit on a right is justifiable under the circumstances, and then they would go into the four-part proportionality test.

They would ask themselves, is there a pressing and substantial objective? They would come to the conclusion, in my view, that there is a substantial and pressing objective, which is of course, at the bottom line, the saving of lives.

They would then look to see whether the means chosen were appropriate for the purpose or objective sought to be secured, as the other part of the proportionality test. I think the court would conclude here that this is a proportional remedy for the objective sought to be secured.

I believe the House can be assured that the requirement that a driver perform standard field sobriety tests at the roadside which are relatively brief will be upheld in the same way the roadside screening for alcohol has been upheld.

Similarly, the tests back at the station which will be performed by a trained officer are analogous to the test on an approved instrument.

I know many, if not most, members of the House would like to have an instrument that would measure quickly the concentration of various drugs just like the approved instruments that measure blood alcohol concentration.

The technology simply does not exist and, until it does, we will have to rely on various tests such as the reaction of the eyes to light, blood pressure, pulse and muscle tone on which the trained officer bases his opinion of which drug or combination of drugs and alcohol has caused the impairment. That opinion has to be validated by finding the drug in the person when bodily fluid is sampled.

Another objection to the proposed legislation's constitutionality was made by the president of the Ottawa Defence Lawyers Association reported in the Globe and Mail. He objected to the proposed offence of refusing to provide a breath sample when a person has been involved in a crash which will be punished in the same way as impaired driving causing bodily harm or death. He said:

There is no connection between the fact that you refuse to provide bodily substances and the accident itself. If you refuse, you have no defence.

When a person is charged with impaired driving causing death or bodily harm, the Crown has to establish the impairment and that the driving caused the accident.

The new offence will require the Crown to prove the refusal and then prove that the driver knew or ought to have known that he or she had caused an accident that had caused death or bodily harm.

This offence is modelled on the offence of failure to stop at the scene of an accident. The mental element is the intention to frustrate the police investigation.

In the case of flight, the person simply tries to avoid the police. In the case of refusal, the person refuses to provide a breath sample, the breath sample evidence necessary to determine whether the person was over .08 or in the case of a drug the person refuses to perform the test or to provide the bodily sample to determine whether the drug is actually present in the body.

Of course, in most accident situations the person will be well aware that there has been an accident. The police will still have to have reason to suspect the person has alcohol or drug in their system before making the demand.

Finally, I note that some of the users of medical marijuana claim that this legislation is aimed at them and will prevent them from driving their cars.

Russell Barth, quoted in the Edmonton Sun and other newspapers and described as a medical marijuana user and member of the National Capital Reformers, said that, “Discriminating against us based on our medication is much like discriminating against us based on the colour of our skin”.

In fact, medical marijuana users will be treated like other persons who take prescribed and over the counter drugs. People take all kinds of drugs for legitimate medical reasons. The question is whether they are impaired by that drug. If they can take their medicine and still pass the standard field sobriety test, they can drive. If they cannot, then they had better find someone to drive them around.

The offence of driving while in possession of an illicit drug also specifically provides that the person must be doing so without legitimate excuse. Clearly, persons who have been admitted to the medical marijuana scheme have a legitimate excuse to transport a supply of marijuana with them and would not be caught by this new offence.

I believe the bill is a balanced response to a very serious problem. I believe it is in fact long overdue. The minister in his speech made it clear that the government was prepared to consider any amendments that will strengthen the bill that the standing committee may suggest after hearing from witnesses.

I urge the members to give the bill second reading. I also urge the standing committee, which has a heavy workload, to give this bill priority. It will undoubtedly save thousands of Canadians from being injured or killed by impaired drivers.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member if there is any percentage increase in the number of convictions that are expected that he is aware of from the bill. What is the percentage increase of convictions that is expected and are there any figures that he has in terms of sentencing that will stem directly from the bill?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any specific percentage. However, I am aware that the bill will specifically prohibit the defence called the two beer defence. Quite frankly this defence should not exist. I know that this defence actually circumvents the intent of our impaired driving laws that currently exist.

When persons bring in a few of their buddies who have been drinking with them, and have them testify that they only drank two beers and therefore could not possibly be impaired, that is not a defence that should be credible before the eyes of the court and not something that Canadians should accept.

I cannot speak to exact percentages, but when I speak to law enforcement officials, when I speak to representatives of MADD Canada, and when I speak to victims of drunk driving, they cannot believe that a defence like that exists in Canada. They want it gone. They want the perpetrators, the people who repeatedly drive impaired, brought to justice. That is why everyone should support the bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part today in the debate on Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving), which is now before the House. This bill offers us an opportunity to look into a serious problem in society, one that is often in the headlines. We all know that drunk driving is an irresponsible act. A lot of preventive work is being done, in fact, to reduce the occurrence of this phenomenon. Unfortunately, there are still incidents in which an individual who is driving while impaired takes the lives of people on our roads, including, very sadly, young children.

Bill C-32 is therefore meant to respond to this situation by providing the police with tools to make their job easier when it comes to gathering evidence for laying a charge against an impaired driver. More specifically, it is aimed at people driving under the influence of drugs, such as marijuana.

The impaired driving problem goes back years, if not decades. A number of studies have considered the question and suggested ways in which the problem can be addressed. I would note that in 1999, the Standing Committee on Justice submitted the report entitled “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”, in which it was recognized that drugs could be a cause of accidents and that we had to find better methods of detecting them. It also stated that we had to improve the process of gathering evidence to allow for people driving under the influence of drugs to be prosecuted.

At that time, the committee identified two major obstacles: first, the absence of a clear definition of what constitutes “reasonable grounds”, the basis on which a police officer administers a test to a driver to detect drugs; and second, the apparent lack of a single non-invasive test for detecting drugs. Given the relative difficulty of the tests that have to be done, the committee suggested that the Charter implications of testing be taken into account. One of the recommendations made in the report was that blood samples be taken if the police officer had “reasonable grounds” for doing so.

The obstacles identified by the committee were also recognized by the Senate committee, which proposed at the time that more studies be done of the driving habits of drivers under the influence of drugs, a reliable and rapid testing tool be developed, and the blood alcohol level be lowered.

Four years later, the Minister of Justice issued a study report that came out of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Justice. The study, entitled “Drug-Impaired Driving: Consultation Document”, suggested finding a legislative way of compelling drivers to take screening tests administered by police officers.

To that end, the document suggested setting a legal limit for drugs and legislating to allow police to administer a screening test. An expert on site could, with “reasonable grounds”, administer a test on the offending driver and then, if the test was positive, investigate further by taking a bodily fluid sample. The results would have been given by another expert to the closest police station. The tests and police testimony would be used as evidence to charge the driver.

However, the document stresses the importance of considering the Charter in legislating to amend the Criminal Code with regard to requests for bodily fluid samples and the offending driver's rights to consult a lawyer. Bill C-32, which the Liberals introduced on April 26, 2004, addressed these concerns, but died on the order paper in May 2004 when the election was called.

Reintroduced as C-16 in November 2004, the bill again died on the order paper a year later. The new Bill C-32, which happens to have the same number as the original and was introduced by the Conservative government, contains essentially the same provisions but, for ideological reasons, increases penalties for drivers found guilty of impaired driving.

I know that all the members of this House recognize that impaired driving remains one of the criminal offences most likely to cause death or injury to others. As I explained earlier, this is the third time this bill has been introduced in order to deal with the problem of impaired driving.

The Conservative bill is similar to the old Bill C-16 tabled in the previous Parliament. In short, it suggests the following three things. First, it would require people suspected of driving under the influence to take an alcohol or drug test ordered by police officers at the arrest site, that is to say, at the side of the road. Second, it authorizes experts to take samples of bodily fluids, something that is not in the current Criminal Code. Refusal to comply would constitute a criminal offence, just like refusal to take a breathalyser test. Third, the bill would limit the evidence that can be introduced in court to cast doubt on the way the breathalyser was used or the results of the blood alcohol tests.

This is often called the “two beer” defence, where the accused states that he or she had consumed only one or a particular number of drinks over a certain period of time and therefore could not possibly have had a blood alcohol reading as high as what the test said.

The government also wants to stiffen the sentences and introduce life imprisonment instead of five years for infractions causing the death of another person. To that are added the fines that are adjusted to reflect the number of repeat offences by the driver in question: $1,000 for a first offence instead of $600; 30 days in custody for a second offence instead of 14 days, and 120 days in custody for a third offence instead of 90 days.

I am deputy justice critic and, like our party, I think that this is a very important bill because it is intended to provide the tools that the police need to fight the impaired driving problem effectively. However, it is essential for us to review certain points in the bill because the proposed additions should be studied in order to determine whether they really will be effective.

In the course of the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I would like to meet with experts and groups to shed light on the following concerns about which I want to inform the House—

Criminal Code
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. member in the middle of her speech but it is now 2 o’clock and we need to go on to members’ statements. The hon. member will have 13 minutes to finish her speech later.

Violence Against Women
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently I had the opportunity to meet with one my constituents, Ms. Ina Mitchell, who, through her personal experience, brought the issue of violence against women to my attention once again.

Violence against women is a persistent and ongoing problem in Canada and, indeed, around the world. It affects women's social and economic equality, physical and mental health, well-being and economic security. Women experiencing such abuse are often forced to flee their homes with their children.

It is interesting to note that, on average, 82% of those women seeking temporary shelter are doing so as a direct result of abuse.

The majority of victims of spousal assault do not seek support from the criminal justice system. Why? The Canadian Criminal Code has no specific offence of violence against women or spousal assault.

It took a great deal of courage for Ms. Mitchell to come forward to authorities and when she finally did she did not get the treatment and resolve she deserved.

I say to all my fellow parliamentarians that it is time for us to take a stand on violence against women and to include this heinous crime within our Criminal Code.

Canada Post
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand because of the indifference of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities toward the inconvenience and stress caused by Canada Post's recent decision to replace home mail delivery with community mailboxes in the Castlemore area of my riding.

Canada Post's decision to locate these community mailboxes in areas with extremely high traffic volume and no sidewalks unnecessarily exposes Castlemore residents to constant danger from cars travelling at high speeds.

The minister disregards the concerns of my constituents. He has ignored the repeated attempts I have made to speak with him about this matter.

I will not stand for the minister's lack of concern for the safety of my constituents. I call upon him to act immediately to reverse this ill-conceived decision.

Farm Management and Operations
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge an innovative concept implemented by the Collège d'Alma. This is the first training technology showcase in Quebec and Canada. This will be a showcase for technology transfer in agriculture, combined with the efficiency and use of renewable energy.

The Collège d'Alma is offering a technology program in farm management and operations and is equipped with a teaching farm. Within the next two years, this dairy farm will be updated to incorporate innovative energy saving technologies.

This project will be used as a teaching and applied research platform by incorporating the use of renewable energy and the development of energy potential related to farming activities.

Students will become familiar with wind and solar energy and with geothermics. It goes without saying that this project will have positive spinoffs for Quebec producers, who are always at the forefront. The Bloc Québécois wishes much success to this wonderful initiative.

Canadian Wheat Board
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, one ruthless dirty trick after another has been employed by this government to bring the Canadian Wheat Board to its knees. These tactics are having a negative impact on the Wheat Board's ability to function and recently resulted in a reduced credit rating that is expected to deteriorate further.

The latest tactic is the wording of the crooked questions the minister has chosen to place on the barley plebiscite ballot, questions that one Winnipeg pollster has called “bizarre” and which another one thought were so bad that they must have been made in error.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report notes the substantial economic benefits that the Canadian Wheat Board provides to farmers. It speaks of the voice it gives them on global trade, grain marketing, public policy, scientific research, brand development and transportation reform.

The study also notes that the Wheat Board is a significant contributor to Canada's economy and how its absence would soon see farmers dealing largely with foreign owned companies headquartered outside of Canada and the negative impact this would have on the economy.

Why does the government want to destroy the farmers' marketing power?

The Environment
Statements by Members

February 6th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was recently honoured to represent our government at the announcement of the E3 fleet program which encourages environmental efficiency and fuel efficiency within corporate fleets.

I was especially proud that in my riding the township of Langley has been recognized for its progressive accomplishment of being one of the first municipalities in Canada to join the E3 fleet program.

The township of Langley has proven its commitment to sustainability and a cleaner environment. I congratulate Mayor Kurt Alberts and his council for their efforts to right-size their fleet vehicles and for using renewable fuels.

The township is showing managers of trucking, utility, urban delivery, courier and government fleets that operating in an environmentally sustainable way can also help their bottom line.

I encourage fleet operators all over greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the rest of Canada to get involved in the E3 fleet program and help us to reduce energy consumption and pollution.

With the help of an incredible environment minister, we are getting the job done.

Spousal Support
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, as parliamentarians, we recognize the importance of having the love and support of our spouses and families. Without them, we would not be able to do all that we do.

Today I stand to pay tribute to a very special spouse in my riding, Marlene Truscott. For 36 years, Marlene has stood with her husband, Steven, in his fight for justice.

Marlene and Steven were first brought together by Steven's fight to clear his name. He has often acknowledged that “If anyone really wants to know how I have survived the last 34 years--Marlene is the answer”.

Together with their family, Marlene and Steven are continuing their fight before the Ontario Court of Appeal. They have climbed this mountain together and they are so close to making it to the top. I know that their love and respect for each other will get them through these very public days, weeks and, potentially, months ahead.

I would like to thank Marlene Truscott for the example of love and support that she has shown to every single one of us.

Pulp and Paper Centre
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Friday the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec announced a contribution by the Government of Canada of $23.5 million to the Centre intégré en pâtes et papier. This centre welcomes students from the Université du Québec at Trois-Rivières, and from the CEGEP in Trois-Rivières.

Since its opening, more than a hundred students have taken advantage of the new infrastructure at this cutting edge centre, which will foster innovation and research in forestry. It is this type of initiatives that will make it possible to overcome the crisis in the forest industry.

I am proud to be part of a team that does more than just ask questions; it also has the means to take concrete action in the interest of the public.

The Bloc has been here in Ottawa for 17 years. How much longer before the Bloc makes its first announcement? When will it issue its first cheque?