Impaired Driving Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences in relation to conveyances) and the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Steven Blaney  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Dead, as of May 3, 2017
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the provisions of the Criminal Code that govern offences in relation to conveyances. The amendments, among other things,
(a) harmonize the prohibitions and penalties for offences in relation to the operation of conveyances;
(b) increase the penalties for repeat offences in relation to the operation of conveyances;
(c)  modernize the procedures for determining whether a person’s ability to operate a conveyance is impaired by a drug, and for analyzing breath samples to determine a person’s blood alcohol concentration;
(d) provide for rules governing the disclosure of information with respect to the results of analyzing breath samples; and
(e)  recognize that evaluating officers are experts in determining whether a person’s ability to operate a conveyance is impaired by a drug.
The enactment also amends the Criminal Records Act to remove the offences of impaired driving and failure or refusal to comply with a demand as exceptions to the offences that result in a record suspension ceasing to have effect.
Finally, the enactment makes consequential amendments to those Acts and to other Acts.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


May 3, 2017 Passed That the Eighth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences in relation to conveyances) and the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts), presented on Thursday, March 9, 2017, be concurred in.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 5:35 p.m.
See context


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

moved that Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences in relation to conveyances) and the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague, the public safety critic and the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, for letting me give this speech today.

I would also like to thank my colleagues who are here today, the member for Lévis—Lotbinière, whom I have been working with for 10 years, and my colleagues from all parts of the country, who have shared some moving accounts with me in recent weeks.

I would also like to thank my friend, the member for Durham, who is also a public safety critic. Furthermore, I am very pleased that someone for whom I have a great deal of respect will address the House shortly, and that is our justice critic.

I am here because of the determination of the victim's family who fought for years for tougher impaired driving legislation and because of my friend from beautiful Langley, a member who shared his story with me along with his dream of making this place a place where we can make change, and make a change for victims in our capacity to avoid further victims of drunk driving.

“No one should have to endure the terrible loss that victims' families face when a loved one is killed by an impaired driver”, is what my colleague said on February 23 when I tabled the bill. There are thousands of stories, but he spoke about the story of Kassandra.

Kassandra was 22 years old when her life was taken by a drunk driver, but her mother, Markita Kaulius, founded an organization that would move to change this loss into a tribute and into action. This is what we are giving all members of this House the opportunity to do, because over 1,200 Canadians are killed every year because someone irresponsibly chose to drive while impaired, instead of finding a safe way home.

A car in the hands of an impaired driver is a carelessly used weapon that can cause irreparable harm. It is reckless and 100% preventable.

More than 100,000 Canadians have signed “Families for Justice”, Markita Kaulius' petition, which calls for tougher laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for impaired driving causing death. Canadians believe that our impaired driving laws are too lenient.

That is why I am rising today. Every day, three or four people are killed on our roads by impaired drivers. It is the leading cause of death under the Criminal Code. Impaired driving continues to wreak havoc despite all of the commendable efforts that have been made to raise awareness of this problem.

I am thinking about the remarkable work done by Operation Red Nose, which was created by Jean-Marie De Koninck and eventually led to the creation of the Table québécoise de la sécurité routière. Today, I am pleased to announce that the measures set out in the bill are based on the recommendations of the Table québécoise de la sécurité routière and seek to reduce the incidence of accidents.

I met with experts who believe that the only way to eliminate this problem is to increase drivers' perceived risk of being charged with impaired driving. I am talking about the fear of being caught. That is how we, as legislators, can make the measures that are in place more effective.

Studies have shown that roadblocks do not work in over 50% of cases because drivers manage to hide any signs of intoxication. MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has data to show that a person would have to drive impaired once a week for three years before being charged with an impaired driving offence. As legislators, we have the unique opportunity to put an end to the harm drunk driving causes.

The bill has three components: one, tougher sentences for repeat drunk drivers; two, relieving pressure on the courts by eliminating legal delays and loopholes; and three, systematic testing to increase the efficiency of roadblocks and catch repeat offenders with alcohol addiction who conceal their drunkenness. Why? Because we can save lives.

Where it has been implemented in other countries, hundreds of lives have been saved. It is a conservative estimate that we could save 200 lives at least within the first year of implementation of the bill, and that would increase.

As I just mentioned, this bill has three components: tougher sentences for repeat drunk drivers, relief of pressure on the courts, and systematic testing.

This afternoon, I would like to focus on two measures with respect to the tougher sentences. The bill proposes a minimum sentence of five years in cases of impaired driving causing death, depending on the severity and the aggravating factors. Although this is similar to the existing sentence, it sets a threshold. In our society, it is important to establish that impaired driving is a crime that needs to be punished. Someone who takes the life of more than one person could receive consecutive sentences.

The other objective of tougher sentences is to give judges more latitude to increase the amount of time an offender may serve. Hardened repeat offenders will face a one-year prison sentence for a second offence and a two-year sentence for subsequent offences, if they are found guilty. The minimum sentence will therefore be five years if someone causes the death of another person, and the sentences will be consecutive if more than one person is involved.

The bill's second measure has to do with freeing up the courts by eliminating loopholes and legal delays. Indeed, some wily people use legal proceedings to avoid facing the consequences of their actions, and above all, to clog up the courts, which is very costly and results in delays. We know how important it is to make the process easier so that our courts can be more efficient and deliver justice as quickly as possible.

The bill will eliminate two measures. The first is known as the last drink defence. In this case, the driver claims that he had a high blood alcohol level when the test was administered because he consumed a large quantity of alcohol right before getting behind the wheel, and basically, at the time of the accident, he was not impaired. Of course, this can cause legal delays.

The other defence is this: the driver claims he was so upset about the accident that he had a drink. It is known as the intervening drink defence. If that is the case, then that is the case. However, if it is a trick to avoid facing the consequences, the law must be set out in such a way that people cannot abuse the good faith of our courts.

Those are the two measures set out in the bill.

We also want to encourage guilty pleas so as to avoid clogging up the courts. Sentences are reduced when the person admits wrongdoing and pleads guilty. That way, the case is settled and we avoid clogging the courts.

These two measures were proposed by our government in the last few months. I want to commend the work of our colleague and former minister of justice, Peter MacKay. This cause was very important to him. A lot of work went into these measures that I am including in the bill.

The bill also includes a very important measure for victims that has proven effective. For that I want to thank Marie-Claude Morin, spokesperson for the Quebec chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who helped draft the bill, and Angeliki Souranis, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who lost a son in an accident involving alcohol.

This is a preventive measure that would make it clear to serious repeat offenders that they can get arrested through routine screening.

I mentioned that roadside spot checks were ineffective. In fact, more than 50% of drivers whose blood-alcohol level was higher than 80 milligrams per decilitre went through the spot checks without being stopped. In other words, they crossed the line without getting caught.

It is a problem because it makes our roadblocks less effective and results in fewer arrests for impaired driving.

When drivers get behind the wheel of a car, they need to know that our roadblocks work. How can we make sure of that? By implementing systematic testing.

Systematic testing is simply detecting alcohol and then using an approved device to perform a second test. It is simply detecting the presence of alcohol because our police officers currently need reasonable grounds to believe that a person has been drinking.

People use vehicles on public roadways. Responsibility goes hand in hand with that privilege. I would never allow someone to come into my living room, my kitchen, or my patio to measure my blood alcohol. However, if I am driving a vehicle and putting people's lives in danger, obviously I have to deal with justice and the authorities, just like for a vehicle inspection. At any time while I am driving my car, authorities can stop my car to make sure it is working properly. It is perfectly reasonable for authorities to check any of the three conditions with which I must comply when I get behind the wheel of a car: being sober, abiding by the rules of the road, and having a valid driver's licence.

More than two-thirds of Canadians agree that the police should be authorized to perform random breathalyzer tests on drivers to combat drunk driving. Why? Because it saves lives. Every country that has systematic breathalyzer tests has seen a significant drop in the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers.

Millions of Canadians continue to drink and drive because they can do so with little fear of being stopped let alone charged and convicted. Recent survey results indicate that one could drive drunk once a week for more than three years before even being charged with an impaired driving offence and for over six years before ever being convicted. We have an opportunity to end that by increasing the efficiency of our roadblocks and ensuring that those who are drunk on the road are taken off the road.

I am overwhelmed by the support the bill is receiving. I already have thanked Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and Families For Justice. All members of my party and most of their predecessors on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights have recommended the adoption of the third measure, random breath testing. This was done in 2009. We have been given the opportunity to move forward. Why? Because the bill would save lives.

The Canadian Police Association was supportive back in 2009, and is still supportive of the bill. I also have quotes from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Some members may have met Mr. Clive Weyhill. This organization strongly supports this measure because it is one of the most effective methods of deterring impaired driving in other democratic societies.

On a more legal aspect, Mr. Hogg is a well-respected lawyer. I am an engineer. I did not know him. My colleague from Niagara, who is a lawyer, agrees.

He is one of the most respected authorities on constitutional law. I can table the document if need be. It indicates that the Supreme Court of Canada will uphold the validity of random breath testing.

Basically, this bill is built on a solid legal and scientific foundation. I will be pleased to see, in the coming hours, how this bill can move forward to save human lives and allow us, as parliamentarians, to do our jobs.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
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Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for a very cogent presentation with respect to the scourge of drunk driving. Everyone in the House shares our collective concern that we want to take measures that will ultimately reduce the incidence of this practice.

I want to congratulate the member for introducing his private member's bill for debate in the House. It is an important issue and it has been a particularly important issue in my area, given a recent very public case with the loss of three unfortunate children and their grandfather in the greater Toronto area. That was an extremely public instance of a tragic loss of some very young lives due to drunk driving.

In reading the bill, there are many aspects that I can certainly support. However, one area I have some difficulty with, and where I would like to pose a question for the hon. member, relates to the use of mandatory minimum sentences.

I know there has been a penchant, particularly from the Conservative caucus, in various justice legislation to impose mandatory minimum sentences. Is there a particular rationale or reason why the member feels the five-year sentencing threshold would be appropriate in the case of drunk driving causing death?

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, we certainly are always touched when the members from our own ridings are impacted by these tragedies involving driving and alcohol.

My answer would be something I just found a few minutes ago. Drunk drivers themselves are asking for stiffer sentences. An individual got three and a half years behind bars after killing a 21-year-old woman when he was driving drunk. That was two decades ago. Today this individual came back and said that this was not enough. He said that it was a crime for which he should have paid a bigger sentence. When we are at the point where drunk drivers are asking for stiffer sentences, I believe it is time for parliamentarians to take our responsibility and set the standard.

Five years is what we already see in many courts, but it establishes a base and sends a signal that this crime is not acceptable in our society. That is why mandatory minimum sentences are there. They are not for all crimes, but they are there to send strong signal. We know that drunk driving is the number one cause of deaths related to the Criminal Code.

Hopefully the committee will be given the opportunity to debate the bill. Certainly it is open for discussion and debate, but that is the argument I would bring to the members of the committee.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my question by thanking the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for introducing reform of our legislation dealing with driving while impaired. It is long overdue. It has been since 2008. Driving while impaired is responsible for more than 1,000 deaths a year, and it is a leading cause of criminal death in Canada. I thank him for his efforts in this important area.

In light of the Liberals' commitment to reform other laws where impairment could occur, such as marijuana or other drugs, my question is whether the issue of drug impairment would be affected positively, negatively, or at all by the legislation before us tonight.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for having reviewed the bill. Hopefully, we can review it further in committee. I believe this Parliament would win if this legislation is moved forward and adopted. All the members would win.

The issue of drugs is very important one. This private member's bill is focused on alcohol, but it has a side effect. I believe some additional legislation might be needed, especially if there is a wider use of drugs. We know this is a very important issue. I would certainly welcome a bill, or an amendment if the scope of the bill allows it in that regard.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
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Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis and thanking him for his work on this issue. It is an extremely important issue and we obviously support the intent of this bill.

I am pleased to join the second reading debate on private member's Bill C-226.

Bill C-226 proposes significant reforms to the Criminal Code provisions related to impaired driving.

Sadly, impaired driving remains the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. It has been a plague on society for nearly a century. The recent case in Toronto, in which Mr. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years after killing three children and their grandfather, once again focused attention on impaired driving and the devastation it causes.

I believe that we can all agree that Parliament must do what we can in order to combat this crime, which continues to kill more than 1,000 Canadians every year and to injure many thousands more, often inflicting catastrophic injuries.

To end impaired driving, we need a concerted effort on the part of individuals, families, provinces and territories, the hospitality industry, advocacy organizations, schools, health professionals, and addiction service providers. I submit that Parliament needs to be a part of this effort. Therefore, I thank the hon. member for bringing this issue to the attention of the House through Bill C-226.

This is a very complex bill. The proposals represent a significant change to the laws on impaired driving and driving offences in general.

Under Bill C-226, the Criminal Code driving provisions, including impaired driving and over-80 driving offences, would be repealed and reintroduced in a brand new part of the Criminal Code.

This would not be the first time that Parliament has considered the problem of impaired driving. In fact, Parliament has a long history of trying to deal with the problem of drinking and driving.

In 1921, Parliament first addressed the issue by enacting the crime of driving while intoxicated. In 1925, Parliament enacted the offence of driving while impaired by a drug. In 1951, Parliament replaced the offence of driving while intoxicated with driving while impaired. Later, in 1969, Parliament enacted a new offence that reflected developments in the area of forensic breath testing. This is the offence of driving with a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

This offence is commonly called “driving over 80”. It is a criminal offence separate and distinct from the crime of driving while impaired. It applies whether or not the driver exhibits bad driving or signs of impairment.

The actual measurement of blood alcohol content is carried out on an approved instrument, often referred to as a breathalyzer, typically at the police station. The breath testing is done by a police officer who is specially trained as a qualified technician to operate the approved instrument.

The Attorney General of Canada lists new approved instruments in a ministerial order after considering the advice of the Alcohol Test Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. The Canadian Society of Forensic Science is a non-governmental scientific body, and its committee is composed of very dedicated forensic scientists who, voluntarily and without remuneration, evaluate breath-testing equipment against the committee's published standards. The Alcohol Test Committee then provides its advice to the Attorney General of Canada for her consideration.

In 1979, Parliament authorized the use of the approved screening device at the roadside. The roadside screening device permits police officers to screen drivers for alcohol consumption. If a driver registers a fail on the roadside screening device, the police officer would have reasonable grounds to believe an over-80 crime has been committed. This belief is required in order to make the demand for a test on the approved instrument back at the police station.

It is only the result on the approved instrument that can be used in court to prove the over-80 offence. Despite Parliament's efforts to bring clarity to this area of the law, the impaired driving regime remains the most heavily litigated area of criminal law.

One of the areas that receives significant court attention relates to the issue of proving blood alcohol content. Parliament enacted a rebuttable presumption that the blood alcohol concentration at the time of testing is presumed to be the same at the time of driving in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. The courts came to accept a defence strategy whereby the accused and one or two friends would testify to minimal consumption of alcohol. The defence would then ask an expert to calculate what the blood alcohol concentration would have been at the time of driving based on the testimony of the accused. This calculation, unsurprisingly, would be under 80, and therefore, it rebutted the presumption, leaving the prosecution no other way to prove the over-80 offence. This stratagem became known as the two-beer defence.

This defence was severely limited in 2008 by the Tackling Violent Crime Act. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of the R. v. St-Onge Lamoureux, upheld the key elements of that legislation. Now, in order to raise the defence, the accused must first show that the approved instrument was not working correctly or that it was not operated properly. Evidence of the amount a person drank is not by itself evidence that the approved instrument was malfunctioning.

This has had the effect of greatly reducing trial time by reducing the number of cases where the defence challenges the accuracy of the approved instrument's analysis of blood alcohol concentration. It is important to note that modern approved instruments are very sophisticated with internal checks that ensure they are working properly.

Despite these changes in 2008, I am given to understand that there remain significant challenges with proving blood alcohol concentration in the courts. I wish, therefore, to focus my remarks on the measures proposed by Bill C-226 with respect to proving blood alcohol concentration, which I believe respond to the St-Onge decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Bill C-226 proposes to replace the current rebuttable presumption with respect to blood alcohol concentration with a provision that states that blood alcohol concentration is conclusively proven if three conditions are met: the approved instrument was in proper working order; there were two tests 15 minutes apart; and the two tests had results within 20 milligrams of one another.

Of course, this raises the question: How is it proven that the approved instrument was in proper working order? Bill C-226 proposes that the instrument is considered to be in proper working order if the qualified technician complied with the operational procedures recommended from time to time by the Alcohol Test Committee.

I note as well that the bill seeks to eliminate the defence of bolus drinking, sometimes called the drinking and dashing defence, where the driver consumes a large amount of alcohol just before driving and claims that although his or her blood alcohol concentration was over 80 at the time of testing, the alcohol was still being absorbed at the time of driving and he or she was under 80 when driving.

The bill also proposes to limit the intervening drink defence, where the driver drinks after being stopped by the police but before the driver provides a breath sample. In that situation, the driver claims he or she was under 80 at the time of driving and it is the post-driving drinking that put the driver over the limit. Bill C-226 would limit this defence to situations where the driver has no objective reason to think that the police would make a demand for a breath sample.

There is much more in this bill than I am able to convey in my allotted time. It is a significant piece of legislation proposing substantial reforms to the area of impaired driving and transportation offences in general. I look forward to listening to the continued debate on the bill and for a discussion of many of the other elements which are proposed.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 6:05 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address such a complex and pressing initiative, as my friend the parliamentary secretary has also indicated.

Let me say at the outset that we firmly believe there needs to be future consideration of the bill, and I look forward to working with members of all parties to advance the debate on the need for a comprehensive, effective response to impaired driving that all of our communities so desperately need.

I stand with my colleague, the member for Jonquière. She and the Lac-Saint-Jean community have also seen preventable tragedies.

She told me the story of Johanny Simard, who was killed by a repeat drunk driver one month before her 16th birthday. She also told me the story of Mathieu Perron and Vanessa Viger. This young married couple in their twenties were expecting their second child when they were killed instantly by a repeat drunk driver who was behind the wheel of a speeding truck. Their son Patrick, who was in the back seat, was only two years old. He died in hospital shortly thereafter.

I would like to thank my colleague from Jonquière for her help on this file. I would also like to thank her for seeking justice, finding solutions for the future, and helping me to understand what her community has gone through.

However, they are not alone. Far too many Canadians have friends or family members who have been injured or even killed by impaired drivers. Just last month, in a case to which the parliamentary secretary also made reference, there was a case involving a gentleman north of Toronto. Justice Michelle Fuerst wrote in her decision something I wish to quote:

The sad reality is that the sentence I impose today will not make whole the families who lost three children and their grandfather, nor will it return a grandmother and great-grandmother to good health. While the criminal justice system can deter and denounce, it is ill-suited to make reparation for harm of the magnitude involved in this case.

Neither judges nor lawmakers can make these families whole again. However, as parliamentarians we can and must work against the next tragedy. Somewhere in our communities is the next victim of impaired driving.

We owe it to them and to their families to rededicate ourselves to the task of finding the most effective measures to finally put an end to impaired driving on our roads. They are counting on us not to give in to the temptation to simply talk tough in the wake of these tragedies. They are counting on us to stop the next crash, the next injury, the next death. That means having the debate our country needs, founded on the evidence, guided by the lessons of other jurisdictions, and focused on effective deterrence. It is time we measured our progress not in years served but in lives saved.

Let us consider some facts.

Successive federal governments have increased the penalties for impaired driving offenses: in 1985, 1999, 2000 and 2008.

For 16 years, the law has set life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for impaired driving causing death, and 10 years imprisonment for causing bodily harm. The average prison term for such crimes has lengthened, and the percentage of offenders receiving custodial sentences has risen.

What effect has this had on the rate of impaired driving? If we look at the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, we see that Canada made incredible strides between 1985 and 2000, cutting the rate of impaired driving incidents in half. However, after 2000 progress stalled.

Six years ago, the Standing Committee on Justice completed its study on impaired driving. It showed that in 2006, the latest year for which data is available, saw more Canadians killed by impaired driving than in any year since 1998 and the third consecutive annual increase in fatalities.

That report stated:

...impaired driving remains the number one criminal cause of death in Canada...despite our collective best efforts and intentions, it is apparent that the problem of impaired driving is worsening in Canada and we are losing ground in our efforts to eliminate the problem.

Those words remain true today.

More recent data available to us now shows that the problem continued to worsen after 2009. Why is this so?

Let me turn to a review of the evidence by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for answers. They say the media, politicians, and others often argue for increased sentences as a means of deterring both the offender and others who might otherwise engage in the conduct. However, research during the last 35 years establishes that increasing penalties for impaired driving does not, in itself, have a significant specific or general deterrence impact. Rather, the evidence indicates that the risk of apprehension and, to a lesser extent, the swiftness with which the sanction is imposed are the key factors in deterrence.

This seems counterintuitive to many, but consider this: people drive impaired, even though they know it could kill them. If they can ignore that ultimate penalty, what chance does the distant threat of a jail term stand?

The evidence marshalled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, based on numerous studies from Canada and abroad over a span of decades, led to this stark conclusion:

...lengthy prison terms cannot be justified in the name of specific or general deterrence and may even be counterproductive in terms of recidivism.

This evidence raises specific concerns about efficacy of the sentencing reforms proposed by my colleague in the bill, not to mention the vulnerability of new mandatory minimums to charter challenge.

However, the bill has two other goals, and it is for these and the urgency of its basic objective that I support further debate and study of the bill.

First, the bill would restrict some of the more dubious legal defences that contribute to Canada's distressingly low charge and conviction rate for impaired driving. My colleagues have spoken about those.

The second is that the bill would introduce random breath testing for drivers. This is a measure that has been proposed before in this House and adopted by many OECD countries, reportedly with considerable success in reducing the incidence of impaired driving. I know from my own discussions with legal and law enforcement communities that it has its supporters but also its critics. However, in the face of continuing tragedies like what we have heard about in Lac Saint-Jean, I cannot justify denying further study in this House of that potential successful measure.

These and other provisions deserve study because we know that simply raising the penalties for the fifth time in three decades is not enough, and it will not do it. We need more than new laws that happen to be appearing in our Criminal Code. We need well-trained, well-supported police officers on our roads. We need collaboration with the provinces and territories. We need smarter investigative tools, so that families are not denied justice by a technicality. We need to study the penalties that are already in place to see what works and what does not. We need to assess the technology to detect drug-impaired driving as well.

In closing, I know that every member shares our commitment to the objective of the bill, which is to save lives by deterring and ending impaired driving. This has been the goal of many studies, bills, and laws that have been passed in this place before.

I look forward to working with all members to study the bill and measure it against the standards of comprehensiveness, practicality, efficacy, and constitutionality. We owe it to the families I spoke of when I began, and countless others across Canada, who have suffered a tragic and preventable loss, to hold ourselves to high standards, to move past half measures, and to find the most effective solutions to regain the ground we have lost over the last decade in the fight to end impaired driving.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 6:15 p.m.
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Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-226, which was introduced by my colleague, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. I want to thank him and congratulate him. He has a great passion for fighting impaired driving in our country. That was very evident in his comments today before the House. I am very honoured to get up and say a few words on his behalf and on behalf of the legislation.

I also want to thank him for mentioning our colleague, the Hon. Peter MacKay, who was moving forward on a number of these things. The justice agenda is always very busy and very challenging, but certainly that was one of the issues that he was dealing with as well.

I am glad my colleague now has the bill before the House. The bill would amend the Criminal Code on offences in relation to conveyances and would be known as the impaired driving act.

As we are aware, drinking and driving remains a serious social problem in this country. As has already been indicated, approximately 1,200 to 1,500 motorists, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians are killed annually as a result of impaired driving.

In addition to that, there is a tremendous human and social cost of impaired driving. It is estimated that an additional 70,000 lives per year are affected by drinking and driving. Factors such as property damage, physical injuries, and psychological injuries such as PTSD cost an estimated $20 billion a year.

It is not just the statistics that we are talking about or worried about; it is the individual tragedies that take place when people are victims of impaired driving. Many of us can recall loved ones or friends who have lost their lives at the hands of a drunk driver. I know many will remember the heart-rending story of 20-year-old Francis Pesa, who had his young life cut tragically short on New Year's Day in 2014 when an impaired driver crossed the centre line and sideswiped his vehicle.

Francis was an aspiring accountant who had just returned to Calgary two hours earlier from travelling to his native Philippines. He had gone there to help the victims of the devastating typhoon that had ravaged that country. This young man was deprived of realizing his goal of having a rewarding, successful career through which he could contribute to his community and to his nation. He will never know the joy of having a spouse, children, or grandchildren. His family and friends have been robbed of a loved one and will be forever affected by this tragedy. Canada lost a productive citizen whose hopes and dreams will never be fulfilled.

According to Professor Robert Solomon, a law professor at Western University, the national director of legal policy at MADD, and an individual I met on a number of occasions, drunk driving is the number one criminal cause of death in the country. We are all affected by it.

I remember very clearly years ago when very early one morning there was a knock at our front door. It turned out the woman at the door was my wife's cousin. She was in tears, and conveyed to us the terrible news that my wife's aunt, Armida McIntosh, had been killed by a drunk driver. She was on the Niagara Parkway returning home one night when her car was slammed head-on by a car that was filled with a number of young men who had been drinking and were now driving. There are very few people in the country who could say they are not touched one way or another by impaired driving.

The House has a duty to send a message and a warning to those who choose to drink and drive, and that is simply, “Do not do it. Do not take the chance, because there is legislation in place that increases the penalties and the consequences.” The measure we have today, Bill C-226, would carry with it a mandatory five-year sentence for impaired driving causing death, with a maximum sentence of 25 years. In cases where more than one life was lost, justices would be able to apply consecutive sentences.

I am very much appreciative of that provision, which would ensure that no victim is left unanswered or unaccounted for.

I am pleased as well to see the maximum sentence for impaired driving would increase from 10 years to 14 years. These are deterrents. They send out a clear message that I believe would result in fewer Canadians losing their lives at the hands of drunk drivers.

I noticed that the parliamentary secretary mentioned in his comments one of the aspects of the Tackling Violent Crime Act of 2008. I was very honoured to be justice minister at the time that measure was introduced.

One of the issues that was directly tackled was, again, the two-beer defence. This was a defence that was becoming more and more common and more and more challenging. In the two-beer defence, individuals would bring a couple of their friends into court to testify that their colleague only had two beers, so the test must be wrong. I was very pleased that this was something that we curbed at that time.

It was a step in the right direction, and I believe that what we are talking about here is a step in the right direction because, as I pointed out, 1,200 to 1,500 people lose their lives in this country, and the number of people who are affected by drunk driving and hurt by it is exponential to that number.

We have a solemn responsibility as lawmakers to protect the citizens of this great nation of ours and to make sure there are serious consequences for those who risk the lives of others by drinking and driving, so I ask my colleagues in the House to band together in sober thought and take action again to deter drinking and driving in Canada by further strengthening the present legislation and supporting Bill C-226.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 6:25 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about an important issue that society has had to face for many years.

I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's history with respect to the degree even this distinguished House has had to deal with criminal law to deter individuals from drinking and driving.

I would like to take a different approach and go back to the days when I served in the Manitoba legislature. A number of issues came to the table back in those days and drinking and driving came up on an annual basis. Many organizations and stakeholders had serious concerns. I can recall times when we were told that we needed to lobby Ottawa to make changes to the Criminal Code. I can recall many other discussions that went beyond that, and this relates to what a speaker said earlier today, that it is not just the Criminal Code that we need to look at. If we want to wrestle this issue to the ground, then we need to take a more holistic approach.

I would like to bring a couple of things to the attention of members in the House. We need legislation that would reform our criminal law so that we could provide a deterrent. That is absolutely critical. There is no doubt in my mind that we will be having many more debates on that.

I want to take this opportunity to highlight one other aspect of this issue and that is education. When I talk about a holistic approach, what I am really talking about is the importance of getting different levels of government to work together. Let me give the House a specific example.

I was but a teenager during the seventies. It was quite acceptable, in fact it was the norm at that time, to drink and drive. I worked in a garage where some of the mechanics would drink rye with no questions asked and then they would get into a car and off they would go. Back in the seventies no one would have told them that they could not drink and drive. I graduated from an urban high school in the late seventies and I cannot recall my peers being told that we should not drink and drive.

Let me fast forward to the eighties when statistics showed a decrease in drinking and driving and fatalities. It was during the late eighties and early nineties when a much more proactive approach was taken in the school system. It was the young people in Canada that really started to take note. In the last 15 years very progressive attitudes have come out of high schools in particular. If we did a bit of research we would see.

Maples Collegiate is a high school in my riding of Winnipeg North. The students came up with what is called the safe grad pass. It is a special pass that is given to a guest to participate in the grad celebrations, because in times of celebration, there is often a considerable amount of drinking involved. Mandatory classes are also held in various schools where students are educated about safe driving and safe grads. These are the types of programs that I believe have really made a difference.

It is important that we debate the legislation that is before us today. I can appreciate why the member is suggesting that we put in further deterrents. No doubt that will be well debated. However, we need to look beyond the legislation component for a good reason.

Every member who has spoken today has highlighted stories. If we look at the numbers, many stories will never get told. We are talking about 20,000-plus lives some of which are terminated because of drunk driving. Whatever the age might be, it is sad to see someone lose his or her life because of drinking and driving.

I am especially touched when someone of a relatively young age is killed or when multiple individuals are killed by one drunk driver. It happens far too often. Over 1,000 Canadians a year lose their lives of because of a drunk driver. That is not to speak of the thousands of others who are injured every year because of drunk driving.

I heard reference to the organization of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. If we talk to anyone who has served on that organization, we will hear stories about the reality and the consequences of drinking and driving. Those stories will blow the minds of most Canadians. All one needs to do is to visit its website to get a good sense of the consequences.

What I respect about MADD is that it has a more holistic approach. I believe it understands the importance of education. I really want to emphasize this. There are many social conditions in society that can be best addressed through education. This does not mean that legislation or the Criminal Code has nothing to do with it. We need to ensure we have legislation or laws that will be a deterrent, that there is a consequence.

People who drink and drive need to understand and appreciate that there will be a consequence to their act. However, quite often, individuals who drink and drive do not get behind the wheel believing they are going to get into some sort of horrific accident. They believe they are going to ultimately get away with it. For those who do get behind the wheel, there needs to be a consequence. We need to educate people so they understand that when they get behind a wheel and they are intoxicated, or they are past that .08, the likelihood of an accident is enhanced greatly.

I know generations of Canadians did not understand that or did not appreciate it. Because of the hard work of many organizations and because of debates of this nature, we have a greater understanding of the consequence. However, I am not convinced to what degree we have educated and provided incentive for people not to get behind the wheel and drive.

I am sure that in many communities, come Christmas and New Years, we will see special programs. The idea of spontaneous Breathalyzer tests deserves a lot of merit and there should be a lot of discussion on it. We should not focus our attention on one time of the year.

There is an onus of responsibility as parliamentarians to not only look at the criminal law aspect, but to also look at ways in which we can work with others, other stakeholders in particular, other levels of government, right down to the school board level, to see what we can do to better educate people so they understand the consequences of drinking and driving. We have dropped the ball on this over the years. We can do so much more.

I am pleased to see the bill here today and I look forward to an additional hour of debate on it. I would just emphasize the importance of education. We need to do something for the sake of all the victims of drinking and driving.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 6:35 p.m.
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The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate with the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby. I remind him that we will be cutting him off in about three minutes.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2016 / 6:35 p.m.
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Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that although this bill has some flaws, it is still worth studying.

I would also like to recognize my colleague from Jonquière. She is new to the House, but she has already been working hard to lessen the impact of impaired driving.

As members know, this is a problem, whether we are talking about Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, a region I know well since I lived there for many years, or about my riding of New Westminster—Burnaby. This is important. We must all work together to bring down the rate of impaired driving and reduce the number of deaths each year. I just wanted to recognize my colleague from Jonquière, because I think she is doing excellent work on this matter.

What is lacking in the bill is the whole notion of crime prevention. We saw this under the previous Conservative government that gutted funding for crime prevention right across the country. What that does is simply silly. The education and crime prevention element is extraordinarily important. Yet, we saw a Conservative government that gutted the funding that would actually serve to reduce crime rates, including impaired driving.

Members know that if we spend a dollar on crime prevention, we save six dollars in policing costs, courts costs, and penal costs later on. Therefore, it makes good sense to make the investment in crime prevention. It makes good sense as well to have bills that would reduce the rate of impaired driving.

Although it is interesting to study this particular bill, it does raise questions about the Conservatives' record on crime prevention which was deplorable. I will have more to say on that when I get the other seven minutes when we consider this bill at a future sitting of Parliament.

The House resumed from April 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences in relation to conveyances) and the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2016 / 5:15 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-226. I would like to thank my colleague and friend, and my seatmate, the member of Parliament for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, for his advocacy on this issue. Bill C-226 is the impaired driving act and is really the next evolution of Canada's response to the social problems and tragedies caused by impaired driving across Canada.

Being a member of Parliament and a father from southern Ontario, I would like to start with a few names to show this is not one of the debates in the House that is theoretical; it is one that impacts Canadian lives.

Daniel Neville-Lake, nine years old; Harrison Neville-Lake, five years old; Milagros Neville-Lake, two years old; and their grandfather, Gary Neville, were killed tragically last year in southern Ontario in an accident. It hit Canadians, wherever they were, when they heard about a young family taken through the callous act of another Canadian who could have easily avoided the situation he put those young children and their grandfather in. I do not think there is a member of the House or anyone in Canada who watched that court proceed and saw the anguish of the parents, particularly the mother of the Neville-Lake children, and what that entire episode put them through.

We have to remember that bills like private member's bill, Bill C-226, can make an impact. We can look back and say that was the turning point, that this tragedy the family suffered through led to better policy, better laws, and an updating of Canada's response to impaired driving. I hope if we can get Bill C-226 through the House, and I implore the government to ensure it gets to committee, the family members can find some degree of solace in the fact that their tragedy is helping other families avoid the same.

I read four names in the House, but there are thousands of names and families that have been touched by impaired driving, certainly over my lifetime. As the member of Parliament for Durham, I am struck by the statistic from the Durham Regional Police Service. It states that 42% of traffic accidents in my area of the country involve alcohol. Estimates have suggested that the social cost through accidents, death, illness and hospitalization is $4.5 billion related to a crime perpetrated on victims that could easily be avoided. I say that because we live in an age when this has been socially unacceptable, even since I got my driver's licence at 16.

I remember when I was at Port Perry High School there was a crashed car on the lawn of our high school. It was put there by a new group in Canada at that time, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to bring home to young people the cost of driving after consuming alcohol. For my generation and indeed for most members of the House, this is not socially acceptable, yet we still face this problem.

We also live in an age when technology and innovation have made it even easier for people to make the right choice with respect to impaired driving. We live in an age when there are not just traditional taxis or the phone call to a mom, designated driver, dad, or a friend. We have Uber, we have ride sharing, and we have programs that are dedicated to avoiding impaired driving, like Keys to Us whose drivers will follow people back in their vehicles. That did not exist 30 or 40 years ago. There is absolutely no reason for somebody who is impaired to get behind a wheel today.

With social host liability, which has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada, there is a zero tolerance now in our country for impaired driving, yet we still see the horrific accidents and the tragedies they lead to for families like the Neville-Lake family. It is up to this Parliament to react and modernize our laws.

In fact, it was the intention in the last year of the Conservative government to update and modernize these laws and show Parliament's zero tolerance for impaired driving, so I am very proud of my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for bringing something forward that he knew the last government was working on.

How would it work? The most important element, which in some areas is controversial, is the mandatory screening measure. Why is that responsible? It is because in nations that have introduced the mandatory screening, like France and Australia, they have seen a 20% additional reduction in impaired drivers on their roads as a result of the fact that they could encounter a RIDE program, like we know in Ontario, the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere program. However, in this case with mandatory screening, the officer would not need to have indicia of impairment: breath, glassy eyes, and that sort of thing. I know the next speaker on the government side who has spent many years in uniform will maybe know that procedure far better than I do, but the police would be able to do mandatory screening, because if individuals are on a roadway, it is a responsibility they have, not actually a right. We already ask them to pass driver's tests, vision tests. It is a right and a responsibility that they have to not be impaired.

If we can lead to more people not being impaired on our roadways, accidents being reduced, tragedies being reduced, why would we not do this, particularly when a country like Australia or a country like France has had such success with that public policy move?

This is not an invasion of anyone's privacy by any stretch of the imagination. Right now, if individuals are going too quickly on our motorways, they can be pulled over to the side. If their sticker is dated, if their car is not sound, they can be pulled over for safety reasons by a law enforcement officer. If the driver is not sound, we should have that same right, and mandatory screening would let everyone know that an individual is not able to be on the road in an impaired state and that there will be a zero tolerance.

The other thing Bill C-226 would do is toughen sentencing, particularly for repeat offenders. Alcoholism is a sickness and people can get help. If they can be treated, there should be zero tolerance for them on the streets at all, particularly after their first offence.

We should show society's denunciation of that conduct through a tougher sentence, so we would allow courts to give sentences in the 10-to-14-year range, and higher in repeat offences causing bodily harm, which Canadians expect.

We saw what the court determined in the Neville-Lake tragedy. We should make sure courts can do this. We should also speed up, reduce the trauma on victims by not allowing frivolous claims with respect to binge drinking before driving or after an accident, defences that really are beyond the pale in this day and age when it comes to this offence. We should not allow those sham defences to clog and delay our courts with respect to this offence.

As I said, at 43, I have grown up in an environment where there has been a zero tolerance already for drinking and driving, for impaired driving. We now have a government legalizing marijuana and risking further impairment from that drug on young people and people of all ages driving. It is up to the government—in fact it is up to the next speaker—to show that our society is also modernizing our impaired driving laws to show our re-commitment to zero tolerance.

In the Durham region, the MADD program started when I was in high school. People like Michelle Crabb in the Durham region, whose family was struck, and Dave Pereira are our volunteers who have been working on the front line for 40 years. We need to give them the new tools to make sure we have no other families like the Neville-Lake family facing tragedy from impaired driving.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2016 / 5:25 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join in the second reading debate on private member's Bill C-226, introduced by the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. I believe that all parties in the House support efforts to reduce the devastating harm that is so often caused by impaired drivers, while at the same time respecting the charter rights of all Canadians.

As members are undoubtedly aware, on average, nearly four Canadians lose their lives every day as a result of choices people make to drink and drive. Countless thousands more are injured and impacted by this terrible crime. Accordingly, I believe Bill C-226 should be given second reading and referred to committee for study and possible amendments to improve it. The bill proposes a fundamental reform of the impaired driving provisions, and other transportation provisions of the Criminal Code. The government accepts in principle the proposal in Bill C-266 to enact a new part that is written in simple language to make the law easier to understand and to enforce.

The existing Criminal Code provisions dealing with transportation offences, particularly those addressing impaired driving, are complex and often difficult to apply. In part, this is a result of successive piecemeal reforms that have taken place over many years. They have also been considerably interpreted by our courts, making it difficult to understand how they operate simply by reading the provisions. This has in turn impacted the effectiveness and the efficiency of our investigations, prosecutions, and sentencing in these important cases. The provisions can benefit from the reforms proposed in Bill C-226.

Today, I will limit my remarks to some of the key elements of the bill. First, the bill proposes to have uniform, higher maximum penalties for all transportation offences upon summary conviction and indictment. In particular, the proposal to have a 10-year maximum penalty on indictment for simpliciter offences, rather than the current five years, would make it possible for the crown to make an application to have a repeat drunk driver declared a dangerous or long-term offender. The code currently provides that a person must be convicted of an offence having a maximum penalty of 10 years or more before such an application can be made. At present, a person cannot be declared a dangerous or long-term offender even if they have committed multiple impaired driving offences.

The government therefore supports the maximum penalty proposed of 10 years for simpliciter offences, 14 years for bodily harm offences, and life for all offences causing a death.

The bill proposes to hybridize the transportation offences involving bodily harm. This would provide the crown with discretion to proceed by summary conviction in cases of minor bodily harm or by indictment in cases of significant bodily harm. Currently, the crown can only proceed by indictment. Therefore, the government supports this change.

Bill C-226 proposes many new and higher mandatory minimum penalties. We believe that higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment are inadvisable. I wish to advise the House that the Minister of Justice will be undertaking a review of sentencing that includes all mandatory minimum penalties. Importantly, the bill's proposed five-year mandatory minimum penalty for causing a death and the provision requiring consecutive sentences for each person killed raise significant charter issues. I therefore encourage members of the committee receiving the bill to strike from the bill all of the new mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment.

The government is, however, prepared to support the higher mandatory minimum fines for first offenders found with a high blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, or who refuse to provide a breath sample. We know that the higher the BAC, the more likely the driver is to cause a crash. The increase in fines from $1,000 to a minimum of $1,500 for a person with a BAC of 120 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood, and doubling the fine to $2,000 for a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 160 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood reflects this greater danger.

To ensure that an offender who refuses to provide a breath sample does not gain any advantage over those who comply with the demand, the $2,000 fine would also apply to refusal offences. I note that a blood alcohol concentration of 120 would be an aggravating factor should the person be convicted of a subsequent impaired driving offence.

The bill proposes mandatory alcohol screening, otherwise known as random breath testing or RBT. It must be borne in mind that driving is a privilege and that it is subject to many conditions. Most importantly, police already have the authority to stop any driver at random to ensure that he or she has a valid licence and that the vehicle is registered and insured.

Indeed, the courts have upheld the authority of the police to make random stops to check whether the driver is sober. During these stops, the police currently try to determine the sobriety by smelling the air for an odour of alcohol, by asking drivers if they have been drinking, to looking to see whether their eyes are red or bloodshot, asking them to produce various documents, and to observe their co-ordination.

Research has also shown, unfortunately, that drivers who are over the limit often, far too often, manage to get through a police stop without being detected.

Mandatory alcohol screening of drivers who have been stopped, whether as part of a random check stop for sobriety or because there is something in their driving which has led the police to make the stop, will identify far more of the drivers who choose to drink and drive while impaired. It is a quick, scientifically valid way of determining whether the driver has consumed alcohol and appears to be over the limit.

The realization that they cannot avoid giving a breath sample at roadside will have a very significant deterrent effect on people who may choose to drink and drive. I would like to advise the House that this deterrent effect has been demonstrated countless times in many other countries.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in its 2009 report pointed out that random breath testing reduced the number of people killed on Irish roads by 23%. In New South Wales, Australia, it resulted in a decrease of 36% in the number of fatally injured drivers with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit.

The Department of Justice issued a discussion paper in 2010 that pointed out that:

RBT has had such remarkable results that in 2004 the European Union recommended that it be a part of every EU nation’s traffic safety measures. According to the European Transport Safety Council, RBT is now in use in 22 European states.

The fact that random breath testing has been implemented in other countries, where it has saved thousands of lives and prevented countless injuries, is powerful evidence in its favour.

The government therefore supports the bill's recommendation for mandatory alcohol screening and random breath testing.

The bill also proposes to facilitate the way in which blood alcohol concentration is proven in court. It would provide that blood alcohol concentration at the time of testing would be conclusively proven if there were two breath tests on an approved instrument taken 15 minutes apart, preceded in each case by an air blank test and a calibration check, which produce results that are within 20 milligrams of one another.

Currently, the law provides that blood alcohol concentration at time of testing is deemed to be the BAC at the time of driving if the test is taken within two hours. Where the test is conducted after the two hours, a toxicologist must be called to provide evidence of what the person's BAC would have been at the time of driving if his or her evidence of consumption is accepted.

Bill C-226 proposes a legislative formula for calculating the blood alcohol concentration beyond two hours, which would significantly simplify trials in these cases. The bill also proposes to eliminate the bolus drinking defence and limit the intervening drink defence by making it an offence to have a blood alcohol concentration of 80 within two hours of driving, subject to a limited defence for innocent post-driving drinking.

The bolus drink defence arises when the driver claims to have consumed a large amount of alcohol just before driving so that, although their blood alcohol concentration was over 80 at the time of testing, the alcohol was still being absorbed at the time of driving. This defence rewards those who consume a significant amount of alcohol immediately before driving, which I am sure we can all agree is behaviour that should be discouraged.

Bill C-226 proposes two additional significant changes to the law relating to evidence in the area of drug recognition and evaluation, DRE. First, the law would be clarified to ensure that the evidence of an evaluating officer conducting the DRE is admissible without a hearing to qualify the evaluating officer as an expert. This would respond to several lower court decisions, which have refused to hear expert opinion evidence from the DRE officer with respect to drug impairment.

The government supports these enhancements to the drug recognition and evaluation program. As well, the government will be seeking to have some technical amendments presented at committee. As I stated at the beginning, I am sure we can all agree that the goal of the bill, to make our roads and highways safer for everyone, for all Canadians, is one we can and must support.

Therefore, I would urge all members to vote for the bill so we can get this important bill to committee where it can be studied in detail.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2016 / 5:35 p.m.
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Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-226, introduced by my colleague, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis.

As mentioned several times in the House, Bill C-226 is designed to limit or make more difficult the conditions that allow for impaired driving, a glaring problem. I can say that I have had a close personal experience with this problem. Just a year and a half ago, while I was driving around in my constituency, I nearly had a collision with someone who was impaired. As some members of the House will remember, in March 2015, the former provincial member for Gaspé, Georges Mamelonet, died in a head-on collision involving an impaired driver, very close to Rimouski, in fact.

This is an extremely important matter, and no one in this House will deny the importance of dealing with it appropriately.

The bill itself has three particular components. The first proposes tougher sentences by setting minimum sentences for cases of impaired driving causing death. The second component of the bill is intended to restrict legal defences and eliminate the possibility of defending oneself legally and using certain defences that are questionable and harmful to the fight we must wage against impaired driving. The third component is intended to institute random alcohol testing for impaired driving.

I can say that I do not have a problem with eliminating certain more questionable defences. People have probably abused legal loopholes to actually avoid facing the consequences of their actions, namely choosing to drink and drive.

With regard to random alcohol testing, I am open to the possibility. Obviously, it raises certain questions associated with privacy and individual freedoms. In some cases, however, we also have to look at the common good, in general. In that regard, I am not completely convinced, but I would lean in that direction.

With respect to minimum sentences, we see here, unfortunately, the usual automatic response of the Conservatives to opt for such sentences in almost every case. What is interesting is that the Conservatives, in a previous government, in 2008, had toughened certain legal provisions on impaired driving. As part of that reform and those amendments, the fines for a first impaired-driving offence were raised from $600 to $1,000. For repeat offenders, who are liable to a term of imprisonment, the sentence was increased from 14 to 30 days.

However, while this was expected to deter impaired driving, in the end the opposite effect was observed. The number of people failing impaired-driving tests did not decrease, far from it. This demonstrates the limitations of using sentences as a deterrent. That has often been proclaimed in the House. There is no evidence that sentences, whether they are minimum sentences or just tougher sentences, produce enough of a change in behaviour to truly satisfy the intentions of the House, the intentions of legislators and especially the intention that we should have in legislating for the public good.

Therefore, I can say from the outset that I am opposed to the provisions concerning minimum sentences. I am not the only one in this situation, as MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is also opposed to the imposition of minimum sentences, and in this case, a minimum sentence of five years. That does not mean we are in favour of lighter sentences, quite the contrary. However, giving that discretion to judges, allowing the legal system to make decisions that account for the context, will, in our view, be completely satisfactory and will undoubtedly lead to tougher sentences and a wider acceptance of that legal power.

In many cases, judges make their decisions based on a social context in which impaired driving is less and less tolerated. It is no longer a socially acceptable behaviour. On the contrary, it is socially and universally condemned. My colleague from Durham said it well. In that regard, that often leads to more serious legal consequences, unfortunately. I am thinking specifically of minimum sentences.

Let us then allow the judges to do their jobs, and let us do ours as legislators. I was somewhat disappointed with this bill, because if the idea was to deal with impaired driving, other elements could have been included. There is a lot of talk about sentences and punishing crime, but not much about prevention.

If the intent was really to discourage people from using a vehicle while impaired, it would have made sense to include in the bill provisions such as the obligation to have an alcohol-ignition interlock device in cars, which might automatically prevent drunk drivers from using their cars.

It would also have been worthwhile to have the bill mention a problem that is likely to become more important in the future: drug-related impaired driving. Since we are talking about legalizing marijuana, I should mention that, in some American states where marijuana has been decriminalized or legalized, impaired driving problems have emerged. However, all the bill mentions is blood alcohol tests to detect alcohol-related impaired driving.

If we want to be consistent, we will eventually have to address this issue. When the Liberal government drafts future legislation to legalize marijuana, if it goes that far, I encourage it to include provisions to protect the public. Our existing impaired driving laws are getting increasingly tougher.

As I mentioned, I will vote in favour of this bill at second reading, but I think it needs to be carefully studied in committee, because there is no guarantee that I will vote the same way at third reading. If the minimum sentencing is still in the bill, there is a good chance that I will have to vote against the bill and we will have to find another way, as legislators, to combat impaired driving.

The House takes this issue seriously, and the political parties probably have different philosophies on how to deal with this issue, but we need to find a solution that works, not a solution designed to score political points.

I would like the committee to examine whether random testing is effective, based on facts and evidence. I know that 31 of the 34 OECD countries use random testing, and Canada is one of the exceptions. I have no doubt that there will be studies on other countries' experiences.

We need to look at how these legal defences are being abused, as a way to avoid penalties for drivers who would have otherwise received punishment. We are talking about the safety of our families, neighbours, and communities, as well as the common good.

I urge all members in the House to carefully consider the various measures we could use to effectively combat this issue. The bill provides three lines of attack, so we should be able to come up with others. Most importantly, we should be able to keep the measures that work, not the measures that were proposed by those who share our political views.