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


Steven Blaney  Conservative

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


Dead, as of May 3, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-226.


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, provided by 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.

September 20th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Michael Spratt Member, Partner, Abergel Goldstein and Partners LLP, Criminal Lawyers' Association

Thank you.

My name is Michael Spratt. I'm a criminal defence lawyer. I practise here in Ottawa, and I'm here for the Criminal Lawyers' Association.

In typical defence lawyer fashion, I filed a written brief, and I'll have to ask for an extension of time so that this committee can consider it. It was sent in today, but I'm sure it will be translated and distributed to you, so I won't go into more depth about the organization. That's all in the written submission.

The Criminal Lawyers' Association supports legislation that's fair, modest, and constitutional. While we support the very important objectives of protecting society from the dangers of impaired driving, we're not able to support this bill in the current form, given some of the legal and constitutional problems with it.

Now, in my written submissions, you'll see that we fully adopt the written submissions of the Canadian Bar Association and the brief from the Barreau du Québec, which are available to the committee. There are matters in there that I'm not going to touch on orally or in my written submissions, but we fully agree with them.

I'd like to touch on three areas. The first is the new offence of operating a vehicle or conveyance and being impaired within two hours after operating it; the second area is the method of taking the samples and demanding samples, and the last area is the random breath testing.

I think a bit of history might be important. I'm sure this committee knows it better than me, but this bill, Bill C-46, very closely resembles a private member's bill introduced last year, Bill C-226. I would commend the committee to examine the testimony presented at the public safety committee on that bill, given the overlap.

Of course, Bill C-226 is virtually identical to a bill introduced by the former government, Bill C-73. The reason I bring up that history is that the public safety committee found, for Bill C-226, that the legal problems presented by the bill far outweighed the potential benefits that the bill could deliver. The committee was also not convinced that the majority of the measures in Bill C-226 were appropriate. Much of the same problems exist in this bill.

Now, the first of those problems is the new offence itself. Currently, as you know, it's an offence to operate a vehicle while impaired or over the legal limit. In Canada right now, it's not an offence to drink alcohol, to drive a car, or drink alcohol after you've driven a car. It's an offence to be impaired or over the limit while you're operating the vehicle. Unfortunately, the proposed new section 320.14 dramatically changes that, and dramatically shifts how impaired law is going to play out on our roads and in our courts. That section extends the prohibition to being over the legal limit within two hours after ceasing to operate the vehicle. That is designed to combat what is not really a problem—but the bill says it is—bolus and post-driving drinking.

I can tell you that even the litigators who specialize in impaired cases bring these defences very rarely, and they succeed on an even rarer basis. It's not a problem that is plaguing our courts, but the solution to that problem as proposed by this bill is very problematic. This section is overly expansive and, as I said, it comes with little benefit.

What we're going to see here are constitutional challenges to overbreadth, but, more importantly, constitutional challenges to a reversal of the burden of proof. Under this section, if someone goes to a wine tasting or a cocktail party, drives there with no blood alcohol level, tastes some wine or drinks some scotch, and then comes under police scrutiny for whatever reason, a breath sample is demanded and ultimately that person blows over the legal limit, then it's going to be incumbent on the accused to present evidence about their state of mind, to in effect testify under the second prong of the exception that they weren't operating while impaired, and to call evidence from a toxicologist to read back their consumption to the readings.

This is an unprecedented and very dangerous aspect: reversing the burden of proof. It's even more problematic when this bill requires that the accused present scientific or toxicology evidence. Of course, that puts this defence, this exception, this reversal of the burden, out of the reach of individuals who experience poverty or are even part of the middle class. The court system is already out of the reach of those people, and this only makes the problem worse. It's ironic that the bill reverses that burden and puts that burden on the accused person, at the same time eliminating that burden completely from the crown to call that sort of expert evidence.

The second problem here is in proposed section 320.28, regarding a police officer's reasonable grounds to believe that a person has operated a vehicle or the conveyance with an impairment to any degree under proposed paragraph 320.14(1)(b). Currently, the police officer needs to have the reasonable belief that the vehicle was operated in the last three hours, and of course, the rationale for that is apparent. When you do the tests on the person and when you take the breath samples from the person, you want to do that as close to the time of driving as possible so you can relate the two. With no time requirement here, police officers with reasonable and probable grounds can demand samples from an individual hours or even days after that individual operated a vehicle. It's even more absurd when that provision is combined with proposed subsection 320.31(4), the section that alleviates any burden on the crown to call scientific evidence if the samples are taken outside of two hours to read back.

I'll pause to say that calling of this scientific evidence adds virtually no time to a trial. It can be done through documents. It's often done by calling a witness on video, and defence counsel needs the leave of a court to cross-examine. So this isn't a provision that frustrates justice or impedes the crown in any way, but this new section, which eliminates the need to call a toxicologist and mathematically add up five milligrams of alcohol for every 30 minutes, is a problem, because if an officer demands a breath sample from somebody, say a day after they drove, and that person provides a sample and blows zero because they have no alcohol in their system at all, then through the operation of proposed section 320.31 and the read-back mean that the person is deemed to have blown 240 or deemed to have an alcohol concentration of 240 even though he blew zero a day after driving. It doesn't make any sense. I've had various people look at this, because it can't be right. But that seems to be the reading of it, and that's deeply problematic, and, I would wager—and we'll see if I'm right—unconstitutional.

Now, in the last two and a half minutes, I want to deal with what I think is the most important problem of this bill, and that is the random breath testing. Let's just cut to the chase here. There's nothing random and there will be nothing random with this breath testing. What we know now, from right here in Ottawa and the 2016 Ottawa police traffic data race collection program—arising out of a human rights complaint for racial profiling—in which the police collected race data about everyone they stopped for every traffic violation, is that if you're a visible minority or part of a marginalized group or living in an overpoliced area, you are stopped disproportionately compared to the rest of the population. In simple terms, if you're black, if you're Arab, if you're a visible minority, you get pulled over more often than a white person does. That study went on to find that those people actually were not committing offences at any higher rate than anyone else was; in fact, the rate was lower.

So when you put those things together—and this is what the Ontario Human Rights Commission has done—it means that visible minorities are pulled over by the police more often for no reason. That's what is going to happen here. We've seen it in the enforcement of the current marijuana laws, which disproportionately affect minorities. We've seen it with the carding and street checking programs, which disproportionately affect minorities. This is just legislative carding in a car. That's how it's going to play out.

Now, there has been some constitutional analysis, and I'm sure you'll point me to Professor Hogg's analysis. That analysis, in our opinion, fails to take into account the reality of how this is going to play out. We're talking about people who are already disproportionately stopped, who are taken out of their car, denied right to counsel, and sometimes handcuffed. Their movements are definitely controlled; they are detained, and their car is searched for weapons by the police. They can be questioned and they are searched. If that happens to you or me once in a lifetime, it might be a slight inconvenience. The charter analysis isn't going to look at you and me; it's going to look at the young black man who is stopped five, 10, 20 times. Go and read Desmond Cole's piece in Toronto Life about carding and the effect that has on someone. That's the analysis that will take place, so it's a big problem.

Imagine you are a young black father picking up your kid from school and you're pulled over and subjected to this testing for the fifth or sixth time. That is the analysis that will take place. We know that some of these impaired laws already on the books are saved by section 1. They violate the Constitution and are saved by section 1. When we add how this is going to play out on the ground and look at the realities of how it's going to play out, I wouldn't be as confident as Professor Hogg, as respected as he is, to say that it is going to pass a section 1 analysis.

I'd be pleased to answer any of your questions. Of course, there are more expansive comments in my written brief.

September 19th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Director, Alberta, Families For Justice

Sheri Arsenault

I hate to be negative, but no. What I saw when I studied the bill was that besides the mandatory being completely removed, it also reduced the punishments considerably for the first, second, and third time. When you are caught at a road check, say, they're leaving those exactly the same as in 2008, where they had gone up in Bill C-73 and Bill C-226. The only difference that they're making in this bill is in adding that $500 increment, depending on how much alcohol you're over limit. I think if you're almost double, you'll pay another $500.

In this day and age, I don't understand it.

September 19th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Director, Alberta, Families For Justice

Sheri Arsenault

I'd like to begin with a video. They always say a picture is worth a thousand words.

[Video presentation]

I'd like to thank you for inviting me to speak to you on what to me is one of the most important decisions a government can make. I speak to you today not as a legal expert or an organization with vast resources, but as an ordinary citizen, a real victim, and a mother.

Thank you very much for watching that video. That video means a lot to me. It goes with my presentation. It's not only my heartbreaking story, but it's also the story meant to represent what four families go through every single day here in Canada.

On November 26, 2011, my young son Brad and his two good friends were violently killed by a drunk driver. Their fender mowed through my son's car from behind at well over 200 kilometres an hour in a 70 kilometres per hour zone. He drove through Bradley's little car. There was nothing left of my son. He had to be identified by his dental records.

The impaired driver was charged with three counts of impaired driving causing death, three counts of driving over .08, and three counts of manslaughter, for a total of nine charges. He was found guilty, convicted on all nine charges, and sentenced in August 2014 to an eight-year prison term.

Attaching manslaughter to this crime is extremely rare. My son's case was only the 13th time in Canada. The offender was eligible for parole on October 28, 2016. He became eligible for full parole in April 2017, which is only a fraction of his eight-year sentence.

The Canadian public has seen that sentences are already extremely low for impaired driving crimes causing death, and I strongly believe that we are deceiving Canadians with such a reduction of sentences. An eight-year sentence equates to 2.2. That's a mere fraction, considering the severity of the crime that resulted in the horrific death of three innocent young men. Most Canadians don't know that. They believe what they read in the newspapers or see on TV. Eight years, he went to jail for eight years. That's not how it's supposed to work.

It's very difficult for me to write or speak about my son Bradley. Every parent's worst nightmare is that knock on the door by that stranger in the uniform with his hat off.

I assume that you read my “new normal” in my written presentation. I am the mother of a murdered child and there is nothing normal about my life now. It's bad enough to lose your child through absolutely no fault of their own, but to lose your young son so horrifically is something beyond words.

The pain for my loss was in itself very difficult, and it took almost three years and 31 court-related appearances to get from the date of this tragedy to the date of sentencing. I knew that I could never bring my young son back, but I thought I could possibly do something positive that would prevent other mothers from going through a similar tragedy.

I hope everybody is able to read my written brief. My written brief is very thorough in explaining my strong arguments regarding mandatory minimums and deterrence. My focus is on impaired drivers who cause death.

As I see it, our existing situation is four to five deaths a day. We all know those stats. We all know almost 200 injured every day. I try to think why. I think those who know they shouldn't be driving imagine they will get home. The fact is, they most often do get home, and this only reinforces that behaviour.

The chances of getting caught are very low, and if they do get caught, the punishment is very lenient. That's why people who drive impaired think the risk is worth taking.

The probability of being charged if you are a driver who caused death is only 22%, and out of the 22% of people who get charged with impaired driving causing death, only 11% are convicted. I fell into that 11%. I'm considered lucky. I don't feel that lucky. I'll be honest with you. But 78% who cause death are never even charged. They walk free because of loopholes. The case is thrown out of court in the first five minutes. Sentences, on average, are between two and three years.

It seems our justice system perceives these tragedies as just that, an unfortunate tragedy or an accident. When you compare that with other crimes that cause death, it just doesn't make any sense to me. You would be hard pressed to find a Canadian who thinks that our sentences for drunk drivers who cause death are anywhere close to where they should be.

To me, it's very simple. The time does not fit the crime. Somewhere, somehow, accountability should play a part for such a serious crime, loss of life, and not only for the victims but for the general public.

I'll turn to Bill C-46 and what I see as deficient in this bill. What I find and what is most noteworthy to me is Bill C-46 contains most of the contents of former Bill C-73 and former Bill C-226 by filling in some of the loopholes, but it has completely removed the stiffer penalties for impaired drivers who cause death. It also reduces the punishments considerably for the first, second, third, and subsequent offences from what was proposed in these former bills. A $1,000 fine is considered a credit card fine in this day and age, and that's where this bill remains.

In Alberta, if you take one more fish than you're allowed or if you go fishing without a licence, the mandatory minimum is a $1,000 fine. It's the same for impaired drivers.

Essentially, this is the same legislation as our existing legislation from 2008, Bill C-13 regarding impaired drivers who cause death. Shouldn't the first instance be harsh enough so there is no second and third and fourth and until possibly a death occurs?

Bill C-46 does add a small increase depending on your blood alcohol, a raise of $500, and they did add in mandatory breath testing. On random breath testing, I recognize that there is a 20% reduction in deaths quoted by MADD and Dr. Solomon regarding other countries, but this is over a very long period of time, 10 to 20 years. I would suggest that there is more to it than just the component of random breath testing. To me, there are many sides to this coin and over all those years there have to be many other variables included that have factored in.

I would like to know what the sentences are for drunk drivers who cause death in these countries. I believe other variables over such a long period of time such as cultural change really factor in too. With the legalization of marijuana, is this government prepared to give our police forces the resources they need? How will it affect the civil liberties? How will it affect our already overflowing courtrooms? These are the questions that I wonder about.

I will tell you random breath testing would not have helped in many cases that I know. It would play no part to me in hard-core drinkers. The offender who killed my son and his two friends admitted in his parole hearing he drove drunk over 300 times in a five-year period. He drove once or twice a week. When he killed my son and his two friends, he was considered a first-time offender. First time caught is what I call that, and most hard-core ones are like him.

We can't expect random breath testing to be the only answer. We can't assume our police will catch everyone. In 2012, only 5% of impaired drivers who were caught tested at .08, but 64% of those tested at double or more, and those are the ones who kill. There is no certainty or severity in this bill to recognize loss of life or to deter others.

Overall, Bill C-46 is considered to be very deficient in changing the behaviours of hard-core, habitual impaired drivers. It would not significantly reduce deaths, at least not until there's a cultural change, and that could take decades. This bill does not recognize causing one or multiple deaths as a serious crime.

Because I know my time is almost up, I'll speak briefly on mandatory minimum sentences.

Five-year mandatory minimum sentences would greatly strengthen the deterrence goals in sentencing. It would provide a level playing field for judges, prosecutors, and defence lawyers, while still leaving a wide area of discretion between minimum and maximum for consideration, such as mitigating and aggravating factors, rehab, etc. A five-year mandatory minimum sentence would not be considered too severe or cruel, considering parole and statutory release dates. Sentences for impaired driving causing death would be commensurate with other serious offences, so it would not be viewed as an accident or an unfortunate tragedy.

On deterrence, the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for impaired drivers causing death is needed, because I believe it would provide a strong general deterrent example to the public that saving the lives of our loved ones is significant, and both the certainty and the severity of the punishment are effective in deterring crime. Deterrence is critical.

Finally, we all know that impaired driving is the number one cause of criminal deaths in Canada: four a day. A car is a deadly weapon. Safety is a non-partisan issue and protecting Canadians should be our government's priority.

On June 16, 2015, the day that Bill C-73 was introduced, the former justice minister, the Honourable Peter MacKay, sat me down in a private office here in Ottawa, looked me in the eye, assured me he did not anticipate much opposition to this legislation, no matter who formed government in the fall, and said, “It's a good bill, Sheri.”

I was very optimistic when the new government was formed in 2015. I wrote to all 184 Liberal MPs in January 2016 by email and I hand-delivered a letter. I even blogged my optimism on my website. I have this letter and my blog to hand out. I received six replies. Truthfully, that alone was heartbreaking.

To me, it's inconceivable that impaired driving causing death is not taken more seriously when it comes to punishment. I ask that you review Bill C-46 with an open mind and with a particular reflection on the impacts: the deaths, the injuries, the victim impacts, the costs on our society, and the respecting of Canadians' clear demands for harsher penalties. I strongly recommend that the committee support an amendment for the reinstatement of the mandatory minimum sentence for impaired drivers who cause death, as was provided in Bill C-73 and Bill C-226. We are all just sitting ducks, every one of us here, including our children and our friends. We are candidates for the next horrific death at the hands of an impaired driver. This is 2017, and it's a choice. In fact, it's wilful.

Sadly, I feel like a nobody. Every day I wake up with the realization my son is gone and it seems that victims don't matter. We have no accountability, no justice, and no deterrence.

I'll close with the hope that special attention be paid to the words of the late Arnold Chan, MP for Scarborough—Agincourt, who stated that all MPs should forget their ideologies and work together to get things done for Canadians.

Thank you very much.

September 19th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you.

Thank you for being here today.

My riding of Kootenay—Columbia is located in southeastern British Columbia, and my constituents are very interested in and concerned about both Bill C-45, trying to ensure that economic opportunities continue for small business, and Bill C-46, in terms of keeping us all safe.

I would start with a question for Mr. Therrien. In the material prepared by the committee, you are specifically mentioned as having raised concerns regarding random breath testing, provisions from Bill C-226, particularly concerning racial bias in the application of this law.

What sorts of conditions could you recommend to the committee to prevent arbitrariness and racial profiling in random breath testing?

September 19th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Daniel Therrien Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before you today on Bill C-46. I'm accompanied by Madam Kosseim. As you may be aware, we appeared before the public safety and national security committee, SECU, on a similar private member's bill, C-226, a year ago. I would stress from the outset that our office fully understands the severity, societal impact, and clear dangers of impaired driving. For governments and law enforcement, combatting impaired driving is clearly a compelling state objective, given the tragic impact on Canadians each year.

In our testimony before SECU last September on the other bill, we acknowledged the pressing nature of the state objective but also posed three questions related to the necessity and proportionality of the new provisions. Those questions included consideration of how invasive this new power could be, how necessary it is to move away from the suspicion standard, and whether there is any concrete evidence as to how effective the proposed changes might be.

In the interim, since our last testimony and the introduction of this bill, the government published a charter statement and a legislative backgrounder, which attempt to deal with these questions. While we might disagree on some particulars, for instance on the reasonable expectation of privacy of individuals subjected to new mandatory roadside testing, on the whole we find these explanations satisfactory.

For instance, these materials provide information on the limitations of the current system in Canada and the effectiveness of models outside Canada in reducing deaths due to impaired driving. On the whole, we think that the government's answers to our questions on necessity and proportionality, if not perfect, are in most ways adequate.

All that said, however, there are some other substantive privacy issues we would like to raise, including the broadening of purposes for which test results and analyses of bodily samples can be shared and how this sensitive data would be handled.

Clause 15 of the bill, which would add subsection 320.36(2) to the Criminal Code, permits the sharing of the results of any evaluation, physical coordination test or analysis of a bodily substance for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of a federal or provincial act.

Currently, the use and disclosure of this type of information is restricted to specific Criminal Code, Aeronautics Act or Railway Safety Act offences, or to the administration or enforcement of provincial law.

As a consequence, the bill would widen the potential uses and purposes for which such results may be put by authorities.

While road safety is clearly a compelling state objective, we do not see how the numerous other administrative objectives would justify the sharing of test results.

In your study, we recommend that the committee examine which specific laws are contemplated here and consider restricting sharing to the enforcement of statutes with sufficiently compelling state objectives that justify sharing sensitive information originally obtained without grounds.

If you are not convinced, you could limit sharing under the system in the subsection in question only to federal or provincial laws dealing with transportation security.

We would also ask whether testing results are retained on individuals who are not found to be in violation of the regulatory limits.

Unrestricted retention of negative test results or false positives would represent a privacy risk if clear ground rules around their required destruction are not set in advance.

Thank you for the invitation. I look forward to answering your questions.

September 18th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

I want to thank the witnesses.

Ms. Kaulius, certainly you have my condolences on your tragic loss. All members of the committee certainly feel for you and your pain. Unfortunately, there are far too many mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours who have loved ones who have needlessly died or been seriously injured at the hands of an impaired driver. It is why to some degree in this big bill, a complex bill, there are some good aspects, although there are some areas that I have some concern with. I will make one observation, which is that I do believe that when you compare Bill C-73 and Bill C-226 and this legislation, there really is a considerable watering down, in terms of penalties particularly, with respect to mandatory minimums.

While we talk about sentencing and sentencing principles, two very important sentencing principles involve denunciation and protection. Certainly, that is relevant when we're talking, as you say, about a very small number of individuals who are hard-core impaired drivers.

I was wondering if you might want to speak to that. Then I will have a question for Professor Hogg.

September 18th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Markita Kaulius President, Families For Justice

Thank you.

Dear MP Housefather and honourable members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, thank you for allowing me to be here today to speak with all of you.

My name is Markita Kaulius. I am the founder and president of Families For Justice. I am here today representing thousands of Canadian families that have had our children and loved ones killed by impaired drivers in Canada.

On May 3, 2011, my 22-year-old daughter Kassandra went to the university to write a final exam towards her teaching degree. Later that day, she went out to coach a girls' softball team, and pitched a softball game herself that night. Kassandra left the park and was driving home when she was stopped at a red light. The red light turned green, and she proceeded into the intersection to make a left-hand turn. An impaired driver came speeding down the curb lane and accelerated through the intersection on a red light that had been red for 12 seconds. The driver got airborne over railroad tracks and slammed into my daughter's driver-side door, striking her at 103 kilometres an hour. Kassandra's car was sent up and over a median about 1,200 feet down the road, and debris was sent across four lanes of traffic. The driver got out of her car and went up to look at my daughter dying, then fled the scene of the collision. Kassandra never came home. She was killed in a catastrophic accident. I'm sorry, it was not an accident; it was a collision. She died from multiple injuries she received from being crushed to death at 103 kilometres an hour.

During that same year, 1,074 other innocent Canadians were killed, and over 62,000 people were injured in Canada by impaired drivers. Even with all the education and awareness campaigns we have had over the past 35 years, impaired driving is still the number one criminal cause of death in Canada.

Each year statistics show impaired driving causes the deaths of thousands of innocent people across this country. Statistics show on average between 1,200 to 1,500 people per year are killed by an impaired driver—that equates to about four to six people a day—and 190 a day are injured by impaired drivers in Canada.

Numerous lives are tragically cut short by impaired drivers who make the decision to be reckless in their actions. They make the wilful choice to put others at risk on our roadways and highways by driving while being impaired by either drugs or alcohol. Somewhere today in other communities, there is the next victim of impaired driving.

A speeding vehicle in the hands of an impaired driver becomes a 2,000 pound weapon. It is as much a lethal weapon in causing death as a loaded gun or a knife. The only difference is that the weapon of choice is different and the victims are at random on our roadways and highways, and it causes more severe injuries. It happens in every city and town across Canada. The deaths are all vehicular homicides, and the devastation to families is life changing.

Families For Justice has been lobbying the federal government in the form of several bills over the past six years. We supported Bill C-247 and Bill C-226, which were both voted down by the federal government, and over the past six years while we've been waiting for the past and present governments to make changes to laws in Canada, over 6,000 more innocent lives have been lost to impaired drivers in Canada.

In 2011, fatalities involving a drinking driver accounted for 33.6% of total deaths on Canada's roadways. The statistics reflect the growing rate of drug presence in drivers involved in fatal crashes as well. In fact, drugs are now more present than alcohol in drivers involved in fatal crashes.

An estimated 30% of impaired driving offences are by repeat offenders. These offenders are more likely to drink and drive frequently, often at higher breath alcohol concentration levels, and they have a history of prior convictions. Some have alcohol dependency issues.

Those with chronic dependency issues are often employed and driving through our neighbourhoods, through school and bus zones, in the morning rush hours with high blood alcohol levels from the previous night's drinking or drugging. They are also relatively resistant to changing their behaviour, as evidenced by their continued offending behaviour, even after they have faced penalties. Even though these offenders represent a relatively small proportion of the driving population, they account for nearly two-thirds, or 65%, of all alcohol-related driving fatalities and they were responsible for making 84% of all drinking and driving trips. In other words, they drink and drive more frequently than any other type of impaired driver.

We owe it to the lives lost and to the families to rededicate ourselves to the task of finding the most effective measures to finally put an end to impaired driving on our roads. Canadians are counting on the Government of Canada to not give in to the temptation to simply talk tough in the wake of these tragedies. We are counting on you to stop the next crash, the next injury, and the next death, and focus on effective deterrents. It is time now that we measured the progress of making real changes to Canada's impaired driving laws, not in the years that you have just had a discussion about it. This legislation will save lives and hold people accountable for their actions in committing crimes.

The impaired driving act was designed to address inconsistencies in the Criminal Code, harmonize and increase penalties for repeat offenders, simplify the burden of proof for establishing blood alcohol concentration, and speed up impaired driving related court cases. The legislation should contain important measures that are essential to combatting impaired driving, but there are still items that need to be addressed in this bill.

While we support many of the proposed changes in Bill C-46, we strongly feel there are two urgent changes that need to be considered and have not been addressed. Drivers of all ages still risk the chance and drive after consuming alcohol or taking drugs, and only very strict deterrents would impact the crucial thoughts of a driver before they drink or do drugs. Tougher laws must be implemented to enforce deterrence.

Families for Justice submitted over 117,000 names of Canadians on petitions asking the federal government to change the Criminal Code of Canada and the offence of impaired driving causing death. We ask that this offence be redefined as vehicular homicide as a result of impairment. We also do not see any mandatory minimum sentencing for anyone convicted of impaired driving causing a death, which was also requested on our petition from the Canadian public. We feel both these changes in the laws are very strong deterrents to add to Bill C-46. The driver has broken two driving laws: one, by driving impaired, and two, by causing the fatality of an innocent person.

We have the support of the B.C. chiefs of police, the Edmonton police, the RCMP, the Alberta Federation of Police, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and there isn't a first responder, a paramedic, a police officer, a fireman, or a citizen who doesn't hope that one day the number of tragic impaired driving collisions will stop.

Changing the Criminal Code of Canada would finally call this crime what it rightfully is, vehicular homicide as a result of impairment. Minimum mandatory sentencing would finally hold people accountable for their actions in committing crimes against society, and in causing the deaths of innocent people. With additional changes we propose in Bill C-46, it would become one of the most important pieces of legislation for public safety that would become law and affect Canadians now and for future generations.

For 16 years, the law has set 10 years' imprisonment for causing bodily harm and life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for impaired driving causing death. In Bill C-46, the maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing bodily harm would increase from 10 years to 14 years. For impaired driving causing death, the sentence has not changed. It says in the Criminal Code of Canada that a person is liable on conviction of the indictment to imprisonment for life for causing a death, but sadly, no judges ever give this sentence for causing death in impaired driving cases.

The average sentence for impaired driving causing death is two to four years. The actual amount of time served in a two-year to four-year sentence is six months to 12 months. That's it. You can raise the sentence on a piece of paper in the Criminal Code but the reality is the lengths of sentences are never given out by judges in Canada in impaired driving cases where death or multiple deaths have occurred. No one in Canada has ever received a life sentence in prison for causing the death of multiple family members.

The courts need to acknowledge that the deaths that arise from impaired driving are homicides. They are vehicular homicides. People are being killed by the reckless action of others who make the choice to put others at risk by driving while being impaired. There is no excuse in this day and age for anyone to drive impaired as every one of those deaths was 100% preventable.

Over the years, judges continue to give out low sentences and fines in impaired driving cases. Therefore, those cases become precedents for future sentences. A prosecutor recently told a friend of mine who is a police officer that only about 3% of cases actually ever make it to trial. After plea deals are done and charges are dropped, he said only about 3% actually make it to trial.

We have seen such sentences as a $100 fine, a $1,500 fine, seven weekends in jail, and these sentences were given out to a driver for his third offence for impaired driving. This time he killed two women. Basically he got a $750 fine per death and served three weeks in jail for killing. One of these women left six children orphaned. The pain and the suffering of that family will last a lifetime.

Another couple, Brad and Krista Howe, were killed in Red Deer, Alberta. They left five children orphaned as well. The impaired driver who killed them was given a two-year sentence and was released after serving only seven months in jail. He served three and a half months per death. We've seen sentences of $2,000 fines, 90 days to be served on weekends only, four months in jail. That driver is appealing his four-month conviction.

Entire families have been killed by impaired drivers: Catherine McKay killed Jordan Van de Vorst, his wife, his son Miguire, age two, and daughter Kamryn, age five, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The driver was convicted in 2016. It was her third impaired driving charge. She was sentenced to 10 years, and spent one month in jail. She was then sent to a healing lodge. Even the elders at the healing lodge shared with the deceased family that they didn't feel that was appropriate, that this woman should have spent some time in jail. She will come up for parole in February 2018 after serving 18 months out of a 10-year sentence. She will have served four and a half months per death.

Mr. Marco Muzzo killed three children in Vaughan, Ontario, Daniel, age nine, Harrison, age five, and Milly, age two, as well as their grandfather, and seriously injured the grandmother and aunt. In one fell swoop, he decimated an entire generation of the Neville-Lake family, its legacy and its future. Mr. Muzzo will come up for a parole hearing 18 months into his nine-year sentence. He will have served four and a half months per death. Jennifer and Edward Lake received a lifetime sentence of being without all three of their children.

Over the past several years an average sentence handed down for impaired driving has been two to four years. The average sentence actually served in jail is about six to 10 months.

We continually hear from the public that our justice system is broken and failing. Presently, victims feel that a human life is of no value in our criminal justice system and the victims are hardly considered. After attending many court cases over the last six and a half years, it appears in a court of law that often the investigations themselves are on trial and not the accused. The public feel there is a revolving door at the courthouses across Canada and that the courts are not holding people accountable for breaking the law and are depriving Canadians of their fundamental right to safety.

Parents have told us the message coming from our courts to Canadians is loud and clear and it is unmistakable: criminals have more rights than their victims. Even when writing a victim impact statement, victims have strict guidelines on what they are allowed to say and are limited on the number of pages they can write, while the accused is allowed all of the character references they can submit to court. The accused is allowed to see the victim impact statement before the victim even is allowed to read their victim impact statement. People keep asking us why the sentencing laws are so lax in Canada. We wish we could answer that question. Maybe someone here today could answer that for us. Why are the sentences so low in Canada?

We need stronger deterrents and tougher sentencing laws in Canada. We believe that mandatory minimum sentencing is not for every crime. However, Canadians do believe that when an unnatural death has been caused to an innocent person, the accused should be held accountable for causing a death and receive an appropriate sentence based on the severity of the crime. The sentences that are being handed down by our criminal justice system are inappropriate and need to be changed, and just changing them on paper and not having them ever enforced will not make a difference.

Most people who currently break the laws do so because they know there are very little consequences that will happen to them in our criminal justice system. If a mandatory sentence of five years was handed down, the accused would only serve about 10 to 12 months, which is still a low sentence for killing someone but is better than the six months or the $1,500 or $100 fine that is being given out now. The victim's family receives a lifetime sentence of being without their child or loved one and the victims receive a death sentence. Those who are not killed but who are injured may live a lifetime with extensive injuries or disabilities to deal with.

The convicted person is serving the least amount of sentence after committing the crime of killing or injuring a person. In Canada, impaired drivers will continue, and magnify, with the upcoming changes to marijuana laws. This crime will only grow if there are no mandatory minimum sentences handed down for impaired driving causing death. Considering the upcoming lessened restrictions on marijuana, not to mention the current crisis of opiate overdoses, which also happen in vehicles, the public is fearful of more impaired driving fatalities. Changing the Criminal Code of Canada would cover future deaths caused by both alcohol and drug impairment.

September 18th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Kathryn Pentz Treasurer, Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association

Thank you.

The criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association is pleased to comment on Bill C-46, which proposes to amend Canada's impaired driving legislation. The section recognizes the importance of road safety and the need to ensure that Canadian law offers effective enforcement mechanisms to address impaired driving. As front-line practitioners, crowns and defence lawyers, the CBA feels that we are very familiar with the operation of the law in this area and the demands impaired driving cases place on the system.

The reality is that litigation of impaired driving consumes significant court resources, and any change should be approached cautiously and only when shown to be necessary. Part 1 of the bill deals with impairment by drugs. Drug-impaired driving is a major concern and with the expected legalization of marijuana, the number of drivers on the road under the influence of marijuana is likely to increase. We appreciate the need to address this reality.

Part 1 of Bill C-46 would amend section 253 of the Criminal Code to provide acceptable levels for drugs, as we now have for alcohol. However, the reality is that it is much more difficult to determine an impairment level for drugs than for alcohol. Most experts will agree that everyone is impaired to some degree by alcohol at .08, but the analysis is not so simple in relation to drugs. In the fall of 2016, I had the opportunity to attend a government-sponsored conference in Quebec City on marijuana-impaired driving. The experts there from both the U.S. and Canada were unanimous that it was impossible to set a limit at which all drivers would be impaired by marijuana. Habitual users will have a higher tolerance and will not be impaired as easily as an occasional user. If the limit was set at five nanograms, a habitual user could fail the test but not necessarily be impaired. In contrast, an occasional user might pass the test but still be quite impaired.

The CBA is an association of lawyers, and unfortunately we cannot offer scientifically valid solutions. What we want to do today, however, is identify this as a problem and say that in order to comply with Canada's Constitution, any proposed limits must link the concentration level to impairment based on proven scientific evidence.

Part 2 of Bill C-46 would replace the existing criminal legislation on impaired driving with an entirely new regime. From the perspective of front-line practitioners, both the crown and defence, this is extremely problematic. In fact, our first recommendation is that part 1 of the bill proceed and part 2 be deleted.

Impaired driving is one of the most extensively litigated areas of criminal law, and every aspect of the existing law has been subject to intensive constitutional scrutiny. The law is now settled. When cases are litigated, the arguments are mainly about the facts of a particular case and how they relate to the established law. We are not arguing on how the law of those sections should be interpreted. If part 2 of Bill C-46 were proclaimed, we would basically be back at square one, arguing interpretation and constitutionality of the new provisions.

The criminal justice system is still struggling to deal with the time limits recently imposed by the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. The government has recognized that court efficiencies are at a critical point. The Senate has recently released its report with recommendations to achieve greater efficiencies. We all acknowledge that court delays are a major concern. The CBA's criminal justice section believes that this is not the time to impose legislation that will add significant demands on the system. A complete revision of impaired driving laws, in our opinion, is unnecessary. Apart from the need to address drug impairment with the new technological advances on the market, the existing laws are not deficient. Any deficiencies that we see arising would result more often from a lack of training and resources than from problems with the existing legislation.

I will offer a few examples of our specific concerns in relation to part 2 of Bill C-46.

Proposed subsection 320.14(5) provides a defence to “over 80” if the driver consumed alcohol after driving, had no expectation that they would be required to provide a sample, and the levels were consistent with a level under 80 milligrams at the time of driving.

The aspect of having no expectation that they would be required to provide a sample is something new in legislation. The language “no reasonable expectation”, who will have to prove or disprove that expectation? What is a “reasonable expectation”? Presently, if an individual attempts to skew Breathalyzer results by consuming large amounts of alcohol after driving, we have the option of charging that individual with obstruction of justice. The only addition of this “no reasonable grounds to believe that one would be asked to provide a sample” is to introduce new terminology that would spawn further litigation.

We also feel very strongly about the mandatory roadside testing under proposed subsection 320.27(2). That testing is provided when the officer has a screening device. First and foremost, we have to recognize that it would involve a tremendous input of resources to get these screening devices out there, but the essence of the CBA's objection is that it is random testing. We view this as a violation of section 8 of the charter and believe it would not withstand constitutional challenge.

Advocates of random testing frequently look to Australia and its experience, where there was a significant reduction of fatal and serious crashes following the introduction of random testing, but we have to recognize that Australia does not have a charter of rights. More importantly, when they went to random testing, they went from no testing to random testing. In Canada, when we went from no testing to suspicion-based testing, we also had a reduction. We can't look at the Australian model and assume that we are going to have the same reductions.

The other reality, Ireland, has had some success, but again, Ireland deals with drinking and driving largely under an administrative scheme as opposed to a criminal justice scheme.

When we are looking at mandatory roadside testing, it's important that we recognize those factors and not simply jump aboard other studies and assume that we are going to have the same results with our existing legislation and without going to the administrative regime that has been seen in other countries.

The CBA is also concerned about proposed paragraph 320.28(2)(b), which seems to allow any police officer to completely bypass the drug enforcement officer and make a demand for a bodily substance. Under the existing legislation, if an officer believes a person is impaired, they may demand that the person comply with testing by a properly qualified police officer, a DRE officer.

Under the new legislation, the police officer can do that, or they can bypass the DRE officer directly and make their own demand for a bodily substance. This is, in essence, totally bypassing the need for the trained officer. We have a situation where the DRE officer, who is trained, has to go through tests before he can make a request for bodily samples, yet the untrained officer can just make a request for bodily substances without doing any testing. We view that, again, as a violation, and we believe very strongly that untrained officers should not be permitted to make a demand for a bodily substance. That is far more intrusive than making a demand for breath.

Proposed section 320.29 amends the section dealing with warrants after an accident resulting in death or bodily injury. However, unlike in the existing warrant section, the officer does not need to have any grounds to believe an offence was committed, only that there was an accident, coupled with a suspicion that the person has drugs in their system—not “had” drugs in their system at the time of the accident, but “has” drugs in their system at the time of the request of the warrant. There is no linkage at all to the drugs or the alcohol or the accident. This could basically allow the police to make a request for a warrant in any case where there's a death or bodily harm even where there's no allegation of an offence by the person targeted. Again, there are significant charter implications for such a broad authorization.

Bill C-46 still contains mandatory minimum sentences. We were pleased that the extent that was in Bill C-226 was removed, but mandatory minimum still exists in Bill C-46. The CBA has long opposed mandatory minimum sentences and we continue to do so. The minister has also recognized these as problematic and we support the judicial discretion to determine the appropriate penalty in this case, in individual cases.

Proposed section 320.23 provides that an offender is not subject to mandatory minimums if he or she completes a treatment program, but under Bill C-46, that can only happen with the crown's consent. We believe that it should be the court and not the crown who determines if a treatment program is required. We are also concerned that the lack of available treatment facilities in some jurisdictions could result in inconsistencies in the application of this section.

Thank you for your attention and I welcome any questions.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 5:40 p.m.
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Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a true honour to speak in support of Bill S-226. I thank Senator Andreychuk for her initiative in another place and I thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for bringing it to the House.

The legislation will effectively add a long overdue dimension to Canada's official sanctions regime by targeting corrupt foreign officials responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. This act will be forever associated with Sergei Magnitsky, a heroic victim of Vladimir Putin's brutally corrupt regime. He was an auditor who discovered and exposed details of a massive corruption racket involving many mid and high-level Russian government officials, oligarchs, best described collectively as “kleptocrats”.

I will not revisit the tragic details of Mr. Magnitsky's cruel detention, his torture and his death or of the Putin regime's posthumous conviction of Mr. Magnitsky on outrageously confected charges of tax evasion. However, I would recommend, for those unaware of the Magnitsky story, the international best seller, Red Notice, written by his employer, the crusading champion of Magnitsky-style legislation in democracies around the world, Bill Browder, CEO and founder of Hermitage Capital Management.

Bill C-226 lays out very clearly the circumstances under which corrupt foreign individuals, not just in Russia but anywhere in the world, would be listed. Listing would apply to individuals responsible for, or complicit in, extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, and foreign government officials exposed of illegal activity.

The law would prohibit those individuals from travelling to Canada, investing in Canada or for any funds or properties of these individuals discovered in Canada to be subject to seizure. The law would also provide for penalties against Canadians found to be engaged in activities that would assist the identified corrupt foreign officials.

The Liberal government has come to accept and support the legislation very late in the day, even though in the final days of our previous Parliament, the Liberals joined all parties in unanimously supporting a motion for Magnitsky-style legislation.

The first Magnitsky legislation was passed in the United States in 2012. Other countries have followed such as the United Kingdom and Estonia. The European Parliament has called on member countries to consider imposing entry bans on listed individuals and for co-operation in freezing the assets of listed Russians.

Despite acceptance and implementation of these Magnitsky laws, the former Liberal foreign minister, Stéphane Dion, flatly opposed such legislation last year, saying, more than a little disingenuously, that it was unnecessary. Fortunately, over the past year, encouraged by the official opposition and NDP members of the foreign affairs committee, the Liberal members of the committee came to agree that in fact Canada did need Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation.

Our committee heard testimony from a broad spectrum of witnesses.

Former Liberal justice minister, Irwin Cotler, the sponsor of the House's original Magnitsky motion, said that the main objective “is to combat the persistent and pervasive culture of corruption, criminality and impunity”, and most importantly, to assure victims and defenders of human rights in such foreign countries “that Canada will not relent in our pursuit of justice for them”.

Garry Kasparov, an eloquent advocate of democratic reform in Russia and, of course, former world chess champio, put it this way in his testimony before the committee. He said, “Money is always looking for safe harbour. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, if not more, of this money that will definitely be looking for a place to be invested.” He warned against Canada being considered by corrupt individuals as a “safe haven”.

Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of the Russian pro-democracy crusader, Boris Nemtsov, murdered on a Moscow bridge in 2015, made clear the importance of targeted sanctions against named individuals. She said, “These are not sanctions against a country or even a government. These are sanctions against specific individuals responsible for corruption and for abusing human rights.”

Equally powerful testimony came from Russian human rights activist, Vladimir Kara-Murza who, after recovering from one sinister attempt to poison him in Russia in 2015, told our committee:

I have no doubt that this was deliberate poisoning intended to kill, and it was motivated by my political activities in the Russian democratic opposition, likely including my involvement in the global campaign in support of the Magnitsky Act.

Mr. Kara-Murza was in Canada a few weeks ago still recovering from a second poisoning attempt on his life. He encouraged Canadian parliamentarians to ensure the legislation was quickly voted into law and then, as importantly, effectively enforced.

That is an important point because, as the foreign affairs committee discovered during our hearings this past year, enforcement of Canada's existing sanction regime is pathetically dysfunctional and ineffective.

The Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act was created in 2011, to respond to events of the Arab Spring, where governments fell and state assets were vulnerable to corrupt officials suspected of moving ill-gotten wealth to locations abroad.

The Special Economic Measures Act has been used in the creation of a number of regulations that would impose restrictive measures and prohibitions on illegitimate activities, to freeze bank accounts, to block financial dealings and seize property.

Sanctions against Iran for its nuclear adventurism and sponsorship of terrorism are within SEMA, as are sanctions against Russia for the invasion and occupation of Crimea and sponsorship of the deadly rebellion in Eastern Ukraine.

However, testimony revealed that Canadian departments and agencies that were mandated to monitor and to enforce such sanctions, operated in counterproductive silos, that the complexities of sanctions enforcement exceeded the capacity of departments and agencies. Most important, we heard from the RCMP and other agencies that there was a lack of capacity to monitor and investigate compliance and that sanctions enforcement was a much lower priority than say, anti-terror responsibilities.

While we in the official opposition are pleased that the Liberals have accepted our unanimous foreign affairs committee recommendations to add this Magnitsky bill, Bill C-226 to Canada's sanction regimes, there is still much more to be done.

There are 12 other recommendations in the committee report aimed at fixing Canada's dysfunctional sanctions enforcement to increase capacity, coordination, and commitment between departments and agencies. The need for just such action was made clear last month. Where bureaucrats, security agency officials, and financial institution specialists tended to scoff that Russian kleptocrats would want to move illegal funds to Canada or to enjoy those ill-gotten gains in Canada, information provided by Mr. Browder to the RCMP last year and to Canadian journalists more recently proved exactly the opposite.

The CBC confirmed that after following up on Mr. Browder's documents, a powerful Russian crime syndicate, accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars around the world, appears to have also flowed millions through nearly 30 Canadian bank accounts, without sanctions enforcers noticing. Some of those accounts belonged to individuals. Others were shell companies created to receive incoming funds and to send laundered money abroad.

Lincoln Caylor, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in complex fraud, was quoted as saying that there was so much documentation proving that millions from a sophisticated Russian tax fraud had moved in and out of Canada, that it was groundbreaking.

We in the official opposition are pleased the government has finally decided to support Conservative legislation, which will target the world's worst human rights offenders, as well as from Russia, to Iran, China, Congo, Venezuela, South Sudan, anywhere perpetrators of gross violations of human rights can be identified. We are pleased with the combination of Bill C-226 and the foreign affairs committee's unanimous recommendations to apply Magnitsky sanctions legislation and to enforce them.

The challenge now is for the often foot-dragging Liberal government to actually act.

June 13th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Carole Morency Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Sorry, I would like to add that when Bill C-226 was also being studied previously by the SECU committee, the issue was asked there as well.

If you look at the successes in addressing impaired driving over the years, you see it's probably a combination of many things. Public education is huge. Training for law enforcement is also important, as is a new law, legal framework, to provide new tools to detect and to better address the issue. Also a combination.... On the mandatory alcohol screening, where random breath testing, as it's called's also probably related to a function of how many police you put at different points to do the random testing, or as proposed for mandatory alcohol....

June 13th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

We've inserted, not random breath screening but mandatory breath screening, and there are many reasons that we've done that. Certainly it's based on what we've learned from other jurisdictions in terms of preventing the number of accidents on the highways, significantly reducing the number of deaths. It certainly acts as a deterrent factor. What we've also learned from evidence is that a significant number of drivers, up to 50%, whether it's at a roadblock that has been erected by police officers...manage to drive through the roadblock while they have been impaired by alcohol. Mandatory screening was also proposed in private member's Bill C-226.

As you know, Mr. Cooper, the public policy reason for the mandatory roadside screening is to ensure that we prevent deaths, and that is entirely reasonable in the circumstances.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 8:15 p.m.
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Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I assure my colleague that at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights we will all work together to try to make sure the legislation is as well-rounded as possible.

I have a couple of questions. I listened attentively to the speech of my hon. colleague. She mentioned concerns with both the mandatory testing and the number of hours after the alleged driving that an individual could be tested. Both of these were found in Bill C-226, the private member's bill of the hon. member for Lévis—Lotbinière, which the hon. member voted for.

In essence, both of them allow us to make sure our roads are safer. The fact that a police officer can, on any lawful stop, ask somebody to submit to a breathalyzer test, to me, is a good thing, and so is the fact that an individual cannot argue that they drank alcohol right before they got in the car so their blood alcohol limit was not reached when they were in the car; it only got reached after. These are good things. They keep bad people off the road.

Why does the hon. member have concerns about these when she voted for them already in a different law?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7:40 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 want to thank the member for his speech and also for bringing forward Bill C-226, a private member's bill that presented a number of very significant and important advances in dealing properly with impaired driving that the government took very seriously. As the member knows, I supported the bill at second reading and it went to the public safety committee, but, unfortunately, upon further examination of it and testimony from expert witnesses at committee, it was found to be flawed in many respects. It came back to the House and was not successful at third reading.

I hope the member is encouraged by the fact that many of the issues he attempted to address in his private member's bill, such as the various loophole-type defences, the bolus drinking defence, the intervening drinking defence, the St-Onge Lamoureux matter, the clarification of blood alcohol concentration presumptions, and the introduction of a system whereby the police would be able to demand and require mandatory roadside alcohol screening are all very important innovations.

I would agree with the member that after the passage of this bill, we should make sure that the public is well aware of the consequences, because the great benefit from those measures is in prevention. It is not merely in catching, detecting, and incarcerating individuals, but through saving lives.

I would also point out to the member that Bill C-46, as presented, does in fact contain minimum penalties for impaired driving. For example, I would bring to his attention proposed section 320.15, which allows for a maximum penalty of 10 years, exactly as in his bill, a minimum fine on first offence of $2,000, on second offence 30 days, and on third and subsequent offences 120 days. I would ask the member to comment on whether he believes that the measures contained in this bill would achieve what he sought to achieve through his private member's bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7:30 p.m.
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Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Victoriaville on his excellent speech and his commitment to public safety. We have been debating two complementary bills for two days now.

Today, we are talking about Bill C-46 on drug-impaired driving. We know that drunk driving is a major problem in Canada. It is the leading criminal cause of death. Now, because of the Liberals' improvised approach, drugs are going to be added to the mix. The government is improvising.

Unfortunately, my speech may serve to fuel Canadians' cynicism. I would like to talk this evening about Bill C-46, about what is contained in this bill, what is missing from it, and what is needed. I would also like to talk about a bill that was introduced in the House and even went to committee but that was unfortunately gutted by the Liberals, who came up with a watered-down version of a law that is supposed to protect innocent victims from repeat drunk drivers and people who cause fatal accidents while under the influence of alcohol.

We had a robust bill that we introduced in the House, one that could have already made it to the Senate by now and could have received royal assent in order to save lives now. Instead, we are stuck debating this bill that unfortunately has some serious flaws, which I want to point out.

First of all, what is in the bill? In the riding of Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, where I am from, an excellent MP, Claude Lachance, had a remarkable career. He said that, in opposition, it is our job to try to find what is positive in what the government brings forward.

One measure proposed by the government is called routine screening. This measure gives police officers the ability to ask an individual behind the wheel to submit to a blood alcohol test to screen for alcohol. This measure will save lives. This has been said many times in the House over the past few hours, and for the past few days, but particularly during the debate on Bill C-226. I have had the opportunity to say it myself. Routine screening is a measure that apparently has proven itself in many countries, for decades now, and it does save lives.

The government has been asked if this measure is constitutional. Unfortunately, the answers I have heard today have been evasive. Even so, it is one of the three pillars of an effective policy to reduce the number of accidents caused by impaired driving.

The second pillar has to do with the increasingly burdensome legal proceedings we have been seeing in recent years. Legal proceedings are interfering with the application of justice. I am not talking about the Jordan decision. I am talking about the last drink and intervening drink defences. The bill covers these issues to protect against abuse of process by drunk drivers. These are useful parts of the bill that would speed up proceedings and bring people caught driving while impaired to justice.

Now that I have mentioned two useful parts of the bill, I want to make an important point about how, if we want to tackle impaired driving successfully, the key is to make sure drivers know the police can stop them. Roadblocks are not working very well, which is why impaired driving still causes so many deaths.

An important provision not found in this bill, is one that would impose minimum sentences, or deterrent sentences. There is a consensus in the House that impaired driving is unacceptable in Canada, especially in the case of repeat offenders, who are a danger to society. We have to protect these people from themselves because quite often they have addictions and put the lives of innocent people at risk.

Members will recall the organization Families For Justice founded by Markita Kaulius, who lost her daughter. I want to recognize her, and I think of her in the context of safety and impaired driving. These victims and their families are asking elected members to send a clear message: it is unacceptable to drive while impaired, and repeat offenders must be kept behind bars. All too often, these accidents that cause irreparable harm are the fault of individuals who have been impaired before. This bill does not include any measures providing for a minimum sentence, a tool that the previous Liberal government did not hesitate to use.

Even the member for Papineau, the current Prime Minister, approved of the use of minimum sentencing for bills on impaired driving. However, once again, the Liberals make promises and then, when it comes time to act, they give us half-measures. That is the case with the bill before us today. It contains measures regarding routine screening and speeding up the court process, but it has one major flaw. It does not contain any minimum sentences.

There is one thing that will certainly raise some eyebrows among those who are listening to us this evening. Our colleagues opposite had the chance to vote on the measures set out in the bill. Just a few weeks ago, the member for Montarville said that there was a flaw in Bill C-226. He said:

...the success of random breath testing is that it must be paired with a major education and awareness campaign. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the bill to address education and awareness.

He ended by saying that the government was going to come back with its own bill. Well, today, we have before us a bill that does not contain any coherent measures regarding an education and awareness campaign. We are talking about impaired driving, but everyone here knows that this issue is related to the legalization of marijuana. The government is introducing two major bills, but it is allocating very little funding to one of the biggest societal changes that Canada is facing and that will have unbelievable social costs. It is also not adopting any awareness measures. This government’s botched bill is leading us to disaster.

Lastly, I will add that another flaw of this bill is the lack of consecutive sentencing provisions. If a repeat drunk driving offender kills three people, the government does not want to impose consecutive sentences for that crime.

These are all flaws in the bill. It falls short on so many fronts that I fear it will not be possible to amend it in committee. It is so full of holes, it looks like Swiss cheese. The government could have done much better.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, certainly there are some good measures in Bill C-46 with respect to holding impaired drivers accountable. One of those measures is increasing the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death from 14 years to life. However, what is missing from this bill is consecutive sentencing for individuals who get behind the wheel and kill multiple individuals. That was included in Bill C-226, introduced by the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. I was wondering if the hon. member for Guelph could comment on why consecutive sentencing is absent from Bill C-46.