An Act to amend the Criminal Code (passive detection device)

Sponsor

Gagan Sikand  Liberal

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

Status

Dead, as of April 4, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-247.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to authorize the use by a peace officer of a passive detection device to detect the presence of alcohol in the immediate vicinity of a person whom the officer has reasonable grounds to believe was, within the preceeding three hours, operating a motor vehicle or having the care or control of a motor vehicle. The enactment also provides that if such a device indicates the presence of alcohol, it establishes reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has alcohol in their body.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

Sept. 28, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

September 18th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

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.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2017 / 7:35 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to rise and speak to the motion concerning Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding passive detection devices. The motion proposes to accept the recent report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that Bill C-247 not proceed further. Although I applaud and agree with the intent of Bill C-247, I want to advise the House that I intend to vote in support of the motion.

In particular, I agree with the concerns expressed by the standing committee that the bill may not achieve its intended effect, and I will not go over the very comprehensive explanation provided by my colleagues on the opposite side of the House. I also want to advise the House that the standing committee, as part of its report, recommended that the government ensure that there be a comprehensive solution to the issues under consideration and that the government should therefore consider introducing legislation to provide for that comprehensive response to the issue of impaired driving. I share this view.

Our government is best placed to consider all of the challenges with the legal framework surrounding the investigation of impaired driving. That is why the Minister of Justice intends to introduce new comprehensive legislation this spring, which will carefully address both drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. The new legislation will take a thorough and strategic approach, having regard to the minister's overall mandate with respect to criminal justice reform. In this way, our government is working to keep our communities safe, protect victims, and hold offenders to account. I very sincerely look forward to working with the members on the justice committee as we go forward with this important work. We all agree that we have a responsibility in the House to do everything possible to keep our communities safe and to protect our citizens.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the member for bringing this important issue forward. I would like to thank the standing committee for its thoughtful consideration of this bill. The members of the committee invested extensively of their time, attention, and expertise in considering the merits of the proposed bill, and I am grateful to them for their efforts.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee who shared their experience and expertise, and in particular those witnesses who spoke about their personal experience with the devastating impact of impaired driving. I want to thank them for their courage and their support.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2017 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in this debate on the justice committee's recommendation to the House. I do so as the second vice-chair of that committee. Before I start, I would like to commend the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville because I believe his intent behind the bill was very noble.

Bill C-247 was designed to allow police officers to use passive ambient air alcohol detection devices to basically detect alcohol in the air near a driver's mouth during roadside sobriety checks. The detection of alcohol by the sensor would then provide officers with reasonable grounds to suspect that the driver had consumed alcohol and allow them to then request a Breathalyzer test to check for impairment.

I was not on the committee when it was deliberating on the bill. There were two committee meetings on October 18 and October 20, and I was preceded by the hon. member for Victoria who was then a member of that committee. The bill was referred to committee on September 28, before those two meetings.

We fundamentally believe that we need to support effective measures against impaired driving, because each and every year we lose far too many lives in Canada, and indeed, as has been mentioned many times in this place, it is the leading cause of criminal death in Canada. The proposed devices in the bill would have several benefits if they were to show that they could work as effectively as the claims say.

The committee has made a recommendation to the House of Commons, and while the committee felt that the intent behind Bill C-247 was commendable, the committee concluded that based on the evidence gathered during its study, the costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms outweighed the potential benefits. We feel strongly that the government needs to consider taking this on with the resources of the Department of Justice and introducing legislation on this topic at the earliest opportunity.

We had a chance to talk to stakeholders. Law enforcement has suggested that, if this device were effective, it could be a potentially useful addition to the tool kit, but it is certainly not the one that is most urgently needed. Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which was supportive of the use of effective devices, wanted Parliament to make sure that we did not displace the more pressing questions of how to effectively deter impaired drivers and detect drug impairment.

During the witness testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, some of the witnesses clarified the issues that these detection devices have. Of particular note, it was the chair for the Alcohol Test Committee who stated that the bill asks us to enact legislation using approved passive detection devices. If we enact the bill now, it requires the Alcohol Test Committee to develop standards and procedures for the evaluations.

We would have to perform evaluations on the new equipment proposed as passive devices, and we would have to develop operational recommendations. We would need best practices relating to the maintenance and use of these devices, and this means that the scientific aspect of the approval process would be extremely costly in both time and resources. The potential influx of numerous new devices seeking approval as passive detection devices would stretch its current resources past the breaking point. Even after this approval process was finally finished, there would still need to be recommendations from individual forensic laboratories to create region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedures.

Even the introduction of a newly approved instrument can be challenging in and for our courts. The introduction of a novel type of testing with completely unfamiliar devices would undoubtedly be the subject of lengthy litigation involving scientific staff from all the forensic laboratories across the country.

We know from questions that have been raised in the House and from media reports and indeed from across the country that the court system is already quite burdened and quite strained.

There are already serious criminal charges that are either being stayed or withdrawn in the wake of the Jordan decision, which has fundamentally altered the legal landscape. It is something that I hope the federal government and our provincial governments finally take note of and put in the resources that we need in the system.

We want to stop impaired driving, but we do not want to do it at the expense of clogging the very judicial system that is meant to operate efficiently to make sure we are actually delivering justice for those who do harm. If we are going to burden the justice system with even more litigation against devices, that is not going to solve the main problem. Defence lawyers would probably have a field day challenging these devices because of their reliability.

We look at the climate issues, because that was one of the main things that was brought forward in witness testimony. Canada is a country that is affected by cold temperatures and humidity in the winter. Unfortunately, I live in a section of the country that is certainly affected by the humidity, Vancouver Island. It is not known just as the west coast, but indeed the wet coast.

The testimony indicated that the devices may not be appropriate for our climate. We can go to the testimony of Dr. Daryl Mayers, the chair of the Alcohol Test Committee, who laid it out completely for all of us. If the weather is windy, excessively damp, or even below 8° Celsius, the reliability of these passive detection devices is brought into question. The Winnipeg police department did a test in the early 2000s that found that these devices did not work very effectively in the winter. Devices whose function is inhibited in either cold weather or by excessive amounts of precipitation in the air are simply too problematic for us to go forward, and we certainly need a lot more study to make sure these devices can actually do what they are supposed to do.

In light of these findings, I do agree with the committee's report that we need a comprehensive solution to this problem and that the government should consider introducing legislation on this topic at the earliest opportunity.

I would like to compliment the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, because I believe his intent was noble. He really does want to do the right thing, but we had a unanimously backed recommendation that we not proceed with this bill. There are Liberals, Conservatives, and our NDP member on committee. We listened to the evidence, and I agree with that report. I hope all hon. members will pay attention to the hard work that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights did.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2017 / 7:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-247, a private member's bill introduced by the member of Parliament for Mississauga—Streetsville. On February 7, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights decided unanimously to recommend that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill. I am here today to speak further to that decision as the vice-chair of that committee.

Bill C-247 is seeking to amend section 254 of the Criminal Code to allow police officers to use an approved passive detection device to sample the ambient air in the immediate vicinity of a person they have reasonable grounds to believe is impaired. This would be in advance of the police officer taking a sample using an approved screening device. The bill is also seeking to amend subsections 255(3) and 255(3.1) of the code, which would change the offence of impaired driving causing death to vehicular homicide as a result of impairment.

The purpose of this bill is to act as a further deterrent for drunk drivers and to increase apprehension rates, as a positive reading would provide reasonable grounds to conduct a breath test on an approved screening device, ASD. It has been referred to as a device that would act as an extension of the officer's nose.

I thank the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for putting forward a bill with such commendable objectives. Certainly all of us in this chamber can agree that we should do everything we can to keep Canadians safe and keep drunk drivers off of roads. In politics we disagree on a great deal of things, but I think this is one area where we all share a common goal that extends across all party lines. The intent of Bill C-247 is noble, but on further investigation with the help of expert testimony in the justice and human rights committee, we uncovered some issues in the bill that brought us to unanimously recommend that the House not proceed further with the bill.

Some of the most compelling evidence we came across was introduced by Dr. Daryl Mayers, who testified as chair of the alcohol test committee, known as the ATC, of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. The ATC, the alcohol test committee, has provided advice to the Ministry of Justice about detection and quantification of blood alcohol concentrations for the past 50 years. We learned that the introduction of a passive detection device would need to be tested against the ATC's published standards to determine if it is appropriate to be used in Canadian alcohol testing. This would be costly in both time and resources and, as Dr. Mayers testified, would stretch the ATC's resources well past the breaking point.

The chair of the alcohol test committee brought to our attention concerns regarding the nature of these devices. Because they test ambient air for alcohol molecules, they are subject to numerous environmental factors. These devices are unlike ASDs in that ASDs require a deep-lung air sample. They are also administered away from others and from traffic and in a police vehicle, where environmental conditions are understood and controlled. For example, the dissemination of alcohol molecules through different sizes of cars will be different. The use of a passive device would necessarily introduce elements beyond the control of law enforcement.

There are other environmental factors that could result in an incorrect response from a passive device. Open alcohol in the vicinity or an intoxicated passenger could alter results. We also discovered that methanol in windshield wiper fluid could contribute to a positive result. The recent use of mouthwash could result in a false positive; whereas, a person chewing gum, which increases salivation and diminishes mouth alcohol, could result in a false negative. In our study of Bill C-247, it was unclear whether a response on a passive device indicating no alcohol was present would render the officer unable to investigate further.

Another consideration which is especially relevant here in Canada is that the weather could affect the results of a passive detection device. It has been noted that these devices are less effective in windy conditions. Dr. Mayers also indicated that he would recommend devices that use fuel cell technology as a mechanism for detecting alcohol. We learned, however, that fuel cells can be affected by cold weather and can cause a false negative. Here in Canada we experience extremes in weather conditions and these vary dramatically from coast to coast to coast. The development of region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedures would be onerous, to say the least, for the volunteer-led alcohol test committee.

Our committee also questioned the invasiveness of the passive devices. There are many versions of these devices on the market, and while some recommend a distance of six inches between the device and the driver, some recommend as few as two inches. The close proximity between the device and a driver could be seen as quite invasive and consequently negates the subtleness intended in the administration of such a device.

These are all potential intervening factors that arose during the study of Bill C-247, and left us questioning the effectiveness of passive detection devices. We learned that for the alcohol test committee to test new products against the ATC's published standards, to account for all the factors discussed previously, and to develop region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedure would be substantial. Even if the committee were provided additional resources, it would still be a lengthy process, and the alcohol test committee would likely need to hire and consult numerous engineers throughout the process.

We also need to consider the capacity for human error in the administration of these devices. Dr. Daryl Mayers said the following before committee:

My experience with police officers, and I mean no disrespect, is that if you give officers a tool with all kinds of caveats attached to it—you have to do it this way, that way, make sure the wind isn't blowing, have your back to the wind, make sure you don't have the window open, check the car for spills—and you expect the officer to do [it] in a very rapid time frame, the more likely it is that one step or two steps will be missed, and that is a very serious thing once we come to litigate that case.

Dr. Mayers also brought to the attention of the committee the possibility of litigation arising from a false positive. The burden of lengthy and complicated litigation cannot be underscored.

I believe this legislation was introduced in an effort to provide law enforcement with additional tools to get more drunk drivers off the road. However, I fear that because of numerous factors that could affect the device, it would actually complicate matters for law enforcement and litigators. I think it is possible, if not likely, that adding this layer could result in even trickier litigation, and potentially result in less drunk driving convictions. I also think a false negative, whether caused by the wind or a stick of gum, could allow for the potential of an impaired person to avoid detection.

In addition, we heard from a Department of Justice official who confirmed that the present threshold for use of an approved screening device is very low. The threshold is simply suspicion of alcohol in a driver's body. That is the way we do things today. That suspicion could be arrived at through things like alcohol odour, glassy eyes, fumbling with documentation, and the like.

It was also confirmed that nothing presently prohibits an officer from using a passive alcohol sensor. In fact, the RCMP is already in possession of such a device. We never heard whether or not RCMP officers use the device regularly, but we know nothing prevents them from doing so.

I believe that as parliamentarians we need to do whatever we can as legislators to protect Canadians from impaired drivers. However, after the study of Bill C-247, I consider the costs and potential litigation complexity to outweigh the potential benefits. In fact, I think there is reason enough to believe that this bill could work against its very objectives. For these reasons, I suggest that the House not proceed further with this bill.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2017 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to once again have the opportunity to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-247.

Although I respect and appreciate the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I must say I am disappointed by their report.

It is clear that impaired driving is a serious problem in Canada. Sadly, we are reminded of this much too frequently. This past holiday season, the Peel Regional Police, the police force that is tasked with keeping my riding safe, caught more than 400 impaired drivers between November 15 and January 2.

The current laws that we have in place to address impaired driving are ineffective and do not serve as a deterrent, as many Canadians continue to drive under the influence of alcohol. Survey data and criminal justice statistics indicate that on average, a person can drive impaired once a week for more than three years before being charged with an impaired driving offence. This is unacceptable and demonstrates the need to increase deterrent measures for impaired driving.

Despite what is included in the committee's report, I strongly believe that legislating passive alcohol sensors is an effective means of improving deterrent measures.

Currently, Canadian police forces rely on their own unaided senses to determine whether they have the legal grounds to administer a roadside sobriety test. They rely on observations such as an odour of alcohol, a flushed face, and slurred speech.

At sobriety checkpoints where the majority of these interactions between a peace officer and driver take place, police are under immense pressure to speed up the process in order to prevent impeding traffic. It may be difficult for an officer to detect some of these characteristics. This increases the potential for impaired drivers to go undetected.

Passive alcohol sensors would enhance the officer's ability to detect impaired drivers. Although the committee was skeptical of this claim, research has proven it to be true. Referring back to an academic study, it indicated that in comparison to sobriety checkpoints where passive alcohol sensors were not used, sobriety checkpoints with passive alcohol sensors had an 88% higher detection rate.

In their report the committee stated:

...the costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms for them outweigh the potential benefits.

Let me just say that one more time: “The costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms for them outweigh the potential benefits”.

Now please allow me to quote a July 2016 article in which the National Post reported:

Despite years of public messaging about the dangers of drinking and driving, Canada ranks No. 1 among 19 wealthy countries for percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment....

The finding by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control should serve as a warning to lawmakers that new strategies are needed to combat impaired driving, which remains the top criminal cause of death in Canada....

I will move to the second part of Bill C-247, which proposes to amend subsections 255(3) and 255(3.1) of the Criminal Code by changing the wording in “impaired driving causing death” and “blood alcohol level over legal limit — death” by inserting “vehicular homicide as a result of impairment”. I was disappointed to see that the committee did not address this portion of the bill in its report.

As I have mentioned in my previous speeches, what inspired me to present this bill was a local high school teacher in my riding who lost his life while out on a bicycle ride.

Throughout my time conducting research for Bill C-247, I came across Canadians from coast to coast to coast who shared their story on how impaired driving had impacted their lives. While I was doing this, I came in contact with an organization called Families for Justice led by a woman named Markita Kaulius. Markita created Families for Justice shortly after the death of her daughter Kassandra, who was killed by a drunk driver while driving home from a baseball game.

The organization provides support for families who have been victims of impaired driving. In addition to this, Families for Justice is an advocate for government initiatives to prevent impaired driving. I was glad that Markita was given the opportunity to testify before the committee and share her story.

Sadly, every year the number of families that join Families for Justice grows unacceptably. With every family that contacts Markita to join her cause, she is reminded of her beautiful young daughter who had her entire life ahead of her. She was engaged to be married, was in school to be a teacher, and had her whole life ahead of her, which was carelessly taken away by a driver who decided to drive after consuming alcohol.

Through working with Markita, I also got to know a woman by the name of Sheri who had her own devastating experience with impaired driving, which led to the loss of her son Brad. For Markita and Sheri, one of the most difficult aspects of these tragic events is the sentences that were given to the people who took their children from them. The driver in Kassandra's death was released from custody after only two years of her three-year sentence. The driver in Brad's case will be eligible for full parole later this month, two years and eight months into his eight-year sentence.

The danger of impaired driving is not a new phenomenon. It is common knowledge that when people drive after consuming alcohol, they are putting everyone else around them at risk. It is for this reason that I feel it is time to call this horrific crime what it truly is, and that is a homicide. It is time that our government changed our Criminal Code to better reflect the impact these crimes have on the lives of their victims.

For Markita, Sheri, and the family of the teacher from my riding, the connotation of the offenders' actions should be on par with the amount of suffering they have gone through. These families view these crimes as homicides, and it is about time we do as well.

While the justice and human rights committee has recommended that the House not proceed further with this bill, I want to call on all members and our government to implement legislation to address impaired driving. As years go by, more families like Markita's and Sheri's go through the same devastating tragedy. We as a government have a responsibility to all Canadians to address this very serious issue.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2017 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(2), the motion to concur in the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-247, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (passive detection device), presented on Thursday, February 16, is deemed moved.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 4th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today on Bill S-230. I would like to thank the leader of the opposition in the Senate for crafting this bill and shepherding it through the Senate, and also the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for bringing it forward in this House.

As the NDP critic for justice and the Attorney General, I have recommended to my caucus that we support this bill so that it can get further study at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I also appreciate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for his remarks tonight. It is indeed heartening to all members in this House to see that with the government's plans for legalization and regulation of marijuana, there is a comprehensive approach forthcoming.

When this bill was brought forward and introduced to members in this House, it was accompanied by an extensive handout. I have recommended that we support this bill because I believe that we need to do everything we can to ensure Canadians are safe on the road. The statistics that were provided in that handout are quite illuminating. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada found that there were 614 road fatalities in 2012 in which drivers had drugs present in their body, compared to 476 fatalities in which alcohol was present. Therefore, there is an obvious need for this.

That said, there are stakeholders who have been consulted on this bill, and some of them do have issues with it. We have heard from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who support the principle of the bill, but they have looked at all of the different pieces of legislation that deal with this subject matter and they would rather see it combined into a coherent government strategy.

It is quite a coincidence that for the second private member's bill that we are debating tonight, Bill C-247, which dealt with passive detection devices, one of the recommendations was that the government needs to take a leading role to make sure that the Department of Justice and its resources are fully involved. When we look at the various private member's bills that deal with these issues, sometimes I think they concentrate on fixing individual trees rather than looking at the whole forest. That is one issue to take note of.

Of course, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as I referenced in my question for the hon. member, has stated that there are problems. The organization would like to come to the parliamentary committee, but it believes that a piecemeal approach to this issue is not the way to move forward.

One of the issues in the bill is with the fact that there is no mention of a per se limit on THC. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice made mention of that. It is unclear as to how much THC, or indeed any kind of drugs, in a person's blood would need to be found to fine for impairment.

As was mentioned, cocaine is of course illegal to possess. We still do not know what the amounts are of that drug or of THC that can cause legal impairment as per the Criminal Code. I can compare it to blood alcohol content, just to explain for members what the per se limit is. Blood alcohol content of 0.05% or 0.08%, depending on the jurisdiction, is enough to move to prohibitions and to punishment.

It is important to stop impaired driving, but we want to make sure that have a clear definition of the amounts that constitute impairment. Different people of different weights will synthesize drugs in a different way, so we need to really lock down what that basic amount is that causes impairment.

We have been talking about the need for a comprehensive strategy. I am sure we will get new news on that in the following week, but one thing that we can point to is the extensively quoted Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation and the report that it issued.

The task force recommended many of the steps that I feel this bill does not cover, among them investing immediately and working with the provinces and territories to develop a national comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment, and that the best way to avoid driving impaired is simply not to consume beforehand. It also recommended investing in research to better link THC levels with impairment and crash risk to support the development of a per se limit.

It recommended to determine whether to establish a per se limit as a part of a comprehensive approach to cannabis-impaired driving, acting on the findings of the DDC; re-examine per se limits should a reliable correlation between THC levels and impairment be established; support the development of appropriate roadside drug screening device for detecting THC levels and invest in these tools; and finally, invest in baseline data collection and ongoing surveillance in evaluation and collaboration with the provinces and territories.

We are happy the comprehensive strategy will be developed in conjunction with the rollout of regulation and legalization of cannabis. Ultimately what Canadians primarily think that their members of Parliament should be doing is looking at ensuring public safety is a big part of our regulations and the laws that we develop, especially when something as revolutionary as cannabis legalization in Canada has a long history of prohibition and punishment. This will be quite a change for Canadian society. We want to ensure that is rolled out in a responsible manner and that we also look at the dangers to drug-impaired driving.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse states in its 2016 report that we must implement per se drug laws for certain substances as a part of that comprehensive approach to drug impaired driving. As was made mention, this includes the enhanced training of all police officers in the recognition of the signs and symptoms of drug use, a strong drug evaluation and classification program, and the implementation of a roadside oral fluid drug screening.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse from the United States states “that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash”. However, THC can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication.

We do not want to get into that situation where someone has consumed something on a Friday and by Monday, he or she is no longer impaired. However, if it is still detected in a person's body, that is why it is so important to establish what the exact limits are, the exact amounts that cause that impairment.

With these facts in mind, we are glad a comprehensive program and approach to this problem will be rolled out so we do not miss the mark.

I have encouraged my caucus to support the bill. I believe, in principle, that it does deserve further study at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, just simply for the fact that impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. It causes the death of more than 1,200 Canadians per year.

When it comes to supporting a bill that has this in mind, the principle of the bill, I will lend my support behind that. I hope all members will do the same.

Impaired DrivingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 20th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present this petition on impaired driving.

Families for Justice is a group of Canadians who have had a loved one killed by a drunk driver. They believe that Canada's impaired driving laws are much too lenient. They want the crime to be called what it is, vehicular homicide. It is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada. More than 1,200 Canadians are killed every year by drunk drivers.

The petition calls for mandatory sentencing for vehicular homicide and for this Parliament to support Bill C-226, impaired driving act, and Bill C-247, Kassandra's law.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 8th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in relation to Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code (passive detection device). The committee studied the bill and recommends not to proceed further with its study.

Impaired DrivingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2016 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with regard to impaired driving. Families for Justice is a group of Canadians who have lost a loved one killed by an impaired driver. They believe that impaired driving laws in Canada are much too lenient and they want the crime called what it is, vehicular homicide. The petitioners are calling for mandatory sentencing for vehicular homicide.

The petitioners are also calling on this Parliament to support Bill C-226 and Bill C-247, Cassandra's law.

Impaired DrivingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2016 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

The second petition highlights Families for Justice. It is a group of Canadians who have had a loved one killed by an impaired driver. They believe that Canada's impaired driving laws are much too lenient. They want the crime called what it truly is: vehicular homicide. It is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada, with over 1,200 Canadians dying every year. Petitioners are calling for mandatory sentencing for vehicular homicide and are calling on Parliament to support two bills, Bill C-226 and Bill C-247, Kassandra's law.

Also, Mr. Speaker, if I had a petition to compliment you on your festive Christmas socks, I am sure I would be honoured to present that also.

Impaired DrivingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2016 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.

The first petition is with respect to impaired driving causing death.

Families for Justice is a group of Canadians who have had a loved one killed by an impaired driver. They believe that Canada's impaired driving laws are much too lenient. They want the crime called what it is: vehicular homicide. It is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada. Over 1,200 Canadians are killed every year by drunk drivers.

Canadians are calling for mandatory sentencing for vehicular homicide, and they want this Parliament to support Bill C-226, the impaired driving act, and Bill C-247, Kassandra's law.

October 20th, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.
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Dr. Daryl Mayers Chair, Alcohol Test Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Thank you.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for having me.

The alcohol test committee, or the ATC, of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science has provided scientific advice to the Minister of Justice about detection and quantification of blood alcohol concentrations for the past 50 years. We are a group of dedicated volunteer scientists with expertise in breath and blood alcohol testing who are committed to maintaining the consistently high standard in alcohol testing that has become the accepted norm in Canada.

The ATC evaluates equipment for breath alcohol testing; makes recommendations regarding the management of breath testing programs, including the training of personnel and the maintenance of equipment; and makes recommendations on the procedures to be followed in the use of this equipment to ensure that the results are both accurate and reliable.

It's clear that one goal of Bill C-247 is to increase the ability of police officers to detect alcohol-impaired drivers with the use of approved—and I emphasize “approved”—passive detection devices, which are designed to detect alcohol in the vicinity of the driver. Passive alcohol sensors have been available for 30 or more years and come in a wide variety of forms from many manufacturers. This is demonstrable for anyone who wants to try it by using nothing more sophisticated than Google.

However, Bill C-247 speaks of—and I'm emphasizing—“approved passive detection devices”, and with that characterization places them into the same arena as approved instruments, approved screening devices, and approved blood containers.

Approval of a device, as you all know, is at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. However, the minister relies on the alcohol test committee to test any new products against the ATC's published standards to determine if they are appropriate to be used in Canadian alcohol testing. Therefore, if enacted, Bill C-247 would require the ATC to develop standards and procedures for the evaluations. We would have to perform evaluations on the new equipment proposed as passive devices, and we would have to develop operational recommendations and/or best practices relating to the maintenance and use of these devices.

The scientific aspect of the approval process of such devices is going to be extremely costly in both time and resources. As I indicated earlier, the ATC is a committee staffed by dedicated volunteers. While we have the support of our home laboratories, we also have our primary duties to our employers, which as busy forensic scientists can be onerous. All of the activities of our committee, including evaluations, have traditionally relied on our membership from each of our regional laboratories and have been largely done on our own personal time. The potential influx of numerous new devices seeking approval as passive detection devices would stretch our current resources past the breaking point.

Moreover, even the existing approved devices that have the capability for passive testing—which I have brought with me today and will be happy to demonstrate for those interested—would require further evaluation to demonstrate their compliance with the newly developed alcohol test committee standards. While these obstacles are not insurmountable, they can only be overcome with time and/or additional resources.

It's clear that these devices test for the presence of alcohol. They are not a flashlight or a tape recorder, and any suggestion that the contemplated devices need not be approved is contrary to our shared goal of ensuring that only reliable and accurate products be utilized as part of an alcohol testing system in Canada.

There is little doubt that these devices can be effective if operated carefully and according to proper procedure, but since they are designed to detect alcohol in the environment proximal to the driver, there is no direct correlation with the blood alcohol concentration in that driver. This is very different from approved screening devices and approved instruments, and allows for a much greater influence from the environment if they are not properly utilized. For example, these devices have been noted to be less reliable if windy conditions exist if the officer deploying the device does not take the appropriate precautions. The above scenario could result in a false negative and allows the potential for an impaired individual to avoid detection.

With these devices, there will also be the constant spectre, real or hypothetical, of false positives arising from the contents of the car rather than the driver. Any suggestion of a false positive has enormous implications to any litigation arising from the use of a device.

There are also some further considerations. For example, once the devices have been approved by the alcohol test committee, all of our individual forensic laboratories will need time to develop region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedures for the device picked in their jurisdiction, and all our police services will need to act upon these recommendations.

Furthermore, it's the experience of the alcohol test committee that even the introduction of a newly approved instrument can be challenging in and for our courts. The introduction of a novel type of testing with completely unfamiliar devices will undoubtedly be the subject of lengthy litigation involving scientific staff from all the forensic laboratories across the country.

In light of the concerns raised above, the alcohol test committee feels that while approved passive detection devices could offer some advantage in the detection of alcohol-impaired driving, the overall cost of implementation and maintenance of this strategy outweighs the benefits. Practically, with the current resources available, the first use of approved passive detection devices in the field could take years following the enactment of the legislation.

As an alternative, the alcohol test committee recognizes that another bill, Bill C-226, which is currently before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, includes a provision for what is known as random breath testing of drivers for the presence of alcohol. This measure uses technology that is currently employed by police services, is supported by the regional laboratories, and has met the standards of the alcohol test committee. Random breath testing has been demonstrated to effectively diminish alcohol-impaired driving in jurisdictions where it has been implemented. This measure could be implemented as soon as the bill is enacted, with no lag time or need for additional resources.

In summary, it's the consensus of the alcohol test committee that random breath testing can achieve the goal of decreasing alcohol-impaired driving without the substantial costs involved with the implementation of a new system using approved passive detection. Finally, it goes without saying that if this bill becomes law, notwithstanding the submission from my committee, we will support its implementation to the fullest of our abilities.

Thank you very much. I'm happy to take any questions that the committee has for me.

October 20th, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

I call the meeting to order.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as we continue our study of Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code on passive detection devices.

For the benefit of the members of the committee, we're going to be hearing from Mr. Mayers first, and then we're going to go in camera after that.

I'm very pleased to welcome Daryl Mayers, who is the chair of the alcohol test committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. We had a a lot of discussion at our meeting on Tuesday about the reliability of passive detection devices, and we're very interested to hear from an expert as to how these devices work and how accurate they are.

Mr. Mayers, welcome to our committee. It's a pleasure to have you.

October 18th, 2016 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First, I want to echo your remarks and kind words for Ms. Kaulius. Rather than repeat everything you said, I simply want to thank her and above all encourage her to persevere and continue her work.

Second, Mr. Pruden, I would like a clarification of Bill C-247. Subclause 1(2), which proposes the new subsection 254(1.2) entitled Presence of alcohol, states “...it establishes reasonable grounds to suspect”.

or, “it establishes reasonable grounds to suspect”.

That's the innovative part of the bill.