, seconded by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, moved:
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 15.
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-46, in Clause 31.1, be amended by replacing line 11 on page 41 with the following:
“ed by this Act that includes an evaluation of whether the provisions have resulted in differential impacts on particular groups likely to be targeted based on prohibited grounds of discrimination, and prepare a report setting out”
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak to my amendments to Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
That is a very benign title. It does not tell us what we are debating. We are debating a bill that would deal with, I think all of us in the House can agree, the critical issue of doing whatever we can to reduce the loss of life and accidents, which are so damaging to society, caused by people who drink and drive or drive under the influence of other intoxicants. The bill deals with substance abuse and getting behind the wheel of a car.
We all know the statistics, but they are absolutely devastating to imagine, as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a group I support, points out. Mothers Against Drunk Driving's estimate is that in Canada, every day, on average, four people are killed in automobile crashes. If we had the kind of attention and immediate review of auto crashes and people killed in auto crashes that we do for people travelling on public transit, such as airplanes, we would be made aware on a daily basis that our publicly accepted system of transport is lethal.
Our society is built around the car. Our transportation networks are built around the car. We do not seem to mind the idea that our everyday method of getting from A to B involves a significant risk of death. We take it as something that is just one of those risks we live with. A car is very powerful, and potentially a killing machine.
In 2012, 2,546 Canadians died in automobile crashes, but to the point of today's bill, 58.8% of those crashes involved a driver who had had at least some measurable intoxicant in his or her system.
In 2015, beyond those accidents that involve fatalities, a total of over 72,000 impaired driving incidents happened across Canada. What is interesting is that the statistics reflect that this is a significant improvement, with 65% fewer incidents than in 1986. Therefore, the measures we are taking make a difference, as does the awareness that drinking and driving is not acceptable. Blood alcohol levels and roadside screening make a difference.
There is no question that we want to support measures that would ensure that Canadians who have had any measurable intoxicants do not get behind the wheel of a car, that their friends stop them, that the guy at the bar stops them, and that their own concern that they will be hit with serious penalties and jail time will stop them.
Now I will go to the bill and the reasons I have submitted the amendments. I support Bill C-46. Unlike some of the experts I will mention, I will vote for Bill C-46 even unamended, but here at report stage, I want to raise the concerns again. There are significant concerns from the Criminal Lawyers' Association and civil liberties associations that the bill would go too far and would end up being challenged in the courts. That is because it involves, without the proper constraints, random breath testing, as opposed to selective breath testing.
I have gone through the evidence very carefully. It is clear that there are a lot of statistics that say that when this jurisdiction or that jurisdiction brought in random breath testing, drunk driving incidence went down. The people who study this say that we do not actually have good numbers that compare the results of selective breath testing and random breath testing to conclude that we could not have gotten the same result with selective breath testing.
What is the difference? If we have selective breath testing, we set up a roadside check, stop every driver, and look at every driver at a stationary vehicle check. We have seen roadside testing set up in different locations, particularly on evenings when people are more likely to have been out having something to drink or ingesting substances that are intoxicants before driving. The roadside testing is very effective. Selective testing is effective.
This law would go further, and this is where the various legal societies I have mentioned are concerned. Let me quote from the brief of the Criminal Lawyers' Association submitted to the committee back in September. It states:
We are also deeply concerned by the new random breath-testing regime. Increasing police powers do not come without societal costs. The experience of ‘carding’ or ‘street checks’ is instructive on how the exercise of police authority can disproportionately affect visible minorities.
Bill C-46 amounts to carding while in a car. It will inevitably disproportionately be employed against minority or marginalized communities.
A policy expert with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Doug Beirness, was even more blunt. He stated:
...there is nothing truly random about random breath testing. The term random is used in place of more accurate and contentious descriptors, such as arbitrary or capricious.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association went on to say, “a full review of the evidence”, over 23 studies, “does not provide convincing evidence that implementing [random breath testing] will necessarily have a greater impact on drinking and driving than Canada's current [selective breath-testing] system.”
My concerns are twofold. We should never pass legislation in this House that has a good public purpose, and I do not think any of us for one second will deny the importance of the public purpose, that has a significant risk of being derailed in the courts. Looking at the evidence put before the justice committee, I think this bill has a significant risk of being derailed in the courts. Likewise, we should do whatever we can to moderate the impacts of increased police powers and the risks of randomness.
I have been wondering if I should share this story with my colleagues in Parliament, and I think I will. More than 40 years ago, when I was living in a small village on Cape Breton Island, we had very limited RCMP protection. There was one detachment. My brother is younger than I am, and in those days, he had long hair. It was unusual in this particular community to have long hair. Every single time he went anywhere, he was pulled over by the RCMP. As I said, we had very limited RCMP protection, and it was very hard to get the RCMP when we were, for instance, in the middle of a store robbery, which also occurred in my family's business.
I love the RCMP. The members are wonderful, but I know for a fact that there is such a thing as selectively pulling people over, over and over again, and never finding anything. It is a form of harassment. For marginalized communities within Canada, I am very concerned about discriminatory and preferential random searches of particular marginalized groups. We know this happens. If we look at the statistics of who is in our prisons, overwhelmingly it is people of colour and indigenous people. It is not reflective of society as a whole. We know this about carding and urban police forces.
It is clear to me that there is going to be an increased problem for marginalized communities and a sense of being harassed. Therefore, I commend to members my second amendment, which is that when this process is reported back to Parliament, and this is my amendment to clause 31.1, there be an evaluation of whether the provisions have resulted in differential impacts on particular groups likely to be targeted based on prohibited grounds of discrimination and that a report set that out for us.
This will be a test for us as a society. I have no doubt that this bill will pass unamended. I am making an effort here, because I would like us to think about what happens when random breath testing is not random. As much as the societal purpose is overwhelmingly in the right direction, to get people who are drinking or intoxicated off the roads and to not let them get behind the wheel of a car, in this case, we should think twice and make the bill constitutional before we pass it.