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



In committee (House), as of May 31, 2017

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

Part 1 amends the provisions of the Criminal Code that deal with offences and procedures relating to drug-impaired driving. Among other things, the amendments

(a) enact new criminal offences for driving with a blood drug concentration that is equal to or higher than the permitted concentration;

(b) authorize the Governor in Council to establish blood drug concentrations; and

(c) authorize peace officers who suspect a driver has a drug in their body to demand that the driver provide a sample of a bodily substance for analysis by drug screening equipment that is approved by the Attorney General of Canada.

Part 2 repeals the provisions of the Criminal Code that deal with offences and procedures relating to conveyances, including those provisions enacted by Part 1, and replaces them with provisions in a new Part of the Criminal Code that, among other things,

(a) re-enact and modernize offences and procedures relating to conveyances;

(b) authorize mandatory roadside screening for alcohol;

(c) establish the requirements to prove a person’s blood alcohol concentration; and

(d) increase certain maximum penalties and certain minimum fines.

Part 3 contains coordinating amendments and the coming into force provision.


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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, when it comes to the terms of limits or whatever, I think we need to take a look at that balance of dealing directly with an issue that has so many negative consequences across Canada. As I mentioned earlier in my speech, there is not one of us who has not suffered from the pain and agony of someone who has been involved in impaired driving situations and accidents. However, on the other hand, we also have the obligation in this country to acknowledge the charter. The Liberals should be the last ones who are refusing to do that. In this case, I believe we need to take the charter into account. That is another question that should be asked.

The minister said that she has no opinion from her Department of Justice. She perhaps should have gone further than that to get a solid opinion. We know that this is going to end up in court. Everyone has known that, right from the minute it was introduced. People are going to try to hold the government to account on this issue. The government should have done more homework on it. It is just one more place where, in my opinion, it did not do its homework before it introduced these two pieces of legislation. I still think that in many ways Bill C-46 is meant to be a cover for the government bringing in a badly prepared Bill C-45 that would legalize cannabis.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-46.

Bill C-46 is a very large bill. It is a complex bill. It purports to amend many sections of the Criminal Code relating to impaired driving, among other offences. In the 20 minutes that I have, I will not have the opportunity to address all aspects of the bill.

However, let me say at the outset that there are some good aspects, some positive aspects to Bill C-46. At the same time, there are also issues that I believe are a cause for concern. There is no doubt that once this bill is voted on at second reading, it will make its way to committee. After all, it is government legislation and we have a majority government. What is important is that it is carefully studied and reviewed at committee.

There are two main parts to Bill C-46. Part one deals with drug-impaired driving and drug-impaired offences, and part two deals with transportation offences in the Criminal Code and alcohol-impaired driving.

With respect to drug-impaired driving, among the things that Bill C-46 would provide for is to allow law enforcement, upon having a reasonable suspicion that a motorist is drug impaired, to require a motorist to undertake a screening test to determine whether they are in fact drug impaired. It would be an oral saliva test. It would detect THC levels in the individual.

Additionally, the government has put forward recommendations with respect to three new offences related to drug-impaired driving that would relate to levels of THC. There are some issues of concern with respect to the approach that the government is undertaking in terms of measuring impairment by THC levels. After all, there is not necessarily a direct correlation between THC levels and impairment. THC can depend on any number of things, including how THC came into the body. Also, in terms of whether an individual is a regular user of marijuana or an occasional user, that can impact upon THC levels in the body.

We know that THC can remain in the body, sometimes for days, even weeks, following marijuana use. One of the problems with toxicology tests in the case of marijuana, in terms of THC, is that they tell us that someone used marijuana, but they do not necessarily tell us when they used marijuana, much less whether they are impaired. That is a problem.

It is a problem in the case of the recommended offences that the government has put forward, because it is possible that an individual could have relatively low levels of THC but be impaired to get behind the wheel. In other cases, individuals with higher THC levels might not be impaired, perhaps because they are a regular user of marijuana, again, having regard for the fact that THC can stay in the body for an extended period of time.

It really is a concern that the science is not there. It is not in place to undertake, in all circumstances, a fully accurate assessment when it comes to whether someone behind the wheel is in fact drug impaired.

More broadly on the issue of drug impairment and what impact legalization is going to have on the safety of our roads, let me say what is clear. With legalization, more and more Canadians are going to use marijuana. I do not think anyone disputes that reality. As a result, more and more individuals are going to be on the road who are drug impaired. The consequence of that is that there are going to be more injuries, more deaths, and more carnage on our roads.

One need only look at, for example, the state of Colorado, which, a few years back, legalized marijuana. In the first year following the legalization of marijuana in the state of Colorado, motor vehicle deaths attributable to drug impairment increased by a staggering 62%. In the years since, we have seen an increase overall, a noticeable increase in deaths and injuries attributable to drug impairment in the state of Colorado. That is exactly what we have to look forward to in Canada, courtesy of the government's legalization legislation.

In the face of those kinds of statistics and evidence from nearby jurisdictions, what is the government's plan to deal with issues like keeping our roads safe? It is nice and well to introduce a bill, as flawed as it is in so many respects and with as many unanswered questions as there are, but it is quite another thing to say, once the bill is passed and becomes law, as it almost certainly will, what we are actually going to do when it comes to enforcement and keeping our roads safe.

The answer is that the government does not have a plan. There is no plan to train police officers. There is no plan in terms of assisting municipalities with getting roadside screening devices. As I understand it, there is even some question as to whether there is a ready, usable, reliable roadside screening device that could be utilized today. Notwithstanding that, all we get from the government is a rushed, fixed, arbitrary timeline of July 1, 2018, to move forward with marijuana legalization.

With so many unanswered questions, there seems to be only one plausible explanation for why the government would be moving forward with the July 1, 2018, timeline. I guess it is so that the government can say that it actually kept one promise from the 2015 election campaign. Imagine that. We have a government that is putting politics ahead of public health and public safety. That really is an abdication of leadership by the government and all Canadians should be concerned.

I want to turn to the second part of Bill C-46, which deals with alcohol-impaired driving. There are some good aspects to the second part of Bill C-46. Among the changes brought forward by Bill C-46 is to strengthen some penalties for alcohol-impaired driving. Among the changes would be to increase the maximum penalty for individuals who drive impaired and cause death, from a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years, up to life behind bars.

I commend the government for moving forward with that change. It sends the right message that when one chooses to drink and then drive, it is more than just a bad choice. It is a serious crime with serious consequences that can result, and far too often has resulted, in the loss of lives. In that regard, it is perfectly appropriate to say that individuals who commit such a crime need to be held, must be held, to the fullest extent of the law with a penalty of as long as life behind bars.

One of the biggest changes in Bill C-46 is in respect to mandatory alcohol screening. This is a major change. I know there are differences of opinion, including in my own caucus, on this issue, but whatever one's view of mandatory alcohol screening is, one must recognize that this constitutes a significant shift in the law. It really changes the relationship between an individual and law enforcement. Arguably, it reverses the presumption from the presumption of innocence to the presumption of guilt. While my mind is open to mandatory alcohol screening, I believe that caution is required, having regard for the significant infringement on individual liberty that mandatory alcohol screening will mean.

At present, law enforcement can require a breath sample when the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the individual has alcohol in his or her system. There are some who would argue that mandatory alcohol screening, which would do away with the requirement of a reasonable suspicion, is really not that big of a change. They would note, and rightly so, that driving is not a right; it is a privilege. It is a highly regulated activity. In that regard, a police officer can stop a vehicle, at random, to ask for the driver's registration or proof of insurance, or to assess their sobriety.

What Bill C-46 would do is replace the requirement of reasonable suspicion with saying, effectively, that a police officer could require a breath sample from a motorist at any time, anywhere, under any circumstances, absent even the slightest level of suspicion.

I would submit that what we are talking about is a fairly significant infringement on an individual's liberty. It is something far more significant than a police officer merely stopping a vehicle on the road, asking for the vehicle registration, and in the course of conversing with the individual motorist, determining that the person seems to or may have alcohol in their system, and consequently requesting that the individual undertake a breath sample.

In the case of mandatory screening, we are talking about a mandatory bodily sample, absent even the slightest level of suspicion. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, a needed thing or not, it is a big change.

It is something that certainly would contravene section 8 of the charter, the right against unreasonable search and seizure. It is quite possible and I know the Minister of Justice has said that the Department of Justice lawyers have advised her that it would be upheld under section 1 of the charter. Professor Hogg, an esteemed constitutional expert, has given his opinion to suggest so similarly, but nonetheless, we are talking about a breach of charter rights, sections 8 and 9. Whether it is saved under section 1, that is a matter to be litigated, but it highlights the fact that we are talking about a breach of charter rights.

The question becomes whether it is justified, having regard for the seriousness of impaired driving and the, frankly, too many Canadians who have lost their lives on the road as a result of an impaired driver. We see the statistics, which are in some ways encouraging. Over the last 30 years, the number of people getting behind the wheel when impaired and causing injuries or death is being reduced. The numbers are going down, but nonetheless Canada's level of injury and death as a result of impaired driving is well above most other countries in the western world. It is a concern and as a result, there is a legitimate debate and reason to have a serious look at mandatory alcohol screening.

In terms of determining whether or not mandatory alcohol screening is justified, having regard for the charter rights of Canadians, one must look at the powers that law enforcement presently have and assess whether law enforcement officers are using all of the powers that they have. What is, for example, reasonable suspicion? Reasonable suspicion is not a reasonable suspicion that an individual is over the Criminal Code limit of 0.08. Reasonable suspicion is not a reasonable suspicion that an individual is impaired. Reasonable suspicion is a reasonable suspicion that an individual has alcohol in their system. That is an incredibly low threshold.

To that end, police officers, in order to establish reasonable suspicion, can do any number of things upon lawfully stopping a vehicle. Factors such as red eyes, the smell of alcohol on a motorist's breath, an admission of alcohol use, all of those things and other factors would go toward establishing reasonable suspicion. They do not require a mandatory alcohol test.

I know there have been some statistics brought forward that say mandatory alcohol screening will reduce impaired driving, the number of deaths and injuries, but also at the same time point to the fact that according to some statistics about 50% of the time law enforcement does not detect an impaired driver by simply talking and interacting with the motorist.

Those are issues that need to be addressed. They need to be fleshed out. It is why I support the bill in principle and support sending it to committee for further study and further review. While there are some good aspects to the bill, there are also many unanswered questions that need to be answered, and frankly, it probably requires many amendments to get the bill right.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for his support in principle of Bill C-46. I, like him, am looking forward to the bill's coming before the justice committee to listen to some experts.

I want to respond to one of the concerns the member raised. I want to assure him that the legislation as proposed only authorizes the minister to approve a device. I want to reassure him that approval is based on a recommendation from the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, which has a drugs and driving committee. It looks at the best available science and at all of the devices, and they are put through the most rigorous testing standards before they are recommended by the committee to the minister.

The legislation as proposed only authorizes the minister to approve a device, but that approval is dependent entirely on the recommendation of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science and based on the best available advice and science. I wanted to provide the member with that assurance and I hope that allays some of his concerns.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Windsor West. I think we need to hear from as many people as possible so we can get to the bottom of a bill that seems pretty poorly put together to me, thanks.

Notwithstanding the arguments I am about to lay out against this bill, I will be voting in favour of it at second reading. I will do so not because I think it is any good, but because I really need the answers that I hope to get from the expert witnesses who appear before the committee. Then I will be able to have the conversation with voters in my riding, many of whom have questions not just about marijuana legalization, but about its effects on driving.

Bills C-46 and C-45 were introduced together. At the time, I thought it made perfect sense to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana together with a bill detailing how these measures will be handled and consequences for things like impaired driving.

Unfortunately, when I started reading the two bills, I quickly became disillusioned. After 18 months of work, the Liberal committee came up with some real gems to include in Bill C-45, like saying that marijuana would not be sold to people under the age of 18. It seems to me that it did not take 18 months of work to come up with that. That is, however, the first recommendation.

We know very well that there are several studies showing that marijuana use has an impact on the development of the brain of regular users. A number of experts say that we should prohibit marijuana use until a person is at least 21 years old, or even 25. In their bill, the Liberals say that the provinces will be free to set the legal age as they see fit.

We will be in a mess if some provinces decide to set the legal age at 25 years, others at 21, and others at 18. How does this correlate with driver’s licences? In Quebec, when a person is given a temporary driver’s licence, there is zero tolerance for alcohol. That is because a person is given a licence at the age of 16, and that takes them to the age of 18 when they play by the same rules as everyone else, with demerit points.

If Quebec, or another province, or several provinces together decided to set the legal age for using marijuana at 21 or 25 years of age, how would this be harmonized with driver’s licences? How would zero tolerance be harmonized, and to what extent should it be considered? These are all questions for which there are no answers, because in both the first and second bill there has been virtually no consultation with the provinces, with aboriginal groups, or with the municipalities.

After 18 months, the second conclusion in the report is that the THC level in the marijuana that will be sold has not established. A corollary to this is that the level of THC at which a person would be considered to be driving under the influence has not yet been established. We are being told that regulations will follow. Once again, they are kicking the can down the road, saying we do not have an answer and so we will put that off until later, hoping to perhaps find an answer some day. These are all considerations that do not offer any reassurance for people who are trying first to get their heads around the marijuana legislation so they can then see how it will be enforced.

There is also nothing about the profits generated by this new state enterprise. Will they be reinvested in health care? The Liberals seem to have said in the past that health transfers, which have already been cut and allocated, included all that and there was no new money to give the provinces, although most of the responsibilities under the bills that we are discussing fall in the provinces’ court.

I would also like to make a connection with the survey released this morning. First off, the survey results show that 50% of Quebeckers are opposed to legalizing marijuana.

It is almost the reverse in the rest of Canada, where about the same percentage of people agree with legalizing marijuana. What I understand from the 50% of Quebecers who are saying no to legalization is that the measures the Liberals are proposing in their Bill C-45 and Bill C-46 are not giving Quebeckers any reassurance. I have mentioned a few of those measures, relating to driving, but there are many others.

In addition, many rental housing owners are wondering how they are going to manage their contracts with their tenants when the tenants are allowed to grow and smoke pot at home, because that would be legal.

A lot of questions arise in some very broad areas, and Bill C-45 is entirely silent on them. Obviously, the purpose of Bill C-46 is different.

As a result, 54% of Quebeckers are opposed to legalizing marijuana, to be on the safe side. If there were answers to their questions, those percentages might change. That is why I am going to put so much effort into trying to get answers in committee. The members of my party will be proposing quite a few amendments, so that Canadians, wherever they are, can finally get answers to their questions and feel reassured about their concerns.

Also, and I am now coming back to Bill C-46, in the same survey, 65% of Quebeckers and 60% of Canadians reported that the link to road accidents was their primary concern.

Personal use of marijuana to relax, as weekend recreation, when someone wants to trade their bottle of wine for a joint, seems to be relatively accepted and acceptable. However, when it comes to impaired driving, we have a serious problem.

The problem is not resolved in Bill C-45, because this legislation provides no tools. First, the level of THC is not defined, and evidently there are no precise measurement instruments for determining, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a person drove while impaired.

I am going to refer to another statistic, but this one relates more to alcohol. The leading cause of death in criminal cases is impaired driving causing death. This is our primary source of criminal mortality in Canada. Out of all the OECD countries, we have one of the worst records. If we add other substances that may be difficult to measure, along with mixtures of those substances that we are even less able to measure, this becomes a big problem. This is something of great concern to all Quebeckers and Canadians who think about this issue and who, like me, do not find answers to their questions in these bills.

I have the feeling that we are putting the cart before the horse. During the Conservative era just before the Liberal government, the Conservatives were all about minimum sentences, criminalization, and longer sentences, but they were not able to show that these measures had a direct impact on the crime rate. Nevertheless, a lot of Liberals seem to be following in their footsteps when they say, and this is in Bill C-46, that if someone were convicted of impaired driving, the penalty might be raised from 14 years, as is currently the case in the Criminal Code, to life in prison.

Here they are legislating about the consequences of a problem that they are not able to identify. It seems to me that there is a serious problem.

I will be voting for the bill, not because I believe it to be sound, but because I want to get clarification.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am glad to join the debate today on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This deals with the decriminalizing and legalization of marijuana in our society.

The issue facing us today is rather ironic for me. Legalization of marijuana is comparable in many respects to a bill I brought before the House of Commons on single-event sports betting. It was about the legalization of something that the public wanted, and the cost of the criminality element to it was very robust. I still get the comparisons to this issue from people who are lobbying to legalize single-event sports betting activities in Canada. My bill was defeated by the Liberals, primarily the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

Therefore, when this passes, people will be able to legally consume cannabis, but they still will be unable to bet on single-event sports. That is around a $10 billion a year of loss that goes to primarily organized crime. Those funds could have been diverted to health care, education, as well gaming addiction and other things related to it.

I say this now because I have seen some of this work develop and specifically why this did not even get moved to a committee. There clearly was a design by the Prime Minister, his cabinet, and his parliamentary cabal to keep that from going to committee for their own purposes, and there are some very debatable reasons for that.

However, I want to focus on this bill. It would move to the legalization of a consumable product, being a drug, which has consequential, sociological, and social elements that will frame our society around the use of it. In particular, we are talking about drug-impaired driving. Since 1925, it has been illegal to have drugs in one's system and to drive a motorized vehicle. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is the largest killer of Canadians under a criminal offence for murder, and we have not yet found the proper repertoire of responses to it.

Listening to the debate today, the Liberals have not really participated much. This is a common thing that happens here. I would invite all those viewing to visit an independent site called “”. People can actually track their members' participation. Many members just sit here and do not participate on a regular basis. People can even look at the volume of what they have chosen to intervene on and what they have chosen not to intervene on.

I have listened with intent to some of the concerns raised by the Conservatives. They relate to some of the practical problems we have with the identification of those who are intoxicated or under the influence of a drug while driving. There is the difficulty that science has right now. There is the expansion of police powers, which are very much challenged under the environment of some of the issues we have had such as racial profiling and a number of different civil liberty issues that have taken place, not only with regard to the police, but also with regard to other different types of services provided by public institutions, which are paid for by all.

One of the concerns raised by the Conservatives was the cost of this, which is legitimate to raise. However, it is rather unfortunate that it has been a discussion point in this. It is to the embarrassment and shame of the government. It should have put this to rest immediately.

When we consider the cost in terms of human death related to this and the mere fact of the gross amounts of profit that the government gets from alcohol sales and consumption, and now of drug consumption, it is nothing short of shameful for the Liberals to come into this debate and not do that appropriately by taking care of those costs and ending that right away. If not, I know as a former councillor and many others also know that they will offload these issues onto an inappropriate tax base to deal with them.

For a law created from a federal standpoint, there should be no debate whatsoever about those costs. We should be getting on with it given the fact that we have such human tragedy associated with this, but we are debating whether it costs $20 a swab or 2¢ a Breathalyzer. It is absolutely shameful that we would change laws and have that debate when the government is receiving significant revenue from current sales of alcohol and other types of prohibited substances, and now drug sales. It is absolutely shameful. It is a black mark on the government for taking this process forward, and it becomes a distraction of what is so important, which is the change to our society with this new drug being legalized in our country. It is extremely unfortunate.

The Liberals always have money for their friends. They always have money for their pet projects. They always have money for the shiny objects they find to chase after, but they never have money when it really counts. It is a scapegoat to have the provinces or the municipalities to have to pick up the slack. They are are clear that it is okay; it is all right. I would tell the councillors, the mayors, the provincial representatives, and the premiers that it is all on them, because the decision rests right here. The buck stops right here in terms of the potential from revenue source and the amount of money that is already capitalized by the federal government's taxation of those products that are currently legal that have some conditions on them.

We have serious issues to deal with. For example, what are the levels of drug influence? Then we have a positive in this bill, which I like, which is making the penalties for drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol stronger. It is interesting because, given the severity of alcohol and drinking and driving under the influence, the Liberals have only just matched other transportation-related death issues. They did not choose to take it to a higher level. They did not choose to do anything else with it. They chose to put it in line where it should have been from day one.

Gone are the days, and they should have never existed, when we passively allowed being under the influence. It was “Oh, it was just a few drinks and it was just an occasion.” No, the serious consequences of that should have always been the case. There was a cultural shift, just like we are going to have a cultural shift with this.

With that, we have to look at the consultations that have taken place. What I worry about and why I talked about the levels and the cost related to this is that it relates to regulations being in place, not legislation, to allow unelected people to set even the lowest and the highest level of bars for the testing, the failing of the testing, and the consequences of the testing. Why would we kick the buck there? I have no idea. It does not make any sense in terms of responsibility.

I represent a border community, and the consultation elements have not been there. The Minister of Public Safety has no answers for consultation with the United States, for example. They have not consulted with the municipalities. For example, if a truck driver happens to be around people who are smoking marijuana and gets it on his or her clothes and in the cab, what is going to be the cost of crossing the border and having the detection in the United States go off?

What is the cost for just-in-time delivery trucks for the auto sector? What is the cost for agricultural trucks? What is the cost of putting all that on our roads to create delays of other goods and services?

There is no answer, which is rather unfortunate because it was all ready to be done, had they simply asked.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak on this important issue of impaired driving.

In a previous life, before being elected federally, I was an employee with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. One of my responsibilities was to try to make our streets safer. After every fatal accident in my area, I had to write a report on the causes, on why somebody died. It was often very simple issues, such as not wearing a seatbelt or there was impairment involved.

I would work with the local police and the RCMP. These were very sad stories, which were very traumatic for the families and very traumatic for the police officers and first responders from the fire department or with the ambulance service who were involved. It was very traumatic. The RCMP and police forces across Canada are recognizing the impact this has on first responders and the PTSD they are experiencing, too.

It is not a simple issue. It is a very complex issue when people drive impaired. Impairment can be caused by many things. It could be caused by a lack of sleep. It can be caused by forms of dementia or a loss of cognitive skills. It can be caused by prescription drugs. However, the focus of tonight's debate has to do with the use of drugs and alcohol, and legislative changes.

For the last three and a half years, I have been honoured to present petitions in the House. I have received hundreds of thousands of petitions from across Canada from an organization called Families for Justice.

A woman who lives in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove is Markita Kaulius. Markita and Victor lost their daughter Kassandra. I forget if she was just coming from a baseball game or going to a baseball game, but she was very engaged with the community. She was a beautiful young woman. Her life was tragically lost when, as she was driving through an intersection on a green light, somebody who was badly impaired from the use of alcohol blew the light and T-boned Kassandra and killed her. I forget the speeds that were involved, but it was a severe crash. The impaired driver ran from the scene and hid. He was caught, charged, and convicted.

As happens so often in Canada in the justice system, the person receives a sentence that will never bring the lost loved one back. There is no justice, in that sense. We cannot bring their loved one back. While the sentence may be conditional sentencing, house arrest, or just months, the family, for the rest of their lives, is going to have to deal with the loss of not being able to see that daughter graduate, get married, or have children. I am thinking of Kassandra, but to lose any loved one prematurely because they were killed by an impaired driver is a travesty. It happens way too often in this country.

Families for Justice has been presenting these petitions, with thousands of signatures, saying to Parliament, “Please, change the laws.” After presenting petitions time and time again and week after week in the last Parliament, the government introduced the impaired driving act. Unfortunately, it was at the end of the Parliament. To get legislation through, normally it takes two years. Since there were not two years left, it was not going to get through.

Families for Justice contacted all of the political leaders. It contacted the Conservative leader, the Liberal leader, and the NDP leader, and asked if they would support the legislation, the impaired driving act. To the Prime Minister's credit, he responded to Families for Justice, for Cassandra Kolias, and said he would support legislation like that. Sadly, we should call that what it is, vehicular homicide. If a person kills someone using a car, a 2,000-pound or 3,000-pound weapon, while impaired, the individual choosing to become intoxicated through a drug or a drink, driving a vehicle knowing that he or she is putting the community at risk, and then kills someone, there should be a consequence much more serious than a few months in jail. It asked for mandatory minimum sentencing and for calling it what it is: vehicular homicide.

The impaired driving act, as I said, at the end of the last Parliament had mandatory minimum sentencing. It did not call it vehicular homicide, but Families for Justice continued asking for it. It has a letter, which is a public document, from the Prime Minister, saying that he would support that type of legislation. The closest thing to it that has been received by Parliament was Bill C-226. Unfortunately, the government, which dominates the justice committee, all too often getting orders from the Prime Minister's Office on whether to support something or not, was directed not to support Bill C-226.

The government has introduced legislation that we are dealing with today, Bill C-46, which uniquely and not strangely, is tied at the hip with Bill C-45. Bill C-45 would make it legal for young drivers 18 years and older to smoke a joint, or a number of joints, and to possess 30 grams legally. The Canadian Medical Association is saying that it is dangerous, we should not do that, and that people should be at least 21. At age 25 and older, developing minds will not be affected as severely. It is recommending 25 as the ideal legal age, but would agree with 21. The government ignored the scientific evidence and has gone ahead with the age of 18. Has the government introduced legislation to protect our communities and keep our roads safer? No, it has not. We know from other jurisdictions that it will make our roads less safe with impaired drivers.

We have a problem with alcohol impairment, but we have some tools to indicate whether someone is impaired through blood alcohol testing and Breathalyzers. We have devices that test. Whether it is .05 or .08, we know if somebody is impaired. The government has suggested that it is going to pass this new legislation not within a two-year period, but within a one-year period. Why is that? Why would a government want to ram through, speed through, rush through legislation to have it in place by July 1 of next year? It is because it is the marijuana legislation, the one promise it will keep. Its flagship legislation in this Parliament is to legalize marijuana that will allow someone to smoke a bunch of joints. Someone can have 60 joints in his or her pocket, the car, or whatever, all totally legal if the person is age 18 or older. Someone cannot smoke 60 joints, so maybe he or she will be giving them to friends in the car and they will have a big party while driving. It is extremely dangerous.

The government then introduced Bill C-46, the impaired driving legislation, that would keep our roads safe.

Bill C-45 would legalize up to four marijuana plants to be grown in homes. However, are four plants four plants? No. We know through medical marijuana usage that four plants is 12 plants because they grow. There are crops. With a new seed, there are four plants, and when it is halfway grown, it will be another four. Mature plants that are producing will have another four plants. We know how the legislation works: four plants are 12 plants. There will be plants growing in homes where there are children. Does that protect our children? No. Does easy access to recreational marijuana being grown in homes make us safer? No. How about 18-year-olds with developing minds being able to smoke and drive? It creates a disaster scenario.

I think back to the letter that the Prime Minister sent to the Families for Justice saying that he would support this. Support what? Mandatory minimums. The Liberals believe that the courts needed some guidance. Courts need discretion to provide appropriate sentencing if someone is convicted of an impaired driving offence. We are now introducing even more impaired drivers, I believe, so the courts need guidance.

The government has said that it is going to increase the maximum. If someone is killed, the driver would get 14 years to life imprisonment. Let us look at how often people are being sentenced to 14 years. It is almost never. I would argue that we are not seeing that ever, so by increasing the maximum sentencing from 14 years to life, does that make our roads safer? It does not. These are horrendous crimes against society, taking the lives of Canadians, driving while impaired. Families for Justice is saying it should be called vehicular homicide and that there should be mandatory minimum sentences.

We know from the rulings of the Supreme Court on mandatory minimums that if people kill someone, they would receive at least five years. That is what was being asked for. If there were additional victims, there would be consecutive sentencing, a minimum sentence on top of a minimum sentence. There would not be any freebies. If they kill multiple people, they get multiple consequences. That is what Canadians believe is justice. My point is that we cannot bring back someone who has been lost, and there is tragedy and grief that comes to a family and anyone associated with that crash.

I want to share a little research that I did. We have a government that sadly, I believe, is a government of smoke and mirrors. The letter that the Prime Minister sent is another broken promise to a family who trusted him and hoped he would keep his word to provide the legislation that he promised. That is now a broken promise. Liberals are going to provide smoke-and-mirror legislation to legalize marijuana. One can have lots of marijuana from age 18 and on, but if they drive, they are going to pay the consequences. What kind of consequences will there be? If they kill someone, the maximum goes up to life. We know, through what is happening in the courts right now, there is a very minor consequence for killing someone.

This is a tragedy. How often is this happening in Canada? Impaired driving causing death is the number one criminal offence in Canada. We keep asking the government about how many times. How many times has the Ethics Commissioner met with the Prime Minister? He will not answer that. How many times are people being killed by an impaired driver every year in Canada? Is it a dozen? How serious is this problem? It is the number one criminal cause of death. That is not what I asked. I asked how many times. On average, 1,200 people die every year in Canada from impaired driving.

That means that three or four people die every day. Today, there will be three or four people killed by an impaired driver, and that is with alcohol. We will now add drugs, new drugged-up drivers, because of the legislation that the Liberals are introducing. It is a very serious problem.

I looked at this very interesting document, a report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Liberals have said they are back and that sunny days are here. Canadians are realizing that sunny days are not sunny days. Communities have to be sustainable, and the commissioner said this about previous Liberal governments.

The 1998 report said the Liberal government “is failing to meet its policy commitments”. In 1999, the report said there is “additional evidence of the gap between the [Liberal] government's intentions and its domestic actions. We are paying the price in terms of our health and our legacy for our children and grandchildren.” Does that sound familiar?

In 2000, it was that the government “continues to have difficulty turning...commitment into action”. In 2001, “the continued upward trend in Canada's emissions [demonstrates that] the government” has not transformed “its promises into results”. In 2002, the federal government's “sustainable development deficit” continues to grow. In 2003, it said there is gap between what the Liberal government said it will do and what it actually is doing. Good intentions are not enough. In 2004, why is the progress so slow? After all, the mandates and commitments are there. In 2005, it was that bold announcements are made and then often forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground. The federal government seems to have trouble crossing the finish line.

That was the Chrétien Liberal government, the Paul Martin government, and here we are with another Liberal government. The Liberals are back, involved with controversy, concerns with the Ethics Commissioner, investigations, and smoke and mirrors. We are now talking about smoke and mirrors regarding the safety of our communities.

If legislation would be introduced to protect our communities, a reasonable person would say that if we are to have any enforcement, we have to have people trained. Remember the Phoenix system where people were not trained? It is a system where the Liberals will legalize marijuana for use and they will not have any approved devices to test and confirm impairment. They do for alcohol, but the new drug impairment testing has no approved devices and no new people are being trained.

A previous speaker talked about new costs to municipal governments. I was elected in 1990 until 2004, and I served on a municipal council. The Chrétien and Martin years were extremely difficult for those in municipal government because the Liberals kept downloading more and more. They would make announcement and they would download those costs on to local governments. The tradition is that the cost of infrastructure would be one-third, one-third, one-third. The local governments could plan for that, but not under the Liberal government. They would download those costs.

In the cloudy days that we see ahead there are impaired drivers and no new devices to determine whether they are impaired. There will be legal challenges on charges of impairment, and if we do not have an approved device, likely the government will not be successful. We do not have training. With regard to the police, the drug recognition experts, who will pay for the new officers, the training, the devices that are yet to exist?

One would think that the government would wait until the science is ready to support that with devices. The search for this device is not something new. Experts have been looking for this for the last 15 years. They cannot find a device that can be used to confirm impairment, and yet the government is moving ahead.

I will support it going to committee because at committee we will see how poorly planned this legislation is and how it will hurt Canadians. I wish the government was not doing this and had thought it through more carefully. It is a poorly hatched plan, and it likely will not be supported by a large number of members in this House in the future. However, at this point, we will support it going to committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of points of clarification. Perhaps I have not done a good enough job of explaining to the member that the government's actual proposal with respect to Bill C-45 is to legalize, regulate, and restrict cannabis in order to keep it out of the hands of our kids, to take the profits away from organized crime, and to create a safer, healthier, and more socially responsibly environment for all Canadians. For some reason, he did not catch that last part, and I wanted to share that with him.

There have been a number of comments with respect to waiting. I take the member for Langley—Aldergrove's point. He appears to be quite adept at waiting.

The measures that are proposed under Bill C-46 have been introduced in other jurisdictions. For example, in Ireland there was a 23% reduction in impaired deaths as a result of the measures we are now proposing to enact here in Canada. In New Zealand, it was up to 54%, and in New South Wales, Australia, it was 48%.

I have spent many years being responsible for road safety and the safety of my communities, and in my experience tough talk does not keep people safe. What does keep people safe is the absolute certainty that they will get caught. The measures that are proposed in this legislation will do precisely that. Introducing a new measure to ensure that everyone who is legally stopped by a police officer roadside must submit to an alcohol-screening breath test has been proven in many jurisdictions to save lives, so I am confident that although tough talk has not worked for over a decade, the smart action that is proposed in this legislation will do just that.

With respect to the member's concerns about the technology and the devices, his information is a little out of date. In the United Kingdom, oral testing is being used in a jurisdiction with very similar laws to those being proposed here, and the positive results of those tests are used to demand a blood sample, exactly as our legislation proposes. Also, those devices have been in use in Australia since 2009 and have resulted in criminal charges in that jurisdiction.

We have relied on the advice of the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science with respect to which devices should be approved. We have tested two of those devices in Canadian conditions. They work exceptionally well, and we are very confident going forward.

Now is the time to act. The country has waited a decade for action and did not get it. Now we are prepared to provide the right response, the tools, the technology, and the training.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-46. Just as clarification for folks watching on television, this is not the bill to legalize marijuana, but the bill to deal with offences related to the conveyance, and also to deal with offences and procedures related to impaired driving for both cannabis and alcohol.

It is important to note at the outset that the Conservatives support measures that protect Canadians from impaired drivers. Impaired driving has needlessly taken away too many lives far too early. Unfortunately impaired driving remains one of the most frequent criminal offences and it is among the leading criminal causes of death in Canada. The legalization of marijuana must be considered with this reality in mind.

Let me be very clear. I do not support the legalization of marijuana. The Conservative Party has adopted a much more measured, responsible approach to keep minor marijuana possession illegal but to make it a ticketable offence. This is a position that has long been adopted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. However, if Liberal backbenchers are willing to support the Prime Minister's dangerous proposal, which sadly appears to be the case, we have a moral responsibility to soberly consider the consequences of legalizing marijuana in so many areas of Canadian life, including on the safety of motorists on our roadways.

As I said, we on this side of the House always have supported measures that protect Canadians from impaired drivers. The mandatory fines and higher maximum penalties send a strong message that Canadians will not tolerate impaired driving. Indeed, this is the type of common-sense legislation the Conservatives regularly brought forward when we were in government and the Liberals opposed. I am pleased to see that on this issue the Liberals seem to have come around somewhat, but we also know there are many factors to take into consideration other than just penalties, and those concerns must also be addressed.

For one thing, the Liberal government has indicated that it plans to rush both Bill C-45, the legalization of marijuana, and Bill C-46, this legislation, through Parliament by July 2018. This is a hurried and unrealistic legislative timeline that puts the health and safety of Canadians at great risk, given the immensity of the task and the volume of the questions that have been left unanswered. One such challenge lies with law enforcement.

While I certainly have confidence in our law enforcement officers, as is to be expected with such radical change, police do not currently have the resources or the training required to manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana. Moving forward with this legislation prior to properly resourcing and training police in a classic “cart before the horse” scenario but with profoundly dangerous and deadly consequences is reckless.

The chair of the Liberals' marijuana task force has said that the best solution for the issue of impaired driving is to give researchers additional time to develop proper detection tools, yet time is something the Liberals seem unwilling to give. Addressing these issues must be a priority of the Liberal government long before legalization, and adequate time is needed to get it right.

The marijuana task force report highlights a number of the complications that exist when it comes to cannabis-impaired driving. “It is clear that cannabis impairs psychomotor skills and judgment”, it reads, before launching into a list of considerations when it comes into actual testing for impairment.

Here are several of the points raised.

While scientists agree that THC, or the tetrahydrocannabinol, impairs driving performance, the level of THC in bodily fluids cannot be used to reliably indicate the degree of impairment or crash risk. Whereas evidence was gathered over many years to arrive at an established metric for alcohol intoxication, the blood alcohol concentration levels, these types of data do not exist for cannabis. In contrast to alcohol, THC can remain in the brain and body of chronic heavy users of cannabis for prolonged periods of time, sometimes several days or even weeks, far beyond the period of acute impairment, potentially contributing to a level of chronic impairment. Some heavy, regular users of cannabis, including those who use cannabis for medical purposes, may not show any obvious signs of impairment even with significant THC concentrations in their blood. Conversely, infrequent users with the same or lower THC concentrations may demonstrate more significant impairment. There is a significant combination effect when cannabis is consumed with alcohol, leading to a greater level of intoxication and motor control problems than when either substance is consumed individually.

Other challenges exist, including the need to account for the rapid and sharp decline of THC levels in the blood in the hours following consumption through smoking. With edibles, the decline is more gradual. When these complications are coupled with the fact that there is still really no reliable testing device for marijuana impairment, it becomes clear that the July 2018 timeline is pushing the limit. Even with an effective testing device, the task force report noted that there was little agreement among experts on what the limit for THC should be.

With this bill, there are more questions than answers. This does not mean that we cannot find answers; it just means that we need more time to research. The report suggested additional research in these areas: to better link the THC levels impairment; to develop effective and reliable roadside testing tools to detect THC levels and help law enforcement enforce the rules that are put in place; and to hire and train more drug recognition experts and officers able to conduct standardized field sobriety tests.

Second, as the minister of youth, the Prime Minister should understand that adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Research shows that the brain is not fully developed until around age 25, so youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on brain development and function. This is because the THC in cannabis affects the biological system in the brain that directs its development.

Health Canada has noted several negative effects of using cannabis, including how:

The THC in cannabis can impair your ability to drive safely and operate equipment. It can also increase the risk of falls and other accidents.

This is because THC can affect one's coordination, reaction time, ability to pay attention, decision-making abilities, and the ability to judge distances.

Health Canada also says:

Impairment can last for more than 24 hours after cannabis use, well after other effects may have faded. People who use cannabis regularly may have trouble with certain skills needed to drive safely for weeks after their last use.

The consequences for driving are obvious and the potential harm this can cause to young Canadians is alarming. Taking the time we need to consider the long-term impact on young Canadians is so much more important than a self-imposed deadline.

Third, public education plays a significant role in ensuring that Canadians do not get behind the wheel when they are impaired. However, we know that even the most effective public education campaign does not achieve success over night. The Liberals have yet to take proper steps to develop effective educational campaigns to deter Canadians from impaired driving. Without a doubt, the government must ensure that Canadians fully understand the risks of impaired driving before moving forward with legislation.

When the Prime Minister expressed his intention to push these new laws through Parliament by July of next year, his main concern was not with the safety of motorists on our roads, but instead about the symbolic optics for him and his party. This should not be the focus of the Liberal government with so much at stake for public health and safety.

While doing some reading on this issue, I came across several articles that I thought would be helpful contributions to this discussion.

In a 2015 Globe and Mail article, data was presented detailing how four emergency rooms in British Columbia surveyed 1,097 drivers and found that cannabis was the most common recreational drug, after alcohol, used among injured drivers; 7.3% were found to have consumed marijuana in the hours preceding their crashes; and 12.6% still showed traces of the drug from earlier use.

Another article shared on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving website, originally in the December 9, 2015, edition of The Province, tells the story of a constable from the Abbotsford police reviewing the report from a Saturday night's roadside counter attack effort aimed at combatting impaired driving. This overnight report included four driving suspensions for drivers impaired by marijuana while there were no mentions of drivers impaired by alcohol. The constable even shared about what he called “a 'Cheech & Chong' scenario, where the windows come down and the billowing smoke comes out of the car.”

In the article, Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD, stated, “There’s this impression out there by young people, especially, that they’re safer (driving) stoned than drunk...If you’re high on pot, your skills to drive a motor vehicle are deteriorated and you’re at risk of being in a crash.”

It is precisely this sort of myth that must be tackled before marijuana becomes not only more accessible to Canadians, including young people, but more acceptable in a recreational context. It must also be considered in the legislation. Time is what is required, time to study this, time to hear from the experts and get the proper research and data we need. I urge the Liberals to take the appropriate amount of time to engage with Canadians in a public education campaign and to abandon their reckless rush on this legislation.

Numerous voices have sent these same messages to the Liberals. In fact, their own marijuana task force recommended extensive marijuana and impaired driving education and awareness campaigns before the drug's legalization, noting in its report, “Public opinion research shows that youth and some adults do not understand the risks of cannabis use.” Worse yet, youth underestimate the risks of cannabis use.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health points out that cannabis affects a person's ability to drive by impairing depth perception, attention span, and concentration, slowing reaction time, decreasing muscle strength, and hand steadiness. Do Canadians, and Canadian youth in particular, know these essential facts? The Canadian Automobile Association concurs on the need for public education and adds “It’s clear from the report that work needs to start immediately in these areas, and that the actual legalization should not be rushed”.

In the states of Washington and Colorado, public education campaigns did not begin until two years after legalization. The task force report noted, “Officials from both states strongly advised starting educational campaigns as soon as possible.”

As a Globe and Mail article highlights, both states have “seen significant increases in the proportion of fatal accidents involving drivers who tested positive for the drug.” It goes on to say, “the percentage of those accidents in which the drivers tested positive for marijuana increased considerably.”

Colorado saw about 10% of drivers involved in fatal accidents test positive for the drug in 2010. In 2014, a year after recreational marijuana sales were legalized, that percentage nearly doubled. A similar doubling occurred in Washington in the same period from about 6% to 12%. Without a proper public education campaign, this legislation will lead to the same tragic mistakes seen in these two jurisdictions.

The task force also identified a need for immediate investment and to work with the provinces and territories to develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis caused impairment and the best way to avoid driving impaired was not to consume. The strategy is also to inform Canadians about the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving, with special emphasis on youth and the applicable laws and the ability of law enforcement to detect cannabis use.

Much can be learned from the way public education has changed the way Canadians look at drinking and driving. Although we still have far too many tragic incidents, there is a better understanding of the consequences of alcohol-impaired driving today than there has been historically.

If legalization proceeds without taking into account the lessons learned from drunk driving prevention education, including the amount of time it took for public education campaigns to yield meaningful results, it will be a fatal mistake.

I want to reiterate that I have many serious concerns about the legalization of marijuana. If the Liberals are going to move forward with this legislation, it is incumbent upon all of us to lay the proper groundwork for the protection of the Canadian motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians who share our roads.

We must also ensure that young people understand the risks inherent in marijuana usage so that we can avoid needless loss of life based on myths that suggest that marijuana causes somewhat less impairment than alcohol. These assertions must be countered with the truth for the safety of everyone. The Liberals must abandon their politically motivated, rushed timeline to allow more time to prepare for the consequences of marijuana legalization and to ensure that Canadians are protected from impaired drivers.

This legislation is being rushed to committee. It is being rushed through the House. The debate has been curtailed. As Conservatives, the right thing to do is to support it, because we know that the Liberals are going to push it through anyway. We need to get it to committee. We need to study it thoroughly. We need to bring in expert testimony. We need to consider the effects cannabis could have on our youth. We need to consider whether the age limit is correct as is currently prescribed in the legislation.

The medical community has indicated very clearly that the brain is developing until the age of 25 and that the early use of marijuana does irreparable damage to the brain. The medical community strongly suggests that we not legalize marijuana prior to the age of 21, yet the Liberal government has recklessly proceeded with legislation that would legalize it at the age of 18.

The Liberals have said that they want to keep marijuana out of the hands of children and youth. I would suggest that it currently is not as abundantly found in homes as it would be once this legislation was passed. People would be allowed to have four mature marijuana plants up to 100 centimetres. I do not know if that is 100 centimetres in height or length or what, but if it is actually 100 centimetres in height, they would start growing horizontally, and that would create other problems. We know that four mature marijuana plants also means that there would be non-mature marijuana plants growing in the same household that would reach maturity at different stages. As we heard in earlier testimony, that could mean upwards of 12 marijuana plants per household in Canada. Law enforcement would not make a huge effort to ensure that those limits were maintained. That is going to be problematic.

The good thing is that the Liberals are being somewhat proactive with Bill C-46 by at least trying to address the concerns with respect to impaired driving from both cannabis and alcohol.

Something that has not been mentioned, at least I have not heard it mentioned, is what the impact will be on employers. I own a construction company that deals with heavy equipment. What burden will this place on employers to properly test that their employees are not coming to work stoned and under the influence of marijuana? When I am looking at machines that operate 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of payload, and I have a guy operating that equipment who is under the influence of cannabis that I cannot properly detect, that is going to put not only him but many others at grave risk.

There are lots of things in this legislation that need to be carefully examined. I am hopeful that the Liberals will allow for proper time at committee to examine this legislation carefully and to bring in expert testimony. Contrary to what I have seen at committee in the past, I am hopeful that the Liberals will allow for meaningful amendments to be considered and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Vancouver Granville B.C.


Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege and honour to speak to Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts

I introduce the bill with the ultimate goal of reducing the significant number of deaths and injuries caused by impaired driving, a crime that continues to claim innocent lives and wreak havoc and devastation on Canadian families. No law is adequate comfort for devastating loss, but I want to stress that this proposed legislation was drafted with all victims of impaired driving in mind.

This includes the three Neville-Lake children and their grandfather killed on a Sunday afternoon on their way home from a sleepover in Vaughan, Ontario. This includes the entire Van de Vorst family, a family of four killed by an impaired driver as they crossed an intersection in rural Saskatchewan. This includes the thousands of people injured because someone else chose to get behind the wheel while impaired.

Every year, drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol cause devastation on our roads and highways. Impaired driving continues to be the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. This is completely unacceptable.

That is why I am proud to have proposed legislation to enact an impaired driving regime that would be among the strongest in the world. It would ensure as much as possible that no one has to live through tragedies like those I have just mentioned. Before I discuss the specific proposals in the legislation, I would like to comment briefly on the structure of the bill, as it takes a unique approach.

Part 1 of the bill proposes new tools to detect drug-impaired drivers at the roadside. It would also create three new driving offences of being over a legal drug limit. I will come back to these proposals in a moment. This part of the bill would come into force upon royal assent to ensure that a more robust drug-impaired driving regime is in place before the legalization and regulation of cannabis.

Part 2 of the bill would repeal all of the transportation-related provisions in the Criminal Code and replace them with a clear, coherent structure. Over time, the Criminal Code provisions have become too complex and difficult to understand. Part 2 also proposes substantial reforms to strengthen the law of alcohol-impaired driving and address existing challenges with detection, enforcement, and prosecution.

Given the substantial reforms in part 2, a longer coming into force date of six months is proposed to ensure that provinces and territories, key stakeholders responsible for the administration of justice, have adequate time to prepare. Over all, the bill proposes to strengthen the criminal law approach to both drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired driving. I would like to spend a few moments outlining key proposals to tackle drug-impaired driving.

The bill would authorize police officers for the first time to use roadside drug screeners in situations where they have reasonable suspicion a driver has drugs in his or her body. A positive reading on such a device would not, on its own, lead to a criminal charge. Instead, it would offer to assist an officer in forming the reasonable grounds necessary to take further investigative steps.

The bill also builds on the existing drug-impaired driving offence by proposing new offences for being over a legal drug limit. This offence structure will be familiar to many, as it is similar to the offence that prohibits driving over the legal limit for alcohol, otherwise known as the “over 80” offence.

Although the proposed offences would apply to several impairing drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamines, I intend to focus on the proposed levels of THC. The legal limits would be set by regulation and proven through blood analysis. The bill would authorize the taking of a blood sample from a driver when an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that either a drug-impaired or legal limit offence has occurred.

These proposed drug offences have been developed in recognition of the differences between alcohol and THC, in particular, the difference in the way that they are absorbed, metabolized, and eliminated by the human body.

This bill takes a precautionary approach by establishing a low level, fine only drug offence for THC that would prohibit having between two and five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood within two hours of driving. Additionally, Bill C-46 proposes a hybrid offence for a higher level of THC where a driver has five nanograms or more of THC per millilitre of blood.

Finally, I am proposing an offence of low levels of THC in combination with low levels of alcohol. This new offence would convey to Canadians that combining THC and alcohol intensifies impairment. I am proposing that the low level THC offence of between two and five nanograms be punishable by way of a maximum fine of $1,000. The higher drug offence of having five nanograms of THC in the body or more and the combination offence of having a mixture of THC and alcohol in the blood would have escalating penalties that mirror the existing impaired driving penalties: a $1,000 fine for the first offence, 30 days' imprisonment for the second offence, and 120 days' imprisonment for a third or subsequent offence.

It is important to note that drug-impaired driving has been an offence in Canada since 1925. However, our government is committed to strengthening these existing measures before strictly regulating and legalizing cannabis.

The proposed drug levels to be prescribed by regulation are based on the advice of the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, which has been working tirelessly on a volunteer basis to consolidate existing science on drug-impaired driving and setting legal limits.

In developing this approach, we were mindful of other jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom, where cannabis remains illegal, the legal limit is two nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood. In Colorado and Washington where cannabis is legalized, the legal limit is five nanograms. The approach in Bill C-46 to drug-impaired driving would be among the toughest in the world, particularly in jurisdictions where cannabis is legal.

I would now like to turn to the proposals in Bill C-46 which aim to strengthen our approach to alcohol-impaired driving.

One of the key elements is an important new tool known as mandatory alcohol screening. This would permit the police to demand a preliminary breath sample from a driver who is already subject to a legal traffic stop.

Most people will know that police already have the power to stop vehicles under provincial and common law in order to check, for example, for a vehicle's fitness or driver's licensing. These stops have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada on three different occasions, in Dedman v. The Queen from 1985, R. v. Hufsky from 1988, and R. v. Ladouceur from 1990.

After having made a lawful traffic stop, mandatory alcohol screening would simply permit a police officer to demand a preliminary breath sample. Under current law, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion before the officer can demand a breath sample, but research shows that up to as many as 50% of drivers who are over the legal limit are able to escape detection by police.

While a new proposal for Canada, mandatory alcohol screening is already law in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and many European countries. It has led to a significant reduction in the number of deaths and injuries related to impaired driving. I am expecting that it will have the same effect in Canada. The reason is simple. Mandatory alcohol screening will change the mindset of drivers. No longer will drivers be able to convince themselves they can evade police detection of their alcohol consumption if stopped.

As Andrew Murie, the chief executive officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, has said, mandatory alcohol screening “is going to make the biggest impact. It will drive down the number of deaths and injuries. People will know that they can't play around with officers.”

Ireland presents one of the most compelling examples. In the four years following the enactment of mandatory alcohol screening, fatalities on Irish roads decreased by 40%, and total charges for impaired driving diminished at a similar rate. In short, drivers quit thinking they could beat the system and simply gave up on driving while impaired.

In the face of such compelling evidence, I feel I have an obligation to all Canadians to propose this approach for Canada.

I would like to move on to discuss some of the proposed changes to the existing over 80 offence. One of the most significant changes proposed in this offence relates to the time frame. Currently, the offence is committed while driving. The proposals in Bill C-46 would stretch the time frame so that it would be an offence to be over the legal limit within two hours of driving. This is a common formulation used in many states in the U.S. Its primary purpose is to eliminate risky behaviour associated with bolus drinking, sometimes referred to as drinking and dashing.

Members may be surprised to learn that some people drink, or claim to drink, a significant amount of alcohol immediately before driving in the hopes of arriving at their destination before the alcohol fully absorbs and therefore before they are over the legal limit. The proposed formulation of “within two hours” would capture this reprehensible conduct. It also has the benefit of eliminating what is known as the intervening drink defence. This arises when a driver takes a drink of alcohol after being stopped by the police but before providing a breath sample primarily to frustrate the investigative process.

I understand there are many concerns that the proposed offences would criminalize people who have done nothing wrong. I share this concern, and that is why the bill proposes an exception that is intended to apply in cases of innocent intervening drinking. This could apply in cases where a driver consumes alcohol after driving but has no reason to expect he or she would be asked to provide a breath sample. If the results of the driver's breath test are consistent with the individual having a blood alcohol concentration under the legal limit at the time of driving, the offence would not be made out and the driver would not be convicted. I feel very strongly that this proposed offence structure would reduce the incentive of people to mix alcohol and driving.

Finally, Bill C-46 also proposes a formula to calculate blood alcohol concentration at the time of the offence where the driver's breath is tested outside of the two-hour period. The formula would be the concentration at the time of testing, plus five milligrams per complete half hour. This is a very conservative dissipation rate for alcohol and so would not be unfair to the driver. It is supported by the alcohol test committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science and would eliminate the need to call an expert toxicologist at trial.

I would now like to discuss some of the proposals in Bill C-46 which would strengthen the law, while also creating much needed court efficiencies. Impaired driving is one of the most litigated offences in the Criminal Code and takes up a disproportionate amount of time in courts. This is all the more important since the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Jordan last July.

One proposal is to limit crown disclosure obligations to scientifically relevant information about breathalyzers and blood alcohol concentration without unfairly limiting access to relevant disclosure. Another is to simplify proof of blood alcohol concentration by setting out in the code what the crown must specifically prove.

I would like to turn briefly to the penalties proposed in the bill. The mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving would not change where there is no death or injury. Those are a $1,000 fine for the first offence, 30 days' imprisonment for a second offence, and 120 days' imprisonment for the third or subsequent offence. While the minimums would not change, the bill proposes to raise the mandatory fines for first-time offenders with high blood alcohol concentrations and for refusing a breath test.

I want to be clear that I have carefully reviewed the mandatory minimum penalties for impaired driving. I am confident that they are charter compliant and necessary. The mandatory terms of imprisonment for repeat drunk drivers have been shown to serve a deterrent function. A first-time impaired driver leaves the criminal justice system knowing that if he or she reoffends, the next stop is jail. This has a real, psychological impact.

The bill would also increase the maximum sentences for these offences from 18 months to two years for a summary conviction, and from five years to 10 years for more serious indictable offences. The maximum for dangerous driving causing death would be raised to life, as is already the case in impaired driving causing death.

The impaired driving causing bodily harm offence would also be amended. Currently, it can only be prosecuted by indictment. The bill proposes to hybridize it to allow the crown, in appropriate cases, to proceed summarily, such as for minor injuries.

The bill would also respond to calls to shorten the time an offender must wait before driving within the Criminal Code's driving prohibition period, where the driver uses an ignition interlock device under a provincial program. Allowing this earlier access has been shown to reduce recidivism and save lives.

Since the introduction of this bill last month, there has been a lot of commentary regarding the constitutionality of some of the proposals, with particular attention being paid to mandatory alcohol screening. I am confident that all the proposals in Bill C-46 will withstand charter scrutiny, as explained in the charter statement I was pleased to introduce on May 11.

In conclusion, it is my hope and expectation that the combined effects of the many reforms proposed in Bill C-46 will be enormously effective in deterring drug and alcohol impaired driving. No more Canadian families should have to suffer the devastation caused by impaired driving.

I ask all members to consider the benefits in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency this major reform to the criminal law would achieve. I ask all members to join me in supporting Bill C-46.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, I very much appreciate my hon. colleague taking the opportunity to sit down and engage with my officials and staff and would offer that to any other hon. members in the House.

I was pleased to table the charter statement, as I said, earlier this month. I want to acknowledge that the concern about racial profiling in terms of stops has been brought to my attention many times since the introduction of Bill C-46, and I will say a number of things.

A law enforcement officer, as the member quite rightly pointed out, would have to lawfully stop someone on the roadside. However, I want to distinguish the issue of racial profiling, which is an important one that needs to be addressed, from the objectives of this particular piece of legislation. The objectives of Bill C-46 are to keep our roads safe. That is not to say that in the exercise of the duties of law enforcement officers they will not continue to benefit from training and oversight in terms of fairness and appropriateness in the application of the law. We are very mindful of this, and we will certainly continue to have discussions on the important issue the member brought up.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Madam Speaker, as I noted in my remarks, part 1, on drug-impaired driving, will come into force upon royal assent. In terms of alcohol-impaired driving, the proposed changes will have a delayed coming into force. We will continue to work with municipalities, provinces, and territories on the application of the reforms proposed in Bill C-46.

I have been working very closely with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in testing the devices on the roadside in various municipalities across the country. He and I want to and will ensure that the necessary resources are in place to provide the appropriate training and necessary tools for police officers to comply with the legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to talk about Bill C-46, which was introduced in the House on April 13.

I think a little context is in order. This bill is one component of the government's plan to legalize marijuana. Changes to the rules for drivers are called for because of concerns about more drug-impaired drivers getting behind the wheel once marijuana is legal.

Before I talk about the bill specifically, I would like to share my concerns and some general observations about the government's overarching plan to legalize marijuana.

I just want to point out that I am not a legal expert, so I did not look at Bill C-46 through that lens. I looked at it as a resident of the riding of Mégantic—L'Érable who is concerned about the negative repercussions of legal marijuana. Normalizing drug use is sure to have an impact on our roads.

The two arguments the government has given to justify legalizing marijuana and making it more accessible to Canadians consist in keeping it out of the hands of youth and keeping profits from the sale of marijuana out of the hands of criminals. Those are the two main arguments we kept hearing during the last election campaign. They were also reiterated when that bill was introduced, which was at the same time as this one was introduced. That was a big day, a day on which we had to respond to a whole series of measures. It seemed as though the government was in a hurry to introduce everything at the same time.

I cannot help but question not the government's intentions, but the statements it made when this legislation was announced. Is it any wonder that we on this side of the House are worried?

I spoke with some students at a high school in my riding about plans to legalize marijuana, and even they are worried. At least two-thirds of them are opposed to legalizing marijuana. It is important to remember that. One of my colleagues also had the opportunity to meet with some young people in his riding who oppose it too. What worries me is keeping our kids safe, of course, as well as keeping our roads and workplaces safe.

I believe this is all about normalizing marijuana and if we do that it will have an impact on society as a whole. The marijuana legalization bill and Bill C-46 have one thing in common: there is not a single word on how much it will cost the other levels of government or where their responsibilities lie in implementing these measures.

What will it cost the municipalities to increase monitoring or to train their police officers to be able to detect drug impaired driving? What will it cost the provinces in terms of the application of justice? How will these new laws and new rules be enforced? What will it cost the federal government? We have no answer. We are told that this will take money out of the hands of organized crime, but there is no word on government revenues or how those will be used.

These are legitimate questions that came to my mind when the marijuana legalization process was announced. This process was announced and launched even though the majority of public health stakeholders are opposed to normalizing and legalizing marijuana, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

This bill does not have unanimous support in our ridings, and its intention has even less. When we ask people, those living in rural ridings like mine are firmly opposed to the government's plan to legalize marijuana.

Again, it would no longer be illegal for youth 12 and over to possess a small quantity of marijuana.

Youth 18 years of age and over would be able to legally possess a certain quantity of marijuana and to consume it. People will even be able to grow it in their homes. How is the government going to decide who will have access to it? It is not the same as buying cigarettes at a corner store. If there are cannabis plants all over the place, in every residence, will the parents, neighbours, uncles, or aunts have to oversee access to the drug? We do not know. These are grey areas.

This only makes us more concerned about who is going to have access to marijuana and then make the bad decision, after consuming it, to drive their car, motorcycle, or even their bicycle under the influence of drugs.

The other myth I want to dispel before addressing Bill C-46 is the argument that this will no longer be a revenue stream for organized crime because the government will be pocketing the profits instead. The term “organized crime” is made up of two words: “organized” and “crime”. I can tell you right now that the criminal element has organized to profit even more. That is the most worrisome aspect, because if the criminal world is preparing to make even more profits and not with marijuana, then with what? Will it be with other things?

We have already taken alcohol out of the hands of organized crime. Did organized crime cease to exist? It is still there, and it gave up on alcohol to focus on drugs. What is next? That is what worries me the most, and we have no answer to that question.

Bill C-46 was introduced because the government realized that it had to take action. The government also realized, in light of its promise to legalize and normalize marijuana, that it had to find a way to ensure that this law does not cause even more deaths on our roads, whether it be from alcohol- or drug-impaired driving. The government also used Bill C-46 to add some amendments regarding drunk driving. The government had to act because it knew it would be causing an even bigger problem on our roads. That is what the government did with Bill C-46.

Bill C-46 has two parts. Part 1 amends the provisions of the Criminal Code that deal with offences and procedures relating to drug-impaired driving; enacts new criminal offences for driving with a blood drug concentration that is equal to or higher than the permitted concentration; authorizes the government to establish blood drug concentrations; and authorizes peace officers who suspect a driver has a drug in their body to demand that the driver provide a sample of a bodily substance for analysis by drug screening equipment that is approved by the Attorney General of Canada.

Part 2 is more general, but it also makes a number of amendments, which are likely designed to improve the current situation. We will surely have the opportunity to talk about this in committee. A very active committee that is familiar with legal issues will ask excellent questions. I am sure that, if the government is aware of the situation and is acting in good faith, the suggestions made by the official opposition have a good chance of being incorporated into the next iteration of the bill.

The way we see it, this bill is not quite perfect. We have some questions. Will all of this stand up to court challenges? A law with strict provisions is all well and good, but if it does not hold up in court, that could create even bigger problems. Once this bill is passed and brought into force, the other bill on marijuana legalization will be too.

What we really want to avoid is having these new measures and penalties end up in court and finding ourselves in an unfortunate legal void. Think of the Jordan decision, which is causing serious problems now. I will talk more about that a bit later.

Part 2 repeals the transportation-related offences and replaces them with a structure that is supposedly modern, simpler, and coherent. It authorizes mandatory roadside screening for alcohol once a police officer has stopped a driver. It increases certain minimum fines and certain maximum penalties. It also facilitates detection of blood alcohol concentration and the ensuing investigation. Lastly, it eliminates or limits defences that promote risky conduct and that frustrate the enforcement of drunk driving laws. There are also other measures.

At first glace, these measures are designed to discourage people from getting behind the wheel while drunk or high. I am sure all members on this side of the House agree that we must put an end to this scourge that causes hundreds of deaths every year in this country.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the government's coming marijuana legislation will probably create more opportunities for people to drive while impaired not by alcohol but by marijuana.

Let me share some reactions from those in the know. The Canadian Automobile Association issued some comments on marijuana legalization and the impaired driving regulations:

CAA believes three issues need to be addressed for an effective drugs driving regime: clear law, tools for law enforcement and public education. Today’s announcement deals with the law but leaves questions around funding and public education.

The vice president of public affairs at CAA National said, “We’re still waiting for the details on additional funding to make the legislation enforceable. This needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

This article came out on April 13, 2017, and we still have no answers to CAA's very legitimate questions. The article goes on:

The government also reiterated a Budget 2017 commitment to spend less than $2 million a year over five years on public education—a sum that is clearly inadequate, given the misconceptions about marijuana’s effect on driving.

Here is another passage, for information:

CAA polling has found almost two thirds of Canadians (63 per cent) are concerned that roads will become more dangerous with the legalization of marijuana, and that 26 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 believe a driver is either the same or better on the road under the influence of marijuana.

While 26% of young Canadians do not believe that marijuana negatively affects their driving, the government is saying that it will invest $2 million a year to educate them. There is a serious problem here. If the government really wants the opposition parties' support, it needs to present us with a clear plan to promote public awareness immediately, so that we will know what Canadians can expect on July 1, 2018, the deadline that has been set for legalizing marijuana. The government must not wait until then to announce prevention and awareness programs. We need to know this now, because Canadians are worried.

Here is one last quotation regarding CAA's concerns. According to Jeff Walker, “ enforcement is not sufficiently equipped to enforce the law and the cost to train them is high.”

The other reaction I would like to highlight comes from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, and it specifically concerns the screening devices mentioned in Bill C-46:

At present, there is a limited number of drugs that can be accurately detected by oral fluid screening devices: cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and opioids.

...Although the accuracy of oral fluid screening devices has been improving, they are not perfect. Some drivers who have used drugs will test negative and there remains a small probability that some drug-free drivers will test positive. When a driver who has used drugs is missed by the screening procedure, it has implications for road safety [and for all Canadians].

Is the technology ready for the implementation of Bill C-46? That is a question from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

I have other sources. On April 28, 2017, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police also commented on impaired driving: “A primary concern of policing in Canada is impaired driving. This is an issue today. It will become an even greater issue with legalization.”

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police went on to say:

Will adequate and ongoing funding be provided in advance of the stated goal of legalization ... [as I mentioned earlier] to train officers and drug recognition evaluators (DREs), purchase and maintain [oral fluid] devices, increase forensic laboratory capacity to process bodily fluids and sustain our ability to enforce this legislation?

Are the per se limits supported by scientific evidence and will they stand up to potential challenges within our judicial system [so we do not find ourselves once more with a legal void that would allow criminals to take to the road, because henceforth they will be criminals]?

Will the provinces/territories be introducing complimentary enforcement regimes to discourage drug impaired driving...

These are very legitimate questions. I believe that we should listen to these people. Some of these people enforce the law and some are automobile experts. In short, these are comments and questions that we will surely have an opportunity to address, and I hope that the government will have answers when we study this bill in committee.

However, Bill C-46 will not do any good if the courts cannot enforce the law. I am referring to the Jordan decision. Here are a few statistics. In nine months, no fewer than 134 accused whose cases have been taking too long to filter through the Quebec court system were released before being tried, not at their own request, but at the request of the crown. Another 59 accused were released after their defence filed a request with the crown. That means 193 people did not stand trial. According to Annick Murphy, the director of criminal and penal prosecutions in Quebec, the majority of the cases that were dropped had to do with impaired driving. We are talking about 100 out of 193 cases. These 100 people got behind the wheel and endangered their own lives and the lives of others. All that because the government is taking too long to appoint judges in Quebec and to stop the Jordan decision from unfairly favouring criminals.

The government could do something about this, but unfortunately it is not doing so. Instead, it is going to ask the Quebec justice system to deal with more cases. The government is going to ask the Quebec justice system to do even more, when it does not even have the resources to deal with the cases currently before its courts. That is worrisome.

The director of criminal and penal prosecutions for Quebec stated the following: “We are certainly prioritizing cases...involving crimes against persons, which we see as the most serious.”

I understand that all crimes against the person are serious, but we need to talk to victims who have lost a loved one in a car accident because someone was driving while impaired, and not just once, but perhaps for the second or third time. We need to ask those victims whether impaired driving is a serious crime. Personally, I see it as a very serious crime, and we cannot pretend that being impaired is not a serious factor. We would be making the problem worse.

In closing, I still do not trust this government's process for legalizing marijuana. The measures presented might seem fine at first glance, but they do include any means or budget to promote prevention, to train police officers, or to support prevention among young people. We will support this bill so that it can be sent to committee for further study. I would hope that the government will find some way to properly enforce this legislation once it passes.

Public SafetyOral Questions

May 19th, 2017 / noon
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Brossard—Saint-Lambert for her question and her efforts in supporting this cause.

We are proud to have introduced Bill C-46, which will make Canada a world leader in the fight against alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. The proposed legislation will reform the entire impaired-driving regime in the Criminal Code. It will strengthen existing drug- and alcohol-impaired driving laws by creating new offences and by making the law more efficient to enforce, simpler, and more coherent for all Canadians.

For this year's national safe driving week, I encourage all members of this House to work with our government—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for introducing this bill in conjunction with Bill C-45, the cannabis act.

It is good that this bill was brought forward for debate in the House before Bill C-45, as robust laws against drug-impaired driving should be well in place before legislation occurs. The last thing we need with the legalization of cannabis is for people to start using the drug, thinking it is safe to drive a motor vehicle. In conjunction with this bill, a clear message needs to be sent to Canadians on the dangers of impaired driving.

In 2015, police reported 72,039 impaired driving incidents, representing a rate of 201 incidents per 100,000 of population. This is the lowest rate since data was collected on impaired driving in 1986. It represents a 65% drop, and 4% lower than what was reported in 2014.

In the same year, police reported 122 incidents causing death and 596 incidents causing bodily harm. That compares to 1986, when there were 196 and 1,581 of these incidents respectively. When the size of the population in those years is taken into consideration, these figures correspond to rate decreases of 55% and 73% respectively.

Over the past 30 years, all provinces have seen substantial decreases in their impaired driving rates. This is a good thing. However, it should be known that impaired driving is still one of the leading causes of criminal death in Canada. With one of the worst impaired driving records in the OECD, we certainly need a public awareness campaign that is effective and well-funded.

When this bill receives royal assent, part 1 will come into force immediately. It makes amendments to the current sections of the Criminal Code, from section 253 through to section 259, mostly to update them for drug-impaired driving. Drug-impaired driving has been a criminal offence since 1925, but in the wake of big changes coming to our drug laws, we they are in sore need of an update.

We need to keep drivers off the roads if they are impaired by drug use. We need to ensure that the drivers being stopped are actually impaired. The proposed plans are to use roadside oral screeners that are approved by the drugs and driving committee. These screener purport to be able to check THC in the body, which may or may not be directly connected to impairment.

Police officers could only demand that someone be subjected to these tests if they had a reasonable suspicion to believe the driver was impaired. This could be due to the driver weaving or swerving on the road. The driver might exhibit symptoms such as red eyes or smell strongly of marijuana.

The test takes about 10 minutes to administer and will give a reading of whether THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is in the body. The bill does not have clear limits on how much marijuana in saliva qualifies as impairment. It is very important we have a science-backed initiative that stops impaired drivers in their tracks.

The government has offered some recommendations for new penalties for the amounts of THC in the body. The first offence is a summary conviction for drivers with low levels of drugs in their body. The current proposed limit, which will be set by regulation, would be two nanograms of THC. The second offence for higher amounts would come in with a per se limit of five nanograms. The third offence would be for having high levels of drugs and alcohol in the body.

It is clear that drivers who test positive for both agents have greater odds of making an error than drivers positive for either alcohol or cannabis alone.

Part 2 of the bill will come into force 180 days after it receives royal assent, and it will completely rewrite the Criminal Code on impaired driving and include updates to drug-impaired driving that I just mentioned. Part 1, would amend the existing sections of the Code to provide for a transition period for provincial governments and police services. However, after 180 days, part 2 would effectively repeal everything from section 249 to section 261 and add an entirely new series of sections after section 320.1. Of note, there are significant changes to the penalties for impaired driving.

The penalty for dangerous driving causing death will be increased to life imprisonment, which is up from the current 14 year penalty. Strong penalties are imperative when it comes to impaired driving, because the taking of someone's life while driving impaired is the result of a conscious decision and it must be treated with the same severity as a homicide.

Our approach in the NDP has not just been about more penalties for this offence. We want to seek ways to educate and deter the behaviour in the first place. For that reason, we will be looking for the government to take the lead on a public awareness campaign that promotes deterrence before anyone gets behind the wheel. The statistics show that a decline has been occurring in alcohol-related incidents, so this has been working in previous efforts.

One of the major changes to this legislation comes from the removal of the need for reasonable suspicion to administer an approved screening device.

Currently, the police need reasonable grounds for suspicion to demand a breath sample, as per subsection 254(2). Police can develop a reasonable suspicion by seeing a car swerving, by the smell on a driver, or if a driver has admitted to having drink or has slurred speech. These allow the police to form a reasonable suspicion to demand a breath sample. It is currently a very important part of our laws. The section to be amended does have some constitutional considerations.

The government has stated that an estimated 50% of people who are stopped and are over the legal limit are able to pass through current detection methods. It is indeed one of the reasons it has given for removing the need to have reasonable suspicion to check for a breath sample.

Many civil liberties groups have raised concerns about this change. They are concerned that certain visible minority groups could be disproportionately targeted, and concerns about this are justified. We need look no further than the experience of police street checks in Toronto, known as carding. While black residents in Toronto made up just 8.3% of the population, they accounted for 25% of the cards the police wrote from 2008 to mid-2011.

What would happen if we applied these statistics to random breath tests? Say that visible minorities made up 8.3% of the driving population that was pulled over in a lawful traffic stop, but they accounted for 25% of the demanded breath samples by police. This underlines some of the dangers we can face when we allow police to have that discretionary power, and it is a point that needs to be examined in detail.

Random and mandatory breath tests for alcohol screening could be challenged under section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. It could also be challenged under section 9, which is the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

The government has assured the House that the invasion of privacy would be minimal in the case of a roadside test in which police officers already have the right to demand several types of information from drivers. The Department of Justice has said:

The information revealed from a breath sample is, like the production of a drivers licence, simply information about whether a driver is complying with one of the conditions imposed in the highly regulated context of driving.

Warrantless roadside breathalyzer tests raise constitutional concerns. They can only be saved by section 1 of the charter by weighing the infringement against the public good served by fighting drunk driving and by the officer's assurance that he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect a crime has occurred. Many in the legal community have noted that if the law is changed to remove this constitutional safeguard, the reasonable grounds for suspicion, then it can no longer be saved by section 1.

Section 1 provides for reasonable limits to the rights in the charter only if they can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

For a section 1 analysis, the Oakes case of the Supreme Court provides a good backdrop. It states that the measures adopted must be carefully designed to achieve the objective in question. They must not be arbitrary, unfair or based on irrational considerations. In short, they must be rationally connected to the objective. The means, even if rationally connected to the objective in this first sense, should impair as little as possible the right or freedom in question.

In the Ladouceur decision, the Supreme Court wrestled with the issue of random stops of civilian vehicles by police. The minority opinion stated there were serious implications with such a power. It stated that the decision of a police officer may be based on any whim, that some may tend to stop younger drivers, older cars, and so on, and racial considerations could be a factor. It is indeed a thorny issue and it is not easily settled after a few hours of debate.

One of the great constitutional experts of Canada, Professor Peter Hogg, has mentioned in the past that random breath testing would infringe charter rights, but the benefit of public safety from reducing crashes and deaths would be so strong that it would be upheld in court. It would, in other words, be a reasonable limit on constitutional rights and freedoms. He wrote at the time, “The invasion of the driver's privacy is minor and transitory and not much different from existing obligations to provide evidence of licensing, ownership, and insurance.”

It should be noted that Professor Hogg was referring to random stops, such as a checkpoint. This is a scenario where every driver passing through is subject to random breath testing, so there is no room for discriminatory practice. With the way Bill C-46 is written, it would allow for a police officer to have all of the control in deciding when to pull out an approved testing device that is on his or her person and make a demand for a breath sample.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has said in the past about mandatory breath testing, “Giving police power to act on a whim is not something we want in an open democratic society.”

A former Liberal health minister stated in the past, “We want to make sure that areas are not unnecessarily excessively focused on and that's why I think that we need to make sure that the legislation is properly drafted with appropriate constraints and guidelines for the police.”

We need to bring civil liberties experts to the justice committee so that we can study this in-depth. Canadians have rights and freedoms that need to be protected, so to take them away must be met with the utmost scrutiny. I do look forward to getting this legislation to committee to do just that.

We also need Canadians to be aware that drug-impaired driving is a dangerous act and is illegal. This campaign must increase the knowledge that there is a range of health, social, and legal consequences. Drug-impaired drivers are a danger to themselves and to others on the road. The use of cannabis before driving can cause slower reaction times which increase the risk of being involved in a crash that could result in injury or death. Attempts to compensate may be at the expense of vehicle control, including reaction time, reflecting deficits in the ability to allocate attention. Social strategies need to be developed, like designated driver programs when there may be alcohol or cannabis present.

The incidence of driving after cannabis use, particularly among young Canadians, may be attributable in part to the fact that they do not necessarily perceive their driving ability to be adversely affected. After alcohol, cannabis is one of the most commonly detected substances among drivers arrested for impaired driving. We have to create a culture that does not accept the use of cannabis and the operation of a motor vehicle.

Impaired driving is one of the most litigated sections of the Criminal Code. This stress on our justice system needs to be seen in the context of the Jordan decision. One of the benefits of removing the criminalization of cannabis eventually when we get to it is that judges and the justice system would have more time to deal with more serious offences.

It is unfortunate that the Liberals have refused to move on decriminalization of marijuana as an interim measure, because we believe the current laws unfairly target youth and racialize Canadians for simple possession.

There is a crisis in our justice system as we speak. The government is trying to move ahead, but we believe that this interim measure could have been a very effective one. We certainly need to see more crown prosecutors, judges, more courtrooms and support staff to run an effective justice system that Canadians can have confidence in.

I want to talk a bit about the difficulty in checking for impairment, because when it comes to checking for impairment from cannabis, it looks like there is still a lot of work to be done.

The detection and assessment of cannabis use among drivers is considerably more complex than for alcohol, and we do not want to be arresting people who are not actually impaired. There are drug recognition experts in Canada that undergo training to ensure they can see impairment. Unfortunately, we only have about 600 of these officers, and we will probably need at least 2,000 new trained officers to meet the demand to combat this problem. It is unclear how much THC it takes to impair a driver, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

The Canadian Bar Association's official periodical, CBA National, published an article last month titled “Will the new roadside testing rules pass a Charter challenge?” The article noted that the science behind saliva tests for THC remains far from perfect and that Canadians may be subjected to questionable scientific schemes and subjective police arbiters on impairment, which will put their liberty at stake.

Peak levels of THC depend on how it enters the body. It is different for when a person ingests it or inhales it, so these can mean varying times on when a person is impaired and how long it lasts.

There is also the question of people who smoke marijuana maybe once a week or once a month versus habitual users who may have the THC stay in their body for far longer. In other words, regular users of marijuana are continually drug affected, so the regular users of marijuana must realize that THC is generally more detectable in their systems than in the bodies of periodic or episodic users of marijuana.

The Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba has stated that the saliva test does not really tell us a lot, because the effects of marijuana can stay in the system for up to 30 days, which is far longer than alcohol.

This legislation measures marijuana by using nanograms in the blood, which is an imperfect measure because users metabolize the drug differently. One person may be substantially impaired after a relatively small amount of marijuana, while someone else may be only moderately impaired after the same dose. The Canadian Medical Association has states, “A clear and reliable process for identifying, testing and imposing consequences on individuals who use marijuana and drive absolutely needs to be in place nationally prior to legalization.”

The national coordinator of the DRE program in the RCMP has stated that toxicology tests indicate that a drug has been consumed, but unlike a breathalyzer, they do not indicate how long ago the drug was consumed. The devices are also very expensive, so we want to ensure that they do what we need them to do. There is also the cost. It has been reported that the saliva tests can cost between $20 and $40, compared to the few cents a breathalyzer test costs. Obviously, in rolling out this legislation, the government is going to have to budget adequate resources not only for officers but also for sampling devices, to ensure we have confidence in the system and the law is being upheld.

As I move on to my conclusion, I want to note that there was a recent Nanos survey conducted between April 29 and May 5, which reached 1,000 Canadians and was considered accurate within 3.1% 19 times out of 20. It found that only 44% of respondents supported or somewhat supported the proposals contained in Bill C-46, while 55% were opposed or somewhat opposed. I only mention this to the government to highlight that it clearly has some work to do in convincing Canadians that these increased police powers are needed.

We know that countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland which have instituted measures such as mandatory alcohol testing and random breath testing have all seen a substantial reduction in alcohol-related accidents and deaths, so this is definitely something Parliament will need to consider with the bill.

The NDP supports any bill in principle that is aimed at stopping impaired driving, but we need to focus on smart deterrents to actually prevent these tragedies. We need a robust public awareness campaign before legalization comes into effect. With it being the leading cause of criminal death in Canada, and the fact that we have one of the worst impaired driving records in the OECD, these campaigns are very important.

I will want to know how this public campaign will be rolled out. I worry about the reliability of machines checking for impairment from THC. I am very interested in hearing from civil liberties groups and the legal community on removing the reasonable suspicion requirement for breath samples. There are still many questions that we have, and I look forward to getting this legislation to committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for his very thoughtful review of Bill C-46 and the issues that need consideration as we move forward with this legislation, particularly in committee. I also want to say how much I look forward to working with the member opposite on those issues in committee, because the issues that he raises and that we are very well aware of are important for all Canadians.

In response to a number of the issues raised, the member quoted a recent public opinion poll. I would agree with the member that sometimes the responsibility of leaders within Parliament is to turn heads, not really to count heads. We do have a responsibility to make sure that Canadians understand the seriousness of this offence and how new legislation, as proposed, and the new authorities and requirements on drivers that would be imposed by this legislation can actually make a difference.

The member opposite referenced the Oakes decision, in which four steps were taken, including whether or not the changes that were proposed were a sufficiently important objective in order to justify minor infringements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The member for Outremont, in 2012, said that random breath testing “will not only save provincial governments money, but will save at least 200 lives per year.” Given that statement, which I agree with, does the member believe that this is a sufficiently important objective in order to meet the constitutional requirement under section 1 that this be a sufficiently important objective?