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

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 8, 2017

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Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 31, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Oct. 25, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Oct. 25, 2017 Failed Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (report stage amendment)

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for her constructive input.

At the same time, for the reasons that follow, we will be encouraging all members to vote down the amendment and to vote for the bill in its current form.

I also just want to take a moment to address some of the comments that were raised by my hon. colleagues from the Conservative opposition. I would encourage them to read the bill very carefully, because imbedded within some of those questions were, at a minimum, some inaccurate assumptions about mandatory minimum penalties as they apply to the impaired driving regime, as well as whether or not we have the sufficient technology to test for impairment as we usher in a new era with regard to the strict regulation of cannabis. Obviously by doing so and by reflecting on the language of that bill carefully, my hope is that we will elevate debate in this House, in the interest of keeping our roads safe while at the same time safeguarding individual liberties.

It is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The bill will bring about the most important changes addressing alcohol and drug impaired driving since 1969 when Parliament enacted the offence of driving with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, and authorized the police to demand a breath sample on an approved instrument.

Today, I will focus my remarks on the proposal in the bill that would authorize a police officer to demand a breath sample from any driver without needing to suspect that the driver had alcohol in their body. In Bill C-46, this is called mandatory alcohol screening, as members have heard. The enforcement tool was pioneered by Australia more than 30 years ago. It has now spread to New Zealand, the European Union, and dozens of other countries.

Since then, mandatory alcohol screening has been widely credited with dramatically reducing rates of impaired driving and saving many thousands of lives, as the member herself acknowledged.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had considered mandatory alcohol screening when it held hearings on alcohol impaired driving in 2008 and 2009. In its 2009 report entitled, “Ending Alcohol-impaired Driving: A common approach”, the standing committee unanimously recommended that random roadside breath testing be put in place.

During its extensive hearings on Bill C-46, the standing committee heard numerous witnesses on the subject of mandatory alcohol screening. Professor Robert Solomon, who has written many articles on mandatory alcohol screening, as well eminent constitutional scholars like Professor Peter Hogg spoke in favour of mandatory alcohol screening.

Representatives of the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressed some concerns with mandatory alcohol screening.

The standing committee also heard from Australian experts about how mandatory alcohol screening works in that country, and its effectiveness in reducing deaths and injuries.

I believe it is fair to say that the arguments of opponents to mandatory alcohol screening were based partly on their claim that it is not needed in Canada, as our current system of roadside screening based on suspicion is just as effective and that mandatory alcohol screening would have a disproportionate effect on visible minorities.

With respect to the effectiveness of Canada's current suspicion-based system, it is important not only to look at the reductions in impaired driving that have occurred in Canada over the past 20 or 30 years, but also to consider Canada's alcohol impaired driving laws and how they fare when compared to other countries. The comparison is grim.

As Professor Solomon told the standing committee:

Our current law has left Canada with one of the worst impaired driving records among comparable countries. Consistent with earlier studies, the United States Centers for Disease Control reported that Canada had the highest percentage of alcohol-related crash deaths among 20 high-income countries in 2013. Although Canadians drink considerably less than their counterparts, they're much more likely to die in an alcohol-related crash. For example, Canada’s per capita rate of alcohol-related crash deaths is almost five times that of Germany, even though Canadians consume 33% less alcohol. They drink more, we die more.

The laws in these other countries do a far better job than the laws in Canada of separating drinking from driving. Not coincidentally, 17 of those 19 countries have comprehensive mandatory alcohol screening programs.

These are the words of Professor Solomon, not any parliamentarian, a respected scholar.

Professor Solomon pointed out to the committee that the experience of other countries shows that going from suspicion-based roadside screening to mandatory screening has had a significant effect in reducing impaired driving deaths and injuries. He stated:

The assertion that there is no direct evidence that mandatory alcohol screening is better than selective breath testing, the system we currently have, is simply false. The sharp decreases in fatal crashes that occurred in Queensland, Western Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland occurred after those jurisdictions moved from selective breath testing to mandatory alcohol screening, exactly what would occur in Canada if the mandatory alcohol screening provisions in Bill C-46 were enacted.

Again, those were the words of Professor Solomon.

The standing committee also heard from Dr. Barry Watson of Queensland University of Technology. Dr. Watson explained the evolution of impaired driving legislation in Queensland and the effect of various countermeasures. Queensland introduced breath testing in the late 1960s, as did Canada. Queensland then introduced a program called reduced impaired driving, or RID. The police could randomly pull over other drivers, but could only breath test those they suspected of drinking. This is the system we currently have in Canada.

Finally, Queensland introduced mandatory alcohol screening in 1988. Dr. Watson's evidence strongly supports that mandatory alcohol screening is more effective than suspicion-based alcohol screening. He told the standing committee, “the introduction of random breath testing was associated with a further 18% decline in fatalities over and above what was the case when the sobriety checkpoint program was in place.” We can and must do better than we are, and I submit we should follow the example of these other jurisdictions that have been most successful in reducing the painful toll taken by alcohol-impaired driving. That means adopting mandatory alcohol screening.

More troubling is the concern expressed by several witnesses that mandatory alcohol screening would lead to racial profiling. This is a concern that we all share. We all know that there have been well-documented cases of police forces disproportionately carding or pulling over persons of colour. As my colleague made mention, there are indeed concerning statistics with respect to the overrepresentation of our indigenous and racialized communities in our jails. Let me be clear. Racial profiling is an abuse of police power. It is unacceptable. However, there is nothing in Bill C-46 that condones or promotes racial profiling.

Our government was aware that this criticism had been levelled at the provision authorizing mandatory alcohol screening in a former private member's bill, Bill C-226. Consequently, our government, in Bill C-46, proposed to specify that a police officer can only make a demand as follows:

in the course of the lawful exercise of powers under an Act of Parliament or an Act of a provincial legislature or arising at common law....

I pause to emphasize that passage, because it underscores that our government places a great value in ensuring that all law enforcement, and indeed all law state actors, exercise their powers in accordance with the law and the charter.

For further clarity, our government supports the introduction of an amendment to the bill's preamble, which serves as an interpretive aid for our courts. The amendment, which was adopted at committee, stated, “it is important that law enforcement officers...exercise investigative powers in a manner that is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

Let me take a moment to refer to one last example of how this technology and these standards are working in other jurisdictions. The experience of Ireland supports the opinion of other witnesses who have testified, and other experts. There was an increase of about 10% in charges in the first year after Ireland introduced mandatory alcohol screening, but the number of charges have decreased steadily since then as Irish drivers have become aware of the new law. In fact, the number of charges in Ireland fell by almost 65% in the 10 years following the introduction of mandatory screening.

I believe that our courts will be able to cope with any increase in charges, because many provisions in Bill C-46 would address issues that have been causing delay, particularly with respect to disclosure, proof of blood alcohol concentration, the elimination of the bolus drinking defence, and restriction of the intervening drink defence.

In closing, I want to again thank my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for her remarks. They were thoughtful, careful, and balanced. However, even she conceded that there is a good faith attempt here to strike the balance between the need to keep our roads safe while at the same time respecting an individual's charter rights. I encourage her to support the bill.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to say a few words with respect to Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Some of the areas I am going to address today have already been raised. The parliamentary secretary was just talking about one of these areas because the question was raised by a number of my colleagues. It was about measuring the level of impairment that people have. This is just one of the issues we are going to have to deal with. Part of the problem is the government's intention to ram this legislation through by July 1, 2018. In my opinion, the Liberals are not taking into consideration the increased risks to the health and safety of Canada.

The Liberals may say that this is a wonderful thing on Canada's birthday. What better way to celebrate it, they would argue, than legalizing marijuana and allowing grow-ops in people's homes? However, we heard quite a bit of testimony that there are concerns with respect to the government's pushing through both of these pieces of legislation, Bill C-45 and Bill C-46. They go together.

For instance, the Canadian police services have asked that this legislation be delayed until there is adequate training and resources put in place. The parliamentary secretary said they are going to be up and ready to go and that we do not have to worry about all the tests and everything else, but those on the front line are quite concerned. The Liberal government, in addition, has not taken the necessary steps to put in effective educational campaigns for Canadians, despite statistics that show the increase in fatalities due to drug-impaired driving. There is no greater risk that a person can have, among many things, than to get killed by impaired driving. This is one of the huge problems that this country has faced. Mandatory roadside testing and the vast number of officers who remain insufficiently trained to detect impaired drivers is another issue that is not being addressed by the government.

In addition, the government has refused to mandate the proper storage of cannabis in homes. The growing concern among jurisdictions where marijuana is already legal is that it is drawing more organized crime to operate the grow-ops and produce pot for illicit markets. This is one of the things that people told me when I was justice minister. They said that pot is the currency for guns and harder drugs coming into this country. They said that a lot of criminals do not send cheques anymore; the marijuana grown in Canada is what criminals use to buy illegal drugs and guns that come into Canada. This was completely unaddressed by the government, and I would suggest it has been ignored; it does not even play into this. My concern is that this will increase the possibility of danger that exists when we get illegal drugs and guns into this country.

Police services from across this country were very clear that the government should delay the legalization of marijuana to allow law enforcement services the adequate time they need to handle this new law. There is no chance, in my opinion, that police will be ready; I think they have it right. However, the Liberals are hell-bent on ramming this legislation through. They are not heeding those warnings from law enforcement officials. In my opinion, this puts a greater risk on the health and safety of Canadians.

The National Association of Chiefs of Police estimates that there are at least 2,000 trained officers. In July 2017, the numbers indicated that there are only 600 trained recognition experts here. They are not even close to having the number they need. Susan MacAskill, from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, reiterated that the Breathalyzer will not detect drugs and that marijuana can be detected through a roadside saliva test. She said that it would cost $17,000 to train one person to be a drug recognition expert, and the government needs to make sure that those resources are in place to allow the training of 1,200 more officers that will be needed by the deadline.

She went on to say, “If every officer can have that (disposable saliva test) in their vehicle it will certainly have a positive impact on road safety.” Unfortunately, the Liberals have not been listening to their own experts. They have been unrealistic on what is taking place.

Again, a couple of my colleagues highlighted how difficult it would be. That is one of the things I point out for my colleague who sits on the justice committee. We heard time and again different amounts, how much marijuana, how long it would be in someone's system, what the combination between that and alcohol would be. Again, it is very problematic and I would urge the government not to push forward with the July 1 deadline.

The provincial premiers have warned the government that they may not be ready with provincial laws and regulations. Their fears are not without reason. After Washington State legalized marijuana, the death toll on its highways doubled and the fatal vehicle crashes on Colorado highways tripled. Equally concerning is that the Liberals have not launched an extensive marijuana and impaired driving education and awareness program as recommended by their own task force. It is easy to say that they ignored it because the Conservatives told them they should do it, but their own task force told them what to do.

The Canadian Automobile Association supports the findings. Jeff Walker, CAA vice-president, is quoted as saying, “It's clear from the report that work needs to start immediately in these areas, and that the actual legalization should not be rushed.” The task force also concluded that youth underestimated the risk of cannabis use. We heard this on a number of occasions, that some young people believed their ability to drive a car would be enhanced by smoking marijuana.

There are problems with the government moving forward on this. The government continuously says that it is concerned about the access to children, yet the age limits in the legislation are completely at odds with that. I ask my colleagues on the other side to consider this. What could be more accessible for young people to get marijuana if their parents have a small grow op in the kitchen? We urged the Liberals to make changes on that, and they did. They said that three foot plants would not be enough so it increased the height of them. How will this help our children?

This will be problematic for the people who have become victimized by impaired driving. We brought forward amendments to increase the penalties for those people who drove while impaired and killed someone. They should have to face up to the consequences of what they have done. Again, the Liberals have ignored that.

Just because the Conservatives have said there will be big problems with that, they will not listen. I understand we are in opposition and they do not have to listen to us. However, they should listen to police forces across the country. They should listen to our provincial counterparts and those who are concerned about impaired driving. They should listen to them for a change. I think Liberals will come to the right conclusion that for the bill should not be pushed forward by July 1of next year.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be more important than the bill before the House today, Bill C-46, which deals with changes to the impaired driving laws in Canada to deal with not only drug impairment but increased sanctions on those who drive while impaired by alcohol. The NDP has long stood for improving this through legislation, smarter deterrence to deal with the tragedies taking place on our roadsides every day.

Professor Robert Solomon testified at the justice committee, which I had the honour to sit on during the testimony for most of this. He has long acted for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and put it very well. He said, “It's difficult to see how anyone can credibly make that claim”, the claim that the Criminal Lawyer's Association and others have made that mandatory alcohol testing is not necessary. He says:

...impairment-related crashes kill about 1,000 Canadians a year, injure almost another 60,000 more, a disproportionate percentage of whom are teenagers and young adults....Our current law has left Canada with one of the worst impaired driving records among comparable countries.

The enormity of the problem with which the bill is attempting to grapple is not lost upon us. However, we have great concerns about the mandatory alcohol testing to which Professor Solomon has testified.

The NDP leader, Mr. Jagmeet Singh, has been outspoken during his time in the Ontario legislature about the ability of the police to go after people simply on the basis of their race, be they indigenous, black, or Canadians of other minorities. The discriminatory police practice of carding has been central to his work in the Ontario legislative assembly. Mr. Singh says, “As Prime Minister, I'll enact a Federal Ban on Racial Profiling” to end it once and for all.

I raise this because of the potential of this mandatory alcohol screening that proposed section 320.27 of the bill would implement for the first time in Canada. We heard many witnesses at the committee, and after the break I will go back and talk about this in more detail. As long as the police have the ability to stop someone on a whim, that discretion can and will be abused.

Currently under the law as it exists, one has to have reasonable suspicion before stopping someone. If one no longer has to have that reasonable suspicion, which is what this section at issue would do, then there is the potential, indeed, the certainty that there will be disproportionate targeting of racialized Canadians, indigenous people, youth, and other marginalized groups. That is the nub of the problem and why this is such a difficult bill for the House to deal with.

I am not saying it is not as critical as the member for Niagara Falls has reminded us; it it is. I am not saying that the potential for deaths is not real, because it is there. However, we have to get this balance right. We are not convinced that it has been achieved. We are still studying it and will continue to study it before the vote takes place in the next while.

At the committee, the NDP did manage to get one amendment that would somehow address this issue. That amendment would add the proposed section 31.1 to the bill, which would require that this issue be studied and reported to Parliament within three years of enactment. The committee agreed with that, and I hope the House will accept that final amendment as well. We will see whether the concerns that so many experts have brought to the attention of the committee will prove true in practice.

I had the opportunity at committee to speak to Canada's leading constitutional jurist on this subject. He is the famous Professor Peter Hogg. He indicated that he had done a legal opinion upon which Mothers Against Drunk Driving relied. It basically says that he is in favour of mandatory alcohol testing and of the ability to stop people at random. However, I asked him, “If the evidence were that there were a disproportionate impact on racialized groups and minorities, would that not give you pause in defending this bill under section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?”

If the evidence showed there would be this abuse, as others have predicted, would that give him pause? Professor Hogg, who of course agreed with mandatory alcohol testing, said that “It would give me pause if that were the case...but I think the pause that I would make would be to look at the administration of the law, so that it does get cleansed of any kind of racial bias or anything like that.”

Thus even a leading jurist who supports the initiative of mandatory alcohol screening is saying that it may be subject to defeat under section 1 of the charter if the evidence shows, as so many experts have said, that it would have this effect of racial profiling, that it would allow the police, on a whim, to stop people simply because of the colour of their skin, their age, or the like.

I will resume after question period, but at this stage, Canadians need to know how difficult this balance would be.

Impaired DrivingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 20th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present two petitions. The first petition relates to impaired driving causing death. Families for Justice is a group of Canadians who have lost a loved one to impaired driving. They believe that Canada's impaired driving laws, and Bill C-46, the legislation that is being debated in this House today, are much too lenient. They want the crime to be called what it is, vehicular homicide, and believe in mandatory sentencing. They also believe that the minimum fine of $1,000 if a driver kills someone while driving impaired is totally insufficient, and are calling upon Parliament to change that. They oppose Bill C-46.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, regarding Bill C-46 and the concerns raised by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and many others, we already have a problem in Canada with people of colour being pulled over by police simply because of the colour of their skin. In relation to this bill, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has highlighted that this could deepen the problem Canada already has with racial profiling and an understandable mistrust of police enforcement.

I would like to hear the member's thoughts about going deeper into that problem, as opposed to acceding to some of the police justice requests to have better resources for better training to deal with the laws we have already in relation to recognizing impaired driving, whether that be from alcohol or marijuana.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am entering this debate from a position of disadvantage in that I do not sit on the justice committee and therefore have not listened to the testimony that came before it. I am therefore dependent on what is going on here this morning and also upon my friend from Scarborough Southwest, the only double-hatted parliamentary secretary in this chamber, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health. He brings to this debate unique expertise, having been the former chief of police in the city of Toronto, and has, in some respects, seen it all. We are fortunate to have his contribution to this debate.

When I did sit on the justice committee, we looked at this issue several times in several different ways. What always stopped us from moving forward on drug-impaired driving was the issue of a test, a test that somehow or other would provide a definitive statement as to whether the individual was or was not impaired. What is being suggested is that a saliva test will be administered, which would give an indication of impairment.

The public good here is obvious, because numerous deaths are caused on our roads by drivers impaired by alcohol, drivers impaired by drugs, and sometimes drivers impaired by both. It is right that this government focus on those levels of impairment, and it is particularly right that this government focus on a test for drug impairment in anticipation of cannabis legislation being the law of the land come this time next year.

Drug-impaired driving is currently a criminal offence. Bill C-46 would create new ways by which to determine impairment. Currently, there is a standardized set of tests that every police officer can give to someone who is suspected of impaired driving by means of drugs. These are sobriety tests. A driver may be asked to walk a straight line, stand on one leg, or demonstrate some form of physical or motor skill to lead the police officer either toward the conclusion that there is some impairment or away from the conclusion that there is some impairment.

If, in fact, the police officer concludes that there is some form of impairment by drugs, he or she is then authorized to take the driver to the station to see whether the driver is in fact impaired. At the station, there is a 12-step protocol to determine whether the person is impaired by drugs. It includes balancing, such as whether the driver can walk a straight line or stand on one leg. They look at pupil size and take the person's blood pressure. These tools have been useful, although time-consuming, in increasing the number of convictions for drug-impaired offences. However, the incidence of drug-impaired driving has gone up quite dramatically. Even though the current use of these tools is effective in securing convictions, it is still not sufficient.

Bill C-46 proposes a better or improved solution. I do not think anyone would say that this is the final solution. A core proposal is providing an oral fluid sample that would be analyzed if a police officer had a reasonable suspicion, which is well understood in criminal law, from observing the suspect. Things like red eyes, muscle tremors, abnormal speech patterns, and of course, simply the smell of cannabis, would precipitate the request for an oral fluid screen that would provide information to the officer as to whether he or she had the grounds to believe that impaired driving had occurred.

The next stage would be that the police officer would be entitled to demand a blood sample from the driver. If the blood sample met the test, there would be a presumption that would set in, the presumption being that impaired driving had occurred. The crown would then be relieved of the burden of proving impairment and the onus would, therefore, shift to the accused. It would be enough to prove that the driver had an illegal level of drugs in his or her body.

It is proposed that this would be framework legislation. It would be setting things up so that when the cannabis law eventually passed, there would be a framework in place. People will observe that the levels at this point have not been set, but there is a proposal as to what the levels might be. The lowest level would be two nanograms to five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood within two hours of driving. On the hybrid offence, which could either be summary or indictment, it would be over five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, again within two hours. Then there is a proposed combined offence for both THC and alcohol. It would be 0.5 milligrams of alcohol combined with 2.5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood within two hours of driving.

A number of members have said that it is almost certain that this will be challenged in court, and I agree with them. I can recollect when the 0.8 level for alcohol impairment was first proposed. Prior to that, a determination of drunk driving was made through the tests I outlined earlier, namely, walking a straight line, balance tests, and breath tests. They were always subject to cross-examination and challenge by the accused, but once the 0.8 level was set, after a great deal of litigation, it became the accepted standard and brought much more certainty to the prosecution, and defence, for that matter, of drug-impaired driving.

From time to time, people ask how much cannabis they could consume or how much of any other drug, for that matter, they could consume. The only answer is none.

If people intend to drive, do not take drugs. It is about that simple. Similarly with alcohol, if people intend to drive, do not take alcohol. They should make some other arrangement to get home. We have a scourge in our society, a serious problem. One of the previous speakers said that in the case of the Germans, they drank a lot more but drove a lot less. We have it exactly reversed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I was very disappointed about in Bill C-46 was that it would not increase penalties for the most serious impaired driving offence, namely, impaired driving causing death. On this side, we put forward a reasonable common-sense amendment at the justice committee to provide for a five-year mandatory sentence for impaired driving causing death in the face of the fact that individuals convicted of this very serious offence, in some cases, were walking free with nothing more than a $1,500 fine.

Does the hon. member think it is fair and just that individuals accused and convicted of this offence walk away with a $1,500 fine?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise to speak to Bill C-46, the government's alcohol and drug-impaired driving legislation. I had the opportunity to study Bill C-46 at the justice committee. One thing was very clear, coming out of the justice committee and based upon the evidence from a number of witnesses. Law enforcement is not ready to implement aspects of Bill C-46 related to drug impairment in time for the government's arbitrary and rushed July 1, 2018, timeline to legalize marijuana.

Once Bill C-46 is passed, it will require that some 65,000 police officers across Canada get trained and understand Bill C-46. That will take time and it will be costly. We heard the need for some 2,000 drug recognition experts. At present, only 600 drug recognition experts are in Canada. In answer to a question I posed to Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness officials at the justice committee, it appears that only approximately 100 more drug recognition experts will be trained by July 1, 2018.

There are issues surrounding per se limits for THC, whether these per se limits are appropriate and what the per se limits should be. The government has not addressed that yet. There are nine months until the July 1 rollout. There are serious questions about the correlation between THC levels and drug impairment. On the question of public awareness, the marijuana task force, as part of the public health approach that it took, called upon the government to launch an immediate and sustained public awareness campaign. Where is the campaign? It has not been sustained. It has not been fully rolled out. We are just nine months away.

Therefore, given these and other reasons, no wonder the law enforcement community has called upon the government to delay the legalization of marijuana beyond July 1, 2018. After all, law enforcement will not have the tools, resources, and time to deal with the multiplicity of issues that will arise from legalization. Quite frankly, it is really frustrating that notwithstanding that very resounding message, the government refuses to back down and is moving full steam ahead with legalization, even though law enforcement will not have the tools, will not have the resources, and will not have the time to keep our roads safe.

What will that mean for the health and safety of Canadians?

When legalization occurs, more and more Canadians are going to use marijuana. That is a fact. As a result, there will be more drug-impaired drivers. Without the tools, resources, and training to enforce the laws, including laws that would come onto the books once Bill C-46 is passed, it will mean more injuries, more deaths, and more carnage on our roads. The government will bear partial responsibility for those injuries, those deaths, and the carnage that is sure to ensue.

With respect to part 2 of Bill C-46, which deals with alcohol-impaired driving and makes a number of changes to the Criminal Code respecting alcohol-impaired driving, I congratulate the government for some of the measures it has introduced.

Bill C-46 would eliminate certain defences that have been abused by impaired drivers. It would increase the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing bodily harm from 10 years to 14 years. That is welcome. However, I am disappointed that Bill C-46 does not tackle the most serious offence related to impaired driving, and that is impaired driving causing death.

Bill C-46 does absolutely nothing to strengthen penalties for impaired driving causing death. One might say, if we look at the Criminal Code, the maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death is life behind bars. That sounds pretty good. It sounds appropriate that that should be the maximum penalty. The only difficulty is that very few individuals convicted of impaired driving causing death are sentenced to life behind bars. In fact, I am not aware of a single case. There may be one or two, but I am not aware of one and, if there are any cases, that is a rare exception to the rule. What we see instead are impaired drivers who get behind a 2,000-pound or 3,000-pound weapon and take the life of one or more human beings as a result of their choices to drink and drive, and they get off with a slap on the wrist.

There was a case in Saskatchewan involving a mother and her son who were killed by an impaired driver. The individual responsible got a $4,000 fine and not one day behind bars. There have been cases where individuals have walked free with as little as a $1,500 fine for taking the life of another human being. That is an absolute joke. It is fundamentally unfair and fundamentally unjust. It is why more than 100,000 Canadians have signed a petition calling for Parliament to act. It is why the families of victims who came before the justice committee called upon Parliament to take steps to move forward with mandatory sentences. It is why our previous Conservative government introduced Bill C-73, which would have provided for a six-year mandatory sentence for impaired drivers who kill. It is why I introduced an amendment to Bill C-46 at the justice committee to provide for a mandatory sentence of at least five years, which was the minimum sentence that the victims who appeared before our committee asked for.

Sadly, every single Liberal MP voted against that common-sense amendment. It is one thing to vote against an amendment, but they did not even try. They did not even put forward an alternative. They just shrugged their shoulders and accepted the status quo. The victims and their families deserve better from the government on Bill C-46.

I am hopeful that once the bill is passed through the House, which it inevitably will be given that we have a majority government, that the Senate can get to work to try to fix the bill and help ensure that the victims will finally have some justice.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, when the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Patricia Hynes-Coates, appeared in committee and was asked about mandatory minimum sentences, this is what she said:

As a mom, as a stepmom, as a victim, I can't support it. There's no evidence to support that this will actually make a difference. We know once we bury our children or bury a loved one, it's too late. We need to focus on deterring it before it actually happens.

I also want to quote Mr. Andrew Murie, who is the CEO of MADD Canada. In earlier testimony with regard to a previous Conservative bill that proposed to bring in six-year mandatory sentences, he said, “penalties that only happen after somebody is dead don't stop drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. It will have zero effect.” He went on to emphasize that his organization would rather see an emphasis on deterrence, and that is precisely what Bill C-46 has focused on.

I would also remind the member that the mandatory minimums he quoted as applying only to impaired driving causing death were robustly discussed by the justice committee applying to all impaired offences. We know that where the evidence supports an appropriately severe sentence for someone who has taken a life, the courts have all the authority they will require in this legislation to make sure that justice is done.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in favour of Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

We have heard moving testimony about this issue, both here in the House and before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Impaired driving impacts us all, and we need to do our part to reduce such preventable deaths and injuries on our roads.

As we have heard already, Bill C-46 proposes many major changes to strengthen the drug-impaired driving laws, as well as a thorough updating of the alcohol-impaired driving provisions. The overarching goal of these changes is to reduce the incidents of impaired driving and to save lives.

One of the main proposals in the bill to achieve this goal is mandatory alcohol screening, a tool used worldwide to deter and detect alcohol-impaired driving. This would authorize an officer to demand a roadside breath sample on an approved screening device without the current requirement of suspicion that the driver has alcohol in his or her system.

Research suggests that up to 50% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit are not detected through current practices such as check stops and random traffic stops. This is an unacceptable number of drivers who are impaired and are able to drive away after having interacted with the police.

We heard testimony of this sort at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, including from Dr. Jeff Brubacher, a medical doctor and researcher with the University of British Columbia; and Dr. Douglas Beirness, a subject matter expert on impaired driving with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

Dr. Brubacher said that his study indicated that police officers do not always recognize impairment in drivers in the amount of time they have to interact with the driver, and Dr. Beirness confirmed that police officers vary considerably in their ability to detect alcohol and assign the symptoms of alcohol use. He clarified that this is not because police officers are unable to do their job effectively, but rather that detecting impairment is simply very difficult. It varies from person to person, and some individuals are able to effectively mask their physical symptoms.

Both Dr. Brubacher and Dr. Beirness expressed support of mandatory alcohol screening and asserted their confidence that this measure could help to reduce the number of impaired drivers on our roads.

Mandatory alcohol screening will be a strong deterrent factor for those who drive after drinking. With mandatory alcohol screening, such risky behaviour would be less likely, as every driver would know that he or she could be tested at any time and could not expect to avoid detection by masking or hiding symptoms.

This has proven to be the case in other jurisdictions where mandatory alcohol screening has been implemented. According to MADD Canada, more than 40 countries worldwide authorize mandatory alcohol screening, including several Australian states, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. In fact, mandatory alcohol screening was credited with reducing the number of people being killed on Irish roads by almost one-quarter, 23%, in the 11-month period following its introduction compared to the previous 11-month period.

Many concerns were raised relating to the constitutionality of mandatory alcohol screening, both in the House and at committee. I would like to spend the remainder of my time addressing these concerns. Many of the concerns related to the potential for mandatory alcohol screening to violate sections 8 and 9 of the charter.

Mandatory alcohol screening would only apply to a person who is lawfully stopped pursuant to other laws, such as provincial highway traffic acts. The police currently have the power, both in statute and common law, to stop any driver at any time to determine whether that driver is complying with the rules of the road, including to check for sobriety. This power has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada on several occasions.

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

I would also note that a breath sample does not reveal any personal or sensitive information and the taking of the sample is quick and not physically invasive. Furthermore, simply blowing a “fail” on an approved instrument does not in itself constitute an offence. This is just a step that could lead to further testing to determine whether a driver is impaired.

We are all aware that the Minister of Justice tabled a charter statement on May 11, in which she affirmed her confidence that mandatory alcohol screening was compliant with the charter. Many shared the minister's confidence that mandatory alcohol screening would be charter compliant when the bill was studied at committee, including the leading constitutional law expert Dr. Peter Hogg. He expressed an opinion that mandatory alcohol screening would withstand any charter challenges, as it aims to prevent dangerous activities and promote public safety. As such, it was his view that it would be found justifiable under section 1 of the charter, and I agree with this position.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Mr. Daniel Therrien, also testified that after reviewing the charter statement, any concerns he had regarding the proportionality and the necessity of the legislation were satisfied.

Members of the defence bar, as well as civil liberties groups, expressed concern that mandatory alcohol screening would result in an increase in police targeting of visible minorities.

Racial profiling is unacceptable. All law enforcement must exercise their powers in compliance with the charter, including the right to be free of discrimination of any kind. However, as I previously stated, the police already have the power to stop any driver at random to determine their sobriety. Nothing in the mandatory alcohol screening provisions would promote or condone the targeting of racialized individuals. It is restricted to cases where a peace officer is acting “in the course of the lawful exercise of powers.”

There is also nothing in these provisions that alters the current responsibility of police and other law enforcement officials to ensure that the powers of the police are exercised in a fair and equal manner, in accordance with the charter.

At the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, we amended the preamble of the bill to reflect that police powers must be exercised in a manner that is consistent with the charter. While it is implicit that all police must always do this, this will be a further signal that racial profiling will not be tolerated.

At committee, we heard testimony from Dr. Barry Watson and the assistant commissioner of road policing command, Doug Fryer, both from Australia, where mandatory alcohol screening has been in place since the 1980s. Both witnesses testified that mandatory alcohol screening was actually a way to overcome any concerns about racial profiling. This is because police officers in Australia have much less discretion to choose who will be tested when the screening is mandatory.

Mandatory alcohol screening has had a strong track record in saving lives in other jurisdictions. Canada continues to have the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths among 20 high-income countries. It is incumbent on us to do better and mandatory alcohol screening saves lives. Therefore, I am pleased to support Bill C-46 and its proposal to save lives.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are debating something that is very important and that really has an impact on the lives of Canadians, namely, impaired driving.

What is concerning to me first is that this is being partnered with Bill C-45. The government's attitude is, let us legalize marijuana and then talk about impaired driving. Clearly, the government members know that when legalization of marijuana occurs, we are going to have more impaired drivers on the road. Although I know it is an important discussion and that we need to have better laws for impaired driving, it is very upsetting and concerning that the bill is being rushed through in partnership with another bill that would increase impairment.

Members of the House come from all sorts of legal backgrounds. We have heard some dry facts, but almost everyone in this House has been touched in his or her life by impaired driving. I just want to put some personal perspective on this before I get into some of the details of the legislation, some areas that could be improved and some areas of concern.

I worked in a rural emergency health centre and clearly remember being on call one night and getting called into the health centre. There had been a single father and his young four-year-old daughter on a motorcycle. He had pulled over to the side of the road to make some adjustments, and then an impaired driver, in this particular case a drug-impaired driver, had struck the motorcycle. The vehicle had careened off the road and struck the motorcycle, killing the dad and leaving the daughter standing on the side of the road. At that point the impaired driver took off, and then, many miles farther on, went into a ditch. I was called in to deal with a deceased young dad and a four-year-old girl who had lost her father and had been left at the side of the road for a long time beside the body of her father before someone had passed by and called an ambulance. This is what we are talking about. This is about young girls losing their fathers. It is about mothers and sons. It is about family members and friends. Everyone is affected by this, so we have to be very serious and careful with this legislation.

This brings me to my first disappointment. The amendment that my colleague suggested was for a mandatory minimum sentence when impaired driving causes death. The member was not calling for life imprisonment or 30 years. The member suggested that an appropriate mandatory minimum sentence would be five years. If we lose a relative because someone chooses to take a substance and drive impaired, causing a death, the member sees a five-year mandatory minimum sentence as being perfectly appropriate. In our system, we also have to remember that this does not mean the individual would spend five years in jail. It means that in perhaps two or three years, that person would resume his life. It is a huge disappointment. It is so wrong, and it fails the sensibilities of so many Canadians who wonder how we could say that a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death is appropriate. That really is a failure.

As has been noted, impaired driving causing death is one of the leading criminal causes of death in Canada. These are not statistics that we should be proud of. As we look at other comparable countries, Canada's statistics are not very good. Again, I have to say that we already have statistics that are very concerning, and now we have two partner pieces of legislation that will inevitably increase our concerns in those terms.

There are three specific issues that point to the rushed state of this legislation. By Canada Day in 2018, the Liberal government wants Canadians to be able to celebrate by getting high on marijuana. Perhaps the Liberals believe it will help the fireworks look a little brighter; I do not know.

They are in a rush and have Canada Day as their target, which to me is a bit appalling. In their rush to deal with Bill C-45, the legalization of marijuana, they are rushing Bill C-46 without the proper due diligence in three areas: testing ability and levels, training and resources, and education.

We have talked a lot about testing levels. The presence of something like THC in someone does not actually measure impairment. I have heard the argument that we are just measuring levels, and impairment does not matter. I would argue that with alcohol, we tend to know that .08 is a level that is consistent with impairment in most individuals, whereas with THC, there is a much bigger disconnect. The association of police chiefs agrees with that.

The Canadian Society of Forensic Science, which has been tasked by the federal government, has suggested it is a controversial exercise to set a limit and that “there is not currently substantive and consistent scientific evidence upon which to base [those] limits.” These are the experts who have some concerns about the ability of a roadside device to test limits and to test impairment, which again is a bit of an issue.

The next area of concern is the police officers who will be asked to move forward with this legislation. I think there are about 65,000 police officers in Canada. They will all require training. From everything I understand, the witnesses who testified at committee indicated very clearly that they will not be able to have all our officers trained, nor do they have the resources to do so, by this arbitrary Canada Day 2018 date that has been set by the government.

The other area of particular concern is that everyone agrees on the importance of an education campaign. They talk about $2 million. Where is that campaign? If they are going for 2018, that is not a lot of months. It takes a long time. Anyone in the public health field knows that to penetrate and actually effect change, we need a public health approach that has had time to actually penetrate the consciousness of Canadians. I am not seeing anything. Perhaps I could be challenged on that. I would love to be challenged on that. However, if I am not seeing anything, and I tend to look at what is happening in the area, we can bet that nothing has penetrated the consciousness of the 20-year-olds, the 17-year-olds, the new drivers, and the 22-year-olds in terms of the new regulations and limits. The government is severely lacking in terms of any education or public health campaign.

Tackling impairment in a more robust way is an important thing to do. However, what is the rush? Let us get Bill C-45 right. Let us make sure we get the proper training done. Let us make sure things are in order. If they have to wait another bit of time to get Bill C-45 through, so be it, but what we will be doing is protecting the health and safety of Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to mention that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

I will be speaking in favour of Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Bill C-46 is a non-partisan proposal to hit back against impaired driving, an issue all too familiar to many citizens in my riding of St. Catharines and throughout Canada.

We all want roads that are clear of drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers, and Bill C-46 would help deliver this. The bill contains a package of reforms that will make it far more difficult to escape detection and avoid conviction. The bill addresses numerous elements found in earlier bills, but it is, in my view, a more comprehensive approach to impaired driving and includes new elements to deal with drug-impaired driving in advance of cannabis legislation.

This comprehensive bill has two parts. The first part addresses drug-impaired driving and will come into force on royal assent. The second part will combine the new drug-impaired driving provisions with other transportation offences, including amendments to the alcohol-impaired driving provisions within a new part of the Criminal Code. This part would come into force 180 days after royal assent.

The proposals in Bill C-46 are aimed at making our streets safer and at the same time are intended to boost efficiency and reduce delays in the criminal justice system, which I, as a lawyer in St. Catharines, saw far too often.

I would like to expand on the provisions that would streamline the procedures surrounding impaired driving, both in and out of court.

I begin by noting trials for the offence of driving over the legal limit for alcohol take up a disproportionate amount of trial time at the provincial and superior court levels. This occurs in part because of defence efforts to raise a reasonable doubt about the validity of the blood alcohol concentration analysis. Bill C-46 proposes to address this in a manner consistent with current science, by setting out that a driver's BAC will be conclusively proven if the police have taken the steps I will now describe.

First, a qualified technician who is a police officer trained to operate an approved instrument must ensure that the approved instrument is not registering any alcohol that is in the room air. This is done by an air blank test. This is important. Otherwise, the court could not be certain that the approved instrument detected only alcohol that was in the driver's breath.

Second, the qualified technician must ensure that the approved instrument is calibrated correctly. Technicians do this by testing a standard alcohol solution that is certified by an analyst to contain a specific concentration of alcohol. If the approved instrument produces a result that is within 10% of the target value, then the approved instrument is correctly calibrated.

Third, the qualified technician must take two breath samples at least 15 minutes apart. If there is agreement between the samples, meaning the results are within 20 milligrams of each other, the agreement requirement is met, and the lower of the two readings will be the reading that forms the basis of any criminal charge for driving while over the legal limit. For an offender with no prior impaired driving convictions, a lower reading typically would avoid a fine above the minimum fine.

If the qualified technician takes these three steps, then the resulting blood alcohol concentration will be conclusively proven. The result is enhanced trial efficiency, given that no court time is taken up by efforts to question the validity of the blood alcohol concentration analysis. This proposed change is based on the best available scientific evidence and ensures trial fairness while preventing time-consuming challenges to reliable testing procedures.

There is another important change proposed in Bill C-46 that works hand in hand with the proof of blood alcohol concentration. This is the proposal to reformulate the offence from driving while over 80 milligrams to the new formulation proposed in Bill C-46, which is having a blood alcohol concentration at or over 80 milligrams of alcohol within two hours of driving.

A number of states in the United States already have such a formulation. It eliminates the bolus drinking defence, also known as the drink-and-dash defence. This defence consists of a driver claiming that they were under 80 milligrams at the time of driving because the alcohol, which they drank quickly and just before driving, was not fully absorbed into the blood. However, by the time they were tested on the approved instrument at the police station, the alcohol was absorbed and the reading on the approved instrument was over 80.

Assuming this pattern of behaviour actually occurred, it is then argued in court that the effects of the alcohol did not make the driver drunk until after the driver was stopped. This is very dangerous behaviour that should not be condoned in law.

The new offence also limits the intervening drink defence by tackling a strategy employed after driving but before testing at the police station. A driver either openly drinks alcohol once the police have stopped him or her, or he or she drinks alcohol that was hidden, for example, in a pocket flask while they are awaiting the police in the police car or at the station. This behaviour typically is aimed at interfering with the police investigation of an impaired driving offence.

The Supreme Court of Canada indicated in 2012 that the bolus drinking defence and the intervening drink defence encourage behaviour that is dangerous or contrary to public policy. Bill C-46 would eliminate the bolus drinking defence and restrict the intervening drink defence to situations in which the post-driving alcohol consumption occurred innocently, meaning that the driver had no reasonable expectation that a demand for a breath sample would be made by the police. An example would be a driver who arrives home and begins drinking at home. There is no reason to expect the police to arrive and make a demand for a breath sample. However, if the police receive a complaint that the driver was driving while drunk and they investigate, which is a rare scenario, the driver could still in that case raise the intervening drink defence.

Another efficiency measure in Bill C-46 is the clarification of the crown's disclosure requirements. The bill clearly and concisely specifies what the prosecution must provide to the defence with respect to a driver's testing on the approved instrument. If the defence wishes to obtain more, it can apply to the court but must show relevance of the information requested. This disclosure provision is intended to ensure that police are not obliged to disclose material, such as historical approved instrument maintenance records, that is irrelevant to the scientific validity of the driver's breath test results.

Given that the disclosure phase is frequently a bottleneck in the process, these clarifications are expected to result in significant improvements in prosecutorial efficiency. This includes time and resources saved on locating, copying, collating, organizing, or otherwise providing scientifically irrelevant maintenance records to the defence.

I am confident that the proposed changes in Bill C-46 will make the investigation and prosecution of impaired driving crimes a lot simpler. The approved instrument, when used by a qualified technician who first ensures that it is operating correctly, is scientifically reliable. It produces a valid statement of a driver's blood alcohol concentration. Defence will be given full and complete disclosure. Defence will be able to see for itself whether the appropriate steps that are prerequisite to the conclusive proof of blood alcohol concentration were taken.

Through Bill C-46, efficiencies in the criminal justice system for impaired driving matters will be gained not only at the police investigation stage but also at the trial stage. The impaired driving provisions have also been subject to extensive discussions with the provinces and territories and are eagerly awaited by them.

I ask all hon. members to join in voting to pass Bill C-46 at second reading and send it to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for review.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, drug-impaired driving is a concern taken very seriously by the government. I have spoken at length with the minister and the parliamentary secretary about this problem.

Bill C-46 is an important piece of the puzzle to go along with Bill C-45, which is the legalization of cannabis. Bill C-46 does deal with impairment by cannabis, and there will be saliva-based testing.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I look forward to hearing the scientific evidence from legal experts, scientists, and so on as to how this roadside screening will work. I am looking forward to hearing that testimony as soon as this place can get the bill to committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to a subject that has admittedly attracted a lot of attention in recent days, weeks, and months.

Obviously, the legalization of cannabis, or marijuana, was a hot but sensitive topic during the election campaign, and so it is important to open a dialogue with Quebeckers and Canadians to discuss it.

As a mother of four children, two girls and two boys, aged 17 to 25, I am well aware of the arguments for and against the legalization of cannabis. However, one thing is certain. We need to reconsider our current approach.

As part of its commitment, our government recognizes that the existing approach is not working and seems outdated. The rate of cannabis use among young people is higher in Canada than anywhere else in the world. That is not an enviable record, even though we are, as the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien was fond of saying, “the best country in the world”. I truly believe that.

In 2015, the rate of cannabis use was 21% among young people aged 15 to 19 and 30% among adults aged 20 to 24. In other words, one in three people use cannabis on a regular basis. If we add in the people who use it occasionally, the number only increases. Obviously, our bill addresses a real problem. It will protect our children from drugs and from the underground network that supplies them.

Recently, our government introduced two bills to carry out and complete the legalization of cannabis and the associated regulations. However, many people only want to hear the first term, namely, legalization.

When I talk to people in my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, very few of them are aware of the second bill, Bill C-46, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

In other words, this bill seeks to make several amendments to the Criminal Code to address cannabis-impaired driving. The prohibition on cannabis must be lifted safely, everywhere, and in every sector of our society, including on our roads.

Unfortunately, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. That is why our government is committed to enacting new, more stringent laws, to punish people who drive under the influence of drugs, including cannabis, more severely.

I firmly believe that enacting this bill will deter people from getting behind the wheel when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The media often tend to say that it is our young people who are more reckless and who drive while impaired. However, I know that my children and their friends do not consider impaired driving, or not having a plan for getting home, to be even remotely cool. In fact, most of the time, young people and those who are not so young already have a plan for getting home. This is an approach that I strongly encourage. There are also many alternatives available now, including drive-home services, taxis, public transit, ride-sharing, parents, and so forth.

This bill has two parts. In part 1, the amendments proposed in Bill C-46 include a new legal limit for drug-related offences and new tools to allow for better detection of impaired drivers.

To make it all possible, the bill provides for the use of roadside screening devices using oral fluid samples. This is a first in Canada when it comes to drug screening. This type of device is already used in a number of countries, including the G7 countries, such as France.

As we speak, the police have few if any ways of immediately determining the blood concentration of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, for drivers stopped at the roadside.

We must take action, and bill C-46 will enable police officers who legally stop drivers at the side of the road to ask them to provide an oral fluid sample, if they have reasonable suspicions and believe that drugs are present in a driver’s body.

A positive reading would then help establish reasonable grounds to believe that an offence had been committed. This is an important key measure in the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis.

This important bill will allow an officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed to contact an “evaluating officer”. The “evaluating officer” will then conduct an evaluation of the drug use by taking a blood sample. Next, the bill will create three new offences based on specified levels of a drug in a person’s blood within two hours after driving.

Obviously, the penalties would depend on the drug type and the levels or the combination of drugs and alcohol. These offences will be considered on the basis of the levels of active ingredients in the blood, but will also be harsher and will be “hybrid offences” where a driver has a combination of alcohol and cannabis. For example, a hybrid offence will be punishable by a mandatory fine of $1,000 and the penalty will escalate, including days of imprisonment for repeat offenders.

In part 2, Bill C-46 would reform the entire Criminal Code regime dealing with conveyances and create a new, modern system that is simplified and more coherent, in order to better prevent alcohol- or drug-impaired driving. In other words, this part of the bill provides for mandatory roadside alcohol screening, increases in minimum fines and certain maximum penalties, and a host of measures to simplify and update the existing law.

In conclusion, I have full confidence in Bill C-46, and that the coherent, clear, and sufficiently coercive measures it contains will make our roads safer for everyone. Obviously, to support these measures, our government will undertake a robust public awareness campaign, so that Canadians are well informed about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis or other drugs. I am also committed to doing that in my community of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, to educate people and raise their awareness, to ensure that there is good communication, and to work on prevention with young people and the public as a whole.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague.

I am rising today to speak to Bill C-46 because it is very important. I think that people always talk about legalization, but not about regulation. In my opinion, it is very important to provide a framework for this aspect.

We are talking about impairment, but my colleague also mentioned cannabis production. To grow cannabis, people must obtain a licence by following a process that will be similar to the one for the production of a new medication. There are strict regulations and there will be many rules.

I stated earlier that as the mother of four children, I see a lot of young people come to my home. It is very important to me that they know what could happen if they consumed drugs or alcohol and decided to drive.