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

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today at second reading of Bill C-46, which deals with driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In all our ridings, impaired driving upends lives, devastates families, and ravages communities. While the rate of impaired driving has been on the decline since the 1980s in most of Canada, it is still a cause for concern. For example, Saskatchewan has the highest per capita rate of any province, with 575 incidents per 100,000 people in 2015. That rate is more than double in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

While the vast majority of impaired driving incidents in Canada involve alcohol, drug-impaired driving has been on the rise since 2009. In 2015, Canadian police reported some 3,000 incidents of people driving while under the influence of drugs. In 2015, there were more than 72,000 impaired driving incidents, including 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents. In other words, drug-impaired driving is not a new phenomenon, and the measures in place in recent years have not stopped the problem from getting worse.

Drug-impaired driving has been a criminal offence since 1925. Front-line officials across the country have made repeated calls to treat it as a more serious criminal offence, to create accurate and reliable testing tools, and to improve public education on the dangers of driving while impaired. Our approach, through this bill, will do the same.

To begin with, Bill C-46 would amend the Criminal Code to provide police with the authority to use roadside drug screeners. In practice, this is how it would work. A police officer would conduct a traffic stop under his or her authority. The officer could form a reasonable suspicion, which could be determined from several factors, including red eyes, the odour of an impairing substance, or abnormal speech patterns. If there were reasonable grounds to suspect drugs in the body, at that point the police officer would be authorized to demand an oral fluid sample or a standardized field sobriety test. These screeners would detect the presence of a drug in a driver's oral fluid. A positive result on the drug screener would give the officer reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was committing an impaired driving offence, at which point he or she could demand a blood sample or call a drug recognition expert. There is a solid history of both the effectiveness of this test and of jurisprudence in dealing with challenges to it.

With Bill C-46, police would be able to use an oral fluid drug screener that could detect THC, cocaine, and methamphetamine. These devices would be approved by the Attorney General of Canada once they were evaluated and recommended by the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.

Six different Canadian police services, from Halifax to Vancouver to Yellowknife, tested these devices in a pilot project earlier this year to ensure that they worked in a variety of conditions, including cold temperatures. I look forward to the public report on that project, which should be available soon.

The bill would create three new criminal offences so that people who had an illegal level of drugs in their blood, or drugs in combination with alcohol, within two hours of driving could be charged. These offences could be proven by blood samples, which could be taken by police when there were reasonable grounds to believe that a driver was impaired.

Law enforcement officials have highlighted that existing impaired-driving laws are complex and difficult to apply. For example, some offences overlap, and some cases take up a great deal of court time. Bill C-46 would repeal this current regime and replace it with a modernized, simplified, and coherent structure. Police across the country would be able to better understand, apply, and enforce the law and therefore be better able to keep communities safe.

Bill C-46 would also facilitate the detection of impaired drivers by allowing for random roadside breath testing. This is something that already exists in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Groups like MADD Canada have been calling for it for a long time because of research showing that it results in fewer accidents and saves lives.

Ultimately, Bill C-46 would institute and enhance a legislative framework to detect, prevent, and punish impaired driving. As I said earlier, though, a legislative approach must be accompanied by public education and efforts to combat the persistent misinformation that exists among Canadians on this issue.

I am encouraged that Public Safety Canada has launched and promoted social media campaigns this year targeting youth, parents, and drivers with a message encouraging sober driving and amplifying the message of our partners. The March campaign garnered 11.5 million impressions, meaning the number of times the content was displayed, and over 75,000 engagements, such as likes, comments, and shares, meaning it reached a large audience. I understand that a comprehensive marketing strategy is also under development, including a sustained public education and awareness campaign to combat drug-impaired driving, in collaboration with various partners. This campaign should help address some of the misperceptions that exist about the effects of certain substances on a person's ability to drive.

The changes we are proposing now mean that the government would be providing law enforcement agencies with clearer laws, better technology, better training, and more resources to investigate and prosecute drug-impaired drivers. It would mean tougher penalties to deal appropriately with offenders and better public education and awareness about the dangers of driving while impaired. As a result, Canadians would have safer roadways and safer communities.

I am encouraged by the response to these proposed measures thus far, including from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others. That is why I urge all members to support this important legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 4:25 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, to follow up on the question answered by my colleague, I would just point out that Bill C-46, proposed subsection 320.27(2), requires that a police officer, if in possession of an approved screening device, “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,” may make a demand for a test. The stop itself must be lawful.

I offer that suggestion to my friend. The stop is required to be lawful. If the stop was otherwise rendered unlawful—for example, the reason for the stop was something inappropriate, such as discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity—the stop would be rendered unlawful and the test and its results would be inadmissible under the Constitution.

I would ask the member if she would find that provision, which is new, to be reasonable reassurance of the concerns that have been expressed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I will be speaking in favour of Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code, regarding offences relating to conveyances, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Before I actually get into my speech, I think we all have a story to tell. When I was five, a drunk driver hit my parents. My mom was in the hospital for a year. My dad was gravely injured as well. Our whole family was split up to different multiple homes, and that has had far-reaching consequences throughout my life. Being here today allows me the opportunity to help do the right thing.

Bill C-46 is a non-partisan proposal to hit back hard against impaired driving, an issue all too familiar for many Canadians. We all want our roads to be clear of drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired drivers, and Bill C-46 would help to deliver just that. The bill contains a package of reforms that would make it far more difficult to escape detection and to avoid conviction. Bill C-46 addresses numerous elements found in the 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 would address drug-impaired driving and would come into force on royal assent. The second part would 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 following 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.

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

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

First, the 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 actually quite important; otherwise, the court could not be certain that the approved instrument detected only the alcohol that was in the driver's breath.

Second, qualified technicians must ensure that the approved instrument is calibrated correctly. They 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, qualified technicians must take two breath samples at least 15 minutes apart. If there is agreement between the samples, meaning the results are within 20 milligrams, 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 conditions, a lower reading typically would avoid a fine above the minimum fine.

If the qualified technicians take these three steps, the resulting blood alcohol concentration will be conclusively proven. The result is an 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 would ensure 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 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 U.S.A. already have such a formulation. It eliminates the bolus drinking defence, also known as the “drink and dash defence”. This consists of a driver claiming that they were under 80 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 has actually occurred, it is then argued in court that the effects of the alcohol did not make the driver drunk until the driver was stopped. This is very dangerous behaviour that should not be condoned by the law. This is a loophole that allows people to get out of the responsibilities of their actions.

The new offence also limits the “intervening drink defence” by tackling a strategy employed after driving but before testing at the police station. The driver either openly drinks alcohol once the police have stopped him, or they drink alcohol that was hidden, for example, in a pocket flask while they are waiting in the police car or at the station. This behaviour typically is aimed at interfering with the police investigation of an impaired driving offence. Again, if we look around and we look at the science and what has been happening out there, Bill C-46 aims to address these issues.

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 where 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.

For example, the driver 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, in this rare scenario the driver could still 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 the relevance of the requested information. This disclosure provision is intended to ensure that police are not obliged to disclose material, such as historical approved instrument maintenance records, which 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 record materials to 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 reading that is a valid statement of a driver's blood alcohol concentration. Defence will be given full and complete disclosure of the steps taken to ensure the scientific validity of a driver's blood alcohol concentration result on the approved instrument. 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 and it will ensure that time is not spent addressing irrelevant disclosure applications.

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 been the subject of extensive discussions with provinces and territories and are eagerly awaited by them.

I ask that all hon. members join in voting to pass Bill C-46 at second reading and send it to the legislative committee for review.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am almost sorry that we cannot go right to the question period.

That said, it is my responsibility to address a number of the concerns that we in the Conservative Party have with respect to Bill C-46. While the Conservative Party has always been in favour of toughening laws to discourage drinking and driving, this legislation has some flaws that need to be remedied prior to its coming into law.

The first quandary I will address is the fact that the Liberals are ignoring their own task force recommendations to implement extensive marijuana and impaired driving education and awareness programs prior to the legalization of marijuana. Rather than choosing to be measured in its approach, the government is selecting to ram this legislation through. Officials from both Washington State and Colorado have stressed the importance of starting educational campaigns as soon as possible, before legalization, yet the government has no concrete plans in place to speak to this.

The Liberals have created a false deadline for political gain, and in doing so have placed the health and safety of Canadians at risk. The agenda of any government should never supersede the well-being and security of its citizens. For example, the Canadian Automobile Association, the CAA, has requested that the Liberal government implement a government-funded education program warning about the dangers of driving while impaired under the influence of cannabis prior to the legalization of the drug. They have also requested that police forces be given adequate funding to learn how to identify and investigate drug-impaired drivers.

The government has imposed a timeline that is unrealistic. Education is imperative. The National Post printed a story on May 17, 2016, in which it cited that in a State Farm survey, 44% of all Canadians who smoke marijuana believed it made them better drivers. As a matter of fact, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the former chief of police of Toronto, stated recently in the chamber that 15% of teens believe that smoking marijuana makes them better drivers. His figures may err on the side of caution, but the government is obviously aware that educating drivers is necessary. Why, then, is it that the government is not implementing the required programs in order to keep Canadians safe on our roadways?

A study commissioned by the CAA and conducted by Earnscliffe Strategy Group found this figure to be higher than 15%, and in fact it is was 26% of all drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 believe that driving while high on marijuana made them better drivers. The figures may vary, but the facts are clear. An increasing number of drivers believe that marijuana enhances their capabilities on the road. Jeff Walker, the spokesperson for the CAA, concurs. He said:

There are a lot of misconceptions out there that marijuana doesn’t affect your driving, or even worse, it makes you a better driver.

He then went on to say:

There need to be significant resources devoted to educating the public in the run-up to, and after, marijuana is legalized.

Why is it that the government is ignoring calls to ensure the safety of all Canadians on our roadways by funding and offering an adequate public education program? It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to combat the fallacy that cannabis use while driving is not a hazard to road safety.

The statistics are clear, but the Liberals are more focused on fulfilling an election promise than protecting Canadians. On the Peace Tower is the inscription, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The Liberals are showing a lack of vision. Again, the Liberals are imposing a deadline in order to fulfill one of their election promises. Rushing such legislation is against all recommendations, including that of the CAA and the Liberals' own task force.

As members know, the Conservative Party has always supported measures that protect Canadians from impaired drivers. Drug-impaired driving is a real concern in Canada. The Department of Justice's own statistics cite a 32% increase in deaths from marijuana-involved traffic accidents in the span of a year.

In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154% between 2006 and 2014. This was according to a study done by Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a collaboration of federal, state, and local drug enforcement agencies.

It is wrong that the Liberals should ram this legislation through without consideration for the well-being of our citizens. Douglas Beirness, a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, gave voice to similar concerns when he acknowledged, “We’re getting a picture that people who are using cannabis are dying in greater numbers than ever before.” The government needs to ensure that Canadians understand the risks of impaired driving before moving forward with this legislation. At this point it would seem that the Liberal logic is skewed.

Another consequence to rushing this legislation through is that it does not address the concerns police forces have in respect to detecting drug-impaired drivers. Superintendent Gord Jones of the Toronto Police Service, the co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police traffic committee stated, “We’re having our challenges. The most pressing one is that we don’t know what the legislation will look like. It makes it hard to train and prepare.”

The Conservative Party is concerned that our police currently do not have the resources and training they will require to manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana.

The following excerpt is from the February 4, 2017, edition of the Ottawa Citizen:

Under legislation introduced in 2008 to update impaired driving laws, drivers suspected of drug use have been required to participate in a drug evaluation conducted by a Drug Recognition Expert, or DRE.

These police officers, trained to an international standard, rely on their observations to determine whether a blood or urine test is warranted.

The problem is that there are fewer than 600 trained DRE officers in Canada. An assessment conducted in 2009 estimated that Canada needs between 1,800 and 2,000 and the training system isn’t equipped to pump out trained officers any faster.

It goes on to say:

Cannabis affects tracking, reaction time, visual function, concentration and short-term memory. Signs of cannabis use include poor co-ordination and balance, reduced ability to divide attention, elevated pulse and blood pressure, dilated pupils, the inability to cross the eyes, red eyes and eyelid or body tremors.

The government must address the shortfall in DRE-trained officers if it is to sufficiently test for drug-impaired drivers. I reiterate that the Liberals must have trained DRE officers in place prior to the passage of Bill C-46. They have put the cart before the horse. The order that they are proceeding in is wrong, and the result will be more deaths on Canadian roadways.

Additionally, testing for cannabis is far more bomplicated than testing for alcohol. While the timing of alcohol consumption is readily detected with a breathalyzer, the smelling of cannabis does not necessarily mean it was recently consumed, as drugs absorb at a different rate than alcohol. Chemical traces of cannabis remain in the body longer than alcohol. Whereas breathalyzers are recognized by the courts, there is no such precedent with drug-impaired driving. There will be challenges until there are court decisions.

Let me be clear. When the Conservatives were in government, we supported increased penalties for crimes that put Canadians in danger, such as impaired driving. It is interesting to note that the Liberals opposed legislation that imposed higher maximum penalties. Their approach now simply makes no sense. The Conservatives introduced a private member's bill on impaired driving, as my colleague pointed out, Bill C-226, and the Liberals opposed that legislation.

Bill C-46 raises concerns with regard to law enforcement. Let me be clear. For nine years the Conservatives fought hard to bring in tough impaired driving legislation which the Liberals, as we know, opposed at every opportunity. Now they wish to introduce Bill C-46 to counter their own legislation, Bill C-45, the bill that would legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana. If reasonable suspicion were to remain a criterion, the public would be fully protected, both in terms of their charter rights and freedoms and in regard to their safety on the roads.

Another troubling aspect of Bill C-46 is the fact that it will inevitably cause more court backlogs and delays when individuals would find themselves in the position of having to challenge the legislation.

The Liberals have already created an unnecessary crisis in our legal system by refusing to appoint the required number of judges. It was just pointed out today during question period that they have not. As a result, alleged rapists and murderers are being set free as court cases across the country are being stayed following the Jordan decision. I am guessing that Bill C-46 would further burden the law courts with challenges, worsening the current crisis.

Canadians could lose confidence in their justice system, and unless amendments are made to Bill C-46, disaster will ensure if more and more cases are dismissed. I find it ironic that they would abolish the $200 victim surcharge for murdered victims' families in the name of alleviating financial hardship on the convicted, yet would seek to financially burden citizens who may be forced to challenge this legislation.

The marijuana task force report's advice to the ministers, on page 44, was as follows:

“The Task Force recommends that the federal government invest immediately and work with the provinces and territories to develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment and the best way to avoid driving impaired is to not consume. The strategy should also inform Canadians of 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.”

The task force went on to recommend that the federal government “invest in research to better link THC levels with impairment and crash risk to support the development of a per se limit; determine whether to establish a per se limit as part of a comprehensive approach to cannabis-impaired driving, acting on findings of the drugs and driving committee; re-examine per se limits, should a reliable correlation between THC levels and impairment be established; support the development of an appropriate roadside drug screening device for detecting THC levels, and invest in these tools; invest in law enforcement capacity, including DRE and SFST training and staffing; and invest in baseline data collection and ongoing surveillance and evaluation in collaboration with provinces and territories.”

The report went on to say, “While it may take time for the necessary research and technology to develop, the task force encourages all governments to implement elements of a comprehensive approach as soon as feasible”.

Thus far, we have not seen any plans to make sure these recommendations are put into effect. Why is that? Could it be that the government simply does not have the money? I find that hard to believe. I think it has the money for everything. The government's own finance department produced a report that says it is not going to be worried about a balanced budget until 2055, so what is the problem with the government spending more money?

The government needs to put the welfare of Canadians first and foremost and before its own political agenda. It is simply wrong that the government would not provide the necessary education, detection tools, deterrent policies, evaluation data, and national coordination between the provinces and territories to inform Canadians on the dangers of drug-impaired driving. This should be part of an overall legislative approach to implementing Bill C-46. The absence of these components, in addition to adding further strain on our already overburdened courts, would make the hasty passage of this bill reckless.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 5 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, I want to thank the hon. member for Niagara Falls for his comments and I want to ask him a few points of clarification.

He read a quote earlier in his speech from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Of course, this was a comment the association made before the introduction of Bill C-46, and I want to share with him the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police's response to Bill C-46, which I have with me today.

The association said:

The government has put forward strong legislation not only focused on impairment by drugs, but also addressing on-going issues related to alcohol impairment.

Steps that have been introduced to reform the entire impaired driving scheme are seen as much needed and very positive. The CACP has called for such changes in the past, specifically in support of modernizing the driving provisions of the criminal code, supporting mandatory alcohol screening and eliminating common 'loophole' defenses.

I think it might be noteworthy that the CACP was not asking for what the previous government offered for almost a decade, which was bigger sentences, mandatory minimums, and consecutive sentencing. What it was asking for were the tools that were required to keep our communities safe, and those tools included new technologies, legislation to authorize the use of those technologies, the creation of new offences, and training and resources in order to keep our roadways safe.

I submit that the bill provided to us today would do exactly that. As well, I would differentiate it from the private member's bill that was submitted earlier, which was examined quite exhaustively by the public safety committee and found to be so irremediably flawed that it was unredeemable. It was therefore sent back with the committee's strongest recommendation that the passage of that private member's bill would have actually made our courts clogged and our roadways much less safe.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has provided a great deal of information and education on this issue, and I know that as the former justice minister, he has worked very hard to make sure that we are protecting Canadians.

I always return to the fact that we still have impaired driving from drinking, let alone now moving into drugs. We are only 13 months from Bill C-45 being enacted, and we are going to see drug-impaired Canadians out there. We already know that drunk driving has not ceased just because we have fantastic campaigns like MADD. Now we would add another level of issues to this topic.

I believe that when we are looking at cannabis use in Bill C-46, we have to recognize that it impairs people differently. It may be a person who has smoked it daily for the last 20 years or it may be a young teenager who has smoked it for the first time. We have to recognize that because the legislation in Bill C-45 is not tight enough, there are going to be 16-year-olds who are going to have access to cannabis and we have to understand that there are going to be 16-year-olds on the road with cannabis in their system who have just learned to drive in the first place.

I want to hear from this former minister on Bill C-46. What is his recommendation for the level of cannabis in someone's system? I truly believe it should be zero, and I want to hear from him on that. What are some of his recommendations? We know that our law enforcement agencies are going to have a lot on their hands.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Madam Speaker, as I rise today to debate Bill C-46 at second reading, I am thinking of the people in my riding who have lost loved ones to impaired driving, as well as those who have been injured and whose lives will never be the same.

Sometimes when debating legislation in the House, we can lose sight of the real human impacts of our decisions. Impaired driving has done a lot of damage in a lot of communities. We are lucky if we do not know someone who has lost a loved one as a result of impaired driving. By making our laws in this area more effective, we can do a lot of good.

Let us talk about the bill. Bill C-46 would provide a new way forward to address impaired driving and would get drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs off our roads. That is something, fundamentally, we can all agree on in this House.

Impaired driving has been an issue for a long time. We know that drug-impaired driving has become a growing problem over the past decade. It is not any specific age group causing the problem. Indeed, this is one of those issues that transcends age, gender, and socio-economic status. What we need are wholesale behavioural changes backed by comprehensive, evidence-based policy and regulation and further public education.

I am proud to stand with a government that is taking action to tackle this issue in an informed and forceful way, as reflected in this bill. I am very proud to know that Bill C-46 is a product of a great deal of legwork by many departments, including the departments of justice, health, and public safety. The Task force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation has been central to these latest efforts through their engagement with law enforcement and many other partners across the country.

Indeed, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the dedicated women and men on the front lines dealing with the tragedy of impaired driving every day, including the roughly 4,000 officers trained to perform the standardized field sobriety test.

However, we know that more needs to be done. There is a vacuum to be filled, especially in terms of creating drug-impaired driving limits, the tools to detect these violations, and the legal teeth to clamp down on offenders. That is why the Government of Canada began by requesting that the Drugs and Driving Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science assess the validity of oral fluid drug screening technology.

They agreed that the technology reliably detects THC, cocaine, and methamphetamines, these being the drugs most frequently abused by Canadians. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle. The technological tools needed to detect impairing substances must be accompanied by a legal framework that provides for their effective use. That is one important way this bill would create a stronger impaired driving regime. It would authorize law enforcement, at legal roadside stops, to require that a driver provide an oral fluid sample if the officer had a reasonable suspicion that a driver had drugs in his or her body. That could mean redness in the eyes or an odour in the vehicle, for example. The screener, which has a disposable oral fluid collection kit and a reader that analyzes the saliva, would then help the officer check for the presence of particular drugs in the oral fluid.

A positive reading on one of these devices would be information an officer could use to develop reasonable grounds to believe that an offence had been committed. At that point, the driver could be required to either provide a blood sample or to submit to a drug recognition evaluation by an officer to determine whether a criminal offence had been committed.

The bill would create three new criminal offences. It would allow law enforcement to charge those who had a prohibited level of drugs in their blood within two hours of driving. This would be proven by the blood sample. Drivers could also be charged if they had a prohibited level of drugs and alcohol in combination. Importantly, this bill would allow for mandatory alcohol screening. That means officers would be able to require a preliminary breath sample from any driver they stopped in accordance with the law.

Evidence tells us that this is an important tool for detecting impaired drivers and for reducing the rate of impaired driving. This has been demonstrated by studies in other jurisdictions where the system is in place, such as Australia, New Zealand, and several countries in Europe.

Most of the proposed new offences would be punishable by penalties that mirror the existing penalties for alcohol-impaired driving: $1,000 for the first offence; 30 days in prison for the second offence; and 120 days for a third or subsequent offence.

Much will be made in comparing this tough new legislation with our international counterparts. The United Kingdom, for example, introduced legislation last year that created legal limits for drugs and authorized screeners that detect THC and other drugs, which has resulted in more effective enforcement. Other countries, including Australia, France, Germany, and many more, have similar legislation in place and have also found it effective in preventing drug-impaired driving.

For Canada, the other piece of the puzzle will be making sure that misinformation and misperceptions are addressed. We absolutely must educate the public in a comprehensive way. Public Safety Canada has already launched an effective social media campaign to encourage sober driving and to amplify messages from partners, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which does phenomenal work.

To complement this new legislation, a comprehensive public awareness campaign is under development to inform Canadian youth and parents of youth about the risks associated with drug-impaired driving. I am confident that the government will use this opportunity to address misconceptions, correct misinformation, and promote prevention.

This is about safer roads for our communities from coast to coast to coast. Getting impaired drivers off our roads is the number one priority of all parliamentarians. It is encouraging to see the positive response to this legislation thus far and the willingness of so many partners to act together on this crucial issue.

As I said at the outset, real lives have been turned upside down by impaired driving, and of course, real lives have been tragically ended by it. We need to make it stop.

I thank my hon. colleagues for their attention. I look forward to seeing the common-sense provisions in this bill applied on our roads for the benefit of all Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 6:55 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the member for his support and for his expressions of concern with respect to Bill C-46. It is very helpful in advancing a very important debate about public safety.

I was hoping to tap into the member's experience as a long-standing parliamentarian here in the House, and just ask him if he may have some recollection of this. In 2010, the justice committee as it then existed, unanimously brought forward a report recommending to the House the adoption of what was then termed “random breath testing”. My understanding is that, in 2012, two years later, the then leader of the opposition, now the leader of the member's party, asked the then justice minister and the prime minister of the day why they had not acted.

With the unanimous recommendation in the last Parliament, based on strong evidence that this measure of the implementation of a new random breath testing regime would save lives, does the member have any recollection as to why it was not acted on in that previous Parliament?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-46, legislation that would have a significant positive impact on public safety. We are having a great discussion in the House on this today and I am glad to be a part of it.

In the time that I have available, I want to focus my remarks on the proposed new part of the Criminal Code, part VIII.1, on offences relating to conveyances. It would replace all the existing transportation offence provisions in the Criminal Code with a simplified and modernized part, which I believe will be better understood by all Canadians. Before discussing these changes, I believe it is necessary to understand how the current Criminal Code provisions dealing with transportation offences have developed and why there is a desperate need for modernization.

Driving while intoxicated by alcohol has been an offence since 1921, and driving while under the influence of narcotics became an offence in 1925. There have been countless amendments since then which include: creating the offence of being impaired by alcohol or a drug, in 1951; creating the over 80 offence, in 1969; authorizing demands for roadside screening breath tests, in 1976; enacting the offences of impaired driving causing death and causing bodily harm, in 1985; and in 2008, limiting the so-called two beer defence and strengthening responses to drug-impaired driving.

Unfortunately, these various piecemeal reforms have not always worked well together or kept up with improvements in technology. In particular, the provisions with respect to proving blood alcohol concentration reflect the technology that existed 50 years ago and not the modern electronic breathalyzers.

The current provisions are also very hard to understand, even for practitioners. This has long been the case. Indeed, the Law Reform Commission, in its 1991 report “Recodifying Criminal Procedure” wrote that some of the impaired driving provisions had become virtually unreadable. The current Criminal Code provisions are a minefield of technicalities that make the detection and prosecution of impaired driving cases, particularly with respect to the proving blood alcohol concentration provision, unnecessarily complex.

In the typical trial, the fundamental facts that prove guilt are not in dispute. The person was driving and the person blew over 80, yet impaired and over 80 trials are clogging the courts and are taking too long to conclude, in part because our laws are unnecessarily complex. It is time to clean up the provisions and focus trials on the relevant issues.

Under the new part of the Criminal Code, all of the offences are set out in sections that are easier to read and understand. For example, the provisions would set out the simpliciter offence first, then the offence involving bodily harm, and finally, the offence causing death. Under the new part, a person would not, for example, be charged with dangerous driving causing death while fleeing the police as in the current law. Instead, they could be charged with dangerous driving causing death and with fleeing the police, which are two distinct offences.

The penalties and prohibitions are also grouped so that consequences of the offences are clearly rationalized. There are mandatory minimum penalties and mandatory prohibitions for impaired driving and the refusal offences, but there are no mandatory minimum penalties or prohibitions for the other offences. It gets complicated. The mandatory minimum penalty regime for impaired driving and refusal offences makes sense from a policy perspective.

First, unlike many other offences that can be committed in a number of different ways and capture a broad range of offenders, impaired driving offences always require voluntary consumption of alcohol or an impairing drug and then making the deliberate decision to get behind the wheel, which puts all users of the road at risk.

The minimum penalties are also well tailored, starting with a fine only for a first offence but certain jail time for those who reoffend. This type of certainty provides a clear deterrent effect.

Some offences would not be re-enacted under the new part. Failure to keep watch on a person being towed or towing a water skier at night are summary conviction offences that are rarely charged. Removing them would leave no gaps in the law. If the activity is carried out in a dangerous manner or results in bodily harm or death, the person could be charged with dangerous operation or criminal negligence in the appropriate cases.

Also, sailing with an unsafe vessel or flying an unsafe aircraft are summary conviction offences that are not being re-enacted. Laying a charge for these offences requires the approval of the Attorney General of Canada. This activity is more regulatory in nature, and there are strict laws governing the safety of vessels and aircraft.

The provisions under the investigatory powers of the new part would provide new tools for the police. In particular, mandatory alcohol screening is expected to result in deterring more drinking drivers, and deterring those tempted to do so. Roadside oral fluid drug screening will detect drivers who have consumed cannabis, cocaine or methamphetamines, the impairing drugs that are most prevalent on Canadian roads which have been discussed earlier.

Under “Evidentiary Matters”, the new part addresses directly the most important causes of delay and litigation under the current provisions dealing with proving blood alcohol concentration. These are welcome changes given the significant challenges many jurisdictions are facing in terms of court backlogs. Bill C-46 sets out what has to be done to ensure that a breath test produces accurate results and provides a simple formula for determining blood alcohol concentration where the first test occurs more than two hours after the person has driven.

The new part also sets out what documents are to be disclosed as relevant to determining whether the approved instrument was working properly when the driver's breath was analyzed.

There are also improvements with respect to certificates. An accused who wants to cross-examine the qualified technician or an analyst who filed a certificate would have to explain why their attendance is necessary. This ensures there would be no fishing expeditions.

All of these provisions reflect the advice of the alcohol test committee, an independent committee which has been advising the Government of Canada on breath testing for alcohol for 50 years, and whose expertise has repeatedly been recognized by the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

There are many other changes in the wording of the provisions. It would be tedious to list them all, but suffice it to say we need to clean up this legislation.

I am pleased to recommend to members that Bill C-46 be given second reading and be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, so the committee can do its great work.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts. What we are talking about here is enabling police officers to detect impaired drivers.

Before I begin, I want to make one thing clear. I think we all want to support measures that protect Canadians on our roads no matter where they are. However, I am not convinced that the bill before us addresses all of our questions and concerns.

This is an issue that matters a lot to me and that I have done a lot of work on because it ties in with marijuana legalization, which the government wants to implement on July 1, 2018.

First, I want to point out that I supported the bill introduced by my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts. This bill also amends the Criminal Records Act so that the offence of impaired driving and the offence of failing or refusing to comply with a demand are no longer exceptions to the offences, rendering null and void the record suspension. My colleague has done an excellent job. However, unfortunately, this was rejected by the government. This bill makes consequential amendments to these laws and others that are directly related to the bill we are debating today.

Second, I also sponsored Bill S-240, introduced by Senator Claude Carignan. This bill sought to implement measures to combat impaired driving. The bill amends the Criminal Code in order to authorize the use of a screening device approved by the government to detect the presence of drugs in the body of a person who was operating a vehicle or who had the care or control of a vehicle. It also authorizes the taking of samples of bodily substances to determine the concentration of drugs in a person's body based on physical coordination tests and the result of the analysis conducted using an approved screening device.

Once again, even though all senators, regardless of their political stripe, and all opposition parties unanimously agreed, the government nevertheless decided to reject all the Senate's hard work. The bill had passed all three stages of the legislative process, but now we have to start from scratch. It will be too late and no one will be ready if the bill to legalize marijuana is rushed through.

Third, I asked about 15 questions and I took part in many of the debates we have had here in the House of Commons.

Fourth, I met with representatives from various businesses that produce drug screening devices in order to learn more about these devices' ability to screen for faculties impaired by drugs.

Fifth, I met with senior officials responsible for training police officers at the École nationale de police du Québec. Unfortunately, I learned that they had not been consulted as part of this process and that they feel unprepared to deal with the consequences of this bill to legalize marijuana.

Sixth, I asked the citizens of my riding for their thoughts on this plan to legalize marijuana, and more specifically the consequences it will have on road safety.

Seventh, I studied the cases of Uruguay, Colorado, and Washington in particular, and I reviewed all of the legislation on the subject from other places in the world.

That is why I can talk about this issue today with a full knowledge of the facts and confirm that Canada is not ready to legalize marijuana, especially not by July 1, 2018. Before any bill to legalize cannabis is passed, the police must have the proper tools to prevent many lives being lost on our roads.

To be frank, I find it hard to understand why the Liberals dragged their feet for so long before introducing a draft bill that they are now saying must urgently be passed before the summer recess. Let us be serious. The legalization of marijuana has been part of the Liberal platform for years. To get elected, the Liberals even told Canadians that they had a plan.

Once elected, it took them two years to introduce a bill in the House because their legislative agenda has been flawed from the start. Ironically, the Senate is not working very hard compared to when other governments were in office. Now, all of a sudden, things have picked up and the Liberals are trying to quickly pass bills without allowing them to be thoroughly studied in committee.

Two bills need to be quickly passed so that everything is in place in time for the next election. That is simply irresponsible, and the Liberals are to blame. In short, this bill is critically important in protecting Canadians from the growing scourge of drug-impaired drivers who get behind the wheel. It becoming increasingly urgent to eradicate this scourge in light of the Liberals' bill to legalize marijuana.

Every jurisdiction that has legalized marijuana has experienced an increase in the number of accidents and impaired drivers. Here is what the Canadian Police Association told the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs:

Driving while intoxicated by drugs impairs judgment and motor coordination. In one study involving aircraft, ten licensed pilots were given one marijuana joint containing 19 mg of THC, a relatively small amount [for users, or so I am told]. Twenty-four hours after smoking the joint, they were tested in a flight simulator. All ten of the pilots made errors in landing, and one missed the runway completely.

The report also said that, according to a recent opinion poll about drug-impaired driving, 58% of Canadian drivers did not know if their province or territory had any administrative laws on drug-impaired driving. The clearly demonstrates the need to sort out the drug-impaired driving issue before cannabis is legalized. Unfortunately, I doubt that can happen given the Liberal government's unrealistic and irresponsible timelines. for things to happen that fast, the Liberals will have to rush the process, which will jeopardize Canadians' health and safety. That is extremely unfortunate.

I would like to share a few quotes that I compiled about impaired driving because I want to give everyone a real sense of just how big an issue this is even though the Liberals are trying to downplay it.

According to Washington State toxicology lab manager Brian Capron , since the state legalized marijuana, over a third of impaired drivers tested positive for the drug. They test over 13,000 drivers every year.

According to Dr. Chris Rumball of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, the Prime Minister's plan to legalize marijuana should take into account sobering U.S. experiences. In Washington State, fatal crashes among drivers who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 8% in 2013, before legalization, to 17% in 2014 after legalization. In Colorado, the number tripled from 3.4% to 12.1%.

“The number of car accidents in Colorado increased because of marijuana usage,” said Kevin Sabet, former advisor to Barack Obama on drug policy.

According to the Quebec police, “Canadian police forces are worried about drug-impaired driving [in the wake of Ottawa's announcement that it intends to legalize marijuana]. Police are concerned about trivializing consumption [and] an increase in drivers under the influence of drugs.”

I also have this quote from Annie Gauthier, CAA Québec's spokesperson. “We must continue to collect data, put technology in place and establish guidelines that will enable police officers to properly control and deal with this new situation in order to prevent it from spiralling out of control.”

I have many more similar quotes and I could go on at length.

In closing, every effort to make our roads safer is critical. I sincerely hope that the Liberals will allow sufficient time for a thorough study of the bill in committee. The Liberals' irresponsible marijuana legalization proposal aside, there is still the issue of impaired driving that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, whether or not legalization is about to happen.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7:25 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member quoted a number of unnamed police organizations. I was curious about a number of things and I would like to inquire about them.

First, since we have introduced Bill C-46, I want to share with the member a fact with which he may not be familiar. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police traffic committee has put out the following statement in response to Bill C-46. It says:

The government has put forward strong legislation not only focused on impairment by drugs, but also addressing on-going issues related to alcohol impairment.

Steps that have been introduced to reform the entire impaired driving scheme are seen as much needed and very positive. The CACP has called for such changes in the past, specifically in support of modernizing the driving provisions of the criminal code, supporting mandatory alcohol screening and eliminating common ‘loophole’ defenses.

I have looked back at some of the data over the past decade. For over a decade, Canada has had the highest rates of cannabis use. It is estimated that over 3.5 million Canadians have used cannabis. Therefore, driving under the influence of cannabis has been a significant issue.

I wonder if the member opposite might offer some insight as to why his government did nothing about that for a decade.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 7:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this evening 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. This bill was introduced in conjunction with Bill C-45, the cannabis act, and aims to update Canada's impaired driving laws.

Updates to these laws are welcomed and there is unfortunately much to be improved on in Canada regarding impaired driving. Over the past three decades, all provinces have seen significant decreases in their impaired driving rates.

For a significant majority of Canadians, a group that is growing larger each year, gone are the days when drinking and driving was totally socially acceptable or even something that was excusable once in a while. This has been a very important shift in culture that has saved countless lives.

The year 2015 marked the lowest rates of impaired driving incidents since data on this had been collected, starting in 1986. Since 1986, incidents have decreased by 65%, with a 4% drop from 2014 to 2015. However, there is still work to be done. In 2015, police reported 72,039 impaired driving incidents, representing a rate of 201 incidents per 10,000 of population. This is significant.

Impaired driving is still one of the leading causes of criminal death in Canada, and Canada continues to have one of the worst impaired driving records in the OECD. It is clear that we need to keep making progress on this front.

Criminal penalties for impaired driving, while an important component of restorative justice as a signal that our society condemns a behaviour and as a deterrent from committing an act, will not alone prevent a behaviour from occurring.

Simply put, if someone is being charged with an impaired driving offence, the damage is already done. In the worst situations, it means an innocent life has already been lost. Once someone is impaired, be it due to illegal drugs, legal narcotics, or alcohol, it represents a failure in our duty to properly educate the public about the dangers of this behaviour.

Given that government is moving forward with legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, now is a crucially important time to embark on public outreach, awareness, and education programs to inform Canadians. Canadians need to be informed, not just about legalization, not just about new criminal sentences for this or that, but about what constitutes impairment, what the dangers of impairment driving are, and alternatives to impaired driving.

The NDP, from the outset of this initiative, has been calling on the government to take the lead on public awareness campaigns that promote deterrence before anyone gets behind the wheel. The statistics show that campaigns and programs like these have resulted in a decline inn alcohol-related incidents, so these efforts should be continued and expanded, given the current context.

The campaigns have helped Canadian contextualize impaired driving to understand it better for themselves and to intervene when others might be about to engage in it. Education as simple as one glass of wine has a similar amount of alcohol as one beer and one shot helps dispel some of the myths and misunderstandings of impairment.

Unfortunately, thus far, the government has not held that leadership role in helping contextualize what constitutes what constitutes drug impairment. In fact, the government has shown a lack of leadership by leaving the legal limits up to regulation to be set later.

The government has made recommendations around two nanograms, five nanograms, and a hybrid offence for those with alcohol and drugs in their system, but these are not set. It has also not taken the lead on explaining to Canadians how a person reaches those levels of impairment, for how long they can expect to be impaired, and other important aspects of conceptualizing this new legal landscape.

It also is not clear that the limits suggested will not result in the arrest of individuals who are not impaired. The Canadian Medical Association has stated, “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.”

This is because, like alcohol, consumption method, consumption frequency, and personal metabolism can impact the level of impairment. Some experts are questioning using nanograms as a result. We need to ensure we are making evidence-based decisions, decisions based on science.

Canadians need to be able to make informed decisions. In the absence of information, there will be misinformation, and that would be a serious failure on the government's initiative should that occur.

The goal should be to create the social conditions where the criminal penalties being brought in by Bill C-46 are used as little as possible. People are not getting behind the wheel in the first place.

Like my other colleagues who have spoken on the bill, I am supportive of updating our impaired driving laws to reflect the changing realities and severity of these offences. However, like my colleagues, I am concerned with striking the correct balance regarding the civil liberties of Canadians.

Civil liberties groups and the legal community have expressed serious concern about the removal of the need for reasonable suspicion to conduct a roadside breath or saliva test. The concern stems not only from the potential infringement on civil liberties, but also that it will be disproportionately applied to certain visible minority groups.

It has been spoken about in the House that random and mandatory breath tests for alcohol screening could be challenged under section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. It has also been mentioned that it could be challenged under section 9, the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

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

It is my hope that at the committee stage the government takes the study of the bill very seriously. It will be imperative to hear from civil liberty experts, constitutional law experts, and health care experts. We need to understand the science of the testing. We need to ensure there is a robust educational program for Canadians so they know about this law, they know and learn about what the consequences are so they are responsible for their actions.

I sincerely hope the government will be open to amendments, even significant ones, should the evidence suggest that they are needed. This is simply too important to get wrong.

There are the outstanding questions.

Earlier I asked about the possibility of someone being in a room where there was a lot of marijuana smoking and whether that could get into the person's bloodstream even though that person was not actively smoking marijuana. In those cases, how would that be dealt with? Do we have the science in place to ensure people are protected in those circumstances?

With alcohol, for example, we have designated drivers. If people are in a crowd with people who are drinking but they are not, they will not be impacted. However, it may not be the case with marijuana.

My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway, the NDP health critic, raised some very critical questions, particularly for those who would use medicinal marijuana. When they consume the substance, and some of them may have to consume a lot because of a medical condition, what does that mean for them with respect to these implications? The THC could be stored in their bodies for an extended period. It theoretically could be the case that they did not smoke while driving. How would that be dealt with and are what are the implications? Does it mean in those instances they would still be liable?

There needs to be a lot of clarification with respect to that and there needs to be public education. People need to know and understand that. People in the medical community who are prescribing medicinal marijuana need to let the patients know the risks and what impairment might mean.

I am, at this stage, not sure where the science is. There are a lot of questions out there. The science has to be solid as we move forward.

Finally, we do not ever want to see tragedies. We do not want to see anyone's life lost because someone was behind the wheel impaired, whether it be from alcohol or any other substance. That has to be paramount. We have to move forward to bring in laws to ensure that it takes place through education, through enforcement, and most important of all, through our own self-imposed responsibility for our own actions. People need to be clear about what those laws are so that they can make sure they do not do what is so wrong. Once it is done, they cannot take it back.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2017 / 8:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to the proposed legislation, Bill C-46, regarding impaired driving and amendments to the Criminal Code. This bill examines and alters the procedures and consequences for impaired driving for both cannabis and alcohol. I will comment on a few aspects of the changes regarding alcohol, but the majority of my speech will be focused on the impacts of drug-induced impaired driving.

To begin, I would like to say that several changes proposed in the legislation are encouraging, such as increases in maximum penalties and mandatory fines. Unfortunately, not all the penalty changes seem appropriate. Rather than increasing mandatory minimum prison sentences, the government has decided to change the fines for a first offence, based on blood alcohol content, the BAC. While I can understand the importance of knowing the BAC of an individual behind the wheel, I would want to ensure that a slightly lower BAC would not somehow mean that a person was not penalized for driving under the influence. Alcohol has different effects on different people. Would an officer be able to use his or her discretion in a situation, or would a device be able to determine the accuracy of the BAC? I simply want to ensure that the corresponding fines are appropriate and fair.

One of the proposed changes affecting our law enforcement officers would be the ability to demand breath samples from any driver they lawfully stop. Officers would no longer be required to have a legitimate suspicion that a driver had alcohol in his or her body. Some critics have even stated that this would be unconstitutional, and research shows that most Canadians would oppose giving police these greater powers.

Recently, the CBC reported:

If Canada's new impaired driving laws are passed police could show up on your doorstep — up to two hours after you arrive home — to demand a breath or saliva sample.

How would the government ensure that someone who arrived home safely while sober and then consumed alcohol afterward would not be wrongly accused?

Another concerning change regarding alcohol-impaired driving proposed in Bill C-46 is that it would actually reduce the penalties previously outlined in the Criminal Code with respect to ignition interlock devices. Ignition interlock devices allow offenders to reduce the period of prohibition from driving by opting to use a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device under a provincial program. With the use of these devices, they are able to drive anywhere in Canada during this time.

While it is true that offenders should receive another chance to prove that they are capable of driving, they must first serve the appropriate minimum absolute prohibition period. These wait times have been reasonable: three months for first-time offenders, six months for second-time offenders, and 12 months for third-time offenders. Unfortunately, the Liberals have decided to reduce these wait times to the point where there would be no minimum prohibition at all for first-time offenders. Subsequent offences would be reduced to the following: second-time offenders would be prohibited for only three months, and third-time offenders would be prohibited for only six months. These drastically reduced prohibitions are dangerous. The changes could allow offenders to be behind the wheel before they were ready.

I would ask the government to reconsider some of these changes to ensure that offenders are properly convicted for their actions and that the probationary periods, as currently outlined in the Criminal Code, are maintained.

Moving on to drug-impaired driving now. The Government of Canada website states that:

Bill C-46 proposes to supplement the existing drug-impaired driving offence by creating three new offences for having specified levels of a drug in the blood within two hours of driving. The penalties would depend on the drug type and the levels of drug or the combination of alcohol and drugs. The levels would be set by regulation.

While it is encouraging to see tougher penalties for repeat offenders, some concerns remain about the ability to enforce these new offences based on the specified levels. For example, would officers be able to use discretion for those near the cut-off, or would the measuring devices be able to determine exactly how significant the influence of the drug is? Furthermore, the level of the drug may have a greater impairment on some people, causing their behaviour to be more harmful to the safety of others. My concern is that the punishment may not be congruent for all offenders.

It is of the utmost importance that we seek to protect Canadians from impaired drivers and ensure that there are strict penalties for those who choose to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, it is also critical that those penalties are accompanied with sufficient education and resources for our police officers. The legislation does not include any specifics regarding the process by which police will be trained in order to handle the increased threat of drug-impaired driving upon the legalization of cannabis.

Education on impaired driving is not limited to police officers. It is critical that the Liberal government also emphasizes effective education to deter Canadians from impaired driving. The report and recommendations outlined by the Liberal government's task force recommended extensive education on cannabis and impaired driving awareness before any legislation takes effect. Unfortunately, the government has chosen to ignore that sound advice and is pushing through the legislation.

Impaired driving continues to be one of the leading causes of death in Canada and it is unwise to move forward without effective education and resources for our police forces and for all Canadians. While I find it hypocritical that after 10 years of denouncing the stricter penalties for criminals put forward by the previous Conservative government, the Liberals have opted to impose higher maximum penalties and mandatory fines, it is a good first step to ensuring that our streets are safe.

That said, as I have mentioned throughout my speech, the changes outlined in Bill C-46 are not enough to protect Canadians from the dangers of impaired driving. I hope the government will choose to slow down the legislation and provide relevant education before it chooses to move forward with cannabis legalization. The legislation has been rushed and has been put on an unreasonable timeline. The Liberal government needs to recognize that when passing major legislation such as this, it is far more important to get it right rather than to do it hastily.

I hope the government will consider the concerns I have raised and together we can work to protect Canadians from the devastating realities of impaired driving.