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 29th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are several of the points raised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Canada also says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is another passage, for information:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public SafetyOral Questions

May 19th, 2017 / noon
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 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

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House to join in the second reading debate on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I am proud to speak in support of this proposed legislation. If passed, our government is convinced that Bill C-46 will reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by impaired drivers. Our roads and highways will be safer for our efforts.

The bill proposes to address both alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, but I intend to focus my remarks primarily on the elements that address drug-impaired driving.

Before I outline the proposals in Bill C-46, I would like to emphasize that driving while impaired by a drug is currently a criminal offence in Canada, and has been since 1925. Members should rest assured that if someone drives while impaired by drugs today, he or she will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Bill C-46 seeks to build on the existing offence by authorizing new tools and by creating new offences to make Canada one of the world's leaders in the fight against impaired driving.

To enforce the existing offence of driving while impaired by drugs, the Criminal Code currently authorizes the police to conduct standardized field sobriety tests at the roadside. These tests can include asking a driver to walk a straight line, balance on one leg, and a number of other tests of physical and motor skills. The Criminal Code also authorizes more sophisticated drug recognition evaluations at the police station, by highly trained drug recognition evaluators, once the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe, based on roadside tests or otherwise, that the driver is impaired.

The drug recognition evaluation consists of a 12-step protocol to determine whether the driver is impaired by a drug. It includes testing such things as balance, pupil size, and blood pressure. These tools have been effective since their legislative introduction in 2008 and have led to an increase in the detection of drug-impaired drivers across our country, yet despite these measures, drug-impaired driving on our roads continues to increase. Clearly, more needs to be done in advance of our proposed legislation and the strict regulation of cannabis.

My colleagues have also mentioned the need for training more drug recognition experts. Our government has, on many occasions, re-emphasized its commitment to ensuring that a drug recognition training program is available and acceptable to all Canadian police services so that we can make sure there are adequately trained experts to conduct these tests.

I am pleased to outline the proposals in Bill C-46 that aim to address drug-impaired driving by building on the existing legal framework and by proposing new tools and offences to create a strong impaired-driving regime.

Bill C-46 proposes to provide law enforcement with the authority to demand that a driver provide an oral fluid sample at the roadside to be analyzed by a roadside oral fluid drug screener if an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver has drugs in his or her body. Reasonable suspicion is a well-understood standard in criminal law and can be developed through a number of observations, including such things as red eyes, muscle termors, abnormal speech patterns, and of course, the smell of cannabis.

These oral fluid drug screeners would detect the presence of a drug in a driver's oral fluid, and they would provide the officers with information that could be used to develop reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an impaired-driving offence had occurred. Once officers had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the offence had occurred, they would then have the authority to demand a sample of blood from the driver, and as well, to bring them before a drug recognition expert for evaluation.

The oral fluid drug screener would detect THC, cocaine, and methamphetamine. In the future, more drugs will be able to be detected by these oral fluid drug screeners as the technology evolves.

Madam Speaker, I forgot to mentioned earlier that I will be splitting my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington.

In addition to authorizing these additional tools for police, the bill proposes three new criminal offences for being over the prescribed legal drug limit within two hours of driving. These offences would be proven through a blood sample and would relieve the crown of the burden of proving that the driver was impaired. It would be enough to prove that the driver had an illegal level of drugs in his or her blood.

The first offence would be a straight summary conviction offence. The second and third offences would be hybrid offences: the second one would apply to drugs alone, while the third would apply to drugs when used in combination with alcohol.

Members may have noticed that although the proposed offences are in the bill, the actual prohibited drug levels are not. This is because the drug levels are to be set by regulation, which comes into force at the same time, or close to the same time, as the proposed offences.

Setting the prohibited levels in the regulations is the responsibility of the Minister of Justice, who has the ability to revise the regulations more quickly and efficiently in response to scientific developments. This is the approach currently taken in setting prohibited drug levels in the United Kingdom, and I believe it is the wisest course of action.

Other impairing drugs would be included in the regulations, but I would like to focus on the proposed levels for tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary impairing component of cannabis. For the straight summary conviction offence, the proposed level for THC would be between two and five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood. The proposed penalty for this offence is a maximum fine of $1,000 and a discretionary prohibition on driving for up to one year.

The proposed level of THC for the drug-alone hybrid offence would be over five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, and for the hybrid offence addressing drugs when used in combination with alcohol, the proposed levels would be 2.5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood in combination with 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The penalties for these two new hybrid offences would be the same as for alcohol-impaired driving, and they would include a mandatory minimum penalty of $1,000 on a first offence, 30 days' imprisonment on a second offence, and 120 days' imprisonment on a third or subsequent offence.

One final element of the proposed offences I would like to address concerns the time frame in which the proposed legal limit offence could be committed. Members may have noticed that the offence is worded to capture drivers with a prohibited level of drug in their blood within two hours of driving, and not at the time of driving.

This proposed formulation reflects a number of significant policy goals. First, unlike with alcohol, it is not possible to determine or back-calculate from a blood sample what a driver's blood drug concentration would have been at the time of driving. This is why the within-two-hours framework is necessary. It further addresses the concern of people trying to obstruct the testing process by consuming drugs after driving and then claiming that this post-driving consumption was responsible for the illegal drug level.

I would like to conclude my remarks by addressing a few of the more common questions I have heard over the past few weeks concerning this bill since its introduction.

People have been asking, “How much can I smoke before I can drive, and how long after I smoke do I need to wait before it is safe to drive?” I understand these questions, because for years, we have been able to provide general guidance to drivers with respect to alcohol consumption.

There is a significant scientific consensus that consuming cannabis impairs the ability to drive. The proposed prescribed THC levels are based on the advice of the Drugs and Driving Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. This committee provides scientific advice to the Minister of Justice on issues related to drug-impaired driving.

Let me be perfectly clear. The safest approach for people who choose to consume cannabis is to not mix their consumption with driving. Driving is a privilege, not a right. If Canadians choose to consume cannabis, they must do so in a socially responsible way by not risking the lives of their fellow Canadians, to say nothing of their own.

I would also take this opportunity to point out what was already referenced by the member in his speech regarding the remarks of eminently respected constitutional scholar Prof. Peter Hogg, in which he articulates his belief that the measures proposed in this legislation are constitutionally valid, constitutional validity being determined under section 1 of the charter as a reasonable suspicion and passing the elements of the Oakes test.

Finally, I wish to strongly support the proposals in Bill C-46. I would like to encourage all members to support this bill and work towards the common goal of reducing deaths and injuries on our roads and highways as quickly as possible.

I spent more than four decades of my adult life dealing with this critical issue. I have seen far too many people lose their lives, far too injuries, and far too much trauma and tragedy in our communities for this to continue to persist. We have a responsibility to act, and I believe that the provisions of Bill C-46 are the right steps forward.

I encourage all members of this House to support this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, as the member for Barrie—Innisfil has suggested, I did travel across the country. I have had the opportunity to meet with municipal officials, public health officials, and police chiefs across the country. I have spoken very extensively to the drugs and driving committee, for example, of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. I have heard their concerns with respect to the impact that supporting this important legislation will have on their resources.

I must also say that they overwhelmingly support the provisions and the clarification that Bill C-46 offers with respect to impaired driving, which is, as we all know, one of the most litigated pieces of law within the Criminal Code and in creating jurisprudence.

Many questions they asked were about the impact this will have on their resources. One of those impacts is that they will need to have sufficient training and have access to the technology that will now be required. My government has assured them, and I have assured them, from coast to coast, that we are committed to ensuring that all police services have the legislation, the training, the technology, and the resources that they will require to keep our roadways safe.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-46, legislation that I know is important to the residents and law enforcement officers in Oakville North—Burlington and across Canada.

Impaired driving is a serious crime that kills and injures thousands of Canadians every year. In 2015, there were more than 72,000 impaired-driving incidents reported by the police, including almost 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents. Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada, and drug-impaired driving is increasing in frequency. Bill C-46 aims to address this serious issue and proposes to create new and stronger laws to punish more severely those who drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol. When I met with Halton police chief Stephen Tanner, we discussed the need for law enforcement to have more tools to better deal with impaired driving.

Today I would like to focus my remarks on the penalties proposed in Bill C-46. The bill would overhaul the penalty provisions to ensure there is coherence and rationality. The proposals include some higher maximum penalties, hybridization of bodily harm offences, and some new mandatory minimum fines. No new or higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment are being proposed.

Bill C-46 would raise the maximum penalties for impaired driving where there is no death or injury. In cases in which the prosecution proceeds by the less serious summary conviction procedure, the maximum period of imprisonment would be increased from the current 18 months to two years less a day. When the prosecution chooses to proceed by the more serious indictable procedure, the maximum period of imprisonment would increase from the current five years to 10 years. This new 10-year maximum would permit the prosecution, in appropriate circumstances, to make a dangerous a offender application. These changes send a clear message concerning the seriousness of impaired driving.

The dangerous driving causing death offence currently has a 14-year maximum period of imprisonment. Bill C-46 would raise this to a maximum of life imprisonment, which is currently the maximum penalty for all other similar offences resulting in death. With the increase of the dangerous driving causing death maximum penalty, there would no longer be a need for the prosecution to pursue separate offences in order to allow for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Bill C-46 proposes changes that would merge the offence of impaired driving causing bodily harm with the offence of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Currently, the offence is a straight indictable offence, which means that the prosecution must treat all cases the same, even those involving less serious bodily harm, such as a broken arm.

Bill C-46 proposes a maximum penalty on a summary conviction procedure of two years less a day, and on indictment it would increase from 10 years of imprisonment to 14 years. This is important, given that the vast majority of alcohol-impaired driving sentences are in cases that involve no death or injury. This change would therefore give the prosecution greater flexibility, and this additional discretion may promote efficiencies in our criminal justice system by reducing the time to process cases involving minor or no injuries.

Under Bill C-46, the existing mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for alcohol- and drug-impaired driving offences would apply to a number of hybrid offences, including driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug, driving while over a drug's legal limit, and driving with a drug-plus-alcohol blood concentration in excess of the legal limits.

Bill C-46 would also create a new mandatory minimum fine of $1,500 for a first offence of driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 120 milligrams. In addition, it would create a new mandatory minimum fine of $2,000 for driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 160 milligrams. The higher mandatory minimum fine penalties for a first offence will reflect the increased crash risk that is associated with higher blood alcohol concentrations.

Bill C-46 would also create a new mandatory minimum fine of $2,000 for a first offence of refusing a valid police demand for a breath sample, a blood sample, a urine sample, an oral fluid sample, a standard field sobriety test, or testing in a drug evaluation. This is important to ensure compliance with demands. Otherwise, first-offence drivers with a higher blood alcohol concentration could simply refuse to give a sample in order to evade the higher mandatory minimum fines.

For repeat offenders, having a high blood alcohol concentration would be an aggravating factor to be considered upon sentencing. The mandatory minimum penalty for a second offence would remain as it currently stands in the Criminal Code at 30 days' imprisonment, and for each subsequent offence it would remain at 120 days' imprisonment.

Bill C-46 does not propose any new or higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for the Criminal Code's transportation offences, including drug-impaired driving and alcohol-impaired driving. With respect to impaired driving causing death cases, I understand that provincial courts already typically impose or uphold penalties that are well above the existing mandatory minimum penalties and are in the range of at least three to four years, if not higher.

Bill C-46 does not propose a mandatory minimum penalty that exceeds the current sentencing range, because this is not necessary to ensure appropriate sentences and does not work as a deterrent. Indeed, the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which is based in my community of Oakville, is opposed to mandatory minimum penalties for these offences, citing charter concerns in certain circumstances, but also pointing out that mandatory minimums can have a downward pull on sentences. The organization explained that they become an inappropriate cap where longer sentences might be appropriate. The better route is to leave sentencing discretion to the trial and appellate courts.

I had the pleasure of meeting with MADD Canada's CEO, Andrew Murie, recently in my riding. In addition to his comments on mandatory minimums, he expressed his organization's confidence in our justice department and commented that he was pleased with the consultations that had taken place with his organization on this subject. He also expressed his thanks to our government, noting that we have such a deep understanding of the issue and are prepared to take a comprehensive approach to addressing it.

I will now turn to the subject of prohibitions and ignition interlock devices. Currently, where there is no injury or death on a first offence, the sentencing court must impose a mandatory minimum prohibition against driving anywhere in Canada for a period of one year. On a second offence, the penalty is a period of two years, and for a subsequent offence, the minimum driving prohibition is for a period of three years.

Bill C-46 also reduces the current waiting period before which the offender may drive when using an ignition interlock device. On a first offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current three months to no waiting time. On a second offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current six months to three months, and on a subsequent offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current 12 months to six months. These amendments would reflect the fact that ignition interlock device programs help to prevent recidivism.

Currently, the Criminal Code has a provision by which an impaired driving offender may be given a conditional discharge on the condition that he or she attend a program of curative treatment. This curative treatment discharge provision has not yet been proclaimed into force in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Bill C-46 would replace this provision with one that allows the defence to apply, with the consent of the prosecution, for a delay of the sentencing hearing in order for the offender to attend a provincially approved treatment program. If the offender successfully completes the program, the sentencing court would not be obliged to impose the mandatory minimum penalty or the mandatory period of prohibition against driving anywhere in Canada.

I am pleased to support Bill C-46. I respectfully ask my colleagues on all sides of the House to support this important piece of legislation that would make our communities safer for everyone

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 19th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
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Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her excellent speech.

Just as alcohol impaired driving is illegal, so is drug impaired driving. However, over the past few years, there has been greater awareness regarding drunk driving. When Canadians go out and plan to have a drink, they know they need to have a designated driver or take a taxi to get home. There is not the same level of awareness when it comes to drugs.

Bill C-46 gives police officers the tools to test drivers. It also sends a very clear message that we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drug impaired driving.

In the member's opinion, just how much would public awareness be raised as a result of giving police officers additional tools and setting penalties that would enable prosecutors to properly prosecute drug-impaired drivers?