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

Sponsor

Status

In committee (Senate), as of Dec. 14, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-46.

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)

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

November 30th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Kanata—Carleton Ontario

Liberal

Karen McCrimmon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to speak to Bill C-373, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving.

Canadians across the country use the road transportation network every day. They travel to work, attend social events, take their kids to school and hockey practice. At the same time, motor vehicle collisions are one of the leading causes of death, injuries, and hospital admissions in Canada. For example, in 2015, 1,858 Canadians were killed and 161,000 Canadians were injured in motor vehicle collisions. In addition to these personal tragedies for families, motor vehicle collisions cost the Canadian economy and the health care system an estimated $36 billion per year.

I am pleased to say that in Canada, road traffic collisions have substantially declined over the past three decades. To illustrate, between 1980 and 2015, the number of road collisions involving an injury or fatality decreased by 36%. This trend has occurred despite significant increases in the number of licensed drivers, in the number of registered vehicles, and the total kilometres driven by Canadians.

Canadians are also more likely to survive a motor vehicle collision. Between 1980 and 2015, the overall number of persons fatally injured decreased by more than 60%. These decreases are the result of several positive changes, such as improved highway and vehicle design. Of significant importance is the dramatic change in public opinion recognizing that collisions are preventable and that drivers must make safer choices, such as using seatbelts and avoiding risks associated with speeding, distractions, and fatigue.

At the same time as these positive trends have been happening, we are also facing new and evolving challenges. For example, driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is a growing concern, which is being addressed by my hon. colleague, the Minister of Justice, through Bill C-46. Currently before the Senate, the bill would help address the issue of alcohol and drug-impaired driving while protecting the right of the accused to a fair and impartial hearing.

Recent increases in tragic accidents involving distracted driving have garnered the attention of all levels of government and of the Canadian public. Driving a motor vehicle is a complex task that requires the full attention of the driver at all times. Research has shown that drivers who are distracted do not fully scan the environment looking for potential issues, are slow to identify risks, and then they are slow to react appropriately.

In the last five years, a reported 20% of motor vehicle accident fatalities occurred in collisions where one of the drivers had been distracted or inattentive. Over the same period, 33% of reported motor vehicle injuries occurred in collisions where distraction or inattentiveness was found to be a contributing cause of the crash.

The issue of distracted driving is evolving with the pace of technology or faster. For example, smartphones are increasingly popular. Vehicles have also become more sophisticated, providing drivers with real time data from driver assistance programs, other vehicles, and the surrounding infrastructure. In short, life is moving at a faster pace and placing greater demands on our attention, including when we are driving.

This is why the Minister of Transport wrote to his provincial and territorial counterparts last winter to seek nationally consistent enforcement measures and penalties to combat the rapidly rising rate of accidents involving distracted drivers.

In Canada, as my hon. colleague mentioned, road safety is a shared responsibility among federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions, and any actions taken to curb distracted driving cannot be taken in isolation solely by the federal government. Jurisdictions need to work together within their scope of authority to improve road safety in Canada.

Transport Canada is responsible for safety standards for new and imported vehicles, new tires, and child restraints. Justice Canada is responsible for the Criminal Code of Canada in dealing with impaired and dangerous operation of motor vehicles. Provinces and territories are responsible for driver licensing, vehicle registration, and the highway traffic acts, which include laws regarding distracted driving as well as the administration of justice.

To deliver a coordinated approach, the federal government works closely with its provincial and territorial counterparts through the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety and its associated organizations, including the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators. Collectively, we have developed and implemented a number of road safety initiatives that have contributed to significant reductions in deaths and fatalities.

For example, Canada's newest safety plan is Canada's road safety strategy 2025, “Towards Zero: the safest roads in the world”. It was launched by the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety in January 2016. It builds on previous accomplishments by raising public awareness of road safety issues; improving communication, co-operation, and collaboration among road safety agencies; enhancing enforcement measures; and improving national road safety data quality and collection. The strategy outlines various measures over a 10-year timeframe to support our vision of moving toward zero deaths and injuries. Road safety strategy 2025 contains a number of promising and proven counter-measures related to distracted driving. For example, education and awareness measures are being used to change public attitudes toward distracted driving. Such change has happened before. With alcohol-impaired driving for example, what was once a common and acceptable behaviour has now become far less common and is socially unacceptable, and our roads are safer because of it.

Governments are also working together to identify international best practices to address distracted driving. At the same time, Transport Canada is working with the provinces and territories and other key stakeholders to develop guidelines related to in-vehicle displays. This initiative responds to a Transportation Safety Board Canada recommendation. Transport Canada also co-chairs a federal-provincial-territorial working group on distracted driving with British Columbia. Among the various initiatives that have been taken on by this working group, Transport Canada officials are working every day with their provincial and territorial counterparts to assess the implementation of new vehicle technologies that could mitigate the risks and impacts of distracted driving.

In addition, Transport Canada is leading a working group with provinces and territories to improve statistics related to how frequently mobile devices are involved in distracted-driving collisions. The federal government needs to continue to work closely with the provinces and territories on distracted-driving initiatives. Our best successes have occurred when we have worked collaboratively, working together to support policy development, new programs, and efficient and effective enforcement. These initiatives will help Canada change public attitudes toward distracted driving and ensure that more Canadians will get where they are going safely.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 27th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak for the vast majority of the people in my riding in presenting a petition signed by over 9,000 members of the Cercles de fermières du Québec from across the province. These people are against the legalization of marijuana, and especially against Bills C-45 and C-46, which are rushed and sloppily drafted.

Given that political, police, and legal authorities say they are not ready to handle this situation, they are calling on the government to impose a moratorium on marijuana legalization until the provincial and territorial governments are properly equipped to oversee the legal sale of marijuana. A survey showed that more than 82% of my constituents are against legalization. Maybe the 40 Liberals across the aisle are not taking the time to—

National Impaired Driving Prevention WeekPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel. With the holiday season almost upon us, our discussion today is very timely. The holidays are a time of year when people get together to celebrate with family and friends, but there is, of course, a cloud to that silver lining: an increased likelihood of impaired driving incidents following the celebrations.

A number of public education awareness campaigns are in full swing this time of year. They encourage Canadians to drive sober or offer drivers alternative ways to get home safely. One of them, as we have heard already, MADD Canada's project red ribbon, is marking its 30th anniversary this year. Together, these efforts have had a powerful and positive impact. According to MADD Canada's estimates, between 1982 and 2010 nearly 36,650 lives were saved in Canada due to reductions in alcohol-related fatal crashes. That is something for which we can all be very thankful.

However, despite the progress we have made as a society, impaired driving remains a very serious problem in our country. People who are in no shape to drive continue to get behind the wheel. Some choose to drive after getting high or having too much to drink, but as this motion suggests, impaired driving is not limited to drugs or alcohol. Motorists who are too tired to drive are also impaired and can cause just as much damage as drivers who are drunk or high. The same can be said for distracted drivers, including those who text behind the wheel.

Impaired drivers of all kinds not only put their own lives at risk but endanger the lives of their passengers and everyone else around them. In fact, impaired driving remains the leading criminal cause of death in Canada—anti-social criminal decisions leaving thousands of Canadians dead or seriously injured each year. What makes this carnage on our roads all the more senseless is how easily these deaths could have been prevented. The risks are well known. The risks have been known for decades. The risks are common sense. Today, we would be hard pressed to find someone who would deny the dangers of drunk driving.

Sadly, it is a somewhat different story when it comes to drugs. Drug-impaired driving is actually on the rise. Almost 3,100 incidents of drug-impaired driving were reported by police last year, 343 more than the previous year. Overall, the rate of drug-impaired driving increased by 11%. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 40% of drivers who die in vehicle crashes test positive for drugs. By comparison, 33.3% test positive for alcohol. Figures like these show how crucial it is to get out the message about the risks and consequences of impaired driving, including driving under the influence of cannabis.

As we know, this past spring the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-45. Its overarching goal is to protect the health and safety of Canadians, keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, and prevent criminals from profiting from its production and sale. The bill proposes tough new measures to severely punish anyone who sells or supplies cannabis to young Canadians. That includes two new criminal offences with maximum penalties of 14 years in prison for those who sell or provide cannabis to anyone under the age of 18. These proposed measures complement a public education and awareness campaign informing Canadians, especially Canadian youth, about cannabis and its risks.

Budget 2017 directed an initial investment of $9.6 million for public education and awareness on this topic. The public education campaign has begun and will continue over the next five years, because there is an immediate and continuing need to set the record straight on a number of issues related to cannabis. The funds will also be used to monitor the trends and perceptions of cannabis use among Canadians, especially youth. Too many people are under the delusion that cannabis does no harm, which is completely false. Cannabis presents definite health risks.

Another myth centres on a person's ability to drive after consuming cannabis. We know that young people who test positive for drugs, alcohol, or both continue to be the largest group of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes. However, when it comes to cannabis, research shows that many Canadians, including youth, do not take the risks seriously. According to an EKOS study conducted for Health Canada last year, 27% of Canadians have driven a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. More than one-third of Canadians also reported that they had been passengers in vehicles driven by someone under the influence of cannabis. That number jumps to 42% among young adults and 70% among recent cannabis users.

The results of a national study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug Free Canada can help to explain these findings. It found that almost one-third of teens do not consider driving under the influence of cannabis to be as bad as doing so under the influence of alcohol. In addition, just over a quarter of Canadian young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that a driver is either the same or, sadly, better on the road while under the influence of cannabis.

The reality paints a far different and more gruesome picture. Among all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada between 2000 and 2010, 16.4% tested positive for cannabis, which is one in six.

It is clear that a large percentage of Canadians downplay or even flat out disbelieve the fact that cannabis impairs your ability to drive safely. That is one reason why Bill C-46 is such an important piece of legislation as a complement to Bill C-45.

Bill C-46 would strengthen Canada's laws to enforce a strict approach for those who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including cannabis. Among other provisions, it would create new criminal offences for drug-impaired driving, and authorize new tools to allow police to detect drivers who have drugs in their system.

In September, the government announced up to $274.5 million in funding to support the provisions of the bill. Up to $161 million of that funding is earmarked for building law enforcement capacity across the country. It will help law enforcement and border officials detect and deter drug-impaired driving, and enforce the cannabis legislation and regulations. That includes training additional front-line officers in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, and providing them with access to drug screening devices. It also includes funding to raise public awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

As announced last month, the Government of Canada is joining forces with Young Drivers of Canada to spread that important message. The project will involve the airing of public service announcements over the next year. Public Safety Canada and Young Drivers of Canada will also work together to share material through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels.

I think all of us in this House can agree that impaired driving is a serious problem in Canada. Awareness weeks like the one proposed by my colleague are another tool that we can use to foster good habits, recognize the dangers of impairment, and even to recognize impairment itself, because there seems to be some misconception about that, and to have safer roads and save lives.

I will be supporting this motion and I encourage my colleagues in the House to do the same.

National Impaired Driving Prevention WeekPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to offer my support and congratulations to the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for bringing this important initiative before the House of Commons. We will be supporting it enthusiastically.

I understand as well that the motion touches on issues that are quite personal for the member and his family, and I join with the member for Brandon—Souris in expressing my sympathy and solidarity with my colleague.

It is certainly my aim to support all measures that reduce the number of impaired driving accidents in Canada and by doing so, spare families the considerable pain and needless difficulties my hon. colleague and his family endured. Frankly, I would be quite surprised if any of my colleagues in the House would not support the motion. I would hope that despite our political differences, we are all united in our desire for the safety of Canadians.

With respect to criminal justice matters, the NDP supports preventative measures. If we can eliminate behaviours, such as impaired driving that precipitates such terrible outcomes, we can save lives and alleviate the heavy burden on our justice system as well.

Furthermore, I would suggest that awareness campaigns target young people before they are old enough to drive. We must instill in young Canadians the knowledge that impaired driving is extremely dangerous and can have dire consequences. We must teach our youth that it is selfish, reckless, anti-social, and immoral to take these risks with the lives of other Canadians. The sooner Canadians of all ages fully understand the devastating impacts of all forms of impaired driving the faster we can reduce the number of these senseless deaths and injuries.

We have seen that awareness campaigns work. Rates of drinking and driving have gone down significantly since such campaigns were launched. According to Stats Canada data, in 2015, the rate of impaired driving was 201 incidents per 100,000 population. That was the lowest rate since data on impaired driving was first collected in 1986, 4% lower than in 2014. Clearly, we are moving in the right direction.

However, in spite of a decline in impaired driving rates over the past 30 years, impaired driving remains one of the most frequent criminal offences and is among the leading criminal causes of death in Canada.

We have made significant strides forward, but alcohol-impaired driving remains a serious issue in our country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Canada had the highest percentage of alcohol-related crash deaths among the 20 high-income countries of the OECD in 2013. This reckless behaviour is unacceptable, given our knowledge about its detrimental effects. One death or serious injury caused by alcohol-impaired driving is one too many.

I had the opportunity, as a member of justice committee, to hear testimony from experts, like Dr. Robert Solomon, during its consideration of Bill C-46. The bill would allow police to administer what are called “mandatory alcohol screening” measures as a way to apprehend all drivers at the stop who are impaired. The bill would allow officers to test every driver at a stop, instead of relying on their subjective discretion, as is currently the case. More people are going to get caught and more people are going to be frightened about being caught. We hope as a result the level of deaths and injuries will go down.

The evidence is unassailable if we look at the European countries. As Dr. Solomon pointed out, this kind of testing will lead to less carnage and mayhem on our roads and highways. He said that when Switzerland enacted mandatory alcohol screening in 2005, the percentage of drivers testing positive for alcohol fell from about 25% to 7.6%. Alcohol-related crash deaths dropped by approximately 25%.

Therefore, along with adopting these sorts of effective practices, we must certainly continue our education campaigns and commitment to support police officers in their work to eliminate alcohol-impaired driving from coast to coast to coast.

I also now want to talk about the misinformation that exists around drug-impaired driving, particularly among Canadian youth. This is very troubling. We all talk about the dangers of impaired driving as if everyone knows it and it is well acknowledged, but there is a lack of awareness about drug-impaired driving among young Canadians, who are still the leading demographic for impaired driving.

It is imperative we take the necessary precautions to ensure Canadians have accurate information. In order to ensure safety, we have to address the misconceptions among young people and some parents that driving stoned, driving under the influence of cannabis, is somehow safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. An alarming percentage of youth actually do not think drugs impair their ability to drive, which of course is categorically false.

A document published by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction addresses this persistent misconception head on. Here is what it says:

The challenge is many youth do not consider driving under the influence of marijuana to be risky, unlike driving under the influence of alcohol. Some youth even believe that using marijuana makes them better drivers, but evidence clearly shows that it impairs driving ability.... [M]ore awareness campaigns that centre on youth are needed to deter them from driving while impaired, especially after using marijuana.

The idea that somehow driving stoned is going make someone a better driver is out there and it is a very dangerous idea, so one hopes the government will take the necessary educational measures to increase awareness of this problem.

Nearly one-third of teens do not consider driving under the influence of cannabis to be as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol. That comes from a national study by Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada.

Nearly 25% of parents of teenagers did not consider driving while high on cannabis to be as bad as drinking and driving.

I hope that, by dedicating the third week of March as national impaired driving prevention week, we can reach primarily young people. The timing coincides nicely with spring break in most provinces, and a little reminder about impaired driving at that time is obviously a good thing.

In addition to discussions around alcohol and drug impairment, I understand that Bill C-373 has been brought forward to address distracted driving. According to researchers Robertson, Bowman, and Charles: “In some provinces, distracted driving has reportedly been the cause of even more car accidents than impaired driving.”

With the exception of Nunavut, all provinces and territories currently have their own laws on distracted driving. Ultimately, it is up to the provincial jurisdiction to determine how we are going to implement these laws.

I wish to reiterate, in conclusion, that the NDP is entirely supportive of measures that prevent tragedies that result from impaired driving. If we can educate Canadians about the extreme dangers of all forms of impaired driving, we can reduce the number of people who are doing this and avoid future tragedies for Canadians.

National Impaired Driving Prevention WeekPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, every day across Canada we know individuals who get behind the wheel of a car and make that dreadful decision of driving while impaired. I would be willing to suggest that there is not a single member in this House who has not been either directly or indirectly impacted by an incident of impaired driving.

I know the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel has been an advocate for ways to reduce impaired driving since his own daughter was severely injured in an accident involving an impaired driver. I am so glad to see her here with us in the chamber today in the gallery. I applaud the member for all that he has done to raise awareness, and for introducing a private member's motion that would proclaim the third week of March, each and every year, to be designated national impaired driving prevention week.

Far too often we hear in the news about another incident or fatality because a driver made the dreadful decision of thinking that he or she was still capable of operating a vehicle or would not get caught. In preparing for this motion, it was heart-wrenching to read about what the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel went through as his daughter was recovering, as well as listening to his presentation here in the chamber this evening. If passing this motion saves one life, then it is worth setting in stone a full week solely for the purpose of highlighting impaired driving.

I understand that through the good work of schools, police departments, governments, and organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, individuals are being bombarded with respect to the consequences of getting behind the wheel after one too many beers or being high on prescription drugs or illegal substances. Police departments, such as the one in the city of Brandon, are constantly setting up check stops to look for those who think they can evade the law and put others at risk.

Many may be surprised to know this, but impaired driving in rural areas is far more overrepresented than those living in large urban centres. The reason is that in places like Ottawa and Toronto, or even in smaller communities like Red Deer or North Bay, there are available means of public transportation. This statistic of having more incidences of impaired driving in rural Canada should lead to a larger discussion on how we can make sure that impaired drivers stay off the roads and highways. Technology and innovations, such as Uber or Lyft, could in fact bridge that gap of having available ways to get home. Another program that has worked quite successfully is Operation Red Nose. For years, the volunteers of this very worthwhile program have driven thousands of people home from Christmas or New Year's parties, while also raising funds for many worthwhile causes.

The worst thing about discussing the topic of driving while impaired is that there are still some people out there in society who are more than willing to continue to do it, yet they do not think about the others who may get hurt because of their terrible life decision. Driving while impaired is one of the most selfish decisions that anyone can make.

There are some serious concerns out there that Canadians are not getting the message. According to a recent study, despite years of public messaging about the dangers of drinking and driving, Canada rates the worst among 19 wealthy countries for the percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment. Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study of various countries and found that while fewer people were dying from car crashes, the proportion of deaths linked to alcohol impairment was 34%, which is higher than any other country that it surveyed.

I am also pleased that the member has put forward in his motion that drugs, fatigue, and distraction would also be part of a prevention week.

Psychoactive prescription drugs can also contribute to impaired driving. Not every prescription drug out there will have the same effect on one's body and mind. In many circumstances it will impact drivers in varying degrees based on the length of time they have taken the prescription drug or the dosage. While alcohol and illegal substances are now at the forefront of any discussion involving impaired driving, we can never forget that more Canadians take prescription drugs than ever before in our history.

While there are particular stories involving prescription drugs that have made the news, such as the recent incident involving a famous golfer, it is imperative for all of us to shine a light on the inadequate amount of information available to everyday Canadians about the consequences of prescription drugs and their impact on one's motor skills. We also know there are countless instances of people being under the influence of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and crystal meth, which impact their body and brain just as badly, if not worse, than alcohol. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, the percentage of Canadian drivers fatally injured in vehicle crashes and testing positive for drugs now exceeds that of drivers testing positive for alcohol.

As parliamentarians, we must be fully seized with the unintended consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana. I have spoken at great length about my trepidations of rushing the July 1, 2018 deadline. While I am fully supportive of this private member's motion, I wonder if we should at this moment in time heed the advice of police chiefs, mayors, and provincial governments, who all say they will not be prepared by this date. Across Canada, police departments are scrambling to train and certify their officers as drug recognition experts so they can identify and charge those who are impaired.

If we at this time can reflect on the real life consequences of what will happen once marijuana is legalized for recreational purposes, all partisanship aside, it would be inappropriate to rush ahead until at least the training and equipment are acquired by our law enforcement agencies.

It is truly astounding that regardless of how many times people are reminded and taught about the dangers of driving while impaired, the numbers are not coming down as quickly as we would like. According to MADD Canada, over a thousand Canadians are dying in impairment-related crashes. While there have been great strides in bringing this number down, there is still much more to do.

We must never forget that only 50 years ago, impaired driving was in many instances a tolerated behaviour. Many of us have heard stories of someone being caught behind the wheel being impaired, yet sometimes being allowed by the police officer to drive home while the officer followed them to make sure they made it. Now in Canada, our drunk driving laws are some of the most heavily litigated in our judicial system, and massive amounts of resources are being applied to keep our roadways safe.

I know that bars, pubs, and restaurants are all doing their part in serving responsibly. I know that organizations are working diligently around the clock to lobby for stricter laws and new laws to deter reckless behaviour. The most powerful antidote to fix this problem is for friends and loved ones to step up to the plate and ensure that nobody operates a motor vehicle while impaired. Education and awareness must continue. I know there are many members in this House who have worked diligently on Bill C-46. I also know that police and RCMP officers are doing everything in their power to enforce the law and keep dangerous drivers from hurting others.

No person or family deserves to go through what the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel has gone through. I too know first-hand what it means to be directly impacted by an impaired driver. One incident is too many. We should never tolerate, under any circumstance, driving while impaired as socially acceptable. With that I will finish my remarks, and once again thank my hon. colleague for all his work throughout the years and for bringing this debate to the floor of the House of Commons.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I respect the member's office, and I thank him for his service for years as a police chief. He knows that I have three sons who serve in the police department, and as such, I have had much contact with the police force.

My colleague has passed me some information. I am not going to read that. The truth of the matter is that my eyesight is not good enough.

I do know that there is not a consensus among police chiefs. When we talk about Bill C-46 being the act to strengthen the Criminal Code in respect of driving, those steps are necessary and police chiefs would certainly agree with that, but I also know that police chiefs, police officers, and those involved in law enforcement have repeatedly said that at the very least, they are not prepared for this, and they do not have the tools or what is required to enforce this new legislation.

Municipalities would need a host of new equipment and much more money. These things have not been provided. That is a small point, but the member must also acknowledge that this is not a complete picture of what the police chiefs have been saying.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the remarks made by my colleague from Chatham-Kent—Leamington, and I want to bring some clarification to one of the remarks he made. I listened very carefully, and he said that police chiefs, in the plural, but unnamed, did not support the effort or believe that we were going to bring forward adequate measures to deal with impaired driving.

I want to quote the testimony of Chief Mario Harel, the elected president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who appeared before the justice committee on Bill C-46. He said:

We certainly commend the government for its commitment to consultation of stakeholders and the public. We commend the efforts of ministers, all parliamentarians, and public servants at Public Safety, Justice, and Health Canada who are dedicated to bringing forward the best legislation possible. All share with us the desire to do this right, knowing that the world is watching.

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

He went on to say:

Steps that have been introduced to reform the entire impaired driving scheme are seen as much needed and very positive. The CACP has called for such changes in the past, specifically in support of modernizing the driving provision of the Criminal Code, supporting mandatory alcohol screening, and eliminating common loophole defences. Tough new impairment driving penalties introduced in this legislation are strongly supported by the CACP.

This, of course, includes all the chiefs in Canada. Finally, he said:

We also acknowledge funding announced recently to support law enforcement for cannabis and drug-impaired driving. The government has been listening.

In light of this testimony from the head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, would the member like to comment on his earlier remark with respect to an unnamed chief offering some other opinion?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

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

moved that Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-45.

On October 13, I introduced two pieces of important legislation in the House of Commons. First, Bill C-45 proposes a framework for legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis in Canada. The second complementary piece of legislation, Bill C-46, proposes new and stronger laws to more seriously tackle alcohol and drug-impaired driving, including cannabis. I am proud to note that Bill C-46 has been passed by the House and is being studied in the other place.

I am pleased to speak again today about Bill C-45 and discuss some of the amendments that were carried during the Standing Committee on Health's extensive study of the bill. I would like to thank all committee members for their considerable amount of work on this file. The committee reviewed 115 briefs and heard from nearly 100 different witnesses, who provided their invaluable perspectives on a wide array of issues, ranging from law enforcement to public health.

Groups represented at committee included the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Criminal Lawyers' Association, the Métis National Council, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Public Health Association, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Officials from Colorado and Washington state also provided testimony on their states' experience in the legalization of cannabis.

After hearing from the witnesses, several amendments were proposed at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. I will speak to some of these worthwhile amendments in a moment, but first I would like to remind members what Bill C-45 is all about.

Bill C-45 would create a legal framework whereby adults would be able to access legal cannabis through an appropriate retail framework sourced from a well-regulated industry or grown in limited amounts at home. Under the proposed legislation, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments will all share in responsibility for overseeing the new system. The federal government will oversee the production and manufacturing components of the cannabis framework and set industry-wide rules and standards.

To that end, our fall economic statement of 2017 has earmarked $526 million of funding to license, inspect, and enforce all aspects of the proposed cannabis act. Provincial and territorial governments will in turn be responsible for the distribution and sale components of the framework.

Beyond the legislative framework outlining the rules for production, retail sale, distribution, and possession, cannabis will remain a strictly prohibited substance.

Division 1 of part 1 of the proposed act clearly sets out that many of the offences that currently apply to cannabis under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will continue to exist under the proposed cannabis act. This is very much in keeping with the recommendations contained in the final report of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation.

In its report, the task force recommended that criminal offences should be maintained for illicit production, trafficking, possession for the purposes of trafficking, possession for the purposes of export, and import/export.

I will now speak to the amendments adopted by the committee. Let me begin by saying that our government supports all the amendments adopted by the Standing Committee on Health. At this time, I would like to speak about five specific amendments that were adopted during clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-45.

First, the height restriction for cannabis plants permitted to be grown at home was eliminated. The 100-centimetre height restriction was intended to balance the interest to allow personal cultivation while safeguarding against the known risks associated with large plants, including the risk of diversion outside of the licit regime. The height restriction, indeed the proposal to allow even limited personal cultivation, attracted significant commentary both before the health committee and in the general public.

We understand the complexities leading to the task force's recommendation of a 100-centimetre height limit and accept the health committee's conclusion after it listened to several witnesses about the problems that such a limit might realistically create.

Our government agrees that this issue is best addressed outside of the criminal law. Should they wish, provinces and territories. relying on their own legislative powers. could address plant heights and if legislative authority exists or is extended to municipalities, they could do so as well.

Second, the addition of the good Samaritan provision will exempt individuals from criminal charges for simple possession if they call medical services or law enforcement following a life threatening medical emergency involving a psychoactive substance. Evidence demonstrates that individuals experiencing or witnessing an overdose or an acute medical condition are often afraid to call emergency assistance due to the fear of prosecution. A good Samaritan clause in the proposed cannabis act will help to ensure that individuals contact and co-operate with emergency services in the context of a medical emergency, knowing that they will not face prosecution for minor possession offences.

Third, the amendments to the Non-smokers' Health Act, provides flexibility to prohibit the smoking or vaping of tobacco or cannabis in specific outdoor areas or spaces by regulation in federal workplaces to protect people from exposure to tobacco or cannabis smoke. This aligns with the recommendation by the Canadian Cancer Society.

Fourth, courts will have the discretion of imposing a fine of up to $200 for an accused convicted of a ticketable offence rather than imposing a fixed fine in the amount of $200. This will ensure that the courts can consider a range of factors in setting the fine, including the ability of the accused to pay the fine.

Finally, an amendment was adopted to require a review of the proposed cannabis act three years after its coming into force and to table a report in Parliament on the results of this review.

Given the transformative nature of the proposed legislation, it is important that our government clearly communicates to Parliament and to the Canadian public the impact the legislation will have on achieving our objectives of protecting youth and reducing the role of organized crime. This will enable us as parliamentarians to determine whether future changes to the legislation are necessary to help ensure the protection of public health and safety.

I will now speak to the significant discussion that has occurred in relation to the treatment of young persons under the proposed cannabis act.

On the one hand, the Standing Committee on Health heard from witnesses, including criminal defence lawyers and the Canadian Nurses Association, who argued that youth possession of cannabis should not be subject to criminal penalties, because making it a criminal offence for a youth to possess five grams of cannabis would not deter them from possessing. It would only serve to perpetuate the disproportionate enforcement of laws on young, marginalized, and racialized members of our society.

On the other hand, others, including opposition members, have called for a zero tolerance in relation to the possession of cannabis by youth. Our government is mindful of the concerns raised in relation to the exemption of young persons from criminal prosecution for possession or sharing of up to five grams of cannabis and the suggestion that this decision is sending the wrong message to youth.

As I discussed at my appearance before the committee, our government has drafted Bill C-45 to specifically ensure that there are no legal means for a young person to purchase or acquire cannabis. Young persons should not have access to any amount of cannabis.

At the same time, criminalizing youth for possessing or sharing very small amounts of cannabis recognizes the negative impacts that exposure to the criminal justice system can have on our young people, particularly marginalized young persons.

Our focus aligns with what the majority of respondents conveyed to the task force; that criminal sanctions should be focused on adults who provide cannabis to youth, not on the youth themselves. This does not mean that our government sees youth possession or consumption of cannabis as acceptable. Our government has given much thought as to how we will keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and discourage them from using cannabis at all.

Our government has been encouraging the provinces and territories to create administrative offences that would prohibit youth from possessing any amounts of cannabis without exposing them to the criminal justice system. Police would be given authority to seize cannabis from youth with small amounts. Provinces and territories use this measured approach for alcohol and tobacco possession by young persons, and it has proven to be successful. We were pleased to hear that Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta have already announced their plans to create just such prohibitions, and we expect other jurisdictions to follow suit.

This approach is complemented by the other significant protections for youth in Bill C-45. The proposed act creates new offences for those adults who either sell or distribute cannabis to youth, or who use a young person to commit a cannabis-related offence. It protects young people from promotional enticements to use cannabis, prohibits cannabis product packaging or labelling that are appealing to youth, and prohibits the sale of cannabis through self-service displays or vending machines.

In addition to these legislative mechanisms, I would also like to remind members that our government will be undertaking a broad public education campaign to inform Canadians of all ages about the proposed legislation, including penalties for providing cannabis to youth and the risks involved with consuming cannabis. This public education campaign will focus on helping young Canadians make the best choices about their future and to understand the risks and consequences of using cannabis. This public education and awareness campaign has already begun, and it will continue to be an ongoing priority. To that end, last month our government announced $36.4 million over five years in funding for public education and awareness. This is in addition to the $9.6 million over five years toward a comprehensive public education and awareness campaign, and surveillance activities that we announced in budget 2017.

I will now turn to the implementation and timing of Bill C-45. Much has been conveyed about the timing of the implementation of the proposed cannabis act, with the suggestion being made that provinces and territories will not be ready, or that law enforcement will not be ready. Several witnesses at committee, however, rightfully pointed out that we need to act now. The Canadian Public Health Association responded to claims that we are not ready for legalization by advising the committee of the following:

Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of time, as Canadians are already consuming cannabis at record levels. The individual and societal harms associated with cannabis use are already being felt every day. The proposed legislation and eventual regulation is our best attempt to minimize those harms and protect the well-being of all Canadians.

Witnesses at committee further pointed out that there is always a perception that more time is needed, but that any delays would contribute to confusion among the population.

Our government agrees that we need to act now, and we have been working closely with provinces and territories on many fronts, including through a federal-provincial-territorial senior officials working group. The working group has been kept apprised of developments on this file over the last year through meetings via teleconference every three weeks, as well as in-person meetings. Most recently, a meeting took place here in Ottawa on October 17 and 18.

Since the introduction of Bill C-45, several federal-provincial-territorial issue-specific working groups have also been established to collaborate more closely on a range of complex issues, including drug-impaired driving, ticketable offences, taxation, and public education.

Our government recognizes that providing support to provinces and territories for this work is critical. That is why we have committed, for instance, up to $81 million specifically to the provinces and territories to train front-line officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of impaired driving, build law enforcement capacity across the country, and provide access to drug screening devices.

Our government is encouraged by the tremendous amount of work that has already been carried out in the provinces and territories. Many jurisdictions committed to and have completed public consultations on how cannabis legalization should be implemented.

Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Alberta have released proposed legislation and frameworks describing how they will approach recreational cannabis, and Manitoba has enacted the Cannabis Harm Prevention Act. Clearly, many provinces are moving forward in anticipation of the July 2018 time frame.

Recognizing that some provinces and territories may not have systems in place by the summer of 2018, our government is proposing to facilitate interim access to a regulated quality controlled supply from a federally licensed producer via online ordering, with secure home delivery through mail or courier.

Our government's intention is to offset the broader costs associated with implementing this new system by collecting licensing and other fees, as well as through revenues generated through taxation, as is the case with the tobacco and alcohol industry. Discussions with provinces and territories around the proposed taxation plan have already begun and will continue. As part of our consultations on this matter, we welcome the feedback of all Canadians to ensure that we achieve the goal of keeping prices low enough to put criminals out of business while helping to offset the costs of education, administration, and enforcement.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Canada's current approach to cannabis continues to contribute to the profits of organized crime, risks to public health and safety, and exposes thousands of Canadians to criminal records for minor cannabis offences each year. Most Canadians no longer believe that simple possession of small amounts of cannabis should be subjected to harsh criminal sanctions. I would like to conclude by encouraging all members of this House to support Bill C-45, as amended by the Standing Committee on Health.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 21st, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to rise and indicate from the outset that I oppose this bill for three main reasons that I would like to articulate.

First, the sentencing called for is excessive. Although the crime and its consequences are indeed serious, we reserve 25-year prison sentences for those convicted of first degree murder, not for theft of the kind referred to in this bill.

Second, the Criminal Code already addresses mischief that causes actual danger to life, where if this kind of claim is proven the result is already a life prison sentence.

Third, harsher penalties simply do not serve as a deterrent for those who may commit this type of crime. Instead of handing down harsher sentences, which ultimately will not reduce the instances of theft or vandalism, the NDP believes that resources should be focused on crime prevention to pre-emptively deal with the serious issue that this bill would purport to address.

I want to say at the outset that I agree entirely with the sponsor of this bill, the hon. member for North Okanagan—Shuswap, that tampering with life-saving equipment is a very serious offence. Stealing or vandalizing that equipment can have far more severe consequences than simply stealing merchandise from a store would suggest. I understand my hon. colleague's point in highlighting the issue specific to this kind of theft or vandalism.

We are mindful of the examples in British Columbia this past season, where a water pump and hoses were stolen from the Harrop Creek wildfire, northeast of Nelson. It caused a serious impact on the effectiveness of firefighting activities, posing a safety risk not just to the first responders but to the general public at large.

There was another example of vandalism destroying communications equipment near Creston, B.C. There it was radio equipment that was destroyed in a radio communications tower. Once again, that crime put the safety of firefighting personnel at risk.

However, other measures can be taken to address the theft and vandalism of firefighting equipment. We support preventative measures that can be used to curtail this very disruptive, dangerous behaviour. Focusing on prevention allows us to minimize harm and reduce the burden on our crowded court system.

Instead of relying on punitive action to address crimes that have already been committed, the more effective remedy is to reduce those incidents in the first place. We believe in working with first responders to fix the problem with increased surveillance of vulnerable areas and educating the public, particularly young people, about the harmful repercussions of tampering with equipment.

Reducing the instances of criminal behaviour is a far more worthwhile endeavour than throwing the book at someone once a tragedy has already occurred. If I may be a little colloquial, focusing solely on punishment is a little like locking the barn door after the horse has already escaped.

Before I return to the matter of discussing our reasons for opposition, I would like to take a moment to make a very important clarification. Impeding first responders from doing their job is incredibly serious. It has costly consequences. I would not want to the hon. member to confuse our opposition to the bill with a lack of support for first responders and the incredibly difficult work they do. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Before I hear any rhetoric about being “tough on crime” or accusations of who is not “tough on crime”, we are committed to policies and practices that work, not to sound bites.

Again, we are not disputing the seriousness of the crime at issue. We are simply in disagreement on the best way to deal with the problem. We know that first responders are the first line of defence against disaster. Whether they are firefighters fighting wildfires burning out of control or paramedics waging a war in the opioid crisis, we are here to assist them and bring forward policies that will help make their lives easier.

In British Columbia this past summer, as the member pointed out, we had what Premier John Horgan called the worst wildfire season since the 1950s. These are costly disasters for the natural environment, the wildlife that depends on the environment, and of course human life, safety, and property. Families lose their homes and the tragedy is obvious for all to see.

These wildfires are costing us millions of dollars and are devastating. More than 870 fires sparked across B.C. since April 1, scorching 5,090 square kilometres, and $211.7 million was spent on fire suppression efforts. We in British Columbia are looking to the federal government to do its share to help with financial reparation.

I will return to the specific provisions of Bill C-365, first with respect to excessive sentencing for theft and an unnecessary amendment. I understand the incredible emotional and financial toll these disasters have taken on Canadians. However, I have practised and taught law and when dealing with criminal matters, we always have to be measured, well-reasoned, and proportionate in our response.

Amendments to the Criminal Code must be undertaken with clear heads and a commitment to determine the best course of action to correct the specific problem sought to be addressed. Section 334 of the Criminal Code already punishes theft, including imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years in certain contexts. With regard to theft, therefore, the code is clear. I do not think it is necessary to include firefighting equipment in the list of things to be stolen.

That leads to the second point, where I consider the amendment somewhat redundant. If there is a case where one can prove irrefutably that tampering resulted in danger to the life of another individual, we already have “Mischief” under section 430. Where damages occur to property, or the like, or there is interference with people in the lawful use of their property, there can again be serious consequences, including imprisonment for life. We already have the tools to do the job.

Finally, there is no consensus that harsher penalties will serve as effective deterrents to those who may commit crimes. I will quote from an article written by Professors Doob, Webster, and Gartner in 2014. They stated, “At this point, we think it is fair to say that we know of no reputable criminologist who has looked carefully at the overall body of research literature on 'deterrence through sentencing' who believes that crime rates will be reduced, through deterrence, by raising the severity of sentences handed down in criminal courts.”

An Economist article also cited a review by Steven Durlauf of the University of Wisconsin and Daniel Nagin at Carnegie Mellon University, who found little evidence that criminals responded to harsher sentencing, and much stronger evidence that increasing the certainty of punishment deterred crime. We heard that loud and clear in the testimony at committee on Bill C-46 with respect to driving under the influence of alcohol or cannabis. They said in the summary of their article that “This matters for policy, as it suggests that locking vast numbers of people in jail is not only expensive, but useless as a deterrent.” That is what the literature shows.

In conclusion, there are already measures in place in our Criminal Code to ensure that truly reckless, life-endangering mischief is handled in the appropriate way. We have to work collaboratively with first responders to ensure that the public is aware of the harmful results of tampering with firefighting equipment. Awareness campaigns have had a powerful influence on the scourge of drunk driving. They may well be relevant in this context as well.

While all forms of vandalism are certainly to be discouraged, there is a difference here that must be communicated. We have to work with our first responders. I think it would be far more productive, therefore, to discuss ways in which we could provide better support to them than simply creating another offence. Once the damage is done, it is done. There is no going back to undo the harm caused. If harsher sentences with regard to theft are there, these do not necessarily deter would-be criminals. These are not the most effective way of addressing a very significant concern raised by this bill.

Let us do the hard work of truly supporting our first responders and helping them implement measures that would reduce these incidents in the first place.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2017 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-45 at report stage debate. This historic legislation represents a positive first step in the complex process of legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis.

Since the introduction of the bill, it has been emphasized that the approach proposed by the bill is grounded in the basis of public health and public safety, including the goal of keeping cannabis away from young people.

Consistent with the commitments to protect the well-being of Canadians, our government introduced companion legislation, Bill C-46, which targets those who drive while impaired by drugs. This distinct piece of proposed legislation would strengthen the criminal law response to drug-impaired driving and help to increase the safety of our public streets and roads.

In its consideration of Bill C-45, the Standing Committee on Health heard from the Ontario Public Health Association that “impaired driving is a leading criminal cause of death and injury on our roadways, and cannabinoids are among the most common psychoactive substances found in deceased and injured drivers in Canada.”

Despite having made progress in deterring and reducing the amount of alcohol-impaired driving over the past decades, statistics indicate that drug-impaired driving is actually increasing.

I am fortunate enough to be a member of the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights. We studied the companion legislation to Bill C-45, that being Bill C-46. It is obvious that there is a problem on our roads today with drug-impaired driving, and the problem under the current system keeps getting worse.

According to Statistics Canada, of the more than 72,000 police-reported impaired driving incidents in 2015, almost 3,000 of those were related to drugs. This may not seem like a large proportion, but when we consider that this is double the amount of drug-impaired driving incidents since just 2009, the upward trend becomes very worrisome.

According to a recent publication by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, 20% of cannabis users self-report as having driven at least once within two hours of using cannabis.

Another recent study based on the Victoria healthy youth survey in British Columbia indicates that 64% of males and 33% of females who were heavy users of cannabis reported that they drove while drug impaired.

The Ontario student drug use and health survey of 2015 reported that the percentage of drivers in grades 10 to 12 who reported driving after consuming cannabis was higher than those who reported driving after consuming alcohol. This survey further indicated that an estimated 29,500 adolescent drivers in Ontario alone drove within one hour after consuming cannabis within the previous year.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I find this to be very troubling. The fact that driving while impaired by drugs is currently a criminal offence punishable by a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 on a first offence does not seem to be a sufficient deterrent for an increasing number of drivers.

However, the penalty is not the whole answer anyway. What is clear to me and what the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates is that it is the fear of getting caught that acts as the real deterrent to impaired driving.

Given the current statistics on cannabis consumption before driving, I am fully supportive of the government's approach to strengthen the criminal law framework addressing drug-impaired driving. The proposals on impaired driving would authorize a new tool for police officers to better detect drivers with drugs in their body. These devices would determine whether a driver had certain drugs in his or her oral fluid, including THC, which is the impairing compound in cannabis.

The presence of THC in oral fluid is a strong indicator that cannabis was recently consumed and therefore provides useful information to a police officer who is conducting a roadside investigation. Again, what is essential here is that people will know they will be much more likely to get caught if they drive while impaired by cannabis. This will act as a real deterrent and keep our roads safer.

While reviewing Bill C-45, health committee members heard from the public safety minister who recognized “Essential to this new regime is engagement with and support for police and border officers to ensure that they have the tools they need to enforce the law.”

To this end, the government recently announced an investment of $274 million to support law enforcement and border efforts to detect and deter drug-impaired driving and for enforcement of the proposed cannabis legalization and regulation scheme.

Provinces and territories will be able to access up to $81 million over the next five years for new law enforcement training and to build capacity and enforce new and stronger laws related to drug-impaired driving.

The impaired driving bill also proposes new legal limit offences for drugs and driving. Once these offences are enacted, the crown would no longer have to prove that a driver was impaired by a drug if an analysis of their blood showed that they had a prohibited level of drugs in their body. This legal efficiency would provide a much more timely way to prosecute and punish those who choose to mix impairing drugs with driving activity.

I am pleased to note that one of the proposed offences prohibits certain levels of alcohol and THC which, as I indicated earlier, is a particularly impairing combination of substances. This proposed offence would send a strong message against driving after mixing cannabis with alcohol.

In my view, the proposals to address drug-impaired driving are a positive reflection of the government's broader approach to cannabis legalization in that they represent a cautious, public safety-driven response with the ultimate goal of public protection.

To reiterate the remarks of the Minister of Public Safety to the health committee:

...cannabis impaired driving is happening on our streets right now. The faster we get the right tools, the funding, the training, and the legislative and regulatory authorities in place, the safer Canadians will be. Legislative delay does not make the problem go away or get better.

At committee, amendments were adopted to require a review of both Bill C-45 and Bill C-46 three years after coming into force and to table reports before Parliament on the results of these reviews. This would allow the government to clearly communicate the impacts of the new legislation and to determine whether future changes are necessary.

I am pleased to recognize the substantial efforts of the government to fulfill two of its key platform commitments to legalize cannabis and also, importantly, to create new and stronger laws to apprehend and actually deter those who would otherwise drive while under the influence.

In conclusion, it is critical to underscore the objectives of Bill C-45, which is designed to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis. With the highest usage of young people using cannabis in the developed world, it is clear the current system is not working. We must make it harder for young people to access cannabis, take business away from criminals, and put public health and safety front and centre. That is what Bill C-45 does and that is why all members should support this important legislation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. It is precisely my concern with roadside testing for marijuana, which we heard all about in Bill C-46. The justice committee heard testimony from expert witnesses who said, as the member said, that the level of THC in the blood being measured with roadside tests had absolutely nothing to do with impairment. The amount of THC goes up in the blood, but it is only when it is out of the blood and in the brain that it actually impairs people. Therefore, these tests have no relation with impairment, and that is a real difficulty.

We have to find a different way for measuring impairment with THC than with alcohol. As he said, with alcohol, it is very different. The amount of alcohol in someone's blood is highly correlated with the amount of impairment, but it does not work that way with marijuana. As I mentioned in my speech, groups will be fighting Bill C-46 in court over just this issue. People will be charged for being impaired when they are not impaired at all.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was indeed a bit distracting.

First, we are concerned, as I think everyone here is, about the use of marijuana by children and young people, and recognize there must be no advertising of these products to them. We are happy to see that Bill C-45 recognizes these concerns as well.

Second, there must be a taxation strategy that produces a long-term revenue stream for programs that promote public health, education, and research. One of the big problems with the criminalization of marijuana is that it has made research into its effects, particularly its long-term effects, very difficult. Hopefully, legalization in this country will stimulate serious research on this critical issue and, hopefully, there will be sufficient funds provided by the government to ensure that this research can take place.

Third, there must be legislation in effect to deal with drivers impaired by marijuana. This is covered under Bill C-46, which has already passed the House. I stated my concerns about this issue during debate on that bill earlier. Suffice it to say that I was disappointed with the government's faith in roadside saliva testing, which will not relate to impairment at all and will undoubtedly result in charges being laid against people who are not impaired. I hear that there are already groups lining up to challenge that bill in court.

However, our main concern with the marijuana legalization route the government has taken is that it has not considered immediate interim decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana, or at least allowing discretion on the part of prosecutors and police not to enforce an unjust law. Here we have a government that was elected on a clear promise to legalize marijuana, and yet two years later courts across the country are still giving people criminal records for simple possession. On the one hand, the government is saying that using marijuana is okay, and on the other hand, it is ruining people's lives, often those of young people, visible minorities, and racialized Canadians, by giving them criminal records for using marijuana. It does not make sense. It is really a cruel injustice.

Also, it is clogging our courtrooms for no good reason. We are seeing more and more real criminals go free because they cannot get a trial in a reasonable time frame. We should be looking for ways to clear up the courtroom logjam, and stopping the prosecution of simple possession charges would be an obvious place to start. We should also be pardoning Canadians who have a criminal record based only on past convictions for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. These people have a very hard time finding work because of their criminal records and cannot cross borders, yet we are now saying that what they did was not criminal at all and, in fact, will now be completely legal. Let us pardon them so they can get on with their lives.

I want to change gears a bit and talk about some of the lessons we might have learned from alcohol prohibition. Marijuana became illegal in Canada back in 1923 at about the same time alcohol was illegal. Alcohol prohibition was rather short-lived and alcohol consumption was made legal again in most provinces by 1930. However, early regulations made consumption of alcohol not much fun. When I was growing up in British Columbia, there were separate entrances for men and women in beer parlours, people had to be sitting when they drank, could not listen to music, and certainly could not dance. Things have changed, and I think most people would agree that the earlier restrictions seem rather silly now, and certainly were not effective in curbing public intoxication.

Beer was once produced only by large, monolithic brewing companies, but now we have hundreds of small craft breweries springing up across the country. They not only produce good beer, but provide good jobs and diversify the economy of many small towns. In my riding, we also make the best wine in Canada. There are hundreds of small wineries in B.C. and Ontario, and a growing number in other provinces. The wine industry is a huge part of the economy in my riding, not only through the sales of wine but also by boosting the tourism industry that is so important in the Okanagan Valley.

What most people like about small estate wineries and small craft breweries is that they are small. They produce diverse products. People can go to meet the people who make the wine and beer. A lot of it is made from organic products, and many advertise the small ecological footprint of their operations.

A lot of my constituents say they feel that Bill C-45 will be like prohibition 2.0. This is not what they voted for when they voted for marijuana legalization. They do not want to buy marijuana from huge companies that produce huge quantities of product in indoor facilities that use a lot of power and pesticides to keep production levels up.

I recently met with a group of farmers and business people in my riding who want to grow marijuana on a smaller scale. They would like to grow outside, using sunlight instead of indoor grow lamps and heaters. They want to grow outside so they go organic. They will not have to use the chemicals needed to keep indoor plants free from fungus. They would like to grow co-operatively, each farming maybe a hectare of highly secure land and processing the crop at a central location for distribution. It sounds great. It sounds like the 21st century. It is allowed just across the border in neighbouring Washington state, but all of this would be illegal under Bill C-45.

In committee, the NDP moved 38 amendments to improve the bill and one amendment would have given the provinces the option to create their own licensing frameworks, such as those to allow for craft growers and small producers. The government side voted every one of these amendments down.

I agree that we need to legalize marijuana. We need to get the industry out in the open, away from gangs and organized crime. We need to tax it so we can fund the education, research, and health programs necessary to deal with drug use and addiction that are already so prevalent in our country. However, restricting the production of marijuana so tightly by making producers grow indoors and banning co-operative ventures, we will be incentivizing an ongoing black market that will defeat the original purpose of the bill.

Therefore, let us learn from alcohol prohibition. Let us not go back to 1930 for legalizing marijuana. Let us regulate it in a modern and intelligent way so Canadians who wish to use cannabis can do so in a practical, safe, and healthy manner.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-45, the cannabis act. I have been here since 2004 and it is probably one of the most badly written pieces of legislation I have ever seen, and there is some frustration on this side in that regard because we have heard the Liberals are going to bring in time allocation. For a bill of such importance and such reach within our provinces and territories, the requirement to have different Houses of Parliament coordinated on this is totally irresponsible.

I want my colleagues, especially on the Liberal side, to understand that there are certain important points to bear in mind in my speech. First of all, everyone agrees that too many kids are smoking marijuana. In my community of Oshawa, no one wants to see a kid who has a couple of joints get a criminal record or get thrown into jail. Most Canadians would agree with that, and that is why it is really important that Canadians recognize that the Conservatives favour making the possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offence only. This is exactly in line with the position of the chiefs of police. This is a responsible approach, one that Canadians would be very supportive of, but not of the bill that we see in front of us.

The Liberals claim that the status quo is not working, but how does the Liberal government define that? According to a Statistics Canada report dated April 2015, based on data collected from the Canadian community health survey on mental health, the total percentage of teens aged 15-17, which is the target group, reporting having used marijuana had dropped from 40% in 2002 to 25% in 2012. That is a 15 percentage point decrease. This means that something in the status quo is working, but why are the Liberals not telling Canadians about that? What are the Liberals saying? They are saying they want to legalize marijuana because it will it out of the hands of our kids and keep the profits out of the hands of organized crime. We agree with that. These are good ideas, but does C-45 accomplish that objective? Anyone who has read the bill would say no.

At the health committee we had scientists testify, and the science is clear. Any use of marijuana under the age of 25 can cause permanent psychological damage to our kids, and currently the bill allows kids aged 12 to 17, as young as grade 6, to possess up to five grams of marijuana, equivalent to 10 to 15 joints. That is ridiculous in light of the medical evidence of the harm it can cause our youth. There is no provision to prevent them from selling or distributing cannabis. The amount should be zero.

I am asked if a child in grade 6 could share it with younger kids. That is an important question. It is a great concern of parents and teachers. It would allow drug dealers to target kids and use them for profit.

Bill C-45 allows up to four plants to be grown in the home. Any home can become a grow op. Four plants under the right conditions can yield up to 600 grams or 1,200 to 1,800 joints. This is a concern for homeowners, landlords, law enforcement. Moreover, there is no mandatory testing for the potency or toxicity of the homegrown plants, and no money for inspection. There is no federal requirement to lock up the marijuana. This is going to expose kids and even pets to the drugs. Grow ops lead to a 24-fold increase in incidents involving fire. Landlords are concerned that they will not be able to forbid grow ops or smoking if they are already renting their properties.

Other jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana have said that home grows were hugely penetrated by organized crime. We know it from the science and the evidence out there. For this reason, Washington state does not allow home grows, except for medically fragile people who cannot get to a dispensary. It has been able to reduce organized crime to less than 20% of the market.

The legal opinion is that allowing four plants per dwelling will end up being challenged in court as well. The government has not thought through the bill. There will not only be danger in the homes of Canadians, but on the roads too. Drug-impaired driving is not addressed in Bill C-45. It is encompassed in Bill C-46, but a study recently issued by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction put the cost of impaired driving from cannabis at one billion dollars. The AAA found there has been a large increase in the number of fatal accidents in Washington state involving the use of marijuana after the state legalized the drug. In fact, impaired driving has increased in the American states that have legalized it, and there is no current instrument that can accurately measure one's level of impairment on the roadside. The science is not there yet.

Canada is unable to train our own officers in Canada and needs to send our officers to expensive, lengthy training in the United States, and this training currently has wait lists.

The legalization of marijuana will definitely impact our ability to trade internationally. Have the Liberals noticed that we are negotiating NAFTA? Do the Liberals think that having a drug policy way out of sync with our American neighbours will improve trade or thicken the border? For Oshawa and my community, this is a huge problem, as it is for other communities as well.

Let us look at the treaties. Passing Bill C-45 would violate three UN treaties to which Canada is a signatory. In order to legalize marijuana by July 1 and not be in violation of the UN treaties, Canada would have had to withdraw by July 1 of this year, and the Liberal government did not do that. How can Canada hold other countries to account on their treaty obligations when Canada does not even honour its own?

This leads me to this question. Why the rush? There are only 241 days to go until this arbitrary date that the Liberals selected. Provinces, municipalities, police forces, and our indigenous communities have stated they are not ready to implement this legislation. The government knows this; members have heard it in committee.

So many questions have been left unanswered. Will Canadians who use marijuana be able to cross the border into the United States where marijuana is still illegal? No department has been able to answer this question, and Canadians deserve an answer before the legislation is implemented.

How will enforcement officers test for drug impairment on the roadside? Can these tests be constitutionally challenged? Is the science valid? Canadians deserve an answer.

What education programs are in place now to inform youth about the dangers and consequences of marijuana? If they are not in place now, when will this education process begin? The health minister said today $43 million, but there is no timeline.

What will happen to the current medical marijuana system and how will recreational sales impact medical marijuana pricing and distribution?

Canadians deserve answers to these questions before the legislation is passed.

The Liberals talk about the black market. One of the stated goals is to eliminate the black market by creating a legal framework for marijuana, but this is a flawed way of thinking. A variety of factors are being left up to the provinces, such as pricing, distribution, which products are included, and packaging.

We need to listen to the real experts on the ground.

Assistant Commissioner Joanne Crampton, of federal policing criminal operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said:

As Kathy mentioned, organized crime is a high priority for federal policing, in particular, for the RCMP. We target the highest echelon within the organized crime world. We're very cognizant...and realize that the chances of organized crime being eliminated in the cannabis market would be.... It's probably naive to think that could happen.

Naive, that is what the experts say about the Liberal approach.

Our Conservative position is the same as the Canadian chiefs of police position, to issue tickets for the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. This approach is more sensible regarding marijuana possession. Instead of rushing to legalize marijuana, Conservatives are working with law enforcement to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Canadians would be spared a criminal record for simple possession of small amounts.

To summarize, the Liberals promised that they wanted to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids. They also promised that they wanted to keep profit out of the hands of organized crime.

My speech ultimately has proven that the Liberal approach is wrong. This bill would not accomplish what they are promising Canadians. This is like a big bill of sale. The bill would actually place children further in harm's way by permitting possession for kids as young as 12. That is grade 6. Home grow ops will expose children living in a dwelling to dangerous living space and increase the production of marijuana and diversion to organized crime. This approach will increase the rate of impaired driving.

The bill leaves so many questions unanswered, which has blindsided law enforcement and other levels of government.

The question is why the Liberals are force-feeding us this deeply flawed bill. The only answer I can come up with is that the government has no problem being deceitful to Canadians in order to keep the Prime Minister's irrresponsible election promise, muddying the water about the implications of full legalization under the bill.

Instead of blindly trying to keep campaign promises at the expense of Canadians' health and safety, perhaps the Liberals should refocus their attention on protecting kids and protecting the public, protecting our trade agreements, and not putting international relationships in jeopardy, particularly the one we have with the United States. They have had no problem breaking other promises, whether it is the balanced budget, electoral reform, or openness and transparency.

It is time the Liberals put the brakes on this legislation until the science supports the ability to ensure the health and safety of Canadians, particularly our kids.

Report StageCannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise this afternoon to speak to Bill C-45, the government's marijuana legalization legislation.

It is a little more than 200 days until July 1, 2018, and a little more than 200 days before the Liberal government plans to legalize marijuana in Canada. With a little more than 200 days to go, the provinces are saying that they are not ready. The municipalities are saying that they cannot be ready. Law enforcement agencies are saying that they are not ready and they cannot be ready for July 1. In turn, the government is saying it really does not care that they are not ready, because it is moving ahead with July 1, 2018, ready or not. Talk about irresponsibility on the part of the government. Then again, we are dealing with a reckless government that is prepared to put the health and safety of Canadians at risk, all so their pot-smoking Prime Minister can actually keep an election promise.

The issues the municipalities and the provinces face in order to deal with the effects of legalization are manifold. The provinces will have to deal with issues around workplace safety, employment standards, and traffic safety. The municipalities will have to deal with issues around licensing, zoning, enforcement, and inspection.

With so much work to do and so little time to do it, no wonder the provinces and the municipalities are saying to the government, “Slow down. Give us time to do what we need to do”. In that regard, some provinces have not yet even unveiled a plan, not even announced a plan to deal with issues around implementation and regulation of marijuana.

Lisa Holmes, who was the mayor very recently of Morinville, about 10 kilometres north of my home town of St. Albert, appeared before the health committee in her capacity as the president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. She indicated that 96% of urban municipalities in Alberta did not have bylaws or policies in place to deal with the regulation of marijuana in their communities because there was a lack of clarity about the breadth and substance of regulations, both at a provincial and federal level. I think 96% of urban municipalities in Alberta is not unique to Alberta. I think we would find a similar pattern right across Canada.

With respect to law enforcement agencies, it is clear they are not ready. They are saying that they are not ready, and they cannot be ready. The government has basically put them in an impossible position with the rush and the arbitrary July 1, 2018, deadline.

Let us look at the facts in this regard. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police indicated that in order to deal with impaired drivers and more Canadians who would be consuming marijuana, and in order to train their officers, there was a need for about 6,000 officers to receive training. That training takes about 100 days. The association is saying that it cannot take 6,000 officers off the streets for 100 days by July 1, 2018, that it is just impossible.

Then there is the issue of drug recognition experts. Right now, there are approximately 600 drug recognition experts in Canada. It has been said that there is a need for as many as 2,000 drug recognition experts to deal with the effects of marijuana legalization. When an official from Public Safety Canada came before the justice committee during its study of Bill C-46, I asked that official where things were with respect to drug recognition experts and where we would be by July 1, 2018. The response I got was that by July 1, 2018, there might be an additional 100 drug recognition experts. In other words, we would go from 600 to 700 drug recognition experts, when there is a need for as many as 2,000 drug recognition experts.

I know that a little earlier the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice alluded to the fact that this House had passed Bill C-46 in conjunction with this legislation, Bill C-45. One aspect of Bill C-46 is per se limits for THC levels for drug-impaired drivers. The only problem with that is that there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between drug impairment and THC levels. What that is going to mean is that people will get behind the wheel impaired and get away with it. They will get off because of the government's arbitrary and unscientific per se limits.

Municipalities, provinces, and law enforcement are not ready, and frankly, Canadians are not ready either for the July 1, 2018, date.

In the justice committee's study of Bill C-46, and when I read the transcripts from the health committee, there were a number of witnesses who cited various surveys and studies that indicated that a large percentage of Canadians, particularly young Canadians, have misconceptions about the effects of marijuana usage. This was recognized by the government's own marijuana legalization task force as an issue. The task force, in its report, recommended to the government that it have an early and sustained public awareness campaign. What we have seen from the government is not an early and sustained public awareness campaign. We see a campaign that is barely off the ground, with little more than 200 days before the July 1, 2018, date.

Do members know who else is not ready for July 1, 2018? The government is not ready. Its marijuana legalization bill, Bill C-45, is an absolute shambles of a piece of legislation. It is going to create more problems than it solves.

Let us look at the whole picture. Bill C-45 is going to make our kids, our roads, and our communities less safe. We have a government that has absolutely no plan in terms of a coordinated effort with the provinces and municipalities, Law enforcement does not have the tools and resources to be ready for July 1, 2018, and there has not been a sufficient public awareness campaign to get Canadians ready. Taken together, the government needs to put the brakes on July 1, 2018, and go back to the drawing board.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 9th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I will provide some reassurance to my colleague across the way when he speaks about the lack of legislation dealing with impaired driving. Just last week this House passed Bill C-46 at third reading. My colleague's party did not vote for that bill, but it would provide all the authorities now required to keep our roadways safe. We have included in that bill, which is now headed to the Senate, a promise to provide all the money that has been asked for and required to train police and to provide them with the required technologies.

The member mentioned that he is concerned about the lack of regulations regarding packaging, promotion, and advertising, etc. The legislation would allow for that, and those regulations are also under development. He talked about the public education campaign. Our government has committed $46 million for such training.

Finally, the member talked about expertise. About 18 months ago, we formed a task force. That task force had representatives and experts in public safety, justice, public health, and problematic substance use. The task force received over 30,000 submissions from Canadians across the country, over 700 written submissions, and held hearings in every region of this country, where it heard from hundreds of experts. Based on that testimony, the members of the task force provided a series of recommendations to the government, which took these very seriously. We have in fact engaged very broadly with that level of expertise. This is public policy based entirely on that evidence, and I hope that the knowledge of that will provide some of the reassurance my friend opposite seeks.