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Evidence of meeting #76 for Justice and Human Rights in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was impaired.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Brian Hodgson  Chair, Alcohol Test Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science
Shirley Treacy  Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science
Douglas Beirness  Manager, Research and Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Tamra Thomson  Director, Legislation and Law Reform, Canadian Bar Association
Mitchell MacLeod  Executive Member, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association
Louise Dehaut  member, Alcohol Test Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science
Jacques Lecavalier  Associate, Research and Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

10:45 a.m.

Manager, Research and Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Dr. Douglas Beirness

No, that's only in the possession part.

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Is there no other definition in this section?

10:45 a.m.

Manager, Research and Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

No. That's the only one it's using. It's the only definition of drug that the Criminal Code is using here: schedules I through V of the CDSA.

Are you recommending that there be another definition of a drug for specific use with this section?

10:45 a.m.

Jacques Lecavalier Associate, Research and Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

If I may answer that, the definition that appears in CDSA is only applicable for the offence of possession; it is not applicable to the rest of the legislation. As it stands, the word “drug” is not defined either in the Criminal Code or in CDSA. That is why in our brief we propose that to make the definition clearer, the definition of the DRE program be used. We have provided specific text to that effect to the committee.

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Well, Mr. Chairman—

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

You have one more question, Mr. Lee.

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

It's just a follow-up. You're saying that there is no definition of drug for purposes of these other sections.

10:45 a.m.

Associate, Research and Policy, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Okay. Thank you.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Mr. Norlock.

June 12th, 2007 / 10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

This question will be for the toxicologist.

Ms. Treacy, probably most people out there in the real world, let's call it, have known for years that alcohol causes impairment, and the more alcohol you have, the more impaired you become, except perhaps in situations where some people are a little more resistant than others.

Tell me if I'm wrong. Canada is not quite the same as other countries. The law says that after a certain amount you're deemed to have too much alcohol in your system to be able to legally drive a motor vehicle, irrespective of your resistance to the effects of alcohol. Would that be correct?

10:45 a.m.

Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Shirley Treacy

That's correct regarding alcohol, yes.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Would it also be correct that, in toxicological terms, alcohol is a poison?

10:45 a.m.

Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Shirley Treacy

Well, yes. Actually, anything can be a poison if you take enough of it. Yes, your body does think of alcohol as a poison; it tries to get rid of it. Sure.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

So we know that all alcohol causes some degree of impairment and that the law says that after so much alcohol you are not legally able to drive.

10:45 a.m.

Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Shirley Treacy

That's a specific offence, yes.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Because we've studied alcohol to death in this country.

10:45 a.m.

Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Okay. So now we move on to some other problems in our society. We used to have an alcohol or.... And we continue to have problems with alcohol and driving. But we live in the real world now, and we know that our children, and many adults, some of whom occupy every profession in this country, consume other drugs—like marijuana, like cocaine—and numerous other prescribed drugs. I want you to tell me if I'm wrong, but from a toxicological point of view with respect to the behaviour of a human being who consumes them—and Mr. Lecavalier may want to step in—those drugs do have an effect on our motor skills and on our ability to do certain things, not the least of which is driving. Would that be correct?

10:45 a.m.

Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Shirley Treacy

That's true, yes. The drugs can be prescription or non-prescription drugs—things you buy in a pharmacy without a prescription, like Gravol—as well as illicit drugs. They can all affect your ability to drive.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

The current law says you can be impaired by alcohol or by a drug or by a combination thereof.

10:45 a.m.

Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Shirley Treacy

Yes, because in our context, alcohol is a drug. So it is alcohol and drugs or one or more drugs.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

The problem we're dealing with here as legislators—if I'm wrong, tell me—is that we've already said in law how much of one substance you can have to be automatically creating an offence. But—and am I right here now?—the problem we have with this current legislation, in some people's eyes, is that there is no scientific, toxicological or perhaps—I'm pretty sure I'm wrong as far as behavioural goes, but I stand to be corrected. The problem is we don't have any quantum measurements. In other words, after taking x amount of whatever, TLC or TCP, or whatever it is in marijuana or other drugs, at what stage are you impaired?

10:50 a.m.

Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science

Shirley Treacy

You're asking me if there's a certain concentration at which a drug will cause impairment. Is that correct?