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Evidence of meeting #77 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 dre.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marthe Dalpé-Scott  Co-Chair, Drugs and Driving Committee, Canadian Society of Forensic Science
Evan Graham  National Coordinator, Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Let's say there's no alcohol.

9:40 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

Ultimately, it falls back on the officer being able to articulate in court why he took whatever action he took.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I don't want to be facetious, but you seem to have difficulty articulating specific characteristics or behaviour that would raise suspicion in the mind of an officer, who one would assume is properly trained, that the driver is impaired when there is no evidence of alcohol.

9:40 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

We could look at the person's eyes. Are they watery or bloodshot? Is the white of the eye pink? Is it bloodshot? Are the pupils dilated in bright sunshine? Are they constricted in darkness? Is the person fumbling with his documents? What is his speech like? Is the person answering questions in what we consider to be proper fashion?

There are a thousand different scenarios. We look at everything when we stop a vehicle. We check for, obviously, safety as one of them, but we also check to see if the driver is fit. Based on whatever indications you have, if you can tie it together and come to the conclusion that the person may not be fit to drive, that's when you would ask him to participate in a sobriety test.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Madam Jennings.

Madam Freeman.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

The training to become a DRE, a drug recognition expert, is said to involve a number of steps, that is conducting 12 evaluations and taking eight exams and two practical tests. Exactly what does that training consist of? To be able to observe and assess the pupils, you nevertheless have to have scientific training. Who gives that training?

9:40 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

The training was done by police officers who have been trained as trainers.

The first phase of the training is the standardized field sobriety test. During that time, the officers learn about the effects of alcohol and about how to administer and interpret the test. Then they participate in two alcohol correlation workshops. We bring in people and give them alcohol to the point that they are impaired. We then have the students test them under the supervision of an instructor to see if in fact the students are picking up the correct clues and are able to interpret those clues and put them at a blood alcohol concentration of over 80 milligrams percent.

When that course is complete, ideally we want them to go out into the field and utilize those skills to hone them, to get better at them.

Then they come back for the drug recognition expert training program. That consists of two weeks of classroom time. There are another two workshops during which they do more testing. During the second group of workshops, they check pulse and blood pressure as well as do the divided attention test. When that's all complete, they go out and actually test people who are under the influence of drugs.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Who's giving the test?

9:40 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

Again, all the tests are administered by the police.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Who gives the training?

9:40 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

The training is being done by trained police officers. This program was basically designed by the police. With a standardized lesson plan, specific instructors go and do the training.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

If I understand correctly, you're saying that police officers give DRE training. They teach how to take the pulse, blood pressure, and so on.

9:40 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

Yes, they do.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

It's police officers who give DRE training. They teach how to observe and assess the pupils and everything.

9:40 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

That is correct. The lesson plan for that has been developed in conjunction with medical practitioners to ensure that the things we're looking for are well within the capabilities of the police officer. That is to say, for pupil size, we use a card called a pupillometer. It has dots on it in half-millimetre increments. You simply put the card beside the person's eye until you line up the pupil size to match the dot on the card. That gives you the size of the pupil.

9:40 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Earlier you said that DRE training came from the United States. I'm trying to understand. You say that police officers give the training, but it must come from somewhere. It must have a scientific basis. Police officers didn't create the tests. Surely there are people from a number of disciplines who contributed to that, whether it be doctors, ophthalmologists or chemists. A lot of scientists must have contributed to that.

You're not answering my question when you say that police officers will train the DREs. It's the training as such that I need to understand, the training that you give in order to become a DRE.

9:45 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

The program originated in California in the late seventies, where two traffic officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were encountering more and more drivers who were impaired by substances other than alcohol. They spoke with some of their colleagues in their drug branch who had contacts in the medical community, and they developed a very rudimentary process. That process was initially studied at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and evolved over the years to the program we're using now.

The whole program falls back under the technical advisory panel, where we have medical doctors, ophthalmologists, toxicologists, lawyers, and police officers to put the program in such a fashion that trained DREs who've taken specific training to deliver the program as instructors can go out to train other police officers.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Madam Freeman. Thank you, Corporal Graham.

Mr. Thompson.

June 14th, 2007 / 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thanks for being here.

I have an age-old problem in regard to all of this thing. I'll give you a true story, and I'd like you to respond to how it's different now and how Bill C-32 would make a difference to this particular scenario.

Caroline Bergeson was sitting on a two-lane highway, signalling to turn left. She had her signal lights on; unfortunately, she also had her wheels turned to go left. She was rear-ended by another vehicle, which knocked her in front of a gravel truck, which...I don't have to tell you the outcome of that collision.

The volunteer fire department, which is in a small rural community where this happened, was on the scene, waiting for the ambulances to appear. The driver of the second vehicle that hit Caroline was slightly injured, and they, the volunteer fire department rescue truck, drove him into the closest hospital.

A couple or three days later, the parents of Caroline were informed that after testing and checking of the body, there was no impairment whatsoever, no drugs, no alcohol in Caroline, so that would give them some peace of mind that she didn't have them. That wasn't a problem in terms of what had happened. The parents asked, “What about the driver of the second vehicle?” Testing was never done.

Today, would testing be automatic? Would testing be required of the second driver?

9:45 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

No. This legislation would require that there be some indicators to show that the person may be impaired in order to follow through with an evaluation. Unfortunately, we don't have mandatory testing for persons involved in crashes, so without that component—Unless, again, there was something that would indicate the driver was impaired, they probably wouldn't have been tested.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

He probably wouldn't have been tested, yet today, five or six years later—I can't recall exactly—the Berguson family is still wondering if the guy who ran into their daughter and killed her was under the influence of a drug or alcohol. They'll never know.

This individual had the right to be protected from being examined for that purpose. Why?

9:50 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

Well, I can't say he had the right to be protected from it. Again, it would be up to the investigating officer to ascertain if in fact there are some indicators a person may be impaired. If that were the case, then an investigation would commence to see if in fact the person was impaired.

Oftentimes, especially in the case of a crash where the driver is injured, we can go back to the hospital records to check the samples that they took and in fact get a warrant to get them tested for alcohol or drugs. With the legislation in Canada, we still have to have some grounds to demand that or to follow through to investigation.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

So in that particular scenario, evidently they're saying they had no grounds, yet the volunteer firemen who were first on the scene have repeated to me constantly that in their way of thinking there was every reason in the world why this guy could have been under the influence of some kind of a drug. The police were—

9:50 a.m.

Cpl Evan Graham

That in itself would be a possibility.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

—a little later getting there than that, but they rushed this guy off to the hospital. Although his injuries were not fatal, he was injured, and they wanted to get him to the hospital.

In my office I have a number of people who have responded to me about their fear of Bill C-32 being so intrusive on the rights of individuals. Do you feel this bill is intrusive?