Distinguished members of this committee, as president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, I am pleased to be given the opportunity to meet each of you today. This is my first time as president of the CACP to appear before you, and I am privileged to see so many familiar faces.
You just introduced my colleagues here at the table. I'd like to point out that Chief Superintendent Charles Cox is our chair of the CACP traffic committee, and Superintendent Gord Jones is from the Toronto Police Service. He's our immediate past chair of the same committee. Madam Malashenko is the legal counsel for the Ottawa Police Service and a member of our law amendments committee.
We are here to provide our expertise on this very important issue. The mandate of the CACP is safety and security for all Canadians through innovative police leadership. This mandate is accomplished through the activities and special projects of some 20 committees and through active liaison with various levels of government. Ensuring the safety of our citizens and our communities is central to the mission of our membership, which represents municipal, regional, provincial, and federal police services.
Bill C-46 is a very detailed and technical bill, and as a result, I will address it from a high level on our opening statement. In addition to our appearance here today, we are providing you with a more detailed brief, which outlines our position on the bill.
I would like to make some general comments to provide perspective as to the impact of this bill on policing. Our role from the beginning has been to share our expertise with the government to help mitigate the impact of such legislation on public safety. Extensive discussions within the CACP membership and various committees formed the basis of our advice. We participated in a number of government health consultations and provided a submission to the federal task force. Members of the CACP also were involved in the oral fluid drug screening device pilot project.
We produced two discussion papers entitled “CACP Recommendations of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation” on February 8, 2017 and “Government Introduces Legislation to Legalize Cannabis” on April 28, 2017. Both discussion papers can be found on our website.
The recommendations we are providing here today are not intended to dispute the government's intention of restricting, regulating, and legalizing cannabis use in Canada.
There is no doubt that the primary concern of policing in Canada is impaired driving. This is a significant issue today. It is our belief that it will become an even greater issue with the legalization of cannabis.
In fact, I want to be clear. 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 a 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.
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.
We also acknowledge funding announced recently to support law enforcement for cannabis and drug-impaired driving. The government has been listening.
The natural question would be why those in policing would have a concern with the July 2018 start date. The problem exists today; what will be different with legalization? What does policing need in order to successfully implement and operationalize legalization?
The question many in policing have is what level of readiness the government, and more importantly, our communities, expect law enforcement to deliver. We can be ready at some level July 2018, but are we delivering on the public safety objectives Canadians would expect of us? We are 10 months away, so allow me to put this into perspective.
We have 65,000 police officers in Canada who require training to understand the new legislation once it is passed into law. Standards for oral fluid drug screening devices are being developed. Devices are yet to be screened against standards approved by the Attorney General of Canada and made available to law enforcement to allow for implementation and training. Provincial governments for the most part are still developing regulatory and delivery schemes, which directly impact law enforcement.
While funding has been announced, details regarding how the funding will be allocated through the provinces and into the municipal police services' hands remain unclear. We need that to meet the training and implementation objectives. We clearly require many more officers trained in standard field sobriety testing and as drug recognition experts. Quite frankly, the capacity currently is not there to deliver the amount of training required.
Although the RCMP has recently conducted pilots in Canada, DRE accreditation currently involves sending officers to the United States at significant cost and based on availability of courses. We asked the government to come forward with a commitment and details to develop Canadian-based training for our officers, including reducing or eliminating the reliance on the practical training portion that is predominantly only available in the United States. We need to increase forensic laboratory capacity to process bodily fluids and sustain our ability to enforce this legislation.
This represents just a snapshot of what confronts law enforcement as we move forward. We remain hopeful that many of these issues will be clarified and/or resolved over the coming months, laying the groundwork needed to support effective and efficient enforcement of these new laws. What really concerns policing overall is that, quite frankly, Canadians have not been getting the message when it comes to impaired driving, whether that be by alcohol or drugs, and it remains a leading criminal cause of death in Canada.
We recognize and commend the government's tougher legislation in this area. However, current perceptions and attitudes toward drug-impaired driving must change, especially among our youth. Greater education in this area should have started long ago. We need to drive home the message that alcohol and/or drugs and driving don't mix.
We are crossing new territory. Like you, we want to see this comprehensive legislation implemented successfully and recognize that doing it right is more important than doing. We all have a responsibility to mitigate the impact on public safety. That is our foremost goal from a policing perspective.
Again, our written submission flags some of the challenges, considerations, and recommendations that we hope will assist in making this bill even stronger. In all, we support the proposed measures, with some amendments. We continue to stress the importance of public education, and the policing community is eager to advance training incentives so that it can effectively support enforcement and public safety goals.
Sincere thanks are extended, Mr. Chair, to all members of this committee for allowing the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police the opportunity to comment and make suggestions on Bill C-46. We look forward to answering any of your questions.