Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Distinguished members of this committee, I am both pleased and honoured to have been afforded the opportunity to meet and speak with you today.
As was the case for our CACP president, Chief Mario Harel, who spoke with you last week, it is my first time appearing before the committee—any Commons committee, for that matter—and I consider it a privilege, if not somewhat bewildering.
The CACP has already provided the committee with its position on Bill C-46, a very technical bill, and it is not my intention to repeat what I consider its extremely thoughtful and valid insights. Undoubtedly, though, I will touch upon and reinforce some of those positions. My remarks will speak to some specifics, and I also hope to reinforce some overarching concerns and/or principles.
However, I first want to echo what my colleagues have already alluded to, that Bill C-46 contains some very positive changes that will serve to enhance the safety and security of Canadians as they relate to the scourge of impaired driving. Additionally, the recent funding announcement has, I believe, been well received by the policing community from coast to coast to coast and will go a long way as we prepare ourselves for what will flow from Bill C-45.
My comments to you will be my own, and from the perspective of the chief of a small to medium-sized police agency. Although I'm the vice-president of the organization, I am not here representing the New Brunswick Association of Chiefs of Police. Approximately three-quarters of all police agencies in Canada fall into the category of small or medium police forces and employ about 50% of the police officers across the country.
I'm going to suggest to this committee that what Parliament faces with Bill C-46 and the legalization of marijuana pursuant to Bill C-45 is what was popularized by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber as a “wicked problem” in public policy. It is valid in this instance to define this as a wicked problem, as Brian Head, writing on “Wicked Problems in Public Policy”, described it, because—and I'm going to paraphrase—there's no single root cause of the complexity, uncertainty, or disagreement, and hence no single best approach to tackling the issues.
You will undoubtedly have heard a divergence of viewpoints during your deliberations. Let me briefly touch upon just a few of the things I've considered when contemplating July of 2018.
It is my respectful submission that notwithstanding testing results from the oral fluid screening devices, the applicable science and/or application of the science is not ready. I believe the CACP has submitted concerns specific to the oral fluid screening devices that undoubtedly referenced language proposed in the act with regard to those devices.
Additionally, questions linger as to where and how the use of oral fluid screening devices will fit into the continuum or the regime of the “impaired driving by drug” investigations. Another question is, what is the correlation between saliva concentrations and blood or fatty tissue concentrations of drugs, and what level or levels will constitute actual impairment, from a scientific perspective, as compared with those we have for impairment by alcohol?
As we contemplated the science, it led us to wonder about the combination of alcohol and cannabis and/or other drugs. There's the additive effect, whereby simply the combination of, say, alcohol and cannabis—one plus one—will equal two. But there's synergism with regard to narcotics and drugs, whereby one plus one can equal five, because the influence of one compounds the influence of the other, and then there's potentiation, whereby one and one plus one, as you combine more drugs and/or alcohol, can equal something like 10. I just bring the potential and problematic issue of the cannabis cocktail to your attention during your deliberations.
It should be recognized that following the legalization of marijuana there will be an increase in impaired driving; the studies show that. I think I can say with confidence, and it will come as no surprise to you to hear it, that by and large police agencies are not currently prepared for what Bill C-45 may present us on our highways and byways. Even if all the stars align for us by July of 2018 and we are ready, it will be just barely ready.
By way of example, in New Brunswick the number of police-reported incidents of drug-impaired driving have increased 193% between the years 2008 to 2016, and there has been a 54% increase since 2013. We currently have 18 DRE officers in our province, with 100 standard field sobriety test officers. We have approximately 40% of the DRE officers that our province requires, and we are a small province.
With the injection of additional training dollars and hopefully the resources to deliver the training, if we were to somehow manage to even double that number over the next five years, assuming no attrition, we would still be behind in adequate numbers. If I have my facts straight, we are approaching 50% attrition with DRE officers since 2013 in this country.
I can only speak on behalf of the Saint John Police Force, but it has been my recent experience that sourcing, securing, and funding training is challenging with the travel required to disparate locations for the wide variety of training that modern-day policing necessitates.
Ramping up the numbers of standard field sobriety test officers, which I wholeheartedly support, will, as I understand the investigative continuum for impaired-by-drug driving investigations, necessitate at least a proportional increase in DRE officers. The concern, and I believe it is valid, is that the demand will exceed availability for training. It will be like trying to drain an outdoor Olympic-size swimming pool with a garden hose in a rainstorm.
There are other implications: lab-testing capacity, Jordan decision implications, and rank-and-file training of members at the front lines. As I stated, my colleagues at the CACP have presented its position to this committee regarding Bill C-46, and while we're supportive of the bill, I think they have urged a delay to its becoming law in July 2018. As it stands today, I would support that delay.
Procedural fairness dictates that the law is applied reasonably and equally, and in an equal manner across Canada. Procedural fairness presumes the resources to apply the law equally across Canada. In the potential absence or application of good science and sound and timely preparation, the courts might be left to define the process, standards, and best practices. With respect, this is a job for government, for the CACP, and for the community. It is patently unfair to expect the courts to do our job with potentially undesirable or unintended results.
I know a great deal of thought has gone into potential charter implications. If the legislation or regulations are couched in terms of complexity, adaptation, and this in fact being a wicked problem, and if adequate resources, training, and time are provided, we can be ready. I'm not sanguine to the possibility that we, policing, will get there by 2018, but I'm hopeful.
In closing, I would ask the committee to consider, as I'm confident it has and will continue to do, two guiding insights when considering this wicked problem. One, we must be very thoughtful and insightful in setting the initial conditions, the legislation. Two, we must design legislation and regulation to allow for constant, collaborative, and informed adaptation. As an example, I believe there is a current list of drug categories—seven, I believe—in the pending legislation. I don't draft legislation, obviously, but I simply ask the question: do we risk boxing ourselves in? Change will occur; we know that.
It is my earnest hope that we will get this right and we'll have the necessary time to get it right. Once the final product, the legislation, becomes law, the burden of effective enforcement and public safety will fall to the front-line law enforcement community. Training, adequate human resources, equipment, and solid law will be crucial. The burden can be a heavy one, and we in policing sincerely want to get it right.
I thank the committee for the invitation to be here today.