Mr. Speaker, I would like to divide my time with the member for Wentworth—Burlington on today's opposition motion about impaired driving. It is true that this problem has caused, and will cause, much sadness in our families. This motion is very important for all Canadians.
According to the statistics, there were over 37,000 cases of impaired driving in Canada in 1995; over 60 resulted in death and over 500 resulted in injury. These are the sad facts.
In the case of Quebec, we know that the Société d'assurance automobile du Québec is going to crack down on motorists. As of December 1, it will be bringing in the toughest measures yet. It is known that fear of the police and of reprisals has the most calming effect on motorists. That is why even tougher measures will be introduced as of this date for those driving while impaired. Drivers who take the wheel while their licence is suspended are also being targeted by the Government of Quebec.
Obviously, everyone wants the slaughter to cease. The finger is always being pointed at young drivers and, effective July 1, 1997, young Quebec drivers with probationary licences cannot drink any alcohol and drive, or their licences will be revoked.
As of December 1, the highway safety code will carry much tougher penalties. Those arrested for the first time for impaired driving will have their licence taken away immediately by the police, and revoked for one year. Repeat offenders will be given longer suspensions, from 24 to 36 months, and their vehicle will be confiscated when they are arrested. They will also be required to go for addiction treatment.
First time offenders will be required to attend the Alcofrein program. Previously, only those ordered to do so by a judge had to attend a three hour information session offered by the Department of Public Safety at minimal cost. The facilitators for Alcofrein make errant drivers aware of their actions and focus their efforts on destroying the myths surrounding alcohol:
I have recently become aware of an article by Isabelle Mathieu that appeared in Le Soleil on September 13, 1997. The headline says “Wake up before disaster strikes” and I would like to read a few excerpts:
Imagine just for one second that your last, slightly alcohol-tinged evening with the love of your life ended up in a ditch, with her dead. For the past two years, that is the horrible scene that plays out in the head of Francis Laroche.
This young man from Beauport, now aged 22, has not forgotten the tragedy, let alone accepted it. He has, nevertheless, agreed to talk about it for the shock value to all drivers who are still continuing to tempt fate.
On October 2, 1995, at 3:15 in the morning, Francis, his 18-year-old girlfriend and three other friends were coming back from partying at a bar in Sainte-Foy. Francis was driving, he had consumed three beers over the course of the evening and felt that he was in full possession of his faculties.
“Before we started out, I said to my girlfriend “Look, I'll blow into the breathalyser and if I'm over 0.08, I'll hand my keys over to you, no problem” recalls Francis. But the bar's breathalyser was out of order that night.
While the five friends were on the Autoroute de la Capitale near Pierre-Bertrand Boulevard, the vehicle in front of them changed lanes abruptly. Francis lost control—
Francis' girlfriend of a year was killed and his three friends were injured. He ended up with a cut on his head, and when he took the police breathalyser test, his level was 0.1130 over the 0.08 limit.
He did not, however, experience any difficulty whatsoever in performing the physical tests such as walking a straight line. Later, the Crown could not, therefore, prove that the accident was directly linked to drinking. In May 1996, Francis Laroche pleaded guilty to the charge of impaired driving. He got off with a $500 fine and a year's suspension. His description of this: “The fine and the rest of it are really secondary compared to the much worse punishment of causing the death of my girlfriend”.
There are stories like this every day.
The legal proceedings weighed very heavily on the young man, whose record had been clean before the accident. “When I was in the cell at the courthouse, I did not believe it. I could not believe I was there”, he recalls. “When I walked in the street, people looked at me. I felt everybody knew. I felt judged, even by someone who had been drinking and driving for 20 years”.
Can this be prevented? Since the beginning of June, alcohol has robbed over a dozen people of their lives on Quebec highways. In 1996, 412 people were killed, while 1,656 were seriously wounded and 6,250 received minor injuries. The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec has paid out $200 million in compensation.
“Delinquent drivers are a minority, but they do so much damage that we hear only about them”, points out Yvon Lapointe, head of the road safety department of CAA-Québec—
Statistics indicate that the number of young people driving while impaired is decreasing more rapidly than is the case for adults. Conclusion: prevention is really working with young people—
In imposing zero tolerance for impaired driving, the government is betting that, after three years of total abstinence when driving as part of the sentence, young drivers will have learned how to control their own consumption—
There is frequent reference to young people. And in the Quebec government's bill:
—young people are presented as irresponsible, incapable of learning caution. The message must be repeated loud and clear: it is only a small minority of young people who drive dangerously and risk causing accidents. In their case, something drastic must be done, I agree. But not in the case of the 97.4 per cent of young drivers who have not been involved in injury-causing accidents, whose only crime is being born after 1972.
We all have a driver's licence. The renewal form asks clearly: “Do you wear glasses?” It also asks if we suffer from any illnesses. But I want to go further. This motion introduced by the Reform Party member is important.
Perhaps there would be agreement on 0.03, 0.05, but I still say the Government of Canada should require zero tolerance for several years after a second offence, as is the case for young people in Quebec.
Drivers of snowmobiles, tractors, motorcycles and boats should not be left out. The police should also be allowed to do their job. When examining the driver's licence of someone they have stopped, they could see the code on it, as they now do for glasses. There would be a code for those with zero tolerance. This would perhaps be a way to reduce the number of accidents.
We will not go that far. In September, and there are accidents every week, in the municipality of Val d'Or in my riding, we lost a young leader, a man by the name of Jean Godbout, who was knocked down by someone over the age of 40 driving in the downtown area. This was a married man with two young children. His mother had already lost one son in the Balmoral mine accident in Abitibi.
This brings sorrow to all families. I understand, and we all understand, that you have just lost the people on whom you counted the most, those close to you. The hardest part about these accidents is saying goodbye to a friend. On behalf of all families, I say that there must be an end to this slaughter in Canada.
Following discussions, and with the consent of all parties in the House, I move:
That the motion be amended:
(a) by deleting the words “a legislative committee” and substituting therefor the words: “the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights”; and
(b) by changing the period at the end to a semi-colon and adding the following: “and that the said Committee, when so instructed, submit its report to the House no later than May 15, 1998.”
This amendment is a clear indication of the commitment of all members in the House.