Mr. Speaker, officially this is my maiden speech.
I thank the people in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for giving me another opportunity to represent them in this House. For all of us it is an enormous responsibility and an enormous honour to finally be in this arena where we can fight to make our country a better place. I know all of us here are grateful for this. I am extraordinarily grateful to the people of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for giving me that opportunity.
I also thank my colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley who has done a yeoman's job for years, in the last Parliament and now in this one, in fighting for this issue. It is perhaps one of the greatest social issues which extends across boundaries from coast to coast. It affects health. It affects welfare. It affects human beings in so many different areas. In fact it has been somewhat of a silent horror in our midst for many years. My colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley has stood out there, and not alone as we have been backing him, as the point person in fighting for this issue.
Drunk driving is a problem and social ill that costs us over $7 billion per year. As I mentioned in the question to my colleague, it kills over four people every day and injures over 300 people every single day. It has a social cost that goes way beyond that because it affects the family.
I would like to recite a personal situation. When I was working in the emergency department of a hospital in the the riding of my colleague for Prince George—Bulkley Valley, a code blue was called which is a major trauma. An individual was brought in with massive head injuries. He was dying. We could not save this young man.
Shortly thereafter the driver of the car was brought in, absolutely drunk. This individual refused treatment, refused to communicate with us, refused to have a blood alcohol sample taken. At the crash site this individual was trying to drag his nearly deceased friend into the driver's side so the deceased would be the culprit and he would be free.
The difficulties for the police in trying to prosecute this individual were massive. For example they had to observe the blood being taken. It had to be done in a certain fashion. It had to be done within two hours of the accident. If any of those are broken, in the words of a defence attorney who said to me “I am smart. I can get any of these guys off on a technicality”. What kind of message does this send? What kind of judicial system do we have in this country that allows somebody to murder their friend, because that is what it is when you drive a car and you are drunk, and then allows them to get off on a technicality? That hole has to be repaired.
And it is not just one hole, there are many. The justice system we have today has numerous little loopholes that enable people who are guilty of committing murder through drunk driving to get off. This has to change.
My colleagues in the Reform Party have put forth many constructive suggestions to the government. I will name a few. I ask the hon. justice minister to listen to them and adopt these suggestions.
One, when blood is extracted that it can be done in greater than two hours, four hours for example.
Two, that the blood alcohol level be dropped to 55 milligrams per decilitre instead of the 80 milligrams per decilitre which it is today, in terms of defining somebody who is impaired.
Three, that when there is a situation where somebody is involved in a serious traffic accident, a blood sample can be taken automatically.
Four, that if somebody refuses to have a blood sample taken, they will be levelled with a criminal charge of refusal to submit. If someone is innocent they should not have a problem with this. The only reason they would want to refuse was if they were guilty, is it not?
Five, we have to remove the barriers to police officers and enable them to do their job.
Drunk driving is a little window of insight into the difficulties the police have in performing their duties. For example, if an individual is caught driving while drunk, it takes about six hours of the police officer's time to engage in the paperwork in order to prosecute them. Six hours off the beat. Six hours of not being able to find and prosecute criminals. Six hours of time that could be better spent doing something productive and keeping our streets safe. That has to change. The paperwork police officers are mired in today prevents them from doing their jobs and keeping our streets safe.
Six, we have to have a victims bill of rights.
Our house leader put forward a private members bill, a victims bill of rights which the government refused to adopt. This bill of rights is rooted in fairness and sensitivity to the victims. For too long the justice department has taken into consideration the rights of the criminal and in many cases has ignored the rights of the victim. That is going to change. It must change.
We have put forth in two successive Parliaments constructive suggestions, two victims bill of rights that would protect victims during court proceedings. Many suggestions are very constructive.
For example, victims must be kept informed of all proceedings. Victims must have the right to be heard at every stage of the judicial system. Victims must be informed of when and what charges are going to be laid. Victims must have the right to be protected from intimidation. Victims must be able to have time off in order to attend court and that they do not have to bear an economic penalty during the course of their ordeal. There must be no plea bargaining or charges dropped unless the victim is aware of it. Victims must be made aware of the support services available to them.
This is not complex. This is rooted in fairness. Again it is the innocent victims who have been violated through no fault of their own. The least we can do as a caring, sensitive society is afford them the same consideration as we afford the criminals.
My colleague from Lisgar mentioned the aspect of education. Too often we ignore that. We have to address the children early on and the earlier the better. If the education system is involved not only on the issue of alcohol, but also drugs and other aspects of drunk driving and criminal activity, that will have an impact. There are some remarkably effective programs which have been created not only in this country but also in the United States.
Drunk driving is a social ill. People make mistakes. However we must have the legislative framework to enable us to do what we can to ensure that this massive social problem decreases. We cannot ignore the problem any longer.
In the last Parliament very little time was spent on this problem, yet it walks across the social spectrum. It waltzes across many different ministries. It is something which we must be concerned about.
One need not look any further than the victims. It is not only the person who is injured in a car accident who pays the price. Their families, friends and loved ones pay a price too.
I hope that we in this House can take it upon ourselves to support the very fine motion presented by the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley. I am sure there will be unanimous support for it.