Mr. Speaker, I would like to dedicate this speech to Sheena, who was taken away from us some years ago by a drunk driver. The drunk driver had his licence suspended for that deed.
I start by congratulating MADD Canada. It is a Canadian organization of volunteers, people committed to trying to rectify a situation in this country that has grown to be very unacceptable. This is an organization in which many of the people have experienced the very problems and situations that have been raised here today.
The mission of MADD Canada is to stop impaired driving and support victims of this violent crime. What more honourable mission could there be?
One has to just do a reality check and talk about some of the statistics related to drunk driving. I know they have been mentioned here before, but I want to make yet another point on this, that 4.5 Canadians are being killed by impaired drivers every 24 hours, every day of the week. Over 300 people a day are being injured in Canada as the result of an alcohol related crash, more than one Canadian every five minutes. Impaired drivers killed 17,630 Canadians and injured 1.1 million from 1983 to 1991.
If those were by the hands of criminals with guns, if they were rapes or other types of malicious actions, laws would have been put in place long ago in this country to prevent them. One wonders why, after all these years of building up to this, we are at this time today in 1997 asking the House of Commons yet again to take action.
A bit before my speech I raised my concern and I want to talk about it again. We in the House must insist on action from government, from all members from all parties. But it is the government which is responsible for implementation. We in this country cannot wait, beg, hope, appease that something, somewhere, somehow will be done. If not now, then when? And if not here in the House of Commons, then where?
Not only has the situation of drunk driving affected our family deeply, but I have been involved in a number of cases in my riding of victims of drunk driving, even before I was a member of Parliament.
I recall a drunk driver who had a history of drunk driving charges. He was out on yet another binge, on a Sunday, when he drove through a chain-link fence at one of our school yards. I was the secretary-treasurer at the time. He killed several young people and severely injured others.
I recall being in the courtroom when his defence lawyer tried time and time again to get me to admit that it was a problem with the fence. It was the fence, he said, that was not strong enough to keep the drunk driver out.
He did not win that case. He served a very short time in jail. He is out, probably driving drunk again.
I wondered at the time why we were looking at the fence as the problem. Why would we sue a school district or any other entity for the actions of an irresponsible individual? Perhaps way back then I made my mind up to get involved in politics to change that shameless attitude.
I am happy to see that members of the House support this motion. It well explains how bad the situation is in Canada.
I am working with a friend right now who lost his step-son. He will be driving across the country in the spring, raising the awareness of the public about drunk drivers.
I would like to read from a letter which he recently sent to me. This individual's step-son was killed by a hit and run driver who was suspected of being drunk. We now know he was actually drunk. He says in his letter that court proceedings are in absolute shambles. There is no mention of cause of appearance. The charge appeared for two minutes. He was allowed to leave the courtroom free. Basically the parents were told nothing about it. This was just another one of those days in court.
He had previous convictions for impaired driving, going back to 1984. On six occasions his licence was suspended. My friend asks this question “Why is a person such as this allowed to drive again, and resulting in eventually killing somebody, my step-son? The law has to be changed. The law as it stands at the moment condones drinking and driving by the fact that a coward like this killed my son”. That is how these people feel. I know what those people are going through.
It is necessary once again to read into the record where Reform stands on this matter. There should be no doubt about what we believe in.
Reform supports strengthening the Criminal Code and other federal acts to respond to the serious issue of impaired driving. Our aim is to enhance deterrence and more suitably punish those who choose to drink and drive. A Reform government would lower the current blood alcohol content level from .08 to .05. We would extend or eliminate the two hour sampling time limit. We would toughen sentences for those convicted of impaired driving, higher fines, jail times and licence suspensions. We would establish minimum sentences and longer driving prohibitions for those convicted of impaired driving offences causing death or injury. We would ensure that parole is dependent on the successful completion of an educational or rehabilitative program. We would encourage the provinces to introduce random breath tests for deterrence. We would encourage the provinces to seize and sell the vehicles of those convicted of impaired driving while under suspension, with the proceeds going to an anti-drinking and driving fund.
I suspect things like this have been said in the House for many years. I know my colleagues mean what they say. We have worked on this issue. We have worked with groups across the country. It is necessary to emphasize in the House that it is time to act. It is not the time to sit back and tell a committee to take the issue, wallow around with it, hope it goes away and make some minor tinkering changes. We are long past that time.
I encourage my colleagues to put whatever pressure is necessary on those who make decisions in this esteemed place to get on with the job of changing the ability of drunk drivers to kill.
MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is looking for a victims bill of rights. I have some experience with that, having approached it not from the drunk driving angle but from the view of other victims of crime. It suitably fits in both places.
Unfortunately I have run out of time. In conclusion I would say that we must influence this place and get the job done this time.