House of Commons Hansard #241 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was magazines.


Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, it is with a profound sense of regret that I rise to debate the amendments to Bill C-55 which the government introduced in its attempt to appease American discontent.

Members of this House have explored the merits of Bill C-55 for well over six months. We met with countless individuals who voiced their opinions on how this piece of legislation could help ensure the long term viability of Canada's magazine industry in light of the increased presence of periodicals coming in from our international trading partners. We also heard many dissenting opinions from those who stood to be most adversely affected by the implementation of this piece of legislation. Throughout these deliberations, one thing remained constant: the Minister of Canadian Heritage's supposedly undeterred conviction that Canada must stand up to U.S. pressure by continuing to protect Canada's magazine industry against unfair trading practices associated with U.S. split-run magazines.

We can all recall the minister's impassioned pleas calling upon all Canadians to rally against the bullying tactics of the U.S. and stand up for Canada's magazine industry so that her daughter would have an opportunity to read Canadian stories that are actually written by Canadians.

I must admit that I was even convinced that the minister was sincere in her commitment to protect Canadian culture. Like so many other Canadians, I found out that putting faith in the minister's convictions was indeed a mistake.

Despite serious threats of U.S. retaliation and the subsequent pressure all MPs must have received from concerned constituents, all federal political parties, except the Reform Party, agreed that Canadian culture was indeed worth standing up for. It is ironic that the minister who so vociferously criticized the U.S. bullying tactics during this dispute is the very minister who would succumb to their pressure.

What is now truly unbelievable is the fact that the minister is claiming victory with this agreement with the U.S. when in fact we all know she has effectively sacrificed Canada's magazine industry because she did not believe strongly in Canadian culture. Not only did the minister tell her own daughter that Canadian culture is worth sacrificing if it means keeping American interests happy, she has sent a message to the rest of Canada that what we once held as sacred in this country has now become just another commodity worth trading in the open market.

The decision to support Bill C-55 was not an easy one. We all feared possible reprisals by the Americans against Canadian industries. No one was interested in a war with the Americans.

We nonetheless supported the bill because we thought it was important for us, as an autonomous country, to safeguard our culture.

We are really disturbed to see the federal government abandoning our Canadian publications when, in the past, lawmakers worked so hard to preserve them.

When it became painfully apparent that the government was wavering in its commitment to Bill C-55, representatives of Canada's magazine industry suggested to the federal government that allowing U.S. magazines anything above 10% Canadian advertising without having to produce any Canadian content would seriously imperil a number of Canadian periodicals. Despite this warning the federal government agreed to provide U.S. magazines with 18% free access to Canadian advertising before having to produce any Canadian content.

In light of the government's capitulation on its original commitment to stand by Bill C-55 as passed in the House of Commons, it should not have come as any surprise to our magazine industry that its government would give U.S. interests a major portion of Canada's advertising revenue. Even the government recognizes the huge impact its decision is going to have on our Canadian magazine industry, so much so that it has announced its intention to provide magazines that are most affected with some kind of a subsidy.

No one knows any of the details associated with this subsidy. How much money will be available for our Canadian magazine publishers? Who will qualify for this subsidy? On what basis will the government allocate funds to the industry? How long can our magazine industry depend on having access to this subsidy?

Questions addressed to the minister have resulted in the response that the government is working on it. Basically the government is asking us to trust it. It all comes down to credibility.

I think it is obvious the Minister of Canadian Heritage has lost credibility within her own cabinet. She has certainly lost credibility with Canada's magazine industry. More specifically, she has lost credibility among Canadians across the country. It is plain and simple. The Minister of Canadian Heritage has turned her back on Canada's magazine industry and more specifically on Canadian culture.

I look back to when the minister stood before us in this House and gave impassioned speeches on how we must protect Canadian culture. I find it very difficult to comprehend that this was indeed the same minister who most recently sat before the media to announce that her government had succumbed to U.S. pressure and that she was prepared to sacrifice our Canadian magazine industry to appease U.S. demands. Perhaps I was a little naive.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I regret to interrupt the hon. member. When the bill is debated again he will have about 14 minutes remaining in his time.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

moved that Bill C-482, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to present a private member's bill before the Chamber. It is the first opportunity I have had to do so since being elected two years ago, almost to the day. It is the first time I have been successful in winning the lottery and being able to propose a course of action for parliament.

Given that it is my first opportunity, I am pleased that I am able to present a bill today which deals with a matter very close to my heart and of grave concern to members on all sides of the House. It is a matter pertaining to the question of children's health and well-being and the question of ensuring that we work now to ensure that our children are healthy today so that they can contribute to society in the future.

Bill C-482 is designed to introduce changes to the Hazardous Products Act with the specific purpose of safeguarding our children from toxic additives in toys and other children's items.

It is a pleasure to introduce a private member's bill that would prohibit the sale of children's toys containing lead, cadmium or phthalate.

We are here today dealing with the matter of children's health. We are also here today dealing with the matter of the fundamental responsibility of our government and, in particular, the fundamental responsibility of the health protection branch.

Over the past number of years we have raised numerous concerns about the very serious question of whether or not this aspect of government is doing its utmost to ensure that the food we eat, the water we drink, the drugs we have to take and the toys we play with are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

We have raised many concerns about whether or not the health protection branch is fulfilling that fundamental objective. We have also raised many concerns about its apparent readiness to offload that responsibility on to consumers without adequate information and on to industry, which is obviously concerned first and foremost about promoting its products.

We are here once again this evening trying to fill what would appear to be yet another gap in our health protection system created by the government's failure to stand up for children's health.

This is not the first time New Democrats in the House have spoken about toxins in children's products. This is one of the first issues I brought to the attention of the government after being elected to the House and have raised repeatedly since then, particularly as evidence mounted about the dangers to children's health.

About two years ago the member for Acadie—Bathurst introduced a motion that would have required a label so parents could tell which items contained harmful substances. Despite broad support for that motion it was unfortunately defeated by a majority of Liberal members.

The question today is why those members did not want to step in to protect children's health. It used to be that the argument of ignorance could be made. We used to be able to plead ignorance because many did not realize there were toxins in children's products, but for some time now we have become acutely aware of what dangers are in store for children when they play and chew on certain toys and products. We have become acutely aware of three dangerous toxins: lead, cadmium and phthalates, which is a softener used in PVC plastics.

Lead is a well known neurotoxin which scientists have been studying for many years. We know from all the studies that there is no safe level. Cadmium is an even more dangerous neurotoxin. It is also a renal toxin and a carcinogen. Phthalates have been linked in animal testing to liver and kidney damage and to reproductive developmental problems. All these toxins pose a special threat to children and are addressed in the bill.

The devastating effects of these substances on children are well documented. With new information and improved testing, we can no longer plead ignorance. There is no excuse for exposing our children to these risks.

This bill would do what the government has not done to date: protect our children.

Rigorous independent science, truly independent science not paid for by any manufacturer, has found that lead and cadmium are so toxic that even low levels can cause irreparable harm to children's intellectual and behavioural development, including attention levels.

Children are quite obviously smaller than adults and what may be a safe level for adults can be too much for a child. Phthalates as well seep or leach out of products when subjected to normal treatment by young children.

I am not just talking about babies or infants. With infants everything goes into the mouth where it is chewed and sucked on. With older children necklaces and other objects get mouthed more as a habit. In this normal mouthing toxins, and phthalates are particularly vulnerable to this, seep or leach out of the product into the saliva and are consumed and absorbed by the body.

As I said, this is not news any more. Health Canada has actually recognized the danger of these substances. In June 1996 it issued a warning about household vinyl mini-blinds out of concern that children would ingest dust as these products broke down in the sun.

In April 1998 there was another warning of children's jewellery that contained a high 1,002 parts per million of lead. In November last year there was another warning of phthalates in children's items. In that same month the European Union authoritative scientific committee on toxicity, ecotoxicity and the environment also warned about phthalates.

There is no secret about toxins, but like virtually any subject there are opposing views. We need only think back to the reams of scientific studies financed by the tobacco industry over the years proving conclusively that there were no links between smoking and cancer.

What do leading children's advocates have to say on this matter? In acknowledging the words and support of some of these organizations, I want to pay a special tribute to individuals and organizations that have been particularly helpful in putting together the necessary research and proposals which led to the bill before us today.

In particular I acknowledge the work of Greenpeace which has certainly been front and centre of the issue. Members will be fully aware of how many times representatives of that organization brought independent scientific advice and information to members of the Chamber about the toxicity of lead, cadmium and phthalates.

I thank the individuals from Greenpeace who have been so helpful, as well as a number of other organizations that have been particularly concerned about the impact of toxins on children and have been active in raising these matters.

Let me acknowledge the Canadian Institute of Child Health which stated as recently as June 9:

Given the demonstrated scientific evidence of damaging effects that phthalates, lead and cadmium have on children's health, products which contain these chemicals must be prohibited and/or regulated as is outlined in the proposed amendments to the Hazardous Products Act.

The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada indicated support for the bill or for any initiative on the part of the government to take action to prohibit the sale of any products containing dangerously high levels of cadmium, phthalates and lead.

The Canadian Child Care Federation has written expressing concern for the safety of Canada's children. It said:

Legislation to protect children from exposure to toxic toys is a necessary first step in providing a safe, healthy environment for our children.

Let me also mention the contribution by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment which expressed support for the legislation and urged us to be vigilant on the matter. I am sure it would like to leave a message with the government to support the bill or take immediate action.

We know the evidence from scientists. We know the concerns from groups involved in ensuring health and well-being for our children. Now it is time for action.

Some people would like us to believe that there are no alternatives, but that is no longer a valid excuse. Alternatives exist. We now know that while 80% of new toys on the market contain plastic, only 4.5% of these use the type containing phthalates. Substitutes are readily available.

Where does all this lead us? It leads us to acting. It leads us to the political will to protect the health and safety of our children. We have a consensus that we want to keep our children as safe as possible. We have the most up to date independent science available and children's advocates telling us that it is time for urgent action. All that remains is for us to act decisively. Is that not why we are here after all?

I want to emphasize to all members that the bill is before the House as a constructive proposal. It is based on the principle of doing no harm. It rejects the notion of allowing products on the market, particularly products that are used and played with by children, on the assumption that they have not been proven to be harmful. We take the view on this side of the House, and I believe members of all parties do the same, that it is incumbent upon us as legislators, as members of the House, to ensure that products which are played with and chewed on by children are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is why I presented to the House a bill which attempts to do just that. Without legislative backup we will continue to muddle along with piecemeal, after the fact voluntary warnings such as the situation last fall when after finally testing selected products Health Canada recognized a danger from phthalates and issued a warning. That warning was so piecemeal and ad hoc that it presented more confusion than actual assistance on this very critical issue.

Other countries have taken action. I do not need to go into great detail about the efforts of Denmark to ban products containing lead or Austria that has banned products containing cadmium. There is a solid record on the international front of countries prepared to say that enough is enough.

It should be noted that even some toy manufacturers have been responsible in many parts of the country and the world for taking action to remove products that contain these toxins and have committed to producing all future toys using reliable and safe alternatives.

Prompt action by our government, as well as protecting children's health, would encourage an opportunity for the fledgling Canadian toy industry to produce safe products that are marketable worldwide to health conscious consumers. Continued inaction risks turning Canada into the dumping ground for the world's supply of toxic toys.

I urge all hon. members to give serious consideration to this bill, to consider it a very constructive proposition for the House, a very realistic way in which we can remove from children any threat of risk pertaining to the very dangerous contact with any kind of toxic carcinogenic material such cadmium, lead and phthalates.

On that note, I look forward to the debate. I look forward to the suggestions and hope that we can move forward.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario


Elinor Caplan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on Private Members' Bill C-482, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act. This bill is intended to limit the allowable limits of lead and cadmium in consumer products and also ban outright the use of phthalates in products likely to be used by children under the age of three.

I would like to digress for a minute to let members know that I am a grandmother. I have four grandchildren, the youngest of whom is just one year old. As all parents and grandparents with young children and grandchildren, I believe it is very important for us to be knowledgeable about these issues and always assure everyone that our priority is the health and safety of Canadian children.

I would like to focus on the issue of phthalates. In recent years several organizations worldwide, including Health Canada, have informed the public of the health risks associated with the use of phthalates in products used by very young children. I would like to take a moment to review some of the action already taken before I speak directly to Bill C-482.

As members of parliament may recall, in November 1998 Health Canada issued a warning to parents and caregivers regarding the use of teethers, soothers and rattles containing phthalates. Industry was asked to immediately stop the production and sale of soft teething rings and rattles made of soft vinyl which included phthalates. The success of this action led to the elimination of a major source of exposure to phthalates for young children in Canada.

For those people watching, phthalates is the chemical included in some but not all soft vinyl products.

Health Canada is currently reviewing industry's response to a voluntary phase-out of phthalates in toys and is examining new scientific information which was not available in 1998.

As with other provisions within the bill concerning lead and cadmium, Bill C-482 provides the government with an enforcement mechanism for controlling the use of phthalates instead of relying on voluntary measures. I want to point out that we believe to this point in time that the voluntary measures have been successful in dealing with an issue of concern for the Government of Canada and of concern for all knowledgeable parents and grandparents as well.

With respect to lead, Health Canada has initiated a lead reduction strategy which will ensure that no lead is added in the manufacture of products for children. As part of the strategy, including not only extensive consultation but also scientific research, it has been determined that the best indicator for determining if lead has been added to a product is to set a maximum level of 65 parts per million on a mass basis. With respect to cadmium, its presence in the environment and in consumer products is not as ubiquitous as it is in the case of lead.

The government could support Bill C-482 if it included the following amendments: one, limit the scope of included products from all products to products intended for use by children; two, change the 15 parts per million total lead to 65 parts per million total lead; three, limit the scope of the phthalate band to teethers, rattles and other toys intended for children under the age of 12 months and likely to be mouthed or chewed by them.

I would like to commend the member for Winnipeg North Centre for her continuing interest in this very important public health issue. I hope that all members of the House will consider the issue carefully and support the amendments to Bill C-482 that I have suggested.

It is my view that it is very important when we have these discussions and debates that we not rely on rhetoric, that we not engage in fearmongering, but that we rely on valid scientific evidence. That is essential if we are to act in the public interest, because our goal, which I believe is the goal of all members of the House, as it is the goal of the Minister of Health, Health Canada and this government, is to protect the health and safety of Canadians, especially the health and safety of Canadian children.

Canada is not alone in the world in its concern about product safety, particularly product safety as it relates to toys, rattles, teethers and the sort of thing that children chew on, but when we draft legislation we want to ensure that legislation will do the job in a way which will protect the interests of all Canadians.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to speak to Bill C-482.

The private member's bill being proposed by the NDP member of parliament would prohibit the sale, advertisement and importation of consumer products which contain a certain level of lead or cadmium. This bill also seeks to ban toys used by children under the age of three which contain phthalates.

This seems like a fair enough bill and I will support it. The intention, the protection of our children's health, is a noble cause. We commend the hon. member from the NDP for bringing this matter before the House because the government does not and is not going to bring these matters to the floor of the House of Commons.

We know that the government has cut $23 billion from our health care and education systems. While Canadians are trying to protect the health of our children through efforts such as the one we are debating today, the Liberals are working against us. They are balancing the books of our federal government on the backs of taxpayers. They are heavily taxing families with little children. It is a wonder that young families even have the money to purchase these toys which may harm the health of their children.

The health critic for the official opposition over the years has met many times with the Canadian Toy Manufacturers' Association, the Vinyl Council of Canada, Irwin Toys and many other groups and individuals concerned about this matter.

It is indeed a matter of great concern when we hear that toys may contain toxins or dangerous chemicals. We have all seen little children with plastic toys in their mouths or in contact with their skin.

In October 1997 the health protection branch of Health Canada released a report on its investigation into lead and cadmium in certain vinyl toys and other consumer products. The government has done absolutely nothing about establishing guidelines as a result of that report. In fact the Liberal majority on the other side of the House even voted down a private member's bill requiring warning labels to be placed on PVC toys.

The report dismissed the risk posed by lead and cadmium. This was met with charges that the report was a disservice to the Canadian people. The branch has yet to release a report on the risks posed by phthalates which it promised. Canadians are still waiting for the report.

On the other hand, Denmark, Austria and Sweden are countries that have banned phthalates in infant toys. The U.S. government, our neighbour, has told manufacturers to eliminate the use of lead that may be accessible to children.

Canada has no limits on phthalates, lead or cadmium in plastic consumer products. The Liberals are allowing our nation to be an international dumping ground for these toxic, hazardous and dangerous toys, as well as other products.

The Liberals have allowed us to be a dumping ground for terrorists and other violent offenders because they have refused to fix our flawed, broken immigration and refugee system.

The Liberals have caused British Columbia, where I come from, to not only become a dumping ground but a distribution point and a clearing house for child pornography because they have refused to support our laws concerning the possession of child pornography.

The Liberals have also caused British Columbia, particularly the lower mainland area of Vancouver, including my home town of Surrey, to become a dumping ground for international drug dealers and cartels which send bogus refugees to our area to sell drugs to our children or smuggle themselves or drugs into the U.S.

Our solicitor general leaves our RCMP, which has its largest detachment in Surrey, underfunded and understaffed. In Surrey we have only four police officers patrolling the border between the U.S. and Canada. Our police officers must handle problems associated with a major port of entry along with their domestic policing duties.

We are waiting for a review from the solicitor general on our RCMP service, just like we are waiting for a report from the government on the risks posed by phthalates.

On behalf of my constituents I am tempted to support the bill, for no other reason than I can sympathize with the frustration of the NDP member, who sits with me on the health committee, who is trying to do some work and instead gets stonewalled by the Liberal government.

Some Canadians cannot wait for the Liberals. Hepatitis C victims are dying while fighting the Liberal government in court. They cannot wait. The Liberal health minister tried to close the file and ignore the conclusion of a royal commission on tainted blood which recommended compensating every person affected by federally controlled tainted blood.

There have been accusations about the toxic level and the safety of certain toys. The problem is in making sure that we are not hearing spurious representations on the danger of toys. We must be sure that the problem actually exists and is rampant to the extent that we have to take legislative action.

I have heard that some claims are not so accurate. One complaint declared that a child teething on a particular toy was actually at risk from material in the plastic of the toy because of dangerous and hazardous chemicals. I then heard that science proved that the child would have to have the toy in its mouth constantly for years to suffer any bad effects. On the other hand, in the research I have done concerning this bill, one manufacturer maintained that a child would have to have a toy in its mouth for three hours before it would suffer a health hazard.

All parents, and I am also a parent, know that it is easy for a child to have a toy in its mouth for three hours. The toy is even more likely to be in contact with the skin. It is not as though the child has a full time job, goes somewhere and does not have time to put these toys in its mouth.

We need good scientific studies to be accurate about what toys and which chemicals are threatening the health of our children.

We have two sides of the spectrum. The onus is on the accuser to provide evidence of the harmful effect of anything; all of those hazardous chemicals and products that we are talking about.

The accusers need to have strong scientific evidence. Canadians need to see independent, peer reviewed, double-blind studies which clearly conclude that something is harmful.

The health minister should have the health protection branch do the report on phthalates. We cannot rely on the studies performed by the manufacturers which declare their toys safe. It would be like relying on the fox to mind the chicken coop.

During my research for today's debate I found a toll free telephone number to be used by parents who want to check out the PVC safety of their children's toys. The health minister has shut down that toll free number. The service was only set up to run during the big PVC toy scare of 1997. Now the government acts as it if all went away and nothing happened.

As a result of all the shenanigans—did I say Shawinigans—that I have encountered while preparing for today's debate, I will support the bill on behalf of the parents, the children who are defenceless, and all consumers of plastic products in Surrey Central. My heart goes out to the private member who introduced the bill and fought hard to bring it forth. The weak, arrogant Liberal government has refused to do it.

I know how difficult it is to work with the arrogant, weak Liberal government which has absolutely no vision of where it is going. It is not trying to do anything to protect health and education.

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the House leaders of all parties and I would like to seek consent to put the following motion to the House:

That Bill C-84, an act to correct certain anomalies, inconsistencies and errors and to deal with other matters of a non-controversial and uncomplicated nature in the Statutes of Canada and to repeal certain acts that have ceased to have effect, be deemed to have been read a second time, considered in and reported from a committee of the whole, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed;

That the House continue to sit between 6.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. this day to consider Government Orders and that adjournment proceedings be taken at 8.30 p.m., provided that during that time the Chair shall not receive any quorum calls or dilatory motions; and

That Bill C-82, an act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving and related matters), shall be disposed of as follows:

(i) the question shall be put for disposal of the second reading stage after one or two members from each recognized party has spoken for a period of not more than twenty minutes per party;

(ii) after being read a second time, the bill shall be referred to a committee of the whole and it shall be an instruction to the said committee of the whole (a) to amend the bill by deleting section (2) of clause 3 and (b) to permit one Member from the Bloc Quebecois to propose an amendment and to dispose of the said amendment, provided that the committee shall report the bill after not more than fifteen minutes consideration;

(iii) immediately upon being reported from the committee of the whole, the said bill shall be considered at the report stage and at the third reading stage without debate or amendment.

And that any time left between that time and 8.30 p.m. shall be utilized for consideration of Bill C-55.

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have a question I would like to ask of the government House leader for the assistance of the Chair.

In the debate on second reading of Bill C-82 there will be 20 minutes per party, which presumably could be divided into two 10 minute periods, but there will be no questions or comments on any debate and there will be no 40 minute speeches. Is that correct?

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I just wanted to clarify that for the House. The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The HousePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-482, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 1999 / 6:05 p.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to explain the position of the Bloc Quebecois with respect to Bill C-482, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act.

I congratulate and thank the member for Winnipeg North Centre for raising this issue once again in this House on behalf of her party. We want to tell her that we support her bill.

This bill is intended to prohibit the advertisement and importation of consumer products that contain a certain level of lead or cadmium, unless they are excluded by regulation. It also bans the advertisement and importation of toys containing phthalates and intended for children under the age of three.

Members will agree with me that we do not hear about phthalates every day, and yet we are probably in contact with them almost daily.

Phthalates are chemical agents representing a family of synthetic compounds used in polyvinyl chloride or vinyl, commonly know as PVCs. For example, we can think of plastic covers, food wrap, furniture, floor coverings, plastic bottles, knapsacks, raincoats and so on, all seemingly very innocent to us.

What is of concern to us today are the properties of this product used in toys for children to make them more flexible, softer and transparent.

Phthalates are often used in the manufacture of toys intended for newborns, such as pacifiers, teething rings, rattles, and other soft objects intended to be gummed and sucked by babies. Most of these toys for children contain between 10% and 40% phthalates.

The risk to health that these toys pose is easy to understand. Phthalates do not bind to polyvinyl chloride or vinyl, which are the toys basic material. Phthalates remain mobile, in suspension, and may separate from the PVCs. When a child chews on toys, for example, the phthalates may escape. Young children could therefore directly ingest phthlates.

As for cadmium and lead, a Health Canada study released last year concluded, and I quote:

Both lead and cadmium are toxic substances that are hazardous to the health and safety of children. Lead is especially hazardous to children's health. The latest medical and scientific research has shown that exposure to even very low levels of lead may have harmful effects on the intellectual and behavioural development of infants and young children.

In this same study, Health Canada went on to state that the levels of lead in certain toys far exceeded what they should be. It could well have added, and rightly so, that lead can damage the nervous system. Lead is known to be neurotoxic, and has the capacity to cause permanent, irreversible brain damage.

One might argue that there are regulations on lead, which is true. However these apply only to paint, ceramic or glass products, pencils, crayons and artist brushes. The Canadian government's altruism has led it to regulate paint more stringently than children's toys.

In response to a question from my colleague from Drummond last November 16, the Minister of Health stated here in this House:

Today as a precautionary measure Health Canada announced as a warning to all parents that they should remove from the home certain objects that are made of vinyl and that are used or designed for use in the mouth of infants and young children. We are co-operating with the Retail Council of Canada to remove those objects from the shelves of stores across the country.

We know that Austria, Sweden and Denmark are much stricter and have already regulated children's products, because they felt that children's health required more than a simple warning from the health department.

There is still more, however. PVC containing lead, cadmium and phthalates is used not only in toys, but also in the manufacture of medical devices. However, we feel that, even though scientists are divided on the real impact of using phthalates, we cannot take risks with the health of Quebecers and Canadians, particularly children.

The government has a responsibility, and that responsibility is not to sidestep the issue and attempt to discredit people concerned about these issues, but to ensure that all the scientific evidence is provided and that medical products and toys are safe.

In 1998, for instance, Health Canada investigated intravenous transfusion and injections bags that gave off phthalates. The department's conclusions were cause for concern. Health Canada has announced that the benefits of the current use of phthalates in transfusion bags outweighed the risks that might be associated with exposure to this product.

This is a far cry from scientific evidence that the product is safe and risk free. Health Canada is merely saying that the risks to health of transfusion bags are not as great as the product's benefits. The benefits would outweigh the risks, but Health Canada admits that risks do exist.

In fact, phthalates used in medical products would be even more toxic than those used in children's toys. According to Health Canada, phthalates used in intravenous transfusion and injection bags would be six times more toxic than those used in toys.

Is it not ironic that in Canada phthalates are labelled as hazardous products when they are to be shipped in barrels, but considered totally harmless and even edible when they are in the mouths of our children or in the veins of our patients? Let us be clear. Phthalates are as harmful in the hospital and in the home as they are in barrels.

While the Liberal government is twiddling its thumbs, the private sector seems to have engaged, although very partially, in a self-regulation process. Baxter International, a major manufacturer of IV bags, is in the process of replacing PVC in its products. Nike, Deutche Telekom, Ikea and LEGO have all adopted plans to gradually reduce the amount of PVC in their products.

The world's largest toy manufacturer, the American company Mattel, is doing the same thing. I refuse to believe that all these companies are taking these measures because phthalates are harmless.

Would these companies, and many others, have scientific evidence that Health Canada does not have? Should we let less scrupulous companies fall through the cracks?

On April 30, 1998 the Liberals used their majority in the House to defeat a motion requiring that manufacturers indicate on the label when toys contain phthalates.

Knowing that young children are a lot more likely to be affected by toxic substances than adults and knowing how lead, cadmium and phthalates can be hazardous to our health, one can see how the government is being totally irresponsible.

It is high time the government started to take this issue seriously and modernize its legislation on phthalates, lead and cadmium.

With this bill, we are calling on the government to be proactive. It is a government's role and duty when it comes to public health. Will the government wait for tragedies to occur before taking action?

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Winnipeg North Centre. With Bill C-482, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act, she is telling us that government should always err on the side of caution. That is what this bill is about. We have heard members of the House talk about the present difficulties with high levels of lead, cadmium and phthalates in some of the toys and even medical devices being used in today's society. The member has directed her bill primarily at young children.

When talking about lead and cadmium, we are not talking about a very high exposure having a detrimental effect on children. A very low level of exposure can seriously interrupt intellectual and behavioural development in infants and young children. It is in our best interests that we consider anything within our power in the House to limit the exposure of those products to young children. That is exactly what the bill does.

I want to focus on two or three of the main points in her bill. It would prohibit anyone from advertising, selling or importing the following: any toy, equipment or product made with phthalates that is likely to be used by a child under three years of age in learning or in play; any consumer product that contains more than 15 parts per million weight to weight of lead; and any consumer product that contains more than one part per million weight to weight of cadmium. Again we are talking about very low levels, but enough to harm the intellectual development of a child. It does not take very much to hurt a young child.

I am not sure if it is enough for the member but the government in its generosity at least is looking at some movement on this issue. In somewhat of an unusual move, the parliamentary secretary suggested three amendments to the bill that might entice the government to support it. I want to go through those because they are worth consideration.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned three amendments to the bill. One was to limit the scope of included products from all products to products intended for use by children. Another was to change the 15 parts per million total to 65 parts per million of lead.

It is interesting to note that the European standard for this is 90 parts per million for extractable lead and 75 parts per million for extractable cadmium. The key word is extractable. Many products could contain levels above that, but is that lead extractable from that very product.

Mr. Speaker, I would say you would be high risk because watching you in the chair, I often notice you chewing on that plastic pen, almost devouring it from time to time. It is a habit, Mr. Speaker, you are going to have to break because you are going to exceed the limits.

The key to this whole thing is extractable. I suppose we could say that children would be safe if they did not eat the toys, but who knows. The scientific evidence is not clear enough to determine whether or not that is being extracted and there is no question they are being exposed to high levels.

The third amendment the parliamentary secretary suggested was to limit the scope of the phthalate ban. Phthalate is a plasticizer in layman's terms. It is a product that actually makes plastic pliable. So when you devour those plastic pens, Mr. Speaker, with a little more phthalate in them they would be easier to digest.

We are hoping the member may consider these amendments because they are interesting. And at least it shows some movement on the side of the government.

The suggestion was to limit the scope of the phthalate ban to teethers, rattles and other toys intended for children under the age of 12 months and likely to be mouthed or chewed by children.

The other point which I think is worth mentioning is that the bill would not affect uses of lead and cadmium in industrial products or equipment, or phthalate used in consumer products not designed for children under the age of three, an important distinction. The member's bill also provides for consumer products with lead and cadmium content to be excluded from the bill by regulation so as not to ban legitimate use of products that are unlikely to harm children.

It is a very commendable bill. I encourage the member to work with the government. At the end of the day every one of us on this side of the House can and will support this bill. However, if we do not have the majority of the members in the House and that means the government supporting it, we know what will happen to the bill. The parliamentary secretary has left the door open just a little bit and I am encouraged by that.

I am encouraged by the member's bill. She has put a lot of work into it. As a party we are prepared to support it. I have a little bit of advice for the member. Knowing that a private member's bill can meet sudden death when it comes to opposition by the government, I am hoping that in some way she can pick up these negotiations with the government and find some common ground so that the basis of the bill can be passed by the House.

On the basis of what we see before us now, we are prepared as a party to support it.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I should advise the House that when the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre speaks, she will close the debate.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the members who participated in today's discussion on Bill C-482, in particular the support from the members for Surrey Central, Laval East and New Brunswick Southwest.

I also want to put on record my thanks to the organizations that have been vigilant on this topic. They have performed a valuable public service by raising the concerns around children's health and well-being as it relates to access to toys that contain fairly high levels of cadmium, lead and phthalates. I want to acknowledge the work of the Canadian Institute of Child Health, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, Greenpeace, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs and the Canadian Child Care Federation.

I listened carefully to the words of the parliamentary secretary. I also listened to the words of advice from the member for New Brunswick Southwest. I will certainly give the amendments serious consideration once I have read them.

At first blush and on hearing the proposed amendments by the parliamentary secretary, I have to express an initial disappointment over the proposals. In my estimation the amendments being proposed drastically gut the purpose of this bill. In fact they allow the government to continue its approach of what I classify as one of inaction, of voluntary regulation, of the waiting for someone to get sick or die approach.

I do not find the suggestions particularly helpful. The reference to changing the levels of lead from 15 to 65 parts per million flies in the face of significant scientific evidence about what is a safe level in terms of toys played with by children. The suggestion of limiting this to children under the age of 12 months and making restrictions in terms of teethers and rattles in my estimation does not take us any further than where we are right now.

I wish one could use props in the House so I could demonstrate just what it means for a child to have access to products that would not fall under the definition as proposed by the parliamentary secretary. I wish I could bring in the backpack which contains 321 parts per million of lead and 654 parts per million of cadmium that would not fall under the minister's definition. The department will tell her that we are not talking about extractable lead.

I wish she could understand that a backpack like that would be out in the hot sun. It could be placed in a hot car. It would always be put in the mouth of a child. I have seen my children do it. I wish I could show the member how my 10 year old son will always put in his mouth the Sega Genesis cable that is part of a toy he plays with which has over 5,000 parts per million of lead.

We are talking about serious incidents of those toxins in toy products that do not but should fall under the minister's definition. We have to adopt a do no harm principle, not allow products on the market and only react if something tragic happens.

The purpose of this bill is to call upon the government to do something far more proactive in the interest of children's health.

I assume from the parliamentary secretary's remarks that she will not support this bill. I urge her to look at it more seriously and to recommend to her government that it be considered in a serious way. I think that Canadians want to see a government play that kind of proactive role.

We are dealing with such a fundamental issue involving the health and well-being of children. Since there is obviously an interest on the part of members in the House and a deep concern from all parties and still a lack of indication from the government that it is willing to act, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to make this bill votable.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent that the bill be made votable?

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario


Diane Marleau Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-82, an act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving and related matters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec


Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I compliment all House leaders for having arrived at a decision to expedite through the House as quickly as possible a very important piece of legislation.

A unanimous report was presented to the House by a committee. This is the first time, in my experience as a parliamentarian, a committee had the opportunity to draft a piece of legislation.

I know I am the parliamentary secretary to the minister, but I compliment the minister and the government for having had the vision to make this bill drafted by parliamentarians of all political parties in the justice committee into government legislation.

I also congratulate all members of the justice committee. I am one of the members, but I want to say that the level of co-operation and collaboration was of very high calibre. I thank all members for their collaboration and co-operation. We worked together to do something which all Canadians wanted us to do. They want us to stop the carnage that is taking place from coast to coast in Canada and to stop what we believe is a scourge on society.

Bill C-82 implements the spirit and the intent of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as expressed in the draft bill appended to its 21st report entitled “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”. The report was tabled on May 25, 1999 in the House of Commons.

The Minister of Justice tabled Bill C-82 on June 7. Taken as a whole, the bill confirms for the vast majority of Canadians who never drive while impaired the wisdom of their choice. It also sends a very important message that impaired driving is an avoidable criminal act which carries unacceptable risks of injury and death.

If one is convicted of an impaired driving offence, the criminal law consequences will be onerous. When we also consider legal costs, insurance costs and provincial measures, no one should entertain the thought of drinking and driving. For anyone who has not yet figured this out, the introduction of Bill C-82 signals that the time has come for major attitude adjustments.

Since 1981, the year in which impaired driving charges peaked, very significant progress on drinking and driving has occurred through the combined efforts of governments and public and private organizations. I especially single out the hard work of MADD in Canada and congratulate it on the educational role it has played in informing all of us. Families have also had important roles to play as have individuals who have lived this tragedy. This needs to continue and the report of the justice committee reflects that.

Criminal law is an important tool with which a combination of efforts is needed to make further progress on impaired driving. Where the criminal law can be improved, it must be. The measures found in Bill C-82 will assist in the battle against impaired driving. However, it is important to stress that only through a combination of criminal and non-criminal measures will we eradicate impaired driving in Canada.

Canadian Centre for Justice statistics indicate that impaired driving offences have the highest conviction rate of any Criminal Code offence at about 80%. However, as recent surveys by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation have indicated, it takes 200 impaired driving trips to result in one impaired driving charge. Obviously much impaired driving crime goes unreported and undetected.

While the general public believes that the risk of apprehension for impaired driving is relatively high, the hard core impaired drivers by comparison do not share this belief.

Experts in the field warn that impaired driving legislation must be accompanied by other efforts such as public information and increased visibility for police enforcement of impaired driving laws in order for legislative change to have its maximum impact.

While estimates vary, it appears that there were some 1,300 deaths due to impaired driving in 1997. Information from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation study in Ontario suggested impaired drivers comprised 55% of the fatalities from impaired driving.

The Canadian Centre for Justice statistics note that 90% of impaired drivers are male, which is similar to the gender representation in crime generally. Not surprisingly the vast majority of fatally injured impaired drivers are males.

The 1999 report by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia indicated that in each of the years 1995, 1996 and 1997 more than 80% of the impaired driving deaths in British Columbia were comprised of impaired drivers and their passengers. The remaining fatalities were other road users in motorized vehicles, on bicycles, or on foot.

Across Canada impaired drivers are playing Russian roulette, and they are killing themselves, their passengers and other road users. That is unacceptable to the government and to all members of parliament.

The message in the standing committee's report and in Bill C-82 is that Canadian society will not tolerate impaired driving.

Like the bill drafted by the committee, Bill C-82 comprises eight amendments relating to sentences contained in the Criminal Code and one amendment on investigations relating to impaired driving charges.

Together, the changes to sentences strengthen the message that impaired driving will not be tolerated. Bill C-82 increases the dissuasive powers of penalties, ensuring that impaired driving penalties reflect the serious nature of the offence.

Among its penalty changes Bill C-82 includes changes for two crimes which are sometimes directly related to impaired driving. The first is the offence of leaving the scene of an accident to escape civil or criminal liability. Bill C-82 would amend this provision to add the elements of bodily harm and death, which would increase the gravity of the offence. That in turn should signal to the courts that more severe sentences are required.

The bill that was appended to the standing committee's report on impaired driving had the unfortunate effect of requiring the crown to prove that the offence of leaving the scene caused bodily harm or death. As we now recognize, it is not the leaving that causes the injury or death. It is rather the collision or the crash itself.

The new formulation in Bill C-82 preserves the intent of the committee. Three levels of leaving the scene are created. Each contains different essential elements. Under subsection 252(1.1) a person who leaves the scene of an accident where the damage does not amount to bodily harm or death will be liable where the crown proceeds by indictment to five years imprisonment or to an offence punishable upon summary conviction.

Under subsection (1.2), where the person knows that bodily harm has been caused to another person involved in the accident the offence is indictable and punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

Subsection (1.3) in part reads:

(a) the person knows that another person involved in the accident is dead; or

(b) the person knows that bodily harm has been caused to another person involved in the accident and is reckless as to whether the death of that other person results from that bodily harm, and the death of that other person so results.

The maximum penalty under Bill C-82 is life imprisonment. To the extent that penalties can discourage those who might leave an accident in order to evade getting caught for impaired driving, the changes to the offence of leaving the scene will send the message that running away from a collision where someone is injured or killed is egregious behaviour that carries a serious penalty.

Driving while disqualified is the other offence that is sometimes related to impaired driving. The original disqualification could be in relation to an impaired driving offence and sometimes the person driving while disqualified is also driving while impaired.

The driving while disqualified offence is found in subsection 259(4) of the Criminal Code. At present the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.

Bill C-82 follows the committee's recommendation in raising the maximum penalty to five years imprisonment. This will allow judges to deal more severely with the worst offenders and the worst circumstances. It will be an incentive to persons who are disqualified from driving to abide by that disqualification, including those who were originally disqualified for an impaired driving offence.

The remaining six penalty changes in Bill C-82 would amend the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code. Prior to 1985 in a drinking and driving case where there was a death the crown had to prosecute under the criminal negligence causing death or the manslaughter provisions of the code. In both cases the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

In 1985 parliament added the offences of impaired driving causing bodily harm and impaired driving causing death to the Criminal Code, with maximum penalties of 14 years imprisonment where the result is death and 10 years imprisonment where bodily harm is caused.

Bill C-82 would raise the maximum penalty in subsection 255(3) for impaired driving causing death from 14 years imprisonment to life imprisonment. This provision has become quite controversial. It is the government's intention to deal immediately with those parts of Bill C-82 that did not arouse controversy and to place this controversial provision in a future bill. There has been all party agreement to that effect.

The minimum fine for a first impaired driving offence, that is, for driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of 80 mg, or refusing to provide a sample, would increase from $300 to $600. The minimum fine was raised from $50 to $300 back in 1985. It is therefore quite acceptable for this bill to increase it. There was a consensus on this by all members of the committee.

Bill C-82 will add a new provision after section 255 to specify that a judge must consider evidence of a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds 80 milligrams as an aggravating factor when sentencing for criminal offences dealing with impaired driving.

This provision will codify what many sentencing judges already do in practice, but it will bring uniformity in setting the point at which a sentencing judge looks at a BAC as an aggravating factor. This is a key aspect of the message that impaired driving will not be tolerated.

Another strong message is being sent by Bill C-82 to impaired drivers. If convicted of an impaired driving offence, whether it be driving while impaired, driving with a BAC that exceeds 80 milligrams, or refusing to provide a breath or blood sample, the person will be prohibited from driving anywhere in Canada.

The bill raised the present minimum driving prohibition on the first conviction from three months and makes it a one year minimum. The maximum prohibition on the first offence will remain three years.

On the first conviction only there will be a possibility to replace part of the driving prohibition, where a provincial program for an ignition interlock device exists, with the use of an ignition interlock device by the offender, something that does exist in the province I represent, Quebec. The device would render a vehicle inoperable unless the breath sample on the vehicle mounted testing device gave a pass reading.

On a second conviction Bill C-82 raises the minimum driving prohibition from six months to two years, with the maximum being raised from three years to five years. On a subsequent offence the minimum driving prohibition goes up from one year to three years. As for the maximum driving prohibition for those subsequent offenders, it would rise from three years to a lifetime ban.

These driving prohibition provisions are sanctions that will make an impression—and all members of the justice committee were in agreement—on every person found guilty of impaired driving. Experts in the field have indicated that driving privilege consequences, along with the treatment for harmful involvement with alcohol, are very important in reducing the incidence of impaired driving.

The standing committee has recognized the importance of the driving prohibition and has recommended these very significant increases. Bill C-82 implements the recommendations of the standing committee.

The standing committee also recognized that the sanction for driving while prohibited needs to be sufficient to deter prohibited drivers from ignoring the prohibition from driving. Where an offender has a driving prohibition order and breaches that order the maximum period of imprisonment under subsection 259(4) of the Criminal Code for driving while disqualified will be raised from two to five years by Bill C-82.

The Traffic Injury Research Foundation indicates that a small percentage of drivers is responsible for the large majority of impaired driving in Canada. The hard core drinking drivers operate their vehicles with a very high blood alcohol concentration or BAC level, or they repeatedly commit impaired driving offences. These individuals are very difficult to reach. We heard a lot of testimony before committee to that effect.

A defence lawyer appearing as a witness before the standing committee pointed out that the public is only protected from certain of these hard core impaired drivers by a period of lengthy incarceration. Others may respond to treatment and driving consequences.

Bill C-82 further specifies that a judge may make a probation order requiring a person convicted of impaired driving to attend a program for assessment and curative treatment related to alcohol or drugs. Experts who testified before the standing committee stated that the literature shows that curative treatment may be more important than penalties in altering the behaviour of hard core impaired drivers. We have highly recommended that in our report.

The bill also specifies that a judge may make a probation order requiring a person convicted of an impaired driving offence to use an ignition interlock device, something that is done routinely in the province of Quebec. This type of order may be made in a province where the provincial government has established, as has Quebec, a program for the use of ignition interlock devices.

A Traffic Injury Research Foundation study of the Alberta experience indicated that ignition interlock use significantly reduced reoffending and increased the survivability of those who were enrolled in the ignition interlock program over the study period when compared with convicted impaired drivers who did not use this device.

Canadians agree that impaired driving should be condemned. The standing committee has presented with its report a draft bill that clearly says impaired driving will not be tolerated in Canada. Bill C-82 delivers this message. The criminal law is society's strongest sanction against behaviour that society is unwilling and unable to accept.

I wish to thank all members of the justice committee for having worked very hard to arrive at a unanimous report and to come before the House to present draft legislation. I applaud the Minister of Justice and the government for having decided to adopt it as government legislation under Government Orders.

I wish to thank MADD and the other organizations which came before our committee for their testimony and their hard work. I want them to know that we all listened and we all acted on what we were asked to do as parliamentarians.

I want to tell all Canadians that this government would like to see zero tolerance on our streets, that there be no Canadians who choose to drink and drive and end up killing other Canadians. That is the message this bill wants to reflect. We also want to reflect Canadians' condemnation of a very serious crime in this country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the words of the parliamentary secretary. I would like to correct something. I am not quite sure what she means by zero tolerance. There is a different connotation in this country of what zero tolerance means.

I suppose we will all stand to take a bit of credit for this measure. I wish to start, as I do in all discussions concerning drunk driving, by saying that whatever I say is in memory of my niece Sheena who was murdered by a drunk driver, and also another niece, Christa, who is at home suffering permanent brain damage as a result of a drunk driver who disabled her when she was 24 years old. That was three years ago. This has not escaped my family.

That being said, I too congratulate many people in the country who have persevered in their attempts to change the drunk driving legislation. It has not gone as far as some would like. However, I am positive enough about this system, and a believer in this system, to know that regardless of what government is in the House of Commons changes will be forthcoming to this legislation in the future to reflect at least where victims of drunk drivers insist we head.

I can recall at the justice committee hearing the testimony of Sharlene Verhulst, whose sister Cindy who was murdered by a drunk driver, as well as Ken Roffel, whose son was murdered by a drunk driver. I will read a bit of the testimony which Ken gave to give members an idea of why we have to go on from here.

The Reform Party brought this to the House on an opposition day on October 30, 1997. We had been pushing for this since February 29, 1996. I am not here to take credit for the impetus of this bill, although the impetus did come from our party, but it is important to say to all members of the House that we all participated and we did what was right.

It was not too long ago when we stood in the House to pass a bill concerning something very near and dear to my heart, victims rights. I wrote that legislation in 1994. It took a long time to get it done, but it got done. It is incumbent upon parliament not to rush things but to consider things in detail and that is what committees are for.

I am sharing my time with the member for Yorkton—Melville.

One of the things that is left undone is the issue of blood alcohol content. I think that is for another day. When the hon. parliamentary secretary talks about zero tolerance, I think that is what many people relate zero tolerance to, blood alcohol content, whether it should be .08 and so forth.

While that is not in this bill, I think there is room. We will be back in the House talking about this eventually, but right now we have to celebrate to some extent our perseverance, even through late hour negotiations, as late as last night when we thought this issue was dead and would not come to the House of Commons.

We all persevered. My colleague, the House leader for the Conservative Party, was as concerned as we were, as was the parliamentary secretary for the Liberals. All of us were concerned that we had to do the right thing now and that we would worry about other things later, and we will deal with the issue of life imprisonment in the fall.

I also agree with my hon. colleague across the way that impaired drivers must get the message that impaired driving will not be tolerated. That is an important message. Impaired drivers willingly and knowingly drive impaired. It is not a mistake when impaired drivers get behind the wheel. It is not a plot to drive impaired. They become drunk and they drive. It is a wilful act.

When members hear me call it murder, it is murder in my mind. I am not the only one who says that. That is something that a young lady told me. She wanted me to change my phraseology as to whether it was an accident or murder. She convinced me that it is murder and that is why I refer to it as that.

A gentleman by the name of Ken Roffel is listening to this debate. He comes from the lower mainland of British Columbia. He is a friend of mine. He became a friend after I was involved in trying to help him go across Canada to convince people about zero tolerance.

I want the House to know just how Ken feels about what has happened in his life and I also want the House to know, after listening to what I have to read, which came from Ken unsolicited, that there are things left to be done. The justice system, the legal industry, has to understand how severe drunk driving is. I want to read this letter to the House.

On March 13th 1996 a drunk driver with a blood alcohol level double the legal limit killed our oldest son Mark William Roffel.

On Friday April 23rd 1999 three years later the Judge handed a not guilty verdict to Dangerous Driving Causing Death to Todd Minich the driver of the vehicle that killed Mark. This driver had also testified to an earlier alcohol related accident that very same day.

That evening at the hospital March 13th 1996, the RCMP took a blood sample from Mr. Minich and forgot to read him his rights. That one single mistake by the RCMP changed the outcome of the trial. Mr. Minich should have been charged with Impaired causing death under the Criminal Code of Canada instead of Dangerous Driving Causing Death.

At the trial witnesses came forward describing how Mr. Minich had driven them off the road, how he went through a stop sign on 232nd in Langley and how minutes later they came across the carnage caused by Mr. Minich. The Crown had done an excellent job in presenting the evidence collected to show that Mr. Minich had driven dangerously and caused the death of Mark.

The Judge in his final statements said “no reasonable person would do this and Mr. Minich appears to be a reasonable person” end of quote.

We were shocked at his remarks. There was a fatality here with the death of Mark....The Law failed Mark on March 13th 1996 by not keeping Mr. Minich off the roads due to his past criminal record and activities.

On April 23rd 1999 the Law failed my family and other Canadians when it failed to convict Mr. Minich of causing Mark's death.

As you know we have always taken the high road—

—and I can assure the House of that—

—and tried to turn a negative into a positive. The outcome of the trial means that we will continue to work toward a Zero Tolerance goal for Canada with no drinking and driving...

Nothing can be more devastating than the call we received at 10:05 p.m. on March 13th 1996 informing us of Mark's death.

I wanted to read that into the record this evening because I think it speaks a lot to what I am saying about the future of drunk driving in this country.

We have come some way. I believe we have further to go. I believe the judiciary, the lawyers in our country, have to understand that this is indeed a much more serious issue than just plain drunk driving.

In conclusion, the Reform Party tabled this motion in the House of Commons. We got unanimous consent and I am very thankful to the House and all members for that. I am deeply appreciative of all those people who are victims of drunk drivers who have come before the House to tell us about their very difficult situation.

I am also saying to the House of Commons that there is a way to go yet. We are not through with this. We will be back. That is the process of democracy in this country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, last year impaired driving caused 1,300 deaths in Canada and 90,000 injuries, in one year. It is astounding the evidence and the gravity of the situation. The law, up to now, has been lax on the offence. It is time to act and time to send a message to those who drink and drive. I see the message contained in Bill C-82, as we are debating it here tonight: If we get caught we will not beat the charge. It will cost us a lot of money and we may go to prison for life. That is the message we want to go out from this Chamber.

It took a long time to get to this point, and the justice committee should be commended for getting the bill to parliament. I realize we, as Reformers, have been pushing this for quite some time, but it took many other people co-operating to get the bill to this point in the House and hopefully passed before we break for summer.

What are we getting in Bill C-82? Right off the top, we are finally treating impaired drivers like anyone else who kills somebody. Impaired driving causing death would now face life imprisonment just like manslaughter rather than the current 14 year prison term. What is wrong with that? It is manslaughter and the weapon of choice has been too much of the bottle, too much alcohol and then getting into a two tonne vehicle, which is a deadly weapon, driving it with abandon and with no concern for human life.

It is time to send a message that society will not tolerate this behaviour. If we offend, we will pay a heavy price. Impaired driving is not funny or acceptable in our civilized society.

If we look at the experience of other countries, when they got tough the negative results of impaired driving declined dramatically.

As well, we have in Bill C-82 a new maximum 10 year jail term for causing bodily harm while driving impaired. This puts some teeth into the act and is another signal to offenders that their behaviour has consequences, not just a slap on the wrist.

Bill C-82 will double the mandatory minimum fine for a first impaired driving offence to $600 from $300. The Reform Party is still of the persuasion that this is not enough and our minority report called for a fine of $1,000 for the first offence. However, we are moving in the right direction and that is why we are supporting the bill. Let drunk drivers know we are serious.

Bill C-82 imposes longer prohibitions on driving for those convicted of impaired driving. First time offenders would be banned from driving for up to three years, up from the current pathetic three month ban, which did nothing to deter repeaters. A second conviction for this behaviour could net the offender a five year prohibition, and a third time repeated would get a minimum of three years. The maximum disqualification for repeaters would be five years and this sends a signal to them. Currently the maximum is only two years.

Bill C-82 gives police some tools to deal with that. Up until now it was an easy rap to beat. Police now have up to three hours to take a breath sample after a suspected impaired driving offence. Currently, samples can only be taken up to two hours. The Reform Party would also argue for the police to be given tools like the new alcohol sensors which give them a better chance of determining impairment. This also would send a message to those who drink and drive that their odds of getting caught are better.

Like my colleague just before me, I believe that some of these things that still need to be improved in the bill will hopefully happen in the future.

Bill C-82 would give judges some further discretion. Judges can now impose ignition locking systems as a condition of probation. This would deter the repeater at the outset. As well, judges could impose mandatory treatment of alcohol abuse as a condition of prohibition. Furthermore, judges have further discretion in imposing a stiffer sentence on drivers found to be two or three times over the legal limit.

In court right now the two beer defence is taken to the extreme and the defence is becoming an absurd mockery of the system. Too many are beating the rap with this defence and the entire issue of these technicalities needs some further attention.

However, we have some positive and powerful first step tools in the bill. The message, I believe, to repeat offenders is a powerful deterrent to their behaviour. After all, repeaters are the main problem in this scenario. Stopping individuals who normally do not drink and drive from getting behind the wheel is, I believe, effectively dealt with in the bill.

Bill C-82 enhances deterrents and, I believe, the new penalties reflect the gravity of the crime of drinking and driving, in particular the life imprisonment provision for causing a death. I know my Bloc colleagues do not like this aspect. I would simply ask them what the difference is in killing someone with a car and doing it with another weapon. The results are the same. The family loss and grief are the same. It is about time we called this vehicular criminality for what it is and dealt with it appropriately.

Life imprisonment, like that for other manslaughters, is fair. If someone wants to drive their vehicle while impaired with such wanton disregard for human life then the consequences should be tough.

The Reform Party is disappointed that the legislation does not reflect a zero tolerance policy for impaired driving. When we get to that point I think we have completed the task. For now, we are pleased we got the legislation to this point. We want to see the legislation passed before summer when the profusion of drinking and driving increases.

Grant it we have some first steps on the road to zero tolerance. The Reform Party again thinks that incremental changes are the way to go. With this, as the Reform Party has argued, we would have like to have seen .05 as the alcohol limit. This is the first step on the road to zero tolerance. I think all parties should be reflecting on the next steps on this road to recovery.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the work of MADD in its request to bring some rationale and acknowledgement to the offence of impaired driving. The founders of this organizations are the victims of the crimes of drunk driving. Their message is getting heard and acknowledged today in the House. The acronym, by the way, stands for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

We should not allow alcohol to be an excuse for unacceptable behaviour and breaking the law. That is the point that needs to be made to the general public. We should not allow alcohol to be used as an excuse for breaking the law.

In conclusion, we have moved a major step today. The Reform Party is pleased to have played a major role in pushing for these changes.