Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-452. I would like to thank the member for Lakeland for bringing the bill forward. Drinking and driving remains a scourge in this country and I hope the bill will be one way to put it to an end.
The BAC, blood alcohol content, has been a police tool to identify drunk drivers since 1969. Since that time, public awareness campaigns, legislative regulations and a commitment from the police have reduced the incidence of drunk driving. Now most reasonable people choose not to drink and drive, and I think we are all glad to see that working throughout the public to a great extent. People are doing their drinking at home or are certainly not getting behind the wheel, and that is what we are all striving for.
However, a small group of Canadians continues to drive drunk. Over the years, some legal defences have been found that keep those drivers on the road without any penalties. Bill C-452 would close a couple of loopholes that allow those defences to be available to people. Those defences are the so-called Carter defence and the last drink defence. Both of these defences involve the accused arguing that, based on the amount of alcohol they remember consuming, they could not have been intoxicated at the time the police stopped them.
These defences ignore the scientific and evidentiary validity of the BAC, proven through empirical measures. It is because of the extensive testing of the BAC that there is a legislative presumption written into the Criminal Code that the BAC from both breath and blood samples, if tested within two hours of the offence, is evidence of the driver's BAC at the time of the driving offence.
Both the Carter defence and the last drink defence turn that presumption around by allowing a witness's recollection of the drinks they consumed to take precedence over evidentiary tests, even if the witness's testimony cannot be substantiated. I believe that is wrong. It is really quite astounding that this has managed to hold up in court.
The bill would place on the accused the responsibility of proving the evidentiary tests incorrect. Many years of scientific study have proven that these tests are accurate, so it would be up to the accused to prove that a technician administered the tests improperly or the equipment malfunctioned.
Bill C-452 would also give police more time to administer breath or blood sample tests to establish BAC. This would allow more time to monitor the fall in blood alcohol levels to confirm accused drivers' claims that their last drink had not entered their bloodstream at the time of the offence.
We can help to stop drinking and driving by giving police and prosecutors these two simple legislative changes. They build on the work that police and the courts have already done to establish the BAC as an accurate measure of a driver's intoxication at the time of an offence. I believe Bill C-452 deserves the support of the House.
Apparently there are other tricks that drunk drivers use to avoid prosecution, which we will need to address in the future. In urban areas such as my riding of Dartmouth, one trick used by people who refuse to stop drinking and driving is leaving the scene of an accident and going immediately to a bar to down a couple of drinks. Then they can claim that their blood alcohol count happened after the accident when they went to the bar to calm their nerves. I must admit the first time that I heard that argument I was astounded. I could not believe that anyone would try to use that as a defence, but the police say that is a claim they often hear.
That points to the pervasive problem with drinking and driving. It is only 5% of drivers on our roads who commit the majority of impaired driving offences. These people refuse to stop driving drunk even though it is a choice they do not have to make; they have often been stopped by the police before and have learned the defences available to them to avoid being charged by the police.
It is our duty as legislators to create laws that our enforcement arm, the police, can actually enforce. Instead, we have the unenviable situation of police officers believing that their work will not matter since the drunk drivers they stop will not be convicted with our present laws.
Research from Mothers Against Drunk Driving proves that legislative measures reduce driving and drinking. This bill would give police and prosecutors more tools to deal with driving and drinking and would send a message to drunk drivers that this House continues its battle to get them off Canadian roads.
I am very pleased to say that I will be supporting this bill. It is an advancement in our cause to stop drinking and driving in this country.