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House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will only take a few minutes to conclude the debate on the bill which was before the House prior to oral question period. I simply want to say that I support the government bill we are debating today, namely Bill C-29.

This morning, on several occasions, our colleagues asked us to support the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code. Just before oral question period, one of our colleagues concluded his remarks on the bill regarding mental disorder. Later today, we will have the opportunity, I guess, to pass the bill either unanimously or through a recorded division.

The bill is entitled an act to amend the Criminal code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Some of the amendments were necessary, as you know, because certain acts that have been in force for a number of years have become obsolete or have never been used. And some were never promulgated even though they received the royal assent.

The department saw fit to take these housekeeping measures last spring. I was the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons when I first became aware of the bill. Unfortunately, its formal introduction in the House of Commons was delayed.

At that time, there were several justice bills before the House, which limited the amount of time we had to review it. Fortunately we now have a bit more time, so that members in the House can review it today.

I join all those, on this side of the House at least, who have indicated their support for Bill C-29 earlier today. I know that we will vote on it later today. Thus, since I will probably be the last one to speak on the bill, it will be put to a vote so that it can be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Finally, I hope that the parliamentary committee will have the time, despite its very busy schedule, to study it very soon and to send it back to the House, so that we can proceed to its final adoption soon and refer it to the other house.

I conclude my comments by adding that I still support the bill.

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3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Bill C-32. On the Order: Government Orders

May 3, 2004--the Minister of Justice--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-32, and act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

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3:10 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved:

That Bill C-32, and act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

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3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the motion to send Bill C-32 to the committee for review.

Bill C-32 fully responds to various parliamentary committees that have urged consideration of ways to improve legislation for the investigation of drug impaired driving.

In 2003 the special committee of the House that examined Bill C-38, that is cannabis reforms, now Bill C-10, recommended that the government consider amendments relating to drug recognition evaluation in order to aid in drug impaired driving investigations.

Earlier in the fall of 2003, the government had released a consultation paper on drug impaired driving to stakeholders and provinces that reflected discussions among federal and provincial officials. Those discussions had been recommended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights following its 1999 review of the impaired driving provisions in the Criminal Code.

Also in 2002, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs had recommended that consideration be given to amendments for drug recognition expert legislation.

Currently section 253(a) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to drive while one's ability to operate is impaired by alcohol or a drug. This includes driving while impaired by a combination of alcohol and a drug. For alcohol there is a separate offence in section 253(b) for driving while over the legal limit, but there are no similar drug legal limits.

The drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science has indicated that for the vast majority of drugs there is no scientific agreement on the concentration threshold at which there is impairment that significantly increases collision risk.

The Criminal Code currently authorizes the police to make demands for alcohol breath tests. These readings are necessary to prove the alcohol legal limit offence in section 253(b) and refusal of the alcohol breath tests is an offence.

These provisions are very helpful in the investigation process that leads to dealing with the alcohol legal limit offence. For section 253(a), drug impaired driving investigations, the police and the public are often less familiar with the physiological effects of drugs than those associated with alcohol. Bill C-32 would give the police the tools to better investigate section 253(a), drug impaired driving incidents.

Bill C-32 would authorize a peace officer, who reasonably suspects that a person has alcohol or a drug in the body, to demand that the person perform physical sobriety tests at the roadside. These involve a heel to toe walk and turn, following with the eyes the officer's hand movement, and standing on one leg. If the tests give the officer reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an alcohol involved driving offence, the officer can demand that the person provide a breath sample on the approved instrument. Typically an officer who has taken the necessary training does this testing at the police station.

If, after the roadside physical sobriety tests, the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a drug impaired driving offence has occurred, the officer may demand that the person perform tests in a drug recognition expert evaluation back at the police station. The trained officer who conducts the evaluation will conduct the steps in the evaluation and classify the family of drugs, if any, that is causing impairment.

If no test has been done at the roadside for alcohol and no test was done at the police station for alcohol and the officer conducting the evaluation has reasonable suspicion of alcohol in the body, the officer may demand a sample of breath on an approved screening device in order to confirm whether alcohol is present. If the officer conducting the evaluation forms the opinion that a drug is causing impairment, the officer can then demand a sample of urine, saliva or blood. The sample will be tested. Where the result shows that the drug which the officer identified as causing impairment is present, a charge would proceed.

Once again, as with alcohol, refusal of any of the demands without reasonable excuse would be a Criminal Code offence carrying the same penalties that now exist for driving while impaired, driving while over the alcohol legal limit or refusing to provide a breath sample.

If the prosecution proceeds by summary conviction, which is of course the less serious type of charge that can be laid, the existing maximum is six months imprisonment. If the prosecution proceeds by indictment, the maximum is five years imprisonment. Where there is impaired driving that causes death, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Where there is impaired driving that causes bodily harm, the maximum penalty is 10 years of imprisonment.

On the first offence, the minimum penalty is a fine of $600. On a second offence, the minimum is 14 days of imprisonment. On a subsequent offence, the minimum penalty is 90 days of imprisonment. In addition, upon a conviction, the court must also impose a period of prohibition from driving anywhere in Canada. The minimum driving prohibition increases with repeat offences.

The courts have already found that under section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the short detention at roadside for a breath test on an approved screening device, without the right to legal counsel is justifiable. Bill C-32 in its demand for physical sobriety tests at the roadside provides the police with a similar tool that, in my view, is equally justifiable.

Police currently give the right to counsel at the police station before the suspect performs an alcohol breath test on an approved instrument. It is anticipated that police would follow the same practice prior to a drug recognition expert evaluation.

In addition to the drug impaired driving elements of Bill C-32, the bill contains provisions that would correct some section numbering of Bill C-10, that is cannabis reforms. Bill C-32 also contains consequential amendments and coming into force provisions.

Currently, there are several provinces with police officers that have sobriety test and DRE training. However, these officers have no authority to make a demand for testing and can only conduct tests if a suspect voluntarily participates. Bill C-32 will, in that regard, be a giant step forward for police who investigate drug impaired driving incidents.

Clearly, the time has come for this type of legislation to be put in place. I urge all members to send the bill to committee for review. There we will be able to have all the stakeholders and the witnesses can come forward and make their perspectives known. Clearly, this area is an area that does present some difficulties. However, I believe this bill goes a long way toward bringing us to a point where drug impaired driving will bring the penalties to it that it deserves and will help in removing them from our roadways.

I encourage all members to support this going forward to committee for further review.

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3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion to send the bill to committee for further review and study.

Bill C-32, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to drugs and impaired driving, seeks to extend the testing provisions that currently exist for alcohol to also be used for other drugs. Alcohol testing can be done by police officers when an individual is pulled over to the side of the road with ease because of the fact that alcohol can be traced through breath and therefore a very non-intrusive breathalyzer test is possible.

This is not possible for other substances. Really law enforcement authorities frankly in Canada and elsewhere have been very lucky that alcohol is so easily tested through a breathalyzer device.

Therefore, what the proposed law does is allow police officers to require an individual to submit to a blood test and impose penalties for refusing to take that blood test to establish whether or not some degree of substance has been ingested that causes the individual to act in an impaired manner.

Significantly, this has nothing to do with whether is it an illegal substance. It has to do with whether the amount in the person's blood stream is sufficient to cause the person to act in a manner that essentially is negligent and endangers the general public through driving. On the whole that is a very good thing.

Right now the situation is there is no method legally available to police officers to allow them to require an individual to provide a blood sample in order for that sample to be tested to confirm whether the individual's driving is impaired.

The drug recognition expert test, to which my hon. colleague referred, is available and used in three provinces currently: Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba. However, it is only where the driver voluntarily participates. As we can anticipate, those who themselves feel that they might be in violation of the impaired driving laws are the most likely to refuse compliance with the request of an officer. Therefore, in practice, we can prosecute for the use of a legal drug, alcohol, but not for the use of illegal drugs in a way that causes the individual to be impaired.

Police officers are typically put in a position where it is necessary for them to rely on external evidence; that is behaviour of the individual with erratic driving patterns prior to the automobile being pulled over or by witness testimony, if they can find where the individual came from and are able to have someone report that the individual was using some form of substance in a substantial enough quantity that an individual's driving behaviour was likely to be impaired. In other words, it makes it very difficult to actually carry out prosecutions of those who endanger the public.

This is significant. All of this is taking place to some degree in the context of a debate over another bill, Bill C-10, which would decriminalize the possession and therefore in practice the use of at least limited quantities marijuana. Therefore, as this discussion goes on, we are also talking about a semi-legal drug, its status and how we respond to that.

Sometimes there are individuals, myself included, who refer to the consumption and use of marijuana as a victimless crime; that is, someone uses marijuana but they do not create a victim out there. However, that stops when individuals use marijuana or some other substance, including a prescription drug, and proceed to put themselves essentially at the control of a large and dangerous machine and take actions which could endanger the safety of others. At that point, the public interest becomes involved and potentially there are victims of what essentially boils down to being at the very least a kind of gross negligence. In some cases we see impaired drivers going out when there is almost a certainty they will wind up having an accident. We can argue that when someone is harmed, it is a form of manslaughter.

When I have written on the subject of decriminalization of drugs in the past, I always have stressed the importance of ensuring that we have laws in place that guarantee that negative externalities, the imposition of pain or suffering upon others, are carefully prevented and any form of reduction in the penalties for the use of any mood or mind-altering substance ought to be accompanied by protections for the public.

In October 2001 I wrote an article on the subject of marijuana decriminalization and drugs in general. I wrote the following with reference to the public good and public interest. I said:

--most of us would recognize the need for sanctions against violent behaviour and against the grossest forms of negligence towards others, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect some form of legislated limitation on what economists would describe as the “negative externalities” (harmful or annoying side effects to others) of all personal behaviours, including drug use. Which is, of course, precisely what the state does in the case of legal recreational drugs. Driving or boating while under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offence, as it ought to be.

The same would be true for driving or boating while under the influence of marijuana, a prescription drug, an illegal drug or some mix of those substances. The bill as it stands now would allow for this kind of rule to be enforced in a meaningful way, and that is a positive step.

There are some things, however, that deserve to be mentioned as caveats. One is the fact that it is not as easy to find a consensus on what represents a dangerous level of other substances in the bloodstream. Whereas we have a pretty clear consensus on what represents a dangerous level of alcohol in the bloodstream. That is work that I think we can achieve.

I have great hope that in committee hearings we will hear witnesses who can draw our attention to some of the science on this so we may begin to develop the necessary knowledge to allow ourselves to carry out this kind of law effectively and ensure that those who are not impaired are not facing prosecution and those who are genuinely impaired do not get away from facing prosecution. That is a balancing act and I have hope that we will be successful in finding the solution through this.

I also want to mention that we should not regard this law as being a panacea with regard to the problems raised by Bill C-10, the marijuana decriminalization law.

Bill C-10 has problems that are not addressed by this legislation. Most notable, it seems to me, Bill C-10 simultaneously reduces the penalties for the consumption of marijuana. That means inevitably the consumer demand would increase while at the same time it would increase the penalties for the possession of marijuana for production purposes as measured, for example, by the number of plants one has in one's possession. This could have the consequence of causing simultaneously demand to rise while the penalties also rise and the temptations of risking those penalties also rise, which may result in more prosecutions and more people being tempted into a position where they can be prosecuted than would otherwise be the case. I do not think that is a positive thing and it remains a real concern with Bill C-10. There are other concerns, as well.

However, this proposed and the measures it recommends are very positive. I would encourage members to send the bill forward to the committee.

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course, it is a great pleasure to speak to Bill C-32. It is somewhat the child of Bill C-10 and of Bill C-38, which was later called Bill C-10.

The House will remember that several witnesses who appeared before the committee pointed out the problem of driving while impaired by drugs. They raised this point to encourage us to oppose Bill C-10.

Following these presentations, I moved in committee an amendment aimed at doing almost what Bill C-32 does now. At the time, the committee chair rejected my amendment, because it was irrelevant to Bill C-10.

However, and I succeeded in getting the unanimous support of the committee on this, we tabled two reports on Bill C-10 in the House. The first report suggested some amendments to Bill C-10 and the other called on the government to move quickly to pass legislation to resolve the problem of driving while impaired by drugs.

So, Bill C-32, which is now before us, is in response to a request by the committee that reviewed Bill C-10.

As regards the bill per se, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that we support Bill C-32 at this stage and believe that it should be reviewed in committee as quickly as possible.

Now, let us turn to the bad news. The introduction of the bill at this stage of our proceedings, with an election campaign looming on the horizon, is a cheap election ploy on the part of the Liberals. They are trying to counter the attacks that they are anticipating from the Conservative Party of Canada and its right wing forces, which want a return to a more prohibitionist approach regarding the possession of marijuana.

When a measure as important as Bill C-32 is introduced in the House, an announcement is usually made regarding moneys that will be made available to implement the legislation. In this case, no money was earmarked, announced or set aside to implement Bill C-32. What is the point of tabling, and even voting on a measure such as Bill C-32 if the means to implement it are not there?

As we know, there are some 52,000 police officers in Canada. If my memory serves me correctly, we need to train about 40% of them so that they can conduct the standardized breath test announced in Bill C-32.

How does the government expect to train these 20,000 to 25,000 police officers if it does have the means to do so? How will these men and women, these police officers, be able to conduct standardized sobriety tests on people who are inebriated or under the influence of drugs, if they are not trained to do so?

I will conclude by saying that although we support Bill C-32, I think this is a cheap election ploy. I think the government is not sincere in its commitment to passing Bill C-32. If it were, it would have provided the means to implement it.

Unfortunately, nothing surprises me anymore with this government. I am beyond cynical about it. This government has no direction and does not know what it wants except to be re-elected. It thinks that by tabling Bill C-32 on the eve of an election, it is arming itself against possible attacks that might occur during an election campaign. For the public, it is very disappointing to see the government treat such an important issue this way.

I repeat, and I will conclude on this, I demand that the government table a concrete plan in the few days remaining before the federal election is called. The government has to tell us exactly how much money it will provide and put aside in order to train police officers to conduct standardized sobriety tests; otherwise this is all a sham.

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is pleased to indicate to the House that we, like the other parties, are quite interested in having this bill referred to committee. We recognize that it has a significant role to play in dealing with drivers and conductors of other vehicles who are in an impaired condition, both in terms of identifying them and dealing with the results of them breaching the law.

There are clearly some positives in this bill, but there also are some negatives. This bill has become a pressing issue in the form of its necessity because of all the debate that we have had around Bill C-10, which would have the effect of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

I must say that from my period of time when I was practising criminal law, I am not sure we are going to see any increase in the number of people driving while impaired due to the consumption of marijuana. That conduct is going on now. In many respects, because it is completely illegal now, I would suggest it is worse than it will be once it is legalized and have the result at that point of people knowing when and how much they can consume, and generate more appropriate conduct in terms of the safety of the general public.

I think because the maximum consumption allowed, in terms of possession, is 15 grams, people will know that is the limit. They will also know that because they are limiting themselves in that regard, they have to limit the consumption in terms of its impact if they are driving or, what would be obviously preferable, that they do not drive at all, or conduct any other types of mechanical devices on public roadways, waterways, or airways, if they have consumed any marijuana whatsoever.

I am actually looking for an improvement in the number of people who would be conducting themselves in more appropriate and safety conscious fashion.

The other point that I would like to make with regard to the legislation itself--and it is one concern that we have and I am not sure we are going to be able to overcome this as we go through the legislative process, it is one that will have to be overcome by changes in practice of law enforcement--is the fear we have that this type of legislation could in fact be used in a discriminating fashion against visible minorities, against the aboriginal Métis population, much as we are seeing some of that occurring now in other areas of law enforcement.

This one is much more open to that type of abuse because it would allow a police officer unreasonable grounds to stop someone, conduct the investigation, and then carry on to insist that they provide urine or blood samples, saliva samples, et cetera. So it is more open to abuse.

The use of the breathalyzer and the use of the assessment whether somebody is impaired due to alcohol is more clear-cut. The evidence that was heard at both Bill C-10 and other investigations into the legalization of marijuana made that quite clear. It is easier for a police officer to identify people who are under the influence of alcohol than if they are under the influence of marijuana or some other drug. However, because of that difficulty, it is then easier for police officers who are being abusive of their authority to camouflage the fact that they are in some way or another discriminating.

I do not want to suggest in any way that this is rampant in our society and certainly within our police forces, but we do have exceptions and we have seen that across the country, in a number of ways, over the last good number of years as we have followed those types of abuses. This legislation, therefore, will have to be closely analyzed to see if there are any ways that we can reduce that type of abuse flowing out of these amendments.

The other point I would like to make is with regard to how some of the tests actually would be conducted. This is one of our concerns with the legislation. The legislation as drafted provides that a blood sample would have to be taken by a qualified medical practitioner. Obviously of concern are the rules we are going to have to put in place under this legislation to guide how that blood sample is taken. They must be very clear cut and very directive and, as much as possible, limiting in terms of invasion of privacy and invasion of the body's well-being.

That wording is in the legislation. I applaud that. It specifically says that the medical practitioner has to do an analysis as to whether the sample taking will in any way cause further injury to the individual. That is important, but I think we have to go even further.

With regard to the taking of other samples, we run into all sorts of practical problems. The committee reviewing this will have to look at some of these issues. For instance, in taking urine samples, there is the whole issue of how one monitors the person. There is the whole issue of the invasion of privacy. Is there a full search of the individual, including body cavities, in case the person is carrying around a urine sample? These are all issues we have had to deal with in enforcement of drug laws in other areas and we are going to be confronting them again under this legislation.

We as parliamentarians will need to be conscious of those problems when drafting the legislation. As much as possible, we will need to be prepared to provide direction to the enforcing officers so that abuse does not occur but samples can still be obtained in a fair and just way.

The additional point I would like to raise, which is one that we heard earlier from the member from the Bloc Québécois, is the issue of funding. There is no provision in the legislation for cost sharing on the expenses that are inevitably going to come out of this, first with regard to training our police officers right across the country on what they are required to do and what they are entitled to do and in effect teaching them how to do it.

Based on my own experience when I was practising law, at the time when the breathalyzer was coming into effect we had a lot of difficulties with it, including a lot of litigation as to what was required for the person to be properly trained and for the equipment to be properly used.

It is an expensive process to prepare our police forces right across the country for what is being proposed under this legislation. It is being mandated by the federal government. While we might pass these amendments to the code, while doing that we are not providing any financial resources. That burden, then, as so often has happened with this government, is going to fall onto provincial and municipal governments. Neither one of those levels of government, with the exception of one or two of the provinces, is in any kind of shape to take on additional costs for their policing.

One of the results may very well be that municipal police forces simply may not even attempt to use the bill because they cannot afford to train their officers and may not be able to afford some of the necessary equipment. For example, there will be a need for specific storage facilities for keeping both blood and urine samples and that is going to be expensive. Other types of equipment may very well be necessary on site in the police stations across the country. If that is not provided for by at least some significant amount of funding from the federal government, we may see police forces across the country simply refusing to use this legislation because they cannot afford to.

We have these concerns. However, because of what we are doing with Bill C-10 and the need generally to bring under control the consumption of drugs of various sources and the conducting of vehicles, it is very important to proceed with this legislation.

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3:45 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to sending Bill C-32 to committee. I am delighted to hear all the other parties supporting it although I was a bit astounded by the Bloc's suggestion about rudderlessness. As we know, the government has a lot of bills on the list today. We are going to a fisheries bill next. We have had many bills related to self-government and first nations financial institutions and a huge agenda in the budget and the throne speech.

When reporters review question period since Christmas, they will find out that it is the Bloc members that are rudderless. What proposals have they provided to us for the betterment of Canada, for the betterment of and better programs for Canadians? If we were to look through the Bloc's questions in question period, we would see that there really are no proposals there. There are no questions on the very dramatic program we have in the throne speech and the budget for rebuilding the social foundations and reinvigorating Canada's educational system, to be prepared for the modern economy and to reinvigorate Canada's place in the world. There is nothing to that effect in the Bloc's agenda or the questions during question period. I do not think that Bloc members should suggest that others are rudderless.

Bill C-32, related to driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug, is a complex health, road safety and justice problem. Addressing it requires combined efforts of governments, police, schools, public and private organizations, families and individuals. Where legislation, whether provincial, territorial or federal, can contribute to fighting impaired driving, it should contribute.

Is there a gap in the impaired driving offences provided for in the Criminal Code? The answer is no. In fact, the Criminal Code has had an offence for driving under the effects of alcohol since 1921. The code also has an offence relating to drugs and driving since 1925. Driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug is already a serious Criminal Code offence with serious penalties, including a maximum of life imprisonment for impaired driving that causes death.

The offence of driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug includes driving while impaired by a combination of alcohol and drugs. The offence covers all kinds of drugs: illicit, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs. In order to prove the offence of driving while impaired by a drug, there is no requirement to show what the drug concentration level was while impaired by that drug. This is not as easy as it sounds, because it may be difficult for the untrained officer to recognize the physical effects of each drug found within the vast range of drugs other than alcohol.

Is there a difficulty in investigating drug-impaired driving incidents? The answer is clearly yes. Currently, where police officers do have training to administer roadside physical sobriety tests, or the more involved tests at the station, they can only seek the voluntary participation of a driver in these tests when conducting an investigation of a drug-impaired driving offence under the Criminal Code. If the driver refuses, there is no criminal law sanction.

Bill C-32 will give the police the authority they need to better investigate drug-impaired driving offences. It provides that a peace officer may demand physical sobriety tests at the roadside, more involved tests at the station, and a sample of urine, saliva or blood in order to test for the presence of drugs. Refusal of the demands would be a Criminal Code offence.

Since 1995, British Columbia has trained many police officers in standardized field sobriety tests that are used at the roadside and in drug recognition expert evaluations that are used at the police station. Several other provinces now have trained officers.

Some might ask what the federal government is doing. Some of the opposition members were asking questions about the money. Already to date, the government has committed more than $5 million toward drug recognition expert training. Training in standardized field sobriety tests and drug recognition expertise is already being rolled out nationally through a national coordinator who is an RCMP officer.

The national drug recognition expert coordinator works with instructors from the RCMP and provincial, regional and municipal forces in an approach that will “train the trainers” in order to build the capacity to develop standardized field sobriety tests and drug recognition expert officers across the country. A mid-term evaluation that incorporates a national needs assessment for training is to be undertaken in the 2005-06 fiscal year.

Scientists are much more familiar with the effects of alcohol on driving than they are in relation to other drugs. Similarly, researchers are more familiar with alcohol in relation to driver fatality data because they have been at it far longer and coroners have a higher rate for alcohol testing of fatally injured drivers. What is interesting is that even without complete testing of fatally injured drivers for drugs in all provinces and territories and even without vast numbers of studies on the effects of each of many drugs upon the skills used for driving, there is broad agreement that drug-impaired driving presents a serious problem and that drug-impaired driving is appropriately among offences within the Criminal Code.

Over the coming years, I am sure that we will see more research that will help us to broaden our understanding of the problem of drug-related impaired driving. That understanding could help to focus other parts of the prevention puzzle, such as education and public information, along with rehabilitative measures.

Over the past two decades there has been an increasing awareness of the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol and drugs. There is far less tolerance today for such alcohol-impaired driving than there was in the past. Undoubtedly this progress also has an effect on the twin problems of drug-impaired driving and driving while impaired by a drug-alcohol cocktail. Canadians are not willing to put up with the dangers posed by drug-impaired driving.

I am aware some would argue that we should have legal limits for each of the many drugs, just as we have a legal limit in the Criminal Code for alcohol. Alcohol has a steady rate of absorption and elimination. Scientists are readily agreed that a significant increase of crash risk occurs above .08 for drivers, regardless of age. For the vast majority of other drugs, it is not so easy to find agreement on the threshold at which crash risk assessment is significantly increased. That is why the support from the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science has come for drug recognition expert programs rather than for drug legal limits.

Bill C-32 has benefited from feedback provided on a public consultation paper on drug-impaired driving, released last fall. Several provinces have provided comments. Some individual Canadians have commented, as have many organizations, including the Canadian Bar Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canada Safety Council, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Canadian Professional Police Association, and the Canadian Medical Association. Bill C-32 incorporates a number of their suggestions.

I am aware that the legislation may be tested in the courts. In several ways it parallels the breath-testing legislation, which has withstood scrutiny. For example, reasonable suspicion is required prior to demands for roadside sobriety tests just as it is prior to demanding breath tests on an approved screening device. Police must have reasonable grounds to believe an offence is being committed before demanding DRE tests at the police station, just as they must have reasonable grounds before demanding a breath test on an approved instrument. I am confident that the bill is solid and that the limits it imposes are justifiable.

Bill C-32 will aid police in the investigation of drug-impaired driving offences. By itself it is not a panacea for the problem of drug-impaired driving. It is, however, a very important piece in the solution. I am asking all members to support the motion to send Bill C-32 to committee for review.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on this motion to refer to committee Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

I am convinced that all members of this House want to pass the best possible legislation to fight the problem of drug-impaired driving. We know that the government's proposal is intended to amend the Criminal Code to give police the authority to demand that a person suspected of having drugs in his or her system submit to Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, or SFST.

If that person fails these tests, the police officer will have reason to believe that the person's faculties are impaired by drugs or by the combined effects of drugs and alcohol, and thus will be empowered to demand that the person accompany the officer to the police station, where the person will have to undergo other tests administered by a specially trained drug recognition expert, known as a DRE.

If the expert believes that the impairment is linked to a particular category of drugs, he or she will be authorized to require the person to furnish a sample of bodily fluids for analysis to confirm or refute the expert's opinion.

In one sense, this bill does not create a revolution. SFSTs and DREs are already being used in Canada. I understand that currently there are over 100 police officers trained as drug recognition experts. This phenomenon started in British Columbia in 1995 and now there are DREs in most provinces.

The RCMP is giving the training in conjunction with other police forces, and it is reasonable to expect that there will be DREs across the country within one or two years. Moreover, trial courts have accepted DREs' testimony in cases resulting in convictions.

Canada is not the only country to use DREs. As a matter of fact the first DREs were introduced in California in the early 1980s. Nowadays, they can be found in over 30 U.S. states as well as in Australia, New Zealand and several European countries. Training has been standardized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police over the past 10 years.

So if the program is already well in place in several Canadian provinces why do we need this bill? The answer is simple: We need it because currently a person suspected of drug-impaired driving is not obliged to take the tests.

In its report, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs devoted a chapter to driving under the influence of cannabis. The explanation given there applies to any police report of drug-impaired driving.

The Senate Committee summed up the situation as follows:

The typical scenario for driving under the influence of psychoactive substances other than alcohol is as follows: a vehicle attracts the attention of a police officer, who pulls the vehicle over and questions the driver; if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is intoxicated, a breathalyzer test is administered; however, when the test yields a result below the legal limit, the police officer may still not be convinced that the driver is capable of driving, but how is this to be proven? Before, more often than not, the police officer had to release the driver.

When the Senate committee says that “before the police officer had to release the driver” it refers to the situation that prevailed in the United States and in other countries before the law was amended to oblige suspected drivers to take the test.

Unfortunately, between now and when this bill is passed, we will continue to be in the same frustrating situation. The police officer suspects that the driver is impaired and presents a danger on the road, but since the impairment is not alcohol-related, which could be verified with an approved screening device or an approved breath test at the police station, he has to let the driver go and possibly kill or harm others. He can only detain the driver if he has solid evidence to arrest him and lay charges.

Bill C-32 will give police officers the tools they need to certify driving impaired by alcohol. First, the officer will be able to require the driver to take an SFST. This test takes roughly five minutes and is conducted on the spot. It consists in looking at the driver's eyes while slowly moving an object, such as a pen, in front of him and watching to see whether the eye movement is jerky. The driver is then asked to walk a straight line, heel to toe, and then turn around and come back. Then the person has to stand on one leg and hold the other leg straight, 15 centimetres from the ground, while counting to 30. Hon. members should try these tests. They will see that they are not difficult. Clearly, if the suspect has a handicap or a health problem that would prevent them from doing the test, they can refuse to do it. The legislation allows for the possibility of “reasonable excuse”. Otherwise, police officers have reasonable grounds to believe that a driver who has failed to pass these tests is impaired. That is the prerequisite for requiring tests to be conducted by DREs.

The evaluation is carried out by an officer trained in drug recognition. The drug-detection tests are based on medical and scientific knowledge. They are designed to identify the presence of seven classes of drugs: central nervous system depressants, better known as tranquilizers; inhalants, including solvents, aerosols and anesthetic gases; PCP, phencyclidine, a dissociative anesthetic; cannabis; central nervous system stimulants, such as speed or cocaine; hallucinogens such as LSD and ecstasy; and narcotics or opiates, like heroin and morphine.

Officers trained in drug recognition can also recognize characteristics of consumption of various drugs.

The DRE evaluation consists of 12 steps. There are three tests of eye movement: horizontal nystagmus, vertical nystagmus and convergence. Nystagmus is an involuntary but observable jerk of the eyeball. Horizontal nystagmus is a jerk that occurs while a person is watching an object move from left to right and back again.

The DRE also administers a modified Romberg balance test, a walk-and-turn test, a one-leg stand, and finger-to-nose test. The DRE then takes three vital signs: blood pressure, body temperature and pulse.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to the motion to refer Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code, drugs and impaired driving, and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts, to the committee for hearings.

I believe I speak for everyone in the House and for the Canadian public generally when I say that everyone wants to propose the best legislation in dealing with this particular issue. The core of the legislation which is before the House is to change the Criminal Code so that police officers would have the authority to demand that a person who is suspected of having drugs in his or her body participate in standardized field sobriety tests, known as the acronym SFST. I see this as one more step in a continuum of tools that our police officers have at their disposal to deal with drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

I practised law for quite a few years in Atlantic Canada. When I first started, the breathalyzer had only been in for four or five years. Anyone who is a little older than me can recall the tools that the police officers had at that time to deal with alcohol. They were the very tests that we have talked about here: touching the nose, walking a straight line, stooping over and the different tests that the police officers did at the time. Those tests did not give a very consistent or standardized approach. The trials were complex and complicated. The test results usually were fought by the accused because the success rate was certainly significant.

However, as time progressed, technology came to be and we developed the breathalyzer. There were certain problems with that, and then we had the offence of refusing a breathalyzer. This is all in the continuum as we deal with this very serious offence but we have been dealing with it for 40 years.

Although I will be speaking to this legislation, which is good legislation and I would ask my colleagues in the House of Commons to support it, I will point out that the Canadian public has dealt with the whole issue, not successfully, but there have been some successful steps made on the issue of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We also have had the penal sanctions and the publicity surrounding it.

However, when I look back, the best tool that the Canadian public has used on these offences, which we see so much with younger people in society, is that we have made the offence socially unacceptable. The statistics prove that this has lowered the incidents of the offence over the last 20 years, and especially over the last 5 or 6 years. We see with the younger people in society and I believe in every province that it is not socially acceptable to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Getting back to the legislation, it is a serious issue and it would give the police more tools in their arsenal to deal with a situation where a person is not so much under the influence of alcohol but is under the influence of drugs. In this case, the core of the government's proposal is to change the Criminal Code so that police have the authority to demand that a person who is suspected of having drugs on his or her body participate in the standardized field sobriety tests which I have talked about before.

If the person failed these tests, the police officer would then, on a consistent basis, have reasonable grounds to believe that the person was impaired by a drug, or in some instances by a combination of a drug and alcohol. The police officer would be in a position to demand that the person accompany the police officer to a police station where the person would have to submit to further tests administered by a drug recognition expert.

The bottom line is that once that happened, a bodily fluid sample could be taken. Then and only then, if the final bodily fluid test indicated clearly what the drug was in the person's system, the concentration of the drug could be indicated. The expert could then form an opinion as to whether or not that concentration of the illegal drug was such that the person would be impaired pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada. That would all go forward to the courts and if everything were done in proper order and the safeguards were there, the person would be convicted of that offence.

This is not a new technology. It is not a revolution of the law. It is just a further step. It continues the whole process that we are working on in society. I understand that this was developed in California in the early 1980s. It found its way into Canada quite some time ago, at least nine or ten years ago. It is my understanding that there is now in excess of 100 officers trained as drug recognition experts.

The program began in British Columbia in 1995 and some drug recognition experts are now present, I believe, in most of the 10 Canadian provinces. The RCMP, in cooperation with other police agencies, is conducting a training program. We can expect these training officers to be present throughout the land within the next year or so.

That follows on a trend that was started 30 or 35 years ago with the breathalyzer. That was a very complicated instrument when it first came into play. More police officers were trained in the use of that instrument and it is quite commonplace right now.

Dealing with the whole issue of drugs and alcohol, I want to point out to the House the incidence of drug users in fatal accidents. A Quebec study determined that in excess of 30% of fatal accidents in that province involved either drugs or the combination of drugs and alcohol.

As I already pointed out, we do have the offence within the Criminal Code right now. It has been there for as long as I can remember. Driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug is currently a criminal offence and can result in severe penalties. The maximum penalty, I believe, is life imprisonment if the offence causes the death of another individual.

We talked about the tests which are the first step in the three-pronged process leading to the conviction of a person who has in his or her body a concentration of illegal drugs that is causing impairment. Police officers across Canada need this tool in their arsenal because we are ploughing new ground, so to speak. The whole scientific literature, the decided cases and the jurisprudence involving alcohol is very well established but is a little behind with respect to drugs.

In a lot of cases there is no scientific consensus of the threshold of the drug concentration in the body which causes impairment and makes driving hazardous. It becomes difficult when there are drugs mixed with alcohol, drugs mixed with other drugs, and illegal drugs mixed with prescription drugs. There are all kinds of cocktails. That is why we need this legislation. It would be so beneficial.

I urge all members of the House to support the legislation. Let us refer this important piece of legislation to committee, so that the committee, the House and subsequently Senate can move quickly on it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

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4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 4:20 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

moved that Bill C-33, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker,I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-33, an act to amend the Fisheries Act.

I would like to begin by recognizing the hard work of the members of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations and thank them for their interest in bringing their concerns forward. I used to be a member of that esteemed committee in my first term between 1993 and 1997. The role of that committee is to examine regulations that have been put into force by order in council and to ensure that those regulations are authorized by an act of Parliament.

There have been times when disagreements have arisen between that committee and departments, or ministers and their offices about whether a particular regulation is duly authorized or not. There was one such disagreement in this case. I and my department have decided to bring forward Bill C-33 in response to the concerns brought forward nevertheless.

I greatly appreciate the advice and opinions of the committee members, who play a very important role in examining the existing regulations. Very often, their suggestions have proven extremely useful.

The committee set out its concerns in its reports on the Ontario fishery regulations and the aboriginal communal fishing licences regulations. More important, these reports brought forward a number of recommendations to provide greater clarity and certainty on matters of legislative authority with respect to these regulations. Because the government values the committee's role in providing parliamentary oversight, we have given serious consideration to the committee's views about these regulations.

Bill C-33 fulfills commitments that were made to the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations by the government. Our government strongly believes in increasing the participation of Canadians in politics. That is why in February the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform, my colleague from Montreal, tabled an action plan for democratic reform.

The action plan was based on three pillars of democratic reform: improving ethics and integrity in government; restoring the role of members of Parliament in generating thought and ideas in debate; and increasing the accountability of our elected officials. Those are three key, very important pillars. I heard positive reaction to those from people in my part of the country.

Our government recognizes that members of Parliament are an essential link between citizens and the federal government and, as such, must play a key role in our parliamentary system.

We must therefore expand the role of our parliamentary committees to enable members to define more clearly their approach and influence on policy. We feel that all of this will enhance the role of members of Parliament, the efficiency of government, and Canadians' participation.

In other words, by giving members of Parliament a more effective role, making committees more effective, giving them more influence on the development of policies, on the development of legislation, we give more power to Canadians. That is what is important. That is what Canadians are asking for.

After close consultation with the members of the committee, I am confident that the amendments to the Fisheries Act that are being proposed will address their concerns.

However I would like to reiterate my belief that the regulations currently in place are sound and that they properly authorize the fishing under the Fisheries Act. They offer a flexible, balanced approach in accommodating fishing by aboriginal communities with the responsibility to effectively conserve and manage our fisheries on behalf of all Canadians. The regulations support the ability to manage the fishery consistently with the Sparrow decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Marshall decision and other important court decisions that have had quite an influence and have had lots of commentary in our country in recent years.

Having a single regime in place that is flexible enough to take all of the numerous factors that I have mentioned into account is certainly a challenge. I believe that the current regulations give the balanced and flexible approach that is needed.

The committee has requested further clarity on these matters and that is exactly what the bill is intended to do. That is why the amendments being proposed represent a range of changes that will provide greater clarity and certainty on matters of legislative authority, as the committee has requested.

In particular, Bill C-33 amends the Fisheries Act in a number of ways, but I will mention two. One, the bill expressly provides that the governor in council can make regulations respecting the method of designation where a licence is issued to an aboriginal organization. Two, the bill expressly provides that breach of a term or condition of licence issued under the Fisheries Act is an offence.

My department has been working with aboriginal groups and stakeholders. We feel it is imperative and very important that the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act are well understood by our key stakeholders.

I am sure my colleagues can see how important this is. I am confident of their support of the idea that we need to take into consideration the point of view of those involved in the fisheries.

We have also been working with the provinces and territories on this matter. Provincial and territorial support has been fostered through a renewed working relationship in a spirit of cooperation between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and provincial and territorial agencies that have responsibilities related to fisheries.

I want to point out that the passage of these amendments into law will not change the existing practices on the ground. It is important, if one is involved in the fisheries, to know that there is going to be consistency, stability and certainty as we go forward.

The aboriginal communal fishing licence regulations remain founded in law and continue to be enforced. They continue to provide valuable mechanisms for implementation of the aboriginal fisheries strategy and the Marshall response initiative in keeping with case law.

In my capacity as minister, I will continue to issue community licences to aboriginal communities under these regulations.

Bill C-33 would also support the continued involvement of aboriginal groups in the management of fisheries. We would continue to work cooperatively with aboriginal groups in this regard.

Over the last decade, aboriginal participation in the fisheries has grown. On the east coast, for example, the Marshall response initiative has led to the creation of a significant number of jobs. Using an average of three jobs per fishing enterprise, it can be estimated that about 1,250 direct full time and part time jobs have been created as a result of the Marshall response initiative. That is a big impact.

Jobs have also been created in managing and management administration, boat repair, science and habitat, monitoring and mentoring. These are all important areas. Most of my colleagues here will recognize that that is very valuable.

We think of the history of aboriginal communities and of the difficulties with which they have suffered for so long and the fact that they are now seeing and seizing these opportunities to fish and take part in this industry is a sign of great hope. It is one of the many things the government is doing to work with first nations to try and build a strong economic life in those communities.

We can speak of the progress that goes beyond the fishery, like the emergence of new leaders and the profits that are being invested in housing, infrastructure and other social priorities. These and other benefits are resulting in an improved quality of life for first nations.

An acceptance of the presence of first nations in the commercial fishery is also growing. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishers are fishing side by side. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans mentoring pilot project went a long way in strengthening this relationship as first nations and non-aboriginal fishers worked together to transfer skills and knowledge.

Agreements on fisheries and the development of a different kind of relationship on the water have made greater understanding and better communication between first nations people and DFO staff possible.

Consequently, the first nations have a say in the departmental decision-making process.

The Government of Canada has also announced a recent initiative to broaden our progress and to further develop collaborative relationships with aboriginal groups. It was a very important announcement that was made in October 2003 when the department and the minister at the time announced the aboriginal aquatic resource and oceans management program, and the aboriginal inland habitat program.

Earlier this year, in February 2004, I had the pleasure of announcing the at sea mentoring and the fisheries operating management initiatives, both of which are to be carried out over the next four years.

In my opinion this cooperative approach with not only the Department of Fisheries and Oceans but with aboriginal groups and people in the commercial fishery is a key component of a soundly managed fishery. The government recognizes the challenges faced by aboriginal Canadians and is committed to bringing about concrete improvements in the economic opportunities and living standards of aboriginal people in Canada.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is what the vast majority of Canadians want and want it very seriously. They see and hear of the difficult circumstances of people living on reserves in many cases. They are concerned and anxious to see steps taken to improve that situation. It is a real concern for many Canadians.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been a key contributor to helping aboriginal people attain greater economic self-reliance and will continue to do so.

This bill will provide the legislative authority with greater transparency and assurance, both of which are vital to proper and orderly management of the fisheries sector.

It will make it possible for us to continue to work with aboriginal groups to enhance quality of life and promote the overall objectives of the Government of Canada.

Therefore, in view of all these points I have made, my colleagues will see that this is a valuable piece of legislation. While we already have regulations in place, those will remain in force, it is important to listen to committees of the House and in this case a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons.

The House may be aware that this committee is co-chaired by a Conservative member of the House and by a Liberal Senator. It is worthwhile for the public who might be watching, some of them at least, to be aware of the fact that we do have committees where members work in cooperation from all sides of the House. This is one such committee where members have concerns about regulations and have put them forward.

I therefore ask all members of the House to join me in supporting this important bill.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before we proceed to questions or comments, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Davenport, International Trade; the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Public Service of Canada.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, the minister, when he introduced the bill, spoke about the committee on scrutiny of regulations. He spoke about the great job it had done and about all the consultation on the bill.

I wonder if the minister could tell us, how much consultation did he have on this specific bill with the committee, how often did he meet with them, and who specifically did he talk to in relation to this particular bill that we are now debating?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I would have to go back and review that. I can tell the hon. member that the hon. member for Surrey Central is the co-chair of that committee, along with Senator Hervieux-Payette. As I understand it, my office has been dealing with them and the department has been consulting with them. However, I would have to get back to the hon. member on the details of that consultation.

It is accurate to say that I misspoke myself and should have pointed out that in fact my officials and my assistants had been in contact with that committee. The hon. member has made a good point and I appreciate that.