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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

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4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

A recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

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4:35 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The bill would help bring Canada's impaired driving laws into the 21st century and would greatly assist the police in their efforts to investigate impaired driving incidents and the Crown in its prosecutions of alleged offenders.

I know all members recognize that impaired driving remains the single criminal offence that is most likely to result in the death or injury of Canadians. If passed, this legislation will make an immeasurable contribution to the safety of all Canadians. Therefore, I trust that all parties will support the legislation and that we can cooperate so that these needed changes can be considered by the standing committee expeditiously.

I can assure all members that the government is open to consideration of any improvements that the committee can suggest, after hearing from stakeholders, to make the bill even more effective in achieving its goals.

The bill has three main components.

First, it would give police officers the tools they need to investigate drug impaired driving.

Second, it would make changes that reflect the great advances made in breathalyzer technology since Parliament first introduced breath testing almost 40 years ago.

Third, it would introduce new offences and increase penalties for existing offences.

Many members of the House are familiar with the drug impaired provisions of the bill. They are virtually identical to the provisions of Bill C-16, which was introduced in an earlier Parliament. That bill was reviewed and amended in committee and reported unanimously with amendments by the committee. However, it died on the order paper.

There is no question that police and prosecutors are eagerly awaiting the passage of those changes.

I will therefore confine my remarks to the new provisions in Bill C-32 so that members will understand what motivated the government to bring these amendments forward.

Probably the most important change in this bill is the proposal to ensure that only scientifically valid defences can be used where a person is accused of driving with a concentration of alcohol exceeding 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood. This is known as driving over 80.

Parliament first enacted an alcohol driving offence in 1921. Our current Criminal Code, section 253, subsection (a), offence of impaired driving, was enacted in 1951. It has been known for more than 50 years that a person with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol in their system is a danger to himself or herself and also to other users of the road.

A person with a blood alcohol concentration of 90 is estimated by the U.S. Department of Transportation to be at least 11 times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident as a sober driver. Above that level, the risk increases exponentially. At a blood alcohol level of 125, for example, a person is at least 29 times as likely to be involved in a fatal collision.

While recognizing the risk of collisions with escalating blood alcohol concentrations, the problem has always been how to prove the concentration. Determining BAC can be done by analyzing blood. However, obtaining a blood sample is often seen as intrusive and it can take a long time to complete the blood analysis, during which time the accused does not know whether a charge will be laid.

The problems with blood analysis were overcome in the 1950s with the invention of Borkenstein Breathalyzer, which converted alcohol in breath to alcohol in blood in a reliable, scientifically valid process.

Parliament recognized the risk of blood alcohol concentration that exceeded 80 when it passed, in 1969, legislation making it an offence to drive with that much alcohol or more in a person's system. It is a peculiarity of the law that it can only be proven by making the person provide the evidence that can be used against him or her in court. Accordingly Parliament made it an offence to refuse to provide the breath sample on an improved instrument.

Advances in technology made it possible to measure the BAC at roadside, so Parliament provided for the use of a roadside screening device in 1979. These screeners indicate that a person has failed but do not give a precise BAC for use in court. They do provide the police with grounds to demand the approved instrument test. The results from the approved instrument are admissible in court.

Again, it is an offence not to provide the breath sample on an approved screening device and it is an offence not to provide the breath sample on an approved instrument. The courts have recognized the unique nature of this law and they have upheld its constitutionality as a reasonable limit on the charter right against unreasonable search and seizure, a limit that is justified by the horrendous toll caused by drunk drivers.

Therefore, by 1979 Parliament had established a two-step process for determining whether a driver was over 80. It appears simple. A reasonable suspicion of alcohol in the driver leads to a roadside approved device screening test which, if failed, leads to an approved instrument test, in which over 80 is proven by filing the certificate of the qualified technician in court.

However, as all members are likely aware, impaired driving, and in particular over-80 cases, have become among the most complex cases to prove under the Criminal Code. It seems that every word and every comma in every section has been litigated. Anyone who doubts how complicated the law has become need only pick up Martin's Annual Criminal Code. The 2007 edition has 12 pages of legislative text and annotations for the 13 sections dealing with murder, manslaughter and infanticide. Martin's has 62 pages of legislated text and annotations for the nine sections dealing with impaired driving.

Subsection 253(b) over-80 cases take up a grossly disproportionate amount of provincial court trial time. Often this is the sole charge, as there is no evidence of erratic driving and there are few signs of impairment. If the defence can raise a reasonable doubt as to the BAC at the time of testing being equal to the BAC at the time of driving, the prosecution will virtually never have other evidence to prove that the person was over 80 at the time of driving.

When Parliament first adopted breath testing legislation in 1969, the operator had to perform a series of tests to ensure the approved instrument was calibrated properly and had to read a needle to obtain a reading, which was recorded manually. Clearly, there were opportunities for operator error and even erroneous transcription of the BAC.

Therefore, Parliament provided that the BAC reading is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, deemed to be the BAC at the time of driving. Unfortunately, even for a new generation of approved instruments that give digital readings, have automated internal checks and give a printout of the internal process, the courts have interpreted evidence to the contrary to include evidence given by the accused that he only had a small quantity of alcohol to drink, typically “two beer”. This has become known as the two-beer defence.

The defence then calls a toxicologist to estimate the defendant's BAC based on the accused's testimony regarding consumption of alcohol, time elapsed, food consumption, et cetera. Essentially, the accused is saying that regardless of the BAC at the time of testing, his or her BAC while driving could not have been over 80 given the small amount of alcohol consumed.

The accused does not have to account for the BAC reading on the approved instrument at the police station. The courts, unless they reject totally the accused's evidence, hold that the presumption that the BAC at testing equals the BAC at the time of driving is defeated. Without this presumption, the prosecution does not have evidence to prove the over-80 offence. The defendant is acquitted for a lack of evidence showing the illegal BAC at the time of driving.

The Supreme Court considered evidence to the contrary in December 2005, where the accused, who had blown .092, testified that he had only two large beer. Although the conviction was restored, the decision turned solely on the credibility of the accused and whether the judge had properly considered the evidence as a whole.

The majority found, at paragraph 43, that:

The judge also erred when she stated that the credibility of the accused and his witnesses could be assessed in light of the results of the breathalyzer tests before applying the presumption.

Consequently, the Supreme Court has effectively found that the results of a breath test can be disregarded by the trial judge and the accused found not guilty without any evidence whatsoever that the machine has malfunctioned, at least for the “presumption of accuracy for the qualified technician's certificate”. Even if the court is suspicious of the accused's evidence, the presumption is lost because the accused only has to meet the test of raising any evidence to the contrary.

Frankly, this may be a misunderstanding of what “evidence to the contrary” was intended by Parliament to be. Parliament passed the breathalyzer law in 1969, so the calculation of BAC would be done by the approved instrument, which takes the guesswork out of the equation provided the approved instrument is functioning properly, the operator uses it properly and the results are properly recorded.

The court's interpretation may have been justified when the technology was such that operator error could affect it and there would be no direct evidence of this. Therefore, it is very much a defence that reflects the weaknesses of technology in use some 40 years ago. It was not, I believe, Parliament's intention that evidence to the contrary should be simply speculation about what an accused BAC might have been.

Given today's state of technology, evidence to the contrary must be direct evidence that the machine either did not operate properly or was not operated properly. If there is no such evidence, then the BAC produced by the machine should be accepted.

The accused may still be acquitted if he or she can show that they could have been under 80 at the time driving without contradicting the BAC results on the approved instrument at the police station. This could happen if, for example, the person downed several drinks and was arrested before the alcohol was absorbed. It could also occur that after driving, but before testing, the person consumed alcohol and it was absorbed by the time the approved instrument test was taken.

The fundamental question for Parliament is whether it can trust the BAC readings produced by the approved instruments. Fortunately, advances in technology ensure that the accused receives full disclosure of more modern approved evidence tests through the printout of the internal operations of the equipment.

In March of last year, the justice department commissioned from Mr. Brian Hodgson, a forensic toxicologist and the chair of the alcohol test committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, a report on the validity of breath testing. I will be happy to provide a copy of this report to any member who wishes it. I trust that Mr. Hodgson will be called as a witness by the standing committee if we send the bill for review after second reading.

Let me summarize his paper this way. He wrote that the Breathalyzer is entirely manually operated and therefore the reliability is vulnerable to human error. The test results are handwritten by the operator and vulnerable to transcription error. The advanced instruments have preprogrammed functions that minimize human operator error. He continued, saying that, for example, when electrical power is first turned on, all instruments must reach a specified operating temperature and the operator can then proceed with the testing of the subject. With the Breathalyzer, this function is the responsibility of the operator. The advanced instruments will not operate until the specified temperature is reached and have preprogrammed safety checks that will signal problems by means of error messages and will abort the testing procedure.

These approved instruments are highly sophisticated and have to pass a rigorous evaluation process before the alcohol test committee recommends that they be listed as approved instruments under the Criminal Code for use in the courts. One does not buy these instruments off the shelf at Wal-Mart. Perhaps the standing committee can arrange to have a demonstration of the older instruments and the new instruments so they will be better able to appreciate the differences.

In light of this science and the developments with the approved instruments, it is unfortunate that our courts have failed to reflect in their jurisprudence the evolution of the technology. Ignoring the BAC produced by one of the modern approved instruments and substituting for its accurate, scientific analysis of breath alcohol a calculation based on the testimony of the accused is deeply discouraging to the police and prosecutors, who have done everything that Parliament has prescribed.

As far back as 1986, the alcohol test committee expressed concern over the courts accepting testimony that effectively contradicted the approved instrument. In 1999, evidence to the contrary was discussed during the special hearings of the standing committee regarding impaired driving.

The committee wrote:

The Committee understands the frustration expressed by justice system personnel over time-consuming defenses that, at least on the surface, may appear frivolous. However, given that the accused would have no effective means of checking the accuracy of a breath analysis machine, the Committee agrees that limiting the interpretation of “evidence to the contrary” in such a manner as recommended could effectively amount to the creation of an absolute liability criminal offence. Such a result would run the risk of interfering with an accused person's rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In present circumstances, therefore, the Committee does not support amendments to the Criminal Code that would limit the interpretation of “evidence to the contrary”.

Circumstances certainly have changed. We now have modern technology that not only is designed to eliminate operator error but also prints out the results of its internal diagnostic checks that ensure it is operating accurately. The accused receives a copy of that printout and can make full answer in defence.

It is just as unacceptable to ignore the approved instrument BAC reading in favour of the testimony of the defendant and his or her friends as it would be for a court to ignore DNA found on the victim that analysis shows comes from the accused because he or she and a few friends testified that the accused was not at the scene of the crime, with no explanation as to how the DNA happened to be there.

As MADD Canada's CEO Andrew Murie said in a press release calling for rapid passage of this bill:

Canada appears to be the only country that throws out the results of the evidentiary breath and blood samples based on the unsubstantiated, self-serving testimony of an accused impaired driver. We are very pleased to see the government limit these challenges.

I believe members will agree that a person who has been drinking is unlikely to have an exact recollection of the amount of alcohol he or she consumed and it is appropriate that the blood alcohol content of the driver be established by a scientifically validated instrument that gives an exact reading rather than by a calculation based on such a shaky foundation.

The amendments that we are proposing abolish the loose, undefined concept of “evidence to the contrary” and list the actual scientifically valid offences that an accused can bring forward.

We are also reflecting in Bill C-32 the advances in technology by reducing from 15 minutes to three minutes the time required between the two required breath tests. The old breathalyzers required at least 10 minutes between tests for the operator to set the instrument back up so that it was ready for another test. The new instruments are ready in a matter of minutes and they signal to the operator that they are ready to proceed.

Although there are other technical changes in the bill, I wish to conclude my remarks by discussing the changes in the offences and the new punishments.

The Criminal Code currently provides for higher maximum penalties for impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm. These higher penalties do not apply to refusal in over-80 offences, so unless there is also a conviction for causing bodily harm or death arising from the incident, a lower maximum penalty applies.

While evidence of BAC is not a prerequisite in order to prove the charge of impaired driving causing death or bodily harm, it is admissible in court. There is, therefore, an incentive for the accused to refuse to provide a sample in a case involving injury or death, because the maximum penalty for a refusal is five years.

Even if it is admitted, the BAC reading is not necessarily sufficient to prove the offender was impaired. The Crown has to call a toxicologist to establish, as I have said, what has been known for more than 50 years, namely, that a person who is over 80 is impaired. Virtually all toxicologists agree that at 100 milligrams each person's ability to operate a vehicle is impaired.

We propose to eliminate this incentive to refuse by making a person who is over 80 and is the cause of a collision resulting in death or bodily harm, or who refuses to provide a breath sample knowing of the death or bodily harm, subject to the same penalties as the driver who, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, caused a death or bodily harm.

As for the penalties for impaired driving where there is no death or injury, the government believes they do not adequately reflect the seriousness of this offence. We are proposing to raise the minimum fine for a first offence to $1,000. When combined with the prohibitions on driving, provincial licence suspensions and higher insurance costs, this should be enough to convince the person not to commit the offence again.

However, for those who do commit another offence, we propose that they be subject to imprisonment for a minimum 30 days on a second offence instead of the current 14 days. For a third offence, we propose 120 days rather than the current 90 days' imprisonment.

I am indeed pleased to recommend to the House that it give second reading to Bill C-32. I urge all members to support it.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thought my Conservative colleague's speech was very interesting. However, I would like to ask him some questions.

He mentioned and emphasized that there are cases where an impaired driver of a vehicle involved in an accident causing death or injury is not charged under the Criminal Code for having caused death while operating a vehicle.

Are there studies showing the prevalence of this situation where the individual is not charged with an offence requiring a minimum sentence, including life imprisonment?

Are there studies to that effect? If yes, why do attorneys decide to proceed with charges of impaired driving and not of causing death or injury while operating a vehicle?

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4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to studying this bill with the member at committee at which time we will be able to question available witnesses who have conducted studies on the carnage on Canada's roads that we are all too well aware of.

That is precisely why we brought in this legislation. It would certainly increase the penalty for someone who is convicted of impaired driving but, more important, it would provide the police with the tools necessary to ensure that individuals will not have their cases thrown out entirely because of the evidence to the contrary defence.

That is one of the most fundamental changes in what we are doing. It recognizes, as I am sure the hon. member will, that since the introduction of this legislation, technology has moved on. Things have changed. The equipment used to test blood alcohol level has advanced to a stage where it is probably more likely that the equipment is accurate rather than the testimony of the accused and his or her close personal friends saying that he or she only had a couple of beers.

It is for that reason and also for the perverse impact, as the member alluded to in her question, of someone who has a greater incentive, because of an interpretation of the Criminal Code, to refuse a blood alcohol test because of the impact that would have on possible charges the person could face.

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, considering that this bill is based on one of the bills originally presented by the member for Mount Royal, we obviously agree with a number of items in it.

I have two questions. One relates to the part of the bill that would authorize the taking of bodily fluids to test for the presence of alcohol or drugs. Every time we mention the topic of taking fluids from a person's body we have a big debate over the violation of the person's rights. I want to ensure that has been dealt with sufficiently, that there is no precedent and that the right of the person has been safeguarded in the bill so that it can be done without being challenged.

My second question relates to the restriction of the use of evidence to the contrary. On the surface, it does not seem fair in our justice system, or maybe it is just labelled wrong, to restrict any evidence if evidence can be brought forward. Of course evidence should not be dismissed from good, scientific, technical equipment. Nevertheless, any evidence should be allowed and it should be up to a jury or a judge to decide on evidence brought forward. It seems unconstitutional to restrict evidence from a case.

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5 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is also on the committee that will be studying the bill and I look forward to his input.

First, on the drug impaired driving, drug impaired driving presents a unique challenge because currently we do not have the equipment in place that can provide a roadside test for all drugs in the same way that we have with roadside breathalyzer tests. This bill would authorize police officers to conduct roadside impairment tests for drug impairment.

Currently, someone can still be charged with impaired driving if that impairment is caused by a drug, but this bill would put in place a framework for the police to first conduct a roadside impairment test and, second, an assessment by a drug recognition expert. This would be a specially trained police officer who would be authorized to take bodily fluids and, after finding evidence of impairment, would be able to give evidence of impairment.

With regard to the hon. member's concern about challenges under the charter, I must say that, as we have seen from the Criminal Code provisions in dealing with impaired driving which are some of the most litigated provisions, any of the new provisions that we bring forward as a Parliament will be litigated. We are confident that these are reasonable steps to cut down on what is the new reality on Canadian roads, which is that there is impaired driving and that impaired driving is not only caused by alcohol but also by drugs. There is a much greater chance of someone becoming involved in an accident, which I am sure we will hear in the testimony at committee, if they are under impairment by drugs.

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5 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, share my friend's concerns about the current state of the law when it relates to impaired driving.

My question has to do with the frustrations that police across this country experience as they try to apply our drunk driving laws. I am wondering if the member has had an opportunity to discuss these frustrations with his local police or perhaps other police across Canada and whether they are encouraged by the steps our government is taking to keep up with the changes in technology and ensure our streets are safe from those who abuse their rights as drivers.

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5 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, what we have heard from police is overwhelming. They are increasingly frustrated with many of the cases involving the criminal justice system. Many areas of the criminal justice system need to be addressed and this is certainly one of them.

When we look at the disproportionate number of pages in the Criminal Code that are devoted to impaired driving and all of the defences that have been developed over time dealing with impaired driving and the loopholes that have been created in the system, the police are frustrated. What we have heard from police is that often, whether it is an accident or not, they are first on the scene. They see the carnage that comes from impaired driving, they, more so than the rest of us. When there is an accident at two or three in the morning, when the rest of us may be safely in bed, it is the police who must see the results of that carnage on the highway.

The police want to see a reduction in impaired driving in Canada, as we all do, which is why they support this initiative and why MADD Canada supports this initiative. I think we all have the same goal.

While respecting the charter and respecting privacy, which this bill does, we must also equip our law enforcement and our justice system with the tools they need so that when someone is caught for impaired driving there will be a consequence to that. We do not want people getting off because one of their friends testified that they only had one or two beers when in fact the breathalyzer and the equipment that is now at the police station have proven to be very accurate, very effective and very far advanced to where we were 20 or 30 years ago.

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5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that this is the first time that I stand in this House as the opposition justice critic and I am very pleased to do so.

It gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

As I just said in French, this is my first speech as the official opposition's justice critic. I look forward to working with my colleagues, be they in my party or in other parties, to provide intelligent, smart solutions to all justice issues that come before this House.

In considering Bill C-32, we must look at its history in order to understand it. The history of Bill C-32 goes back quite a few years, in fact to May 1999 when the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released a report entitled “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”.

The committee then recognized that drugs were a contributing factor to some fatal motor vehicle accidents. It also emphasized the need to develop better measures to detect drug impaired driving and to obtain the proper evidence allowing for the successful prosecution of individuals who drove while under the influence of drugs.

A further study on this issue was the Senate special committee on illegal drugs report entitled “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy”. One of its important findings was that there was no reliable, non-intrusive, rapid roadside test for drugs. In the case of cannabis, the best way to test is through blood samples. This then obviously represents a challenge that needs to be met in order to address the problem of drug impaired driving.

In response to the 1999 report, the Department of Justice and its working group on impaired driving consulted extensively with the provinces and territories. The results of these consultations was the October 2003 release of the report entitled “Drug-Impaired Driving: Consultation Document”. This document pointed out that many drug impaired drivers were not voluntarily participating in testing. It does stress the need to develop measures that would allow police to demand that drivers suspected of being impaired by drug use would submit to testing.

The report highlighted two options. The first option was to set a legal limit on the presence of drugs on the body. The second option was to propose legislation that would improve the ability of our law enforcement, our police officers, to demand drug tests. A certified officer could demand a physical sobriety test or take a saliva or sweat sample at the roadside based on the reasonable suspicion of drug impairment. Failure on such a test would then represent reasonable grounds to conduct a more detailed evaluation and, obviously, more intrusive evaluation at a police station. The bill that is before us, Bill C-32, follows in the steps of this second option.

The House of Commons special committee report on the non-medical use of drugs released in the fall of 2003 called for Parliament to develop a strategy addressing the question of drug impaired driving. In April 2004, our then Liberal government, and it is quite coincidental I am sure that the present government bill carries the same number, reintroduced Bill C-32. That bill would have dealt with the drug impaired driving in the fashion described above. Unfortunately, the bill died on the order paper in May 2004 when an election was called.

The Liberals were re-elected, albeit as a minority government, and in November 2004 reintroduced that same bill but as Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. That bill made its way to committee and was reported back to the House with some amendments. Unfortunately, that piece of legislation also died on the order paper when the election was called in November 2005.

Thus, the current minority Conservative government's Bill C-32 has followed in the footsteps taken by the previous Liberal government. The Conservatives, however, have chosen to reintroduce it with a few changes, namely, by incorporating stronger penalties than the Liberals' two previous bills had envisioned.

On the same topic, I noted that Canadian Press reported on the introduction of Bill C-2 with the following words. I am quoting from the November 22 wire which reads:

The federal Conservatives have brought in legislation to crack down on drug-impaired drivers--by resurrecting a plan first advanced by the Liberals, adding heavier fines and jail terms, and calling the result a Tory initiative.

I think that this description is accurate, and I can only commend the Tories for recognizing a great idea even when it was developed and first presented by another party, the Liberal Party when it was the government.

Now that we have discussed the background for the bill before us, we must examine the amendments it will make to the Criminal Code. The summary for Bill C-32 reads as follows:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code

(a) to create an offence of operating a motor vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act;

(b) to authorize specially trained peace officers to conduct tests to determine whether a person is impaired by a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug;

(c) to authorize the taking of bodily fluids to test for the presence of alcohol or a drug;

(d) to create an offence of operating a motor vehicle with a concentration of alcohol in the blood that exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood and causing bodily harm or death to another person;

(e) to clarify what evidence a person accused of driving with a concentration of alcohol in the blood that exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood can introduce to raise a doubt that they were not committing the offence;

(f) to create an offence of refusing to provide a breath sample when the accused knows or ought to know that the accused’s operation of a motor vehicle caused an accident resulting in bodily harm to another person or death; and

(g) to increase the penalties for impaired driving.

The enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

As the Liberal justice critic, I want to say that my party takes very seriously problems of impaired driving caused by alcohol and/or other drugs. In my opinion, the proof of this is that, when we formed the government, we twice introduced a bill amending the Criminal Code to deal with this problem.

I believe the proof is there. We take this issue very seriously and we also take very seriously measures that are smart and effective and that have a good chance and even an excellent chance of achieving the intended objectives. Moreover, we support initiatives to provide services responsible for maintaining public order with concrete and effective tools to implement legislation aimed at cracking down on impaired driving caused by alcohol or other drugs.

We are therefore prepared to support Bill C-32 so that it can make its way to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee could examine the bill in greater detail and summon witnesses and experts to give their own particular perspective. In addition, the committee could propose any amendments it deems necessary. However, I would like to say that we still have reservations about some aspects of this bill. We hope that the government will work constructively with all the opposition parties to address these reservations and that the most useful and most effective legislation will be adopted.

What concerns or reservations do we have about this bill?

Some hon. members have already voiced them.

The Canada Safety Council has already voiced some objections to roadside drug testing. It asks which type of drugs police would test for. Would it simply be illicit, illegal drugs, or would it also be drugs that are legal, in the sense that they are prescription drugs. The person could be in legal possession of those prescription drugs, but the effects of those drugs may cause impairment and it is clearly indicated, for instance, as part of the protocol for taking that drug.

How many of us have not come down with a bad cold or a bad infection, have been prescribed medication by our doctor and when we receive it at the pharmacy it clearly says on the label not to operate machinery or a moving vehicle while taking that medication.

The Canada Safety Council has concerns about what are the drugs that are going to be tested for and whether there will be the possibility of distinguishing between prescription drugs and illegal drugs. As well, how would we deal with the fact that there are certain drugs, like marijuana, which may linger in the body well after the initial high is over and well after the effects of impairment of one's abilities have completely dissipated but traces of the drug still remain?

The Canada Safety Council is asking these questions. How is this bill going to deal with these issues? These are questions that hopefully will be answered if this bill goes to committee.

As I said, as the Liberal critic I will be recommending to my colleagues to vote in favour to send it on to committee so that we can attempt to get answers to these questions and, if it is possible, to amend the bill. If we are given solid answers by experts who say that yes, we could do that and we could amend the legislation in such a way to ensure that it happened, then we would hope that we would get government cooperation in order to do so.

I had another question which was not answered by the parliamentary secretary during questions and comments. I asked whether or not studies had been done to determine in what percentage of cases where there has been death or injury caused by a motor vehicle and there is evidence of impairment--and let us just consider alcohol impairment--the Crown actually brought forth manslaughter charges, which includes the section of the Criminal Code that exists right now that deals with manslaughter and also includes death and injury caused by a vehicle, including impaired driving and provides for a maximum sentence of life.

I would like to know what scientific studies have been done to determine why it is that those provisions have not been used obviously sufficiently from what the parliamentary secretary said. He talked about people who are impaired causing carnage with their vehicles et cetera and that they are getting away with it because they are refusing to take the testing. Where are the problems? We have provisions right now but they appear not to be used. Why is that? What is the evidence that would show why they are not being used?

Finally, we know the government has announced that it will be placing $2 million to the benefit of our law enforcement in order to get the training and to do these roadside sobriety tests. How much money, if any, is the government planning to use to do a public education campaign?

History has shown that Canada-wide public education campaigns about impaired driving have been very well received by the public.

That is why today people have a designated driver when they spend an evening with friends or go to a party in a hall or restaurant where alcohol is served. Today, the vast majority of people resign themselves to drinking nothing. But if they do decide to drink, they have a designated driver.

Does the government plan to put money and people behind the idea of an education campaign on driving while under the influence not only of alcohol, but also drugs, for example? I would like to know. Perhaps the answers will come out during the committee hearings, if the House decides to refer this bill to committee.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to my colleagues in this House who are taking part in this debate. As I have already said, I recommend that my colleagues from all parties refer this bill to committee so that we can try to answer these questions and, if necessary, improve the bill.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is on Bill C-327.

Without commenting on the merits of this private member's bill, I would appreciate your consideration of whether this bill requires a royal recommendation under Standing Order 79. Clauses 1 and 2 of the bill add a new purpose to the Broadcasting Act to:

—contribute to solving the problem of violence in society by reducing violence in the programming offered to the public, including children.

To meet this purpose, the bill would provide new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, also known as the CRTC, to regulate violence on television, verify broadcasters compliance, issue annual reports and undertake a five year review, including holding consultations. These are new responsibilities for the CRTC which were not previously authorized by the Broadcasting Act. They would clearly require new government expenditures.

Precedence clearly established that a change in purpose requiring new expenditures must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. On May 9, 2005, the Chair ruled:

— bills which involve new or additional spending for a distinct purpose must be recommended by the Crown. The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill.

What this means is that a royal recommendation is not only required in a case where more money is being appropriated, but also in a case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

On February 8, 2005, the Speaker ruled:

Where it is clear that the legislative objective of a bill cannot be accomplished without the dedication of public funds to that objective, the bill must be seen as the equivalent of a bill effecting an appropriation.

On September 17, 2006, the Speaker noted that the sections of the bill:

—with regard to the process of petitioning and reporting, are also functions which would require the authorization of spending for a new and distinct purpose.

I note that the new purpose for Bill C-327 is established by the operational obligation which clause 3 places on the CRTC for regulating, reporting and reviewing and by clauses 1 and 2, which would amend the overall broadcasting and regulatory policies in the Broadcasting Act.

I therefore submit that the bill in its entirety requires a royal recommendation.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is now obvious that the government raises the issue of royal recommendation each and every time members of the opposition parties introduce a private member's bill.

I well recall how the government used the same tactic when Bill C-288 was introduced by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier.

If my bill were to be implemented, there would be no fundamental change in the role the CRTC plays. All we ask is that new regulations be adopted under the Broadcasting Act. We really do not need new public monies to have the CRTC apply the legislative changes I propose in Bill C-327.

Under that bill, we could very well go ahead and evaluate the situation without necessarily requiring supplementary funds.

In fact, the CRTC has already made a study of violence on television and published reports on the issue. Consequently, it would be very possible to fulfill the complete mandate of the CRTC and to adopt the changes I propose without new public funds.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the representative of the Liberal caucus on private members' issues, I take it very seriously to ensure we review the bills coming on to the order paper, which have been duly reviewed.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, it is the practice to do a thorough review of bills coming forward and in the event there is any concern of a possibility, even a remote possibility, that a royal recommendation would be required, the member is given due notice and has an opportunity to remediate the bill prior to it being tabled. I checked with the member and I understand the member was not given notice by the House of the likelihood of a royal recommendation being required.

Also, having looked at it, clearly I was very anxious to see the bill for our caucus. I think it is one that we definitely would like to deal with and to consider support on a very important issue. I am quite frankly absolutely surprised that the government would pull this opportunity to disqualify the issue of violence on television from consideration of the House. It is a very honourable and honest bill to come forward on behalf of the member.

We feel the CRTC mandate is clear. In the event that there was a will of the House to somehow address violence on television, we would not have to amend the legislation for the mandate of the CRTC to do that. Therefore, if that is the case, then there is absolutely no basis for suggesting that a royal recommendation is necessary because it is not within the mandate.

The government would have to demonstrate that. Argument has not been made to that extent. Therefore, I disagree strongly with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons with regard to the necessity for a royal recommendation. I believe the member should be given due consideration on this matter simply because it is the first time this matter has ever come up. The member has rights and those rights have not been respected by the government.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Private members' business was supposed to begin at 5:30 p.m. I have heard three people on the matter of the royal recommendation. I thank hon. members for their presentations. At some point, the Speaker will rule on the appropriateness of the government's recommendation that there be a royal recommendation. However, at this time we really should move to private members' business and to the bill in question.

It being just past 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

moved that Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-327 respecting violence in television broadcasts, which I am sponsoring in this House. I would like to start by reviewing the context in which this bill was introduced last spring.

One day during the winter of 2000, I was sitting in my living room in the early evening, watching TV with my daughter, Marie-Noël, who was three years old at the time. That is when I noticed how captivated, almost hypnotized, my daughter was by scenes of violence in a movie broadcast on the public network.

That is what prompted me, a few months later, to introduce a bill to reduce violence in television broadcasts. Sadly, the bill was not deemed votable at that time, but it nonetheless allowed me to mobilize parents, teachers, child care stakeholders and others in civil society who were concerned about our children's future, to send the government a clear message: it had to regulate violence in television broadcasts.

Today, six years later, Marie-Noël is nine years old, not much younger than the 11-year-old boy whose death, according to Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier, was directly linked to violent scenes broadcast on public television during prime time which he attempted to recreate. In April, the coroner concluded that the current measures to protect our children from violence in television broadcasts were insufficient. She encouraged broadcasters to move shows rated 13 and over past 9 p.m.

That is what Bill C-327, which I am currently sponsoring and which is being debated in the House today, is proposing. Under this bill to amend the Broadcasting Act, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, would develop regulations limiting violence in television programming, ensure compliance by licence holders and provide for penalties to be imposed on offenders.

Why regulate now?

In spite of the revised adoption in 1993 of the Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the violence aired on television continues to increase. According to an analysis conducted by the Centre des médias at the Université Laval in December 2004, acts of physical violence on television have risen by 286% in ten years; and 81% of violent acts occur in programs beginning before 9 p.m. Furthermore, 29% of the acts of violence in films are psychological in nature.

Sure, some people will say that we can play with the figures, but one piece of evidence is certain: there is enough violence on television to influence the behaviour of our young people. We can only conclude that the voluntary approach by broadcasters does not seem to have produced the results hoped for since, some 15 years after the adoption of the voluntary code, television violence continues to increase, as indicated by the Centre des médias at the Université Laval.

Obviously complete censorship is not an option. I repeat, full censorship is not an option, because it would not be an appropriate response in a democratic society like ours, in which freedom of expression is one of its cornerstones.

To my mind, only a regulatory approach based on the necessary balance between freedom of expression and the protection of our children would offer diversified programming respectful of the various clienteles.

The recent demands, made just last week, by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, for regulations that would prohibit programs with violent content from being aired before 9 p.m., are consistent not only with the spirit of the recommendation made by Coroner Rudel-Tessier, but are also in keeping with Bill C-327, which I am sponsoring today.

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the CSQ, which represents 172,000 members, including 100,000 teaching staff—who are in daily contact with our children—was among the first to applaud this bill.

The tragic story of the ten-year-old American and the nine-year-old Pakistani who accidentally hanged themselves by wanting to imitate Saddam Hussein remind us that, even though regulation of television violence is something that must be addressed, it is not a substitute for parental vigilance when it comes to not only the content of television programs, but also video games and Web sites.

The fight I began in 2000 has been fought by activists, daycare stakeholders and teachers.The first name that springs to my mind when I talk about the important fight I am fighting for the protection of our children is that of a young girl, now an adult, and someone you probably knew, Mr. Speaker. Her name is Virginie Larivière. Some years ago, she presented the Conservative government of the day a petition with 1,3 million signatures. The petitioners were Canadian and Quebec citizens who asked for regulations to reduce violence on television.

That young girl, about 10 at the time, introduced that petition it was because we already noticed in the 1990's that there had been an increase in the number of violent scenes on television despite the voluntary code the broadcasters had adopted for themselves in 1987. Despite that code, which was revised in 1993, the figures from the Centre d'études des médias of Laval University were revealing. Between 1995 and 1998, they showed an almost 50% increase in violent acts on television. The scenes of violence children could see—that is during programs broadcast before 9 p.m.—were also clearly on the rise. In 1998, 92% of violent acts were shown before 9 p.m.

The study also showed that one out of every two acts of violence in the study was either a gratuitous representation or unnecessary to understanding what was going on.

In 2000, these 1998 figures alerted me to this issue. Initially, it was my daughter who brought it to my attention, but after finding out more from media specialists, I concluded that TV violence was indeed on the rise. That made the 2000 bill very relevant.

Quebec's civil society leaders and artists mobilized. Why? Because the bill did not seek to limit freedom of expression. It simply sought to restrict programs with violent content to airing after 9 p.m., when children are not watching. It was not, and it still is not, censorship. It was just about adjusting broadcasters' schedules to ensure they respected all members of the viewing public.

This bill seeks to regulate violence on TV.

I would encourage the members to read this bill. It does not even say that violent programs should air only after 9 p.m. That is what I think should happen, and that is the approach I would recommend. This bill merely proposes creating a regulation within the Broadcasting Act so that the CRTC will be responsible for ensuring compliance among licensees and punishing them accordingly.

To what extent should they be punished?

Often, in various environmental files, big polluters get off with light punishments. We cannot let that happen here. The regulatory regime may specify punishment according to the circumstances of the non-compliance. Section 32 of the Broadcasting Act provides that a corporate broadcaster that contravenes CRTC regulations—in this case, a future regulation—may be liable to a fine as high as $250,000 for a first offence and as high as $500,000 for a subsequent offence.

In essence, with this bill, we are asking broadcasters to be good corporate citizens. It is important to understand that our airwaves are public and that we, the public, therefore bear some responsibility for them. But broadcasters have a responsibility to broadcast information that is accurate and does not convey stereotypes, prejudices, racial slurs or statements designed to undermine our society's fundamental rights. We must ensure that our public airwaves respect everyone's rights.

This bill therefore strikes a balance. I know that some of my colleagues believe that this bill could violate the right to freedom of expression. In an attempt to address this concern, we have proposed that violent scenes be broadcast after 9 p.m.

I am pleased to introduce this bill today. As recently as yesterday, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the CSQ, took a clear stand on this bill. The more than 172,000 members of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec decided to support this bill, simply because they work in education.

Anyone who has seen what goes on in our schools and daycare centres will understand why these people are clearly saying that there is a connection between what our children watch and how they behave. It is true of movies and it is sometimes true of cartoons, because cartoon formats changed several years ago.

In order to provide our educators and teachers with tools, we have to create a society that is as non-violent as possible. Of course, this bill will not reduce violence in our society. It is not the answer to violence in our society. There are other areas where we have to take action. I am thinking of the Internet and video games, but this Parliament could certainly take an important step by making sure that our airwaves are less violent and that we can live in a society that is as non-violent as possible.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to address this very significant concern in Canada.

The bill before us today is a further attempt to address the issue of TV violence in Canada. The bill would amend the Broadcasting Act by imposing a new, regulatory framework on the broadcast industry. I want to thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts in bringing this legislation before Parliament.

From the outset, I want to state that reducing violence in our society is a priority for our Conservative government. Indeed, addressing violent crime in Canada is one of the five key priorities which we set during the last federal election, and we have made significant progress in changing our criminal laws to ensure that Canada's streets and communities are safe.

The tabling of the bill gives us an opportunity to consider again Canada's success in addressing violence on television and how Canadians, especially young Canadians, are exposed to it.

The bill would amend the Broadcasting Act by requiring the CRTC to make specific regulations to reduce the number of violent scenes on television. While I believe the motives behind the bill are laudable, the bill itself is flawed for a number of reasons.

It represents a veiled attempt to impose additional censorship on broadcasters, very likely violating the protections of freedom of expression under the charter. It would also impose a new regulatory burden on government which would cost taxpayers more money. It implies that Canadians are not smart enough to read the required warnings and make viewing decisions for themselves. It shifts responsibility for supervising and educating children from parents to the federal government.

The good news is that much of the authority which the mover of the bill is seeking is already contained in the current Broadcasting Act.

I would like to look at Bill C-327 in the context of current broadcasting policy and at the tools already available under the Broadcasting Act that encourage Canadians to become media literate and to then make safe viewing choices for themselves.

Our current broadcasting policy focuses on empowering Canadians to make educated choices for themselves about what they and their families will watch on TV. Our federal government consults and cooperates with law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, parents and schools, and in doing so, we focus on five common objectives.

First, we want to educate TV viewers. We want to strengthen the enforcement of the existing laws. We want to implement complaint reporting systems. We want to ensure that public and private sectors consult with each other and with their counterparts in other countries. Finally, and perhaps more important, we want to promote industry self-regulation.

That last objective, industry self-regulation, is key. The broadcast industry has, in consultation with the federal government, adopted a voluntary set of broadcast standards and a code of conduct which it applies to all of its programming.

Canadians will be very familiar with the frequent warnings which accompany programs containing violence or questionable or sexual content. These warnings equip parents to make decisions for themselves and their families as to the kind of programming which is suitable for them.

An added benefit of industry self-regulation is the fact that the financial burden of regulation and monitoring is borne primarily by industry, not by the taxpayers of this country.

Even if we wanted to regulate and control everything shown on television, it would be a futile endeavour. Canadians must understand that much of what we see on TV comes from foreign television signals. Canada has limited jurisdiction over these signals. We also have little jurisdiction, if any, over material that Canadians may view over the Internet.

Both foreign broadcasters and Internet service providers are not subject to Canada's licensing requirement. They are not subject to the Canadian broadcasting code of conduct and ethics, and as technology continues to develop, our ability to control content will continue to decline.

The current media environment is indeed the global village that Canadian professor Marshall McLuhan so prophetically pointed to. Government control over content is no longer a long term option in broadcasting. More than ever, Canadians need to be well informed. They need to be exposed to new technologies while understanding the potential harmful aspects of these innovations.

We live in a world without walls. We cannot be with our children at all times to keep them safe from harm. In the same way, recent experience has taught us that we cannot always protect our children and other Canadian audiences from controversial or objectionable content, especially when it originates from outside of Canada. It is even more difficult to do so if in fact we are to respect the charter right of freedom of expression.

What we can do is educate Canadians and give them the tools necessary to discern good content from harmful content. That is what the current Broadcasting Act does. The TV industry provides viewers with helpful information about programming content to enable each one of us to act positively, to become critical thinkers and to learn to discern. I also note that technology nowadays gives parents things such as the V-chip to allow them to control what their children watch on TV.

There is something troubling about this bill and it is in the preamble. The preamble categorically states that “censorship is not a solution”, yet the bill then proceeds to do exactly that, namely impose censorship by requiring the CRTC to impose regulations reducing violence in TV programming. These conflicting objectives are clearly fatal to the bill.

I remind the House of some of the key policy objectives contained in the Broadcasting Act. The act states in section 3(1)(d)(i) that the broadcasting system should:

serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,

The very next paragraph states that the system should:

encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity--

To me these words suggest imagination and diversity of opinion, something that our charter of rights guarantees. Any attempt to circumscribe these rights would likely result in a successful challenge under the charter and I for one am not prepared to burden the taxpayers of the country with the cost of needless and ultimately futile litigation.

I would encourage the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to again review the existing provisions of the Broadcasting Act, most notably subsections 10(c), 10(f) and 10(k) because these subsections already spell out a broad regulatory framework which, at least in my experience, has led to significant cooperation on the part of the broadcast industry. Moreover, the act already states that all broadcasting licensees are responsible for the programs they broadcast and that this programming must be of a high standard.

The Canadian approach to maintaining high standards engages the broadcast industry instead of invoking a unilateral heavy-handed enforcement program.

In conclusion, we have to ask ourselves a number of fundamental questions. Do we believe in more government? Do we believe that government should usurp the rightful role of parents to train and educate children? Should Canadians no longer be responsible for their own decisions for informing themselves? Finally, do we believe that taxpayers should again be burdened with additional regulatory costs that should be borne by industry? I believe the answer is no to all of these questions and that answer must compel us to reject this bill, as well intentioned as it might be.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that all members in the House join me in genuine concern about ensuring that our children have safeguards against violence on television in this country. To this end, on behalf of the residents in the Churchill riding, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts) introduced by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Upon introduction of the bill on June 19, 2006, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said:

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce a bill to reduce television violence, particularly during peak viewing hours for children.

This quote encapsulates the objective the member hopes to achieve with this bill. Before continuing this debate, I would like to acknowledge the integrity of my hon. colleague's aim. As many parliamentarians would know, the bill was initially introduced in the House of Commons during the first session of the 37th Parliament as Bill C-420 and prior to reintroduction, the bill received only slight modifications.

The issue of violence on television has been at the forefront of the public mind over the past couple of decades. In fact, the issue did become a priority for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the regulatory body of Canada's Broadcasting Act and in 1990 it commissioned two studies, “Scientific Knowledge about Television Violence” and “Summary and Analysis of Various Studies on Violence and Television”. The findings and recommendations of these studies led to action by the CRTC toward the development of guidelines in Canada by working with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, provincial ministers and the cable industry.

In 1992 a significant event occurred when a very young woman, Virginie Larivière, submitted a petition to Parliament with 1.5 million signatures seeking a ban on television violence. It was a clear message from Canadians on the issue.

In February 1993 the Action Group on Violence on Television was formed. It was comprised of the Association of Canadian Advertisers, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Cable Television Association, Canadian Film and Television Production Association, the Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec, and the licensees of pay television, pay per view services and specialty services.

In September of that year they released a general statement of principles concerning violence on television programming with the aim of a classification system for television programming. Numerous critical actions followed. The CRTC accepted the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' revised voluntary code regarding violence in television programming and announced that compliance would be a condition of a broadcast licence. The code designated the watershed in which broadcasters could not air programs which included violence intended for an adult audience between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Since that time, Canada has been a leader throughout the world in setting regulatory mechanisms and strong industry codes to ensure that viewing choices for children remain responsive to the concerns of the public. These currently include program ratings systems; on-screen icons; violence guidelines and other content guidelines referring to language and content of a sexual nature; required frequent viewer advisories, both on-screen and audible; and program embedded ratings for use with V-chip technology.

These are a mandatory system of codes and adherence to them is not voluntary. The system was approved by the CRTC in June 1997. Private broadcasters must agree to them and licences are reviewed regularly by the CRTC.

This proposed legislation seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act to grant the CRTC the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes. However, a great deal has changed in broadcasting standards and practices over the past 15 years on the issue of violence on television and a child or youth audience.

It effectively established a broad set of policies, technologies and rules affecting broadcasters that I would argue address the concerns and even the purpose of this bill. This is largely confirmed by the member's proposed amendment to section 10 with the addition of:

The Commission shall make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes, including those contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years.

In an effort to safeguard children against violent television programming, various stringent measures were put in place. These policies are complemented by a series of technologies that have steadily increased in television broadcasting since their initial introduction.

For example, the CRTC launched a variety of new technologies set to increase viewer awareness of suitability of a given program. This is done through both voice and print immediately prior to programs as well as during commercial breaks.

Parent friendly rating systems have also been carefully integrated into the suitability warnings. Moreover, the introduction of an advanced parental control technology known as V-chip was created and put into action. It allows concerned parents to filter inappropriate content based on a rating system.

Comparing the existing practices of the CRTC with the member's proposed amendment to the Broadcasting Act, I think it is fair to say that the commissioner has ensured regulations are in place addressing television violence during peak hours and is effectively monitored. In fact, in 1994 the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent organization comprised of public and industry representatives, announced that the children's television program, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, violated children's programming provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' violence code. The producers were forced to comply with the code or the broadcasters were to remove it from their schedule.

In fact, to emphasize the results of the positive actions taken by broadcasters, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has actually reported a decline in the percentage of complaints concerning violence on television. Between 2001 and 2006, public complaints involving violence have dropped by 37% and it ranks sixth as the subject of television complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

After taking into account the current policies and practices of the CRTC governing violence on television and now returning to the member's stated objective, and more important, the contents of his bill, I do not believe the proposed amendments will have an impact in reducing violence during peak hours.

Given the standards and practices that are already in place and enforced by the commission, Bill C-327 is redundant in terms of the Broadcasting Act. It is my assertion that the various mediums in today's market have a significant role to play in terms of the amount of violent content which is available to children and youth. Today's new medium means rapid access to materials through the Internet, video games and DVDs.

While I applaud the spirit of the member's bill, I do believe it is adequately covered through the current Broadcasting Act and regulatory body, the CRTC, to safeguard Canadians and to protect our values, and I cannot lend it my support.