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House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was impaired.

Topics

International CooperationOral Questions

February 6th, 2007 / 3 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, to kick off International Development Week, the Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages announced a contribution by the Government of Canada to the Société de coopération pour le développement international.

Will the minister provide particulars about this contribution, which will help citizens of these countries to take charge of their lives in order to ensure their self-sufficiency and long-term economic sustainability?

International CooperationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

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

Financing of $14.5 million will be disbursed over five years to support activities that will improve living conditions in the Americas, Africa and Asia, because we are determined to provide ongoing support to initiatives that create jobs, promote business opportunities and improve the quality of life of citizens in developing countries.

SeniorsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has now admitted on three separate occasions that seniors have been shortchanged for the last five years because Statistics Canada miscalculated the consumer price index in 2001.

Bill C-36 would enhance the government's ability to recoup money from seniors when they have received too much from the government. Well, here we have a case where seniors got too little.

Will the minister commit today to paying seniors as quickly for his mistake as he wants them to pay for theirs? Will he ensure that seniors are reimbursed retroactively for the full five years, yes or no?

SeniorsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, this government has moved on many occasions to help seniors, starting with fulfilling our commitment to cut the GST. Fully 30% of Canadians do not pay income tax; a cut to the GST makes a big difference to them. We raised the age credit. We raised the pension credit. We allow pension income splitting. We have moved on a number of occasions. We are doing that again in Bill C-36 to help seniors, because we want to help seniors. That is a role of this government.

Ministerial Motor VehiclesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, when attending official duties at the nearby Chateau Laurier hotel, previous prime ministers would typically walk. Today for his speech at noon, the Prime Minister drove to the Chateau. Then while he droned on and on, the Prime Minister's massive SUV sat idling outside spewing greenhouse gases.

The Prime Minister says he is clamping down on his ministers' chauffeurs. Will he show some leadership and clamp down on himself?

Ministerial Motor VehiclesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Ministerial Motor VehiclesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I had a feeling these extra questions would lead to trouble.

The hon. the government House leader.

Ministerial Motor VehiclesOral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's security needs are determined by the RCMP.

But I notice that the opposition House leader, on January 18, 2004, when he was a minister, and his staff used the Challenger to travel from Ottawa to Ottawa on a half-hour flight. I do not understand that one.

On August 9, 2004 he and his wife travelled to Regina. A Challenger brought them back to Ottawa with passengers. Strangely enough, at the same time, he also requested a Challenger jet to London for a trip to Africa. Two Challenger jets in the air at the same time for one minister. It is unbelievable.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for Ontario, and the Hon. Rob Renner, Minister of the Environment for Alberta.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Mr. Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian astronaut to act as Mission Specialist and operate the Canadarm in orbit.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage misled the House when she stated that I supported the idea that the film industry had adequate funding for its development, which is incorrect, if you refer to the additional report that the Bloc Québécois tabled in committee, and which is also incorrect, if you refer to the three motions the Bloc Québécois had adopted in committee in December.

I would therefore like the minister to apologize and withdraw her defamatory statement.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

We will perhaps wait for something from the minister, but I will look at the minister's earlier statements. If necessary, I will inform the House of my decision.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant had the floor. She has 13 minutes to complete her remarks. The hon. member now has the floor.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were debating Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving).

As the deputy justice critic and like my party, I consider the bill very important because it aims to provide the instruments required to enable police to fight impaired driving effectively. I do think, however, that we must look more closely at certain elements of this bill, as the proposed additions warrant analysis to ensure their real effectiveness.

Among the concerns I would like to share with the House is my hope of meeting experts and groups in the course of the deliberations of the Standing Committee on Justice who can shed light on the following points. First, as this committee's report entitled “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving" rightly pointed out, the nature and the legislation pertaining to the concept of “reasonable grounds” used by the police to have people tested must be defined. This definition would be vital should a driver suspected of driving while impaired refuse, because it would become a criminal offence. This is in fact what the current bill is proposing, but it remains fuzzy as to the “reasonable grounds” used by the police.

In addition, it would seem basic to find a proven screening test that is both quick and non invasive. Do we have the technology? Which drugs are we screening for? I think this warrants our attention, since, with the variety of drugs currently available and their various effects on the human body, it becomes increasingly relevant to look at the methods and scientific processes used in screening.

But again, how are we going to distinguish between illicit drugs and legal drugs, prescription medications, that is? A person can be in legal possession of those medications, but the person's faculties may be impaired by their effects, effects that are clearly stated in the warnings given about the medications.

And then, in logistical terms, do we actually have the equipment that would enable us to do a simple roadside test for all drugs, as we do for alcohol with the breathalyzer? Let us recall that the bill would authorize the police to do a drug test during a roadside spot check. It is therefore important to have very effective, tested tools, to keep potential legal challenges to a minimum. As well, this must be done with utmost respect for the spirit of the Charter, and they must be as constitutional as possible. We often think of taking a blood sample as an intrusive action. In addition, there is the fact that it sometimes takes a long time to get the results of a blood analysis, so the offender has to wait to know whether charges will be laid against him or her.

As well, in legal terms, all of these complications have to be avoided so the bill does not end up in interminable court challenges. As members probably know, impaired driving, particularly driving with a blood alcohol level over 80, is one of the offences in the Criminal Code that is most difficult to prove. As I noted earlier, the “two beer” defence is a perfect example.

Let us also not forget the prohibition set out in clause 8(3) and 8(5) on using oral testimony alone to defend against an incorrect charge. We should give this our full attention in order to determine whether it is valid.

Last, in social terms, impaired driving awareness campaigns have in fact had some success in reducing this kind of offence. Will there be financial and human resources allocated, however, for an education campaign about driving while impaired by drugs?

We must also not forget that the higher fines proposed by Bill C-32 will certainly have a greater effect on lower income brackets in the population than on the more well-off members of society.

These are a few points that show, beyond any doubt, how important it is to work on this bill and make it into something even better.

I repeat that the Bloc Québécois takes this matter very seriously and will participate in developing standards and measures that are intelligent and effective for achieving the desired results. As well, we support initiatives to provide law enforcement agencies with concrete and effective methods for enforcing laws that are designed to deal with driving while impaired by alcohol and other drugs.

That is why we are prepared to support Bill C-32, so that it can be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee would then be able to study the bill in depth and call witnesses who could offer their expertise. As well, it could propose the amendments that it thought necessary in order to make Bill 32 even more effective.

I will add that we still have reservations about some aspects of this bill, which I described earlier. I therefore hope that the government will work constructively with all opposition parties so that those reservations are taken into consideration and the result is useful and effective legislation.

To conclude, therefore, I hope that all of the points I have raised will be addressed by witnesses and experts who will respond to them when they appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in the near future.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her excellent presentation, which addressed what needs to be said about this bill and outlines the Bloc's position on it.

Is the hon. member aware of any such legislation elsewhere in the world? Does she know whether there are plans to examine that legislation to find out what results it has had in relation to this specific sort of action?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

I thank my colleague for his question. In the United States, the breathalyzer offers many options.

However, with regard to studies on drugs, we will need to check with expert witnesses. That is what the Standing Committee on Justice and Human RIghts was preparing to do.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code to strengthen the enforcement of drug impaired driving offences in Canada.

On November 4, 2004, the former justice minister under the Liberal government introduced Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This new legislation builds on Bill C-16 but includes stronger penalties than our bill had proposed.

Bill C-32, the Conservatives' proposed reforms to the Criminal Code, include increasing penalties. Drivers would be charged if in possession of illicit drugs. Drivers with blood alcohol levels exceeding .08 would face a life sentence penalty in the case of causing death and a maximum 10 year sentence in the case of causing bodily harm. These provisions are in addition to existing provisions that hold an alcohol or drug impaired driving offence that causes bodily harm to be punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and that such an offence that causes death is punishable by life imprisonment.

Impaired drivers would face higher mandatory minimum penalties. For a first offence, the fine would increase from $600 to $1000. For a second offence, sentences would increase from 14 days mandatory prison to 30 days minimum. For a third offence, prison sentences would increase from 90 days minimum to 120 days minimum. When the offence is punishable on summary conviction, the maximum term of imprisonment would increase from 6 months to 18 months.

The bill would also provide more tools for the police. Police would be able to demand that a person suspected of driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug participate in a sobriety test at the roadside and police would be able to demand that a person suspected of driving while impaired by a drug participate in physical tests and bodily fluid sample tests.

The Criminal Code currently makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle when one's ability is impaired by alcohol or a drug, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. There is a further offence with respect to alcohol while driving while one's blood alcohol limit exceeds the legal limit of .08%.

The anomaly is that currently there is no legal drug limit. There are non-quantifiable tests such as erratic driving and witness testimony. If the driver voluntarily participates, results of a drug test are admissible but this a very rare occurrence. As a consequence, police powers for obtaining evidence of drug impaired driving are very limited.

It is urgent that Parliament address drug impaired driving. The 2002 Senate special committee report on illegal drugs, “Cannabis: Our position for Canadian Public Policy”, found that between 5% and 12% of drivers may operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. Further, a survey by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation revealed that in 2002 almost 20% of Canadian drivers had taken the wheel less than two hours after consuming a potentially impairing drug. This included both legal and illegal drugs. These statistics and findings must be reversed.

In 1999, I chaired the justice committee when we studied the issue of impaired driving and prepared a report entitled, “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”. The committee was very frustrated with the appreciation that drugs play a contributing role in motor vehicle accidents but that there were no practical legal limits to test for drugs.

There is no scientific consensus on the threshold drug concentration levels in the body that cause impairment making driving hazardous. Unlike the Breathalyzer tests used for alcohol, there is no objective test to measure drug impairment. Further, there is no measurable link between drug impairment and drug quantity. In addition, traces of some drugs could remain in the body for weeks. For instance, the active ingredient in cannabis can be detected for up to four weeks, although its impairing effects do not last. Because there is no scientifically proven threshold, it is not possible to propose a legal limit.

Because there is no clear drug limit testing, a drug recognition expert, DRE, is acknowledged as a necessity.

The lack of authority for police to make a demand for drug testing was a concern that was raised in a number of credible submissions to our committee, such as the Canadian Bar Association, the Province of Ontario, the Canadian Automobile Association and others, who called for expansion of police powers to allow a demand for drug testing.

The committee had concerns about drafting such provisions. Parliament would need to provide legislative guidance on what would constitute reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the offence has occurred. Further, the power to demand bodily samples for drug testing, such as blood, would be intrusive and require consideration of potential violations of the Charter of Rights.

Notwithstanding that, the committee in recommendation 12 suggested a Criminal Code amendment to allow a judge to authorize the taking of a blood sample to test for the presence of alcohol or drugs based on reasonable and probable grounds that an impaired driving offence has been committed. The committee also recommended consultation with the provinces and territories to develop legislation aimed at better obtaining evidence against suspected drug impaired drivers.

The Department of Justice consulted extensively with the provinces and territories, following which the Liberal government introduced two identical pieces of legislation in two subsequent parliaments to deal with this problem. Indeed, the Liberal Party takes impaired driving very seriously. Unfortunately, both Bill C-32 and Bill C-16 died on the order paper when elections were called in November 2004 and 2005 respectively. The Conservatives have reintroduced very similar legislation, with stronger penalties, however.

Passage of the new Bill C-32 will be a significant step toward making roads safer and protecting the public. It will give the police the authority to demand standardized field sobriety tests at the roadside. The officer must have reasonable suspicion of alcohol or a drug in the body before making the demand. The standard test involves walking heel to toe, following with the eyes the officer's hand movement, and balancing on one leg with the other leg held in front about six inches off the ground.

These roadside tests take about 10 minutes. If the driver fails the roadside test, the officer then would have reasonable grounds to demand a breath test on an approved instrument in the case of alcohol. In the case of a drug, the officer would have reasonable grounds to demand an evaluation by an officer certified to do drug recognition expert or DRE tests back at the police station.

The purpose of the evaluation is to identify the class of drugs, if any, that is causing impairment. The evaluation further involves physical tests and checking of vital signs. This evaluation takes about 45 minutes. Following the identification of a class of drugs, the officer could then demand a sample of a bodily fluid, urine, blood or saliva, to test for the presence of a drug.

Refusal to comply with a police order to submit to a roadside sobriety test or to an evaluation at the police station, or to provide a bodily fluid sample, would constitute a criminal offence, just as it is now an offence to refuse a police order to submit to an alcohol breath test.

The idea with the drug impaired driving investigation is not to prove that a concentration of a particular drug is exceeded and that therefore the person is impaired. As previously indicated, there would be few drugs for which there would be a scientific consensus on the concentration level at which there would be impairment for the general population of drivers.

The bill proposes no legal limits for the wide range of drugs. Instead, the idea is to provide for the investigation of a driver's drug impairment by observing physiological symptoms that are unique to a particular class of drugs, and then to confirm with a bodily fluid sample whether the drug was indeed present.

If the tests do not show impairment, the driver is free to go. If the officers see a medical condition, they can obtain medical help.

The combination of steps, that is, the police officer observing the driver's ability to perform the simple tasks of the roadside standardized field sobriety test, the results of the more comprehensive testing by the drug recognition expert, and the confirmation by the independent laboratory analysis of the presence of the drug identified by the DRE as causing the impairment, will provide the necessary checks and balances.

Let us consider the charter considerations. We know that the demands for alcohol breath tests on approved screening devices at roadside, without a right to contact counsel, have been found justifiable by the courts under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, pursuant to the section 1 demonstrable justification limitation on a right.

The right to counsel must be given following the demand for an alcohol breath test on an approved instrument back at the station and before the approved instrument testing is done. It is anticipated that the same practice would prevail for the DRE evaluations envisaged under Bill C-32.

I would suggest that there are aspects of the bill that need further consideration. I do express reservations regarding the new offence of driving while in possession of an illegal drug, where any person found in possession of a controlled substance while operating or in the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or sailing equipment is guilty of an offence. This provision would apply whether the person is in personal possession of the drug or the drug is simply in the vehicle, provided that the individual knowingly had possession of the drug without lawful excuse for such possession.

I agree with those who claim that this new offence does not belong within Bill C-32 as there is no connection between possession of a drug and impairment and possession of a drug that is already prohibited under section 4 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Of necessity there will have to be an educational component of this new impaired driving strategy, under either the justice or the health department. Individuals using marijuana may or may not know that they could be impaired and should take this legislation very seriously. Individuals taking prescription or off the shelf drugs may not understand that they could come within the boundaries of this legislation and must ensure that they do not operate a motor vehicle while influenced by such drugs.

I have every confidence that NGOs such as MADD will continue to put out relevant and compelling information in this respect. The federal government should either do the same thing or provide funding assistance to organizations such as MADD to do so.

Impaired driving continues to be a scourge on our society. I will continue to support legislation that will help not only to reduce it but to eventually and ultimately eradicate such conduct.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member is aware with regard to cannabis, for instance, the active ingredient is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. I understand that it actually can be detected in one's system for up to four weeks, yet the impairment caused by using the drug may not in fact last very long at all.

This raises an interesting question. To have these kinds of charges stand up, do we have to demonstrate in the courts that not only is it detected in the system but it was present at a time when the person was impaired? It has to be concurrent. It would appear that this may be a significant problem with this drug and perhaps with others, simply because the science is not there on how to determine that persons not only had it in their system but in fact were impaired at the time that they had it in their system.

I wonder if the member could help us on that one.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

As I referenced in my speech, Mr. Speaker, there is no legal limit. I referenced the situation with THC and cannabis.

Admittedly, the substance in an individual's system can exist for up to four weeks, but there are also physical signs and physical conditions when the individual is pulled over on the side of the road and given the field test. He is then taken to the station and receives the DRE analysis, the expert analysis, which takes roughly three-quarters of an hour. The combination of all of these will conclude whether in fact there is impairment of that individual at that specific time. The existence of THC alone will not do so.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to resume discussing Bill C-32.

First of all, I want to congratulate the Bloc Québécois justice critic, the member for Hochelaga, and the deputy critic, the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, for their presentation. Both gave a very good summary of the Bloc Québécois' position on Bill C-32, which is a worthwhile initiative but which must be able to answer the questions that the public and Bloc Québécois members have about its implementation.

I will read the summary of Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The summary gives a good outline of the scope of the bill and the questions it will raise:

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;

(g) to increase the penalties for impaired driving.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this initiative. Nonetheless, we have to allow enough time for the standing committee to address the questions raised by this bill.

The possession or consumption of certain substances constitutes an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. However, we should not limit this to the drugs we read about in the newspaper and see on the news, we should also think about medication.

Many questions remain on the implications of using prescription medication. It is important for the standing committee to be able to ask experts all these questions.

I will remind hon. members later, because this is not the first time that Parliament or the standing committee is addressing this issue.

Since 1999, there have been many reports and questions. There is still no legislation because we have to take into account the fact that people use prescription medication and that the medication detected in their blood can resemble certain drugs. This could cause them some problems as far as criminal law is concerned.

The bill would also authorize peace officers to conduct tests at the site of the accident, incident or offence. Breathalyzer technology works and has proven its effectiveness in court. Nevertheless, it has weaknesses that make it possible to challenge the findings. We have the technology to conduct tests. Can we do the same to test for drugs? Are our equipment and tools good enough to bring adequate admissible evidence before the courts? Questions were raised during studies conducted by various committees in the 1990s, and the same is true today. I will summarize these questions later on.

The bill mentions authorizing the taking of bodily fluids to test for the presence of alcohol or a drug.

Since 1999, various committees have addressed this issue, especially with respect to admissible evidence of drug consumption, and have found that the best solution is a blood test. However, as we know, there are all sorts of constitutional challenges related to taking blood samples. Once again, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will have to answer a lot of questions when the time comes to study this bill.

The Bloc's position is simple. We support this bill, but we want to make sure all of the expert witnesses appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We would like to see new technology for admissible evidence that is easier to use than blood sampling, as we have seen with breathalyzer devices over the years.

When this bill comes up in committee, we hope the committee will take all the time it needs to call as many expert witnesses as possible to study it, just as other committees have done. The bill was never passed because of the conclusions they reached.

I will go over a bit of the history of this. In May 1999, Parliament studied driving under the influence of drugs. When the Standing Committee on Justice submitted its report on eliminating impaired driving, it emphasized that drugs play a part in some road accidents resulting in death and the incidence of driving under the influence of drugs is underestimated because the current legislation does not give the police any easy way to detect them. That was true in 1999 and it is still true today. We have a problem here, and we need to find a way of filling this gap in the legislation.

At the time, the committee emphasized the need to adopt better methods for detecting driving under the influence of drugs and getting the evidence needed to convict offenders. The same questions arose in 1999, therefore, as those the Bloc members are raising today. These questions are based on whether we have the ability to gather the evidence needed to get convictions. It is all very well to pass bills, but if the Constitution enables people who have committed crimes to evade punishment, the legislation does not do any good. It has to stand up in the courts.

Back in 1999, the committee pointed out a number of obstacles that existed. The Criminal Code requires police to have reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person is impaired before they can administer tests. The committee emphasized that Parliament should clearly define what reasonable grounds are and whether refusal to take tests constitutes a criminal act. We are obviously talking here about reasonable grounds and criminal acts. These are the points we want to bring forward. There were questions around them in 1999, and those questions still exist today.

There is apparently no single non-invasive test to detect drugs that impair a person’s ability to drive. We are left, therefore, with the well-known invasive tests, such as the breathalyzer for people who consume alcohol. This question was asked in 1999 and the conclusion was that there was no single non-invasive test. Blood tests were considered invasive under the Constitution.

We need to pay close attention to all this and have all the necessary experts appear. This will enable us to determine whether the technology has progressed since 1999 and evidence can be gathered that can stand up in court.

In the end, it will probably be necessary to obtain a blood sample. That was the conclusion in 1999. The committee approved the assessment made by a expert in drug detection, from the DRE program, but the committee added that the provinces had the last word in terms of training in this field.

It should be clearly understood that we can go ahead and adopt laws but it is the provinces that are responsible for enforcing them, in spite of all the discussion in this House or whatever legislation we may adopt. We hope, therefore, that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will call representatives of the various provinces, in order to ensure that legislation adopted in the Parliament of Canada is consistent with, among other things, legislation that may be adopted by the Quebec Department of Justice.

In addition, in 1999, the committee insisted on the need to take into account the consequences of drug testing in the context of the Charter. That was an issue at that time because the proposed tests could be more invasive and require more time than the tests used to detect alcohol. That was an issue in 1999 and it is still an issue today. Is it possible to have a non-invasive test that would be as effective and as quick as the breathalyzer for detecting alcohol?

Once again, we are talking about drug testing and we are conscious that accidents are caused by drivers. The evidence makes that clear. A survey by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, conducted in 2002, concluded that 20% of Canadian drivers had driven a car within two hours of using a drug that could impair their faculties, either an over the counter medication, a prescription drug or an illegal drug. So, there are dangers because drivers are still taking to the road without being aware that their faculties have been impaired by drugs.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights deserves praise for discussing Bill C-32. However, we must be able to achieve a positive result so that those who are convicted face real penalties by virtue of the bill, without being able to avoid the legal consequences because the test was not admissible in court or because the test was judged to be unconstitutional.

In 1999, the committee said there was no reliable, non-invasive, fast method of detecting drugs on the roadside. Blood tests are one of the best ways of detecting cannabis. It is impossible to tell whether it has been used recently from a urine sample. Saliva might be a method, but there are not any fast, sufficiently reliable tests on the market.

So that is what the committee recommended in 1999. The representatives of the Bloc Québécois are telling the Quebeckers who listen to us that this is important; that there are people who drive while impaired by drugs and that this is unacceptable. But we have to be able to find these people if we want to charge them under the Criminal Code, and they have to justify their actions in court. A law may be passed but, if unconstitutional tests or tests that are inadmissible in court are no more than words and end up making it possible for some people to get away without being punished, it means that, as legislators we have not asked the right questions at the right time.

Furthermore, in 2003 a working group looked at this issue and published a document titled Drug-Impaired Driving: Consultation Document. This working group was created by the Department of Justice further to the recommendations made by the committee in 1999. The working group looked at solutions and asked how to come up with effective legislation that was admissible in court.

The working group described two main solutions. The first was to establish a legal limit for drugs in a person’s system. Still, it was admitted that a zero limit might not be advisable since some drivers could have cannabis in their system or have taken prescription drugs without being impaired. The committee thought that where drugs were concerned the allowed level would have to be determined.

The second solution was to legislate on the ability of police officers to demand drug detection tests. This working group spent more time looking at reasonable grounds for demanding more extensive tests than simply breathing into a device such as a breathalyzer. These grounds were mentioned by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 1999. So when the topic of taking samples of blood, saliva and so on comes up, so does the old topic of reasonable grounds. When such samples are demanded, they must be constitutionally and legally defensible so that they are admissible in court.

Describing more or less the same system as the one proposed in Bill C-32, the working group suggested that a trained expert police officer be able to demand a physical sobriety test, or take a sample of saliva or sweat on the roadside if there are reasonable grounds for thinking that someone is driving while impaired.

So, the standing committee proposed that experts from each unit along with all police officers be assigned directly to these problems of consumption or lack of security so they could not be contradicted when they appeared before the courts.

That is one solution proposed by the working group. Such experts, certified police officers, could administer the tests themselves. They could require a sample of body fluids—blood, urine, saliva—to confirm that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the driver had committed an offence under section 253(a) by taking a drug. The counterpart to reasonable grounds is refusal. If the individual thinks there are not reasonable grounds and refuses to provide samples, they must prove that the police did not have reasonable grounds for believing that they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

This is why the working group proposed that the police become experts in this type of intervention. They have the skills required to appear before the court and say that they examined three, four or six persons during the operation and that they chose one for a particular reason. This officer can defend himself because he has the necessary skills. These were the recommendations made by the working group in 2003.

The concept of reasonable grounds reappears in Bill C-32. However, there is no mention of police experts. This concept comes under the provinces. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will have to call provincial authorities to appear in order to discover whether Quebec, for example, is in a position to implement the regulations and has the required personnel. The 2003 report by the federal Minister of Justice's committee will have to be studied to see if it is acceptable. Can the Quebec provincial police acquire the staff required? Who will pay for all of this? There are many questions. These are questions the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights can rightly raise with respect to Bill C-32.

For the benefit of Quebeckers watching, I point out that the Bloc agrees with the principle of this bill. Our question is whether, once the bill is passed, the Province of Quebec and the Quebec provincial police will be in a position to implement it. The people found guilty will thus be charged with the offences that have been put into law. In the event of doubt—do we have the necessary technology or are we incapable of defending ourselves before the courts—we will question the importance of implementing these regulations.

The 2003 Working Group also emphasized that because of Charter rights sensitivities, legislators would have to give serious consideration to current Criminal Code provisions permitting demands for evidential breath or DNA samples that have already survived legal challenges. That is what was said earlier. It is all well and good to say we want to make legislation effective, but there are examples of legal challenges when it comes to DNA tests. In major criminal cases there have been challenges with respect to DNA. We have to be able to have legislation because we understand that when we talk about drugs we do not mean alcohol. We are talking about drugs such as cannabis and other illegal drugs, but also legal drugs such as prescription medication.

We have to be able to make the distinction. Anyone convicted will have to suffer the consequences—fines and loss of driver's licence—after being found guilty of their actions. They will have to be sentenced according to law.

The situation around this legislation is quite complex. There have been major studies and statistics. In 2002, in Canada, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation conducted a survey. According to the survey, 20% of Canadian drivers had driven within two hours of taking a drug that may have affected their faculties.

We are talking about everyday medication, prescription medication or illicit drugs. This is a major problem. It was a problem in 2002 and I do not think much has changed in 2007.

People drive after using drugs for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps there is not enough publicity on the matter. Nonetheless, among other things, it is because it is still not considered a criminal offence. Our objective today is to recognize it as such.

A study by the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec found that 30% of fatal accidents in Quebec involved the use of drugs or the combination of drugs and alcohol. It is important that legislation such as this be passed, but we have to ask all the questions—

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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.

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3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his excellent presentation. It was very balanced and to the point with regard to the fact that no one can be against virtue. He clearly showed that the Bloc is not against virtue; it agrees as long as there is the capability for properly testing individuals.

Will new tests routinely be found for new drugs? There are always new drugs.

I would also like to ask my colleague another question. Do individuals who breathe second-hand marijuana smoke have the same drug levels in their blood or breath as those who actually smoked the drug? It would be unfair for those sitting next to a driver smoking marijuana or those driving while someone is smoking in the car.

Would it not be better to reduce speed limits and monitor drivers' abilities? We are becoming increasingly lax in this regard. Every driver who has an accident should be tested because it is said that they are likely to have other accidents.

Would it not be better to also reduce speed limits at night? I am talking about reducing speed limits, but all we would really have to do is enforce current speed limits and not tolerate driving 20 or 30 km per hour over the limit. Would my colleague agree to that? Speed limits should be reduced at night or when it is raining. This is done elsewhere, why can we not do it here? We would not have to look for other means.

I would like to point out that accidents often occur because we tolerate speeding by individuals who have taken drugs or alcohol. Often they have not had good driver training.