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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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi for his question. I would note his experience: he is often on the road and he is able to see the harm that speed, among other things, can cause.

He is entirely correct. Highway traffic is getting heavier and heavier. We want more and more highways, and better and better highways, and we invest the money that is needed. In this increasingly heavy traffic, however, the posted speed limits should be observed. There is a lot of carelessness about this, and we should be enforcing the law today. Perhaps, for some places, we could revisit the posted speed limits, but we should at least observe the existing limit. People get confused, they no longer know what they are supposed to be doing, and we see people breaking the speed limit. Ultimately, we find that it is we who observe the limits who are slowing down traffic, because everybody is going faster. So the member is entirely correct, and the rules should be enforced much more rigorously.

In terms of drugs, the committee must be able to review the research. In both 1999 and 2003, no one was in a position to say that a new technology could have done accurate screening.

The member talked about second-hand smoke inhaled by people who are somewhere where others are using marijuana. The public also has to take some responsibility here. When someone is with other people who are using illicit drugs, that person is also guilty if he or she stays there and enjoys inhaling the smoke. Really, we cannot be taken in by this scenario. What we need is to have reliable tests.

Now, there are people who use prescription medications. We try to live as long as possible, and to drive our cars and be independent as long as possible too. For these reasons, we often take various kinds of medications. Sometimes, we do not know how those medications will react together, and so we do not know whether we can take them together. I think that progress is needed in the science.

In any event, I hope that the committee is going to call all the experts it needs so that we can have a test that is capable of identifying the substances. People must not be convicted when they are not criminals and have simply mixed their medications inadvertently.

So we have to be able to proceed with this. Otherwise, if the science has not reached that point, we will have to reconsider how to approach this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is good to debate a bill in order to try and find arguments that will allow the legislation to be implemented.

People must be qualified and competent. We need screening devices such as the breathalyzers used to measure blood alcohol level some time after alcohol is consumed.

As the member for Brome—Missisquoi said about drugs, there could be a problem if passengers in the same vehicle have used drugs and inhaled the smoke. The driver could be affected by the passengers' drug use, even if he or she did not use drugs.

Take the example of someone hospitalized for surgery. The morphine prescribed for pain relief by the doctor could stay in the patient's blood after he or she is discharged. If the patient drives after leaving hospital, his or her blood could contain traces of morphine. Remember that this is a drug the doctor prescribed. What would happen in this case?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Manicouagan for his question.

This person would be declared guilty under this bill. It is a simple as that. People leaving hospital must be able to check the level of medication in their system. For example, there are devices people can use when leaving a bar to check the approximate level of alcohol in their blood. There needs to be this type of technology and devices for medications. It would be irresponsible to declare sick people criminals. There has to be a way of detecting medications and preventing people from driving because the level is too high and it is impairing their faculties. People also have to be responsible citizens. They should not get behind the wheel when under the influence of either prescription or illegal drugs.

But there needs to be a way of proving that someone is drug-impaired or detecting that they are before they get behind the wheel. I hope that the technology will be adapted and that it can be put in place before solid citizens who had the misfortune to be ill at some point in their lives face criminal charges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-32.

Drug users are frequently involved in fatal accidents, and that is a fact. Studies estimate that 3.4% of motor vehicle accident fatalities and 1.7% of injuries are the result of drug impairment. These estimated proportions more than double when dealing with impairment by a combination of alcohol and drugs. One study has indicated that more than 30% of fatal accidents in Quebec involved drugs, while another shows that 20% of fatal accidents in British Columbia involved drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

A significant proportion of Canadians have also admitted to driving within a few hours of consuming drugs. Surveys have shown that 48% of Canadian drivers have taken the wheel within two hours of using cannabis, while close to 20% have taken the wheel within two hours of taking a potentially impairing drug, whether over the counter, prescription or illegal.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health released a study that found that 20% of Ontario high school students admitted to driving a vehicle within one hour of using cannabis at least once within the preceding year. In 2002 the Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey also indicated about 26% of students, with a driver's licence, had driven within one hour of using cannabis over the previous year.

There is some evidence of a problem and Parliament has the responsibility to respond in an appropriate fashion when issues affect the health and well-being of the people of the country.

When I became a member of Parliament in 1993, the subject area related to drugs and alcohol played a fairly big role in my career as a parliamentarian. In fact, before I even sat one day in the House, after being elected, I did some work, knowing that the elected government had committed to a national forum on health to deal with health issues of Canadians, the number one priority issue for Canadians.

I had a great interest in being involved in that because I had spent about nine years on the board of the Mississauga Hospital, learning about our health care system, how it worked and how it affected people in the corridors of a hospital. I attained a great deal of respect for the doctors and nurses who serviced Canadians in their times of need and I wanted to be part of it.

Looking at some of the work that Parliament had done on the health files prior to my being elected, I stumbled across a report done by a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, Social Affairs, Seniors and the Status of Women entitled, “Foetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Preventable Tragedy”. I had no idea what fetal alcohol syndrome was, so I read the report. I discovered that the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy was the leading known cause of mental retardation in Canada. I saw statistics about the implications of the misuse of alcohol to impaired driving, which is an issue we are talking about today. I saw the health impacts on people, early morbidity, people dying much sooner than their expected lifespan.

It was clear to me that I wanted to know more about this. I wondered how someone who was educated, who had three children and who engaged in the community on a hospital board would not know about fetal alcohol syndrome. I wanted to get involved because I felt that if I did not know, then there probably were a lot of other Canadians who also did not know.

The issue of alcohol has been a very big item in my career and I have raised it many times. Yesterday, in reference to a report that I had encouraged from the Standing Committee on Health, the Minister of Health issued a response to it. It states that we spend a lot of time going in circles on the subject matter of alcohol and its implications not only to unborn children when consumed during pregnancy, but also the impairment issue when we operate machinery or drive automobiles.

That report has been issued by the government. I have not reviewed it as thoroughly as I would like, but it is about time that Canada took a lead role in mitigating the impact of alcohol, the poison ethanol, which is in beverage alcohol and many affects that it has on Canadians.

There is another area in which I have some relevant experience. In the first session of the 35th Parliament, as a member of the health committee I was asked to chair a subcommittee on Bill C-7, the controlled drugs and substances act, the act which Bill C-32 is proposing to amend. At that time, about a decade ago, there was a great deal of discussion about marijuana and its implications. Grow houses were not the rampant problem that they are today. Something has happened and I know what it is.

The potency of this drug, cannabis sativa, and there are two other types in its natural form, the THC content, tetrahydrocannabinol content, can be changed in the plant so that it has a higher potency. B.C. bud is one of the most sought after marijuanas because it has the highest THC content. It gives the highest buzz. It has the highest ability to impair one's ability.

Some of the questions that have been asked around here about what kind of technology there is to deal with this are really important ones. If we detect drugs in a person's system and charge the person for being impaired, how do we know that the drug is affecting the person's ability to do what the person is supposed to do? It is a very complicated issue.

When I chaired the subcommittee dealing with Bill C-7 I can recall the government's position was that there was no intention of decriminalizing marijuana. That debate continues. Even in the last couple of years that issue continues to be floated around by people.

We have to understand that the potency of any drug can be altered by those who produce or manufacture it. We have to keep ahead of that, particularly when dealing with things like designer drugs. Designer drugs are not legal drugs and they cannot be purchased over the counter, but boy can they be cranked out. We have seen the implications on our young people. It causes a big problem. This is something I feel very strongly about.

In the Bill C-7 subcommittee we also talked about harm reduction strategy. Poor people who use drugs get the drugs off the street and sometimes they get a bad batch. The thinking back then was that the government should get involved in regulating the production and distribution of safe drugs so fewer drug users would be hurt by a bad batch of drugs. The thinking back then was that we had to protect people who were breaking the law rather than find a balance. I found that a difficult bill to deal with and the changes that were proposed at the time.

It is interesting to note that this has come full circle. We are now back to the implications of drug impairment on driving. I will tell the House why this is important.

I started off my speech by reading some statistics into the record and it looks like there is a problem. Whatever has been measured and reported in some of the studies about the problems of drinking and driving or consuming drugs and driving is a lot smaller than the facts. The reason is that the police and people in the hospitals who are charged with determining the cause of death and cause of injury normally report that trauma is the cause of death of someone who has been killed by a drunk driver, who has been squished against a wall somewhere. In fact, the cause of death of that human being was an idiot drunk driver who lost control of his vehicle and killed somebody. Those are some of the issues. The reporting mechanisms that have been relied upon to provide legislators with the information they need to make good laws and wise decisions are impaired.

The police often do not take breathalyzer tests of people who were in accidents. They spend more of their time cleaning up the site to get the traffic going again and to make sure that the injured parties get into an ambulance and get taken away. It is not the job of the hospital officials. There is no coordination.

I am very concerned about the issue of impaired driving and the use of machinery and equipment when one is impaired, whether it be by alcohol or any other substance, illegal or legally prescribed, I do not care. The fact is there are substances that people can and do take that impair their ability and impact the health and well-being of ordinary Canadians.

Bill C-32 amends the Criminal Code. What is the current law? Currently section 253(a) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to drive while one's ability to operate a vehicle is impaired by alcohol or a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug.

While section 253(b) contains the further offence of driving while one's blood alcohol level is over the limit, no similar drug limit offence exists. This is a problem. We just do not know yet, and if one can play around with marijuana, its potency and so on, one is not sure. Consuming two joints with a low THC level could be nothing compared to consuming one joint with B.C. bud in it or something like that.

This is going to be more complicated than I think people have indicated. I want the bill to go to committee. I want the expert witnesses who come to committee to make absolutely sure that we are on the right track and that we are not making this a little more complicated and not charter proof. The charter proof issue is really important.

Although drug impaired driving is a criminal offence, police have few legally designated means of controlling that offence. They currently rely on non-quantifiable symptoms of drug impairment, such as erratic driving behaviour or the testimony of some witnesses. Drug tests are admissible as evidence in court, but only if the driver participates voluntarily. Some changes will be necessary to the current law in order to make this bill effective. I think the intent is very good. I am not yet convinced whether or not we have the means, the tools and the cooperation. It is going to take a great deal of work to make this work.

Yes, it is a challenge and it is a challenge that Parliament should take up. I am very much looking forward to the justice committee dealing with this but I also I have a problem there. I know that the justice committee is swamped with at least 8 or 10 bills. It is dealing with a whole series of bills, many of which could have been included in one omnibus bill to amend the Criminal Code for a number of offences. We could have had the same witnesses that we are having bill after bill after bill. We could have had all of them there to deal with the same items. Some of the bills are no brainers. They have the support of virtually everyone in the House. They should be passed but they have to go through the process.

We should be expediting these things. I do not know why the then justice minister had to come in with a series of bills other than for political or partisan reasons to say look at all the things the government is doing.

When we are tinkering around with the Criminal Code, let us not take up the House's time. Let us not take up the justice committee's time. Let it do its job. Let us be efficient in proposing and addressing legislation. It is more a matter of let us work smart rather than work hard. I do not think we have been working smart.

This bill is going to take some work. I do not know whether or not we are going to get the time at the justice committee with all the other obligations it has and I do not know what else is coming. For very important bills we are going to have to start dealing with legislative committees, committees that are able to work smartly on legislation and address some of the key problems, particularly as they might touch on charter issues, jurisdictional responsibilities, court challenges, the application of penalties, or whatever it might be. It is an important bill that really has to get done.

I want to quickly refer to a study which I thought was really good. The Senate did a study about a Canadian public policy on cannabis.

This issue is one which most members who have spoken to this bill and talked about driving while impaired, have talked about using marijuana and whether or not it has some impairment ability. Yes, we do know it can impair one's ability, as any drug can.

The Senate often does things that the House of Commons committees do not do when they do studies. The Senate does a lot more ad hoc studies, not in response to legislation, but rather on important issues of the day to provide a comprehensive review and summary of the state of the facts on matters which are going to affect us down the road.

This should be very helpful to the committee. I want to read into the record what the senators articulated as a public policy regime that they proposed for expressing the fundamental premise underlying their report. This is good. It is like having a mission statement to give us a road map as to where we are going with this, what is our thinking based on. It states:

In a free and democratic society, which recognizes fundamentally but not exclusively the rule of law as the source of normative rules and in which government must promote autonomy as far as possible and therefore make only sparing use of the instruments of constraint, public policy on psychoactive substances must be structured around guiding principles respecting the life, health, security and rights and freedoms that the individuals, who, naturally and legitimately, seek their own well-being and development and can recognize the presence, difference and equality of others.

It takes a little time; it has to be read two or three times, but it basically says balance. We have objectives and we have individual rights and freedoms. We have to be careful. The balance has to be right. We cannot be draconian in measures just because we know we can slap something down. It is important to understand that sometimes it is necessary to provide, whether it be the policing authorities or the courts, the tools to deal with certain issues where clearly we have not been able to get the job done.

I referred to the term tetrahydrocannabinol which is the most active component of cannabis. It is what gives the so-called buzz. I have never tried the stuff myself, never will, but I am told it is. There is a lovely glossary in the report. It says that THC is highly fat soluble, has a lengthy half life, its psychoactive effects are modulated by other active components in cannabis. In its natural state cannabis contains between .5% to 5% THC. Sophisticated cultivation methods and plant selection, especially female plants, lead to higher THC levels of concentration.

There is no question about it. As a matter of fact, when I was in university way back when, and it was probably around 1970 when I got out of there, one could smoke a field of marijuana and not get a buzz because it was so weak. It is about ten times stronger because in its natural state it is only .5% THC content.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

The voice of experience.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Marijuana today--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. There is only a short period of time left in the hon. member's remarks. I am going to ask all hon. members to hold off their comments until we get to questions and comments and I am sure the hon. member for Mississauga South will be happy to answer any concerns members have.

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I put that properly. I evoked a reaction from hon. colleagues, but I was told when we were in the hearings on Bill C-7 on controlled drugs and substances, some five or six years ago, that the strength of drugs was about ten times stronger than they were when I was in university. Today we are the people making the legislation and some members say that marijuana is not a big deal. It depends from whence one came because there are some other things to take into account.

My time is up. I recommend that the committee refer to the Senate committee report. I also want to point out that I and others have some concern about the problems that we may have in dealing with this bill in the courts. One of the critical problems with introducing measures to combat drug impaired driving is that there is no scientific consensus. That is the point. There is no scientific consensus. If that is the case, we have a big job to do. Let us get on with it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being here for this afternoon's debate. There is certainly great public interest in this issue.

I wonder, though, in the member's enthusiasm for the issues he raises, whether he has had any conversations at all with police officers, with those folks who need to be enforcing this legislation if and when it passes in the House.

In my community of Hamilton, police officers are under-resourced. They are already feeling the strains of their jobs. Training will be a hugely important aspect of what we as legislators are asking the police officers in our communities to take on.

I wonder if the member can comment a little about consultations that have taken place and whether we can go back to our communities and be absolutely certain that the training and the resources will be in place before we add yet another burden onto the police officers in our community.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

In fact, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-32 is proposing more tools for the police. I should say that Mothers Against Drunk Driving are in favour of this legislation, as we know, as is the president of the Canadian Professional Police Association.

However, the member asked specifically about the police officers themselves. That is extremely important. What we often find is the problem that we come up with amendments to the Criminal Code which require all kinds of different resources to be applied, but we do not follow up with providing those resources. We either do not have the court time to deal with these additional cases or we in fact do not have the manpower to be able to do it.

The federal government creates these laws and then the provincial governments have to apply and enforce them. If the provinces and territories are not given the resources, what happens is that good laws just do not work. The member is quite right.

However, more tools are provided in the bill. The police will be able to demand that a person suspected of driving while impaired by alcohol or drug participate in a sobriety test at the roadside. That is different. That is going to actually improve the job, because police will not have to go through the legal mumbo-jumbo of getting a court order for that. Also, the police will be able to demand that a person suspected of driving while impaired by a drug participate in a physical test and a bodily fluid sample test. Those things are going to happen.

Police are also not going to be hung up in court as long, simply because there is going to be some sharp limiting of the witness evidence that is available under the current law. It is going to be curbed under the proposed law.

However, the member is correct. This raises an important issue that the committee has to look at. If we expect the provinces to enforce these laws and to have people properly trained, they must have the resources to do it. It is our responsibility to make sure that the finance minister over there is going to be cognizant of the demands that we are making with regard to the policing authorities all across the country, many of which are outside the federal jurisdiction.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, impaired driving is a scourge in our country on the streets of all our communities.

I wonder if the member could comment more fully, however, on the coincidence of the decisions made in September by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice to table Bill C-32 on the same day that they announced cuts to the pilot program for testing or providing training for the detection of drug impaired drivers, to the sum of some $4.2 million. Only after some political pressure did they announce that eventually the government might offer a program worth $2 million for some training that has yet to be announced.

How crucial to the success of this bill is the training to detect drug impairment?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. The facts he has given are my understanding of the facts.

The bill specifically relies very heavily on expert assessment and analysis by the policing authorities. That means they are going to have to be trained. It means there are going to have to be additional resources for them to be able to discharge those responsibilities.

All I can say is that it is puzzling that the government would dismantle something at the level of some $4 million only to bring it back in part, unless the government is suggesting that somehow it needs the money for other purposes, but either we are committed to the bill or we are not. I much suspect that the government has followed a pattern: wherever it does not suit its current purpose, good programs will be sacrificed without considering the consequences. I think the government has made a bad decision.

However, we cannot worry about what the government has done in the past. What we have to worry about is making sure that we as legislators around here, those who care to do it, make good laws and wise decisions.

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague almost argued in support of the bill. He mentioned that, at one time, drugs were less potent than they are today. I hope that that is not true. Drugs are drugs.

I would like to ask him a very different question. He wondered whether this bill could stand up to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 1982, the Liberal Party introduced a charter that the Province of Quebec did not sign. We did not sign the charter. The Criminal Code is one of the rights governed by the federal government, but we did not sign the charter. In addition, the other rights and freedoms of the charter have not been or could not be implemented since 1982.

When my colleague talks of being charter proof, is he referring to the fact that the Criminal Code no longer applied to the Province of Quebec because we did not sign the charter, which gives the federal government this authority?

I would like to hear my colleague, an academic, answer this question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we could spend too much time on this. I would just suggest to the member that he do everything in his power to see that Quebec reconsiders and signs the charter.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment my colleague on his eloquent speeches on this topic, on the topic yesterday and on every topic that comes before the House.

I have a question on the technology. When the Liberals brought this bill forward, the most problematic part was the state of the technology for assessing drugs at the site. I wonder if he could update us on whether that technology has improved to make this bill more realistic. There was a problem in the detection.

We all want to detect and stop drivers impaired by drugs, but there was a technology problem at the time. I wonder if he has any update on the state of the technology.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question, because the technology is there to detect what is in the system. The issue is whether the person was impaired, and it depends. In fact, I think the example has been given that marijuana can be detected in the blood system for four weeks, but the impairment may only last for hours, so it is not just a matter of whether or not it is there.

As for the evidence that the technology is available, we can just simply to look at what has been done in terms of the drug testing that now is done for the Olympics and for professional athletes, et cetera. The detection is there now, but there has to be the linkage to impairment. That is why we need the training for the DREs: for them to be able to detect the signs and to get the proper information and observations down so that their expert testimony and the results of drug testing will in concert indicate that likelihood, along with other evidence they may have.

I am not at this point sure, but this is one of the reasons why we have a committee to look at a bill after we get a chance here, before we have heard any of the current testimony of witnesses and experts in the fields and disciplines that are relevant to this bill. It is important that this bill get to committee. It is important to hear questions such as the one the member just posed, extremely important, in order to make absolutely sure that we understand the tools being proposed under this bill in fact are going to be effective and are indeed going to be properly funded all across the country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, if no one else wants to speak to the bill, there are some items I want to bring forth.

First, like everyone in the House, I want to do everything possible to stop impaired drivers, whether or not they are impaired by drugs, which is the emphasis of this particular bill. Of course, our party and the others, I am sure, have had this as an ultimate goal. Our party brought forward Bill C-16 in the previous Parliament to try to deal with this issue.

Following up on my last comment, the problem we were having at the time was with the detection of various drugs in the system and the discernment of the impairment due to them, and how it could be proved to the extent that we would be successful in prosecutions.

We should not let that stop us. For those reasons, we have to keep working on that technology and training. We have to keep working on the ability to convict people and to determine with regard to the various drugs what impairment is, how it can be measured, and how it can be prosecuted to make sure that needless accidents do not occur, injuring families, children and other innocent people.

I want to comment on what the previous member said. I will take a step out from this bill for a minute to comment on his remark about the lineup of justice bills in committee. I commend the justice committee members for such a heavy agenda, but I disagree with the hon. member that those bills should have been put into an omnibus bill, thus putting them all together to make it faster, because there were a number of very controversial bills, to be nice about it, bills that went against the basic mainstream of modern thought in the judicial system, a number of which we believe would increase crime in Canada, would be soft on crime and would put more trained criminals on the street. If we were to put a number of controversial bills together and people were to vote against one of them, it would kill the whole bill. In that respect, the government would not have had anything get through.

However, we are dealing with bills of such a serious nature, bills about incarcerating a larger number of Canadians and using a large number of resources for that, resources that could be used for police or prevention, bills about reducing judges' discretion and pay rate, and bills about taking away the conditional sentences that are so effective for aboriginal people and others in stopping recidivism when the old system of simple incarceration and putting people in prison to train to be better criminals is not working.

When we have a number of serious bills like these, I would not like to see them all put into one bill. I do not think people realize the magnitude of the threats to a good judicial system that were before us in Parliament. I think the government did the right thing by bringing each bill forward individually so they could be debated individually, even though it means more work for us in the justice committee in making sure that these serious proposals are dealt with seriously and at length and with a number of expert witnesses to help us in that direction.

Going back to BillC-32, although we are strongly supportive, we certainly want a serious investigation in committee, along with the long lineup of bills we do have in that committee. For one thing, we want to look at the practical tools available for the analysis of different drugs in the system. We want to look at the analysis and the effect on impairment, at the way to measure this and the way this would stand up in court in a prosecution.

A previous question by one of our colleagues brought up a good concern related to resources. That is a concern not only for this bill but for several other bills before the House at this time.

We should also ask at committee whether the attorneys general are willing to prosecute the bill and whether they have the resources. Do they think this has a high enough priority to divert resources for the training and the enforcement? This certainly will add a significant burden to a task for which they only have limited resources. That certainly has to be investigated in committee.

We want to ask those people, including the police forces and the attorneys general, what their feelings are about whether they want a bill, whether they can enforce it, whether they have the resources to do so and what can be done about it.

It would also be important to talk to the police officers who have had experience in the roadside checks and ask them about the problems they may have had on the more simple cases that we have at the moment with the tools that are now available, the ones that have been tested and proven. We should ask them how they think this system would work when it is outlined.

Another section in the bill relates to increasing the penalties for alcohol crimes and making stiffer sentences for the various levels of alcohol crimes. I certainly think we should have a discussion on that in committee.

I would say that the majority in parliamentarians are primarily against increasing minimums or even imposing minimums for many crimes because the experts have told us, quite clearly in committee, that it is not effective and that it does not work.

Maximums can be added to crimes to give a judge more discretion, a judge who understands the situation, who wants to penalize unrepentant repeat offenders and who wants to take seriously some of these crimes. I think those should be discussed in committee so we can have the type of debate we have already been having in committee about various sentences and also comparing them with other crimes and the types of sentences that are available for other crimes, the types of options, and to ensure that driving while under the influence of alcohol or under anything else that would be seen as driving impaired and threatening innocent citizens, is seen as a serious offence.

Another section in the bill, which should be discussed in committee, and I think I asked this previously of the parliamentary secretary, is the section relating to the taking of fluids and body sample tests. This would be needed to analyze the blood level for various drugs required in this bill.

Every time we come to a provision such as this in various bills, such as in the good Samaritan act, discussions take place about the volatility of the body and the privacy of a person. We need to ensure that this law is written very carefully so that people are protected but, on the other hand, that the general citizenry are protected from a person who would drive impaired and is a threat to us all.

Another section of the bill that I would like to ask questions on in committee relates to restricting the use of evidence to the contrary.

A jury or a judge can throw out any evidence if they think it is fallacious, not useful or just a decoy to detract from the real issues in the case but, nevertheless, I find it hard to understand how, in our present justice system, any evidence can be restricted. Evidence is evidence. People should be able to bring forward evidence and the judge and jury should decide on the evidence that has come forward. They can dismiss poor evidence but I do not think we can say that evidence cannot be brought before the court and then convince people that we have a fair justice system.

The bill contains many good items but a lot of areas still need to be looked at. As I said, we were looking at this and we also proposed a bill because people were being taken out of their vehicles and being charged for being under the influence of alcohol when they could have easily been under the influence of drugs and have caused the same carnage to innocent people. We have no mechanism in place to catch those people, to analyze the situation and to prosecute them successfully.

If we can refer this to committee, hopefully we can ensure that the bill will be effective in achieving the goal that I am sure everyone in the House wants, which is to make our streets safer by getting people, who would wilfully put themselves in the situation of harming both themselves and others, off the roads. They need to understand that we take this seriously and that we will put the resources into both the technology, training and the drafting of a law that will be effective in reducing this type of unnecessary carnage and accidents affecting innocent people on our highways.

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for supporting the bill and sending it to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I commend him and all the members of this House for taking to heart the problems related to alcohol.

In Quebec, my province, we have a serious problem with impaired driving. Many of those who die have alcohol levels higher than the 0.0 presently tolerated. Many people lose children or their wife and there is carnage—you used the term carnage—or, at least, very serious accidents.

As the member for Yukon, can my colleague tell me if, in his province, there is legislation that provides compensation irrespective of liability? In Quebec, we have such a law and there is no civil liability. Even if we kill someone with a vehicle while impaired, which is criminal, we are absolved of any civil liability. The only punishment for a Quebec driver is dispensed by the Criminal Code, because there is legislation that does not attribute civil liability.

My colleague for Yukon and I are members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I appreciate his contribution. Can he tell us if there is the same problem in the Yukon? If an impaired driver kills someone, is he civilly liable under Yukon law?

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, in relation to the Yukon highway traffic act, although I am not familiar with the specific details that the member might be asking about, but in the Yukon situation I would like to say that our society is so harmonious that we have no misuse of substances but that is not entirely true.

We definitely have, unfortunately, our own levels of poverty and social problems that often lead to substance abuse. We also have, what I am sure they have in many parts of Canada, the enforcement of the existing laws. We have stop checks and people are charged under the Criminal Code. We also have good warning systems in our society. We have warnings related to alcohol. We have warnings on our liquor bottles relating to the harm to fetuses, which I would hope they would have across the country.

I commend the police and public organizations, such as MADD, for holding good public information sessions on the harm of drinking and driving. The best way to reduce something is not through crime and punishment in the first place, but through education and convincing people of its effects. If they understand its effects then they will definitely not reoffend.

I do not think we have the types of laws that the member is talking about but we certainly seriously enforce the Criminal Code and enforce against the criminal use of substances in our area because it can be just as dangerous as everywhere else, especially with slippery, icy roads and lengthy highways where people need to drive long distances, sometimes on gravel roads where it is easier to lose control of a vehicle.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, when I look at the bill, I think of what happened in the past with the regulations that were set for the consumption of alcohol and driving. We went through a fairly rigorous process of determining over the years scientifically that it was .08, but we have seen movement now to a higher level of intolerance with alcohol content in the body. My riding has gone to .05. This has not been done through a process but through pressure rather than a scientific understanding of the nature of impairment.

With this particular bill, where we are dealing with a multitude of substances taken singularly and in combination, how do ensure that we are charging people who are actually impaired, in other words, providing incontrovertible evidence or even a standard of application that can give some surety to the courts and to our citizens who are human beings like all of us and may partake in one or other of the substances that are part of the common culture in Canada?

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, that is basically why the member for Mississauga South and I were saying that this bill needs to go to committee. That is a very good question that the committee needs to answer. It will need to look at the technology, at the training and at the types of tests because it is very complicated when there is a mixture of drugs and alcohol.

How can one provide incontrovertible proof, at least enough for a prosecution? We do not want arbitrary detention of people by the police or prosecution in an arbitrary manner. We want scientific proof. The committee will need to be convinced that this is available and if it is not available I would encourage the government to invest more funds to ensure it becomes available.

The member also raised an interesting point about the levels of drugs. In Germany it is .05 and in Sweden it is .02. In case I do not get a chance to comment on this, we have a bill before the justice committee that would provide a summary conviction from .05 up to .08 and the existing law would continue.

The one concern I have about that is that we ensure it will be the type of conviction that does not get recorded in our criminal system in the way that criminal records are kept for the lesser offences because there are problems when people cross borders, for instance, into the United States.

In Canada people can get pardons for those types of offences eventually. Once people have shown regret, paid the penalty and proven it was a mistake they can obtain a pardon but, unfortunately, that pardon does not carry over into the United States. We now have people who may have had a small problem due to youthful exuberance and then it is over with but they are forever listed in other countries and cannot get across borders.

That is a point I will be bringing forward when it comes time for debate on that bill, a consideration of the way that particular bill has been written on lowering the blood levels from .08 to .05.

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4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

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4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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