Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about an important issue that society has had to face for many years.
I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's history with respect to the degree even this distinguished House has had to deal with criminal law to deter individuals from drinking and driving.
I would like to take a different approach and go back to the days when I served in the Manitoba legislature. A number of issues came to the table back in those days and drinking and driving came up on an annual basis. Many organizations and stakeholders had serious concerns. I can recall times when we were told that we needed to lobby Ottawa to make changes to the Criminal Code. I can recall many other discussions that went beyond that, and this relates to what a speaker said earlier today, that it is not just the Criminal Code that we need to look at. If we want to wrestle this issue to the ground, then we need to take a more holistic approach.
I would like to bring a couple of things to the attention of members in the House. We need legislation that would reform our criminal law so that we could provide a deterrent. That is absolutely critical. There is no doubt in my mind that we will be having many more debates on that.
I want to take this opportunity to highlight one other aspect of this issue and that is education. When I talk about a holistic approach, what I am really talking about is the importance of getting different levels of government to work together. Let me give the House a specific example.
I was but a teenager during the seventies. It was quite acceptable, in fact it was the norm at that time, to drink and drive. I worked in a garage where some of the mechanics would drink rye with no questions asked and then they would get into a car and off they would go. Back in the seventies no one would have told them that they could not drink and drive. I graduated from an urban high school in the late seventies and I cannot recall my peers being told that we should not drink and drive.
Let me fast forward to the eighties when statistics showed a decrease in drinking and driving and fatalities. It was during the late eighties and early nineties when a much more proactive approach was taken in the school system. It was the young people in Canada that really started to take note. In the last 15 years very progressive attitudes have come out of high schools in particular. If we did a bit of research we would see.
Maples Collegiate is a high school in my riding of Winnipeg North. The students came up with what is called the safe grad pass. It is a special pass that is given to a guest to participate in the grad celebrations, because in times of celebration, there is often a considerable amount of drinking involved. Mandatory classes are also held in various schools where students are educated about safe driving and safe grads. These are the types of programs that I believe have really made a difference.
It is important that we debate the legislation that is before us today. I can appreciate why the member is suggesting that we put in further deterrents. No doubt that will be well debated. However, we need to look beyond the legislation component for a good reason.
Every member who has spoken today has highlighted stories. If we look at the numbers, many stories will never get told. We are talking about 20,000-plus lives some of which are terminated because of drunk driving. Whatever the age might be, it is sad to see someone lose his or her life because of drinking and driving.
I am especially touched when someone of a relatively young age is killed or when multiple individuals are killed by one drunk driver. It happens far too often. Over 1,000 Canadians a year lose their lives of because of a drunk driver. That is not to speak of the thousands of others who are injured every year because of drunk driving.
I heard reference to the organization of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. If we talk to anyone who has served on that organization, we will hear stories about the reality and the consequences of drinking and driving. Those stories will blow the minds of most Canadians. All one needs to do is to visit its website to get a good sense of the consequences.
What I respect about MADD is that it has a more holistic approach. I believe it understands the importance of education. I really want to emphasize this. There are many social conditions in society that can be best addressed through education. This does not mean that legislation or the Criminal Code has nothing to do with it. We need to ensure we have legislation or laws that will be a deterrent, that there is a consequence.
People who drink and drive need to understand and appreciate that there will be a consequence to their act. However, quite often, individuals who drink and drive do not get behind the wheel believing they are going to get into some sort of horrific accident. They believe they are going to ultimately get away with it. For those who do get behind the wheel, there needs to be a consequence. We need to educate people so they understand that when they get behind a wheel and they are intoxicated, or they are past that .08, the likelihood of an accident is enhanced greatly.
I know generations of Canadians did not understand that or did not appreciate it. Because of the hard work of many organizations and because of debates of this nature, we have a greater understanding of the consequence. However, I am not convinced to what degree we have educated and provided incentive for people not to get behind the wheel and drive.
I am sure that in many communities, come Christmas and New Years, we will see special programs. The idea of spontaneous Breathalyzer tests deserves a lot of merit and there should be a lot of discussion on it. We should not focus our attention on one time of the year.
There is an onus of responsibility as parliamentarians to not only look at the criminal law aspect, but to also look at ways in which we can work with others, other stakeholders in particular, other levels of government, right down to the school board level, to see what we can do to better educate people so they understand the consequences of drinking and driving. We have dropped the ball on this over the years. We can do so much more.
I am pleased to see the bill here today and I look forward to an additional hour of debate on it. I would just emphasize the importance of education. We need to do something for the sake of all the victims of drinking and driving.