House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was isil.


Opposition Motion—ISISBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Mr. Speaker, it has always been a great pleasure all these years when I rise and through my magic wand say, let us see your watch as 5:30 p.m..

Opposition Motion—ISISBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I that agreed?

Opposition Motion—ISISBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion—ISISBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

The House resumed from April 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-226, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences in relation to conveyances) and the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-226. I would like to thank my colleague and friend, and my seatmate, the member of Parliament for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, for his advocacy on this issue. Bill C-226 is the impaired driving act and is really the next evolution of Canada's response to the social problems and tragedies caused by impaired driving across Canada.

Being a member of Parliament and a father from southern Ontario, I would like to start with a few names to show this is not one of the debates in the House that is theoretical; it is one that impacts Canadian lives.

Daniel Neville-Lake, nine years old; Harrison Neville-Lake, five years old; Milagros Neville-Lake, two years old; and their grandfather, Gary Neville, were killed tragically last year in southern Ontario in an accident. It hit Canadians, wherever they were, when they heard about a young family taken through the callous act of another Canadian who could have easily avoided the situation he put those young children and their grandfather in. I do not think there is a member of the House or anyone in Canada who watched that court proceed and saw the anguish of the parents, particularly the mother of the Neville-Lake children, and what that entire episode put them through.

We have to remember that bills like private member's bill, Bill C-226, can make an impact. We can look back and say that was the turning point, that this tragedy the family suffered through led to better policy, better laws, and an updating of Canada's response to impaired driving. I hope if we can get Bill C-226 through the House, and I implore the government to ensure it gets to committee, the family members can find some degree of solace in the fact that their tragedy is helping other families avoid the same.

I read four names in the House, but there are thousands of names and families that have been touched by impaired driving, certainly over my lifetime. As the member of Parliament for Durham, I am struck by the statistic from the Durham Regional Police Service. It states that 42% of traffic accidents in my area of the country involve alcohol. Estimates have suggested that the social cost through accidents, death, illness and hospitalization is $4.5 billion related to a crime perpetrated on victims that could easily be avoided. I say that because we live in an age when this has been socially unacceptable, even since I got my driver's licence at 16.

I remember when I was at Port Perry High School there was a crashed car on the lawn of our high school. It was put there by a new group in Canada at that time, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to bring home to young people the cost of driving after consuming alcohol. For my generation and indeed for most members of the House, this is not socially acceptable, yet we still face this problem.

We also live in an age when technology and innovation have made it even easier for people to make the right choice with respect to impaired driving. We live in an age when there are not just traditional taxis or the phone call to a mom, designated driver, dad, or a friend. We have Uber, we have ride sharing, and we have programs that are dedicated to avoiding impaired driving, like Keys to Us whose drivers will follow people back in their vehicles. That did not exist 30 or 40 years ago. There is absolutely no reason for somebody who is impaired to get behind a wheel today.

With social host liability, which has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada, there is a zero tolerance now in our country for impaired driving, yet we still see the horrific accidents and the tragedies they lead to for families like the Neville-Lake family. It is up to this Parliament to react and modernize our laws.

In fact, it was the intention in the last year of the Conservative government to update and modernize these laws and show Parliament's zero tolerance for impaired driving, so I am very proud of my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for bringing something forward that he knew the last government was working on.

How would it work? The most important element, which in some areas is controversial, is the mandatory screening measure. Why is that responsible? It is because in nations that have introduced the mandatory screening, like France and Australia, they have seen a 20% additional reduction in impaired drivers on their roads as a result of the fact that they could encounter a RIDE program, like we know in Ontario, the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere program. However, in this case with mandatory screening, the officer would not need to have indicia of impairment: breath, glassy eyes, and that sort of thing. I know the next speaker on the government side who has spent many years in uniform will maybe know that procedure far better than I do, but the police would be able to do mandatory screening, because if individuals are on a roadway, it is a responsibility they have, not actually a right. We already ask them to pass driver's tests, vision tests. It is a right and a responsibility that they have to not be impaired.

If we can lead to more people not being impaired on our roadways, accidents being reduced, tragedies being reduced, why would we not do this, particularly when a country like Australia or a country like France has had such success with that public policy move?

This is not an invasion of anyone's privacy by any stretch of the imagination. Right now, if individuals are going too quickly on our motorways, they can be pulled over to the side. If their sticker is dated, if their car is not sound, they can be pulled over for safety reasons by a law enforcement officer. If the driver is not sound, we should have that same right, and mandatory screening would let everyone know that an individual is not able to be on the road in an impaired state and that there will be a zero tolerance.

The other thing Bill C-226 would do is toughen sentencing, particularly for repeat offenders. Alcoholism is a sickness and people can get help. If they can be treated, there should be zero tolerance for them on the streets at all, particularly after their first offence.

We should show society's denunciation of that conduct through a tougher sentence, so we would allow courts to give sentences in the 10-to-14-year range, and higher in repeat offences causing bodily harm, which Canadians expect.

We saw what the court determined in the Neville-Lake tragedy. We should make sure courts can do this. We should also speed up, reduce the trauma on victims by not allowing frivolous claims with respect to binge drinking before driving or after an accident, defences that really are beyond the pale in this day and age when it comes to this offence. We should not allow those sham defences to clog and delay our courts with respect to this offence.

As I said, at 43, I have grown up in an environment where there has been a zero tolerance already for drinking and driving, for impaired driving. We now have a government legalizing marijuana and risking further impairment from that drug on young people and people of all ages driving. It is up to the government—in fact it is up to the next speaker—to show that our society is also modernizing our impaired driving laws to show our re-commitment to zero tolerance.

In the Durham region, the MADD program started when I was in high school. People like Michelle Crabb in the Durham region, whose family was struck, and Dave Pereira are our volunteers who have been working on the front line for 40 years. We need to give them the new tools to make sure we have no other families like the Neville-Lake family facing tragedy from impaired driving.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join in the second reading debate on private member's Bill C-226, introduced by the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. I believe that all parties in the House support efforts to reduce the devastating harm that is so often caused by impaired drivers, while at the same time respecting the charter rights of all Canadians.

As members are undoubtedly aware, on average, nearly four Canadians lose their lives every day as a result of choices people make to drink and drive. Countless thousands more are injured and impacted by this terrible crime. Accordingly, I believe Bill C-226 should be given second reading and referred to committee for study and possible amendments to improve it. The bill proposes a fundamental reform of the impaired driving provisions, and other transportation provisions of the Criminal Code. The government accepts in principle the proposal in Bill C-266 to enact a new part that is written in simple language to make the law easier to understand and to enforce.

The existing Criminal Code provisions dealing with transportation offences, particularly those addressing impaired driving, are complex and often difficult to apply. In part, this is a result of successive piecemeal reforms that have taken place over many years. They have also been considerably interpreted by our courts, making it difficult to understand how they operate simply by reading the provisions. This has in turn impacted the effectiveness and the efficiency of our investigations, prosecutions, and sentencing in these important cases. The provisions can benefit from the reforms proposed in Bill C-226.

Today, I will limit my remarks to some of the key elements of the bill. First, the bill proposes to have uniform, higher maximum penalties for all transportation offences upon summary conviction and indictment. In particular, the proposal to have a 10-year maximum penalty on indictment for simpliciter offences, rather than the current five years, would make it possible for the crown to make an application to have a repeat drunk driver declared a dangerous or long-term offender. The code currently provides that a person must be convicted of an offence having a maximum penalty of 10 years or more before such an application can be made. At present, a person cannot be declared a dangerous or long-term offender even if they have committed multiple impaired driving offences.

The government therefore supports the maximum penalty proposed of 10 years for simpliciter offences, 14 years for bodily harm offences, and life for all offences causing a death.

The bill proposes to hybridize the transportation offences involving bodily harm. This would provide the crown with discretion to proceed by summary conviction in cases of minor bodily harm or by indictment in cases of significant bodily harm. Currently, the crown can only proceed by indictment. Therefore, the government supports this change.

Bill C-226 proposes many new and higher mandatory minimum penalties. We believe that higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment are inadvisable. I wish to advise the House that the Minister of Justice will be undertaking a review of sentencing that includes all mandatory minimum penalties. Importantly, the bill's proposed five-year mandatory minimum penalty for causing a death and the provision requiring consecutive sentences for each person killed raise significant charter issues. I therefore encourage members of the committee receiving the bill to strike from the bill all of the new mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment.

The government is, however, prepared to support the higher mandatory minimum fines for first offenders found with a high blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, or who refuse to provide a breath sample. We know that the higher the BAC, the more likely the driver is to cause a crash. The increase in fines from $1,000 to a minimum of $1,500 for a person with a BAC of 120 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood, and doubling the fine to $2,000 for a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 160 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood reflects this greater danger.

To ensure that an offender who refuses to provide a breath sample does not gain any advantage over those who comply with the demand, the $2,000 fine would also apply to refusal offences. I note that a blood alcohol concentration of 120 would be an aggravating factor should the person be convicted of a subsequent impaired driving offence.

The bill proposes mandatory alcohol screening, otherwise known as random breath testing or RBT. It must be borne in mind that driving is a privilege and that it is subject to many conditions. Most importantly, police already have the authority to stop any driver at random to ensure that he or she has a valid licence and that the vehicle is registered and insured.

Indeed, the courts have upheld the authority of the police to make random stops to check whether the driver is sober. During these stops, the police currently try to determine the sobriety by smelling the air for an odour of alcohol, by asking drivers if they have been drinking, to looking to see whether their eyes are red or bloodshot, asking them to produce various documents, and to observe their co-ordination.

Research has also shown, unfortunately, that drivers who are over the limit often, far too often, manage to get through a police stop without being detected.

Mandatory alcohol screening of drivers who have been stopped, whether as part of a random check stop for sobriety or because there is something in their driving which has led the police to make the stop, will identify far more of the drivers who choose to drink and drive while impaired. It is a quick, scientifically valid way of determining whether the driver has consumed alcohol and appears to be over the limit.

The realization that they cannot avoid giving a breath sample at roadside will have a very significant deterrent effect on people who may choose to drink and drive. I would like to advise the House that this deterrent effect has been demonstrated countless times in many other countries.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in its 2009 report pointed out that random breath testing reduced the number of people killed on Irish roads by 23%. In New South Wales, Australia, it resulted in a decrease of 36% in the number of fatally injured drivers with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit.

The Department of Justice issued a discussion paper in 2010 that pointed out that:

RBT has had such remarkable results that in 2004 the European Union recommended that it be a part of every EU nation’s traffic safety measures. According to the European Transport Safety Council, RBT is now in use in 22 European states.

The fact that random breath testing has been implemented in other countries, where it has saved thousands of lives and prevented countless injuries, is powerful evidence in its favour.

The government therefore supports the bill's recommendation for mandatory alcohol screening and random breath testing.

The bill also proposes to facilitate the way in which blood alcohol concentration is proven in court. It would provide that blood alcohol concentration at the time of testing would be conclusively proven if there were two breath tests on an approved instrument taken 15 minutes apart, preceded in each case by an air blank test and a calibration check, which produce results that are within 20 milligrams of one another.

Currently, the law provides that blood alcohol concentration at time of testing is deemed to be the BAC at the time of driving if the test is taken within two hours. Where the test is conducted after the two hours, a toxicologist must be called to provide evidence of what the person's BAC would have been at the time of driving if his or her evidence of consumption is accepted.

Bill C-226 proposes a legislative formula for calculating the blood alcohol concentration beyond two hours, which would significantly simplify trials in these cases. The bill also proposes to eliminate the bolus drinking defence and limit the intervening drink defence by making it an offence to have a blood alcohol concentration of 80 within two hours of driving, subject to a limited defence for innocent post-driving drinking.

The bolus drink defence arises when the driver claims to have consumed a large amount of alcohol just before driving so that, although their blood alcohol concentration was over 80 at the time of testing, the alcohol was still being absorbed at the time of driving. This defence rewards those who consume a significant amount of alcohol immediately before driving, which I am sure we can all agree is behaviour that should be discouraged.

Bill C-226 proposes two additional significant changes to the law relating to evidence in the area of drug recognition and evaluation, DRE. First, the law would be clarified to ensure that the evidence of an evaluating officer conducting the DRE is admissible without a hearing to qualify the evaluating officer as an expert. This would respond to several lower court decisions, which have refused to hear expert opinion evidence from the DRE officer with respect to drug impairment.

The government supports these enhancements to the drug recognition and evaluation program. As well, the government will be seeking to have some technical amendments presented at committee. As I stated at the beginning, I am sure we can all agree that the goal of the bill, to make our roads and highways safer for everyone, for all Canadians, is one we can and must support.

Therefore, I would urge all members to vote for the bill so we can get this important bill to committee where it can be studied in detail.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-226, introduced by my colleague, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis.

As mentioned several times in the House, Bill C-226 is designed to limit or make more difficult the conditions that allow for impaired driving, a glaring problem. I can say that I have had a close personal experience with this problem. Just a year and a half ago, while I was driving around in my constituency, I nearly had a collision with someone who was impaired. As some members of the House will remember, in March 2015, the former provincial member for Gaspé, Georges Mamelonet, died in a head-on collision involving an impaired driver, very close to Rimouski, in fact.

This is an extremely important matter, and no one in this House will deny the importance of dealing with it appropriately.

The bill itself has three particular components. The first proposes tougher sentences by setting minimum sentences for cases of impaired driving causing death. The second component of the bill is intended to restrict legal defences and eliminate the possibility of defending oneself legally and using certain defences that are questionable and harmful to the fight we must wage against impaired driving. The third component is intended to institute random alcohol testing for impaired driving.

I can say that I do not have a problem with eliminating certain more questionable defences. People have probably abused legal loopholes to actually avoid facing the consequences of their actions, namely choosing to drink and drive.

With regard to random alcohol testing, I am open to the possibility. Obviously, it raises certain questions associated with privacy and individual freedoms. In some cases, however, we also have to look at the common good, in general. In that regard, I am not completely convinced, but I would lean in that direction.

With respect to minimum sentences, we see here, unfortunately, the usual automatic response of the Conservatives to opt for such sentences in almost every case. What is interesting is that the Conservatives, in a previous government, in 2008, had toughened certain legal provisions on impaired driving. As part of that reform and those amendments, the fines for a first impaired-driving offence were raised from $600 to $1,000. For repeat offenders, who are liable to a term of imprisonment, the sentence was increased from 14 to 30 days.

However, while this was expected to deter impaired driving, in the end the opposite effect was observed. The number of people failing impaired-driving tests did not decrease, far from it. This demonstrates the limitations of using sentences as a deterrent. That has often been proclaimed in the House. There is no evidence that sentences, whether they are minimum sentences or just tougher sentences, produce enough of a change in behaviour to truly satisfy the intentions of the House, the intentions of legislators and especially the intention that we should have in legislating for the public good.

Therefore, I can say from the outset that I am opposed to the provisions concerning minimum sentences. I am not the only one in this situation, as MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is also opposed to the imposition of minimum sentences, and in this case, a minimum sentence of five years. That does not mean we are in favour of lighter sentences, quite the contrary. However, giving that discretion to judges, allowing the legal system to make decisions that account for the context, will, in our view, be completely satisfactory and will undoubtedly lead to tougher sentences and a wider acceptance of that legal power.

In many cases, judges make their decisions based on a social context in which impaired driving is less and less tolerated. It is no longer a socially acceptable behaviour. On the contrary, it is socially and universally condemned. My colleague from Durham said it well. In that regard, that often leads to more serious legal consequences, unfortunately. I am thinking specifically of minimum sentences.

Let us then allow the judges to do their jobs, and let us do ours as legislators. I was somewhat disappointed with this bill, because if the idea was to deal with impaired driving, other elements could have been included. There is a lot of talk about sentences and punishing crime, but not much about prevention.

If the intent was really to discourage people from using a vehicle while impaired, it would have made sense to include in the bill provisions such as the obligation to have an alcohol-ignition interlock device in cars, which might automatically prevent drunk drivers from using their cars.

It would also have been worthwhile to have the bill mention a problem that is likely to become more important in the future: drug-related impaired driving. Since we are talking about legalizing marijuana, I should mention that, in some American states where marijuana has been decriminalized or legalized, impaired driving problems have emerged. However, all the bill mentions is blood alcohol tests to detect alcohol-related impaired driving.

If we want to be consistent, we will eventually have to address this issue. When the Liberal government drafts future legislation to legalize marijuana, if it goes that far, I encourage it to include provisions to protect the public. Our existing impaired driving laws are getting increasingly tougher.

As I mentioned, I will vote in favour of this bill at second reading, but I think it needs to be carefully studied in committee, because there is no guarantee that I will vote the same way at third reading. If the minimum sentencing is still in the bill, there is a good chance that I will have to vote against the bill and we will have to find another way, as legislators, to combat impaired driving.

The House takes this issue seriously, and the political parties probably have different philosophies on how to deal with this issue, but we need to find a solution that works, not a solution designed to score political points.

I would like the committee to examine whether random testing is effective, based on facts and evidence. I know that 31 of the 34 OECD countries use random testing, and Canada is one of the exceptions. I have no doubt that there will be studies on other countries' experiences.

We need to look at how these legal defences are being abused, as a way to avoid penalties for drivers who would have otherwise received punishment. We are talking about the safety of our families, neighbours, and communities, as well as the common good.

I urge all members in the House to carefully consider the various measures we could use to effectively combat this issue. The bill provides three lines of attack, so we should be able to come up with others. Most importantly, we should be able to keep the measures that work, not the measures that were proposed by those who share our political views.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2016 / 5:45 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for this excellent bill.

I am pleased to be speaking in favour of it.

I have appreciated the opportunity to hear from the different members speaking to the bill already. It sounds like there is substantial consensus in this House to move the bill forward to the committee stage. I look forward to the continuing debate at that stage.

There are many provisions in the bill that address the significant problem of impaired driving in this country. I want to focus on one of the provisions, in particular, in my remarks today, one of the provisions that I think is the most transformative about the bill. It is the introduction of mandatory screening.

I know there has been some debate back and forth that I have had informally with members around what the provision means, in terms of public safety, as well as in terms of civil liberties. I am going to argue, today, that a policy of mandatory screening does not violate civil liberties. Frankly, even if it did, it would be justified on the basis of the lives that would be saved by requiring mandatory screening.

Just by way of brief introduction right now, of course, the way the law works is that people can be pulled over, they can be asked if they have been drinking, and they can be asked to take a Breathalyzer if an officer feels that there is some basis to believe that they have been drinking or may be impaired.

There are concerns that this requirement for there to be some kind of an indication of impairment beforehand reduces the deterrence factor, reduces the chances that someone will be caught. There are a number of bills that have been proposed to try to address this. There is a bill before Parliament that I think is an interesting measure, as well, that I am inclined to support if it goes part way, in terms of allowing the use of a passive detection device to determine if there is alcohol in the car and, on that basis, to conduct screening.

However, the simplest way of ensuring the greatest possible deterrence, of catching impaired drivers, is through a system of mandatory screening, which says that anybody who is pulled over can be asked to take a breath test and, on that basis, then an assessment can be made as to whether or not they are impaired.

This is clear, it is simple but, yes, it raises some debate around the question of civil liberties. I want to talk about the issues of civil liberties in the context of mandatory screening and, specifically, make three distinct arguments about the value of mandatory screening.

The first argument I want to highlight is that driving is not a right. The definition of civil liberties, and I looked this up on and I think it is pretty good, is that civil liberties are:

the freedom of a citizen to exercise customary rights, as of speech or assembly, without unwarranted or arbitrary interference by the government.

Civil liberties only exist when they are applied to activities that individuals have a fundamental right to.

Inferring some violation of civil liberties in the context of mandatory screening would be to infer that individuals have a right to drive, which, of course, they do not. I think other colleagues have already made the point that there are many requirements we have associated with driving already that would not be permissible if we inferred that there was some kind of a right to drive.

The argument that brings civil liberties into this particular discussion, the implied idea that there is a right to drive, actually has very dangerous implications for various other aspects of the way our public safety system works around driving.

There is not a right to drive. Inferring a right to drive creates problems and, insofar as there is not a right to drive, then it is reasonable to require, as a condition of driving, that individuals be willing to provide a breath sample. That is not a violation of their civil liberties, again, insofar as there is not a right to drive.

The second point I want to make is that the current system presents greater potential inconveniences to drivers than mandatory screening.

Mandatory screening is very clear. It is very predictable. Individuals know that they can be expected to blow and that at a check-stop, individuals will all then presumably be asked to blow, and it is a quick, it is a clear, it is a predictable process.

The current system is more unpredictable, where individuals are asked questions first and it varies depending on what inference the police officer may draw in that particular case. As much as some individuals may not want to have to blow, the inconvenience factor is, I would argue, lessened in a system of mandatory screening because there is a certainty, there is a predictability, there is a process in place that individuals can rely on, and it really maximizes the deterrence factor. Nobody is going to think they can talk their way out of it or that they can avoid being tested in this way, because there is a certainty there. Therefore, it maximizes deterrence and of course public safety.

The third point that I want to emphasize is that lives are very much at stake in this debate. In the last Parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights studied this issue and recommended the implementation of mandatory screening. The reason it did so, in large part, is that countries which have implemented mandatory screening have witnessed a significant decrease in the number of recorded road deaths every year. Since impaired driving is, in fact, the leading cause of criminal death in Canada, this is particularly important.

We are talking about real lives saved and real lives affected. Part of why I wanted to speak to the bill, in particular, is that, while I was door knocking, I had a lengthy conversation with a family in my riding whose daughter was permanently disabled as a result of the actions of a drunk driver. Of course, we all know these things happen, but it brings it home to all of us in a particular way when we have the opportunity to speak to constituents who have had these kinds of experiences.

Simply knowing that a system of mandatory screening could prevent that kind of suffering, not in every case, perhaps, but for some families in the future, makes me feel very strongly about the importance of having a system of mandatory screening. To balance the potential theoretical concerns, but not really concerns, about civil liberties against the concrete idea of human life and happiness at stake here, we should err on the side of protecting human life and reducing suffering instead of this incorrect assertion of a procedural civil liberty.

In general, when we look at the balance of human life and protection of society versus rights, we have to think about the origin of rights. Rights have, in my view, two possible origins. One origin would be nature and the other would be custom. There are certain rights that come from the very nature of who and what we are, but there are other rights that are the result of custom and social agreement. We agree to accord certain rights to others on the basis of what is conducive to the happiness and good function of society, and generally speaking, though not in every case, our concept of civil liberties would fall into the concept of having their origins in custom as opposed to in nature.

We have the opportunity to describe and define the contours of these customary rights and I would argue that we should not seek to extend the ambit of customary rights in a way that leads to an increase in human suffering. The way we think about and describe rights that emanate not so much from nature but from custom should be with a view to what is good for society, what is good for human happiness and human flourishing. It would be perverse to come up with a doctrine of rights that we knew led to more human suffering, more loss of life, since the very purpose of rights should be with an orientation toward human flourishing.

These are what I see as the substantive arguments in favour of a system of mandatory screening. There is no such thing as a right to drive. Further, the creation of a right to drive creates additional risks to human life and human happiness. A system of mandatory screening provides additional benefits in terms of convenience and predictability for drivers. Also, fundamentally, lives are at stake. By understanding civil liberties as not precluding mandatory screening, Parliament can make a choice to significantly reduce the number of deaths associated with drunk driving.

That is our job first and foremost. Our job is to think about how we can save and protect lives, and the happiness and well-being of Canadians.

I congratulate my colleague on this excellent legislation. I look forward to supporting it.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Darshan Singh Kang Liberal Calgary Skyview, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate and thank the hon. member for his commitment to ensuring that Canadians are kept safe and deterred from drinking and driving.

I too believe that we must continue to ensure that Canadians do not drink and drive while protecting them against having to experience what it is like to be injured or lose loved ones due to a drunk driver.

I am also a victim of drunk driving. I sympathize with other Canadians who have lost family and loved ones to drunk driving. In 1972, my father and four other family members and friends were killed by a drunk driver in India. My father was a young successful businessman, who to this day is remembered throughout the country. When he was killed, our family's future was thrown into uncertainty. Our grief was at times unbearable. I had lost one of the most important people in my life. I do not want any Canadian to have to experience this loss and pain. However, this legislation does not do much to address my concerns.

I agree that there needs to be more strategic enforcement and educational campaigns to make sure that we protect Canadians, their families, and friends, but our approach must be based on evidence or we will have done little to prevent future suffering. I am sure that the bill will succeed at one thing, which is that it would put too many Canadians in prison.

I recognize that the bill provides hope to some victims that it will prevent impaired driving. From what I know, the only thing that the bill will provide is hope. It will have little impact on the future prevention of impaired driving.

According to this legislation, the accused would face an automatic mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days imprisonment for a first offence, 120 days for a second offence, one year for a third offence, and two years for any subsequent offences. The bill outlines that these sentences would apply to anyone who is found to have operated a vehicle while impaired in any degree, by alcohol or a drug or a combination of both. The decision for a conviction teeters on the ability to prove a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

I will begin with why the bill is not the solution that we need to protect Canadians against the potentially traumatic outcomes from drinking and driving.

First, the bill proposes persecution of suspected impaired drivers by using mandatory minimum sentences. We must not forget that it is clearly stated in subsection 11(d), “Proceedings in criminal and penal matters” of the charter, that:

Any person charged with an offence has the right:

(d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

The mandatory minimums that Bill C-226 would impose will remove the ability of our judiciary to ensure that the accused is provided with a fair and public hearing by an independent tribunal. Instead, conclusive proof would be taken out of the hands of a judge, and all evidence for conviction will be replaced by outcomes of a breathalyzer and the peace officer or technician who is operating it.

The use of breathalyzers is known to have provided less than 100% proof of impaired driving. A 2011 study in British Columbia found that roadside breathalyzers were wrong in 14 out of 174 roadside suspensions. This would mean under the bill that these fourteen persons would have little recourse, as the device reading would be the only conclusive evidence needed to brand them instantly guilty.

Second, this legislation fails to ensure that the rights of Canadians are upheld according to the charter. The fact is that the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that mandatory minimums like those proposed here are unconstitutional and would endanger our justice system.

According to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Nur, on April 14, 2015, mandatory minimums were challenged under Section 12 of the charter, which states:

Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

This is because using mandatory minimums will set the precedent for reasonably foreseeable applications in other cases unrelated to impaired driving that would result in cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

We should be wary of mandatary minimums because, as the Supreme Court stated, “Imposing such a sentence would 'undermine society’s expectations of fairness in the administration of justice'”.

There is further evidence provided by the Canadian Department of Justice in its study titled “Mandatory Minimum Penalties: Their Effects on Crime, Sentencing Disparities, and Justice System Expenditures” that mandatory minimums are ineffective specifically as a deterrent, especially against impaired driving.

The report states that:

Overall, the evidence in this area holds out more hope for vigorous law enforcement and the certainty of punishment than for tough sentences. Studies indicate that [mandatory minimums] and sanctions of increasing severity do not reduce recidivism rates or alcohol-related accidents.

The proposed use of mandatory minimums by this bill is only a Band-Aid solution that does not take into account the whole picture. Instead of helping Canadians, it would jeopardize the fundamental rights of everyone and do nothing to prevent future impaired driving or recidivism. We should be focusing on bringing impaired drivers to justice through more vigilant oversight and using the most effective means based on evidence.

Through the continued evaluation of legal and social approaches, along with educational campaigns to prevent impaired driving, we can continue to save lives while maintaining justice.

I speak in this House to ensure that we are doing our best for Canada and Canadians. Unfortunately, this bill falls short of our best. I ask my colleagues and fellow members of this House to continue to work together to create evidence-based laws that will bring impaired drivers to justice and ensure a safer future for all Canadians.

After the tragedy in our family in 1972, to this day, I struggle to understand why an individual gets behind the wheel after drinking, to cause enormous suffering for the family and friends of innocent victims. I stand with other Canadians who have had to suffer, but I can support this bill with amendments.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I invite the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis for his right of reply. The hon. member will have up to five minutes for his comments.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people who have listened to the debate over the past hour will surely be surprised, I dare say, by its constructive, consensus-oriented tenor. I would like to continue in the same vein by thanking my colleagues from the various political parties who have spoken.

First, as you know, I had the opportunity to work with my colleague from Durham in his riding. He delivered a moving personal account, but he also recognized, and we see it today, that it has become socially unacceptable to be intoxicated and get behind the wheel, and that it is important for us to take steps as a Parliament.

I would like to thank the former police chief of Toronto, the member for Scarborough Southwest, for having spoken brilliantly to the bill. It is certainly inspiring to have such a skilled and renowned chief of police of such a large force supporting the bill. I appreciate that, and I thank the member for that.

In addition, the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques told us bluntly that he was nearly hit by an impaired driver. This shows the importance of improving the effectiveness of roadside spot checks. This is, in fact, one of three measures in the bill. The idea is to improve roadblocks through systematic testing, relieve pressure on the courts and introduce minimum sentences to reduce the incidence of accidents caused by impaired driving.

My colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan eloquently demonstrated that those who have strong convictions that could be described as libertarian can support the bill, because people’s rights are protected. There is the constitutional opinion of Justice Hogg, but beyond that, as my colleague said, driving is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. That is what the bill is intended to ensure.

I thank the member for Richmond Hill, who told us how his father lost his life because of an accident involving a drunk driver. Clearly, there is a need.

I think that today we have shown that we can work together. There is still work to be done on the bill, I am aware of that. That is why I want the bill to go to committee for a clause-by-clause review and I want us to be able to discuss it constructively. There was a suggestion about including mandatory alcohol-ignition interlock devices. That would help people with certain addictions protect themselves. Those are things we can study in committee.

I would like to remind my Quebec colleague from Rimouski that there is already a bill in the House dealing with alcohol sensors. Clearly, other suggestions were made, but it is important to keep in mind that it is a private member’s bill that already covers a lot of territory.

I would simply like to express my appreciation to the members of Parliament for agreeing to study this further in committee. I would also like to thank the people who helped me prepare this bill: Minister MacKay at the time, the member for Langley—Aldergrove, the people who handle road safety in Quebec and elsewhere, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Families for Justice, and the people of my riding for their initiatives.

I would like to thank the members for their statements, and I hope that we can continue to move forward in a constructive way to pass a law that will save lives in this country.

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Impaired Driving ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the original question that prompts this adjournment debate was about the procurement of F-35 aircraft. I think it is worth remembering that in the last Parliament, it was the NDP that raised serious questions about the suitability of this aircraft for Canada, so we proposed an open competition whereby different fighter aircraft could be compared.

In the last election campaign, the Liberal Party latched onto this and committed not to buy the F-35 while at the same time holding an open competition. That was clearly very effective as political rhetoric, even though it is kind of a contradiction to say there is an open competition if it excludes one of the main contenders right off the bat.

Then after the election, the new government paid millions of dollars to keep Canada in the F-35 consortium. I asked why the government would do that if it were not planning to buy the aircraft. Since then, Liberal policy has taken more sharp turns than the next generation fighter aircraft.

Just a few days ago it was reported that the government missed a payment to the F-35 consortium. It is proposing that it will continue to pay into the consortium supposedly to receive industrial benefits, although it is important to note that the consortium does not guarantee any industrial benefits or jobs to Canada. It simply has us in the mix of countries that may or may not receive such benefits. Therefore, it is not nearly as effective as actually negotiating specific and concrete benefits as part of an actual contract.

The sharper turn that has been taken is the reported decision to buy the Super Hornet through a sole-source contract. I just returned from a meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates that concluded less than an hour ago at which we were told by officials that in fact no decision has been made, that the government has not even provided any parameters for the purchase of new fighter aircraft, and indeed does not have any kind of a process in place to replace the CF-18.

What I would say is that whichever story one believes, what is clear is that the Liberals are not keeping their promise to run an open and transparent competition for these aircraft. If they decided to buy the Super Hornet through a sole-source deal, that obviously is not an open competition. If they have not actually started any sort of tendering process or competition in the seven months since the election, that is clearly a failure as well.

I would tend to conclude where I began on the theme of having an open competition to pick the aircraft that is going to best meet our defence requirements, while at the same time, providing the best value for Canadian taxpayers.

Defence procurement has been shrouded in secrecy. There have been all sorts of cost overruns associated with these sole-source contracts and it is very apparent that the only way to know that we are actually getting the best deal, the only way to make a proper evaluation of the different options, is to have an open competition where we review those options in a coherent way.

Thanks very much for the time and I look forward to hearing the government's response.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario


John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's time and attention on yet another jet replacement speech. It does seem to be the issue du jour these days.

I would like to thank the hon. member for his inquiry. The program that he referenced is actually a program that stretches back to 1997. It is a 19-year-old program, and during that time the Government of Canada and all Governments of Canada over whatever number of governments have happened since 1997 have invested something in the order of $309 million. I urge my hon. colleague not to read too much into the fact that a payment was missed in the last day or two; that payment will be made. Our investment in this program represents about 2% of the non-recurring costs, but it does keep us in the entire industrial mix with respect to how this F-35 will ultimately be developed.

As the member knows, procurement tries to achieve three main objectives. The one that the hon member is referring to is leveraging the economic, industrial, and technological benefits. Thus far, the $300-million-plus investment has generated about $743 million worth of industrial benefits from a variety of companies that have developed an expertise over those 19 years. Canada will continue to meet its obligations under the memorandum of understanding.

However, an important point for the hon. member is that remaining in the partnership does not commit us to buy the F-35. It is a case of being able to walk and chew gum. We can participate in the program, but we are not obligated to actually purchase the airplane. The debate has often been about replacing the CF-18, rather than what the brand of the CF-18 should be. However, this government is committed to replacing the airplane.

Interestingly, in 1982 we took the first delivery of the CF-18s. Ironically, and the hon. member will appreciate this, that is also the year of his birth. The CF-18 is the only airplane that has been owned by the Government of Canada defence department since he was born. In 2003, they were set to retire by industry standards and of course they have undergone extensive structural repair. I do not think the hon. member is in need of extensive structural repair, unlike these airplanes, but we do anticipate that ultimately they will finish their life expectancy by 2025.

The minister has been talking about the anticipated capability gap. As the program unfolds, of the 77 airplanes a number of those will either not be able to be refurbished or the program might well be late, at which point the number of airplanes available for operations, whether NORAD or NATO or expeditionary operations, will be stretched. We do not want to be stretched to the point where we actually do have a capability gap, and that is something that the hon. member and all the rest of us need to be concerned about.

No decision has been made, and any statement by anyone to the contrary is simply speculation. The government will inform all as to when a decision is made and what form the replacement of the jet will take.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood talked about a lot of things. He tried to guess what year I was born. There are a few key things, though, that he did not tell us.

He mentioned the fact that staying in the consortium does not oblige Canada to buy F-35s. However, he did not say that the government would not buy F-35s either, which of course was the Liberal Party's election promise. He did suggest that no decision had been made about which aircraft to buy, but he provided no explanation as to why the government has not even started a competition process to pick what aircraft it will buy. If we want to have a good competition, we should allow as much time as possible, which means starting as soon as possible.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood also mentioned that he thought the CF-18s would be good until 2025, but that notion is not really consistent with the government's claim that there is an urgent capacity gap that needs to be filled by buying the Super Hornet right now. I am left with more questions than answers.

National DefenceAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the hon. member did not quite understand what I was saying. I will take this opportunity to repeat it.

We can continue to participate in the program regardless of what the replacement jet appears to be. To assume there has been no work on how to decide the replacement process and what ultimately might be the product of that replacement process is entirely in error and is an unwarranted presumption on his part.

The agreed-upon point, I hope, is that this jet needs to be replaced. The CF-18 needs to be replaced so that we do not actually face a capability gap.

If the hon. member does not understand that the 77 airplanes, which is our present complement, will start to cease to have their capability, then I do not know what else I can say to explain it to him. We are facing a capability gap, and that needs to be addressed.

Wine IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, it being 6:20 p.m., it is a great time to talk about Canadian wine.

What a lot of people in the gallery who are listening tonight might not realize is that, if they buy a bottle of wine that is labelled “international Canadian blended” or “cellared in Canada”, the content of that wine might not be entirely Canadian.

A lot of our Canadian wine producers take issue with this labelling standard. This labelling standard was designated as an interim measure in 1994. This was a period of time in which Canada's wine industry was actually coming to the forefront.

The North American Free Trade Agreement had just been signed. There were a lot of provisions put in place in order to see some of our producers rip up old labrusca varietal vines and plant vinifera vines. Some of the producers at that time said they were going to have an inventory gap for a while. They wanted to stay competitive. They asked for an interim designation of country-of-origin labelling that allowed them to bring in wine from other areas and label it as such, until some of their vines got up and going.

It is more than 22 years later, I believe, and this interim measure is still in place. This is a great source of consternation for a variety of wine producers. The wine industry in Canada now is over $6 billion. It has a huge economic impact. Canadian producers are not just producing a quantity of wine, but they are also producing international award-winning wines.

What I have heard, when I was in government as minister of state for western economic diversification, and am still hearing today is that people do not think that this interim designation is fair. They think it should change. There is a lot of industry division on this.

When I was minister, I funded a project that was to look at competition and ways to make the industry in B.C. more competitive. One of the recommendations coming out of this project, I believe, was looking at this particular designation.

Some of the smaller producers in Canada say that the larger wine industry lobby groups are not advocating for a change in this. The larger producers generate a lot of revenue off this, and there certainly is a demand for lower priced wine that comes from the international blends. There is no question about that.

However, the smaller producers are saying that maybe we should not have this designation anymore. The larger producers are saying that maybe it should just be promulgated and this designation should be made permanent.

What I would like to see, as someone who does not think this is a particularly partisan issue, is a parliamentary committee study on this. I do not think this issue has been adequately addressed at the public service or bureaucratic level. I know that the minister has been very open to having a parliamentary study of this particular concept.

My question to my colleague is very simple. What is the government's intention on this? I know some in the industry would like this issue to just go away. They would not like to have a parliamentary committee review this. I really think it is important, because the industry is asking for other things, like a tax exemption for capital equipment investments for wineries. I do not think we can even look at that issue until we address the “cellared in Canada” issue.

My question is very simple. Will the government commit to a parliamentary study of this designation, and can it tell us the status, if it is considering actually promulgating this interim measure into law? I certainly think there are a lot of producers in Canada who would not support that.

Wine IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

La Prairie Québec


Jean-Claude Poissant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question, but I will give her more than just a bare-bones answer.

The food label is one of the most important and most direct ways for consumers to get information about a product. Food labels help consumers differentiate between individual foods and brands so that they can make informed choices.

All food sold in Canada, including wine, must be labelled and advertised in a manner that is truthful and not misleading. In Canada, there are country of origin requirements on many products, including imported canned fruits, meat, cheese, and wine.

All standardized wine sold in Canada must clearly indicate the country of origin. This applies to wine whether it is domestically produced or imported in whole. The country of origin information must be in English and French. It must appear on the main display panel, which in the case of wine is an area on the bottle that can be seen without having to turn the container.

For wines that are a blend of origins, the origin statement identifies the Canadian contribution, such as “cellared in” or “blended in” and that the wine has imported content. For example, the label could indicate that the wine was cellared in Canada from a blend of imported and domestic wines.

For wines that are blended in Canada from a single country, the country of origin statement could also be provided in various ways. For example, “Blended in Canada from Italian wines”, can be used if all the wines come from Italy. Other specific statements such as “cellared” can also be used on the label to indicate the Canadian value added.

This labelling approach is consistent with the current Product of Canada guidelines. Companies can use a “Made in Canada” claim with a qualifying statement on a food product when the last substantial transformation of the product occurred in Canada, even if some ingredients are from other countries. If the “Made in Canada” claim is used, it must also include a qualifying statement to indicate that the food product is made in Canada from imported ingredients, or a combination of imported and domestic ingredients.

As I mentioned earlier, some products, like wine, must indicate the country of origin on the label. For products that do not require such labelling, companies can choose to voluntarily make claims about the origin, or Canadian value added, of a food or any ingredient in the product. Again, the information provided must be truthful and not misleading.

Wine IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, for my colleague's benefit, this is what happens in Canada right now. Essentially if an individual were to buy a bottle of Canadian wine and it said “cellared in Canada”, it is like wanting to buy a can coke that is filled with no-name cola, but it has the coke label on it. That is what happens when we label Canadian wines as Canadian, but they are not Canadian. British Columbia has no requirement to have any Canadian content in the wine whatsoever to have it called “cellared in Canada”. That is crazy.

This summer wineries from across the country will be placing petitions in their tasting rooms, where thousands of Canadians and tourists will sign petitions asking to have this particular designation removed. This is happening already.

I would ask my colleague opposite to go beyond his talking points that were provided by his bureaucrats and admit the fact that this labelling designation is not a standard country of origin labelling designation. It is an interim measure that was put in place over 22 years ago when the wine industry was very young, very nascent.

We are now making award-winning wines. Now we are putting the Canadian brand on wines that do not come from Canadian content. Many Canadian producers, who invest so much time and effort into that production, are not getting their fair due.

Will the government consider a parliament study of this 22 year, out-of-date “interim” measure? Many winery producers are listening to this tonight.

Wine IndustryAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Jean-Claude Poissant Liberal La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is looking at food labelling regulations, including origin labelling on wine, through the food labelling modernization initiative.

The objective of the initiative is to put in place a more modern and innovative food labelling system that balances consumer expectations and industry needs.

The initiative will examine changes needed to allow the industry to effectively market their products, while communicating to consumers through labels. As we move forward with food labelling modernization, we will continue to engage with stakeholders.

Canadians want to know about the products they are buying for themselves and for their families. We are committed to modernizing food labelling to give them the information they need.

JusticeAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up a conversation we were having, maybe a couple of months ago now. I am hearing from a broad range of constituents who are confused by the government's messages on marijuana regulation, and so are the judges.

Justice Selkirk of the Ontario Court of Justice found a man guilty on several charges but refused to accept his guilty plea on marijuana possession. The judge said:

Okay and I don't know what to do about the possession of marijuana. I recall distinctly the Prime Minister in the House of Commons saying it's going to be legalized. I’m not going to be the last judge in this country to convict somebody of simple possession of marijuana.... You can't have the Prime Minister announcing it's going to be legalized and then stand up and prosecute it. It just can't happen. It's a ludicrous situation, ludicrous.

I want to go through an eight-part list of people I am hearing from in my riding who are affected by leaving marijuana regulations in limbo.

First are the thousands of mostly young people who are going to have criminal records for the rest of their lives for something they thought was not going to be illegal anymore after the election. If the Prime Minister had respected his promise they might not have been so caught.

Second are taxpayers, because the government is spending $3 million to $4 million annually prosecuting simple possession cases. Many New Democrats believe it is irresponsible to allow police and court resources to be wasted and to create new criminal records for something the government imminently plans to legalize.

Third are the commercial producers, and I have a big one in my riding. These are people who are operating under the marijuana for medical purposes regulations, or MMPR. They must follow the most stringent regulations, which they have willingly accepted, around audits by Health Canada inspectors and RCMP, security personnel clearances, audits, record keeping of all activities and inventories, physical security measures, and substantial capital investments made in good faith. However, now without information on the government's plan about what is going to come next, they are operating in a bit of an uncertain business environment. Whether they expand or more deeply invest is unclear.

Fourth are personal production licence holders. These are individuals who are allowed to grow marijuana for medical use under the medical marijuana access regulations, or MMAR. They are left in the same state of limbo. While the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes when authorized by a doctor, the federal government has not really given us a clear indication if it is going to allow these two parallel streams, the commercial industrial type and then this much more small-scale type. Again, the licence holders are not sure whether they should make more investments, or what their status is.

There is another group affected by illegal dispensaries, not licensed under the local law. Local governments are scrambling to address the jurisdictional hole left by the lack of federal leadership. There are also a couple more that fall into this category.

We are hoping that the government can inform the House and the many Canadians affected by leaving marijuana regulations in limbo what the timeline is on which the government will proceed. With whom is the government working? Who will be appointed to its expert panel to untangle this uncertainty in our country?