Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, my colleague and my friend, for his advocacy in the community and his advocacy around community safety and road safety.
We have come a long way in Canada since 1921. That is when Canada first recognized impaired driving as a criminal act. Despite a sizable drop in impaired driving rates since the mid-1980s, impaired driving is still the leading cause of criminal death in Canada. Impaired driving continues to be a problem for governments and for communities and that is why we have a multi-pronged approach that has brought forward our justice system, community organizations, and the general public.
Through education, awareness, enforcement, and penalties, we have made great strides. The number of impairment incidents from 1985 have dropped significantly, by over 50%. In 1985 there were approximately 600 incidents per 100,000 of population. They dropped to less than 300 impairment incidents per 100,000 twenty years later. However, today, what we are seeing is that the rate of incidents is starting to grow. We need to have a new approach. It has to come from community organizations such as MADD, and I am glad that it is supporting this bill, Bill C-247, the passive detection device bill. These deterrents have been able to bring the rates down, and now it is up to us as a government to enact legislation that will help continue that trend.
The alarming fact, though, is that to see those rates start to decline we need to do something. We have some evidence that rates are starting to climb, especially with young women, and many of those rates continue to be in our 20- to 35-year-old grouping.
Young people have come a long way. Today, I know here in Ontario we have graduated licences so that as drivers become better drivers and have more education, they are able to make better judgment calls. One thing, though, for young people or anybody who has been out drinking or had a drink or two and who may make the poor judgment of getting behind the wheel, is the deterrent factor. It is knowing when they go out that there may be a RIDE program in place.
In the RIDE program, when drivers are pulled over the police officer will ask where they have been and whether they have had a drink or two. Many people have been to events and they say they will just take some breath mints or ensure they just use some freshener in the car to disguise the smell of alcohol. However, the passive detection device would make it much easier for police to detect whether there is alcohol in the car and be able to then move forward to doing a Breathalyzer test or to look for impairment. It will help the police with their jobs, but it is also a deterrent. When that awareness is there, those people out having a drink are able to make the right decision and not get behind the wheel of a car and drive.
The devastation has just been terrible. I know that many of us in our communities have spoken with families and friends and others who have been affected by people who have been seriously injured or lost his or her life in a car crash. This is just devastating. We have to think about it. Young people have to know how they can be affected by jail time, the heavy fines, a suspended licence, having an ignition interlock device put on their cars—all of these things. However, none of that really matters to the life that they will have to lead going forward if they have caused a serious injury or death, knowing that they were the cause.
I am so glad that the hon. member has brought forward the proposal of renaming the offence from “impaired driving causing death” to “vehicular homicide as a result of impairment”.
The average car weighs about 4,000 pounds. That is a weapon. It is four thousand pounds on the road, travelling at 50, 60, 120, or 150 kilometres an hour. When that hits a person, it is a weapon. That is homicide. That will create a great deal of devastation in the community for so many people, so many families. I am so glad the member would like to have the name changed through his bill, Bill C-247. His advocacy will make a real difference in our country.
As I said, we have a commendable record. We have seen those rates drop. Now they have plateaued and have started to go up. We need a renewed initiative. Bill C-247 will help as a deterrent to bring those rates back down even more, because one death or one serious injury is just one too many.
I will be supporting Bill C-247. I want to see it go to committee so we can have a robust discussion and get into the meat of it so that we can do much better for our communities.
Again, I want to commend the member for all his hard work and advocacy for what it will mean for our communities, not only today but for many years to come.