Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in favour of Bill C-247. Impaired driving is an issue that affects all communities.
I am sure all members, on both sides of the House, know of a neighbour, family member, or one of their constituents who has been affected by a tragedy caused by impaired driving.
As I rise and address the House today, I am thinking of the hundreds of stories involving impaired drivers who caused accidents that killed or seriously injured someone in my riding.
I cannot help but support a bill whose aim is to prevent impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel, a bill that recognizes the moral responsibility of drivers when they are facing justice.
It is a complex bill that I believe merits the attention of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, for it is important to take the time to understand all the implications associated with this change to the Criminal Code. This is an important step in putting an end to drunk driving. While the bill may not be perfect in its present form, its objective deserves to be examined in committee.
Under the current legislation, the Criminal Code does not grant the police the authority to obtain bodily samples from drivers unless the police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a driver has alcohol in their body. A passive detection device can detect alcohol in the ambient air, which would allow officers to use a non-invasive procedure to test for the presence of alcohol by simply placing the device near the driver's face when he or she is talking or breathing.
I am hopeful that this new method could not only empower police officers to better identify impaired drivers but would also have a deterrent effect and play a major role by reducing the number of drunk drivers that are choosing to take to the wheel night after night despite the laws and deterrents that are already in place.
My riding of Vaudreuil—Soulanges is one of the fastest growing ridings in the country in large part because of the thousands of young families choosing to settle in the peaceful and safe environment that it offers. Even so, the roads our children play on, put their basketball nets on, play street hockey on, and use to ride their skateboards and their bicycles are still filled with those who make the decision to take the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. As such, I strongly support the principle behind a bill that would empower police officers to make our streets safer for our children through a non-invasive procedure.
This does not only apply to my own community. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Youth, I am particularly aware of the shocking number of young victims of road accidents across the country that are caused by drunk drivers. There are far too many unfortunately to recount here today but I can tell the House this. In my own riding I have in mind for example a young jogger who was struck by an alleged drunk driver in the municipality of Hudson in the summer of 2015. The driver of the car was only 23 years old. The victim was in some respects lucky, because she survived. Even though she survived and she shared her story as a warning to other young people, she has had to endure 15 operations to date and could be waiting years before getting the hip replacement that she needs to continue her progress. She currently uses crutches to walk and has since had to abandon her dream of becoming a police officer. The driver of the car is facing multiple criminal charges.
Examples like this show why we need more deterrents. The deterrent effect of the detection device as proposed in Bill C-247 could have prevented this accident, because as long as impaired drivers believe that there is still a chance they will not get caught they will continue to take a chance, get behind the wheel, and risk their own safety and the safety of other drivers and pedestrians.
As a result of a successful public awareness campaign, it is clear that most, if not all, drivers know that it is against the law to drive under the influence of alcohol.
Progress has been made in the past 30 years as a result of better laws, harsher penalties, enforcement measures, and awareness campaigns launched by Éduc'alcool, Operation Red Nose, and the Call 911 campaign run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada.
Despite these initiatives, drivers continue to get behind the wheel. In the the Vaudreuil—Soulanges RCM alone, more than 340 drunk driving incidents are reported annually. Every year, between 1,250 and 1,500 people are killed and more than 63,000 people are injured in collisions caused by impaired driving. This means that alcohol and drugs are responsible for 43% of all injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents.
According to MADD Canada, impaired driving causes almost twice as many deaths as all other homicides combined. Deaths and injuries resulting frm impaired driving are even more tragic because they are caused by a crime that is completely preventable. Why do so many drivers drive under the influence of alcohol? That is a good question. They know that they will not be caught.
Bill C-247 is largely supported by stakeholders across the country, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which has endorsed Bill C-247, citing the benefits of passive alcohol sensors.
Also, according to the 2009 report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, “although the threshold for suspicion is not high, there is research indicating that many impaired drivers are able to avoid a demand for a breath test when stopped by the police because the officer does not detect the smell of alcohol or symptoms of impairment”. This goes to show that despite the initiatives and the progress achieved in the last decade, the ability for police to use passive alcohol sensors could have a great impact on reducing the number of alcohol-impaired drivers on our roadways.
Bill C-247 also renames the offence of impaired driving causing death as vehicular homicide. This change would denote greater moral culpability for the impaired driver. A conviction should reflect the risks that accompany the decision to get behind the wheel, while preserving judicial discretion for judges. Because of this, this bill needs to go to committee. That is why I support the passing of the bill: to place it in the committee's capable hands. I hope everyone can support this. I recognize the need for the committee to assess the practical implications of this change to the law to ensure that the bill achieves its policy goals and to ensure clarity in the Criminal Code.
I believe that an initiative that would increase the safety of our roads through a non-invasive procedure should move forward. I support moving Bill C-247 to committee in order to address the scope of the law and ensure we have not only concrete laws against impaired driving, but also practical and effective ways of implementing those laws.
The adoption of Bill C-247 represents that important step in making our roads safer for our communities. This is an objective that every person in the House should be behind and should make a priority.