House of Commons Hansard #221 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was alcohol.

Topics

Board of Internal Economy

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I have the honour to inform the House that Mr. Julian, member for the electoral district of New Westminster—Burnaby, has been appointed a member of the Board of Internal Economy in place of Mr. Rankin, member for the electoral district of Victoria, for the purposes and under the provisions of section 50 of the Parliament of Canada Act.

Promotion of Local Foods ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-380, An Act to promote local foods.

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be introducing a bill that I have been working on for six years now. I sincerely believe that an act to promote purchasing local foods will benefit our farmers and us as consumers. For years, many people from all over Canada have been calling on the federal government to do its part to support farmers by implementing a buy-local policy.

I should point out that the agrifood industry accounts for one in eight Canadian jobs, makes our rural regions more attractive, and helps populate those regions. That is what groups that support this proposal, such as Équiterre, the Union des producteurs agricoles, the Producteurs de pommes du Québec, the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Beauharnois-Valleyfield-Haut-Saint-Laurent, local development centres, and the people and vegetable growers in my region, have been telling us. They know that if 48,000 federal government units start buying locally, local producers will benefit from new markets and create new jobs while protecting our agricultural heritage.

I hope the Liberals will support this bill, which they actually supported in 2014, because it is time people in the federal government started eating locally.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

EmploymentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a petition on behalf of 34 of my constituents, who are drawing the attention of the government to the Alberta Jobs Taskforce Report. Alberta has made plans for job creation to mitigate the hardship of Albertans in the wake of the provincial job crisis, which is still ongoing many years after the reduction in the price of oil. I hope that by tabling this petition, perhaps the government will listen and there will be some good news for Albertans—

EmploymentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. I want to remind members not to editorialize or engage in debate during the presentation of petitions.

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

Eating DisordersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to table a petition to the Government of Canada concerning a pan-Canadian strategy for eating disorders. I know members are well aware that eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, have the highest mortality rates of all mental illnesses and—

Eating DisordersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. I must remind the member of what I said yesterday and again today: members must not editorialize or engage in debate during the presentation of petitions.

Eating DisordersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the petitioners indicate that there are children as young as seven who are being diagnosed and hospitalized with eating disorders, which affect more than one million Canadians. Given the fact that there are long wait times, the petitioners are extremely concerned and asking for support for Motion No. 117, which talks about a pan-Canadian strategy for eating disorders.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 20 consideration of Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Niwakomacuntik Tansai Nemeaytane Awapamtikok.

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

Mr. Speaker, outraged by the toll alcohol is having in northern Saskatchewan, in 2015 a crown prosecutor took six months off work to talk to first nation communities and look for solutions.

Harold Johnson, an indigenous author of a new book called Firewater, took a critical look at the impact alcohol has had on the people in the north. Harold, who is based in La Ronge, Saskatchewan said:

...alcohol is responsible for much death and destruction in the north, and as a Crown prosecutor he's had a front-row seat to its effects.

Ninety-five percent of what we deal with in provincial court, the person who committed the offence was drunk at the time of the offence. It's every day.

Are we tired of going to the graveyard? Are we tired of burying our relatives? Have we had enough of this now?

As Johnson told the CBC, alcohol misuse permeates all aspects of society, whether it's the justice system, health, poverty or the economy.

Indeed, according to a 2011 study of northern Saskatchewan health regions, two-thirds of fatal motor vehicle accidents are alcohol-related. The rate of drug and alcohol use during pregnancy in the north is three times the provincial rate.

Moreover, the CBC reports that according to Johnson, it even affects the cost of infrastructure in the north, as contractors take into account absenteeism and lowered productivity because of hangovers and include those costs in bid prices.

It is an issue that has also touched Johnson in his own personal life. Two of his brothers have been killed by drunk drivers, and most recently in 2014. The Justice Department gave him six months to work with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the Montreal Lake Cree Nation in a search of answers to open a discussion. He says he is not hoping to work miracles, but just to get people talking. As he says, “Are we tired of going to the graveyard? Are we tired of burying our relatives? Have we had enough of this now?”

I am proud to be here to debate Bill C-46, which proposes substantive changes to modernize the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with drug- and alcohol-impaired driving offences.

The purpose of the bill is to protect public health and safety by creating new provisions and strengthening existing provisions to deter impaired drivers and come down hard on anyone caught committing drug- and alcohol-impaired driving offences. This bill also aims to give police the resources they need to improve the detection of the presence of drugs and alcohol in impaired drivers and facilitate the prosecution of such cases. It is important to develop a regulatory policy to stop impaired driving.

Part 1 of the bill amends certain provisions that deal with offences. Among other things, the amendments seek to do the following: enact new criminal offences for driving with a blood drug concentration that is equal to or higher than the permitted concentration; authorize the establishment of prohibited blood drug concentrations; and authorize peace officers who suspect a driver has a drug in their body to demand that the driver provide a sample of a bodily substance for analysis by drug screening equipment that is approved by the Attorney General of Canada.

It is important not only in the big cities, but also in the rural areas and communities where I come from. I am proud to be here and to have the opportunity to express myself in Cree, English, and French, the founding languages of our nation.

People may have noticed that I did not provide a translation for the part of my speech that I delivered in Cree. I addressed those words to the people in our communities. I hope they will hear them. They need to hear discussions about what we once were and what we can become.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for speaking in Cree. A lot of indigenous languages are on the verge of disappearing entirely, including Syilx language in my community, so I would encourage that.

I know that he talked primarily about alcohol and its effects. Bill C-46 is about marijuana and other drugs as much as it is about alcohol, and a lot of it revolves around how we are going to test for marijuana in roadside tests. How does the government plan to do that when we heard at the justice committee that there is no relationship between marijuana THC levels in blood and impairment? People who are using marijuana legally can have chronic levels of THC in their blood, so they would essentially be banned from driving. Would the member comment on that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for offering more information about the issue of THC levels in the blood. Obviously, there are people who have chronic issues.

I remember, from discussions with some of my comrades from the 5 Field Ambulance when I was in the army, that in Afghanistan in the medical corps we would often have to treat people who would come into the hospitals who might be Afghans and some of them had chronic drug use for many years. Unfortunately, the medics gave one dose and a second dose and it still didn't have any impact; the individuals still felt a lot of pain and that was because they had been constantly using, often in this case, opium or the poppy. It does create an issue where the person seemingly was functional working in the Afghan military, but probably it would not be acceptable within any western military or for sure in the Canadian Armed Forces.

I am not an expert, but I did go to the justice committee for one day to some of the hearings. I heard about the idea of how we have to be careful with police checks and how we ensure that we do not go after one ethnic group or one group more than another. I will stop there because I need another question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, my hon. friend from Winnipeg was just mid-sentence on a point that I raised in committee and attempted to provide amendments on. The Canadian Criminal Lawyers' Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and a number of other organizations raised real concerns that the random sampling would not really be random but would actually be selective and amount to racial profiling.

I invite my hon. colleague to finish his sentence because it seems that he is concerned about the same point.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, it is obviously a grave concern to me. I represent a riding that has an awful lot of social issues, even in my own case when I was at the University of Manitoba. I do not always wear a suit and I was walking around in a certain area of town in Winnipeg and, lo and behold, with my long hair and just wearing a T-shirt, I was stopped by police and questioned. It is nothing that ever happened to me when I was in Quebec City or Calgary but it happened to me in Winnipeg. I had many of my students say they were always being stopped, especially a lot of the men, indigenous men in this case with very strong aboriginal appearance, even stronger than mine. They were being stopped and questioned by police. It does create that potential, so we do have to be very careful in ensuring that, for instance, police forces receive adequate training and sensitization on the issue, to make sure that we continue to work with these communities.

The City of Winnipeg under the former chief of police, Devon Clunis who is a great moral man, was attempting to build bridges to get the police out of their patrol cars and into the community to speak with people and get people working together to have a discussion to build bridges. Often, if they do not have those bridges it becomes very easy to start seeing it as a war zone where it is us against them. Really, it is about serving communities.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the Liberal government is currently rushing through the marijuana legislation despite kickback from health care practitioners, law enforcement agents, parents, teachers, municipal leaders, and provinces who are all speaking up and speaking out against this legislation and the time frame that has been imposed on this country. Despite this outcry, the government insists on continuing and rushing forward, for no other reason than the Prime Minister of course would like to include it in his party on July 1, 2018.

Now, the government has made it clear that Bill C-46, the impaired driving act, is closely tied to the marijuana legislation. However, despite the so-called positive intent of this bill, Bill C-46 is, in fact, poorly drafted and fails to hold up to scrutiny from scientists and legal practitioners who have commented with regard to this legislation.

The impaired driving act before us would include roadside tests that lack scientific evidence, would grant police the power to force tests without reasonable evidence of impairment, and is of course full of very poorly worded measures that make many parts of this bill likely to be thrown out by the courts. This poses significant issue.

As I will detail shortly, there are legitimate questions around the constitutionality of certain provisions within Bill C-46. As the Canadian Bar Association has noted in its brief, impaired driving is one of the most litigated laws in all of Canada. There have been many appeals, many constitutional challenges, and a great deal of court time taken up with establishing legal precedence. Rushing this legislation through the House without the proper time to ensure the government has it right would inevitably lead to a great number of appeals and further backlog.

This could not happen at a worse time since the Liberals have failed to appoint new judges and adequately care for our justice system here in Canada. In the era of the Jordan decision, where court cases are being dismissed without a trial because of long wait times, the legislation has the potential to actually clog this up even further, thereby taking away from our justice system. This means accused criminals could actually be set free without a trial because of this poorly crafted legislation before the House today. To recklessly endanger the criminal justice system in order to rush the legalization of pot is a gross mismanagement of prioritization, and poor government.

Permit me to discuss the constitutionality of this bill. This legislation would allow law enforcement agents to demand a saliva or blood test from a driver if they reasonably suspect that the person has drugs in his or her body. For example, if officers notice the person has unusually red eyes, abnormal speech patterns, or perhaps has the scent of marijuana on them, they could demand a drug test.

The problem is that these types of drug impairment tests actually ignore science, thereby putting the Liberals' entire drug impairment driving section at risk of being unconstitutional. A first-year medical student should be able to tell us that marijuana has a main component within it called THC and that it dissolves in fat and not water. It is accepted science that THC disappears from the blood within a couple of hours after smoking it, however impairment lasts much longer.

Why is this important? It is important because blood is mostly water while the brain, which is where the impairment actually takes place, is mostly fat. Although the THC may not be found in the blood, it may be found in the brain. The new impairment tests this legislation is putting forward actually only measure the THC concentration in the blood, thus rendering the new tests proposed by the Liberal government absolutely useless. This fact draws into question the constitutionality of large parts of the bill before this House.

If the purpose of the legislation is to demonstrate impairment but the government's test for impairment is not scientifically viable, then it is going to be challenged by defence lawyers and tossed out by the courts. This, of course, is a significant problem.

Although an officer would need reasonable grounds to test for drug impairment, when it comes to testing for alcohol impairment the officer would no longer need reasonable grounds to do so. The federal justice department states on its website, “...police officers who have an approved screening device on hand would be able to test any driver they lawfully stop, even if the officer does not suspect the driver has alcohol in his or her body.”

In other words, in the same way that a police officer can pull one person over and demand to see a licence and proof of registration, the officer would also be able to demand that a driver take a Breathalyzer, even if the officer has absolutely no reason to suspect impaired driving.

Although the roadside test in and of itself cannot lead to a charge, it would allow the police to open up further investigation and subject the driver to further testing and scrutiny, which could lead to great embarrassment, time off work, etc., with respect to this person who is accused of doing something that the officer had absolutely no reasonable grounds to accuse the person of. For these reasons, many criminal lawyers from across Canada are raising their eyebrows, putting up a flag, and saying that this will be challenged and perhaps tossed out in the courts.

It is clear that the current government is doing all that it can to rush the legislation through, both Bill C-46, as well as the legalization of marijuana, but the approach is altogether wrong. The timeline for legalizing marijuana is simply too short. Cities and towns have said this, first nations chiefs and elders have said this, provinces and territories have said this, and police and first responders have said this. The government has made it clear that Bill C-46 and the legalization of marijuana go hand in hand. It is attempting to tighten the legislation around drug-impaired driving before the possession and use of marijuana is made legal in our country. However, it has failed to leave enough time for law enforcement agents across the country to properly train and adopt the new screening technologies needed to enforce this bill. I have been told by several police chiefs that the only place law enforcement agents can receive adequate training in this regard is in the United States, and that the cost for this training is quite expensive, upward of $20,000 per person. To make matters worse, the wait time in order to get into this training is more than 12 months long, which then poses some problems because marijuana is going to be legal in Canada in about nine months from now. Therefore, members can see my concern here.

Canada is a big country, and there are many police forces with different levels of resources. Many of the smaller centres are already having a tough time making ends meet. Many centres do not have the money to pay a team of lawyers and consultants to write new operational policies for front-line officers, and do not have the resources to buy a huge supply of new marijuana tests. They certainly do not have the staff training budgets to train all of their officers on how to use the new technology, that is to say even if they could get into the training within the time frame provided, which they cannot.

What is the result? The result is the disempowerment of the police force across this nation. It also means insufficient law enforcement, which puts the public safety of Canadians at risk.

Before closing, I would like to address one more concern with respect to the legalization of marijuana. When I look at studies done in Washington and Colorado, they demonstrate that with legalization comes a decrease in the perception of risk among our young people. This stands to reason because a government-regulated product should have better quality control standards than something grown by organized criminals, and no one thinks the government will legalize a product that would pose any sort of risk or harm element to him or her. However, we all know, or should know, due to the studies that have been given to us, that there is no safe use for youth. Both the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society have made it very clear that marijuana damages brain development in youth and young adults under the age of 25. Youth who use marijuana are more likely to have mental health issues later in life, including schizophrenia, and they are more likely to underachieve. These risks are not understood by Canadian youth, and therefore are problematic.

Before legalization takes place, there needs to be a strong public education campaign for both parents and youth on the health effects of marijuana. The Liberal government's own legalization task force recommended this, and we have yet to see it come into effect. Again, the legalization of marijuana is set to take place in less than nine months from now.

In conclusion, I would say that this legislation is extremely poorly crafted. The Canadian Bar Association has laid out the many ways this legislation will likely be challenged in court. Those challenges and appeals are going to clog the justice system, letting accused criminals off the hook, meaning victims of crime will watch their attackers go free, all because the Liberals made a political promise to legalize marijuana, and to have it done by July 1, 2018. This is unacceptable. This is detrimental to Canadians.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member made some incorrect statements with respect to training.

In 2007, in the 39th Parliament, the government of the day introduced legislation that created the drug recognition experts and standardized field sobriety testing within the impaired legislation. It passed that legislation within only weeks before the date of implementation. Less than $2 million was allotted for the training of police officers. I remember this very well. As the member has said, the training was only available in the United States. This made it inaccessible to many police services.

We have learned from the mistake of the government opposite. In fact, when we introduced the legislation, we also announced $161 million to provide for the training for drug recognition experts, which are needed to enforce the legislation. This had not been available to law enforcement. We also made provision to pay for oral fluid test kits so police services would have them available. The past government failed to do this.

With the provision of $161 million for the training of officers, the provision of money for public education and for oral test kits, would the member like to revise her comments?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, when we talk about training for our officers, the Liberals can throw money at a problem. However, if they do not provide the adequate training or access to adequate training, it does not solve the issue. With regard to education, again, the Liberals can throw money at education, but if they do not actually put the campaign into place, it does not solve the problem.

We have seen neither of these things take place from the current government. The Liberals like to talk a lot. They make many promises, then they break them. I have to give them marks at least for consistency, because they are very consistent on this point.

The point is this. The Liberals say that they want to train officers, but training is not available. They are not pursuing it. They say that they want to educate young people, but they have not taken any steps to move forward to put a campaign in place to make young people aware of what is going on with the legalization of marijuana and the impacts it will have on them. That is a problem. It is a problem the government needs to address and is not doing it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, I could address a number of things, like what I read this morning. The medical officer of Colorado said that one of the reasons Colorado had diminished negative aspects to its legalization was that prior to the legalization, it had a broad, expansive education program that went across the entire state. He also mentioned the legal age for marijuana in Colorado was 21. That is much different than here. It is three years earlier. There are also the negative effects on the brains of youth. Also, it certainly does not have a provision where someone 12 to 18 years old can have 10 grams in his or her possession.

With those things in mind, the member for Winnipeg Centre, a member of the government party, said that two-thirds of all fatalities could be traced back to alcohol consumption. Therefore, why would the Liberals rush something through that will only exacerbate fatalities in motor vehicle accidents?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member makes some excellent points with regard to Colorado as a case study. The government would do well to pay attention.

When it comes to rushing this legislation through and putting marijuana into the hands of Canadian children, youth, and the general public, we need to consider an exhaustive education campaign. That needs to be put in place. We have seen no evidence of that whatsoever, and we are less than nine months away from the legalization of marijuana.

With regard to impaired driving, we do not have adequate testing mechanisms in place or readily available to police enforcement agents. That allows people to be in their vehicles, on the roads, driving drug impaired. This is a problem for the safety of Canadians. The government has a responsibility to do due diligence and solve this.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill C-46. As chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I want to thank my colleagues from all the parties who helped come up with 15 amendments, which were adopted by the committee. I believe those amendments will improve the bill.

It was a great pleasure, as always, to work with members of all parties on this issue. In coming up with amendments, our committee made productive contributions toward improving the bill before us.

I strongly agree with Bill C-46. The goal of the bill is to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related offences on our roads. Too many Canadians die, too many Canadians are injured, too many families across the country are hurt every year because of impaired driving accidents. The crashes that ensue, because someone has consumed alcohol or drugs and taken to the road, are not acceptable under any circumstances.

If I were starting from scratch and writing alcohol-related legislation, there would be no tolerance whatsoever for anyone who is caught driving with alcohol or drugs in his or her system. Nobody can drive safely when marijuana or other drugs have been consumed, no matter how little. No one can drive safely when alcohol has been consumed, no matter how little.

It is true that due to the constraints of our testing, we cannot test at certain levels, which means we have to set per se limits. We need to have certain thresholds which one cannot pass in order to create an offence, in addition to when an officer suspects impairment. From my point of view, no Canadian should be driving if he or she has consumed drugs or alcohol.

I would like to talk about the two of the most contentious issues related to this legislation. Our committee held extended hearings. We sat for many hours over a period of two weeks and listened to witnesses from across the spectrum. The two areas about which I heard the most concern were mandatory screening and minimum mandatory sentences.

The constitutionality of mandatory screening was questioned, and I want to go back to the recent speech made by my colleague from Lethbridge. I thought it was very interesting to hear her question the constitutionality of minimum mandatory screening. I want to point out that she, along with most of her colleagues, voted in favour of the private member's bill of the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, Bill C-226, that was recently before the House. It proposed mandatory screening. I find it funny to hear the member question the constitutionality of mandatory screening when that was the entire premise of Bill C-226, which she voted in favour of earlier this year.

Why, despite constitutional questions raised, do I support mandatory screening? Because at committee we heard there was only one way to deter drunk driving, that there was only one way to deter drug-impaired driving. That was to scare people into really believing they would be caught. Minimum mandatory sentences and what will happen after the fact, will not deter people; it is the idea that police may actually catch them in the act.

At committee, we heard from witnesses from Colorado, Australia, and from other jurisdictions where mandatory screening was introduced. They told us that mandatory screening had a huge deterrent because of the heightened probability of being caught.

Since mandatory screening was introduced in Australia, Finland, Sweden, France, and Ireland, there was an incredible reduction in the number of deaths related to alcohol. In Finland, where mandatory screening was introduced in 1977, a study noted that the number of drivers impaired by alcohol had decreased by 58%. According to a report published in Ireland, deaths caused by impaired driving decreased 19% in the first year following mandatory screening.

We know that mandatory screening really works. It has been proven to work across the globe. Some groups, such as the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec, asked questions about the way mandatory screening would work. At committee, we introduced a provision into the preamble of the bill to reassure Canadians that any check needed to be done in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Police officers are able to do a lot of things when they make a legal stop, including asking someone for a breath test, under common law. We are now codifying what existed already under the common law. We are seeing that without reasonable suspicion, we can ask for a breath test, provided it was a lawful stop. The committee and all of us want to ensure we follow those rules and have asked, as part of this law, that the minister undertake a review of what has happened in three years to ensure mandatory screening is carried out properly.

Other measures and amendments on minimum mandatory sentences were introduced at committee. While I am very pleased that maximum sentences have increased for the very serious offences under the law, we did not introduce new minimum mandatory sentences. This was the one and only area where I saw divergence between ourselves and members of the official opposition.

The committee heard from groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that there was no proof in any case that minimum mandatory sentences actually stopped people from driving impaired. When asked specifically, MADD stated that it did not favour increasing the minimum mandatory sentences that existed. However, I note that the committee, on an amendment from a Liberal member, reinserted minimum mandatory sentences in the one place it had been removed in the bill, which was for the most serious offence of driving while impaired causing bodily harm, and extended the maximum sentence.

I am not one of those people who believe there should never be minimum mandatory sentences. For the most serious offences, there needs to be minimum mandatory sentences. However, I also note that this has to come under a thorough review to determine exactly the right standards and the right duration of those sentences, because we also know there are drawbacks. When there is a minimum mandatory sentence, one does not plead out. People are very reluctant to plead out because they know they will go to prison for a certain minimum term. Therefore, it clogs the court system, which is already clogged, and causes difficulties under Jordan, where people are acquitted because they do not get a speedy enough trial.

We also know that minimum mandatory sentences are not really a deterrent. They do reassure families and victims, but they do not deter people from the behaviour. I would rather wait, before we change what the minimum mandatory sentences were, the committee having reinserted the exact same minimum mandatory sentences that exist now in law, to see what the review of the Minister of Justice has to say. Certain minimum mandatory sentences already in the Criminal Code have been found unconstitutional and others may need to be inserted. I would rather wait for a thorough review before changing them for impaired driving offences.

Finally, I want to thank the dozens of witnesses who appeared before committee. It was heart-wrenching to hear the testimony of parents who had lost children in impaired driving accidents. It was heart-wrenching to hear about the beautiful people whose lives were prematurely shortened and whose mothers would never become grandmothers, would never see their kids graduate from college, and would never see their kids have families of their own or have successful careers. It was awful. The people who came before committee to be heard deserve commendation. They chose not to just sit back and suffer, but to make changes to improve our laws, to fight to improve our laws to improve Canadian society. I want to herald the parents who had the courage to come before the committee. While they supported the thrust of the bill, I do not support their call for longer minimum mandatory sentences at this time.

From what I heard, we really need to work on what we do to help the victims their families. That issue of concern needs to be addressed. However, I support the thrust of the bill and encourage all my colleagues to support it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, the comments of the member were thoughtful, as always.

I share his concern about the tragedies of parents who have lost children in accidents involving impaired driving. I am even more concerned that with 249 days to go before the arbitrary legalization of marijuana and based on what other jurisdictions saw, there will be a doubling of these kinds of fatalities due to drug-induced driving, with no test in place. Clearly, police services have indicated they will not be ready.

Could the member comment on whether he thinks it is a protection for preventing future tragic incidents like this to rush ahead with the July 1 date?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, again, there is no July 1 date. There was never any desire to put this on Canada Day. I do not think that is actually correct. As well, we were not studying Bill C-45; we were studying Bill C-46.

The police brought before our committee were asked questions. We asked multiple police organizations whether they could be ready. Most of them said that they could be, but they needed money and resources for testing. The government has indeed put in place an amount of $161 million for training front-line officers to recognize signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving. Provinces and territories will be getting another $81 million over the next five years for new law enforcement training. I believe that people can be ready.

What I am concerned about, and of course, the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton was not at committee, is that nobody was able to tell the committee that there had been an increase in deaths or fatalities, or even impairment accidents, in jurisdictions where marijuana was legalized. We spoke to police from those jurisdictions, and we did not get that feedback. Again, I think we all have that concern, and we all want to make sure the police are ready.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his overview of the work of the committee from his vantage point as chair.

He said in his speech that he believes that no one should take the wheel with faculties impaired either by drugs or alcohol. However, for that to happen there needs to be a massive public awareness and education campaign. He says there is no set date for legalizing marijuana, but we know it is on the government's agenda. There is not so much as a whisper about a major public awareness and education campaign.

Will the hon. member join my voice and that of the CAA and many other groups and call on the government to immediately launch a major public awareness and education campaign to put an end to all these impaired driving tragedies?