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.