Madam Speaker, today I rise to contribute to the debate on Bill C-46, which proposes a number of changes to impaired driving legislation in Canada. More specifically, this legislation is proposing a number of changes in anticipation of the passing of Bill C-45, which seeks to legalize marijuana in Canada.
I, among others in the House, along with my colleague, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, sit on the health committee. We returned a week early in September from the summer recess to hold a series of marathon meetings on Bill C-45. At the committee, witnesses from across Canada and around the world presented their concerns on a number of issues related to the legalization of marijuana. Specifically, there were a number of experts who provided commentary on the aspects surrounding impaired driving. I want to share some of their testimony with members today.
Before I do, I want to say that we all know all too well that impaired driving is a deadly activity that often claims the lives of people who are entirely innocent. Canada is now on the verge of normalizing marijuana use, which could likely see impaired driving and death rates rise. I am not suggesting for a second that drug-impaired driving does not happen now and has not claimed lives already; however, I and many others are concerned that the normalization of marijuana use will make matters much worse on our roads and highways.
On September 12 of this year, during health committee testimony, Deputy Chief Thomas Carrique from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police stated:
What we do know is that impaired driving by way of alcohol is the number one criminal cause of death in this country. If we are to expect that the use of cannabis may go up, that causes us great concern. It puts our communities at peril....
He went on to say:
It is unknown what the combination is when you combine drugs and alcohol. We have heard all sorts of statistics from our neighbours south of the border that indicate that it has a great impact. There is...a 28% increase in the amount of intoxication. That creates a...danger behind the wheel.
Deputy Chief Mark Chatterbok, of the Saskatoon Police Service, who also represented the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, stated:
We anticipate that as a result of new legislation the number of impaired drivers will only increase. This increase will be realized in a city and a province where impaired statistics are already far too high.
...the Saskatoon Police Service has concerns about an increase in impaired driving due to drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs....what happens when a driver already found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.07 also has the presence of THC in his or her blood. Technically, this driver may be under the legal limit for both individual substances, but what effect does the presence of both of these drugs have on impairment?
That is a very good point, and to my knowledge the issue has not been addressed. The Liberal government has set an artificial deadline to legalize marijuana use in Canada. As a result, it is left rushing through other legislation, such as Bill C-46, to try to head off a huge problem. The huge problem of the Liberals, once again, is their failure to keep their promises. Therefore, we are being asked to rush through legislation for no other reason than to enable the government to meet its deadline of Canada Day 2018. It has been my experience, whether making dinner or in making legislation, that rushing only ends in mistakes and poor results. There are aspects of this bill, Bill C-46, and also Bill C-45 for that matter, that will likely end up before the courts because a charge or conviction will be challenged.
What happens if we pass these changes and legalize marijuana and then parts of this law are struck down? We will not be able to turn back the clock at that point because marijuana use will already be rampant.
Being ready for the legalization of marijuana is a huge issue, in particular for law enforcement. There are thousands of police officers who will require specialized training on all of the anticipated legal changes. However, they do not have the time to complete this before Canada Day.
Also before the health committee this year, Deputy Chief Mike Serr, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said:
In order to support the successful implementation of this comprehensive legislation, the CACP urges the Government of Canada to first consider extending the July 2018 commencement date to allow police services to obtain sufficient resources and proper training, both of which are critical to the successful implementation of the proposed cannabis act.
We need to remember that training takes both time and money, and law enforcement has clearly indicated that they do not have enough of either.
Sure, that government has announced that it has committed funding for training, but it is not enough and we only have 249 days to get it all done. In fact, departments cannot even put together training manuals for the police yet, as the laws to legalize marijuana have not even been made clear. Moreover, the bill still has to go the other side, to the red chamber, and how long could that take?
Just to give the House an idea of the monumental task of training thousands of police officers, deputy Chief Mark Chatterbok also said:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police website lists the process for certification for DRE training.
That is drug recognition expert training. The deputy chief continued:
Everyone who's involved in the program first has to first take the standardized field sobriety training before they attend the DRE program. Then the program itself consists of three phases. The first phase is a two-day preschool. The second phase is a seven-day classroom program with a comprehensive exam following that. Then between 60 and 90 days following phase two, the candidates attend a program in the U.S. where they have to evaluate subjects who are suspected of being impaired by drugs. My understanding is that they must participate in at least 12 evaluations successfully in order to then get the certification.
This training is going to take a long time to complete, and there is no way it will be done on time by Canada Day.
This brings me to my next point, one that was raised by almost every single witness at committee. In fact, there was a strong consensus on this issue amongst all parties as well, and that is public education. It has not gone unnoticed that we are spending a great deal of time and money to legalize marijuana, but we have not embarked on a public education campaign to educate Canadians, especially our youth.
We know that marijuana use by youth is higher in Canada than anywhere else in the world, and we know there is the strong likelihood of increased drug-impaired driving after legalization. We also know that early use, before the age of 25, has negative impacts on human brain development. In fact, the Canadian Medical Association, CMA, which represents 83,000 physicians, said that the age of legalization should ideally be 25 years of age. It says:
Existing evidence on marijuana points to the importance of protecting the brain during its development. Since that development is only finalized by about 25 years of age, this would be an ideal minimum age based on currently accepted scientific evidence....
We know that marijuana use by youth can facilitate the onset of schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions in certain people. Complications include cognitive impairment, social isolation, and even suicide. Just this month at the World Psychiatric Association's World Congress in Berlin, we were presented with further evidence of that.
Knowing all of this, and knowing the rush this Liberal government is in to legalize marijuana, why are we putting off a public education plan? We know that for a message to sink in, it must be repeated over the long term, yet we are looking at a last-minute public education plans. A last-minute public education plan will not get the message across in time. I do applaud MADD Canada, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who have taken an early and proactive lead in public education about drug-impaired driving. However, more needs to be done in this area.
To close I would like to reiterate and summarize my main points of concern. While I support a strong stand against impaired driving, I also believe that we need to look at the bigger picture. We need to recognize that we are not ready for marijuana legalization in Canada. We have not educated Canadians adequately on marijuana and its effects. We have not educated Canadians, especially our young, on drug-impaired driving. Neither have we provided our police with adequate time to prepare for all of these changes. We do not have accurate drug detection equipment. We do not have enough trained, front-line officers to handle drug impairment.
In short, we are not—