Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-46. I want to commend my colleague for her great speech and her responses to the questions she received.
As everyone knows, Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances), is a piece of legislation I have quite a number of concerns about.
I would like to echo a comment I have been hearing from a number of my constituents in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. It is that the government's arbitrary and self-imposed deadline for marijuana legalization needs to be abandoned. Many find it reckless on the government's part to be moving at such a rapid speed on a very sensitive issue. There are many unanswered questions when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, many of which deal with the topic at hand in Bill C-46, impaired driving.
I want to point out that if a person is impaired and is going to drive, it does not matter whether it is alcohol or whatever. A lot of people think that someone who is impaired must have been drinking. No. The use of marijuana or any other drug impairs a person. Anyone impaired like that should not be driving. These concerns, of course, are valid.
Canadians are looking south of the border at states like Colorado and are seeing an immense increase in the number of traffic deaths attributed to the use of marijuana. I would like to present the House with some statistics from Colorado on marijuana-related traffic deaths.
Marijuana-related traffic deaths have increased 48%, in the three-year average, since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. In the year following legalization, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 62%, from 71 to 115 persons.
In 2009, before legalization, marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado involving operators testing positive for marijuana represented 10% of all traffic fatalities. By 2015, after legalization, that number had doubled to 21%. There has been a 67% increase in the number of operators testing positive for marijuana involved in fatal accidents since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2013.
Therefore, we can see that Canadians have a legitimate reason to be concerned about how the legalization of marijuana will affect impaired driving in Canada. Canadians understand how important it is for the government to take its time and leave no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring that we are prepared as much as possible for when legalization becomes a reality.
We all know that the government promised to legalize marijuana. Whether one agrees with it or not, the government said that. However, I think it is obvious, from all the experts and from the observations made by members in this House, that the government is not ready.
Sometimes we have goals that we hope can happen at a certain time. Sometimes we have to just sit back and say that the right thing to do is delay it a bit and do it right. That is where I am coming from. This includes ensuring that police have the right tools and other resources to do their jobs and the proper training to identify the presence of marijuana use at the roadside. This should also be complemented by a public awareness campaign to educate Canadians about the dangers of marijuana use and driving.
The key question is about readiness, as I said. Will police agencies be ready when the time comes? Police themselves say that the answer is no. The July 1, 2018, deadline is way too soon. No number of legislative initiatives like Bill C-46 will be able to prepare the police for when marijuana becomes legal in July next year. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard this loud and clear when the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police appeared during its study of the legislation.
Here is what Mario Harel, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, had to say about the readiness of police forces across Canada in terms of resources and training.
While funding has been announced, details regarding how the funding will be allocated through the provinces and into the municipal police services' hands remain unclear. We need that to meet the training and implementation objectives. We clearly require many more officers trained in standard field sobriety testing and as drug recognition experts. Quite frankly, the capacity currently is not there to deliver the amount of training required.
Furthermore, police forces across Canada, including the RCMP, are still in the process of determining the best way forward when it comes to screening devices for roadside tests. Again, I will cite the testimony of Mr. Harel:
Standards for oral fluid drug screening devices are being developed.
He said, “being developed.” They are not there yet. Mr. Harel continued:
Devices are yet to be screened against standards approved by the Attorney General of Canada and made available to law enforcement to allow for implementation and training.
We can see that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that our police forces have the tools and training they need to be ready to keep our roads safe from impaired drivers.
It is also vitally important that drug screening devices respect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. This leads me to another aspect of the bill that I have a great deal of concern about, and that is mandatory alcohol screening. Proposed subsection 320.27(2) of Bill C-46 would go further than current Canadian law and would allow a police officer with an approved screening device to demand that a driver provide a sample, whether a breath test or another kind of sample, without any grounds whatsoever.
Recently, the House rejected Bill C-226, which created the same type of conditions. In Bill C-226, this was known as random breath testing. Bill C-46 would essentially recreate this practice. I had a great deal of concern about random breath testing with Bill C-226, and that concern remains with Bill C-46.
The Canadian Bar Association said this about the reincarnation of random breath testing:
The revised title does not change its essence and it remains a random test that can be administered without any grounds. Police now must have a reasonable suspicion that the person has alcohol in their system before making a demand, and even that is a low threshold.
Under Bill C-46, there would not even be a need for an officer to have any suspicion of the presence of alcohol. He or she could simply demand that a sample be provided. This runs counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and could very well make this bill unconstitutional.
This provision could potentially create difficult conditions for some minority groups. I have heard of a number of cases where first nations groups and African Americans, of course, south of the border, have been forced to provide samples without reasonable grounds. These types of provisions only encourage an increase in these types of situations.
We can all go back a number of years, to a remote northern native community in The Pas, Manitoba, I believe. I have a lot of respect for police, and most policemen and policewomen have the highest integrity, but in this community, there were a couple of officers who had a disdain for native people in some ways. They would pick up intoxicated natives and take them to the edge of town, and it was only after someone froze to death in a snowbank that the issue was brought out. The reason I mention this case is that if we allowed random breath testing, it would open the door for abuse like that, where the wrong kind of officer or officers could target communities. That is the last thing we want. Again, it goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, I stand with the Canadian Bar Association when it recommends that this section be deleted from the bill altogether.
With that, I will conclude my remarks by stating that I strongly encourage the government to slow down and re-evaluate this bill. Slowing down and doing it right is not a bad thing. It is not about saving face or whatever. It should just do the right thing. We want to make sure that police have the tools and training they need and that we are protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians. With that, I am glad to take questions.