House of Commons Hansard #159 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was 2017.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has chosen to focus on the things she likes in the budget, but I believe that the member has forgotten that the Liberals' promise to Canadians was to run just a $10-billion deficit and to balance the budget by the end of the mandate. The point of that was to try to create growth. Although I hear a lot of talk about growth, the numbers in the budget show that GDP growth is actually less, now that we are spending all of this money, than it was projected to be before. There is talk about new job creation, but we have lost more jobs than we have gained.

Could the member please comment on that?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel that I need to remind my colleague that a quarter of a million new jobs have been created by this government's plan. We are going to stick to this plan, because this plan is showing results. The government is committed to providing the support the economy needs in a fiscally responsible way while maintaining Canada's fundamental fiscal strength by ensuring that our debt-to-GDP ratio remains low. This is what the Liberals do. We are fiscally responsible. We have balanced budgets before, but we also know how to take the opportunities that are in front of us.

The IMF has recently stated, “Look at Canada.... They're using all possible levers to move the needle towards positive”—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time has expired for the hon. member for questions and comments.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am excited to talk about some of the many merits of the budget tabled last week by my colleague, the hon. Minister of Finance.

Budget 2017 represents the next step of our government's ambitious plan to make smart investments that will create jobs, grow our economy, and provide more opportunities to the middle class and those working hard to join it.

This budget puts Canadians at the very centre of an economy of tomorrow that is more innovative, an economy that will create jobs for now and for the future. As hon. members probably know, Canada's greatest strength is its highly skilled workforce. However, innovation is changing the way we live and work, creating new challenges and new opportunities. The dramatic technological changes and advances in artificial intelligence and computer technology means that we must invest in training the workforce of the future.

The government is introducing our innovation and skills plan, a plan that focuses on people and addresses the changing nature of the economy to ensure it works for all Canadians. Through this plan, the government aims to build Canada as a world-leading innovation economy; direct resources towards people and ensure that Canadian workers have the right skills to succeed in the future economy; launch a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy to retain and attract the best minds in academic research and increase the number of graduates and researchers studying artificial intelligence; and promote educational opportunities for digital skills development from kindergarten to grade 12.

First of all, our government wants to make Canada a leader in the global economy. To achieve that, we are making investments in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health and bio-sciences, and clean resources. The government will make it easier for Canadian innovators to access these programs, which will increase the funding available to support them in turning their ideas into thriving businesses.

Second, our government is committed to focusing on people and giving Canadian workers the right tools for the future economy. The government wishes to launch an ambitious initiative that will support up to 10,000 new work-integrated learning placements and co-op placements, which will allow more young Canadians to get the skills and work experience they need to begin a well-paying career after their studies.

In addition to equipping young workers, our government plans to provide increased support to adult workers who want to go back to school and must deal with the high cost of post-secondary education, while also dealing with the financial pressures of everyday life and providing for their families.

Plus, our government will create ongoing learning opportunities so that the next job is always a better job.

Various measures have been put in place in order to meet that goal. These include a significant increase in federal support to the provinces and territories through an investment of $2.7 billion over six years in order to help more unemployed and underemployed Canadians get access to the training and employment supports they need to find and keep good jobs; an investment of $225 million over four years to identify and address skills gaps in the economy and help Canadians to be as prepared as possible for the new economy; and the assurance that Canadians who are receiving employment insurance benefits are able to get the training they require without fear of losing the benefits they need to support themselves and their families.

The third aspect that I would like to mention is the launch of a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy. This strategy will position Canada as a world-leading destination for companies seeking to invest in artificial intelligence and innovation. It will also help to retain and attract top academic talent, drive innovation, create jobs, and potentially improve the quality of life of Canadians.

This kind of initiative is critical to attracting and retaining top academic research talent and increasing the number of post-graduate trainees and researchers in artificial intelligence with an investment of $125 million.

The government's strategy will promote collaboration between Canada's main centres of expertise in Montreal, Toronto-Waterloo, and Edmonton. It will position Canada as a top destination for scientists and entrepreneurs who want to collaborate in achieving the kind of astounding breakthroughs that can vastly improve our lives.

Our government is proud of what Canada's talented scientists and innovators have achieved. They are contributing to a promising and more prosperous future for all Canadians.

Lastly, I would like to talk about digital literacy among youth. In addition to supporting the development of a skilled, college- and university-educated labour force, our government is promoting digital skills and coding education for girls and boys from kindergarten right through high school to prepare young Canadians for the impact of digital technology on their future.

In summary, the budget tabled by the hon. Minister of Finance is a sensible and future-oriented budget. The investments in research and innovation show that our government is investing in the Canada of tomorrow. What is more, this budget is a compassionate budget because it invests in technology companies and innovation and ensures that Canada's labour force of today and tomorrow remain on the cutting edge of that technology and that they have the skills they need to become world leaders in a leading-edge sector.

I am pleased that I had the opportunity to rise. I believe that I am the last one to speak this evening. I would therefore like to wish all of my colleagues in this honourable House and all the staff a good evening. I thank them for their support.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Liberals decided to invest a lot of money or rather increase the investment in innovation and research and development. My colleague really emphasized the word “increase”.

In my riding, there is a company that is preparing to launch a multimillion dollar agricultural project. I look forward to seeing whether the money that will be invested in innovation will also be spent outside the major centres. I hope it will. We know that it is always a little more difficult for those in the regions to obtain funding, particularly large amounts of funding.

I would therefore like to ask my colleague whether he can confirm today that this money will be spent not only in the major centres but also in the regions.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

My riding is the only riding in Canada that has been home to two saints. We are blessed. It is easy to remember us. Speaking of blessings, I would like to recognize the work our government has done. Indeed, it is important to keep in mind that we are the government of all Canadians. We are deeply committed, and one example of our commitment is the infrastructure bank, one of the most ambitious, generous, and visionary programs in the history of Canada.

I want to reassure my colleague that, every day, our government makes decisions in the best interest of all Canadians, for urban centres and rural regions alike.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 6:13 p.m., pursuant to order made Monday, April 3, the question on the amendment is deemed put and a recorded division is deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, April 5, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

moved that Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (drug-impaired driving) be read a second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to debate Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (drug-impaired driving). This bill is critically important in the effort to protect Canadians from the growing scourge of drug-impaired drivers who get behind the wheel. It is a matter that is becoming more pressing given the Liberals' plan to legalize marijuana.

I want to begin by thanking Senator Claude Carignan and his entire team who worked extremely hard on drafting this bill and had the vision to get out ahead of the House of Commons by introducing this legislation in the Senate last year. I also want to take this opportunity to commend the work of all the senators who studied this bill and passed it unanimously. That is the collaborative, constructive, and non-partisan approach that I hope to see here in the House for this bill.

In fact, this bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to authorize police officers to use a drug screening device, not unlike a breathalyser, which is not possible under current legislation.

To clearly explain the problem, I will talk about a study on drug-impaired driving conducted by the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse. The centre published a report indicating that the percentage of Canadian drivers fatally injured in vehicle crashes who had taken drugs is 40% and exceeds the percentage of drivers fatally injured who had consumed alcohol, which is 33%. Furthermore, this study indicated that a driver who has used marijuana is six times more likely to have a motor vehicle accident than a sober driver. After using opioids, a driver is eight times more likely to have an accident, and after using cocaine is 10 times more likely to have an accident.

Therefore, it is obvious today that drug-impaired driving is an issue that is just as important if not more so than drunk driving. It would be understandable to believe that the number of arrests of drug-impaired drivers is similar to the number of arrests of drunk drivers. That is not the case and that is where the real problem lies.

In Canada, despite the fact that the number of drug-impaired drivers is about the same as the number of drunk drivers, the number of arrests is not. According to the Government of Canada, in 2013, 97% of prosecutions for impaired driving were alcohol related, while only 3% were drug related. This is completely out of line with the real statistics. Why?

Simply because there is currently no roadside screening device to detect drug-impaired driving. For example, as we all know, police officers who suspect a driver of being under the influence of alcohol can easily ask that person to take a blood alcohol test to check his or her level of intoxication. However, a police officer who believes that a driver is on drugs cannot use such a device because current legislation just does not allow it.

Here is how Canada's Criminal Code works now. If a police officer suspects a driver is impaired, he or she administers an initial blood alcohol test. If the individual's test result is negative, but the police officer has reason to believe that the driver is under the influence of a drug, the officer can ask the suspect to take the standardized field sobriety test. In other words, the person is simply instructed to walk, turn around, and balance on one foot.

Based on the results of the roadside test, the officer decides whether to take the suspect to the police station for evaluation by a drug recognition expert. If the driver is taken to the police station, he or she will undergo a series of 12 clinical indicator tests including blood pressure, pulse, and pupil dilation, as well as other tests related to behaviour and divided attention, such as standing up straight, feet together, arms extended, eyes closed, balancing, and so on. The tests take 45 minutes.

After these tests, if a drug recognition expert detects the presence of a drug, he or she will require a urine or blood sample. If the tests confirm the presence of the drug in question after a lab analysis, the driver could be charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code and will stand trial.

That being said, in the absence of a device similar to a breathalyzer that would allow police officers to easily determine at the side of the road whether or not a driver is impaired by marijuana, the process is far too complex, not to mention the cumbersome administrative procedure that follows. More worrisome yet is that not every police station in Canada has a drug recognition expert. We hope to have one, or two at most, per police station in Canada.

Without a screening device to help easily and quickly detect errant drivers, the problem of drug-impaired driving will persist and continue to be the cause of countless deaths in Canada. That is why Bill S-230 is timely because it addresses this problem directly by making the necessary amendments to the Criminal Code.

First of all, Bill S-230 will give the Attorney General of Canada, and not the government or any political parties, the power to authorize the use of certain roadside screening devices to detect the presence of drugs in the body. The device would be approved by the Attorney General of Canada based on consultations with forensic science experts. The same process is already used to approve alcohol detection devices.

Furthermore, under this bill, a police officer who has reasonable ground to suspect drug-impaired driving can ask the driver to submit to a test using a drug screening device. The device would not be used without reasonable grounds. This approach is similar to the one used when impaired driving is suspected. This is no different than what police officers already do in the case of alcohol.

Lastly, in obvious cases of drug-impaired driving, a police officer could ask for a urine or blood sample at the police station without having to go through the 12 stages, since the evaluating officer will have already done the test with the screening device. This last part of the bill means that the physical coordination test, observations, and results from the screening device would give the police officer reasonable grounds to suspect impaired driving.

I was lucky enough to speak with a senior official at the school that trains police officers in Quebec. I can assure the House that the current approach is very complex and that there are not enough evaluation officers to meet the demand. The screening device would be welcomed with open arms and would be an additional tool that would allow officers to save precious time. These changes would essentially help make drug detection closer to how alcohol is detected, thanks to the use of a screening device. This process would allow police officers to detect impaired driving more quickly.

Time is an important factor when drugs are involved. The more quickly a driver is stopped, the more quickly we can determine his exact state of intoxication because drugs are quickly absorbed by the body.

It is also worth noting that Canada is not the first country to adopt this approach. In fact, Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Finland, Germany and several other western countries that are not even considering legalizing marijuana have been using this tool for about ten years. In these countries, this device allows police officers to better do their jobs and to prevent many accidents and deaths. Ultimately, public safety is improved and lives are saved.

Even more important, the use of this kind of drug detection device by police would deter drivers who are thinking of driving their vehicle after using drugs. At present, many people use drugs instead of alcohol because they believe their chances of being caught are lower.

That being said, if the introduction of a drug screening device increases the chances that users will be caught, it will likely have a deterrent effect and reduce the number of drug-impaired drivers. That is what happened when breathalysers were introduced to test alcohol levels. Although awareness campaigns and education are important, the risk of being arrested and charged with a criminal offence for endangering the safety of the public is certainly more convincing than an ad on television.

This evening, I invite those who are watching to talk to their teenagers and ask them what their friends think about drug-impaired driving. Surveys of teenagers and marijuana users show that many people do not believe that they are a threat on the road if they drive after taking drugs. The various studies that have been done show that over 50% of people who admit to using marijuana or other drugs say that they do not consider themselves to be a risk or danger to the public on the road.

This bill is necessary and will address a very real problem. I hardly need to point out that the Liberal government's bill to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018, makes this issue and the need for this law all the more pressing. As alarming as the numbers are now, we can imagine how much more so they will be once Canadians can legally buy, grow, and use marijuana. It is not a stretch to suppose that the number of people using it and the number of drug-impaired drivers will go up. That is what happened in places that legalized marijuana. I would like to share some examples.

According to Washington State toxicology lab manager Brian Capron, since the state legalized marijuana, over a third of impaired drivers tested positive for the drug. They test over 13,000 drivers every year.

According to Dr. Chris Rumball of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, the Prime Minister's plan to legalize marijuana should take into account sobering U.S. experiences. In Washington State, fatal crashes among drivers who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 8% in 2013 to 17% in 2014 after legalization. In Colorado, the number tripled from 3.4% to 12.1%

Kevin Sabet, a former drug policy advisor to Barack Obama, was very clear. He said that Colorado experienced an increase in road accidents directly related to marijuana use.

Even a Department of Justice Canada document obtained through access to information, even though it is hard to access certain documents, reveals some troubling facts. Here is what the minister's briefing notes say: “On Colorado highways, for instance, in the year following the legalization of marijuana, road fatalities linked to drug-impaired driving increased by 32%.” We do not make things up on this side of the House.

Colorado police officers have also issued a warning. They have said that law enforcement officials should be prepared for an increase in drug-impaired driving if the government legalizes cannabis. When Colorado legalized marijuana in 2014, police forces were not prepared for the challenges they faced.

A lieutenant colonel of the Colorado state police hit the nail on the head. After legalizing marijuana, Colorado was not prepared to deal with the sharp rise in drug-impaired driving, and this led to a 32% increase in fatalities in that state due to road accidents.

The bill has already been passed in the Senate and it could become law in a few months, perhaps in a few weeks, if the government so desires. If we wait for another bill to make the same changes, we will delay the implementation of these measures that will prevent fatalities.

Police forces are asking for detection devices. They do not want these devices on July 1, 2018, they want them this year before the government legalizes marijuana.

For that reason we need this bill now. That is why I am asking my colleagues opposite to put aside partisanship and support this bill, which will save lives.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, the evidence is very clear that Canada has the highest rates of cannabis use among its young people of any country in the world. Drug-impaired driving has been an issue in our country for literally decades, and certainly now as we do the important work of turning our attention to ensuring that law enforcement agencies have not only the technology but the legislation, the tools, training and the resources they need to keep our roads safe.

I wonder if the member has any comment or wants to expand on what additional things he believes law enforcement and our prosecutors will need, and the public will need, in order to make more socially responsible and safe decisions with respect to this very important issue, which has been with us for decades but is one that I think public safety requires that we address in a very urgent way.

Does he have any comments on not just the legislation before us today for discussion, but other things that might appropriately be provided to the police, to our courts, and to the public?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first step should be to equip police vehicles and to train police officers across Canada.

Despite what Liberal MPs may think, at this time police officers are asking for help. There are not enough trained people in Canada to take action in the event that the government legalizes marijuana. In any event, after the government announced its plan, the number of users increased.

No one is denying that Canada has the largest number of youth. Therefore, let us imagine what will happen when marijuana is accessible. The use of marijuana has increased in every state and jurisdiction where marijuana has been legalized.

On February 8, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police released an urgent report indicating that it is worried about the situation and that we must not wait. Whether or not marijuana is legalized, we have to equip police vehicles even before we go any further or consider anything else.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's efforts in bringing the bill forward. I have recommended to my caucus that we support the bill. We think it deserves further study at committee.

The backgrounder that was handed out to all MPs in the House extensively quoted from Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. However, when my office contacted the organization, its members stated that this kind of piecemeal approach that the legislation brought did not make sense. They would rather see a more comprehensive approach from the government in dealing with drug impaired driving and all that.

While I support the bill in principle, I wonder if the member could comment on the reaction by Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada on the need for a more comprehensive approach to this issue from the government side, rather than a piecemeal approach.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his entirely relevant question.

We do indeed need a comprehensive approach. This illustrates the complexity of legalizing marijuana. I am a member of the House of Commons. I am not in the government, but I have the authority to sponsor a bill from Senator Claude Carignan that would first and foremost help equip our police officers and provide them the necessary training.

The Liberals have the majority. They can go ahead if they want, but it would be wholly irresponsible to legalize marijuana before training people, raising awareness, and implementing an education strategy. In our society we are fighting to reduce the number of smokers and promote healthy lifestyles, but I have before me a Prime Minister whose current priority for this Parliament and this session is to legalize marijuana.

That is what I wanted to say. That is all I had to add to this great debate to ensure that we equip our police officers. I have met with them and heard what they had to say. They say that they are not trained and that the action plans to train police officers are not in place. There is nothing in the budget to equip them. The budget allocates $9.6 billion over five years for legalizing marijuana, including $1 billion annually for prevention and education across Canada. It is totally ridiculous.

There ends my small contribution. Let us hope that the government does better to help Canadians.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-230.

I would like to begin by expressing my very sincere appreciation to the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska for sponsoring this bill in the House to bring impaired driving to the attention of members for this important discussion. I would also like to express my respect and gratitude to the senator for Mille Isles, who sponsored the bill in the other place.

We can all agree that drug impaired driving is a serious and growing problem. Like alcohol and driving, drug driving is present in all age groups and socio-economic groups. It is seen particularly, but not exclusively, in young males in their twenties who are driving after smoking cannabis. Frequently, they combine this activity with the consumption of alcohol. The scientific evidence indicates this to be significantly more dangerous than driving after consuming alcohol alone or cannabis alone.

Impaired driving, whether by drugs or alcohol, is a serious crime. We are all too aware of the cases of death, injury, and property damage resulting from people who make the decision to drive while impaired. This is not a victimless crime but a crime that can quickly victimize other drivers on the road and the innocent without warning. The difficulty is that too many people seem to think that this will not happen to them and they go ahead and drive while impaired by a drug, or alcohol, or both. We need to become a society in which the attitude is to never drive while impaired by a drug or alcohol.

On that note, I am pleased to advise that our government is firmly committed to strengthening appropriate laws and enforcement measures to deter and punish serious offenders on the road.

While we support the intentions behind the Senate public bill, I know my friend from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford will be pleased to hear that the government will be bringing forward its own comprehensive response to the issue of drug-impaired driving as part of its approach to the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis, which we will bring forward in the spring of 2017.

The issues to be resolved in developing a comprehensive strategy to combat drug-impaired driving are complex, and it is far too difficult to address through amendments to the non-government Senate public bill.

On that note, the Department of Justice has requested the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, which is its scientific advisor on drug-impaired driving, to assess the validity of oral fluid drug screening technology. The drugs and driving committee has reported that the technology reliably detects tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis, as well as for cocaine, methamphetamines, and several opioids. The DDC is in the process of establishing evaluation standards that would be used to evaluate drug screening equipment submitted by manufacturers for the approval of the Attorney General of Canada for use by police across the country. The DDC's research and advice will help guide the government in designing a system of regulation built upon evidence-based policies and science.

However, oral fluid drug screeners alone are not a sufficient response, and Bill S-230 is simply not sufficiently comprehensive to address the very complex drug driving problem in a significant way. The final report of the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation indicated that drug-impaired driving was a major concern for witnesses who appeared before the task force and suggested that the government address the matter of a cannabis “legal limit” for driving.

The difficulty is that Bill S-230 only proposes authorization for police to use an oral fluid drug screener at the roadside as a tool to investigate the existing crime of driving while impaired by a drug or a drug-alcohol combination.

Currently, there is no legal limit in the Criminal Code for a drug other than alcohol, and Bill S-230 proposes no drug legal limit offence. If enacted, this bill would provide police with a new drug screening tool that would only be used to investigate the existing offence of driving while impaired by a drug.

It is quite understandable that this bill, in its limitations, does not propose any drug legal limits for driving. The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation itself chose to defer to the work being done by the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.

Therefore, I respectfully question the sense of Bill S-230 proposing oral fluid drug screeners without proposing some mechanism to create legal limit offences for drugs, at least for the most prevalent drugs found in drivers, which of course includes THC, the psychoactive ingredient that is present in cannabis.

The drug screener has a disposable, oral fluid collection kit and an analyzer phase. It checks for the presence of particular drugs in the oral fluid and not for impairment. The oral fluid drug screener would be used by police at the roadside under Bill S-230 for the sole and limited purpose of investigating the current drug impaired driving offence.

By contrast, in 2016 the United Kingdom adopted legislation that created legal limits for drugs and introduced oral fluid drug screeners at the same time that would aid in the investigation of the THC and cocaine legal limit offences. The media have reported that drug driving charges in the U.K. have increased about tenfold in the year following the implementation of that far more comprehensive and effective legislation.

In the U.K., as implied earlier, only two drugs are in the panel of drugs searched for by the oral fluid drug screener. They are THC, which is the active chemical in cannabis, and cocaine. These are the two drugs most prevalent as impairing drugs found in drivers.

Even if THC or cocaine is detected by the oral fluid drug screen, there is no criminal charge based on that evidence alone. What happens is that the UK police will demand a blood sample from the driver and it will be analyzed in a laboratory for drug concentration levels, including some drugs that are not detected by the drug screener. Only if blood analysis shows that the driver exceeded a UK drug “legal limit” will there be a “legal limit” charge.

Now, we all know that there is a vast array of other impairing drugs besides tetrahydrocannabinol and cocaine. Therefore, other investigative methods are needed for the drugs that are not searched for by the drug screener.

In Canada, Parliament enacted its Criminal Code reforms in 2008, which gave police a roadside drug screening tool that was used to investigate the offence of driving while impaired by a drug. If police officers have a reasonable suspicion of a drug in a driver's body, they may demand that the driver participate in standardized field sobriety testing, or SFST. This is physical testing and includes, for example, walking a line, turning, and doing a one-leg stand at the roadside.

After the SFST, if the driver has performed poorly, the police have reasonable grounds to believe that the driver committed the offence of driving while impaired by a drug, or a drug-alcohol combination. The police can then demand that the driver participate in a drug recognition evaluation, or DRE as it is commonly referred to in our country, conducted by a specially trained evaluating officer.

This officer checks vital signs, performance of physical tests, observations of eye movement and pupil size, and an alcohol breath test on an approved instrument. When I say approved instrument, that is approved and listed in regulations approved by the drugs and driving committee. If the evaluating officer identifies a class of drug as causing impairment, the driver is then given a demand to provide a bodily substance to be analyzed in a laboratory for the presence of a drug, either blood or urine.

Bill S-230 has an aspect that parallels the SFST because a positive result on the drug screener could lead to a demand that the driver participate in DRE at the police station. However, I do not believe that enacting authority for police to use a drug screener is sufficient, by itself, to address adequately the very serious problem of drug-impaired driving. It would be far more effective if coupled with legal limits of drugs in the system.

Hence, the government is firmly committed to bringing forward a comprehensive response to drug-impaired driving. I think we can all agree that Canadians would be better protected from impaired drivers, including those impaired by drugs, by this more comprehensive approach.

Unfortunately, Bill S-230, though well-intentioned, does not provide a workable, new, legal framework to address drug-impaired driving. Therefore, l would encourage all members to await the introduction of that more comprehensive bill, so this Parliament can bring forward a more adequate response.

In my experience, and I have considerable experience in keeping our roadways safe in the policing community, what the police and our prosecutors need is the legislation, technology, training, and resources necessary to keep our roads safe. We need to invest as well in greater public education so all our citizens can make safer and more socially responsible choices not to drink or use drugs and drive.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today on Bill S-230. I would like to thank the leader of the opposition in the Senate for crafting this bill and shepherding it through the Senate, and also the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for bringing it forward in this House.

As the NDP critic for justice and the Attorney General, I have recommended to my caucus that we support this bill so that it can get further study at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I also appreciate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for his remarks tonight. It is indeed heartening to all members in this House to see that with the government's plans for legalization and regulation of marijuana, there is a comprehensive approach forthcoming.

When this bill was brought forward and introduced to members in this House, it was accompanied by an extensive handout. I have recommended that we support this bill because I believe that we need to do everything we can to ensure Canadians are safe on the road. The statistics that were provided in that handout are quite illuminating. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada found that there were 614 road fatalities in 2012 in which drivers had drugs present in their body, compared to 476 fatalities in which alcohol was present. Therefore, there is an obvious need for this.

That said, there are stakeholders who have been consulted on this bill, and some of them do have issues with it. We have heard from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who support the principle of the bill, but they have looked at all of the different pieces of legislation that deal with this subject matter and they would rather see it combined into a coherent government strategy.

It is quite a coincidence that for the second private member's bill that we are debating tonight, Bill C-247, which dealt with passive detection devices, one of the recommendations was that the government needs to take a leading role to make sure that the Department of Justice and its resources are fully involved. When we look at the various private member's bills that deal with these issues, sometimes I think they concentrate on fixing individual trees rather than looking at the whole forest. That is one issue to take note of.

Of course, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as I referenced in my question for the hon. member, has stated that there are problems. The organization would like to come to the parliamentary committee, but it believes that a piecemeal approach to this issue is not the way to move forward.

One of the issues in the bill is with the fact that there is no mention of a per se limit on THC. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice made mention of that. It is unclear as to how much THC, or indeed any kind of drugs, in a person's blood would need to be found to fine for impairment.

As was mentioned, cocaine is of course illegal to possess. We still do not know what the amounts are of that drug or of THC that can cause legal impairment as per the Criminal Code. I can compare it to blood alcohol content, just to explain for members what the per se limit is. Blood alcohol content of 0.05% or 0.08%, depending on the jurisdiction, is enough to move to prohibitions and to punishment.

It is important to stop impaired driving, but we want to make sure that have a clear definition of the amounts that constitute impairment. Different people of different weights will synthesize drugs in a different way, so we need to really lock down what that basic amount is that causes impairment.

We have been talking about the need for a comprehensive strategy. I am sure we will get new news on that in the following week, but one thing that we can point to is the extensively quoted Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation and the report that it issued.

The task force recommended many of the steps that I feel this bill does not cover, among them investing immediately and working with the provinces and territories to develop a national comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment, and that the best way to avoid driving impaired is simply not to consume beforehand. It also recommended investing in research to better link THC levels with impairment and crash risk to support the development of a per se limit.

It recommended to determine whether to establish a per se limit as a part of a comprehensive approach to cannabis-impaired driving, acting on the findings of the DDC; re-examine per se limits should a reliable correlation between THC levels and impairment be established; support the development of appropriate roadside drug screening device for detecting THC levels and invest in these tools; and finally, invest in baseline data collection and ongoing surveillance in evaluation and collaboration with the provinces and territories.

We are happy the comprehensive strategy will be developed in conjunction with the rollout of regulation and legalization of cannabis. Ultimately what Canadians primarily think that their members of Parliament should be doing is looking at ensuring public safety is a big part of our regulations and the laws that we develop, especially when something as revolutionary as cannabis legalization in Canada has a long history of prohibition and punishment. This will be quite a change for Canadian society. We want to ensure that is rolled out in a responsible manner and that we also look at the dangers to drug-impaired driving.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse states in its 2016 report that we must implement per se drug laws for certain substances as a part of that comprehensive approach to drug impaired driving. As was made mention, this includes the enhanced training of all police officers in the recognition of the signs and symptoms of drug use, a strong drug evaluation and classification program, and the implementation of a roadside oral fluid drug screening.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse from the United States states “that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash”. However, THC can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication.

We do not want to get into that situation where someone has consumed something on a Friday and by Monday, he or she is no longer impaired. However, if it is still detected in a person's body, that is why it is so important to establish what the exact limits are, the exact amounts that cause that impairment.

With these facts in mind, we are glad a comprehensive program and approach to this problem will be rolled out so we do not miss the mark.

I have encouraged my caucus to support the bill. I believe, in principle, that it does deserve further study at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, just simply for the fact that impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. It causes the death of more than 1,200 Canadians per year.

When it comes to supporting a bill that has this in mind, the principle of the bill, I will lend my support behind that. I hope all members will do the same.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill S-230, the drug-impaired driving detection act.

I would like to thank Senator Claude Carignan for his dedication to the bill and for guiding this piece of legislation through the Senate and I thank my colleague for bringing it to the House.

This bill seeks to authorize law enforcement officials to use roadside screening devices to detect the presence of drugs in the body of a driver suspected of being impaired.

The authority to use non-invasive drug screening devices similar to our current alcohol screening devices would allow law enforcement officers to immediately recognize a driver operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs. About 3,000 of 75,000 impaired driving incidents reported by police across Canada in 2015 involved drugs, seven of which were fatal.

To me, the bill is trying to make our roads and our communities significantly safer. Although there is a lack of statistics on the subject of drug-impaired driving, the information we do have is staggering. What is even more concerning is how the Liberal government is moving so quickly toward legalizing marijuana while not addressing one of the more dangerous effects of impaired driving. This bill is necessary and timely as we approach the deadlines the current government has set for itself regarding marijuana legalization.

I will mention a couple of statistics from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse regarding marijuana and road safety. Marijuana was the most common illicit drug present among drivers in fatal motor vehicle collisions. It is also the most common illegal drug among young drivers. More young drivers in Ontario drive after using marijuana than after drinking alcohol. In 2011, 13% of young Canadians aged 15 to 24 admitted to driving after taking marijuana, but only 11% reported driving after drinking.

Statistics show that there has been a rapid rise in the presence of drugs in fatal motor vehicle accidents. MADD Canada states that drug-impaired fatalities now exceed the number of alcohol fatalities by 25%. We invest a lot of effort and money in the prevention of drinking and driving and in support of groups working to prevent the same, yet we are beginning to learn that drug-impaired driving is statistically even more common.

Law enforcement officers currently have the tools they need to measure blood alcohol levels roadside, but the tools to measure drug impairment are still not available across Canada. As such, it is significantly harder to prosecute drug-impaired driving, which is a necessary first step in preventing further risk on our roads. Without the necessary tools, fatalities and crashes as a result of drug-impaired driving are on the rise, but arrests and charges are not. This is unacceptable and does nothing to prevent this dangerous habit.

This needs to become a priority for the federal government, especially before the legalization of marijuana. Other countries have already undertaken this challenge and are responding very well to legislation against drug-impaired driving. There are best practices that we could be using as models, or we could create an entirely Canadian system. Regardless, legislation on drug-impaired driving needs to be finalized as soon as possible.

I would like to outline exactly why I believe drug-impaired driving is dangerous and wrong. As a youth leader for over 32 years, I can explain first-hand some of the many consequences drugs can have on the human body. I will try to stick to drug-related side effects or consequences that would have an effect on driving.

Drug-impaired drivers may have a slower reaction time, be disoriented, or be overly tired. Drug-impaired drivers may have difficulty concentrating, staying in their own lane, judging distances, or judging or maintaining a constant speed. Drug-impaired drivers may be more easily distracted by their surroundings, both inside and outside the vehicle. These consequences are only magnified when alcohol is also present in their system. Drug-impaired drivers may show other signs of poor judgment, such as texting while driving or talking on a phone while driving, both of which are root causes of fatalities.

One's reaction to drugs can also evolve over time and can both escalate and de-escalate rapidly. Drugs can impact one's mood, vision, mental state, and even have physical effects on drivers.

Any of these factors can increase the number of accidents, injuries, or casualties on our roads. Legislated screening tools would allow our law enforcement officers to properly patrol our streets and allow them to remove dangerous drivers from the roads. The evidence from the screening devices would lead to higher conviction rates and would help raise awareness on this issue.

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, just as many drivers die in road crashes while under the influence of drugs as those who are under the influence of alcohol. MADD has very similar statistics which demonstrate that, in 2016, there were 614 vehicle accident fatalities where drugs were present in the driver's system, compared to the 476 fatalities where alcohol was present in the driver's system. Looking at these numbers, drugs seem statistically more dangerous than alcohol.

Along the same lines as the MADD study, a roadside survey in British Columbia, conducted in 2012, collected voluntary saliva and breathalyzer samples from drivers. The final results indicated that 7.4% of the drivers were drug impaired and only 5.4% were alcohol impaired.

If we can agree that drug-impaired driving is more prevalent than alcohol-impaired driving and that drug-impaired driving causes a significant number of fatalities, should we not be legislating drug-impaired driving the same as or more severely than we legislate alcohol-impaired driving?

Logically, legislation preventing drug-impaired drivers from operating a vehicle would have a positive impact on our communities. As we near the date on which the Liberal government announces its marijuana legislation, we need to equip our law enforcement officers with the proper tools to keep us safe.

It is also important to remark that drug-impaired driving cases often take up to twice as long to be completed in court than their alcohol-impaired driving counterparts. Drug-impaired driving cases are also less likely to result in a guilty sentence.

The use of drugs while driving, or prior to driving, is on the rise and will only increase with the government's legislation. The statistics correlating drug-impaired driving with vehicle crashes are astounding. The crash rate of marijuana users is two to six times higher than it is for drivers who are not impaired. Drivers who test positive for the use of sedatives are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic crash. Drivers who test positive for the use of opioids are up to eight times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident, and drivers who are impaired by cocaine are two to 10 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

Legislation similar to Bill S-230 is already present across the globe. In the United States, several states that have legalized marijuana have also introduced legislation on its use while driving. Washington and Colorado have set their legal limit at five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, while Nevada and Ohio have a lower limit of two nanograms. Other states have declared zero-tolerance legislation. Determining what is safe will be difficult. I recommend leaving those measurements to the medical and law enforcement professionals.

Other countries with similar legislation include Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, and the United Kingdom, and the list goes on. All of these countries have found value in legislation toward preventing drug-impaired driving. We are behind on this matter. As a country, we have an obligation to respond to this issue. I hope that a response is ready before we legalize the most commonly used illegal drug in our country.

To conclude, I am pleased to speak to this important and timely piece of legislation. As we move closer to the deadline, there are many issues that need to be addressed, including roadside testing of impaired drivers. I could list many others, and I am sure that when we come to debate, we will.

I am calling on the government to ensure the safety of our roads and of Canadians. We now have good tools available in the world to prove a level of impairment for alcohol. We could have the same for drugs. We need to equip our law enforcement officers with what they need to keep our roads safe.

The social movement against drinking and driving has been tremendous. I am hoping that a similar effort will be put into preventing drug-impaired driving in Canada.

Until we get screening technology across this country, we are going to continue to do a poor job of detecting drug-impaired drivers on our roads. As we lower the age and legalize marijuana, these young boys, who are most prevalent in terms of drug-impaired driving, will only increase in number. We need stronger rules, and we need to equip our law enforcement officers with the tools to enforce those rules more effectively.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak to Bill S-230, which would authorize the use of approved screening devices to detect the presence of drugs in anyone operating a vehicle. I would like to thank the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for bringing this important issue onto the floor for debate.

The government has been clear on the matter of impaired driving and the hazardous effects on its victims. Canadians cannot tolerate this type of reckless and irresponsible action without consequences. Authorities must have the appropriate tools necessary to ensure the public's safety. That is why our Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness rose in the House on February 9 and reassured members that the RCMP and other police forces across the country, in co-operation with the Government of Canada, have been testing a number of scientific devices for roadside testing for drug-impaired driving. The minister also committed the government to having in place both the legal and scientific regime to deal with drug-impaired driving.

This legislation arrives at a critical time as the government prepares to fulfill an election promise to legalize, strictly regulate, and tax the production of cannabis. Bringing an end to this unsuccessful prohibition program is long overdue. New legislation would provide more protection for children who would no longer be able to purchase the drug from street dealers. Under the new regulations, the purchase of cannabis would take place in regulated businesses and require photo ID. This would protect our youth and remove control from the illicit market. Cannabis would no longer fund the activities of organized crime. Revenues from the sale of cannabis could then be taken back into the health care system, including counselling and education.

While this next step in progressive policy is welcomed by many Canadians, I acknowledge that this change will be cause for concern for some. This is why the government is proposing strict regulations on the production and sale of cannabis.

While regulation and legislation are necessary steps, they are not totally sufficient, and while I support the intent of the bill, what is more effective than punishing a driver who drives under the influence is educating people to prevent them from getting behind the wheel in the first place. Teaching youth about the effects of cannabis consumption is the best way to ensure they never get behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

The task force for legalization and regulation heard at length from Canadians on this very issue. That is why the members of the task force argued for a whole-of-government approach, specifically that Ottawa work with the provinces and territories to develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment.

The good work of the task force fell on receptive ears, and the government included funds to accomplish this very goal in budget 2017. Health Canada will support marijuana public education programming and surveillance activities in advance of the government's plan to legalize cannabis. The government would accomplish this by directing existing funding of $9.6 million over five years, with $1 million per year ongoing.

It is this kind of common-sense policy-making that Canadians voted for in the 2015 election. We made a campaign promise. We announced consultations for Canadians to provide further input, and the government listened to those concerns and acted.

Canadians and their government understand that the purely punitive approach is a failed one. We currently have the highest use of marijuana by youth in developed countries around the world. Ottawa must work with the provinces and territories to adopt a plan of action that comprehensively deals with the issues of drug use, based upon science as opposed to ideology.

Currently, anyone, including minors, can access cannabis with greater ease than alcohol or tobacco. This is because minors do not have to go through a regulated business to get cannabis. As it stands, the dealers are the only suppliers, and they have only one motive: profit. They do not care about age, quality control, or the strength of cannabis. Prohibition, even decriminalization, will not change this attitude.

While the members of the official opposition may still look upon legalization with skepticism, those on this side of the House understand that it is long past time for change. A comprehensive policy will allow Canadians the freedom to choose but to also encourage responsible consumption. At the same time, we will protect Canadians from impaired drivers using the most up-to-date technology.

In conclusion, Canadians can be assured that their government and their representatives in Parliament will not compromise when it comes to their safety and the safety of their communities. An important step is providing law enforcement with the tools they need now and will need in the future to ensure that drivers operating vehicles are not under the influence of cannabis.

This is only one step toward effective public safety policy. All orders of government need to work on providing devices and training so police forces are able to ensure that citizens and communities are safe from impaired drivers.

Governments also need to provide effective legislation for distribution, control and testing, and even municipal zoning regulations. Our government is committed to an all-of-government approach to personal and public safety policy and legislation. We will work with our provincial, territorial, and municipal partners, as well as our police forces, to provide improved safety and security for communities and the people living in them. We have to do better in the future than we have done in the past to provide safety for our citizens, especially our youth, and for our communities.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 4th, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure tonight to speak to Bill S-230.

There is a problem in Saskatchewan. The province of Saskatchewan has had the highest number of impaired driving charges in all of Canada. The problem has existed for decades, if not a century, and the people of Saskatchewan are very concerned.

A daughter of a former member of Parliament for Blackstrap, Allan Kerpan, was involved in an accident involving drunk driving. He is one of many who has taken to the stage in the last couple of years to deal with the effects of not only drinking but also drugs.

Impaired driving due to drugs is an interesting one, because we all believe devices should be in cars now so police have a way of testing people. We are concerned with the government legislation on marijuana. It has not thought it out.

Last week I had a chance to go to one of the high schools in Saskatoon, Walter Murray Collegiate. It is the biggest high school, with over 1,500 students. I had a chance to talk about the marijuana legislation. Much to my surprise, most kids in the assembly did not want the legalization of marijuana. That was kind of a surprise because the Liberals assumed everyone was in favour of marijuana, and that is not the case. The students have spoken out against it. They are concerned about it. They have seen what alcohol and now marijuana can do to families.

I mentioned Allan Kerpan, an MP who was in the House of Commons in the 1990s and 2000, and his family. We need a way of testing if this is to come about. As people know, the municipal and provincial police and the RCMP need devices in their cars right now. We know what is going on in the country, not only on the back roads of Saskatchewan but from coast to coast to coast. That is very important when we deal with this private bill, Bill S-230. We have to get out in front of this, and that is why my hon. colleague brought the bill forward now. This is an important part. Families in our country have been absolutely decimated due to the accidents and deaths that have occurred.

It is very important that the hon. member bring Bill S-230 forward at this time. Police officers need the devices now. We have heard from coast to coast. The University of B.C. may have a device ready for testing. We need it right now. UBC is one of many places in the country trying to get a device that could be put in every police car. That is where we need to go. We need to get out in front of the government legislation that will be brought forward later this year, and possibly will be in law by July 1, 2018.

When we look back through the years, we see how many families have been affected by alcohol. Could we have prevented it? We sure could have. Devices are needed in vehicles today that can read .08. We have brought that number down in almost every province and territory, because we know drinking and driving is a problem. We know drugs, like marijuana, will be a problem when the law is passed. That is why I am very pleased to speak to Bill S-230 and give it my support in the House of Commons tonight.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood will have five and a half minutes remaining in his time, should he wish it, when the House next resumes debate on the question.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(2), the motion to concur in the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-247, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (passive detection device), presented on Thursday, February 16, is deemed moved.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to once again have the opportunity to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-247.

Although I respect and appreciate the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I must say I am disappointed by their report.

It is clear that impaired driving is a serious problem in Canada. Sadly, we are reminded of this much too frequently. This past holiday season, the Peel Regional Police, the police force that is tasked with keeping my riding safe, caught more than 400 impaired drivers between November 15 and January 2.

The current laws that we have in place to address impaired driving are ineffective and do not serve as a deterrent, as many Canadians continue to drive under the influence of alcohol. Survey data and criminal justice statistics indicate that on average, a person can drive impaired once a week for more than three years before being charged with an impaired driving offence. This is unacceptable and demonstrates the need to increase deterrent measures for impaired driving.

Despite what is included in the committee's report, I strongly believe that legislating passive alcohol sensors is an effective means of improving deterrent measures.

Currently, Canadian police forces rely on their own unaided senses to determine whether they have the legal grounds to administer a roadside sobriety test. They rely on observations such as an odour of alcohol, a flushed face, and slurred speech.

At sobriety checkpoints where the majority of these interactions between a peace officer and driver take place, police are under immense pressure to speed up the process in order to prevent impeding traffic. It may be difficult for an officer to detect some of these characteristics. This increases the potential for impaired drivers to go undetected.

Passive alcohol sensors would enhance the officer's ability to detect impaired drivers. Although the committee was skeptical of this claim, research has proven it to be true. Referring back to an academic study, it indicated that in comparison to sobriety checkpoints where passive alcohol sensors were not used, sobriety checkpoints with passive alcohol sensors had an 88% higher detection rate.

In their report the committee stated:

...the costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms for them outweigh the potential benefits.

Let me just say that one more time: “The costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms for them outweigh the potential benefits”.

Now please allow me to quote a July 2016 article in which the National Post reported:

Despite years of public messaging about the dangers of drinking and driving, Canada ranks No. 1 among 19 wealthy countries for percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment....

The finding by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control should serve as a warning to lawmakers that new strategies are needed to combat impaired driving, which remains the top criminal cause of death in Canada....

I will move to the second part of Bill C-247, which proposes to amend subsections 255(3) and 255(3.1) of the Criminal Code by changing the wording in “impaired driving causing death” and “blood alcohol level over legal limit — death” by inserting “vehicular homicide as a result of impairment”. I was disappointed to see that the committee did not address this portion of the bill in its report.

As I have mentioned in my previous speeches, what inspired me to present this bill was a local high school teacher in my riding who lost his life while out on a bicycle ride.

Throughout my time conducting research for Bill C-247, I came across Canadians from coast to coast to coast who shared their story on how impaired driving had impacted their lives. While I was doing this, I came in contact with an organization called Families for Justice led by a woman named Markita Kaulius. Markita created Families for Justice shortly after the death of her daughter Kassandra, who was killed by a drunk driver while driving home from a baseball game.

The organization provides support for families who have been victims of impaired driving. In addition to this, Families for Justice is an advocate for government initiatives to prevent impaired driving. I was glad that Markita was given the opportunity to testify before the committee and share her story.

Sadly, every year the number of families that join Families for Justice grows unacceptably. With every family that contacts Markita to join her cause, she is reminded of her beautiful young daughter who had her entire life ahead of her. She was engaged to be married, was in school to be a teacher, and had her whole life ahead of her, which was carelessly taken away by a driver who decided to drive after consuming alcohol.

Through working with Markita, I also got to know a woman by the name of Sheri who had her own devastating experience with impaired driving, which led to the loss of her son Brad. For Markita and Sheri, one of the most difficult aspects of these tragic events is the sentences that were given to the people who took their children from them. The driver in Kassandra's death was released from custody after only two years of her three-year sentence. The driver in Brad's case will be eligible for full parole later this month, two years and eight months into his eight-year sentence.

The danger of impaired driving is not a new phenomenon. It is common knowledge that when people drive after consuming alcohol, they are putting everyone else around them at risk. It is for this reason that I feel it is time to call this horrific crime what it truly is, and that is a homicide. It is time that our government changed our Criminal Code to better reflect the impact these crimes have on the lives of their victims.

For Markita, Sheri, and the family of the teacher from my riding, the connotation of the offenders' actions should be on par with the amount of suffering they have gone through. These families view these crimes as homicides, and it is about time we do as well.

While the justice and human rights committee has recommended that the House not proceed further with this bill, I want to call on all members and our government to implement legislation to address impaired driving. As years go by, more families like Markita's and Sheri's go through the same devastating tragedy. We as a government have a responsibility to all Canadians to address this very serious issue.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-247, a private member's bill introduced by the member of Parliament for Mississauga—Streetsville. On February 7, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights decided unanimously to recommend that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill. I am here today to speak further to that decision as the vice-chair of that committee.

Bill C-247 is seeking to amend section 254 of the Criminal Code to allow police officers to use an approved passive detection device to sample the ambient air in the immediate vicinity of a person they have reasonable grounds to believe is impaired. This would be in advance of the police officer taking a sample using an approved screening device. The bill is also seeking to amend subsections 255(3) and 255(3.1) of the code, which would change the offence of impaired driving causing death to vehicular homicide as a result of impairment.

The purpose of this bill is to act as a further deterrent for drunk drivers and to increase apprehension rates, as a positive reading would provide reasonable grounds to conduct a breath test on an approved screening device, ASD. It has been referred to as a device that would act as an extension of the officer's nose.

I thank the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for putting forward a bill with such commendable objectives. Certainly all of us in this chamber can agree that we should do everything we can to keep Canadians safe and keep drunk drivers off of roads. In politics we disagree on a great deal of things, but I think this is one area where we all share a common goal that extends across all party lines. The intent of Bill C-247 is noble, but on further investigation with the help of expert testimony in the justice and human rights committee, we uncovered some issues in the bill that brought us to unanimously recommend that the House not proceed further with the bill.

Some of the most compelling evidence we came across was introduced by Dr. Daryl Mayers, who testified as chair of the alcohol test committee, known as the ATC, of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. The ATC, the alcohol test committee, has provided advice to the Ministry of Justice about detection and quantification of blood alcohol concentrations for the past 50 years. We learned that the introduction of a passive detection device would need to be tested against the ATC's published standards to determine if it is appropriate to be used in Canadian alcohol testing. This would be costly in both time and resources and, as Dr. Mayers testified, would stretch the ATC's resources well past the breaking point.

The chair of the alcohol test committee brought to our attention concerns regarding the nature of these devices. Because they test ambient air for alcohol molecules, they are subject to numerous environmental factors. These devices are unlike ASDs in that ASDs require a deep-lung air sample. They are also administered away from others and from traffic and in a police vehicle, where environmental conditions are understood and controlled. For example, the dissemination of alcohol molecules through different sizes of cars will be different. The use of a passive device would necessarily introduce elements beyond the control of law enforcement.

There are other environmental factors that could result in an incorrect response from a passive device. Open alcohol in the vicinity or an intoxicated passenger could alter results. We also discovered that methanol in windshield wiper fluid could contribute to a positive result. The recent use of mouthwash could result in a false positive; whereas, a person chewing gum, which increases salivation and diminishes mouth alcohol, could result in a false negative. In our study of Bill C-247, it was unclear whether a response on a passive device indicating no alcohol was present would render the officer unable to investigate further.

Another consideration which is especially relevant here in Canada is that the weather could affect the results of a passive detection device. It has been noted that these devices are less effective in windy conditions. Dr. Mayers also indicated that he would recommend devices that use fuel cell technology as a mechanism for detecting alcohol. We learned, however, that fuel cells can be affected by cold weather and can cause a false negative. Here in Canada we experience extremes in weather conditions and these vary dramatically from coast to coast to coast. The development of region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedures would be onerous, to say the least, for the volunteer-led alcohol test committee.

Our committee also questioned the invasiveness of the passive devices. There are many versions of these devices on the market, and while some recommend a distance of six inches between the device and the driver, some recommend as few as two inches. The close proximity between the device and a driver could be seen as quite invasive and consequently negates the subtleness intended in the administration of such a device.

These are all potential intervening factors that arose during the study of Bill C-247, and left us questioning the effectiveness of passive detection devices. We learned that for the alcohol test committee to test new products against the ATC's published standards, to account for all the factors discussed previously, and to develop region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedure would be substantial. Even if the committee were provided additional resources, it would still be a lengthy process, and the alcohol test committee would likely need to hire and consult numerous engineers throughout the process.

We also need to consider the capacity for human error in the administration of these devices. Dr. Daryl Mayers said the following before committee:

My experience with police officers, and I mean no disrespect, is that if you give officers a tool with all kinds of caveats attached to it—you have to do it this way, that way, make sure the wind isn't blowing, have your back to the wind, make sure you don't have the window open, check the car for spills—and you expect the officer to do [it] in a very rapid time frame, the more likely it is that one step or two steps will be missed, and that is a very serious thing once we come to litigate that case.

Dr. Mayers also brought to the attention of the committee the possibility of litigation arising from a false positive. The burden of lengthy and complicated litigation cannot be underscored.

I believe this legislation was introduced in an effort to provide law enforcement with additional tools to get more drunk drivers off the road. However, I fear that because of numerous factors that could affect the device, it would actually complicate matters for law enforcement and litigators. I think it is possible, if not likely, that adding this layer could result in even trickier litigation, and potentially result in less drunk driving convictions. I also think a false negative, whether caused by the wind or a stick of gum, could allow for the potential of an impaired person to avoid detection.

In addition, we heard from a Department of Justice official who confirmed that the present threshold for use of an approved screening device is very low. The threshold is simply suspicion of alcohol in a driver's body. That is the way we do things today. That suspicion could be arrived at through things like alcohol odour, glassy eyes, fumbling with documentation, and the like.

It was also confirmed that nothing presently prohibits an officer from using a passive alcohol sensor. In fact, the RCMP is already in possession of such a device. We never heard whether or not RCMP officers use the device regularly, but we know nothing prevents them from doing so.

I believe that as parliamentarians we need to do whatever we can as legislators to protect Canadians from impaired drivers. However, after the study of Bill C-247, I consider the costs and potential litigation complexity to outweigh the potential benefits. In fact, I think there is reason enough to believe that this bill could work against its very objectives. For these reasons, I suggest that the House not proceed further with this bill.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in this debate on the justice committee's recommendation to the House. I do so as the second vice-chair of that committee. Before I start, I would like to commend the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville because I believe his intent behind the bill was very noble.

Bill C-247 was designed to allow police officers to use passive ambient air alcohol detection devices to basically detect alcohol in the air near a driver's mouth during roadside sobriety checks. The detection of alcohol by the sensor would then provide officers with reasonable grounds to suspect that the driver had consumed alcohol and allow them to then request a Breathalyzer test to check for impairment.

I was not on the committee when it was deliberating on the bill. There were two committee meetings on October 18 and October 20, and I was preceded by the hon. member for Victoria who was then a member of that committee. The bill was referred to committee on September 28, before those two meetings.

We fundamentally believe that we need to support effective measures against impaired driving, because each and every year we lose far too many lives in Canada, and indeed, as has been mentioned many times in this place, it is the leading cause of criminal death in Canada. The proposed devices in the bill would have several benefits if they were to show that they could work as effectively as the claims say.

The committee has made a recommendation to the House of Commons, and while the committee felt that the intent behind Bill C-247 was commendable, the committee concluded that based on the evidence gathered during its study, the costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms outweighed the potential benefits. We feel strongly that the government needs to consider taking this on with the resources of the Department of Justice and introducing legislation on this topic at the earliest opportunity.

We had a chance to talk to stakeholders. Law enforcement has suggested that, if this device were effective, it could be a potentially useful addition to the tool kit, but it is certainly not the one that is most urgently needed. Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which was supportive of the use of effective devices, wanted Parliament to make sure that we did not displace the more pressing questions of how to effectively deter impaired drivers and detect drug impairment.

During the witness testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, some of the witnesses clarified the issues that these detection devices have. Of particular note, it was the chair for the Alcohol Test Committee who stated that the bill asks us to enact legislation using approved passive detection devices. If we enact the bill now, it requires the Alcohol Test Committee to develop standards and procedures for the evaluations.

We would have to perform evaluations on the new equipment proposed as passive devices, and we would have to develop operational recommendations. We would need best practices relating to the maintenance and use of these devices, and this means that the scientific aspect of the approval process would be extremely costly in both time and resources. The potential influx of numerous new devices seeking approval as passive detection devices would stretch its current resources past the breaking point. Even after this approval process was finally finished, there would still need to be recommendations from individual forensic laboratories to create region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedures.

Even the introduction of a newly approved instrument can be challenging in and for our courts. The introduction of a novel type of testing with completely unfamiliar devices would undoubtedly be the subject of lengthy litigation involving scientific staff from all the forensic laboratories across the country.

We know from questions that have been raised in the House and from media reports and indeed from across the country that the court system is already quite burdened and quite strained.

There are already serious criminal charges that are either being stayed or withdrawn in the wake of the Jordan decision, which has fundamentally altered the legal landscape. It is something that I hope the federal government and our provincial governments finally take note of and put in the resources that we need in the system.

We want to stop impaired driving, but we do not want to do it at the expense of clogging the very judicial system that is meant to operate efficiently to make sure we are actually delivering justice for those who do harm. If we are going to burden the justice system with even more litigation against devices, that is not going to solve the main problem. Defence lawyers would probably have a field day challenging these devices because of their reliability.

We look at the climate issues, because that was one of the main things that was brought forward in witness testimony. Canada is a country that is affected by cold temperatures and humidity in the winter. Unfortunately, I live in a section of the country that is certainly affected by the humidity, Vancouver Island. It is not known just as the west coast, but indeed the wet coast.

The testimony indicated that the devices may not be appropriate for our climate. We can go to the testimony of Dr. Daryl Mayers, the chair of the Alcohol Test Committee, who laid it out completely for all of us. If the weather is windy, excessively damp, or even below 8° Celsius, the reliability of these passive detection devices is brought into question. The Winnipeg police department did a test in the early 2000s that found that these devices did not work very effectively in the winter. Devices whose function is inhibited in either cold weather or by excessive amounts of precipitation in the air are simply too problematic for us to go forward, and we certainly need a lot more study to make sure these devices can actually do what they are supposed to do.

In light of these findings, I do agree with the committee's report that we need a comprehensive solution to this problem and that the government should consider introducing legislation on this topic at the earliest opportunity.

I would like to compliment the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, because I believe his intent was noble. He really does want to do the right thing, but we had a unanimously backed recommendation that we not proceed with this bill. There are Liberals, Conservatives, and our NDP member on committee. We listened to the evidence, and I agree with that report. I hope all hon. members will pay attention to the hard work that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights did.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to rise and speak to the motion concerning Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding passive detection devices. The motion proposes to accept the recent report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that Bill C-247 not proceed further. Although I applaud and agree with the intent of Bill C-247, I want to advise the House that I intend to vote in support of the motion.

In particular, I agree with the concerns expressed by the standing committee that the bill may not achieve its intended effect, and I will not go over the very comprehensive explanation provided by my colleagues on the opposite side of the House. I also want to advise the House that the standing committee, as part of its report, recommended that the government ensure that there be a comprehensive solution to the issues under consideration and that the government should therefore consider introducing legislation to provide for that comprehensive response to the issue of impaired driving. I share this view.

Our government is best placed to consider all of the challenges with the legal framework surrounding the investigation of impaired driving. That is why the Minister of Justice intends to introduce new comprehensive legislation this spring, which will carefully address both drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. The new legislation will take a thorough and strategic approach, having regard to the minister's overall mandate with respect to criminal justice reform. In this way, our government is working to keep our communities safe, protect victims, and hold offenders to account. I very sincerely look forward to working with the members on the justice committee as we go forward with this important work. We all agree that we have a responsibility in the House to do everything possible to keep our communities safe and to protect our citizens.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the member for bringing this important issue forward. I would like to thank the standing committee for its thoughtful consideration of this bill. The members of the committee invested extensively of their time, attention, and expertise in considering the merits of the proposed bill, and I am grateful to them for their efforts.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee who shared their experience and expertise, and in particular those witnesses who spoke about their personal experience with the devastating impact of impaired driving. I want to thank them for their courage and their support.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is the House ready for the question?

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members