Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-46.
Bill C-46 is a very large bill. It is a complex bill. It purports to amend many sections of the Criminal Code relating to impaired driving, among other offences. In the 20 minutes that I have, I will not have the opportunity to address all aspects of the bill.
However, let me say at the outset that there are some good aspects, some positive aspects to Bill C-46. At the same time, there are also issues that I believe are a cause for concern. There is no doubt that once this bill is voted on at second reading, it will make its way to committee. After all, it is government legislation and we have a majority government. What is important is that it is carefully studied and reviewed at committee.
There are two main parts to Bill C-46. Part one deals with drug-impaired driving and drug-impaired offences, and part two deals with transportation offences in the Criminal Code and alcohol-impaired driving.
With respect to drug-impaired driving, among the things that Bill C-46 would provide for is to allow law enforcement, upon having a reasonable suspicion that a motorist is drug impaired, to require a motorist to undertake a screening test to determine whether they are in fact drug impaired. It would be an oral saliva test. It would detect THC levels in the individual.
Additionally, the government has put forward recommendations with respect to three new offences related to drug-impaired driving that would relate to levels of THC. There are some issues of concern with respect to the approach that the government is undertaking in terms of measuring impairment by THC levels. After all, there is not necessarily a direct correlation between THC levels and impairment. THC can depend on any number of things, including how THC came into the body. Also, in terms of whether an individual is a regular user of marijuana or an occasional user, that can impact upon THC levels in the body.
We know that THC can remain in the body, sometimes for days, even weeks, following marijuana use. One of the problems with toxicology tests in the case of marijuana, in terms of THC, is that they tell us that someone used marijuana, but they do not necessarily tell us when they used marijuana, much less whether they are impaired. That is a problem.
It is a problem in the case of the recommended offences that the government has put forward, because it is possible that an individual could have relatively low levels of THC but be impaired to get behind the wheel. In other cases, individuals with higher THC levels might not be impaired, perhaps because they are a regular user of marijuana, again, having regard for the fact that THC can stay in the body for an extended period of time.
It really is a concern that the science is not there. It is not in place to undertake, in all circumstances, a fully accurate assessment when it comes to whether someone behind the wheel is in fact drug impaired.
More broadly on the issue of drug impairment and what impact legalization is going to have on the safety of our roads, let me say what is clear. With legalization, more and more Canadians are going to use marijuana. I do not think anyone disputes that reality. As a result, more and more individuals are going to be on the road who are drug impaired. The consequence of that is that there are going to be more injuries, more deaths, and more carnage on our roads.
One need only look at, for example, the state of Colorado, which, a few years back, legalized marijuana. In the first year following the legalization of marijuana in the state of Colorado, motor vehicle deaths attributable to drug impairment increased by a staggering 62%. In the years since, we have seen an increase overall, a noticeable increase in deaths and injuries attributable to drug impairment in the state of Colorado. That is exactly what we have to look forward to in Canada, courtesy of the government's legalization legislation.
In the face of those kinds of statistics and evidence from nearby jurisdictions, what is the government's plan to deal with issues like keeping our roads safe? It is nice and well to introduce a bill, as flawed as it is in so many respects and with as many unanswered questions as there are, but it is quite another thing to say, once the bill is passed and becomes law, as it almost certainly will, what we are actually going to do when it comes to enforcement and keeping our roads safe.
The answer is that the government does not have a plan. There is no plan to train police officers. There is no plan in terms of assisting municipalities with getting roadside screening devices. As I understand it, there is even some question as to whether there is a ready, usable, reliable roadside screening device that could be utilized today. Notwithstanding that, all we get from the government is a rushed, fixed, arbitrary timeline of July 1, 2018, to move forward with marijuana legalization.
With so many unanswered questions, there seems to be only one plausible explanation for why the government would be moving forward with the July 1, 2018, timeline. I guess it is so that the government can say that it actually kept one promise from the 2015 election campaign. Imagine that. We have a government that is putting politics ahead of public health and public safety. That really is an abdication of leadership by the government and all Canadians should be concerned.
I want to turn to the second part of Bill C-46, which deals with alcohol-impaired driving. There are some good aspects to the second part of Bill C-46. Among the changes brought forward by Bill C-46 is to strengthen some penalties for alcohol-impaired driving. Among the changes would be to increase the maximum penalty for individuals who drive impaired and cause death, from a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years, up to life behind bars.
I commend the government for moving forward with that change. It sends the right message that when one chooses to drink and then drive, it is more than just a bad choice. It is a serious crime with serious consequences that can result, and far too often has resulted, in the loss of lives. In that regard, it is perfectly appropriate to say that individuals who commit such a crime need to be held, must be held, to the fullest extent of the law with a penalty of as long as life behind bars.
One of the biggest changes in Bill C-46 is in respect to mandatory alcohol screening. This is a major change. I know there are differences of opinion, including in my own caucus, on this issue, but whatever one's view of mandatory alcohol screening is, one must recognize that this constitutes a significant shift in the law. It really changes the relationship between an individual and law enforcement. Arguably, it reverses the presumption from the presumption of innocence to the presumption of guilt. While my mind is open to mandatory alcohol screening, I believe that caution is required, having regard for the significant infringement on individual liberty that mandatory alcohol screening will mean.
At present, law enforcement can require a breath sample when the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the individual has alcohol in his or her system. There are some who would argue that mandatory alcohol screening, which would do away with the requirement of a reasonable suspicion, is really not that big of a change. They would note, and rightly so, that driving is not a right; it is a privilege. It is a highly regulated activity. In that regard, a police officer can stop a vehicle, at random, to ask for the driver's registration or proof of insurance, or to assess their sobriety.
What Bill C-46 would do is replace the requirement of reasonable suspicion with saying, effectively, that a police officer could require a breath sample from a motorist at any time, anywhere, under any circumstances, absent even the slightest level of suspicion.
I would submit that what we are talking about is a fairly significant infringement on an individual's liberty. It is something far more significant than a police officer merely stopping a vehicle on the road, asking for the vehicle registration, and in the course of conversing with the individual motorist, determining that the person seems to or may have alcohol in their system, and consequently requesting that the individual undertake a breath sample.
In the case of mandatory screening, we are talking about a mandatory bodily sample, absent even the slightest level of suspicion. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, a needed thing or not, it is a big change.
It is something that certainly would contravene section 8 of the charter, the right against unreasonable search and seizure. It is quite possible and I know the Minister of Justice has said that the Department of Justice lawyers have advised her that it would be upheld under section 1 of the charter. Professor Hogg, an esteemed constitutional expert, has given his opinion to suggest so similarly, but nonetheless, we are talking about a breach of charter rights, sections 8 and 9. Whether it is saved under section 1, that is a matter to be litigated, but it highlights the fact that we are talking about a breach of charter rights.
The question becomes whether it is justified, having regard for the seriousness of impaired driving and the, frankly, too many Canadians who have lost their lives on the road as a result of an impaired driver. We see the statistics, which are in some ways encouraging. Over the last 30 years, the number of people getting behind the wheel when impaired and causing injuries or death is being reduced. The numbers are going down, but nonetheless Canada's level of injury and death as a result of impaired driving is well above most other countries in the western world. It is a concern and as a result, there is a legitimate debate and reason to have a serious look at mandatory alcohol screening.
In terms of determining whether or not mandatory alcohol screening is justified, having regard for the charter rights of Canadians, one must look at the powers that law enforcement presently have and assess whether law enforcement officers are using all of the powers that they have. What is, for example, reasonable suspicion? Reasonable suspicion is not a reasonable suspicion that an individual is over the Criminal Code limit of 0.08. Reasonable suspicion is not a reasonable suspicion that an individual is impaired. Reasonable suspicion is a reasonable suspicion that an individual has alcohol in their system. That is an incredibly low threshold.
To that end, police officers, in order to establish reasonable suspicion, can do any number of things upon lawfully stopping a vehicle. Factors such as red eyes, the smell of alcohol on a motorist's breath, an admission of alcohol use, all of those things and other factors would go toward establishing reasonable suspicion. They do not require a mandatory alcohol test.
I know there have been some statistics brought forward that say mandatory alcohol screening will reduce impaired driving, the number of deaths and injuries, but also at the same time point to the fact that according to some statistics about 50% of the time law enforcement does not detect an impaired driver by simply talking and interacting with the motorist.
Those are issues that need to be addressed. They need to be fleshed out. It is why I support the bill in principle and support sending it to committee for further study and further review. While there are some good aspects to the bill, there are also many unanswered questions that need to be answered, and frankly, it probably requires many amendments to get the bill right.