House of Commons Hansard #184 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cannabis.


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4:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver East, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; the hon. member for Calgary Shepard, International Development; and the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, National Defence.

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4:30 p.m.


Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I will be speaking in favour of Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code, regarding offences relating to conveyances, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Before I actually get into my speech, I think we all have a story to tell. When I was five, a drunk driver hit my parents. My mom was in the hospital for a year. My dad was gravely injured as well. Our whole family was split up to different multiple homes, and that has had far-reaching consequences throughout my life. Being here today allows me the opportunity to help do the right thing.

Bill C-46 is a non-partisan proposal to hit back hard against impaired driving, an issue all too familiar for many Canadians. We all want our roads to be clear of drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired drivers, and Bill C-46 would help to deliver just that. The bill contains a package of reforms that would make it far more difficult to escape detection and to avoid conviction. Bill C-46 addresses numerous elements found in the earlier bills, but it is, in my view, a more comprehensive approach to impaired driving, and includes new elements to deal with drug-impaired driving in advance of cannabis legislation.

This comprehensive bill has two parts. The first part would address drug-impaired driving and would come into force on royal assent. The second part would combine the new drug-impaired driving provisions with other transportation offences, including amendments to the alcohol-impaired driving provisions within a new part of the Criminal Code. This part would come into force 180 days following royal assent. The proposals in Bill C-46 are aimed at making our streets safer and at the same time are intended to boost efficiency and reduce delays in the criminal justice system.

I would like to expand on those provisions that would streamline the procedures surrounding impaired driving, both in and out of court.

In regard to proving blood alcohol concentration, I begin by noting that trials for the offence of driving over the legal limit for alcohol take up a disproportionate amount of trial time at the provincial court level. This occurs in part because of defence efforts to raise a reasonable doubt about the validity of the blood alcohol concentration. Bill C-46 proposes to address this in a manner consistent with current science by setting out that a driver's BAC, blood alcohol concentration, will be conclusively proven if the police have taken the following steps.

First, the qualified technician, who is a police officer trained to operate an approved instrument, must ensure that the approved instrument is not registering any alcohol that is in the room air. This is done by an air blank test. This is actually quite important; otherwise, the court could not be certain that the approved instrument detected only the alcohol that was in the driver's breath.

Second, qualified technicians must ensure that the approved instrument is calibrated correctly. They do this by testing a standard alcohol solution that is certified by an analyst to contain a specific concentration of alcohol. If the approved instrument produces a result that is within 10% of the target value, then the approved instrument is correctly calibrated.

Third, qualified technicians must take two breath samples at least 15 minutes apart. If there is agreement between the samples, meaning the results are within 20 milligrams, the agreement requirement is met and the lower of the two readings will be the reading that forms the basis of any criminal charge for driving while over the legal limit. For an offender with no prior impaired driving conditions, a lower reading typically would avoid a fine above the minimum fine.

If the qualified technicians take these three steps, the resulting blood alcohol concentration will be conclusively proven. The result is an enhanced trial efficiency, given that no court time is taken up by efforts to question the validity of the blood alcohol concentration analysis. This proposed change is based on the best available scientific evidence and would ensure trial fairness while preventing time-consuming challenges to reliable testing procedures.

There is another important change proposed in Bill C-46 that works hand in hand with the proof of blood alcohol concentration. This is the proposal to reformulate the offence from driving while over 80 to the new formulation proposed in Bill C-46, which is having a blood alcohol concentration at or over 80 milligrams of alcohol within two hours of driving.

A number of states in the U.S.A. already have such a formulation. It eliminates the bolus drinking defence, also known as the “drink and dash defence”. This consists of a driver claiming that they were under 80 at the time of driving because the alcohol, which they drank quickly and just before driving, was not fully absorbed into the blood. However, by the time they were tested on the approved instrument at the police station, the alcohol was absorbed and the reading on the approved instrument was over 80.

Assuming this pattern of behaviour has actually occurred, it is then argued in court that the effects of the alcohol did not make the driver drunk until the driver was stopped. This is very dangerous behaviour that should not be condoned by the law. This is a loophole that allows people to get out of the responsibilities of their actions.

The new offence also limits the “intervening drink defence” by tackling a strategy employed after driving but before testing at the police station. The driver either openly drinks alcohol once the police have stopped him, or they drink alcohol that was hidden, for example, in a pocket flask while they are waiting in the police car or at the station. This behaviour typically is aimed at interfering with the police investigation of an impaired driving offence. Again, if we look around and we look at the science and what has been happening out there, Bill C-46 aims to address these issues.

The Supreme Court of Canada indicated in 2012 that the bolus drinking defence and the intervening drink defence encourage behaviour that is dangerous or contrary to public policy. Bill C-46 would eliminate the bolus drinking defence and restrict the intervening drink defence to situations where the post-driving alcohol consumption occurred innocently, meaning that the driver had no reasonable expectation that a demand for a breath sample would be made by the police.

For example, the driver arrives home and begins drinking at home. There is no reason to expect the police to arrive and make a demand for a breath sample. However, if the police receive a complaint that the driver was driving while drunk and they investigate, in this rare scenario the driver could still raise the intervening drink defence.

Another efficiency measure in Bill C-46 is the clarification of the crown's disclosure requirements. The bill clearly and concisely specifies what the prosecution must provide to the defence with respect to a driver's testing on the approved instrument. If the defence wishes to obtain more, it can apply to the court but must show the relevance of the requested information. This disclosure provision is intended to ensure that police are not obliged to disclose material, such as historical approved instrument maintenance records, which is irrelevant to the scientific validity of the driver's breath test results.

Given that the disclosure phase is frequently a bottleneck in the process, these clarifications are expected to result in significant improvements in prosecutorial efficiency. This includes time and resources saved on locating, copying, collating, organizing, or otherwise providing scientifically irrelevant maintenance record materials to defence.

I am confident that the proposed changes in Bill C-46 will make the investigation and prosecution of impaired driving crimes a lot simpler. The approved instrument, when used by a qualified technician who first ensures that it is operating correctly, is scientifically reliable. It produces a reading that is a valid statement of a driver's blood alcohol concentration. Defence will be given full and complete disclosure of the steps taken to ensure the scientific validity of a driver's blood alcohol concentration result on the approved instrument. Defence will be able to see for itself whether the appropriate steps that are prerequisite to the conclusive proof of blood alcohol concentration were taken and it will ensure that time is not spent addressing irrelevant disclosure applications.

Through Bill C-46, efficiencies in the criminal justice system for impaired driving matters will be gained not only at the police investigation stage but also at the trial stage.

The impaired driving provisions have been the subject of extensive discussions with provinces and territories and are eagerly awaited by them.

I ask that all hon. members join in voting to pass Bill C-46 at second reading and send it to the legislative committee for review.

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4:40 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, all of us in the House appreciate the importance of moving forward with legislative initiatives that will protect people on the roads and are seized with this problem of how many people are killed, injured, or otherwise affected by drunk driving.

A private member's bill was put forward which was, in my judgment, very similar to many of the provisions that are put forward in this bill. The government has talked about the importance of moving quickly, as well as the challenges of pushing through government legislation, and yet a private member's bill, Bill C-226, came from a Conservative member and, ultimately, the government voted not to proceed with it.

I honestly cannot remember if the member was here for that vote, but in any event, it is likely that he and all of his colleagues voted to kill that bill. I would like to hear from the member why they voted that way and also what substantive differences he sees between Bill C-226 and the bill we are discussing today.

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4:40 p.m.


Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, yes, sometimes the opposition will come up with very similar motions or private members' bills, but they lack certain bits of information. This bill is a result of months and months of task force investigation, consultation, and getting information. It includes cannabis as well. This bill actually complements the legislation that we are trying to move forward.

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4:40 p.m.


Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, in general, police officers are more experienced at detecting whether someone is impaired by alcohol rather than by cannabis.

I know that the provinces have asked this as well. Will the Liberals provide funding to train officers so they can better detect whether someone is impaired by cannabis?

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4:45 p.m.


Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.

I will have to answer that one in English.

When we look at the entire program, training has to be part of it, because in order for officers to be qualified, they have to know how to use the devices, as well as how to calibrate them. We cannot just give them a piece of equipment and tell them to use it. That does not make any sense. Attached to the legislation is being able to train officers to identify what, where, and how so that there are no issues when it goes to court.

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4:45 p.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my friend from Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge and also the parliamentary secretary for the work that has been done on this file, and the Prime Minister for having the courage to go ahead with this legislation.

It is indisputable that in Canada young people have access to cannabis. That is indisputable. Over 15 years, my thoughts on this have evolved. It was Peter MacKay's comments when it was first announced that we were going to pursue this legislation and he said that cannabis is the currency of organized crime. Therefore, let us take it away from the gangsters and gangs and give it to the bureaucrats. The Conservatives will say in 15 years that it was their idea. I am sure they still want to go back to the flag debate. Anyway, this is the right thing to do.

The one thing I am concerned about is impaired driving. Is the member confident that we have the technology and that we will make the investments necessary to deal with that one specific issue?

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4:45 p.m.


Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, I concur with a lot of the things the member said, but I will have to say that technology has changed. If we look at the efforts of groups such as MADD over the last 20 years, all these interventions serve to reduce the number of incidents.

I do believe we have the technology. It is continuing to develop. It is all over the world. We see this happening in the United States. We have the technology and we are going to continue to move forward.

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4:45 p.m.


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am almost sorry that we cannot go right to the question period.

That said, it is my responsibility to address a number of the concerns that we in the Conservative Party have with respect to Bill C-46. While the Conservative Party has always been in favour of toughening laws to discourage drinking and driving, this legislation has some flaws that need to be remedied prior to its coming into law.

The first quandary I will address is the fact that the Liberals are ignoring their own task force recommendations to implement extensive marijuana and impaired driving education and awareness programs prior to the legalization of marijuana. Rather than choosing to be measured in its approach, the government is selecting to ram this legislation through. Officials from both Washington State and Colorado have stressed the importance of starting educational campaigns as soon as possible, before legalization, yet the government has no concrete plans in place to speak to this.

The Liberals have created a false deadline for political gain, and in doing so have placed the health and safety of Canadians at risk. The agenda of any government should never supersede the well-being and security of its citizens. For example, the Canadian Automobile Association, the CAA, has requested that the Liberal government implement a government-funded education program warning about the dangers of driving while impaired under the influence of cannabis prior to the legalization of the drug. They have also requested that police forces be given adequate funding to learn how to identify and investigate drug-impaired drivers.

The government has imposed a timeline that is unrealistic. Education is imperative. The National Post printed a story on May 17, 2016, in which it cited that in a State Farm survey, 44% of all Canadians who smoke marijuana believed it made them better drivers. As a matter of fact, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the former chief of police of Toronto, stated recently in the chamber that 15% of teens believe that smoking marijuana makes them better drivers. His figures may err on the side of caution, but the government is obviously aware that educating drivers is necessary. Why, then, is it that the government is not implementing the required programs in order to keep Canadians safe on our roadways?

A study commissioned by the CAA and conducted by Earnscliffe Strategy Group found this figure to be higher than 15%, and in fact it is was 26% of all drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 believe that driving while high on marijuana made them better drivers. The figures may vary, but the facts are clear. An increasing number of drivers believe that marijuana enhances their capabilities on the road. Jeff Walker, the spokesperson for the CAA, concurs. He said:

There are a lot of misconceptions out there that marijuana doesn’t affect your driving, or even worse, it makes you a better driver.

He then went on to say:

There need to be significant resources devoted to educating the public in the run-up to, and after, marijuana is legalized.

Why is it that the government is ignoring calls to ensure the safety of all Canadians on our roadways by funding and offering an adequate public education program? It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to combat the fallacy that cannabis use while driving is not a hazard to road safety.

The statistics are clear, but the Liberals are more focused on fulfilling an election promise than protecting Canadians. On the Peace Tower is the inscription, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The Liberals are showing a lack of vision. Again, the Liberals are imposing a deadline in order to fulfill one of their election promises. Rushing such legislation is against all recommendations, including that of the CAA and the Liberals' own task force.

As members know, the Conservative Party has always supported measures that protect Canadians from impaired drivers. Drug-impaired driving is a real concern in Canada. The Department of Justice's own statistics cite a 32% increase in deaths from marijuana-involved traffic accidents in the span of a year.

In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154% between 2006 and 2014. This was according to a study done by Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a collaboration of federal, state, and local drug enforcement agencies.

It is wrong that the Liberals should ram this legislation through without consideration for the well-being of our citizens. Douglas Beirness, a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, gave voice to similar concerns when he acknowledged, “We’re getting a picture that people who are using cannabis are dying in greater numbers than ever before.” The government needs to ensure that Canadians understand the risks of impaired driving before moving forward with this legislation. At this point it would seem that the Liberal logic is skewed.

Another consequence to rushing this legislation through is that it does not address the concerns police forces have in respect to detecting drug-impaired drivers. Superintendent Gord Jones of the Toronto Police Service, the co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police traffic committee stated, “We’re having our challenges. The most pressing one is that we don’t know what the legislation will look like. It makes it hard to train and prepare.”

The Conservative Party is concerned that our police currently do not have the resources and training they will require to manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana.

The following excerpt is from the February 4, 2017, edition of the Ottawa Citizen:

Under legislation introduced in 2008 to update impaired driving laws, drivers suspected of drug use have been required to participate in a drug evaluation conducted by a Drug Recognition Expert, or DRE.

These police officers, trained to an international standard, rely on their observations to determine whether a blood or urine test is warranted.

The problem is that there are fewer than 600 trained DRE officers in Canada. An assessment conducted in 2009 estimated that Canada needs between 1,800 and 2,000 and the training system isn’t equipped to pump out trained officers any faster.

It goes on to say:

Cannabis affects tracking, reaction time, visual function, concentration and short-term memory. Signs of cannabis use include poor co-ordination and balance, reduced ability to divide attention, elevated pulse and blood pressure, dilated pupils, the inability to cross the eyes, red eyes and eyelid or body tremors.

The government must address the shortfall in DRE-trained officers if it is to sufficiently test for drug-impaired drivers. I reiterate that the Liberals must have trained DRE officers in place prior to the passage of Bill C-46. They have put the cart before the horse. The order that they are proceeding in is wrong, and the result will be more deaths on Canadian roadways.

Additionally, testing for cannabis is far more bomplicated than testing for alcohol. While the timing of alcohol consumption is readily detected with a breathalyzer, the smelling of cannabis does not necessarily mean it was recently consumed, as drugs absorb at a different rate than alcohol. Chemical traces of cannabis remain in the body longer than alcohol. Whereas breathalyzers are recognized by the courts, there is no such precedent with drug-impaired driving. There will be challenges until there are court decisions.

Let me be clear. When the Conservatives were in government, we supported increased penalties for crimes that put Canadians in danger, such as impaired driving. It is interesting to note that the Liberals opposed legislation that imposed higher maximum penalties. Their approach now simply makes no sense. The Conservatives introduced a private member's bill on impaired driving, as my colleague pointed out, Bill C-226, and the Liberals opposed that legislation.

Bill C-46 raises concerns with regard to law enforcement. Let me be clear. For nine years the Conservatives fought hard to bring in tough impaired driving legislation which the Liberals, as we know, opposed at every opportunity. Now they wish to introduce Bill C-46 to counter their own legislation, Bill C-45, the bill that would legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana. If reasonable suspicion were to remain a criterion, the public would be fully protected, both in terms of their charter rights and freedoms and in regard to their safety on the roads.

Another troubling aspect of Bill C-46 is the fact that it will inevitably cause more court backlogs and delays when individuals would find themselves in the position of having to challenge the legislation.

The Liberals have already created an unnecessary crisis in our legal system by refusing to appoint the required number of judges. It was just pointed out today during question period that they have not. As a result, alleged rapists and murderers are being set free as court cases across the country are being stayed following the Jordan decision. I am guessing that Bill C-46 would further burden the law courts with challenges, worsening the current crisis.

Canadians could lose confidence in their justice system, and unless amendments are made to Bill C-46, disaster will ensure if more and more cases are dismissed. I find it ironic that they would abolish the $200 victim surcharge for murdered victims' families in the name of alleviating financial hardship on the convicted, yet would seek to financially burden citizens who may be forced to challenge this legislation.

The marijuana task force report's advice to the ministers, on page 44, was as follows:

“The Task Force recommends that the federal government invest immediately and 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 and the best way to avoid driving impaired is to not consume. The strategy should also inform Canadians of the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving, with special emphasis on youth, and the applicable laws and the ability of law enforcement to detect cannabis use.”

The task force went on to recommend that the federal government “invest in research to better link THC levels with impairment and crash risk to support the development of a per se limit; determine whether to establish a per se limit as part of a comprehensive approach to cannabis-impaired driving, acting on findings of the drugs and driving committee; re-examine per se limits, should a reliable correlation between THC levels and impairment be established; support the development of an appropriate roadside drug screening device for detecting THC levels, and invest in these tools; invest in law enforcement capacity, including DRE and SFST training and staffing; and invest in baseline data collection and ongoing surveillance and evaluation in collaboration with provinces and territories.”

The report went on to say, “While it may take time for the necessary research and technology to develop, the task force encourages all governments to implement elements of a comprehensive approach as soon as feasible”.

Thus far, we have not seen any plans to make sure these recommendations are put into effect. Why is that? Could it be that the government simply does not have the money? I find that hard to believe. I think it has the money for everything. The government's own finance department produced a report that says it is not going to be worried about a balanced budget until 2055, so what is the problem with the government spending more money?

The government needs to put the welfare of Canadians first and foremost and before its own political agenda. It is simply wrong that the government would not provide the necessary education, detection tools, deterrent policies, evaluation data, and national coordination between the provinces and territories to inform Canadians on the dangers of drug-impaired driving. This should be part of an overall legislative approach to implementing Bill C-46. The absence of these components, in addition to adding further strain on our already overburdened courts, would make the hasty passage of this bill reckless.

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5 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Niagara Falls for his comments and I want to ask him a few points of clarification.

He read a quote earlier in his speech from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Of course, this was a comment the association made before the introduction of Bill C-46, and I want to share with him the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police's response to Bill C-46, which I have with me today.

The association said:

The government has put forward strong legislation not only focused on impairment by drugs, but also addressing on-going issues related to alcohol impairment.

Steps that have been introduced to reform the entire impaired driving scheme are seen as much needed and very positive. The CACP has called for such changes in the past, specifically in support of modernizing the driving provisions of the criminal code, supporting mandatory alcohol screening and eliminating common 'loophole' defenses.

I think it might be noteworthy that the CACP was not asking for what the previous government offered for almost a decade, which was bigger sentences, mandatory minimums, and consecutive sentencing. What it was asking for were the tools that were required to keep our communities safe, and those tools included new technologies, legislation to authorize the use of those technologies, the creation of new offences, and training and resources in order to keep our roadways safe.

I submit that the bill provided to us today would do exactly that. As well, I would differentiate it from the private member's bill that was submitted earlier, which was examined quite exhaustively by the public safety committee and found to be so irremediably flawed that it was unredeemable. It was therefore sent back with the committee's strongest recommendation that the passage of that private member's bill would have actually made our courts clogged and our roadways much less safe.

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5 p.m.


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I disagree completely with the parliamentary secretary's analysis of the private member's bill. In fact, it sent out exactly the message that we, on this side, want to deliver, which is that there will be consequences for people who drive impaired because they are endangering the public and are endangering themselves.

With respect to the police association, it is saying it wants to have the tools and have them in place, so it is not just a question of changing the law and saying, “Okay, we're going to legalize marijuana, and then we're going to come up with all the other tools the police will need for law enforcement.”

What the association has been saying and what everyone has been saying, I believe—other than perhaps the government itself—is that all this funding should be put in place to make sure that everything that is necessary—the education, the proper tools, the evaluation—is in place prior to the legalization of marijuana. That is what we have been hearing. I am sure the hon. member must be hearing in his own constituency as well that people are concerned as to what is going to happen.

I do not think it is enough. I know where the Liberals are coming from on this issue. It is that the provinces will figure it out. They promised in the election that they were going to legalize marijuana, and now they are saying to the provinces, “You figure it out. You figure out where you're going to sell it. You're going to have to enforce it. You're going to have pick up the tab for this. You'll put greater challenges on our court system, but we may someday get around to appointing judges.”

That is not enough. I disagree with the way the Liberals have handled this issue up to this point in time. I think they have made a huge mistake, and we are going to continue to bring that to the attention of Canadians.

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5:05 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Niagara Falls, for his speech and his comments. I want to let the member know that I am very interested in this legislation and I want to see it go through, although I have some concerns, and some of them are similar to his.

My province of Saskatchewan does have the highest rate of police-reported impaired driving. We have had a very difficult year in Saskatchewan, including having the previous deputy premier charged with drunk driving and an entire family killed by a drunk driver. We have a way to go in my province, so I am welcoming the bill in general.

I will ask my colleague to reiterate. I know that my colleague from the other side was reassuring me about the new bill not requiring reasonable suspicion before testing could take place, and I know there are concerns in my community that this latitude might be not used properly and that people may be targeted. The other thing I am concerned about is that the police in Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan government are asking for more investment to help the police to implement these new measures, and they need funding for training. I wonder if my colleague would like to comment on those concerns.

Also, I will be supporting the bill.

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5:05 p.m.


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raised a very good point. To be honest, this legislation is not clear with respect to the reasons for which a person can be given a roadside test. That is one of the things, if and when this bill gets to committee, that we have to ask questions about. We are going to want a lot of information about that aspect.

I agree with the hon. member that when the government brings in legislation of this type, legislation that changes many things in our criminal justice system and in our society, then the government should come up with the money. The government has money for everything, but all of a sudden there is penny-pinching on this issue.

There is no end to the money that the Liberal government has. It has all kinds of money and has no intention of balancing the books for many decades to come, so it should come forward and help the provinces and work with them.

Under the Constitution, the provinces have the responsibility for the administration of justice, so that cost is to the provinces. For the most part and in most places in Canada, the actual law enforcement is borne by the municipalities. They are the ones that lay out the money for enforcement. On both those levels, when the government comes forward with legislation that makes huge changes, as this would do, the Liberals should step up and say, “Hey, we are Liberals. We have all kinds of money here. What can we do to help you work this out, make sure you can administer this system, and get new techniques for detecting impaired driving? Just let us know.” They should reach out to their provincial counterparts and make sure that the provinces and the municipalities have the resources that they need to implement this law.

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5:05 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has provided a great deal of information and education on this issue, and I know that as the former justice minister, he has worked very hard to make sure that we are protecting Canadians.

I always return to the fact that we still have impaired driving from drinking, let alone now moving into drugs. We are only 13 months from Bill C-45 being enacted, and we are going to see drug-impaired Canadians out there. We already know that drunk driving has not ceased just because we have fantastic campaigns like MADD. Now we would add another level of issues to this topic.

I believe that when we are looking at cannabis use in Bill C-46, we have to recognize that it impairs people differently. It may be a person who has smoked it daily for the last 20 years or it may be a young teenager who has smoked it for the first time. We have to recognize that because the legislation in Bill C-45 is not tight enough, there are going to be 16-year-olds who are going to have access to cannabis and we have to understand that there are going to be 16-year-olds on the road with cannabis in their system who have just learned to drive in the first place.

I want to hear from this former minister on Bill C-46. What is his recommendation for the level of cannabis in someone's system? I truly believe it should be zero, and I want to hear from him on that. What are some of his recommendations? We know that our law enforcement agencies are going to have a lot on their hands.

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5:10 p.m.


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her concern in this area. It is certainly much appreciated by everyone who worries about this issue.

I say to people to check what has happened in Colorado since it has legalized marijuana. Have impaired driving deaths gone up? Yes, they have gone up. The current government says it wants evidence-based research, so the Liberals should check it out. They should give Colorado a phone call and say, “How is it going down there?” What they are going to find, as I mentioned in my own speech here, is that the number of impaired driving deaths has gone up. This is exactly what we can expect to experience.

The member talked about teenagers. I do not think they should have any marijuana in their system, quite frankly. They should have zero if they are driving. It is not a question of how many joints they have smoked or how many beers they have had; they should not have any if they are driving a car, and that is the message that the government should be pushing out, not whether it is five grams or four grams and all that kind of stuff. Skip that. The message should be that they should not be drinking and driving and they should not be taking marijuana and driving.

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5:10 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton East.

It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. colleague on the justice committee, the member for Niagara Falls. Indeed, this is an issue which unites us and should unite us as Liberals, New Democrats, Conservatives, Greens, and members of the Bloc, because we all want to get drunk and impaired drivers off our roads. We all want strict penalties for those who commit this crime.

Watching the news yesterday and seeing the mug shot of Tiger Woods looking out at us should be a stark reminder to every one of us that this is an offence that anyone can commit. Tiger Woods had not had a sip of alcohol, according to the breath test that he did. He was overdosed on prescription medication. So many people today in this country are driving while under the influence of either alcohol, prescription medication, or other drugs that we need to make sure we have very tight legislation to both test for those impairments and to make sure that we have strong penalties to convict those who are found guilty of this crime.

We all have a personal story to tell. When I was eight years old, I had my very first experience with death as a result of a drunk driver. An eight-year-old kid on my swim team was biking home from practice, turned left on Sainte-Jean in my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis' riding, coming back from the Pointe-Claire pool, and was hit on the overpass by a drunk driver. The other kids on the swim team and I went to his parents' house to give our condolences and that was our very first experience in dealing with any kind of death. It was caused by someone who killed an innocent eight-year-old because they were operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.

We all have stories to tell from our own lives, and we all want this to be a crime. I am looking forward, as chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to sending the bill to our committee to look at the various provisions of the bill and to determine where there need to be tweaks and where there need to be improvements.

I concur with what my colleague from London previously said. If it were up to me and I was starting from scratch, there would be zero tolerance for anybody driving with any drugs or any alcohol in their system, because 0.08% is way too much for me. There should be a much lower threshold for alcohol in people's blood. Whether we create a summary offence as we are doing with drugs at a lower level, there should be a criminal offence for someone driving with less than 0.08% alcohol, and I certainly will bring that perspective.

I think the way the law works to create three levels of conviction for drug offences, a summary conviction for the lower levels and then hybrid offences for the combination of drugs and alcohol and drugs alone is a sensible approach that should also be replicated at the very least with alcohol. If people are below 0.08%, there should be some type of an offence. I am very much willing to work with my colleagues on all sides on that issue of what the right thresholds should be.

I am also very much interested in looking at the issue of mandatory screening. I personally, as an attorney, have looked at everything I could possibly read on this subject and I believe that mandatory screening is indeed a logical and constitutional measure. I think it has worked well in Europe, in Australia, and in New Zealand. The number of fatalities in Ireland dropped by almost 25% in the first year after mandatory screening was implemented. In Canada today, drunk driving is our leading criminal cause of death or injury. There were 72,000 incidents reported by police in 2015. That is 72,000 too many. If mandatory screening is going to help us get impaired drivers off the road, I am all for it.

I concur with Peter Hogg. I heard my colleague from Saskatchewan had concerns about the constitutionality of mandatory screening. I would encourage her to read the legal opinion that was issued by eminent constitutional scholar Peter Hogg to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who stated that he believed that mandatory screening would not infringe section 8 of the charter, which is the protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and while it may infringe section 9 under arbitrary detention and section 10(b) under right to counsel, they would both be saved under section 1 of the charter, which guarantees that we can pass laws that reasonably limit the rights set out under the charter if they were demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

I would submit that with respect to the huge number of incidents of impaired driving that have taken place in Canada and the number of people who have been killed, harmed, and injured, making sure that we do our best to give police the tools necessary to get impaired drivers off the roads falls within that reasonableness test of section 1 to allow mandatory screening. Again, I look forward to hearing witnesses at committee who will offer testimony on that subject.

I am also pleased that we are taking away some of the loopholes that have been created over the years when it comes to impaired driving.

Members who have seen this field evolve know that the current law has become quite unwieldy and that various loopholes have been created that make absolutely no sense. Ergo, the bolus defence, which basically is when people say that they rushed to drink a lot just before driving so that they did not yet reach 0.08% by the time they stopped driving. We absolutely need to get rid of that. I completely concur with the proposal in the legislation that includes someone reaching the impairment level within two hours of ceasing to operate a motor vehicle, because that ensures that nobody can get away with saying that the person tested at 0.13% but was not drunk at all when he or she drove the car and killed someone. It makes absolutely no sense to allow it, and I am very glad we are getting rid of it.

The same is true with the intervening drink defence, another brilliant concoction of legal minds. This basically happens when someone stops driving when he or she was drunk, but then hides it by rushing to have five other drinks and down a bottle of Scotch after ceasing to operate the motor vehicle, so that the individual can get away with it by saying he or she did not drink until he or she stopped driving. I am very happy with those modifications.

I look forward to working with the member for Niagara Falls and the other members of the justice committee to make the legislation even better.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-49PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to respond to the question of privilege raised by the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek on May 17, 2017, on the alleged premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-49, the transportation modernization act.

The member alleges that the media reports on the bill prior to its introduction constitutes a breach of the privilege of the House. Our government holds parliamentary privilege in the highest regard and takes seriously any allegations that privileges were not respected.

In the case before the House, I submit that the government took great care to ensuring that the details of Bill C-49 were not prematurely divulged prior to its introduction.

I would like to draw the attention of members to the extensive consultations that were held on the review of the Canada Transportation Act. In fact, these consultations began under the previous government. As part of these consultations, over 480 meets and roundtable discussions were held and over 230 written submissions were received between June 2014 and December 2015. The current Minister of Transport supplemented this work with a wide-ranging set of consultations, holding 10 major round tables across the country between May and November 2016, as well as holding engagement sessions on social media.

Following these extensive consultations, the minister made a speech on November 3, 2016, which outlined his vision entitled “Transportation 2030 - A Strategic Plan for the Future of Transportation in Canada”.

Following the launch of the transportation 2030 strategy, the minister continued to meet with a wide range of stakeholders in the transportation sector, gave speeches and media interviews, and spoke in the House about issues he intended to address through upcoming legislation. That is to say, any reporter or interested stakeholder would have had a very good idea of what issues were to be addressed in Bill C-49.

Before turning to the facts of the matter before the House, I would point out that the Speaker must judge the extent to which the issue has infringed upon the ability of members to discharge their parliamentary duties. Page 145 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

In deliberating upon a question of privilege, the Chair will take into account the extent to which the matter complained of infringed upon any Member's ability to perform his or her parliamentary functions or appears to be a contempt against the dignity of Parliament.

On October 4, 2010, the Speaker ruled that it is indisputable that it is a well-established practice and accepted convention that the House has the right of first access to the text of bills that it will consider. At no time were the specific details of the bill made public. In fact, the minister and his staff refused to comment on the specific details of the provisions of Bill C-49, which was reported by a number of media outlets.

The member cites the March 2001 ruling by Speaker Milliken, which is a clear acknowledgement of the government's prerogative to consult with stakeholders and Canadians in the development of government policy. The ruling states:

In preparing legislation, the government may wish to hold extensive consultations and such consultations may be held entirely at the government's discretion. However, with respect to material to be placed before parliament, the House must take precedence.

I submit this is precisely what the government has done with respect to Bill C-49.

The case that the member cites is drastically different than the situation before the House. The 2001 ruling referred to by the member involved a minister of the crown who gave a detailed briefing on a government bill to the media in advance of the introduction of the bill. Moreover, members and their staff were not permitted to attend the briefing. As a result, members were unable to respond to media inquiries on the content of the bill. This situation sits in stark contrast to the situation before the House.

Let me take a few moments to show why this is not a legitimate question of privilege.

First, in the evening of May 15, the CBC website stated, “Passenger bill of rights will set national standard for air travel”. Stating the general goals of proposed legislation is not a detailed description of the specific measures contained in the bill.

I would submit that this is a general statement of the objective to address an issue. There was no reporting on what the national standards would be or the modalities of scheme. In fact, this would be impossible, since the bill simply authorized the development of regulations to address this issue.

Similarly, CTV News referred to minimum standards for reimbursement for travel disruptions and lost luggage but did not, and I submit could not, refer to what the minimum standards would be, since these standards would be set through the regulatory process. This was confirmed by a CBC report and on CTV News. I am not sure how the member believes that the disclosure of the proposed standards would be in regulations constitutes in any way contempt of this House.

In instances such as this one, where the government has consulted extensively on the development of policy, there are bound to be cases in which an issue, such as air passenger rights, would be made public prior to the introduction of a bill. What differentiates a bona fide contempt of the House through the premature disclosure of the contents of a bill and the case before the House is that no specific details were released.

Moreover, the minister and his staff were clearly cognizant of the imperative of not disclosing the specific details of the bill to avoid a contempt of the House.

For example, I would refer to the May 14 Globe and Mail article where the minister's office denied to comment on the specifics of the bill until properly introduced. Again, in the Canadian Press article of April 11, the minister's spokesperson is quoted as declining to say if the legislation would set industry-wide standards, or raise compensation levels offered in the United States or Europe.

The difference between divulging specific details of a bill and speaking about current issues that may be addressed in a bill should not be lost on members. Speaking about general issues to be addressed in a bill without divulging the specific content of the bill is not only permissible but reasonable. While the government consults on issues which may be made public during the course of consultations, the specific details of provisions to address such issues are only made public following the introduction of the bill. This is precisely the case before the House.

I would refer to the Speaker's ruling of April19, 2016, with respect to the premature disclosure of the content of Bill C-14, where the Speaker highlighted that the specific details of the bill were prematurely disclosed, which had the effect of impeding members in the discharge of their parliamentary duties.

The government brings forward bills that were mentioned in the party's electoral platform, Speech from the Throne, Budgets, mandate letters, or were subject to public consultations. Would a bill to implement an initiative announced in one of the aforementioned policy proposal be automatically be deemed to constitute a prima facie question of privilege once the bill has been introduced?

That cannot be the intent. Media reports leading up to the introduction of Bill C-49 did not reveal specific measures. Nor did these reports act in any way as to impede members in the discharge of their parliamentary duties.

In conclusion, the matter raised by the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek does not meet the threshold of constituting a prima facie question of privilege.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Contents of Bill C-49PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank the hon. member.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

moved that Bill C-349, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts (criminal organization), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, the bill that I introduced in the House and that we are going to debate today is the last step in a series of measures put forward by the Bloc Québécois to weaken organized crime. Before getting into the crux of this bill, I think it is important to talk about the steps that the Bloc Québécois has taken in the House to fight organized crime.

In the 1990s, when the biker wars were raging in Quebec, it quickly became obvious that a new law was needed to help law enforcement in their fight against organized crime. From the start, the Bloc spoke out about this reality in the House and put pressure on the Liberal government of the time. It was former Bloc member Réal Ménard who first introduced anti-gang legislation in the House of Commons in 1995.

The passage of Bill C-59 in 1997 marked a first step in the fight against organized crime. However, the amendments to the Criminal Code were too complex and demanding for effectively securing convictions in the courts. For example, the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had participated in the activities of a gang and been a party to the commission of an indictable offence committed in connection with the criminal organization.

Because those two combined requirements made it difficult to secure convictions, the police quickly called for amendments, and, once again, the Bloc Québécois was the first to act and bring those calls into the political arena.

In 2000, the Bloc Québécois then led the effort to have amendments made to that initial anti-gang law, Bill C-59, and to expand its scope. Our leader at that time, Gilles Duceppe, was even targeted by threats and intimidation from criminal organizations, to deter him from proceeding.

Mr. Duceppe stood up to them and the Bloc demonstrated its determination. As a result, in 2002 our efforts led to the enactment of Bill C-24, which created two new, separate offences to assist in combatting organized crime. Participating in the activities of a criminal organization and committing an indictable offence for the benefit of a criminal organization became two separate offences. It became possible to secure a conviction against members of criminal organizations for gang-related or criminal organization offences. A person charged with committing an offence for the benefit of a criminal organization became liable to life imprisonment.

To better protect the public and the police who are engaged in fighting organized crime, the law also added provisions to combat the intimidation of journalists and of federal, provincial and municipal elected representatives, and also of any person who plays a role in the administration of the penal and criminal justice system.

In 2009, the Bloc Québécois again took up the issue with a motion to have criminal organizations such as criminal biker gangs recognized as illegal. Also in 2009, the Bloc supported Bill C-14 on organized crime, to have any murder committed for the benefit of a criminal organization deemed to be a premeditated murder and liable to a sentence of life imprisonment.

At the same time, and also at the initiative of the Bloc Québécois, the Criminal Code was amended to reverse the burden of proof and force criminal organizations to prove the source of their income. This was an important step forward in the fight against organized crime.

Earlier, following an international conference on money laundering and organized crime held in Montreal in 1998, the Bloc Québécois had persuaded the government to withdraw $1,000 bills from circulation, since, as everyone knows, they are used most of the time only to launder organized crime money.

The Bloc Québécois has always been a thorn in the side of organized crime. We must not forget that gangsters adapt very readily. There seems to have been a resurgence of criminal biker gangs since 2016.

Here again, we have a responsibility to act. Let me remind the House that the biker war from 1994 to 2002 was especially bloody. The eight-year tally was more than 150 murders, including nine innocents, nine disappeared, and 181 attempted murders. Things could very well start up again. Since the summer of 2016, organized crime experts and observers have noted that criminal biker gangs are making a vigorous comeback. Since Operation SharQc in 2009, most of the bikers who were charged have been let go because some of the trials just fizzled out, and many who were convicted have had their sentences reduced.

They have been making their presence increasingly known, and we have been seeing more shows of force too. In recent months, bikers have started gathering again, displaying their patches openly and with impunity. Our criminal justice system combats the criminal mindset at least as much as it does criminal activity itself. Just consider crimes of accessory: conspiracy, attempt, and inciting or counselling.

Only for practical reasons, such as how hard it is to prove, criminal mentality is more rarely punished than criminal acts themselves. The challenge associated with presenting full proof must not discourage punishments for behaviour that should be punished.

At present, the Criminal Code prohibits participation in a criminal organization only to the extent that it can be proven that the individual intended to enhance the ability of the criminal organization to commit or facilitate the commission of an indictable offence. This is difficult to prove, particularly with regard to criminal organizations that are not easily infiltrated by police.

With that in mind, we are proposing, first of all, that a list of criminal organizations be created, similar to the list of terrorist organizations that exists, and second, that patches and emblems associated with the organizations on such a list be prohibited from being worn in public.

The Bloc Québécois has been calling for this for quite some time. In the fall of 2001, on an opposition day, the Bloc moved a motion calling on Parliament to make membership in a criminal organization a criminal offence. The same year, at the committee stage of Bill C-24, the Bloc proposed an amendment at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to prohibit membership in criminal organizations. Our amendment had the support of the criminal investigations branch of the Montreal police service, which at the time was called the Montreal Urban Community Police Department.

Unfortunately, parliamentarians rejected our motion. Then in 2009, the Bloc Québécois managed to get a motion adopted at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights calling on the committee to study the possibility of creating a list of organizations once again following the model of the list of terrorist organizations. I would remind the House that the last biker gang war claimed more than 150 lives in Quebec alone, including that of an 11-year-old child.

Organized crime is very costly in terms of human life, so we cannot sit idly by and do nothing. Witnesses from the Sûreté du Québec, the SPVM, and the RCMP all supported the creation of such a list.

They believe that adding a criminal organization to a list would help crown prosecutors, because they would no longer be required to prove the existence of a criminal organization at each trial. This would be more efficient in terms of the length and cost of proceedings, and it would be more consistent.

A QPP chief inspector had this to say:

The proposal...however, would be a major and important step forward, to avoid having to prove the criminal organization all over again at each trial, for the same organization. It would save us weeks or even months of testimony and preparation to prove aspects that have already been accepted in previous court proceedings, and would therefore be an important avenue to enable us to be even more effective in combatting organized crime on the ground.

We can agree that in the era of the Jordan decision, saving weeks or even months would have been beneficial for our judicial system. That is why we are trying again this year with two new measures.

First, make it possible for the Governor in Council to establish a list of criminal organizations and to place on that list those organizations recommended by the Minister of Public Safety.

Second, make it an offence for a member of a listed criminal organization to wear emblems such as patches.

With respect to establishing a list of criminal organizations, there is no legitimate reason to knowingly be part of a criminal group. Our bill simply prohibits membership in such a group. Currently, the existence of an organization must be proven before someone can be charged with organized crime. We saw what happened with the megatrials, where trials were literally derailed because of the sheer volume of evidence. Rather than serve the cause of justice, the time it takes to process all that evidence serves only the criminals. Obviously, that is not what we want. Establishing a list of criminal organizations will shorten trials and allow justice to take its course within a reasonable period of time and achieve its ends.

People quite rightly believe that nobody should be allowed to belong to a criminal organization. Why do people believe that? Because nobody should be allowed to belong to a criminal organization.

If Parliament passes this bill, it will send a message to the people and to criminals that the government is not sitting on the sidelines. The government is taking action for justice, for the common good, and for everyone's safety.

Members of Parliament will simply not accept something so unacceptable.

The Minister of Public Safety already has the power to establish a list of terrorist groups, a list that, I really want to emphasize, has never been challenged.

In 2005, in R. v. Lindsay, Justice Fuerst of the Ontario Superior Court established that the Hells Angels were a criminal organization across Canada. However, this ruling did not exempt crown prosecutors from having to prove once again that the Hells Angels were a criminal organization in other trials.

I realize that this measure alone would not be enough to put an end to organized crime, and that proving gangsterism is not always easy, but is that not the case anyway when it comes to each and every offence?

As for emblems, the second aspect of our bill, we are proposing that an offence be created prohibiting the wearing of emblems or patches of listed criminal organizations.

Paragraph 467.11(1) of the Criminal Code states the following:

Every person who, for the purpose of enhancing the ability of a criminal organization to facilitate or commit an indictable offence...knowingly...participates in or contributes to any activity of the criminal organization is guilty of an indictable offence...

We believe that—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I apologize for interrupting the member, but his time has elapsed.

My honourable colleague will be able to finish his speech during questions and comments.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my honourable colleague for his passionate speech. Naturally, we want to fight organized crime as well.

My colleague spoke about some witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as part of a study. In 2012, the committee released a report recommending that a list of criminal organizations not be made. I would like to ask him why.

Furthermore, does my colleague not think that the proposal violates at least sections 2 and 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerning life, liberty, security of the person, and freedom of expression?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to clarify what I said earlier. Experts have recommended that such a list be adopted, not the other way around. Whether the Sûreté du Québec, the RCMP or the SPVM, everyone agreed that it was a good solution.

Regarding my colleague’s question about the constitutionality of such a bill, I would say that there is no doubt about its constitutionality. The provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cannot be used to defend an individual’s right to be involved in criminal activities. The provisions of the charter can only be used for legal purposes. I do not believe that there are any problems in that regard.

As I said in my speech, such a list already exists for terrorist organizations. It is maintained and updated by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Its constitutionality has never been questioned. In my opinion, the problem does not exist.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his work and his speech. Of course, I also thank him for having put the social scourge of organized crime on the agenda.

As my colleague from Mount Royal stated, we can have a debate on the bill, but I think we can easily say that we all agree that every possible effort must be made to eradicate organized crime.

That being said, the main objective of the list is to facilitate the work of police forces that must provide the burden of proof before the court to prove that the person belongs to a criminal organization or is involved in its activities.

In the 2009 study proposed by the Bloc Québécois, one of the points raised was that the list was not enough and that evidence must still be gathered.

Does my colleague not think that the best solution proposed would be to amend the law so that past decisions regarding the recognition of a criminal organization can be received?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, were it possible to apply the evidence from one case to another case, that would have made things easier. Unfortunately, that is not possible. The creation of a list makes it possible to avoid that burden of proof. Currently, if someone is accused of organized crime, or “gangsterism”, it must be proven that that person is a member of an organization and that that organization is actually a criminal organization.

My colleague is right in stating that the existence of a criminal organization can still be proven, but paragraph (c) of the definition of a criminal organization in subsection 467.1(1) provides the possibility of creating lists of entities, which frees crown prosecutors from the obligation of proving it each time, with the risk of contradicting decisions and significant delays of several weeks or several months to prove that the organization is a criminal organization.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the brilliant presentation by my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord and note his courage in tabling this bill in the House. Tackling organized crime is often scary, and usually people would rather sit on their hands. I congratulate him for continuing the tradition of the Bloc Québécois. I would like to invite him to provide greater explanations regarding his bill.