Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today at second reading of Bill C-46, which deals with driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In all our ridings, impaired driving upends lives, devastates families, and ravages communities. While the rate of impaired driving has been on the decline since the 1980s in most of Canada, it is still a cause for concern. For example, Saskatchewan has the highest per capita rate of any province, with 575 incidents per 100,000 people in 2015. That rate is more than double in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
While the vast majority of impaired driving incidents in Canada involve alcohol, drug-impaired driving has been on the rise since 2009. In 2015, Canadian police reported some 3,000 incidents of people driving while under the influence of drugs. In 2015, there were more than 72,000 impaired driving incidents, including 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents. In other words, drug-impaired driving is not a new phenomenon, and the measures in place in recent years have not stopped the problem from getting worse.
Drug-impaired driving has been a criminal offence since 1925. Front-line officials across the country have made repeated calls to treat it as a more serious criminal offence, to create accurate and reliable testing tools, and to improve public education on the dangers of driving while impaired. Our approach, through this bill, will do the same.
To begin with, Bill C-46 would amend the Criminal Code to provide police with the authority to use roadside drug screeners. In practice, this is how it would work. A police officer would conduct a traffic stop under his or her authority. The officer could form a reasonable suspicion, which could be determined from several factors, including red eyes, the odour of an impairing substance, or abnormal speech patterns. If there were reasonable grounds to suspect drugs in the body, at that point the police officer would be authorized to demand an oral fluid sample or a standardized field sobriety test. These screeners would detect the presence of a drug in a driver's oral fluid. A positive result on the drug screener would give the officer reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was committing an impaired driving offence, at which point he or she could demand a blood sample or call a drug recognition expert. There is a solid history of both the effectiveness of this test and of jurisprudence in dealing with challenges to it.
With Bill C-46, police would be able to use an oral fluid drug screener that could detect THC, cocaine, and methamphetamine. These devices would be approved by the Attorney General of Canada once they were evaluated and recommended by the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.
Six different Canadian police services, from Halifax to Vancouver to Yellowknife, tested these devices in a pilot project earlier this year to ensure that they worked in a variety of conditions, including cold temperatures. I look forward to the public report on that project, which should be available soon.
The bill would create three new criminal offences so that people who had an illegal level of drugs in their blood, or drugs in combination with alcohol, within two hours of driving could be charged. These offences could be proven by blood samples, which could be taken by police when there were reasonable grounds to believe that a driver was impaired.
Law enforcement officials have highlighted that existing impaired-driving laws are complex and difficult to apply. For example, some offences overlap, and some cases take up a great deal of court time. Bill C-46 would repeal this current regime and replace it with a modernized, simplified, and coherent structure. Police across the country would be able to better understand, apply, and enforce the law and therefore be better able to keep communities safe.
Bill C-46 would also facilitate the detection of impaired drivers by allowing for random roadside breath testing. This is something that already exists in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Groups like MADD Canada have been calling for it for a long time because of research showing that it results in fewer accidents and saves lives.
Ultimately, Bill C-46 would institute and enhance a legislative framework to detect, prevent, and punish impaired driving. As I said earlier, though, a legislative approach must be accompanied by public education and efforts to combat the persistent misinformation that exists among Canadians on this issue.
I am encouraged that Public Safety Canada has launched and promoted social media campaigns this year targeting youth, parents, and drivers with a message encouraging sober driving and amplifying the message of our partners. The March campaign garnered 11.5 million impressions, meaning the number of times the content was displayed, and over 75,000 engagements, such as likes, comments, and shares, meaning it reached a large audience. I understand that a comprehensive marketing strategy is also under development, including a sustained public education and awareness campaign to combat drug-impaired driving, in collaboration with various partners. This campaign should help address some of the misperceptions that exist about the effects of certain substances on a person's ability to drive.
The changes we are proposing now mean that the government would be providing law enforcement agencies with clearer laws, better technology, better training, and more resources to investigate and prosecute drug-impaired drivers. It would mean tougher penalties to deal appropriately with offenders and better public education and awareness about the dangers of driving while impaired. As a result, Canadians would have safer roadways and safer communities.
I am encouraged by the response to these proposed measures thus far, including from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others. That is why I urge all members to support this important legislation.