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STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS

COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA JUSTICE ET DES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, June 8, 2000

• 0938

[English]

The Chair (Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.)): Good morning, colleagues.

Madame Venne.

[Translation]

Ms. Pierrette Venne (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, BQ): Before we start our study, I would like us to debate three motions that were introduced by my colleague, Mr. Bellehumeur, and of which you should all have received a copy. The first motion...

[English]

The Chair: Does everyone have the motion? They're being circulated.

[Translation]

All is well.

Ms. Pierrette Venne: He proposes:

    That clause-by-clause study of Bill C-18, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving causing death and other matters), be differed, to enable the members of the committee to submit a list of witnesses and to hear from those witnesses regarding the appropriateness of the longer terms of imprisonment proposed in Bill C-18.

As you know, this motion is intended to get across to committee members the idea that, as indicated in the Supreme Court's decision in the matter of R. v. Gladue, increasing the length of imprisonment will not reduce recidivism or scare offenders.

I will quote only a few lines of the judgment before ending my address:

    It is now generally recognized that imprisonment has not been effective in rehabilitating or reforming offenders, has not been shown to be a strong deterrent, and has achieved only temporarily public protection and uneven retribution, as the lengths of prison sentences handed down vary for the same type of crime.

• 0940

The Bloc Québécois members of Parliament do not think that life imprisonment will stop people from driving impaired. Thank you.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you very much.

We've heard the motion. If there are no further comments or questions, I would call it. Does anyone need it read? We all have it in front of us.

(Motion negatived)

[Translation]

Ms. Pierrette Venne: I submit to you Mr. Bellehumeur's second motion, which reads as follows:

    That clause-by-clause study of Bill C-18, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving causing death and other matters), be deferred to allow the committee to hear from witnesses who could enable its members to evaluate the application by the provinces of programs aimed at preventing impaired driving.

The purpose of this motion is the same, that is to make the committee aware that impaired driving will not be stopped by sentencing to life imprisonment.

I can see that the committee has already made its decision, but I still wanted to table the motion so that discussions can still take place with the provinces, if the committee will allow it, which I doubt from what I see here. Mr. Chairman, I think you can call a vote.

[English]

The Chair: On that suggestion, all those in favour, please indicate.

(Motion negatived)

[Translation]

Ms. Pierrette Venne: I submit to you the third motion to show my perseverance and, of course, that of Mr. Bellehumeur. It reads:

    That clause-by-clause study of Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving causing death and other matters), be deferred, to allow the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada to testify before the committee and answer our questions.

Mr. Chairman, I will not drag out the issue, but I would still have appreciated that the Minister of Justice appear before the committee to give us her reasons which she thinks are valid. We would have liked to get from her some details and some examples explaining her reasons, if she has any. Unfortunately, I observe once more that the committee does not seem very open to my motions, but still I persevere and present them to you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

The Chair: You've heard the motion.

(Motion negatived)

The Chair: Now we have a couple of options available to us. The original plan was that the officials would appear today to speak to this. I spoke to the minister yesterday when we thought there may be more discussion than in fact is before us right now, and the minister was prepared to come this morning, but she's tabling a bill at 10:15 or so.

If it's the will of the committee, I think it would be the best use of all of our valuable time to call on the officials now to explain the bill, if that's satisfactory to members. Then we can proceed to clause-by-clause and thereby release the minister from having to leave other things that I know she's committed to. She was only going to do this as a favour to us on very short notice.

Would that be acceptable to everybody?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Chair: The officials who are here....

I'm sorry.

[Translation]

Ms. Pierrette Venne: Anyway, that was the purpose of my third motion, which you have negatived. The Minister will certainly not appear.

[English]

The Chair: That's another good reason.

Could the officials please join us at the table?

• 0945

Bonjour. Yvan, could you introduce yourself and your colleagues?

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Roy (Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Justice Department): Certainly, Mr. Chairman. My name is Yvan Roy and I represent the federal Justice Department. With me today is Hal Pruden, architect of Bill C-18. He is the one who worked the most on its drafting.

[English]

Mr. Chairman, if you so wish and if the committee so wishes, we would be more than pleased to answer questions. If you want a short presentation as to what this bill is doing, it will be my pleasure also to provide that to the committee.

The Chair: I think that would be the best use of our time. Thank you.

Mr. Yvan Roy: Bill C-18 is a short bill that seeks to implement two of the recommendations that were made by this committee when it looked into the issue of impaired driving more than a year ago.

The members of the committee will remember that there was draft legislation that was prepared by this committee in May of last year. The government and the Minister of Justice used the draft legislation extensively for the purpose of providing Parliament a bill, which became Bill C-82. That eventually was passed. There was one provision that had to be removed from the bill, which is now to be found in Bill C-18, and there was another recommendation that was not implemented in Bill C-82, which would be implemented if Bill C-18 is passed.

In order to make this as easy as possible for everyone, let me go through the provisions one after the other.

Clause 1 simply seeks to make the French version similar to the English version. There's not much that can be added to this. We would add the words “autre que la force musculaire”, which is not now in the French version of that provision and is clearly in the English version.

The second provision would make the offence of impaired driving causing death punishable by life imprisonment and not 14 years' imprisonment, which is currently the situation. That is the provision I was talking about when I referred to the provision that was pulled from Bill C-82 and then put in what became Bill C-87, which died on the order paper. So this is the provision that would be brought back in to make this really in line with other provisions that are in the code right now, punishable by life.

The third provision is an amendment to section 256 in order to provide for the taking of blood samples when there is reason to believe that the person has been driving the car under the influence of drugs. Right now it is only possible when it is under the influence of alcohol. This committee recommended that something like this be done in one of its recommendations. This would be implemented through the amendment to section 256.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, clause 4 would correct a mistake we made in Bill C-82. What happened there is that one provision of the code was included in section 553. Actually, it was not added but was maintained in section 553 after the maximum penalty had been increased to five years. Section 553 provides for the absolute jurisdiction of a provincial court judge to hear those matters. That means there is no preliminary inquiry and it also means you cannot have a jury trial.

If the penalty is increased to five years, under the Constitution, Parliament must provide for a jury trial when an offence is punishable by five years at least. Thus we have a problem, and it's technical in nature in that it's giving jurisdiction to the wrong judge. So by removing that particular provision from section 553, that will be the correction that is needed in order for the law to be right.

The provision we're talking about, and I thank Mr. Pruden for this, is driving while disqualified, which was increased from two to five years.

This is what this bill is doing, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Does anyone have any questions to put to the officials?

Mr. DeVillers.

Mr. Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, Lib.): Yes, thank you.

You mentioned the change from 14 years to life. That's a maximum penalty, I assume.

Mr. Yvan Roy: Yes, Mr. DeVillers.

Mr. Paul DeVillers: Mr. Chair, on the issue of sentencing, I'm one who opposes minimum sentences. I believe in the judicial discretion to review the case in all its circumstances and come up with the appropriate penalty. For the sake of consistency, if I don't want to fetter that discretion by putting in minimums, I can hardly object to putting in maximums. I think I can agree with it in this case.

The Chair: Mr. Mancini.

• 0950

Mr. Peter Mancini (Sydney—Victoria, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have just a technical question. I should know the answer to this, because I'm sure I've asked it before, but it seems we dealt with this a long, long time ago.

This is in terms of the penalties, the $600 penalties, as you'll recall. The fines option program is still available in those provinces that have it.

Mr. Yvan Roy: Yes.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Like Monsieur DeVillers, I.... This is a maximum penalty. There is no minimum penalty—

Mr. Yvan Roy: There is no minimum included.

Mr. Peter Mancini: —so the judge still has the latitude, depending on the circumstances of the crime, to impose a penalty as he sees fit.

Thank you.

The Chair: Madam Carroll.

Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Actually, having listened to my colleague, Mr. DeVillers, I guess there's really no reason for me to do an intervention, but I too concur with his point of view. It's a personal conviction of mine, and I would like to be on record as stating that.

Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. MacKay.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Chair, thank you.

I thank you both for bringing this forward. With respect to the taking of blood samples, this is in addition to what we had talked about, and I'm very pleased to see that this is part of Bill C-18. Presumably, given the numerical section this appears under, with warrants to obtain blood samples, all of the provisions that pertain to the defence counsel's right to request a vial of breath similarly attach to their right to request to see, and have tested independently, this blood sample.

Mr. Yvan Roy: Maybe I should ask Mr. Pruden to answer this.

Mr. Hal Pruden (Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice): Thank you.

That is correct. The defence counsel can obtain a sample of the blood that has been taken. There is no provision in the Criminal Code yet proclaimed in force for a similar sample of breath, although the defence has complete disclosure related to the breath sampling.

This provision deals only with the taking of blood under a warrant in a situation where there has been a death or an injury and where the driver is unable to consent to the taking of blood. Typically the driver is injured, unconscious, or otherwise unable to consent to the taking of blood, and therefore the warrant is needed to take that blood.

Mr. Peter MacKay: And all of the provisions that pertain to warrants, the judicial-authorized authority, have to be followed.

Mr. Hal Pruden: That's correct.

Mr. Peter MacKay: But I just want to be clear on this. You're right to say that it's not codified, but it has been the practice since time immemorial, since breathalyzers first came into use, that the defence counsel could request a sample of that breath that was taken, and that would also attach to blood.

Mr. Hal Pruden: There is no breath that is put into any container.

Mr. Peter MacKay: But they have a right to see the results.

Mr. Hal Pruden: That's correct, yes, absolutely.

Mr. Yvan Roy: There is nothing in this legislation that would curtail what is currently the state of the law. With respect to disclosure, for instance, these rules continue to apply. All that is being done through the legislation is adding the word “drug” so that the taking of the sample can take place with respect to when the crown or the police have reason to believe driving took place under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. The rest remains the same.

Mr. Peter MacKay: And the four-hour preceding time?

Mr. Yvan Roy: Yes, exactly.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Okay.

I mean, this is obviously something there's going to be a test case on almost immediately.

Mr. Yvan Roy: That goes to the things we're doing, yes.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Exactly—only if we have a prudent defence.

Voices: Oh, oh!

The Chair: I don't see any other questions. If that's the case, I want to thank very much the officials from the Department of Justice and would suggest we proceed immediately to clause-by-clause.

(Clause 1 agreed to on division)

(On clause 2)

The Chair: Madam Venne.

[Translation]

Ms. Pierrette Venne: This time, I would like the vote to be recorded, please.

• 0955

[English]

(Clause 2 agreed to: yeas 9; nays 1)

(Clause 3 agreed to on division)

(Clause 4 agreed to)

(On clause 5)

The Chair: Madam Venne.

[Translation]

Ms. Pierrette Venne: For the last time, Mr. Chairman, I ask that the vote be recorded.

[English]

(Clause 5 agreed to: yeas 9; nays 1)

The Chair: Shall the title carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: On division.

The Chair: Shall the bill carry?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: On division.

The Chair: Shall I report the bill to the House?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: On division.

The Chair: There being no amendments, a reprint is not necessary. I thank you all very much.

Just before we adjourn, I would bring it to the attention of any members of the Sub-committee on Organized Crime who happen to be here that we're meeting on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

We will be meeting at our allotted time on Tuesday and Wednesday, hearing witnesses on Mr. Strahl's private member's bill, Bill C-244, the good Samaritan bill.

The meeting is adjourned. Have a nice weekend.