I call the meeting to order.
This is meeting number six of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Today is Monday, March 2, 2009.
Members of the committee, you have before you the agenda for today. We're continuing our study of impaired driving in Canada and we have before us a number of witnesses.
I want to thank all the witnesses for appearing before us to help with our study. I also want to thank those of you who have provided us with written copies of your submissions. Some of the submissions were in English only. They can't be tabled with us, but we'll make sure our clerk receives them, and if you don't finish your submissions orally, we'll certainly have them translated so there will be a complete record for the committee to review.
I want to welcome the various witnesses we have before us today. First of all, from the toxicology section of the Centre of Forensic Sciences—a Government of Ontario body—we have Yvona Buczek and Marc Pelletier. We also have from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, Robyn Robertson. The Canadian Automobile Association is represented by Eric Lamoureux. And Mothers Against Drunk Driving is represented by Margaret Miller, Dr. Robert Solomon, and Andrew Murie, the CEO. Finally, we have the Alcohol Countermeasure Systems Corporation, represented by Ian Marples, their general counsel. Unfortunately, Denis Dupuis had to send his regrets and won't be appearing today.
Witnesses, each of you has been allocated a certain amount of time in which to present, and I would ask you to keep strictly to that time because we have many questions to ask. Once you're finished with your presentations, we'll open the floor to questions from the members of the committee.
I think we'll simply go in the seating order. We'll start with Yvona Buczek, please.
Good afternoon. My name is Dr. Yvona Buczek, and I'm honoured to have the opportunity to appear before this committee. I'm an assistant section head in the toxicology section, Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto, which I will refer to as the CFS.
I'm accompanied today by my colleague, Dr. Marc Pelletier, who is an experienced scientist from our section.
The CFS is a provincial forensic science laboratory in the public safety division of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. We provide forensic science services to all official investigative agencies in Ontario.
Much of our work in the toxicology section concerns impaired driving. We train police officers in Ontario in the theory and operation of approved screening devices and evidential breath-testing instruments. We attend court regularly to provide scientific evidence regarding the pharmacology of alcohol impairment and provide calculations of blood alcohol concentrations, or BAC.
I hope the information I present today will be of assistance to the committee.
The operation of a motor vehicle requires the coordinated functioning of a variety of sensory, motor, and intellectual faculties, including divided attention, awareness of one's surroundings, choice reaction time, time to respond to complex driving situations, judgment of speed and distance, risk assessment, vigilance, being alert for extended periods of time, and vision.
The degree of impairment produced by alcohol is dependent upon BAC. Whether impairment is demonstrable depends on the complexity of the driving task. For example, the impairing effects of alcohol are evident in driving situations that are unpredictable and that require a rapid and appropriate response. Under controlled, experimental conditions, impairment of divided attention tasks has been reported at BACs as low as 15 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Nevertheless, based on a critical review of the relevant scientific literature, it is my opinion that impairment with respect to driving becomes significant at a BAC of 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood and increases from then onward. Impairment may occur in the absence of visible signs of intoxication, which may be due to tolerance.
Alcohol is a small, simple molecule. Relative to other drugs, alcohol produces predictable effects on the body. The effects produced by alcohol in the human body—that is, observable signs of intoxication—are dependent on BAC. The magnitude of the effects increases as BAC increases.
I will now describe the signs of intoxication that would be expected within a wide range of BACs in the light-to-moderate drinker. Please note that in individuals who frequently consume large quantities of alcohol, some effects are diminished due to tolerance. A tolerant individual might not display any observable signs of intoxication, even in the presence of a high BAC level.
At concentrations ranging between zero to 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, while signs of intoxication are absent or slight, information processing is slower. Observable signs might include mild euphoria and lack of inhibitions in a social setting—for example, talking loudly.
At the range between 50 and 100, intoxication is more likely, and might include some degree of motor incoordination, particularly of fine motor skills. There is increased loss of social inhibition—for example, increase of confidence and impaired judgment.
At the range between 100 and 200, intoxication is very apparent due to a decrease in motor coordination, such as slurred speech, staggered walk, inappropriate or sudden changes in mood, and drowsiness.
At 200 and greater, intoxication is very apparent because of increased central nervous system depression, which may include confusion, significant loss of motor control, nausea and vomiting, and varying degrees of sedation up to and including loss of consciousness.
At 300 and greater, intoxication is even more pronounced due to significantly increased central nervous system depression. The general anesthetic properties of alcohol are evident and might result in coma.
At 350 and greater, intoxication might result in death due to respiratory depression.
Scientifically, impairment can be distinguished from intoxication. I define impairment as the diminished ability to operate a motor vehicle. Studies utilizing low BACs have demonstrated impairment at levels much lower than was previously considered to be the threshold.
A review of the scientific literature on this subject can be crystallized in the following two points. One, as the BAC increases, the degree of impairment increases. Whether impairment is observable depends upon the complexity of the task. In an impaired person, impairment might not be observable in the routine driving task, but would be obvious in driving situations requiring a rapid response.
I shall now present a number of key points from the relevant scientific literature. References are available.
Under controlled experimental conditions, it has been demonstrated that repeated performance in certain tasks while under the influence of alcohol might make a subject less sensitive to the effects of alcohol. This is called functional tolerance. Many adults operate motor vehicles on a daily basis. However, driving is largely resistant to functional tolerance due to its complex intellectual demands. While at high BACs tolerance may reduce signs of intoxication, impairment is still present.
The most that can be said is that at moderate BACs, between 50 and 70, more-frequent drinkers appear to be less affected and at low risk of accident involvement. At higher BACs, the risk of an accident and the impairment of driving ability are both significantly increased in all drinking frequency groups. While habitual binge drinkers demonstrate similar alcohol-induced behaviour impairment, they have less awareness of impairment when compared to lighter-drinking counterparts. They may have false beliefs in their functional tolerance. That is, although their driving was impaired, they maintained the belief that their performance had actually improved.
There is some scientific evidence that supports the concept of functional tolerance, but only at low to moderate BACs and in simple predictable driving tasks. However, it is highly unlikely that functional tolerance can alleviate the impairing effects of alcohol when the driving task is complex or unpredictable.
Laboratory studies have consistently identified divided attention and choice reaction time as being particularly sensitive to the effects of alcohol, and the impairment is evident at less than 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Studies assessing the impairment effects of alcohol—
Studies assessing the impairing effects of alcohol in subjects while actually operating a motor vehicle are the most relevant. A study examining the effects of alcohol in an unpredictable traffic situation, which required subjects to brake suddenly and then make an evasive manoeuvre, showed clear evidence of the degrading effects of alcohol upon driving performance in emerging situations at BACs below 50.
Studies of actual drivers who were stopped on the road have demonstrated an exponential increase in crash risk with increasing BAC. The Grand Rapids study, published by Borkenstein and colleagues in 1974, compared approximately 6,000 motor vehicle collisions to approximately 7,500 control drivers and concluded BACs over 40 are definitely associated with increased accident rate. The risk of causing an accident was increased compared to control drivers by approximately two times at 60, three times at 80, seven times at 100, and twenty-five times at 150 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
A more recent study revealed an even greater crash risk in collisions that resulted in driver fatality, which became significant at BACs of 20. When the BACs range from 50 to 79, the relative risk of a driver fatality increased from approximately three to seventeen times that of control drivers.
In conclusion, a critical assessment of the impairment literature diminishes the importance of most subject variables—that is, functional tolerance, driving ability, age, and gender. The two most relevant variables are BAC and complexity of the driving task.
Thank you so much for the committee's time.
My name is Eric Lamoureux. I'm here on behalf of the Canadian Automobile Association. I'm their manager of government relations.
On behalf of CAA, I'm pleased to be here today to participate in the committee's review of impaired driving. The committee is to be commended for their investigation of this complex issue, particularly when so many Canadians are impacted by the destructive consequences of impaired driving each year.
From its establishment in 1913, CAA has been Canada's foremost voice advocating for road safety improvements and supporting the rights of Canadian motorists and travellers. With over five million members, CAA continues to advocate for a wide variety of safety initiatives that have helped guide relevant traffic safety laws, public security initiatives, and public policies in Canada. We continue to work with the federal government, our clubs, and other stakeholder groups to ensure that safe drivers on safer roads continue in Canada.
Like you, Mr. Chair, and the members of this committee, CAA, as one of Canada's largest member-based advocacy groups, is anxious to see fewer deaths and injuries on the roads as a result of impaired driving. In 1999 this committee tabled a report entitled “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”. The report concluded that the current legal blood alcohol content of 0.08 adequately empowered police to remove impaired drivers from the road while not burdening the justice system.
More importantly, the report stated the following:
||...that a legal BAC limit of 50 mg/100 ml of blood could result in a loss of public support, especially since scientific evidence suggests that not everyone would be impaired at that level.
Mr. Chair, CAA's principal advocacy focus, on behalf of our members and all the travelling public, is to be a credible promoter of safety issues in Canada. As this is our sole motivation, CAA continues to support this approach. Until studies show overwhelmingly strong and consistent evidence for lowering the criminal blood alcohol content limit, it is our view that the current limit should be maintained and strongly enforced.
Therefore, in order to address the growing concern of impaired driving, CAA supports strong legislation, strict enforcement, and continued education to end the practice of driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication. It is our view that this is where the investment of resources should be made.
The committee's review of mechanisms to reduce impaired driving in Canada is timely and well overdue. Current measures are not providing adequate deterrents, and neither are they removing dangerous drivers from the road.
CAA was pleased last year when Parliament strengthened the laws governing impaired driving. The passage of the Tackling Violent Crime Act strengthened the impaired driving laws in Canada by giving police new tools to investigate impairment due to alcohol and drug-impaired driving. It also reduced the ability of those accused of impaired driving to evade conviction because of technical defences.
As illustrated by the chart on page 2 of our submission, Canada has one of the worst impaired driving records relative to any other developed country. The percentage and number of impaired driving deaths and injuries in Canada is increasing. The current levels of deaths and injuries now exceed those of 1999.
The impaired driving provisions in Bill C-2, which came into force this last summer, plug long-standing loopholes in the federal law. However, these provisions will not significantly reduce the number of impaired driving deaths, injuries, and crashes in Canada. To achieve this goal of reducing impaired driving deaths requires far broader changes to the Criminal Code, namely laws that will have a major deterrent or preventative impact on impaired driving.
We propose three such measures: the enactment of a streamlined summary conviction Criminal Code 0.05 BAC impaired driving offence; the enactment of a Criminal Code provision authorizing random breath testing for screening drivers; and amendments to eliminate a reduced mandatory driving prohibition for impaired driving offenders in provincial and territorial ignition interlocks.
In the time I have available I will address only the issue of random breath testing.
Millions of Canadians continue to drink and drive in Canada because they can do so with little fear of being stopped or, if stopped, detected and charged. The estimated 10.2 million alcohol impaired driving trips made in 2006 resulted in only 60,000 charges and roughly 32,000 convictions. This translates to one charge for every 168 impaired driving trips and one conviction for every 313 impaired driving trips. Put another way, on average you would have to drive drunk once a week every week for more than three years before you'd be charged once. You'd have to drive drunk once a week every week for six years before it was likely that you would be convicted.
In response to similar problems, numerous jurisdictions around the world have introduced random breath testing. Every systematic review of the research indicates that the introduction of random breath testing results in significant and sustained reductions in impaired driving deaths, injuries, and crashes.
As with any new enforcement technique, random breath testing would be challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I'll briefly outline some of the points that indicate, at least to me, that random breath testing is wholly consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
First, Canadians cannot board planes, enter many court rooms or government buildings, or observe parliamentary proceedings without being scanned and subject to random physical searches of their persons and belongings. If random searches are warranted and justified in these circumstances, then a far more compelling case can be made for RBT, which poses a far more widespread risk.
Driving is already a heavily regulated licensed activity occurring on public roads, and happens to be the number one criminal cause of death in our country. Drivers are already required by common law and statute to stop and provide documentation when requested to do so. Drivers expect to be asked routine questions about licences, vehicles, and sobriety. The Canadian courts have consistently upheld the constitutionality of this random stopping, searching, and questioning of drivers. The introduction of RBT is merely an extension of these routine interventions.
When I first appeared before this committee on behalf of MADD 10 years ago advocating for substantive changes to the federal impaired driving laws, those changes were not made and, as we predicted, impaired driving deaths, injuries, and crashes increased. Doing nothing or doing little is a choice, but unfortunately it's a choice that will leave this country with one of the worst records of impaired driving of any comparable developed democracy.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to speak on behalf of the company I represent, Alcohol Countermeasure Systems Corp. Alcohol Countermeasure Systems, or ACS for short, is a Canadian company with a track record stretching back more than 30 years. During that period of time, ACS has developed a well-earned reputation as a world leader in the field of alcohol ignition interlocks and interlock program services.
ACS interlocks are used in 19 countries around the world. In Canada, ACS supplies interlock devices, installation and monitoring services to offenders, and data management and reporting to jurisdictional administering authorities in all ten provinces, as well as the Yukon Territory.
Alcohol interlocks are sophisticated breath alcohol testing devices that are installed in a vehicle in a way that requires a driver to provide an alcohol-free breath sample before the vehicle can be started. Following a successful breath test and the starting of the vehicle, the alcohol interlock system requires retests at random intervals and activates an alarm if a retest is not taken and passed. In the event the alarm is allowed to remain on for an extended period, the device also initiates a countdown timer that requires the vehicle to be serviced within a few days. Failure to comply with service requirements will cause the alcohol interlock to enter what's referred to as a “lockout” state, meaning the device will not accept a breath test and consequently will prevent the vehicle from being started or operated.
The primary use of alcohol interlock technology to date has been in programs for impaired driving offenders. Such programs typically involve installation of an alcohol interlock device in an offender’s vehicle, as well as monitoring and supervision of both the use of the vehicle and the interlock device by administering authorities. The alcohol interlock records events, including breath test results, relating to the use of the device and the vehicle, and the data are recorded and downloaded as part of every service procedure for compliance monitoring purposes.
The first alcohol interlock programs for impaired driving offenders were introduced in the U.S. in the mid-1980s. Canada’s experience dates from 1990, when Alberta launched a program, followed in 1997 by Quebec. Since then, all provinces, as well as the Yukon Territory, have established alcohol interlock programs for impaired driving offenders, although many of these programs are relatively new. The Northwest Territories has enabling legislation in place, but has yet to implement an offender program of its own.
Over the years, numerous studies have been undertaken to assess the effectiveness of alcohol interlocks, resulting in a growing body of scientific evidence drawn from programs in both Canada and the U.S. In virtually every case, alcohol interlock devices installed in the vehicles of impaired driving offenders have been shown to be highly effective at preventing driving after drinking, as compared with traditional sanctions, such as licence suspension or revocation. Reductions in recidivism rates range from 75% to more than 90% in some cases.
Although alcohol interlocks are effective in preventing driving after drinking, a number of factors have limited the overall impact that offender interlock programs might otherwise have had in reducing the problem of impaired driving in Canada and elsewhere. Most, but not all, of these factors involve matters within the jurisdictional domain of provincial and territorial governments to address.
In 2008, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, or CCMTA, approved model standards for interlock programs in the hope and expectation they would serve as guidelines for provincial and territorial legislative initiatives, and in the process assist in maximizing the effectiveness of alcohol interlock programs as an impaired driving countermeasure. The key elements of the CCMTA's model interlock program standards include: mandatory participation for all impaired driving offenders; early reinstatement incentives; open-ended terms or timeframes; performance-based exit criteria; and links to treatment.
From a federal jurisdictional perspective, the most significant element of these involves early reinstatement incentives, since pressure in favour of such incentives stems from a growing body of evidence suggesting that participation in an alcohol interlock program should commence as soon as possible following the offence.
The rationale for early reinstatement is based on the observation that lengthy periods of licence suspension or revocation are not very effective as a means of getting impaired drivers off the road. A substantial portion of offenders drive under suspension, and in some cases drive after drinking. Another cause for concern involves what appears to be a growing trend among suspended or revoked drivers not to apply for reinstatement after the extended period of licence suspension or revocation has expired.
According to subsection 259(1) of the Criminal Code, persons convicted of drinking and driving offences under sections 253 and 254 are subject to a mandatory driving prohibition order for a minimum period of one year for a first offence, two years for a second offence, and three years for each subsequent offence.
Pursuant to subsection 259(1.1), offenders subject to a driving probation order who participate in a provincial alcohol interlock program and comply with the conditions of the program may operate a vehicle equipped with an alcohol interlock device during the prohibition period unless otherwise ordered by the court. However, under subsection 259(1.2), they cannot drive at all, even with an interlock installed in their vehicle, for a minimum period ranging from three months for first offenders to 12 months for third and subsequent offenders.
In light of the foregoing it is submitted that consideration should be given to amending the Criminal Code to repeal subsection 259(1.2). This is a measure that would be strongly supported by MADD Canada and other stakeholders interested in maximizing the effectiveness of alcohol interlocks and interlock programs.
Alcohol interlocks represent a promising initiative in the battle against impaired driving. That said, in order to harness the potential of this life-saving technology it is incumbent on governments at all levels to put in place a legislative framework that will maximize or at least not hinder the effectiveness of programs in which they are used.
Thank you for your attention.
I'd like to thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to reaffirm our position. For those of you who are not familiar with our organization, we are a charitable research organization established in 1964, and our focus of research worldwide is the road user. We do a lot of research on impaired drivers.
What I'd like to comment on today is the lowering of the legal limit. There has been a lot of debate about lowering the legal limit. There has been a lot of discussion regarding the scientific evidence. What we're here to do today is look beyond the scientific evidence to the practical impact on the justice system of lowering the legal limit.
Last year our organization completed a national survey of lawyers, both crown and defence counsel, all across Canada. We surveyed more than 1,000 lawyers, and we looked at a number of challenges within the justice system dealing with impaired driving cases. One of the issues we specifically focused on was lowering the legal limit.
I think it's important to point out that lowering the legal limit at a federal level would create a substantial burden on the justice system. If you look at the current situation, the criminal caseload of crown prosecutors is four times that of defence counsel. Impaired driving cases currently account for about 25% of those cases being processed through the system. About a third of the impaired driving cases involve repeat offenders. Lowering the BAC limit would substantially increase the caseloads of lawyers and erode the crown's ability to effectively prosecute higher BAC cases and higher-risk offenders. In addition, current inequities in caseload volume between crown and defence counsel would become more pronounced.
A shrinking number of cases are being resolved using plea agreements. A greater number of cases are actually proceeding to trial. Currently, of the impaired driving cases processed through the system, some 40% go to trial because defendants are not willing to negotiate a plea. Obviously, when cases go to trial, this requires more time and resources to resolve the cases.
Clearly, accused are willing to proceed to trial to avoid a criminal conviction. There's no reason to believe that those accused with lower BACs would be any more inclined to negotiate a plea agreement as opposed to going to trial, particularly when the odds of conviction at trial are low.
Defence counsel spend at least twice as many hours and up to four times as many hours as crown counsel in preparing individual cases. Again, these inequities would increase as caseloads grow.
Nationally, prosecutors report that accused are convicted in 52% of cases at trial. Of those cases going to trial, 52% of the accused are convicted. So we're not being as effective in the courtroom as we would like to be. The low likelihood of conviction erodes the specific deterrent effect of impaired driving laws and serves as an incentive for the accused to proceed to trial. In addition, the amount of time it takes for cases to be resolved in court has grown substantially and will continue to grow.
On the issue of lowering the legal BAC, fewer than 40% of crown prosecutors agree with this option.
If you look at the volume of cases currently being handled administratively at the 0.05 level, there are 47,000 cases. On average, we do about 50,000 criminal cases a year. There are 47,000 administrative suspensions, not counting Ontario, Quebec, which obviously would be implicated in 0.05, and Alberta. So we can expect the number of cases to double.
We've addressed those issues in an article that we've published in the international journal Injury Prevention, and we've published in the Criminal Law Quarterly. The reviews of the research literature are quite clear and they are consistent: lowering blood alcohol levels is extremely effective in deterring impaired driving. That's been the experience of every country that has lowered its blood alcohol level.
The other thing we should be aware of is that the vast majority of other countries around the world have made it an offence to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.05. I refer to a chart on page 5 of my submission.
Concerning the issue of the hardcore drinking driver, there is a great deal of mythology. Not that many studies have been done about the drinking history of people who are killed in impaired driving crashes. The one study that has been done, a comprehensive study by someone called Baker, in the United States, indicated that even though hardcore drinking drivers make the most impaired driving trips, only about a third of the people who are killed or responsible for fatal crashes are hardcore drinking drivers. The majority of impaired driving deaths and injuries appear in this country to be among what are called heavy episodic drinkers. A typical example is the 16- to 25-year-old male. This group represents 13% of the population but 32% of the traffic injuries. The idea that our problem is limited to hardcore drinking drivers simply doesn't appear to be borne out.
The other thing is that two studies that have been done on the impact of lowering blood alcohol levels, one in Sweden and the other in Australia, indicated that the reductions in the number of people with very high blood alcohol levels was greater when you lowered the blood alcohol level, in Sweden from 0.05 to 0.02 and in Australia from 0.08 to 0.05.
Maybe the problem is with the people you're inviting to be witnesses. I'd like to see more scientists invited and more research people invited, and fewer people who represent particular interests.
On the scenario you have described here, my colleague was crunching some numbers without a calculator while I was listening to the question. He would say that the scenario you describe would result in a person having a BAC of somewhere between 10 and 45 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood at 10:30, which is the incident time, as we toxicologists refer to it.
Certainly this is not a very high level. If you are talking about 10, that is a very low level of alcohol. However, as I indicated during my presentation, if you take a person like this to the lab and test them on some very sensitive tests with skills that are relevant to driving, you actually may see differences in the performance at 15 as compared to zero. Does that translate into unsafe driving? I don't know. At 45 you'd certainly have more. There would be more skills impaired to a greater extent, and you're going to see them in more people.
Again, you have to differentiate between impairment and what you observe. You may look at somebody at the level of 50, 100, or even 200, and you might not see anything in terms of how they behave. It depends upon what they are doing. If they're just standing there and a police officer is talking to them, they might not show any signs of intoxication, particularly if they are tolerant, going back to your earlier question. If you put them in a car and put them into a very complex driving situation where there are a lot of things happening, where they have to integrate a variety of stimuli from the environment, like observing traffic signs, traffic signals, other cars, and pedestrians, and they have to process all this information, what alcohol does is it causes less information to come in and to be processed at a slower rate. In that aspect, a person would have decreased ability to operate a motor vehicle even at 15, certainly more at 45, and even more at the 100 or 200 level.
I would disagree with you, sir. Driving is not a right in this country. Driving is a licensed activity. It is a privilege, so the example you give with the airport is irrelevant.
Also, the courts have already dealt with the issue of whether a government can require random screening to enter a public building. The last time I was here the security seized my shaving cream three times. I was searched. I was scanned three times. We, in this room, believe that the state interest in protecting parliamentarians justifies random search of my person and my property. The courts have addressed this issue and upheld random screening and searching for entering public buildings and courts.
If you look at the statistics on deaths and injuries in Parliament and in government buildings and you look at the deaths and injuries in terms of roadways, there is no comparison. I would suggest to you that the state interest, in terms of random breath testing, the number of lives we would save—probably something like 20% reduction in traffic deaths and injuries—warrants that interference with the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. You're right, it is random search, but drivers are already subject to random stopping. Drivers are already subject to random search. Police officers can demand to see my licence and insurance. That's a random search.
The state interest in making sure you are sober is greater than the state interest in making sure you have your insurance and licence with you. That is the reason why. As between random breath testing and 0.05, the evidence is clear. The random breath testing will have a greater impact on reducing deaths and injuries.
Thank you to all the witnesses for your excellent presentations and for your interest in this very important matter.
My first questions are to Professor Solomon. With all due respect, Doctor, I disagree with your assessment that random breath testing would survive charter scrutiny.
You're arguing by analogy that individuals who board planes and enter government buildings and courthouses are all subject to some sort of search. I certainly agree with that. I boarded a plane today, and I suspect you may have as well, and you've certainly all entered this Parliament building. But I would suggest that every individual who boarded the plane that I boarded had to subject themselves to walking through a metal detector, and their carry-on luggage went through an X-ray machine.
There are eight witnesses, and you can tell me if I'm wrong, but I suspect that each and every one of you went through a metal detector. If you had a briefcase, it went through an X-ray machine. Am I wrong?
Mr. Brent Rathgeber: So I'm suggesting to you, Doctor, that this is not random. It is quite different from what you're suggesting in terms of pulling over drivers and making them submit to some sort of roadside screening device. Putting it in the form of a question, do you agree with me that your analogy with respect to public buildings and airplanes is not a proper analogy?
Mr. Solomon, I want to pursue the line of questioning of my friend, Mr. Rathgeber.
The kind of model you're proposing, where all the cars go through and each one is tested...you may call it random because the test locations move from place to place, but that is certainly not random. You simply plant yourself in one place and you test everyone going through. I don't know how random that is. It's a random location, but not random testing. That's the first point.
The second point I want to make with you is that there's obviously real crime, whether it's the gangs, whether it's carnage on the roads. I am actually afraid. I came to this country in 1968. I came from Britain. Prior to that I grew up in India. I'm afraid that every year the level of fear and the intensity of fear created in the minds of Canadians is going up, in the way we express ourselves about issues. And when fear goes up, people give in very readily to the prescription of the limiting of their liberties and freedoms.
This is a much larger question. I know there's carnage on the roads. There are alternative ways of dealing with those issues. I want to put to you that it may be constitutionally valid, ultimately, for us to do what you're suggesting. I don't know whether it would be. It might be. But is it desirable to focus on that, rather than on the other alternatives that can get us to the same point?
Thank you for that question.
The problem is that there are no alternatives that can get us to that same point, and that's what all the research indicates.
In 2006 we had 1,278 impaired driving deaths, 77,000 injuries, and 220,000 damaged cars. That's the status quo. The question I want to ask this committee is this. How are we going to reduce that? I don't see a whole lot of other measures available. The research also indicates that, of all the measures we can do, random breath testing—and I know you object to the term, but that's what it's called—is the most effective. The question is—there's no answer to this question, and I think we all have to answer that in our hearts—does the state interest, does the public interest, in traffic safety justify this unreasonable search and seizure, because it's without individualized suspicion? Given that impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in this country, given that your chances of being killed in an impaired driving crash are twice as great as your chances of being murdered, given that a disproportionate number of the victims of impaired driving deaths and injuries are young people, I answer that question yes.
Now, one of the things I find interesting is that I think we overinvest, probably, and the media certainly gets overinvested, in spectacular crime and we don't look at the much greater causes of death and injuries on our roads. So my own personal view is, yes, it is a violation; it's an unreasonable search and seizure. I think it is wholly justifiable, and I think the interests of the public justify this intrusion.
I too, like Mr. Bagnell, served on the justice committee in the 39th Parliament. I have to say we didn't meet in the afternoons—we actually met in the mornings—and Mr. Bagnell, through great strain and consternation, subjected himself to an alcohol intake so he could be tested on the machine, if you will. It was an amazing sacrifice he made that morning, and he proved that the machine did work. So it was a case study that was well documented.
This is a question to you, Mr. Robertson. I'm sorry, I can't quite see you; we're on the same side of the table here.
We didn't quite take this approach, in terms of getting into the details of our court system and where things stood as part of the rationale as to whether or not we should lower to 0.05 from 0.08. You talked a lot about the defence counsel, or mentioned the defence counsel, and the amount of time it takes to prepare for a case. Could you take me through that a little bit, to suggest why it takes so much longer for the defence to prepare a case in this regard than it does for the crown?
I thank the witnesses for having come this afternoon. I have already seen several of you during the last session, when we were discussing drug-impaired driving rather than alcohol. We are now trying to review the changes that we might make to blood alcohol levels and driving impaired by alcohol. Let us set drug-impaired driving aside and concentrate only on alcohol. That is the subject in fact of my question.
We are discussing amending the Criminal Code. As I always say, the Criminal Code is philosophy. It governs what we do in our daily lives and determines whether or not we will be punished. The Criminal Code is part and parcel of who we are.
My question is either for Mr. Andrew Murie or for Mr. Solomon. In some provinces, if an adult is smoking a cigarette in his or her car while accompanied by children, they can be charged and convicted of an offence. To my knowledge, cigarettes do not alter a person's faculties, but that person can nevertheless be convicted. In the same province, a driver can get behind the wheel of a car with a BAC under 0.08% with children in the car, and not be charged with anything and continue on his way.
I am really wondering about this, and I need your assistance. I want to believe that we should all end up with a 0.05% level. I would however like to know what makes you want to reduce the legal BAC to 0.05%, given that in some provinces, smoking a simple cigarette in a car where there are children can result in a conviction, whereas a driver with a BAC below 0.08% driving a car in which there are children will not be charged.
I would like to hear what you have to say about that comparison. If we are going to review the legislation, you will have to at least tell us what your motivation is, scientific principles aside, in wanting to reduce the legal blood alcohol level to 0.05%.
I have a question for you, Ms. Robertson. Earlier on, you raised a very interesting subject, that is the bottlenecks in the court system due to the higher number of cases that might be heard if the legal blood alcohol level was 0.05%.
I would like to point out one thing to you. This is true in the case of Ontario, where legal aid fees are paid by the hour. The more time a lawyer takes before the court, the more he is paid. In my province, Quebec, we work on a case basis. The maximum amount that a lawyer can be paid for arguing a case of this nature is approximately $500. He or she must appear, receive the evidence from the Crown, set a date and attend the trial. The trial lasts from eight to ten hours, including the time spent waiting for the case to be called. On average, a lawyer works for approximately 20 hours and earns $500. In Quebec, people plead guilty.
There is perhaps a problem that is not in the purview of the federal government but rather of the provinces, who have a different way of dealing with cases before the court. In Ontario, half of the cases are subsidized through legal aid on an hourly basis, and not a case-by-case basis.
Did you look at the differences between Quebec and Ontario?