I assure you, I will be very conservative with the use of my time.
Good afternoon, everyone.
My name is Steven Blaney. I'm here today as an MP.
I would also like to greet you, Mr. Chair, as well as the hon. members of the committee.
I am very proud to be with you today. I would first like to congratulate you on the work you're doing on Bill , which deals with impaired driving. Right off the bat, I would say that the approach is non-partisan.
Today, we have the opportunity to advance legislation that will save lives. I think it's really politics at its best, and I'm very proud to be part of it.
I would also like to mention that Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu is here. He will sponsor the bill in the Senate.
If it is the pleasure of the committee, the bill will be referred to the Senate for further study until it is passed and becomes law.
The sooner we pass this bill, the sooner we can say, as parliamentarians of this legislature, that we have helped to save people's lives.
This bill is all about saving Canadian lives in a non-partisan way. You may find part of it was inspired by a former Conservative bill, with additions from the people of MADD, who are with us today. I salute their president.
The thing is that, when working on these files, you always meet with people who've unfortunately experienced the loss of a loved one because of impaired driving. It's the same thing for Families For Justice. I thank Markita and Sheri for being here today. We will have the chance to hear the witnesses in the second part.
You are all familiar with the bill. It's fairly simple. It has three legs. The first one deals with streamlining the judicial process, mainly in two areas: the bogus defence and the last drink. Over time, some loopholes have been used to prevent the law and the sentences from being imposed. It's time to fix those loopholes. That's the first part of the bill.
The second part of the bill is with regard to impaired driving. It suggests implementing mandatory minimum sentences. I know there are discussions on this, but I'll come back to it later on.
The third part is with regard to mandatory screening. This is an addition from the former Conservative bill, which came from a long discussion I had with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and after reviewing legal advice, namely from Dr. Hogg, with whom you are probably very familiar. He stated, clearly, that a public road is a place where the law should fully apply and that it is a privilege to drive a car. When I drive a car, I must have a driver's licence and respect the rules of the road, but I also need to be sober. Not meeting one of those requirements is not complying with the law, and at any time I am in a public place, especially on the road, a police officer should have the power to make sure I comply with the law. I'm not in my living room. I am on the road.
Dr. Hogg clearly demonstrated that this is fully compliant with the Charter of Rights, and that it is also very reasonable in a society like ours. Actually, it is done in many countries around the world. As you know, it has proven to be effective in saving lives.
We are losing three to four lives every day. I come from Quebec City. Last week we lost six members of our community as a result of a heinous crime. There are no words to say how horrible that was. However, this is almost happening on a daily basis in our country, and we can stop this. We can stop this by implementing rules that have been proven to save lives. That's what is in front of you.
Mr. Chair, I will continue in French and come back to one particular issue, minimum sentences.
During the last legislature, Bill and Bill were introduced by Randy Hoback and Mark Warawa, respectively, two Conservative colleagues I hold in great esteem.
First, I have a recommendation for an amendment to the bill. I would like to include in Bill C-226 the provision for vehicular homicide, which was set out in Bill . We want to prevent reoffenders from hitting people on the road. I am making this suggestion because we have to do everything in our power through the legislation and the Criminal Code to really reduce the leading cause of death on the roads.
My colleague Randy Hoback, who introduced Bill , told me that if a person is caught with double the allowable limit of blood alcohol, a more severe penalty should be imposed.
My remarks are for my Liberal colleagues, and I know they aren't always comfortable with minimum sentences. In April 2015, the hon. member for supported the private member's bill of my colleague Randy Hoback. I am truly taking a non-partisan approach. You will have realized, of course, that I am talking about Prime Minister Trudeau. At the time, he said:
|| As a result of this change [vehicular homicide], a conviction would carry additional weight, and hopefully provide a greater deterrent to would-be impaired drivers.
Dear colleagues, my question to you is, can we afford all these rhetorical discussions if we can save one life by making sure that someone spends at least one more year in jail instead of being on the road and risking the lives of others? That's what I pose to you.
I believe as parliamentarians we should send a strong signal to people causing death while impaired, while being under the influence of alcohol. We've seen in the past that the sentence for causing death has increased, but we have to encourage judges and tribunals to impose a fairly reasonable minimum sentence. I feel that four years is really low, but this is sending the signal that this is the bar. We need to push even further for maximum sentences.
Mr. Trudeau further wrote to Families For Justice regarding Bill , a second private member's bill that was tabled by Randy Hoback. He said:
||The bill will increase penalties against anyone who drives while severely intoxicated, and will also increase the penalties for impaired driving causing death.
Yes, we can support the bill in a non-partisan way. This is a bill that is crafted to meet one target, saving Canadian lives.
I'd like to give you an example.
A man wiped out an entire family in Saguenay in August 2015. Some people here have had similar experiences and have transformed their grief into motivation.
Mr. Di Iorio, I admire you. I also admire your daughter's courage and her taxi project. These are very good initiatives. So it is possible to transform this grief into action to prevent other lives from being wiped out. That's precisely the purpose of the bill before us today.
As you can see, I sent a lot of documentation.
How much time do I have left, Mr. Chair?
Thank you for your question.
I would like to mention that we all, meaning parliamentarians, politicians and the government, are going to benefit from legislation that would help to save lives.
Part of my bill is intended to eliminate the last drink defence, which means that when drivers claim that they have a blood alcohol level of more than 80 mg per 100 ml of blood at the time of the test because they consumed a certain amount of alcohol immediately before taking the wheel. In other words, those drivers didn't have anything to drink all night, but just before leaving, they quickly drank one glass, got behind the wheel and had an accident. At the time of the accident, those drivers may not have been drunk, but when the police arrested them, they were. However, several of their friends stated that they hadn't had anything to drink all night except for right before leaving.
It has been shown that this defence is a way of circumventing the law and shirking responsibility. The claim is that the alcohol was not yet in the system at the time of the accident. Bill therefore also seeks to limit the post-driving defence. That's the other mechanism being proposed.
So I encourage you, if you haven't already done so, to invite representatives from the Department of Justice to appear. They will be able to give you further details about this.
This bill has been prepared by Department of Justice officials. So I am confident that the measures being recommended are fully in line with the constitutional requirements. The objective is to reduce the number of judicial proceedings so that a decision can be made and the victims and taxpayers are not penalized. We need to remember that when a case is brought before the courts, all taxpayers are forced to pay the costs.
First, I want to thank you, Mr. Miller—I will not say Larry today—thank you very much. You have raised a very important and critical point. My answer to you is that this bill is built, I would say, like a chair. Taking out one leg of the chair impacts the whole efficiency of the bill. This bill has a strong deterrence part—the mandatory minimum sentences—that has many benefits. I would say that if a person represents a threat to society, the longer this person is behind bars, the longer this person can get rehabilitation or help for, I would say, overcoming what I would call, probably, an addiction.
That's the first part.
The second part is, as I've mentioned, the streamlining of the process. We may have the best laws in town or in the world, but if our judicial system is jammed by bogus defence, there's a denial of justice.
A third aspect is this. How can we make sure that, from the start, we prevent those people—and I could include myself—from driving while being impaired? Well, all the questions lead to one answer. The only way we can prevent someone from getting the key of his car and turning it on is through the fear of being caught by the police.
We are human beings. It has been shown that the most effective prevention to keep someone who is intoxicated from driving is the fear of being stopped by the police.
That's the core and everybody agrees. That's why this bill got such overwhelming support from police officers, from families, from justice, from MADD. It is clearly demonstrated. They will be probably able to explain in a way better manner than I can that if you feel you could get caught by the police when driving while being impaired, you won't do it.
Thank you for your question, Mr. Dubé.
Once again, I am pleased to take a break from the leadership race because I think this topic is a very relevant one. In fact, today I presented my themes on justice, with Senator Boisvenu's support.
To answer your question, it is complementary. This is consistent with my political actions in the past 10 years. In all sincerity, I want to emphasize that my political experience with Mr. Harper has made me very familiar with the plight of victims. I wasn't necessarily aware of this issue previously. Very early in my years as an MP, I had the opportunity to meet people who had experienced personal trauma. That does not leave me indifferent. That is why we have moved forward.
Going back to your question on minimum sentences, know this. Currently, a sentence for a charge of impaired driving causing death is approximately seven years or seven and a half years. The last sentence that was brought to my attention was seven and a half years. I suggest that we have a four-year threshold. That's really a floor. In fact, you might blame me for proposing a minimum sentence that is too low. Actually, I don't see how we could go lower than a threshold like that.
This sends a signal to our judicial system that a minimum threshold has been established and that, depending on the nature of the crime, it can go much further with the consecutive sentences, as proposed in the bill.
Know that I have full confidence in the judicial system. However, as parliamentarians, we have to send signals that reflect the public's disapproval and disgust toward a certain responsible inertia, even today, with the fact that four people will die on our roads. That's four deaths too many. From that perspective, it seems entirely relevant that we propose measures and minimum sentences that are very conservative.
Yes, absolutely. Thank you for the question.
As you mentioned, two of the three main elements of this bill are the same as the one I introduced with my colleague Peter MacKay and which was the subject of legal confirmation. As for routine screening, I would say that it is a legal type of Kalachnikov. That's really what Mr. Hogg thinks. I've already had the opportunity to share this opinion, and I can provide it again.
This clearly shows—and also responds to Mr. Miller's question—that there is no violation of individual freedoms if, on a highway, a person is abiding by the traffic regulations, has a valid driver's licence and is intoxicated.
Obviously, it has nothing to do with someone in his living room on a Saturday night, on his private property and can do what he wants. However, being able to use public roads is a privilege we're given, but that comes with obligations. In that respect, the legal opinion of Mr. Hogg, who I am told is a very well-respected jurist in Canada, clearly established that there was—
Mr. Blaney, fellow members, and representatives of MADD and Families for Justice, I want you to know just how valuable your contribution here today is. Your initiative and efforts are admirable, indeed.
You referred to the experience I had and continue to have, and the way to change that experience. Tomorrow, across the river, in Gatineau, my daughter will lead public consultations on the subject on behalf of the Quebec government. The issue continues to solicit a lot of hard work.
I went through every stage of the experience, but, of course, I'm not here as a witness. The only stage I didn't have to deal with was death. I know that people here today have had to deal with it, and my thoughts are with them. Every stage has consequences and causes pain.
As you know, I'm a lawyer. I have questions, therefore, about the legislative provisions and policy.
In the experience my family and I went through, many things affected me, one being the little regard given to victims. I had to get involved on a professional level, and I would say that being a lawyer made a difference. Had I not been a lawyer, my daughter's assailant would not have been found guilty or sent to prison. Too many elements would have escaped our attention, and our family would've had to hire a lawyer.
Even though I am a lawyer, I did at one point question whether I should have hired another lawyer. Being fortunate enough to have friends and colleagues who supported me, I didn't have to do so in the formal sense.
Mr. Blaney, you introduced a private member's bill. You used to be a minister and part of cabinet. I have a vision of what a comprehensive solution to the problem could look like. The current system has huge gaps in terms of the way victims and families are treated and the support they receive. That has a direct impact on prevention.
You were part of the government for a long time. Why are you not introducing a more comprehensive solution? I'm not quite sure as to why, but you are repealing or moving some of the sections. First, I'd like you to address that and, then, discuss what a comprehensive solution might look like.
I want to begin by applauding your compassion for victims and recognizing the understanding you have of this issue on a personal level, unfortunately.
Just recently, in fact, I was speaking with victims, and one of them told me that they felt as though they were not being heard and that their input was not wanted. I am very proud of Senator Boisvenu's work on the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. I think we have a collective responsibility to address these issues.
I am calling on you because you belong to the government party. A victims bill of rights was introduced. Now it is time to give full force to the principles of consultation, respect consideration, and compensation it sets out.
This bill merely marks the beginning of a new chapter. Clearly, we must do more to support victims. Something I often hear is that individuals who commit vehicular homicide should be punished appropriately. Currently, a sense of injustice exists because sentences are seen as being too lenient. Driving while under the influence is considered a crime. The Criminal Code says so, in fact. As I see it, one way to give victims what they need is to introduce minimum sentences.
This private member's bill is extremely ambitious, particularly in comparison with a bill that seeks simply to establish a tree day, and I say that with all due respect. This piece of legislation is very ambitious, but it relies on the work done in this area.
Again, systematic breath testing will represent a major step towards achieving that overall vision. The legislation before you today, Bill , is a step in the right direction, meaning a step towards a more comprehensive solution that improves the situation of victims.
Thank you, Mr. Blaney, for joining us today, along with witnesses from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and Families For Justice. Thank you for your advocacy, for your championship of the issue, and for bringing it to us.
I want to pick up on comments and questions raised by my colleague Ms. Watts. The first one I want to go to with you is the question of randomness and whether randomness is even the right term. The legislation, as it's framed right now, makes reference to randomness only in the title of a paragraph, and it doesn't seem to have any legal import. It basically says, “If a peace officer has in his or her possession an approved screening device, the...officer may, by demand, require the person who is operating a conveyance” to submit himself or herself to a test.
Some people might say few, if any, things in the human mind are ever random. The only way to really achieve true randomness would be to have a machine that's at the point of the decision of whether to test or not. It would then have a button and when you pushed the button, it would spit out a binary yes or no. That would be random. Everything else might be subject to some allegation that it's not random. If an officer, for example, were to pull over only black pickup trucks in a certain neighbourhood, then the complainant might say it's not random and challenge the legislation on the basis of a non-randomness defence.
In your exchange with my colleague Mr. Miller, you said that you want to avoid having the courts jammed up with bogus defences. Is it randomness we're after, or is it really the full discretion of an officer to do whatever she decides at the roadside, regardless of whether reasonable and probable grounds persist, to the effect that anybody at any time could be pulled over, randomly or not, and be subjected to a test?
First of all, I want to thank you for this opportunity to come here to speak on behalf of MADD Canada, my family, and victims of impaired driving. My name is Patricia Hynes-Coates. I'm the national president for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Like so many volunteers who've reached out to MADD, I too have lost a loved one. On August 16, 2013, my stepson, Nicholas Coates, was killed by an impaired driver. He was riding his motorcycle to work that day when he was struck by a pickup truck. The man who struck Nicholas had been drinking the night before and the morning of the crash.
Nicholas was a son; he was my stepson. He was a brother, an uncle, a fiancé. He was a hard-working, remarkable young man. He was a civil engineer. He was only 27 years old. Nicholas's loss has devastated so many people. It has forever altered our family, his friends, and his community. His death was completely senseless. There's no way to describe the pain that Nicholas's whole family is going through or how deeply it is felt every waking hour. It feels like a lifetime since I've heard his laughter or seen his smile, yet it still seems like it was only yesterday. We are left with only the broken pieces of who we once were.
The day we brought Nicholas to his final resting place, his dad and I vowed that his life would not be lost in vain. We promised him that we would fight this fight to combat impaired driving, and we promised him that we would bring changes so that no other family would have to suffer a loss from this senseless crime.
It is that promise to Nicholas that has led me here today. I am here to provide a voice for those who can no longer speak for themselves. I am here to speak on behalf of Nicholas and victims of impaired driving. As a mom, a grandmother, and a wife, I know fully well that once we lose someone, we can't bring them back. I live in constant fear for my other children, for my grandchildren, and for the lives of all Canadians, so I am here to encourage the government to move forward with mandatory screening as outlined in Bill . Giving the police the authority to conduct mandatory screening will significantly reduce impaired driving rates. This is one of the most effective tools we can introduce to prevent road crashes and save lives. The introduction of mandatory screening in Canada will be a major step forward in our fight to stop impaired driving.
I'd like to thank you for allowing me to speak on behalf of my family, and I would now like to turn this over to our CEO, Andrew Murie.
First of all, I'd like to thank your national president, Patricia, for her courage in sharing her story and for being here to represent thousands of victims of impaired driving across Canada.
MADD Canada has submitted two documents to the committee for consideration, giving full detail on our background positions.
In my remarks here today, I will focus specifically on what we consider the most important issue in Bill , and in fact what we consider to be the most important impaired driving countermeasure available, random breath testing, or as we like to refer to it, mandatory screening.
The other measures in the bill that we support are evidentiary and procedural changes which, if enacted, would address some of the technical concerns with the existing law, questionable court decisions, and other obstacles to effectively enforcing and prosecuting impaired driving. Fewer impaired drivers would evade criminal responsibility due to factors unrelated to their criminal conduct, and those convicted would be subject to more onerous sanctions.
With regard to Canada's record on impaired driving, in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States released a report indicating that Canada has the highest percentage of alcohol-related crash deaths, 33.6%, among a study of 20 wealthy nations. This is an embarrassment for our country and a clear indication that our federal government needs to move forward on impaired driving legislation.
While MADD Canada strongly supports and promotes new legislation that focuses very specifically on deterrence, we need to deter people from driving when they've consumed too much alcohol. We need to deter people before they cause a crash that kills or injures someone. What we need to do is to authorize police to use mandatory screening.
Before proceeding to the merits of mandatory screening, I need to correct some misperceptions about the term we have talked about, “random breath testing”. Random breath testing best practices mandate that all vehicles are checked and that all drivers stopped must present a breath sample. RBT operates the same way as mandatory screening procedures at airports, at Parliament Hill, courts, and government buildings. Some witnesses have claimed that RBT will open the door to police harassment, discrimination, and the targeting of visible minorities. We have found no such concerns about police impropriety in the RBT research literature or in practice.
With regard to Canada's current system of what we call SBT, selective breath testing, only drivers reasonably suspected of drinking can be tested. Studies have shown that the SBT system misses a significant portion of legally impaired drivers. They miss 90% of people with blood alcohol concentration levels between 0.05 and 0.079, and they miss 60% of drivers with BACs over our current legal limit of 0.08.
In its 2009 report, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights stated that the current methods of enforcing the law lead to police apprehending only a small percentage of impaired drivers, even at roadside traffic stops designed to detect and deter impaired driving. This does not speak well for the deterrent effect of Canada's impaired driving laws.
As a member of Parliament, , stated in Parliament on June 9, 2016:
||The realization that they cannot avoid giving a breath sample at roadside will have a very significant deterrent effect on people who may choose to drink and drive. I would like to advise the House that this deterrent effect has been demonstrated countless times in many other countries.
I'd like to use the example of Ireland. When Ireland brought in RBT in 2006, they had 365 fatalities. In 2015, that number had dropped to 166, a 54.5% decrease. There were 907 serious injuries in 2006. In 2015, there were 365, a 59.8% decrease. There were 18,650 charges in 2006. In 2015, there were 6,900 charges, a 63% decrease. Not only does it save lives, not only does it stop serious injuries, it also reduces the volume of impaired driving charges in our courtrooms. Any witness who comes forward saying it will clog up the...it just doesn't happen. It never has. It never will.
Canada would likely see crash reductions in the range of about 20% because Canada has adopted a lot of the measures that some of these other countries have adopted as well. There's still room for significant improvement in Canada as well. We estimate the 20% reduction would prevent more than 200 deaths and stop 12,000 serious injuries in this country.
We also estimate that RBT, in its first year in Canada, would save the system $4.3 billion. We've done a number of surveys on public support for RBT. The interesting thing is once RBT is enacted, public support goes up. Australia brought in RBT 1985 to 1990. By 2002, 98.2% of Queensland drivers supported RBT. There is already broad support for RBT in Canada. In a 2009 survey, 66% of Canadians supported legislation authorizing police to conduct RBT. In 2010, an Ipsos Reid survey found that 77% of Canadians either strongly support or somewhat support the introduction of RBT. When informed of RBT's potential to reduce impaired driving deaths, 80% agreed that RBT is a reasonable intrusion on drivers in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Our legal director, Professor Robert Solomon, concluded that RBT would be found consistent with the charter. Dr. Peter Hogg concurred with our charter analysis. More importantly, Dr. Hogg independently concluded in a formal written legal opinion he sent to MADD Canada that RBT would not violate the charter. It is essential to put RBT in the context of accepted screening procedures routinely used at Canadian airports. In 2015, an estimated 131 million passengers got on and off planes in Canada. It is not uncommon for them to take off their shoes, their belts, their jewellery, carry-on items swabbed for explosive residue, be scanned for weapons, and submit to pat-down searches. It is not uncommon to wait 10 or 15 minutes to be subject to these screening and search procedures. Such procedures are accepted because they serve a public safety function.
Put bluntly, far more Canadians are killed in alcohol-related crashes every year than by attacks on airplanes. Like airport procedures, RBT is consistent with the charter. In conclusion, MADD Canada would strongly urge Parliament to show leadership and enact the RBT provisions in Bill .
I want to thank everybody, and I realize there are time constraints. I hope that everybody was sent the link to a quick five-minute video, because that video was meant to depict truly what every family that has lost someone goes through. It's not meant to be just my own tragedy.
We all know safety is a non-partisan issue, and we know it's everybody's concern. I'm speaking to you today not as a legal expert, that's for certain. We're not a vast organization with a lot of resources. I'm just a regular Canadian citizen. Most important, I am a victim. On November 26, 2011, my son and his two friends were coming home when a drunk driver, who was about three times over the limit, went straight through my son Bradley's little car from behind. He drove literally right through his car at 200 kilometres an hour. I don't have to tell you how horrific this was. There was nothing left of my son. He had to be identified by his dental records. He was 18 years old. He had just graduated.
After that, the offender was charged. It took close to three years for it to conclude in court: 31 court appearances. We went through a preliminary trial. We went through a full trial. He was also charged with manslaughter. He killed three young men, and he was given five years for the manslaughter and three years for impaired driving causing death. It took three years for it to conclude, and this April I'm attending his hearing for full parole. He will have served, out of his eight years for killing three young men, approximately two and three-quarter years. Because he's a first-time offender, he will get out on full parole, most likely.
That's why I speak for the mandatory side of things. With the considerations for early parole, for day parole, and then full parole, the time served in jail is really not even close to the four-year mandatory minimum.
We all know that all kinds of people, all walks of life, are willing to get behind the wheel and drive drunk because the chances of getting caught are very low. There are not enough police resources to catch every drunk driver. People like to go out and celebrate. At my son's age, Friday night was a celebration, just because it was Friday. We know people like to go out and celebrate, but the chances of getting caught are so low, and when a terrible tragedy happens the sentences are very lenient.
It seems that our judges perceive a lot of it as a tragic accident, an unfortunate accident. That's how it's been told to me in many courtrooms I've been in for other families. They call it an unfortunate accident. Well, I don't call it that. This is now 2017, and I call getting behind the wheel while drunk “wilful”. To me, in this day and age, after 30 years of education, anyone who decides to make that choice is acting wilfully.
That was the one common theme I always found: the sentences are very lenient. With parole eligibility, there's not much time in there.
I'll just try to close quickly so my partner Markita can speak.
Someone over there said that victims are given so little consideration, and that is very true. Offenders have every right in the world. They have a right to an expert defence. They have a right to appeal. The victim has one right. My one right is to prepare a victim impact statement and present it. That is the only right I get.
The real victims—I'm family of a victim—have no rights. My son is in the ground.
In closing, impaired driving is of great public concern. We all know that. I know for a fact that Canadians all want stiffer penalties for this. I want our current government to take this opportunity. If it doesn't get done here, I know future governments will get this done, because it's necessary. We are losing four people a day and close to 200 are injured every single day in Canada.
Thank you for inviting me to be here today.
My name is Markita Kaulius, and I am the president of the Families For Justice society. Families For Justice is a non-profit organization made up of parents, family members, loved ones, and supporters who have all had a child or loved one killed by an impaired driver in Canada.
My 22-year-old daughter Kassandra was killed on May 3, 2011. She was coming home from a softball game and had the right of way to make a left turn. Kassandra was struck in the driver's side door at 103 kilometres an hour by an impaired driver, and she was left to die as the impaired driver ran away from the collision scene. The driver was speeding through an intersection on a red light that had been red for 12 seconds. Kassandra lost her life because an impaired driver made the choice to drink and then drive while being impaired.
Impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. Each year impaired driving leaves a terrible legacy of death, heartbreak, injury, and destruction. From the point of view of numbers alone, it has a far greater impact on Canadian society than any other crime. In terms of the deaths and serious injuries resulting in hospitalization, lost work time, and rehabilitation, impaired driving is clearly the crime that causes the most significant loss in this country. Stats show it is costing Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars to deal with the aftermath of impaired driving. When the health and social costs for death, injuries, and damages to vehicles are included, costs related to impaired driving from alcohol and other drugs were estimated to be over $20.6 billion in 2010 alone. Every dollar earned by the liquor industry costs the government three dollars in rehabilitation fees.
Many millions of Canadians continue to drink and drive because they can do so with very little fear of being stopped, let alone charged or convicted. Recent survey results indicate that one could drive once a week for more than three years before ever being charged with an impaired driving offence, and for over six years without ever being convicted.
Among those accused of impaired driving whose cases were handled by a criminal court in 2014-15, at least 16% had been charged in a previous impaired driving case within the past 10 years in the same jurisdiction, regardless of whether they were found guilty or not. Moreover, cases of impaired driving causing death or bodily harm are more likely, at 20%, to involve an accused who had prior contact with the courts for impaired driving offences. The same trend was observed in cases where the accused refused to provide a blood, breath, or urine sample, at 21%.
Over the past 30 years, we've had education. We've had awareness, and MADD continues to do impaired driving campaigns, but we still continue to see impaired driving as the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. On average we're losing the lives of 1,250 to 1,500 people per year in Canada, and over 60,000 people are injured annually.
This is a crime that's 100% preventable. The figures work out to the deaths of four to six people per day in Canada, and roughly 190 a day are injured. The types of sentences we've seen are criminal in themselves. We've seen sentences of one day in jail and 90 days to be served on weekends. We had a crime in Surrey where two girls were killed. One left six children orphaned. It was the gentleman's third impaired driving charge, and he got a sentence of a $1,500 fine and seven weekends in jail.
Those are no deterrents, and those are the types of sentences we see. These types of sentences let Canadians know that you can drink and drive while being impaired, and should you kill someone in Canada, you will only receive a minimal sentence for taking a life. We believe that, if a life is involved, there should be a minimum mandatory sentence of five years or more for causing a death. The crime is no longer considered an acceptable accident in our society. We agree that mandatory minimum sentences are not for all crimes, but they should be a strong signal for the public to know that, if you kill an innocent person, you will be held accountable for the crime that you have committed in killing that innocent person.
Some may argue that there was no intent because the impaired driver didn't plan to cause a collision on purpose. There are no “accidents” in impaired driving. Accidents happen due to weather conditions or mechanical failures. Impaired driving is a choice. It is a choice made by a reckless individual who makes the decision to put others at risk on the roadway and highway, and they leave a terrible trail of destruction and death.
The victims who died received a death sentence; the families left behind will serve a lifetime sentence. The individuals who caused these deaths are serving the least amount of time. A two-year sentence will get you about six months in jail, and then you're on parole. The victims who were killed received a death sentence. Neither judges nor lawmakers can make these families whole again; however, you, as members of Parliament, can and must work towards preventing the next tragedies.
Currently in Canada if someone is convicted of causing the death of another person by using a gun or a knife, they will be sentenced from seven to 10 years to life. Why is it that after killing someone in an impaired driving collision, our jail sentences are so much less?
Thousands of Canadians are dying each year due to impaired driving collisions. The shock, the loss, the grief, is just as strong as when a loved one has been killed by an impaired driver. These crimes are vehicular homicides; they are not accidents in any way.
As you can see on the screen, that is my daughter's car. She was hit at 103 kilometres an hour. Any vehicle in the hands of an impaired driver becomes a lethal weapon. A speeding vehicle in the hands of an impaired driver is like a 2,000- to 3,000-pound weapon, which they're steering aimlessly down a roadway. It does far more damage than a knife or a gun ever could.
Families For Justice has submitted a petition to the government with over 117,000 names asking for tougher sentences. We would like to see new impaired driving laws, including mandatory minimum sentencing for impaired driving causing a death. Currently, you can kill someone and you would get a $1,000 fine.
In speaking with other Canadians over the last five and a half years, I know they also want to see tougher prison sentences handed down, because they recognize that the current education campaigns are just not working. We're having too many deaths.
Families For Justice has received support from the RCMP in Alberta in K division, the RCMP in E Division, the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Alberta Federation of Police Associations, the Edmonton Police Service, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. They all support us in our efforts to bring about changes to Canada's impaired driving laws. Those are the organizations and the very people who are faced with the reality of impaired driving and who deal with the aftermath.
Bradley. I fully realize you never were given that cruel option so all my thoughts are very heartfelt towards you and your continuing suffering. I want to commend you for what you're doing on a daily basis.
You mentioned things like this is not an accident. I'm still at a loss as to why a sophisticated society like ours cannot come up with the proper terminology. It's 100% preventable. I keep emphasizing the fact about the victims because if you realize there's a real victim, and you're confronted with the victims....
People did that to you. They were never confronted with you except in a very minor role. You mentioned a victim statement. I believe that has to be emphasized. That has to be amplified. That has to be given a real role, because if people are faced with somebody, and the people they harm, I think that would certainly create another level of consciousness that we currently don't have.
I commend Mr. for his efforts and his journey in carrying on with this bill. But for a moment I would like you to set it aside because what I want to hear from you is about a comprehensive approach. We have a problem in this country, and it's not a small problem. It's 1,500 people dying. If this was a war and we had lost 1,500 people last year, this Parliament would be paralyzed. It would be the sole focus of what we'd be doing.
I want you to consider this in your answers, please. My question is therefore not about Bill . It's about your preference in having the government using all the tools at its disposal and coming up with legislation dealing with this.
My own daughter, who survived, is initiating public hearings tomorrow across the river. Why? Because she's working with the provincial government, and they have tools we don't have in a private member's bill. I would like to hear you on your preference in having our government adopting legislation on this matter.