, seconded by the member for , moved:
That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 15.
That Bill C-46, in Clause 31.1, be amended by replacing line 11 on page 41 with the following:
“ed by this Act that includes an evaluation of whether the provisions have resulted in differential impacts on particular groups likely to be targeted based on prohibited grounds of discrimination, and prepare a report setting out”
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak to my amendments to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
That is a very benign title. It does not tell us what we are debating. We are debating a bill that would deal with, I think all of us in the House can agree, the critical issue of doing whatever we can to reduce the loss of life and accidents, which are so damaging to society, caused by people who drink and drive or drive under the influence of other intoxicants. The bill deals with substance abuse and getting behind the wheel of a car.
We all know the statistics, but they are absolutely devastating to imagine, as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a group I support, points out. Mothers Against Drunk Driving's estimate is that in Canada, every day, on average, four people are killed in automobile crashes. If we had the kind of attention and immediate review of auto crashes and people killed in auto crashes that we do for people travelling on public transit, such as airplanes, we would be made aware on a daily basis that our publicly accepted system of transport is lethal.
Our society is built around the car. Our transportation networks are built around the car. We do not seem to mind the idea that our everyday method of getting from A to B involves a significant risk of death. We take it as something that is just one of those risks we live with. A car is very powerful, and potentially a killing machine.
In 2012, 2,546 Canadians died in automobile crashes, but to the point of today's bill, 58.8% of those crashes involved a driver who had had at least some measurable intoxicant in his or her system.
In 2015, beyond those accidents that involve fatalities, a total of over 72,000 impaired driving incidents happened across Canada. What is interesting is that the statistics reflect that this is a significant improvement, with 65% fewer incidents than in 1986. Therefore, the measures we are taking make a difference, as does the awareness that drinking and driving is not acceptable. Blood alcohol levels and roadside screening make a difference.
There is no question that we want to support measures that would ensure that Canadians who have had any measurable intoxicants do not get behind the wheel of a car, that their friends stop them, that the guy at the bar stops them, and that their own concern that they will be hit with serious penalties and jail time will stop them.
Now I will go to the bill and the reasons I have submitted the amendments. I support Bill . Unlike some of the experts I will mention, I will vote for Bill C-46 even unamended, but here at report stage, I want to raise the concerns again. There are significant concerns from the Criminal Lawyers' Association and civil liberties associations that the bill would go too far and would end up being challenged in the courts. That is because it involves, without the proper constraints, random breath testing, as opposed to selective breath testing.
I have gone through the evidence very carefully. It is clear that there are a lot of statistics that say that when this jurisdiction or that jurisdiction brought in random breath testing, drunk driving incidence went down. The people who study this say that we do not actually have good numbers that compare the results of selective breath testing and random breath testing to conclude that we could not have gotten the same result with selective breath testing.
What is the difference? If we have selective breath testing, we set up a roadside check, stop every driver, and look at every driver at a stationary vehicle check. We have seen roadside testing set up in different locations, particularly on evenings when people are more likely to have been out having something to drink or ingesting substances that are intoxicants before driving. The roadside testing is very effective. Selective testing is effective.
This law would go further, and this is where the various legal societies I have mentioned are concerned. Let me quote from the brief of the Criminal Lawyers' Association submitted to the committee back in September. It states:
We are also deeply concerned by the new random breath-testing regime. Increasing police powers do not come without societal costs. The experience of ‘carding’ or ‘street checks’ is instructive on how the exercise of police authority can disproportionately affect visible minorities.
Bill amounts to carding while in a car. It will inevitably disproportionately be employed against minority or marginalized communities.
A policy expert with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Doug Beirness, was even more blunt. He stated:
...there is nothing truly random about random breath testing. The term random is used in place of more accurate and contentious descriptors, such as arbitrary or capricious.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association went on to say, “a full review of the evidence”, over 23 studies, “does not provide convincing evidence that implementing [random breath testing] will necessarily have a greater impact on drinking and driving than Canada's current [selective breath-testing] system.”
My concerns are twofold. We should never pass legislation in this House that has a good public purpose, and I do not think any of us for one second will deny the importance of the public purpose, that has a significant risk of being derailed in the courts. Looking at the evidence put before the justice committee, I think this bill has a significant risk of being derailed in the courts. Likewise, we should do whatever we can to moderate the impacts of increased police powers and the risks of randomness.
I have been wondering if I should share this story with my colleagues in Parliament, and I think I will. More than 40 years ago, when I was living in a small village on Cape Breton Island, we had very limited RCMP protection. There was one detachment. My brother is younger than I am, and in those days, he had long hair. It was unusual in this particular community to have long hair. Every single time he went anywhere, he was pulled over by the RCMP. As I said, we had very limited RCMP protection, and it was very hard to get the RCMP when we were, for instance, in the middle of a store robbery, which also occurred in my family's business.
I love the RCMP. The members are wonderful, but I know for a fact that there is such a thing as selectively pulling people over, over and over again, and never finding anything. It is a form of harassment. For marginalized communities within Canada, I am very concerned about discriminatory and preferential random searches of particular marginalized groups. We know this happens. If we look at the statistics of who is in our prisons, overwhelmingly it is people of colour and indigenous people. It is not reflective of society as a whole. We know this about carding and urban police forces.
It is clear to me that there is going to be an increased problem for marginalized communities and a sense of being harassed. Therefore, I commend to members my second amendment, which is that when this process is reported back to Parliament, and this is my amendment to clause 31.1, there be an evaluation of whether the provisions have resulted in differential impacts on particular groups likely to be targeted based on prohibited grounds of discrimination and that a report set that out for us.
This will be a test for us as a society. I have no doubt that this bill will pass unamended. I am making an effort here, because I would like us to think about what happens when random breath testing is not random. As much as the societal purpose is overwhelmingly in the right direction, to get people who are drinking or intoxicated off the roads and to not let them get behind the wheel of a car, in this case, we should think twice and make the bill constitutional before we pass it.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from for her constructive input.
At the same time, for the reasons that follow, we will be encouraging all members to vote down the amendment and to vote for the bill in its current form.
I also just want to take a moment to address some of the comments that were raised by my hon. colleagues from the Conservative opposition. I would encourage them to read the bill very carefully, because imbedded within some of those questions were, at a minimum, some inaccurate assumptions about mandatory minimum penalties as they apply to the impaired driving regime, as well as whether or not we have the sufficient technology to test for impairment as we usher in a new era with regard to the strict regulation of cannabis. Obviously by doing so and by reflecting on the language of that bill carefully, my hope is that we will elevate debate in this House, in the interest of keeping our roads safe while at the same time safeguarding individual liberties.
It is a pleasure to speak on Bill . The bill will bring about the most important changes addressing alcohol and drug impaired driving since 1969 when Parliament enacted the offence of driving with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, and authorized the police to demand a breath sample on an approved instrument.
Today, I will focus my remarks on the proposal in the bill that would authorize a police officer to demand a breath sample from any driver without needing to suspect that the driver had alcohol in their body. In Bill , this is called mandatory alcohol screening, as members have heard. The enforcement tool was pioneered by Australia more than 30 years ago. It has now spread to New Zealand, the European Union, and dozens of other countries.
Since then, mandatory alcohol screening has been widely credited with dramatically reducing rates of impaired driving and saving many thousands of lives, as the member herself acknowledged.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had considered mandatory alcohol screening when it held hearings on alcohol impaired driving in 2008 and 2009. In its 2009 report entitled, “Ending Alcohol-impaired Driving: A common approach”, the standing committee unanimously recommended that random roadside breath testing be put in place.
During its extensive hearings on Bill , the standing committee heard numerous witnesses on the subject of mandatory alcohol screening. Professor Robert Solomon, who has written many articles on mandatory alcohol screening, as well eminent constitutional scholars like Professor Peter Hogg spoke in favour of mandatory alcohol screening.
Representatives of the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressed some concerns with mandatory alcohol screening.
The standing committee also heard from Australian experts about how mandatory alcohol screening works in that country, and its effectiveness in reducing deaths and injuries.
I believe it is fair to say that the arguments of opponents to mandatory alcohol screening were based partly on their claim that it is not needed in Canada, as our current system of roadside screening based on suspicion is just as effective and that mandatory alcohol screening would have a disproportionate effect on visible minorities.
With respect to the effectiveness of Canada's current suspicion-based system, it is important not only to look at the reductions in impaired driving that have occurred in Canada over the past 20 or 30 years, but also to consider Canada's alcohol impaired driving laws and how they fare when compared to other countries. The comparison is grim.
As Professor Solomon told the standing committee:
Our current law has left Canada with one of the worst impaired driving records among comparable countries. Consistent with earlier studies, the United States Centers for Disease Control reported that Canada had the highest percentage of alcohol-related crash deaths among 20 high-income countries in 2013. Although Canadians drink considerably less than their counterparts, they're much more likely to die in an alcohol-related crash. For example, Canada’s per capita rate of alcohol-related crash deaths is almost five times that of Germany, even though Canadians consume 33% less alcohol. They drink more, we die more.
The laws in these other countries do a far better job than the laws in Canada of separating drinking from driving. Not coincidentally, 17 of those 19 countries have comprehensive mandatory alcohol screening programs.
These are the words of Professor Solomon, not any parliamentarian, a respected scholar.
Professor Solomon pointed out to the committee that the experience of other countries shows that going from suspicion-based roadside screening to mandatory screening has had a significant effect in reducing impaired driving deaths and injuries. He stated:
The assertion that there is no direct evidence that mandatory alcohol screening is better than selective breath testing, the system we currently have, is simply false. The sharp decreases in fatal crashes that occurred in Queensland, Western Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland occurred after those jurisdictions moved from selective breath testing to mandatory alcohol screening, exactly what would occur in Canada if the mandatory alcohol screening provisions in Bill C-46 were enacted.
Again, those were the words of Professor Solomon.
The standing committee also heard from Dr. Barry Watson of Queensland University of Technology. Dr. Watson explained the evolution of impaired driving legislation in Queensland and the effect of various countermeasures. Queensland introduced breath testing in the late 1960s, as did Canada. Queensland then introduced a program called reduced impaired driving, or RID. The police could randomly pull over other drivers, but could only breath test those they suspected of drinking. This is the system we currently have in Canada.
Finally, Queensland introduced mandatory alcohol screening in 1988. Dr. Watson's evidence strongly supports that mandatory alcohol screening is more effective than suspicion-based alcohol screening. He told the standing committee, “the introduction of random breath testing was associated with a further 18% decline in fatalities over and above what was the case when the sobriety checkpoint program was in place.” We can and must do better than we are, and I submit we should follow the example of these other jurisdictions that have been most successful in reducing the painful toll taken by alcohol-impaired driving. That means adopting mandatory alcohol screening.
More troubling is the concern expressed by several witnesses that mandatory alcohol screening would lead to racial profiling. This is a concern that we all share. We all know that there have been well-documented cases of police forces disproportionately carding or pulling over persons of colour. As my colleague made mention, there are indeed concerning statistics with respect to the overrepresentation of our indigenous and racialized communities in our jails. Let me be clear. Racial profiling is an abuse of police power. It is unacceptable. However, there is nothing in Bill that condones or promotes racial profiling.
Our government was aware that this criticism had been levelled at the provision authorizing mandatory alcohol screening in a former private member's bill, Bill . Consequently, our government, in Bill , proposed to specify that a police officer can only make a demand as follows:
in the course of the lawful exercise of powers under an Act of Parliament or an Act of a provincial legislature or arising at common law....
I pause to emphasize that passage, because it underscores that our government places a great value in ensuring that all law enforcement, and indeed all law state actors, exercise their powers in accordance with the law and the charter.
For further clarity, our government supports the introduction of an amendment to the bill's preamble, which serves as an interpretive aid for our courts. The amendment, which was adopted at committee, stated, “it is important that law enforcement officers...exercise investigative powers in a manner that is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.
Let me take a moment to refer to one last example of how this technology and these standards are working in other jurisdictions. The experience of Ireland supports the opinion of other witnesses who have testified, and other experts. There was an increase of about 10% in charges in the first year after Ireland introduced mandatory alcohol screening, but the number of charges have decreased steadily since then as Irish drivers have become aware of the new law. In fact, the number of charges in Ireland fell by almost 65% in the 10 years following the introduction of mandatory screening.
I believe that our courts will be able to cope with any increase in charges, because many provisions in Bill would address issues that have been causing delay, particularly with respect to disclosure, proof of blood alcohol concentration, the elimination of the bolus drinking defence, and restriction of the intervening drink defence.
In closing, I want to again thank my colleague from for her remarks. They were thoughtful, careful, and balanced. However, even she conceded that there is a good faith attempt here to strike the balance between the need to keep our roads safe while at the same time respecting an individual's charter rights. I encourage her to support the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to say a few words with respect to Bill .
Some of the areas I am going to address today have already been raised. The parliamentary secretary was just talking about one of these areas because the question was raised by a number of my colleagues. It was about measuring the level of impairment that people have. This is just one of the issues we are going to have to deal with. Part of the problem is the government's intention to ram this legislation through by July 1, 2018. In my opinion, the Liberals are not taking into consideration the increased risks to the health and safety of Canada.
The Liberals may say that this is a wonderful thing on Canada's birthday. What better way to celebrate it, they would argue, than legalizing marijuana and allowing grow-ops in people's homes? However, we heard quite a bit of testimony that there are concerns with respect to the government's pushing through both of these pieces of legislation, Bill and Bill . They go together.
For instance, the Canadian police services have asked that this legislation be delayed until there is adequate training and resources put in place. The parliamentary secretary said they are going to be up and ready to go and that we do not have to worry about all the tests and everything else, but those on the front line are quite concerned. The Liberal government, in addition, has not taken the necessary steps to put in effective educational campaigns for Canadians, despite statistics that show the increase in fatalities due to drug-impaired driving. There is no greater risk that a person can have, among many things, than to get killed by impaired driving. This is one of the huge problems that this country has faced. Mandatory roadside testing and the vast number of officers who remain insufficiently trained to detect impaired drivers is another issue that is not being addressed by the government.
In addition, the government has refused to mandate the proper storage of cannabis in homes. The growing concern among jurisdictions where marijuana is already legal is that it is drawing more organized crime to operate the grow-ops and produce pot for illicit markets. This is one of the things that people told me when I was justice minister. They said that pot is the currency for guns and harder drugs coming into this country. They said that a lot of criminals do not send cheques anymore; the marijuana grown in Canada is what criminals use to buy illegal drugs and guns that come into Canada. This was completely unaddressed by the government, and I would suggest it has been ignored; it does not even play into this. My concern is that this will increase the possibility of danger that exists when we get illegal drugs and guns into this country.
Police services from across this country were very clear that the government should delay the legalization of marijuana to allow law enforcement services the adequate time they need to handle this new law. There is no chance, in my opinion, that police will be ready; I think they have it right. However, the Liberals are hell-bent on ramming this legislation through. They are not heeding those warnings from law enforcement officials. In my opinion, this puts a greater risk on the health and safety of Canadians.
The National Association of Chiefs of Police estimates that there are at least 2,000 trained officers. In July 2017, the numbers indicated that there are only 600 trained recognition experts here. They are not even close to having the number they need. Susan MacAskill, from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, reiterated that the Breathalyzer will not detect drugs and that marijuana can be detected through a roadside saliva test. She said that it would cost $17,000 to train one person to be a drug recognition expert, and the government needs to make sure that those resources are in place to allow the training of 1,200 more officers that will be needed by the deadline.
She went on to say, “If every officer can have that (disposable saliva test) in their vehicle it will certainly have a positive impact on road safety.” Unfortunately, the Liberals have not been listening to their own experts. They have been unrealistic on what is taking place.
Again, a couple of my colleagues highlighted how difficult it would be. That is one of the things I point out for my colleague who sits on the justice committee. We heard time and again different amounts, how much marijuana, how long it would be in someone's system, what the combination between that and alcohol would be. Again, it is very problematic and I would urge the government not to push forward with the July 1 deadline.
The provincial premiers have warned the government that they may not be ready with provincial laws and regulations. Their fears are not without reason. After Washington State legalized marijuana, the death toll on its highways doubled and the fatal vehicle crashes on Colorado highways tripled. Equally concerning is that the Liberals have not launched an extensive marijuana and impaired driving education and awareness program as recommended by their own task force. It is easy to say that they ignored it because the Conservatives told them they should do it, but their own task force told them what to do.
The Canadian Automobile Association supports the findings. Jeff Walker, CAA vice-president, is quoted as saying, “It's clear from the report that work needs to start immediately in these areas, and that the actual legalization should not be rushed.” The task force also concluded that youth underestimated the risk of cannabis use. We heard this on a number of occasions, that some young people believed their ability to drive a car would be enhanced by smoking marijuana.
There are problems with the government moving forward on this. The government continuously says that it is concerned about the access to children, yet the age limits in the legislation are completely at odds with that. I ask my colleagues on the other side to consider this. What could be more accessible for young people to get marijuana if their parents have a small grow op in the kitchen? We urged the Liberals to make changes on that, and they did. They said that three foot plants would not be enough so it increased the height of them. How will this help our children?
This will be problematic for the people who have become victimized by impaired driving. We brought forward amendments to increase the penalties for those people who drove while impaired and killed someone. They should have to face up to the consequences of what they have done. Again, the Liberals have ignored that.
Just because the Conservatives have said there will be big problems with that, they will not listen. I understand we are in opposition and they do not have to listen to us. However, they should listen to police forces across the country. They should listen to our provincial counterparts and those who are concerned about impaired driving. They should listen to them for a change. I think Liberals will come to the right conclusion that for the bill should not be pushed forward by July 1of next year.
Mr. Speaker, nothing could be more important than the bill before the House today, Bill , which deals with changes to the impaired driving laws in Canada to deal with not only drug impairment but increased sanctions on those who drive while impaired by alcohol. The NDP has long stood for improving this through legislation, smarter deterrence to deal with the tragedies taking place on our roadsides every day.
Professor Robert Solomon testified at the justice committee, which I had the honour to sit on during the testimony for most of this. He has long acted for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and put it very well. He said, “It's difficult to see how anyone can credibly make that claim”, the claim that the Criminal Lawyer's Association and others have made that mandatory alcohol testing is not necessary. He says:
...impairment-related crashes kill about 1,000 Canadians a year, injure almost another 60,000 more, a disproportionate percentage of whom are teenagers and young adults....Our current law has left Canada with one of the worst impaired driving records among comparable countries.
The enormity of the problem with which the bill is attempting to grapple is not lost upon us. However, we have great concerns about the mandatory alcohol testing to which Professor Solomon has testified.
The NDP leader, Mr. Jagmeet Singh, has been outspoken during his time in the Ontario legislature about the ability of the police to go after people simply on the basis of their race, be they indigenous, black, or Canadians of other minorities. The discriminatory police practice of carding has been central to his work in the Ontario legislative assembly. Mr. Singh says, “As Prime Minister, I'll enact a Federal Ban on Racial Profiling” to end it once and for all.
I raise this because of the potential of this mandatory alcohol screening that proposed section 320.27 of the bill would implement for the first time in Canada. We heard many witnesses at the committee, and after the break I will go back and talk about this in more detail. As long as the police have the ability to stop someone on a whim, that discretion can and will be abused.
Currently under the law as it exists, one has to have reasonable suspicion before stopping someone. If one no longer has to have that reasonable suspicion, which is what this section at issue would do, then there is the potential, indeed, the certainty that there will be disproportionate targeting of racialized Canadians, indigenous people, youth, and other marginalized groups. That is the nub of the problem and why this is such a difficult bill for the House to deal with.
I am not saying it is not as critical as the member for has reminded us; it it is. I am not saying that the potential for deaths is not real, because it is there. However, we have to get this balance right. We are not convinced that it has been achieved. We are still studying it and will continue to study it before the vote takes place in the next while.
At the committee, the NDP did manage to get one amendment that would somehow address this issue. That amendment would add the proposed section 31.1 to the bill, which would require that this issue be studied and reported to Parliament within three years of enactment. The committee agreed with that, and I hope the House will accept that final amendment as well. We will see whether the concerns that so many experts have brought to the attention of the committee will prove true in practice.
I had the opportunity at committee to speak to Canada's leading constitutional jurist on this subject. He is the famous Professor Peter Hogg. He indicated that he had done a legal opinion upon which Mothers Against Drunk Driving relied. It basically says that he is in favour of mandatory alcohol testing and of the ability to stop people at random. However, I asked him, “If the evidence were that there were a disproportionate impact on racialized groups and minorities, would that not give you pause in defending this bill under section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?”
If the evidence showed there would be this abuse, as others have predicted, would that give him pause? Professor Hogg, who of course agreed with mandatory alcohol testing, said that “It would give me pause if that were the case...but I think the pause that I would make would be to look at the administration of the law, so that it does get cleansed of any kind of racial bias or anything like that.”
Thus even a leading jurist who supports the initiative of mandatory alcohol screening is saying that it may be subject to defeat under section 1 of the charter if the evidence shows, as so many experts have said, that it would have this effect of racial profiling, that it would allow the police, on a whim, to stop people simply because of the colour of their skin, their age, or the like.
I will resume after question period, but at this stage, Canadians need to know how difficult this balance would be.