The House resumed from October 20 consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
: Niwakomacuntik Tansai Nemeaytane Awapamtikok.
[Member spoke in Cree]
Mr. Speaker, outraged by the toll alcohol is having in northern Saskatchewan, in 2015 a crown prosecutor took six months off work to talk to first nation communities and look for solutions.
Harold Johnson, an indigenous author of a new book called Firewater, took a critical look at the impact alcohol has had on the people in the north. Harold, who is based in La Ronge, Saskatchewan said:
...alcohol is responsible for much death and destruction in the north, and as a Crown prosecutor he's had a front-row seat to its effects.
Ninety-five percent of what we deal with in provincial court, the person who committed the offence was drunk at the time of the offence. It's every day.
Are we tired of going to the graveyard? Are we tired of burying our relatives? Have we had enough of this now?
As Johnson told the CBC, alcohol misuse permeates all aspects of society, whether it's the justice system, health, poverty or the economy.
Indeed, according to a 2011 study of northern Saskatchewan health regions, two-thirds of fatal motor vehicle accidents are alcohol-related. The rate of drug and alcohol use during pregnancy in the north is three times the provincial rate.
Moreover, the CBC reports that according to Johnson, it even affects the cost of infrastructure in the north, as contractors take into account absenteeism and lowered productivity because of hangovers and include those costs in bid prices.
It is an issue that has also touched Johnson in his own personal life. Two of his brothers have been killed by drunk drivers, and most recently in 2014. The Justice Department gave him six months to work with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the Montreal Lake Cree Nation in a search of answers to open a discussion. He says he is not hoping to work miracles, but just to get people talking. As he says, “Are we tired of going to the graveyard? Are we tired of burying our relatives? Have we had enough of this now?”
I am proud to be here to debate Bill , which proposes substantive changes to modernize the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with drug- and alcohol-impaired driving offences.
The purpose of the bill is to protect public health and safety by creating new provisions and strengthening existing provisions to deter impaired drivers and come down hard on anyone caught committing drug- and alcohol-impaired driving offences. This bill also aims to give police the resources they need to improve the detection of the presence of drugs and alcohol in impaired drivers and facilitate the prosecution of such cases. It is important to develop a regulatory policy to stop impaired driving.
Part 1 of the bill amends certain provisions that deal with offences. Among other things, the amendments seek to do the following: enact new criminal offences for driving with a blood drug concentration that is equal to or higher than the permitted concentration; authorize the establishment of prohibited blood drug concentrations; and authorize peace officers who suspect a driver has a drug in their body to demand that the driver provide a sample of a bodily substance for analysis by drug screening equipment that is approved by the Attorney General of Canada.
It is important not only in the big cities, but also in the rural areas and communities where I come from. I am proud to be here and to have the opportunity to express myself in Cree, English, and French, the founding languages of our nation.
People may have noticed that I did not provide a translation for the part of my speech that I delivered in Cree. I addressed those words to the people in our communities. I hope they will hear them. They need to hear discussions about what we once were and what we can become.
Madam Speaker, the Liberal government is currently rushing through the marijuana legislation despite kickback from health care practitioners, law enforcement agents, parents, teachers, municipal leaders, and provinces who are all speaking up and speaking out against this legislation and the time frame that has been imposed on this country. Despite this outcry, the government insists on continuing and rushing forward, for no other reason than the of course would like to include it in his party on July 1, 2018.
Now, the government has made it clear that Bill , the impaired driving act, is closely tied to the marijuana legislation. However, despite the so-called positive intent of this bill, Bill C-46 is, in fact, poorly drafted and fails to hold up to scrutiny from scientists and legal practitioners who have commented with regard to this legislation.
The impaired driving act before us would include roadside tests that lack scientific evidence, would grant police the power to force tests without reasonable evidence of impairment, and is of course full of very poorly worded measures that make many parts of this bill likely to be thrown out by the courts. This poses significant issue.
As I will detail shortly, there are legitimate questions around the constitutionality of certain provisions within Bill . As the Canadian Bar Association has noted in its brief, impaired driving is one of the most litigated laws in all of Canada. There have been many appeals, many constitutional challenges, and a great deal of court time taken up with establishing legal precedence. Rushing this legislation through the House without the proper time to ensure the government has it right would inevitably lead to a great number of appeals and further backlog.
This could not happen at a worse time since the Liberals have failed to appoint new judges and adequately care for our justice system here in Canada. In the era of the Jordan decision, where court cases are being dismissed without a trial because of long wait times, the legislation has the potential to actually clog this up even further, thereby taking away from our justice system. This means accused criminals could actually be set free without a trial because of this poorly crafted legislation before the House today. To recklessly endanger the criminal justice system in order to rush the legalization of pot is a gross mismanagement of prioritization, and poor government.
Permit me to discuss the constitutionality of this bill. This legislation would allow law enforcement agents to demand a saliva or blood test from a driver if they reasonably suspect that the person has drugs in his or her body. For example, if officers notice the person has unusually red eyes, abnormal speech patterns, or perhaps has the scent of marijuana on them, they could demand a drug test.
The problem is that these types of drug impairment tests actually ignore science, thereby putting the Liberals' entire drug impairment driving section at risk of being unconstitutional. A first-year medical student should be able to tell us that marijuana has a main component within it called THC and that it dissolves in fat and not water. It is accepted science that THC disappears from the blood within a couple of hours after smoking it, however impairment lasts much longer.
Why is this important? It is important because blood is mostly water while the brain, which is where the impairment actually takes place, is mostly fat. Although the THC may not be found in the blood, it may be found in the brain. The new impairment tests this legislation is putting forward actually only measure the THC concentration in the blood, thus rendering the new tests proposed by the Liberal government absolutely useless. This fact draws into question the constitutionality of large parts of the bill before this House.
If the purpose of the legislation is to demonstrate impairment but the government's test for impairment is not scientifically viable, then it is going to be challenged by defence lawyers and tossed out by the courts. This, of course, is a significant problem.
Although an officer would need reasonable grounds to test for drug impairment, when it comes to testing for alcohol impairment the officer would no longer need reasonable grounds to do so. The federal justice department states on its website, “...police officers who have an approved screening device on hand would be able to test any driver they lawfully stop, even if the officer does not suspect the driver has alcohol in his or her body.”
In other words, in the same way that a police officer can pull one person over and demand to see a licence and proof of registration, the officer would also be able to demand that a driver take a Breathalyzer, even if the officer has absolutely no reason to suspect impaired driving.
Although the roadside test in and of itself cannot lead to a charge, it would allow the police to open up further investigation and subject the driver to further testing and scrutiny, which could lead to great embarrassment, time off work, etc., with respect to this person who is accused of doing something that the officer had absolutely no reasonable grounds to accuse the person of. For these reasons, many criminal lawyers from across Canada are raising their eyebrows, putting up a flag, and saying that this will be challenged and perhaps tossed out in the courts.
It is clear that the current government is doing all that it can to rush the legislation through, both Bill , as well as the legalization of marijuana, but the approach is altogether wrong. The timeline for legalizing marijuana is simply too short. Cities and towns have said this, first nations chiefs and elders have said this, provinces and territories have said this, and police and first responders have said this. The government has made it clear that Bill C-46 and the legalization of marijuana go hand in hand. It is attempting to tighten the legislation around drug-impaired driving before the possession and use of marijuana is made legal in our country. However, it has failed to leave enough time for law enforcement agents across the country to properly train and adopt the new screening technologies needed to enforce this bill. I have been told by several police chiefs that the only place law enforcement agents can receive adequate training in this regard is in the United States, and that the cost for this training is quite expensive, upward of $20,000 per person. To make matters worse, the wait time in order to get into this training is more than 12 months long, which then poses some problems because marijuana is going to be legal in Canada in about nine months from now. Therefore, members can see my concern here.
Canada is a big country, and there are many police forces with different levels of resources. Many of the smaller centres are already having a tough time making ends meet. Many centres do not have the money to pay a team of lawyers and consultants to write new operational policies for front-line officers, and do not have the resources to buy a huge supply of new marijuana tests. They certainly do not have the staff training budgets to train all of their officers on how to use the new technology, that is to say even if they could get into the training within the time frame provided, which they cannot.
What is the result? The result is the disempowerment of police forces across this nation. It also means insufficient law enforcement, which puts the public safety of Canadians at risk.
Before closing, I would like to address one more concern with respect to the legalization of marijuana. When I look at studies done in Washington and Colorado, they demonstrate that with legalization comes a decrease in the perception of risk among our young people. This stands to reason because a government-regulated product should have better quality control standards than something grown by organized criminals, and no one thinks the government will legalize a product that would pose any sort of risk or harm element to him or her. However, we all know, or should know, due to the studies that have been given to us, that there is no safe use for youth. Both the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society have made it very clear that marijuana damages brain development in youth and young adults under the age of 25. Youth who use marijuana are more likely to have mental health issues later in life, including schizophrenia, and they are more likely to underachieve. These risks are not understood by Canadian youth, and therefore are problematic.
Before legalization takes place, there needs to be a strong public education campaign for both parents and youth on the health effects of marijuana. The Liberal government's own legalization task force recommended this, and we have yet to see it come into effect. Again, the legalization of marijuana is set to take place in less than nine months from now.
In conclusion, I would say that this legislation is extremely poorly crafted. The Canadian Bar Association has laid out the many ways this legislation will likely be challenged in court. Those challenges and appeals are going to clog the justice system, letting accused criminals off the hook, meaning victims of crime will watch their attackers go free, all because the Liberals made a political promise to legalize marijuana, and to have it done by July 1, 2018. This is unacceptable. This is detrimental to Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill . As chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I want to thank my colleagues from all the parties who helped come up with 15 amendments, which were adopted by the committee. I believe those amendments will improve the bill.
It was a great pleasure, as always, to work with members of all parties on this issue. In coming up with amendments, our committee made productive contributions toward improving the bill before us.
I strongly agree with Bill . The goal of the bill is to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related offences on our roads. Too many Canadians die, too many Canadians are injured, too many families across the country are hurt every year because of impaired driving accidents. The crashes that ensue, because someone has consumed alcohol or drugs and taken to the road, are not acceptable under any circumstances.
If I were starting from scratch and writing alcohol-related legislation, there would be no tolerance whatsoever for anyone who is caught driving with alcohol or drugs in his or her system. Nobody can drive safely when marijuana or other drugs have been consumed, no matter how little. No one can drive safely when alcohol has been consumed, no matter how little.
It is true that due to the constraints of our testing, we cannot test at certain levels, which means we have to set per se limits. We need to have certain thresholds which one cannot pass in order to create an offence, in addition to when an officer suspects impairment. From my point of view, no Canadian should be driving if he or she has consumed drugs or alcohol.
I would like to talk about the two of the most contentious issues related to this legislation. Our committee held extended hearings. We sat for many hours over a period of two weeks and listened to witnesses from across the spectrum. The two areas about which I heard the most concern were mandatory screening and minimum mandatory sentences.
The constitutionality of mandatory screening was questioned, and I want to go back to the recent speech made by my colleague from . I thought it was very interesting to hear her question the constitutionality of minimum mandatory screening. I want to point out that she, along with most of her colleagues, voted in favour of the private member's bill of the member for , Bill , that was recently before the House. It proposed mandatory screening. I find it funny to hear the member question the constitutionality of mandatory screening when that was the entire premise of Bill C-226, which she voted in favour of earlier this year.
Why, despite constitutional questions raised, do I support mandatory screening? Because at committee we heard there was only one way to deter drunk driving, that there was only one way to deter drug-impaired driving. That was to scare people into really believing they would be caught. Minimum mandatory sentences and what will happen after the fact, will not deter people; it is the idea that police may actually catch them in the act.
At committee, we heard from witnesses from Colorado, Australia, and from other jurisdictions where mandatory screening was introduced. They told us that mandatory screening had a huge deterrent because of the heightened probability of being caught.
Since mandatory screening was introduced in Australia, Finland, Sweden, France, and Ireland, there was an incredible reduction in the number of deaths related to alcohol. In Finland, where mandatory screening was introduced in 1977, a study noted that the number of drivers impaired by alcohol had decreased by 58%. According to a report published in Ireland, deaths caused by impaired driving decreased 19% in the first year following mandatory screening.
We know that mandatory screening really works. It has been proven to work across the globe. Some groups, such as the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec, asked questions about the way mandatory screening would work. At committee, we introduced a provision into the preamble of the bill to reassure Canadians that any check needed to be done in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Police officers are able to do a lot of things when they make a legal stop, including asking someone for a breath test, under common law. We are now codifying what existed already under the common law. We are seeing that without reasonable suspicion, we can ask for a breath test, provided it was a lawful stop. The committee and all of us want to ensure we follow those rules and have asked, as part of this law, that the minister undertake a review of what has happened in three years to ensure mandatory screening is carried out properly.
Other measures and amendments on minimum mandatory sentences were introduced at committee. While I am very pleased that maximum sentences have increased for the very serious offences under the law, we did not introduce new minimum mandatory sentences. This was the one and only area where I saw divergence between ourselves and members of the official opposition.
The committee heard from groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that there was no proof in any case that minimum mandatory sentences actually stopped people from driving impaired. When asked specifically, MADD stated that it did not favour increasing the minimum mandatory sentences that existed. However, I note that the committee, on an amendment from a Liberal member, reinserted minimum mandatory sentences in the one place it had been removed in the bill, which was for the most serious offence of driving while impaired causing bodily harm, and extended the maximum sentence.
I am not one of those people who believe there should never be minimum mandatory sentences. For the most serious offences, there needs to be minimum mandatory sentences. However, I also note that this has to come under a thorough review to determine exactly the right standards and the right duration of those sentences, because we also know there are drawbacks. When there is a minimum mandatory sentence, one does not plead out. People are very reluctant to plead out because they know they will go to prison for a certain minimum term. Therefore, it clogs the court system, which is already clogged, and causes difficulties under Jordan, where people are acquitted because they do not get a speedy enough trial.
We also know that minimum mandatory sentences are not really a deterrent. They do reassure families and victims, but they do not deter people from the behaviour. I would rather wait, before we change what the minimum mandatory sentences were, the committee having reinserted the exact same minimum mandatory sentences that exist now in law, to see what the review of the has to say. Certain minimum mandatory sentences already in the Criminal Code have been found unconstitutional and others may need to be inserted. I would rather wait for a thorough review before changing them for impaired driving offences.
Finally, I want to thank the dozens of witnesses who appeared before committee. It was heart-wrenching to hear the testimony of parents who had lost children in impaired driving accidents. It was heart-wrenching to hear about the beautiful people whose lives were prematurely shortened and whose mothers would never become grandmothers, would never see their kids graduate from college, and would never see their kids have families of their own or have successful careers. It was awful. The people who came before committee to be heard deserve commendation. They chose not to just sit back and suffer, but to make changes to improve our laws, to fight to improve our laws to improve Canadian society. I want to herald the parents who had the courage to come before the committee. While they supported the thrust of the bill, I do not support their call for longer minimum mandatory sentences at this time.
From what I heard, we really need to work on what we do to help the victims their families. That issue of concern needs to be addressed. However, I support the thrust of the bill and encourage all my colleagues to support it.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill today, a bill that would change the Criminal Code in relation to offences related to driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. The bill is essentially paired with Bill , a bill that would legalize marijuana, so it is safe to say that it is meant to provide some comfort to Canadians concerned about the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana or THC as much as it is about alcohol impairment.
The NDP clearly stands for deterrence to driving while impaired. Canada has a terrible record of deaths and injuries related to impaired driving. About 1,000 Canadians are killed each year in traffic accidents involving impaired driving.
Others have spoken eloquently on that aspect of the bill, but what I want to spend most of my time here today talking about are the concerns about the difficulty of testing, in any meaningful way, for impairment by marijuana.
I sat on the justice committee for one of the meetings set aside to consider Bill , and we heard very interesting and compelling testimony about roadside testing for marijuana. We are all used to the concept of testing for alcohol levels through roadside breath tests. These tests produce results that accurately measure blood alcohol levels. Blood alcohol levels rise and fall in a predictable manner that relates closely to impairment. We can therefore deduce impairment from alcohol blood levels, and we do that in roadside tests every day across the country. We have per se limits for alcohol impairment, usually .08% or .05% blood alcohol.
The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC, and it acts in a very different physiological way than does alcohol. Unlike what happens when drinking alcohol, THC levels rise very quickly in the blood when marijuana is smoked, and while those initial levels are high, the person may not be significantly impaired, because the effects of THC occur when the THC leaves the blood and binds to fatty tissues in the brain. THC binds to fatty tissues so strongly that blood levels generally drop very rapidly. When impairment levels are high, THC levels in the blood are usually very low, so THC levels in the blood do not necessarily relate at all to the level of impairment.
Impairment also differs significantly between alcohol and THC. Alcohol impairment involves a loss of motor control, hence the famous tests such as walking a straight line or standing on one leg. THC impairment affects faculties such as reaction time rather than motor control. People impaired by THC will often report that they know they are impaired, so some are more likely to decide not to drive, or they will drive more slowly. Alcohol impairment has essentially the opposite effect, so drunks drive more recklessly. I do not want to suggest that people under the influence of marijuana are safe drivers, just that we have to test for impairment in a very different way.
At committee we also heard from a toxicology expert that we can back extrapolate from a blood alcohol level measured at some time after an incident to assess the level that would have existed at the time of that incident. We cannot do that for THC. If a driver involved in an accident was found to have some level of THC some hours after the fact, we could not, with any scientific certainty at all, know what the THC level was at the time of the accident. Even if the level was tested at the time of the accident, we would have no way of relating the THC level with impairment.
Dr. Thomas Marcotte, an expert in testing for THC and impairment, from the University of California, San Diego, gave extensive testimony on these difficulties. He and his colleagues have found no way to usefully match THC levels with impairment. He and others have found that it is not only difficult to relate THC blood levels to impairment but that regular users of marijuana will have chronic low levels of THC in their blood, with no impairment at all. This is extremely problematic for the task of finding a meaningful way to test for THC impairment on the roadside.
We are making it legal for Canadians to use marijuana. Indeed, it is already legal for users of medical cannabis. If some of these law-abiding Canadians have chronic low levels of THC in their blood, and we use some per se limit of THC as a surrogate for impairment, then we are essentially saying that yes, people can legally use marijuana or medical cannabis, but they can never drive again or they could be charged with impaired driving, despite not being impaired.
Also at committee we heard from two witnesses from Australian police forces. Australia has used extensive roadside testing for alcohol and drugs, which others have mentioned in this debate. Much of this testing is through what they call “booze buses”, which process hundreds of thousands of Australians annually. They literally close off highways and test everyone for alcohol levels, while a smaller sample are screened for drugs.
Australian police also carry out so-called random testing at their own discretion, usually in neighbourhoods they feel need scrutiny. It is this type of testing the NDP has great concerns about, as it is clearly open to racial profiling. My colleague for on Friday covered some of these concerns very well in his speech, so I will leave this point, but I am sure members will hear more about it from my colleagues later today. However, one of the serious issues with Bill is that it undermines the present system of testing only after reasonable suspicion of impairment.
The Australian police also testified about the test they use for THC. These tests are expensive: about $30 for the preliminary test and ten times more for a secondary test given to those who score positive. Anyone found with any level of THC is charged with impaired driving and has a licence suspension. Now, this works in a jurisdiction such as Australia, where marijuana is illegal. However, as we have heard from experts at committee, people who use marijuana regularly, and there are many across Canada, including thousands who use cannabis for medical reasons, will have chronic levels of THC in their blood. If they lived in Australia, they would not be able to drive at all for fear of being charged for impaired driving, even when they were not impaired, and even if they had not used marijuana for many hours or even days.
How do we test for marijuana impairment? As I mentioned before, THC impairment presents as a slowing of reaction time and other similar faculties, but not a loss of motor control. Dr. Marcotte testified that he and others were working on developing iPad-based tests that would test for these abilities. However, we hear from the government side in this debate that its members are confident that meaningful roadside mouth-swab tests will somehow be developed in the next few months, despite expert testimony that any test measuring THC will be meaningless as a measure of impairment. If we use the Australian model, we will be criminalizing marijuana users who have chronic levels of THC in their blood, even though they have not used marijuana that day and are in no way impaired. We need a better solution to this problem.
On July 1 next year, Canadians will be able to use marijuana legally, and many will be using and driving. We need a system that tests for impairment from marijuana, not for meaningless THC levels.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak against Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, regarding offences relating to conveyances, and to make consequential amendments to other acts, also known as the impaired driving legislation. This bill is the accompanying legislation to Bill , the cannabis act, with which I am extremely familiar.
In essence, Bill seeks to create new and higher mandatory fines and maximum penalties for impaired driving, as well as authorize mandatory roadside screening for alcohol. Although I am entirely in favour of higher penalties for those driving while impaired, as this sends a strong message that impaired driving will not be tolerated, I have extreme concerns about this bill.
Similar to members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I and my fellow members of the Standing Committee on Health sat through an entire week of testimony on the subject of marijuana and how the proposed legalization might affect our society. Nearly every witness who spoke before the committee stressed the need to be prepared well ahead of the date of the legalization, which in our case is the arbitrary date of July 1, 2018. Witnesses highlighted Canada's lack of testing equipment, of drug-recognition experts, of training abilities, and simply of public education in this area.
Bills and are inextricably linked. It is crucial that we understand that the part of the bill on drug-impaired driving that we are discussing stems directly from Bill C-45. The overlap between these two bills is evident and although the government is still trying to deal with these two bills as separate and independent bills, that is not the case.
This morning, I would like to address numerous concerns that I have regarding the legislation, in an effort to once again remind the government just how far we are from being truly ready to deal with the consequences of legalizing marijuana in Canada.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana is one of the many causes of death in Canada. We have worked tirelessly for decades to reduce the number of drunk drivers on our roads with voluntary roadside checks, social programs, and many public education campaigns. However, that has not been the case for driving under the influence of marijuana.
Many studies have indicated that drivers who have used marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes. Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized the drug. Yes, that is right: they doubled from 8% to 17%. In Colorado, the increase in impaired drug driving due to the legalization of marijuana was a 32% increase at the start.
In terms of the statistics in Canada, if we look at traffic fatalities, we see we already have 16% caused by alcohol-impaired driving; another 24% were caused by drug-impaired driving, and most of that is marijuana; and then there is another 18% that is a combination of the two. That is the problem we have now. The government is rushing in 249 days to put in place the legalization of marijuana, when the police have clearly said they are not going to be ready. They are saying they need 2,000 people trained as drug recognition experts, and there are only 600 today. It is very costly to train them, and the training takes place in the U.S. The U.S. is backlogged because various states are busy legalizing. We are not going to have the trained officers we need.
Many colleagues today have talked about the testing. There is absolutely no test for impairment with marijuana. We can test for THC presence in the saliva and the blood, but that says nothing about whether people are impaired. This is really problematic because people who are on medical marijuana may have this residual in their system for days and days; people who were exposed to second-hand smoke may have it in their system; or people who may have smoked marijuana over the weekend and be driving 24 hours or more later and not be impaired might still have it in their system. It is really a problem that there is not a test in place. It will mean serious challenges to any offences charged under these new laws because there is no scientific way of telling whether somebody is impaired.
It is hugely hypocritical of the Liberal government to be introducing this bill and deciding to take alcohol limits from .08 down to .05, to be more stringent, when it is opening the barn door wide to allow people to drive impaired with marijuana without a test. Now, there is discussion of the per se limits, but of course those limits do not speak anything to impairment. We may have to take a pragmatic view and say that we are going to do what some other jurisdictions did and go with zero per se limit: if someone has any level at all, they must not drive. Then again, that will impact many people who are not impaired but who have THC in their system. The government needs to quit rushing this legislation and concentrate on developing the science.
Every testimonial we heard at committee talked about the importance of having a public education campaign in place before the legalization. They want a campaign similar to what MADD did, trying to educate people about not driving drunk. That kind of campaign needs to happen before legalization. We need to have a campaign on other things as well, such as stopping smoking and about how marijuana smoking is bad for us. However, especially with respect to Bill , we need to have that education in place. The fact is that the government, Health Canada, did not even send out the RFP with bids coming back. Bids were due last week, October 16. The program is just being created and it has not started to roll out.
We have been warned and warned by these other jurisdictions that this will be a danger to public safety, and so we need to look at that.
As well, we talk about the recommendations that came forward from committee.
Ms. McLellan, chair of the Liberal task force, recommended giving researchers additional time to develop effective and reliable testing tools.
The fact that the Liberal government is ignoring that advice is shocking. It has no regard whatsoever for Canadians' health and safety. In that same report, the task force also highlighted comments from Washington and Colorado about the importance of implementing education campaigns well ahead of legalization.
The degree of impairment can vary widely depending on the potency of the marijuana used and the driver's frequency of use. This bill sets no limits on those parameters and fails to properly prepare our law enforcement officials for their role. We have only 249 days to go. We need to educate Canadian society as a whole about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.
The deadline imposed by the government is unrealistic and puts Canadians' health at risk. Canadians need to understand the risks of drug-impaired driving before we move forward with this bill. There are just too many unanswered questions, which makes me doubt whether the government is capable of enforcing this law safely or effectively.
With flawed legalization and the flawed drug impaired driving framework proposed, I join my voice to those of my colleagues in calling for the Liberal government to rethink its deadline of July 1, 2018, and to do everything in its power to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians, especially on our roadways.
In summary, we see we are rushing ahead with an arbitrary deadline when the police have said they are not ready, we do not have testing in place, we know the rates of impaired drug driving will likely increase and potentially double, and we know that 88% of Canadians do not smoke marijuana. These are the people who will experience these unintended effects, these tragic affects, so I call on the government to please reconsider and not rush toward this arbitrary date.
Madam Speaker, today I rise to contribute to the debate on Bill , which proposes a number of changes to impaired driving legislation in Canada. More specifically, this legislation is proposing a number of changes in anticipation of the passing of Bill , which seeks to legalize marijuana in Canada.
I, among others in the House, along with my colleague, the member for , sit on the health committee. We returned a week early in September from the summer recess to hold a series of marathon meetings on Bill . At the committee, witnesses from across Canada and around the world presented their concerns on a number of issues related to the legalization of marijuana. Specifically, there were a number of experts who provided commentary on the aspects surrounding impaired driving. I want to share some of their testimony with members today.
Before I do, I want to say that we all know all too well that impaired driving is a deadly activity that often claims the lives of people who are entirely innocent. Canada is now on the verge of normalizing marijuana use, which could likely see impaired driving and death rates rise. I am not suggesting for a second that drug-impaired driving does not happen now and has not claimed lives already; however, I and many others are concerned that the normalization of marijuana use will make matters much worse on our roads and highways.
On September 12 of this year, during health committee testimony, Deputy Chief Thomas Carrique from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police stated:
What we do know is that impaired driving by way of alcohol is the number one criminal cause of death in this country. If we are to expect that the use of cannabis may go up, that causes us great concern. It puts our communities at peril....
He went on to say:
It is unknown what the combination is when you combine drugs and alcohol. We have heard all sorts of statistics from our neighbours south of the border that indicate that it has a great impact. There is...a 28% increase in the amount of intoxication. That creates a...danger behind the wheel.
Deputy Chief Mark Chatterbok, of the Saskatoon Police Service, who also represented the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, stated:
We anticipate that as a result of new legislation the number of impaired drivers will only increase. This increase will be realized in a city and a province where impaired statistics are already far too high.
...the Saskatoon Police Service has concerns about an increase in impaired driving due to drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs....what happens when a driver already found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.07 also has the presence of THC in his or her blood. Technically, this driver may be under the legal limit for both individual substances, but what effect does the presence of both of these drugs have on impairment?
That is a very good point, and to my knowledge the issue has not been addressed. The Liberal government has set an artificial deadline to legalize marijuana use in Canada. As a result, it is left rushing through other legislation, such as Bill , to try to head off a huge problem. The huge problem of the Liberals, once again, is their failure to keep their promises. Therefore, we are being asked to rush through legislation for no other reason than to enable the government to meet its deadline of Canada Day 2018. It has been my experience, whether making dinner or in making legislation, that rushing only ends in mistakes and poor results. There are aspects of this bill, Bill , and also Bill for that matter, that will likely end up before the courts because a charge or conviction will be challenged.
What happens if we pass these changes and legalize marijuana and then parts of this law are struck down? We will not be able to turn back the clock at that point because marijuana use will already be rampant.
Being ready for the legalization of marijuana is a huge issue, in particular for law enforcement. There are thousands of police officers who will require specialized training on all of the anticipated legal changes. However, they do not have the time to complete this before Canada Day.
Also before the health committee this year, Deputy Chief Mike Serr, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said:
In order to support the successful implementation of this comprehensive legislation, the CACP urges the Government of Canada to first consider extending the July 2018 commencement date to allow police services to obtain sufficient resources and proper training, both of which are critical to the successful implementation of the proposed cannabis act.
We need to remember that training takes both time and money, and law enforcement has clearly indicated that they do not have enough of either.
Sure, that government has announced that it has committed funding for training, but it is not enough and we only have 249 days to get it all done. In fact, departments cannot even put together training manuals for the police yet, as the laws to legalize marijuana have not even been made clear. Moreover, the bill still has to go the other side, to the red chamber, and how long could that take?
Just to give the House an idea of the monumental task of training thousands of police officers, deputy Chief Mark Chatterbok also said:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police website lists the process for certification for DRE training.
That is drug recognition expert training. The deputy chief continued:
Everyone who's involved in the program first has to first take the standardized field sobriety training before they attend the DRE program. Then the program itself consists of three phases. The first phase is a two-day preschool. The second phase is a seven-day classroom program with a comprehensive exam following that. Then between 60 and 90 days following phase two, the candidates attend a program in the U.S. where they have to evaluate subjects who are suspected of being impaired by drugs. My understanding is that they must participate in at least 12 evaluations successfully in order to then get the certification.
This training is going to take a long time to complete, and there is no way it will be done on time by Canada Day.
This brings me to my next point, one that was raised by almost every single witness at committee. In fact, there was a strong consensus on this issue amongst all parties as well, and that is public education. It has not gone unnoticed that we are spending a great deal of time and money to legalize marijuana, but we have not embarked on a public education campaign to educate Canadians, especially our youth.
We know that marijuana use by youth is higher in Canada than anywhere else in the world, and we know there is the strong likelihood of increased drug-impaired driving after legalization. We also know that early use, before the age of 25, has negative impacts on human brain development. In fact, the Canadian Medical Association, CMA, which represents 83,000 physicians, said that the age of legalization should ideally be 25 years of age. It says:
Existing evidence on marijuana points to the importance of protecting the brain during its development. Since that development is only finalized by about 25 years of age, this would be an ideal minimum age based on currently accepted scientific evidence....
We know that marijuana use by youth can facilitate the onset of schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions in certain people. Complications include cognitive impairment, social isolation, and even suicide. Just this month at the World Psychiatric Association's World Congress in Berlin, we were presented with further evidence of that.
Knowing all of this, and knowing the rush this Liberal government is in to legalize marijuana, why are we putting off a public education plan? We know that for a message to sink in, it must be repeated over the long term, yet we are looking at a last-minute public education plans. A last-minute public education plan will not get the message across in time. I do applaud MADD Canada, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who have taken an early and proactive lead in public education about drug-impaired driving. However, more needs to be done in this area.
To close I would like to reiterate and summarize my main points of concern. While I support a strong stand against impaired driving, I also believe that we need to look at the bigger picture. We need to recognize that we are not ready for marijuana legalization in Canada. We have not educated Canadians adequately on marijuana and its effects. We have not educated Canadians, especially our young, on drug-impaired driving. Neither have we provided our police with adequate time to prepare for all of these changes. We do not have accurate drug detection equipment. We do not have enough trained, front-line officers to handle drug impairment.
In short, we are not—
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill . We have discussed the proposed legislation at length here. The bill introduces new and higher mandatory fines and maximum penalties for impaired driving crimes as well as mandatory alcohol screening at the roadside.
The Conservative Party supports measures that protect Canadians. However, we are concerned for a number of reasons, one of which is that the police, municipalities, and premiers are not prepared for the legislation that would be enacted, and I am referring to Bill .
This is good legislation insomuch that it would increase fines and the penalty for impaired driving would be less of something that people generally who are driving would consider. However, some serious complications have ensued.
I want to take us to the very heart of this legislation, which is Bill , the legalization of marijuana bill. What does that entail? For starters, it means that 18-year-olds in this country would legally be able to purchase and legally be able to indulge in smoking marijuana.
There has been a lot of talk about this proposed legislation. There has been a lot of talk about what the bill would do. I would like to bring to the House's attention a recent poll in the Vancouver Sun. The question was, “Where do you think people should buy their pot?” Multiple choices were listed. The highest group of people, 82.31%, answered “None of the above. I don't agree with legalization”. If we are hearing that this is what people want, it certainly does not reflect what we are seeing at the polls. The number dwindles down from there, shops that sell cannabis, pharmacies, liquor stores, etc.
I was pleased to hear from the member for the same news as was contained in the Vancouver Sun, that the federal government will not move ahead with marijuana legalization if it is not ready. It is good to hear that members on the other side are starting to talk this way. The member further said, “The concerned group is right. Things are not ready yet. We are still in the process.” We are looking for more of that encouragement from members on the opposite side. It is a step in the right direction, but it is a long way from where they should be.
I have been in this place for 12 years. I have served on a number of committees. Oftentimes when legislation is being proposed or new ideas come up, I always ask: Are there other jurisdictions that we can point to that have had this experience? What have they discovered? What have they learned from their enactment?
I am pleased to say there are a number of jurisdictions, and I am going to cite a few from a study on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Colorado took it upon itself in 2013 to legalize marijuana. It had relaxed laws and it continued on in that direction. We must remember that when we legalize marijuana the legal age will be 18, whereas in Colorado the age is 21. I do not have time to talk about that, even though it is an important issue as well.
The Colorado experience was such that it talked about impaired driving and fatalities. Marijuana-related traffic deaths more than doubled from 55 deaths in 2013 to 123 deaths in 2016.
If this foolish legislation, Bill , is passed we are going to hear moms and dads, sisters, brothers, and grandparents asking the Liberals to answer for their situation, for their circumstance, for their pain, since they brought the legislation forward.
Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66% in the four-year average since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. There is more.
In 2009, Colorado marijuana-related traffic deaths involving drivers testing positive for marijuana represented 9% of all traffic deaths. By 2016, it doubled to 20%. On youth marijuana use, we are talking about 21-year-olds. Youth past-month marijuana use increased 12% in the three-year average from 2013-15. In the latest poll, 2014-15, results show that Colorado youth ranked number one in the nation compared to number four in 2011-12. Colorado youth past-month marijuana use for 2014-15 was 55% higher than the national average. We know what is coming down the pipe.
Colorado is one jurisdiction that we can point to, but we can talk about drug usage and what other countries have experienced as well. When we do that, I would like to talk about the Netherlands. I have a little tie to the Netherlands. My parents emigrated from the Netherlands and I have family who live there, so I have a little understanding of what goes on there.
Before I talk about that though, I need to say that although there are some different opinions and different laws in other countries, the current UN treaty forbids countries to legalize or regulate drugs for recreational use. We are a signatory to that. Most countries, with the exception of Uruguay, moved in another direction. Holland tried something different. It tried a two-tier system. It sounds complicated and I would explain that the Dutch have an attitude. Let me quote what Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. He is a hip guy, he is not a stuffy old guy. Mark was the guy who rode his bicycle when the G7 participants went to the Netherlands and President Obama came in with choppers and cars. Mark said during an interview that, “people should do with their own bodies whatever they please, as long as they are well informed about what that junk does to them.” He was talking about marijuana usage.
He went on to say that cannabis legalization of the Colorado model for 21-year-olds, “—where the state taxes and regulates all levels of the supply chain and adults age 21 and over are allowed to purchase weed from state-licensed stores—was out of the question”. He said “if we were to do that, we'd be the laughing stock of Europe.” In relation to the system that they tried to adopt, which would maybe allow some marijuana usage for those with the right to do so, this two-tier system where it is being sold openly but cannot produce it, is complete bankrupt. This is from Jon Brouwer, a law professor at the University of Groningen who specializes in Dutch drug policy. It is a system that is fundamentally flawed, pumping millions into the criminal underworld. Of course, the Liberals insist that this will greatly hinder the underground and the criminal element. We are finding out in Holland, which started to tamper with it, it did not work that well.
I spent some of my time yesterday reading a report by the World Health Organization. I recommend it. It is a great read. It reinforces pretty much everything I have been saying. The health and social effects of non-medical cannabis use is what we have all signed to. I encourage members to read that. I will not be supporting Bill . I think Bill is moving in the right direction, but we certainly need to do a lot more work.
Madam Speaker, I am very proud to be here today to participate in this debate on behalf of the people of the great riding of Timmins—James Bay.
The bill before us this morning seeks to amend the Criminal Code to give the police more authority when it comes to dealing with drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. This bill arises from the Liberal government's decision to legalize marijuana. I have a lot of questions about this bill.
First, there is no reliable test for detecting the presence of drugs in a driver's system. That is problematic because the police do not have the resources they need to deal with this new reality. Where is the national campaign to make Canadians aware of the effects of the legalization of marijuana?
The other problem with this bill is the Liberal government's decision to give police officers more authority, which will allow them to arrest drivers for no reason. Canada currently enjoys a legal balance where the police have the tools they need to keep people safe and individual rights are protected. I believe that this bill will undermine that balance.
The issue of our response as a society to the legalization of marijuana is an important question for Parliament. Certainly, we have seen too many lives affected with permanent records for having been charged for the recreational use of marijuana. Therefore, I applaud the government for moving in the direction of legalization. However, I have a number of questions about the lack of preparedness from the government in offering our society the protections necessary and to ensure police officers have the resources they need to maintain the fundamental balance that exists right now between the rights of citizens to know their streets are safe from drunk and drug-impaired drivers and the rights of individuals to be protected from unnecessary stop and search.
Right now, we do not have a credible, simple, clear test to prove the influence of drugs, which is a serious question. We have to ask ourselves whether the resources will be in place for the police to deal with this. It is a straightforward. However, in response to this, we hear this from the government. Because there is no credible test for marijuana, it will move forward with arbitrary mandatory tests for alcohol impairment without reason. I am very concerned about this. It undermines the principle that has been established in our country about the need for just cause.
Right now, if police officers believe a driver is impaired from drugs or alcohol, they have the right to stop that vehicle and demand a test, which is fair. They have the right, identified by the court, to set up programs, such as the RIDE program, where police officers can stop, for a limited period of time, all drivers and test them. However, it is proven that the program does not target individuals, because it is applied fairly across the board, such as at Christmas or other times where there may be high levels of drinking. The fact that we would add a provision that could allow police to stop an individual anytime, anywhere, and demand tests, to me, is an undermining of the basic questions of the charter. We have to be looking at why the government is moving in this direction.
In the case of R. v. Oakes, there was a simple test, that the measures adopted must be carefully designed to achieve the objective in question, which is the protection of society and the maintaining of individual rights. It says, “They must not be arbitrary, unfair or based on irrational considerations.” This means that even if rationally connected to the objective in the first place, which would be to stop drunk driving, they should impair as little as possible the right or freedom in question.
Why is this so important? Right now, if we go to court on any given day, we will never see upper middle-class white teenagers in court for marijuana possession. It is racialized. It is immigrant and indigenous. The targeting of certain groups is a fact. If members represent a rural region like I do, they want to ensure our roads are safe but also that powers are not abused to target people just because of who they are. Talk about driving while black or driving while indigenous.
These protections have to be maintained. Civil society is based on the rule of law. These tests have been brought to the Supreme Court. They have been tested to ensure we still have the powers necessary to go after drunk driving, while we ensure the tools police officers have do not exceed the limits so they do not unfairly targeting certain individuals who, just because of perhaps their economic disposition, or where they live, or the colour of their skin are identified for harassment.
It always strikes me with the Liberals, the so-called party of the charter, that whenever they can, they overreach on these issues. These are fundamental principles and we need to talk about them. We are all invested in finding that balance. We want safe streets, but we also want to know that the rule of law to ensure the police officers do not overstep is protected. I am very concerned about this with respect to this change.
This leads us back to the fact that this is being added in on alcohol when we do not have a credible test for drugs. We need to start a major campaign of public awareness about the legalization of drugs and how we will start to apply that. There was a huge campaign of public awareness over drinking and driving. It had a major impact in reducing people's decisions to get behind the wheel after Christmas parties. That was a very successful campaign. It was maintained through having credible powers of police and testing that could be applied in court. It was a clear test. However, we do not have that with marijuana.
To simply say that we will add more mandatory searches of people left, right, and centre will not address that fundamental problem. I am surprised the government has attempted to go in this direction. We will see major questions in section 1 charter liabilities over the rights of citizens.
When we talk about adding more rights of citizens, for example, the right to smoke marijuana legally, we have to also then say what resources we have to protect society. Then from that, the question of how to ensure those tools the police and authorities have do not exceed their respective authority and protect the individual rights of Canadians. With the Liberal government, I see a complete overreach. It is using the issue of the legalization of marijuana to add tools in the police tool box that it should not have and that have been found by the courts to exceed and undermine the rights of citizens. Some fundamental problems have to be addressed.
Within this Parliament, we can address those issues, because they are complicated. They do not necessarily have to fall down on party lines. We have to find out what the right tools are to protect society and the rights of individuals. At this point, the Liberal government does not seem to have found that balance.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a very sensitive and very serious matter, namely, how the legalization of marijuana relates to road safety issues. What effect will it have, and what measures should be taken?
I want to begin by saying that we on this side of the House are in favour of cracking down on impaired drivers. We must never compromise on safety. Any time someone takes the wheel, they must be fully cognizant of the fact that they are wielding what can be a terrifying weapon if it is not used properly. It is the responsibility of all drivers to ensure that they are fully competent to drive. Woe to anyone who chooses to drive while impaired by either alcohol or, unfortunately, drugs. That is where Bill comes in.
Essentially, the bill makes the law tougher on people who consume drugs and then take the wheel. We certainly cannot oppose virtue, but it is the approach that is highly objectionable and needs to be examined because in our view it is not the right one.
Let us return to the thrust of the matter. The government wants to legalize marijuana. That is why it tabled this bill. It is not a good thing. Anyone who has even taken a slight interest in this matter knows that wherever this has been tried, whether in Colorado or Washington, there has been an increase in crime, the consumption and illegal production of drugs, accidents, social problems, and deaths on the road.
Furthermore, this bill and the Liberal's ambition to legalize marijuana will normalize the use of a drug. There is no place for this in public discourse. It has a place in debate, but not in legislation. It is unacceptable to move forward with normalizing a drug.
The government is claiming that, with this new approach, organized crime will not reap the ill-gotten gains of marijuana production. I only need to quote one person to refute this argument, and that is the Commissioner of the RCMP, who says that it is naive to believe that organized crime is going to lose out. I am not the one saying so; it is the Commissioner of the RCMP, who knows all about this. For more than 150 years, the RCMP has done a superb job of fighting organized crime, the people who make money on the backs of the poor. The Commissioner of the RCMP is telling us that we would be naive to believe that this will allow us to stamp out organized crime.
Colorado and Washington's experience has shown that organized crime has actually gotten better at organizing. Worse still, legalizing, and therefore normalizing, marijuana consumption means this dirty business will be sanctioned by the government. When a teenager or youth tries marijuana for the first time, they will be doing so legally and with the approval of the Liberal government. That first contact will open the door to hard drugs.
No drug user starts off with cocaine. First they try one little joint. Then they try a stronger joint. Then they start taking a little of this and a little of that. This depraved behaviour will have the blessing of the Liberal government. This is totally inappropriate. That is my overview of the marijuana issue.
Now, let us take a closer look at what Bill says about driving and driving-related measures. First of all, the government has been rushing forward on this issue at breakneck speed. Everything absolutely must be finished and passed by July 1, 2018. What is the rush? Is there a meteor heading for Earth? No. The July 1 deadline is all in the Liberal members' heads.
This is to say nothing of the Liberal government's outrageous idea to tie our national holiday, Canada Day, to the legalization of marijuana. Are the Liberals going to sing, “O Cannabis!”? I certainly will not. I am proud to be Canadian and I want us to sing O Canada, not “O Cannabis”. Well, that is what the Liberal government wants to do on July 1. What were they thinking, for Pete's sake? There are 365 days to choose from and they chose that day. If I were not in the House of Commons I would call them fools, but I will watch my language. It is not right to do that on July 1st, and so hastily to boot.
The provincial governments are left to deal with everything having to do with health, public safety, transportation, and housing. Thanks to this gracious Liberal government, it will be legal to have pot plants in every house in Canada. That is fantastic. This creates more problems.
Is there a single provincial government that is happy about having to implement all this in the amount of time they have been given? No, there is not a provincial government, a premier, or a health minister who has said that everything is just fine. Some are getting through this a bit better than others and say that they are on track to adapting to this new reality, but this is not something that should be done under pressure as quickly as possible. The provincial authorities are the ones that are stuck dealing with this problem. It is an insult to our provincial partners.
The same applies to road safety. Does the government seriously think that the police have all the tools they need to deal with this new reality? Does the government think that the police have the training needed to use those new tools? Does it think that all police officers will be ready to deal with this right away and that they will be ready to enforce this law on July 1, 2018?
That is absolutely not the case. The head of the RCMP and all of the other police forces across Canada are saying that they do not have the tools they need, even though that is fundamental. This bill requires people to deal with this situation even if they are not ready. That is the problem. The Liberals are rushing to implement this measure without doing the necessary research. If they have to legalize marijuana, could they not at least take the time to do things right and make sure that the police and everyone else who has to deal with this sad reality have the proper training? Unfortunately, that is not what the Liberals are doing. They are just rushing this thing through.
The government is saying that it is going to spend millions of dollars to make people aware of the risks associated with marijuana. First, that sends a contradictory message because why would the government legalize something that it does not want people to use? That makes no sense. Second, the money that the Liberal government has allocated to make people aware of the risks associated with marijuana is just a fraction of what Washington State and Colorado allocated for the same purpose.
We are hearing a lot of bluster about this, but the government has not taken any real action to serve Canadians as it should in this regard. The government is not doing enough in terms of prevention and it is not providing the resources and tools our police officers need. The government is trying to rush the provinces into this and force them to hastily implement this measure by July 1, 2018.
Legalizing marijuana, which normalizes and gives our children easier legal access to the drug market, is clearly a bad idea. What is worse, Bill will lead us astray; we will not have enough time to give law enforcement the training or equipment it needs and even less time to raise awareness among those we are trying to protect. Unfortunately, the government is going too fast in the wrong direction.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for for her always temperate and well-articulated comments.
We obviously do not share the same social vision, but the beauty of the House of Commons is that it brings together people from the “for” camp, people from the “against” camp, people who are more to the right, and others further to the left. That is Canada, and that is the very purpose of the House of Commons.
The member said that under the Conservative government, consumption rose despite stronger repressive measures. I do not think this problem is related to whether the government is Conservative or formed by another party. Rather, it is a global problem.
We believe that legalizing and therefore trivializing marijuana consumption is no way to reduce consumption. Naturally, we support any initiative aimed at raising public awareness, such as an outreach campaign. However, the worst thing that could happen would be for an outreach campaign to be launched at the same time as marijuana is legalized. That would be sheer folly.
Legalizing marijuana trivializes it. That means taking marijuana will no longer be considered illegal or wrong. Well, taking marijuana is wrong. Legalizing it is wrong, and trivializing it is definitely wrong.
We agree with the idea of an education campaign, but for God's sake, let us launch it with all possible speed and energy, and delay the legalization of marijuana as long as possible.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to be in the House today to speak to Bill . I want to thank the member for . He provided some very important points to this House. I appreciate not only his passion and hard work for his constituents but also that he is standing up for Canadians.
Bill is evidence of another broken promise by the current Liberal government. It is another symbol of the top-down approach that the takes. He informs members of his caucus, of his party, that this is what he has decided to do and that this is what they will do, which is to have marijuana legalized as of Canada Day, with a great celebration. This member brought up that the has said that is what the Liberals will do and that they must support that position, that plan.
Recently, we saw what happens when members show some independence and represent the concerns of their constituents. They are kicked off committees or are disciplined severely, because they must assimilate and support the position of their leader. It is disappointing. That is not what Canadians were promised. They were promised transparency. They were promised that the government would be listening, truly consulting, and representing the concerns of Canadians, of the constituents. We saw a model of that being hammered down, where one member of the Liberal caucus who said, “I'm going to represent my constituents”, was severely punished.
I am proud to bring the voice of the constituents of my riding of Langley—Aldergrove. I love it. It is a beautiful part of Canada. I have consulted about this. I consulted with a unique group of people, young professionals on my youth advisory board, which is made up of students from grades 11 and 12, as well as university. These are our future leaders, so I asked them about impaired driving and the legalization of marijuana. The current government has a minister for youth who is the himself. He has said that he represents this age group. This age group is telling the and these Liberal members to slow down the process. They feel that it is being rushed and the government will not get it right.
I think of the old adage, haste makes waste. There is real truth in that, and we are seeing that played out by the Liberal government, which is hastily moving forward regardless of what it is hearing from Canadians, from the provinces, and from police chiefs. Overwhelmingly, the government is being told to slow the process down and that it is moving too fast because Canada is not ready for this, particularly with respect to Bill . This is the legislation that the government, with great gusto, promised would make our roads safer. The Liberals said that they would not legalize marijuana until they first had legislation in place in Canada to make sure they keep our roads safe. They were going to get tough on impaired driving. That is anything but the truth, because they are not. What they are proposing will make our streets much less safe.
I have met a lot of people in my riding and have heard some tragic stories while representing my constituents. I met Victor and Markita Kaulius. Their daughter Kassandra was killed by a drunk driver not that long ago. They were devastated, as any parent would be. Whether it is a daughter, a son, a sibling, a spouse, a partner, it is devastating to lose someone. It is a normal part of every human being to want justice if that were to happen because of a criminal offence. Driving impaired and killing someone is the number one criminal offence in Canada. Therefore, Canadians are calling out for justice. Markita Kaulius became part of an organization across Canada that has sent literally tens of thousands of petitions to this House calling for a toughening of the Criminal Code of Canada.
The previous government, in the last Parliament, introduced legislation to toughen the impaired driving laws in Canada, to include mandatory minimum sentencing. It found that the sentences coming from the courts in Canada for impaired driving causing death were actually just fines. None got anywhere close to the maximum.
It suggested that impaired driving causing death be called what it is, vehicular homicide, and Families for Justice said it wanted mandatory minimums. They felt that, if someone knowingly drives a vehicle while impaired and kills someone, a first offence should be at least five years. Five years is actually one-third of that; it is about a year and a half. With statutory release, after one-third of a sentence people qualify to be released.
Families for Justice asked for five years. In the additional three and a half years after the initial one and half years of being locked up and receiving treatment and programs, people would be supervised to make sure they were not driving while impaired. It was very reasonable, and it is actually where Canadians are.
The last government said yes, and it introduced legislation. All the leaders running in the last election were asked if they would support the legislation, because there was not enough time to get it passed in the last Parliament. The wrote a letter to Markita Kaulius saying that he would support that.
Moving forward into this Parliament, that was another broken promise. The did not support that. There have been two pieces of legislation. One was a Conservative private member's bill, and one was a Liberal private member's bill. They were not good enough for him. He wanted to be in front, leading the parade on this, so those were shut down. We now have Bill .
As per the promise the made to Markita Kaulius and to Families for Justice, in Bill , there were to be mandatory minimum sentences. I was honoured to serve on the justice committee just recently in the study of Bill , before it came back to the House. The Liberal government, as dictated by the Prime Minister's Office, said that we are going to get tough by increasing the maximum—and nobody gets the maximum. The guidelines to the courts, to provide discretion to the courts, said that on a first offence, people would receive at least a $1,000 fine for killing someone while driving impaired. For the second offence, the second time someone killed somebody while driving impaired, they would get 30 days in jail. Now with 30 days, one-third is 10 days. The third time someone killed somebody while driving impaired, they would get 120 days, which is 40 days.
I was flabbergasted when the Liberal members at the justice committee were defending that as being just. They said that five years, which is a year and half of incarceration, and dealing with the causes of why this person was driving impaired, is much too harsh. They wanted to give the courts discretion.
The courts are bound by precedents, previous rulings of the court. They need to have discretion, but they need guidance from this House. Canadians wonder why sentencing is so small, and why it does not represent what Canadians want. It is not our judges; it is the people sitting across the way. They are weak on crime.
Canadians want us to be tough on crime. They want fairness and justice, and they are not getting it from the Liberal government. Sadly, Bill is not even close to what Canadians want. It is another broken promise by the Liberal government, a top-down approach that will unfortunately leave our streets very unsafe. Marijuana-impaired, alcohol-impaired, and illegal drug-impaired driving will be a growing problem in Canada because of the government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to add to the debate on Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding offences relating to conveyances and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The title, though, is not really a description of what this bill would do, which is to change the impaired driving laws in Canada to ensure that we deal not only with drug impairment but also increase the sanctions on those who drive while impaired by alcohol. This is a complex subject that the NDP and I are very concerned about.
I agree that this bill is important. To be clear, nothing is more important than protecting the Canadian public. The NDP has been a long-time advocate of improving and ensuring deterrence of impaired driving, whose tragedies we all face in our ridings. This is in no way the only component of this bill. I have many concerns about it and its true effectiveness and would like to outline some of them.
When people speak about impaired driving, they often refer to the victims of these crimes. Without a doubt, the human cost of impaired driving is huge. Every year, hundreds of people are killed and tens of thousands are injured as a result of impaired driving crashes in Canada. This affects our friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues, virtually everyone in our lives. There is perhaps no greater pain than losing a loved one so suddenly under circumstances like impaired driving. The frustrations of the legal system are even more significant on top of the pain and anger from one's loss. I agree that impaired driving has had a long history of causing heartbreak in our country and that changes need to be made to prevent any more tragedies from happening in Canada.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, in 2010, impairment-related crashes resulted in an estimated 1,082 fatalities, 63,821 injuries, and damage to 210,932 vehicles. There are also significant financial and social costs as a result of impaired driving. There was a total of 181,911 crashes, costing an estimated $20.62 billion. This includes the costs of the horrific fatalities, injuries, property damage, traffic delays, hospital costs, and the cost of first responders, such as police officers, firefighters, and ambulance attendants, to say nothing of the psychological impact on our front-line workers. Naturally, the government should want to put forward legislation that prevents people from needlessly suffering. My question is why it does not want to do it right.
The largest problem with this bill centres around the mandatory roadside alcohol and drug testing or screening proposed in section 320.27. This would be the first time in Canada that authority would be given to police to stop someone on a whim. These are very dangerous and murky waters we are wading into here. Currently, under the law, officers must have a reasonable suspicion before they can stop someone. Many civil liberties groups have raised concerns about these proposed changes, stating that the removal of reasonable suspicion would result in disproportionate targeting of racialized Canadians, indigenous people, youth, and other marginalized groups.
I am the proud mother of two young black men, so I am additionally concerned about the uncertainties this bill would create. Carding and unfair racial profiling is an issue in many communities, and many other Canadians must deal with this on a daily basis, so why would the government create a piece of legislation that could potentially worsen this problem? Why would it put our valued police officers in such a precarious position? This issue may also be challenged in the judicial system and be subject to defeat under section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 1 “guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
Random and mandatory breath tests for alcohol screening are also included in this bill, and they too could be challenged under sections 8 and 9 of the charter, which address the rights of individuals to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure and the rights of individuals not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. Therefore, I again must ask the House why the government would create a piece of legislation that could impact the rights of individuals as laid out by the charter. This is incredibly short-sighted.
There is also the problem of how the police are expected to test and screen people for impaired driving from cannabis. The proposed plans are to use roadside oral fluid drug screeners. In Ontario, the pilot projects that use these devices are unreliable, and there is no standard chemical test that states when a person is impaired. Furthermore, the proposed legislation does not name any per se limit. The legal limit that would show impairment is not in the bill. Instead, the government has stated that this shall be prescribed by regulation.
I am reminded of a recent court case last year that shows why it is so important for the government to create legislation that is thorough and well thought out. This case involved a Toronto police officer and three young black men. The officer pulled their car over, despite the absence of any evidence. He said he was relying on a type of sixth sense to suss out usual suspects. These young men were handed four charges, including one of assaulting a police officer. The judge threw out these charges and stated:
...upon seeing this older vehicle being driven by three young, black males Constable Crawford's immediate conclusion despite the lack of any evidence, was that they were up to something.... It was more probable than not that there was no articulable cause for the stop but that the real reason for the stop was racial profiling.
As legislators, it is imperative that we find solutions to problems, but not create more problems. By not creating clear and well-thought-out laws, we leave stranded those who must enforce those laws and those who must abide by them.
The NDP is asking for a more effective piece of legislation that deals with the problem of impaired driving holistically. We need a robust public awareness campaign that educates the public and police about the dangers of driving while impaired from either alcohol or drugs. Through education, we can effectively teach and deter people, thereby avoiding the problem in the first place.
This was a major recommendation of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation. It stated quite accurately that we need to “develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment and that the best way to avoid driving impaired is to not consume.”
The Canadian Automobile Association helped fund a study by the Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation that suggests that legalization would pose “incredible challenges” for managing pot-impaired drivers. The CAA also commissioned a poll that found that almost two-thirds of respondents are worried that our roads will become more dangerous after legalization.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about marijuana usage in our country, and we certainly have heard a great deal of them in the House today. In the poll I referred to, some people even believed that taking pot made them a better driver. Suffice it to say that there is a great deal of research that challenges and supports these perceptions. However, it is the responsibility of the government to study this issue in more detail, educate the public on the best information available, and ensure that it puts forward legislation that effectively and fairly addresses this problem.
New Democrats want a smart bill that truly works to protect Canadians. Repeatedly, experts and their research show us that education and prevention are truly bigger deterrents than sentences. This is why we believe that the bill must focus more heavily on these issues. Yes, impaired driving is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada. There are lives at stake, and I believe that as legislators we must include effective provisions to stop people from ever making the choice to drive impaired.
I have to say that it is disappointing that the Liberals on the committee defeated five out of six NDP amendments, and the majority of the opposition members' amendments as well, but of course supported all of the government's amendments. I think there was an opportunity at the committee to get the bill right, but it is disappointing that it has now come to the House without that happening.
This issue is too important to put band-aid solutions on it. We must do this correctly, and we must do it intelligently to end the long, heartbreaking history of impaired driving in Canada. Nothing is more devastating than the loss of a loved one, and we must do everything we can to prevent the tragedies that occur on our roads.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts. I would also like to thank the member for for her very kind words and thoughts. As a mother, I am on the same page on this. I would like to thank her very much for sharing that.
Today we are speaking about safe roads for Canadians and their families. It should be a simple discussion, but we must recognize that with the ramming through of this legislation, our cities and municipalities will not have the proper tools and resources to make sure that safety is our priority.
During the summer, I met with many people to discuss Bill . Many individuals brought forward their concerns about impaired driving due to cannabis, which concerns Bill .
The task force put together many recommendations for the Liberal government to review. First, the chair of the committee indicated that the best solution was to give researchers time to develop proper detection tools. Second, for many users, specifically youth, the potency and impact is greatly unknown and underestimated. Third, there should be increased funding for law enforcement authorities to get ready for the new regime. Fourth, and one of the key points I find extremely important and that was recommended by both the task force and the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized marijuana, was the importance of extensive impaired driving campaigns before the legislation.
To begin, I would like speak about the need for proper detection tools. Results were announced indicating that there was a pilot project using a new device to detect the concentration of cannabis in the system. It was reported by officers that the device was easy to use and successfully detected the drug. At this time, there has been no indication of what the next steps will be and how we are going to pay for it.
Second, is it the best test, and will it detect impairment? We have heard other members of Parliament speak about these tests and the equipment necessary. We do not have the silver bullet when it comes to detection devices.
It was also stated that the best method to prevent impaired driving was public education funding for public resources and education. Education is definitely a word everyone will hear more and more throughout my speech.
Another concern is the unknown and underestimated impact of cannabis on youth. Studies show that cannabis has many different effects on people, specifically on the skills that are extremely important when driving. They include loss of motor coordination, problem solving, and thinking; and distorted perception. I believe we all agree that these are important skills that should not be at risk when driving.
Keeping this in mind, we should take into account a few other factors. Statistics posted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction state the following:
According to the 2012 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, 5% of youth aged 15-24 reported driving after using marijuana during the past year, compared to 9.4% after consuming alcohol.
Data from the National Fatality Database revealed that between 2000 and 2010, marijuana was the most common illicit drug present among fatally injured drivers aged 15-24 in Canada.
The 2011 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey revealed that individuals aged 15-24 were more likely to be passengers of an individual who had consumed alcohol or other drugs, rather than to drive impaired themselves. Riding with a driver who has used drugs or alcohol can lead to consequences just as tragic as driving while impaired.
Addressing impaired driving among our youth must be done. CCSA goes on to say:
CCSA has conducted a series of reviews examining effective approaches to preventing drugged driving among youth. Key findings include:
Factual messaging created by youth ensures that information is believable and easily understood by youth.
Empowering youth to plan and create their own prevention initiatives can increase the effectiveness and reach of the message.
Parents, teachers, coaches and so on should talk to youth about impaired driving and discuss implications to encourage youth to think critically before making decisions.
Overall, what we are talking about are awareness campaigns that centre on youth to deter them from driving while impaired, especially under the influence of marijuana. Once again, my focus here is education. The most common drug used first by Canadian youth is marijuana, and among our youth population, we have the second highest use of marijuana in the world. Where is the education regarding the potential effects and the conversation on driving while impaired?
Next, what is available for resources and financial support? Currently, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments have been speaking, but there are no decisions, and there is still one main player missing at the table. The cities and municipalities that will be in charge of keeping our roads safe have not been provided with this tool. They have been left out of these conversations. We still have to talk to them. We need to talk about education. We need to talk about potential detection devices, but currently, all we are doing is talking about reasonable suspicion.
How many officers in Canada are currently qualified? With legalization and predicting increased use, will more officers need to be trained? Where is the training, and what are the current waiting times for training? These are things I have had discussions about in my riding. I have spoken to the chief of police in the city of St. Thomas. We talked a lot about drug recognition officers. What is the cost? What is the delay? We have heard many reports indicating that there are too few officers available and that the education is not available. Right now, because we, as well as other states, are going forward with this, there is a huge delay in getting this done.
According to an article published by the Ottawa Citizen on February 4, 2017, here are the numbers: 2.6% is the proportion of drivers in Canada who admitted driving within two hours of using cannabis in the past year, according to Health Canada's 2012 Canadian alcohol and drug use survey; 632,576 people is how many this represents; 10.4 million is how many trips this represents; 2.04 million is how many Canadian drivers admitted to driving after consuming two or more drinks in the previous hour, which represents 13.3 million trips; 5.5% is the proportion of drivers who tested positive for cannabis use, according to a 2013 study in British Columbia; and 16.6% is the proportion of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for cannabis, according to an examination done between 2000 and 2010. Males are three times as likely as females to drive after using cannabis.
Therefore, this is an issue we must address. We need to provide the proper resources for our police forces to deal with this. Regarding drug recognition experts, there are currently 578 drug recognition experts in Canada, and 160 to 200 new DREs are certified every year. Some existing DREs do not recertify, or they are promoted out of the role. It is hard enough to maintain the current number of DREs, much less increase the number, said one of the people working in the department.
At the same time, training is expensive, and some of it has to be done in the U.S. Opportunities to get field training in the U.S. are being squeezed as demand to train officers increases there. This is a clear challenge that needs to be addressed.
According to the 2017 budget:
Health Canada will support marijuana public education programming and surveillance activities in advance of the Government's plan to legalize cannabis by directing existing funding of $9.6 million over five years, with $1.0 million per year ongoing.
However, Health Canada has just issued a public tender to find a contractor to develop a national marketing plan targeting youth that will focus on education and awareness of the health and safety risks of cannabis. This campaign is going to be targeted at Canadian youth aged 13-18. An important point to note, though, is that this program is going to start running after December 2017, so we are talking about putting in a program less than six months before the legalization of marijuana. There is no exact date when the ads are going to start. Just saying it will be after December 2017 is not good enough.
Why is the government rushing on this issue? Why are we rushing to not keep our roads safe? Why are the Liberals not doing more? Why are they rushing Bill and Bill , other than because of extreme political views? Why are we not taking the safety of Canadians on our roads as paramount?
Mr. Speaker, this bill seeks to clearly set out the offences of and the sentences for people who decide to drive under the influence of marijuana and to update provisions on drunk driving.
We supported this bill at second reading and since then we have been examining it. Unfortunately, impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal deaths in the country. Canada has one of the worst impaired driving records in the OECD.
We need to implement an effective and well funded public awareness campaign. As we have been repeating from the start of today's debate, it is important for the government to quickly implement this public awareness and education campaign.
Earlier today, my colleague from , the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said that we were here to talk about Bill , not Bill , which deals with the legalization of marijuana. However the government chose to introduce these two bills around the same time, one after the other. We cannot talk about one without talking about the other. It is therefore important to make sure that the awareness and education campaign is done right and that it is launched immediately, well before marijuana is legalized.
The NDP has always stood for sensible measures to prevent impaired driving. We need to focus on powerful deterrents that can actually help prevent tragedies. I just said it, but I want to reiterate that the government needs to launch a robust public awareness campaign before the marijuana legalization bill comes into force.
Bill C-46 does not clearly define the levels of marijuana in saliva that would qualify as impairment. That needs to be made clear. We need an unbiased, science-based strategy for stopping drug-impaired drivers.
Under the bill, the police will no longer need to have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person consumed alcohol in order to demand a breath sample. Civil liberties groups and the legal community have expressed concerns over the constitutionality of the proposed measures. In fact, earlier, my colleague from illustrated how this might lead to profiling during arrests, which is problematic.
These civil liberties defence groups also wonder whether marginalized groups will be targeted. That is why, upon reflection, it is important to have experts provide testimony at committee to ensure that Canadians' civil liberties are respected and protected.
The NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, was 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 aboriginal, black, or Canadians of other minorities.
The discriminatory police practice of carding was central to his work in the Ontario legislative assembly. Mr. Singh says that as Prime Minister, he will enact a federal ban on racial profiling to end it once and for all.
In fact, he said in a Toronto Star interview that he had been stopped more than 11 times because of his appearance. He said:
I've been stopped by police multiple times for no other reason than the colour of my skin. It makes you feel like you don't belong, like there's something wrong with you for just being you.
I find meeting with our constituents to be a very interesting part of our work as MPs. I have been asked how we come to decide how to vote in the House. Of course, the discussions like the one we are having today, as well as the ones with our colleagues, are key. My colleagues' speeches today have been very enlightening.
During caucus discussions, we draw on our personal experiences and our own judgment, but also on the experiences of our colleagues in the House. As such, I would like to talk about my colleague from's speech, which was very enlightening for me on this issue. I had the chance to sit on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying with my colleague from Victoria, and his legal and constitutional expertise was very enlightening for me. The bill before us today, Bill , is also very enlightening.
I would like to read part of a speech he gave, one that I feel is very important.
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.... 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 want to quote something else he said, because, unlike him, I did not have the privilege of taking part in the deliberations of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He said:
We heard from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other countless witnesses at the justice committee, telling their heartbreaking stories of the loss they had suffered. However, the bill poses serious concerns, particularly in the area of mandatory alcohol screen....What is the concern with mandatory alcohol testing? The new police powers enacted through the legislation would remove the reasonable suspicion requirements for roadside inspection by peace officers that presently exist in the Criminal Code, instead moving to a mandatory system by which, at the discretion of the patrolling officer, motorists must submit to random breath samples without any justification whatsoever, in other words, on a whim.
I was saying earlier that our personal experience can inform our discussions of this type of bill. I often tell the House that before being elected, I worked for the Quebec ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food, was a municipal councillor, and also worked with youth for almost 20 years. In light of my experience with a youth round table and as the director of a community housing organization that served troubled youth, I cannot help but have concerns about the impact of this type of bill, which requires a very balanced approach. I sincerely hope that the only NDP amendment to be retained will remain intact. It is important that we do not target certain groups in society when we address impaired driving. As parliamentarians it is our duty to ensure that each and every citizen is treated fairly and that the laws we pass make that possible.
Mr. Speaker, the member articulates her concerns so well.
I want to respond to a particular issue. The member opposite expressed concern about the validity of oral fluids testing and the experience in other jurisdictions.
First, I want to share with her the results of a report done by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, CCSA, which it submitted to the government in April of this year. It did a very thorough examination of the use of oral fluids testing in other jurisdictions. It makes note that, for example, in Victoria, Australia, these tests have been conducted within its legal framework since 2008. The oral fluids testing kits are also currently in use in such countries as France, Belgium, Spain, and, most recent, the United Kingdom, as well as in several states in the United States.
The CCSA also indicates that the Canadian Society of Forensic Science drugs and driving committee has recently done an evaluation of the oral fluids testing kits that currently exist. It has said that they have reached a sufficient level of accuracy to be useful in the Canadian context. Those have also been tested by eight different police services across the country to ensure they actually work in a Canadian environment.
Based on that information from the CCSA, might that respond to some of the concerns expressed by my friend opposite?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again today on Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding offences relating to conveyances. Shortening the title, we are dealing with impaired driving and a review and updating of the old sections of the Criminal Code. It is impaired driving by alcohol or drugs.
I was a policeman for 35 years and held Breathalyzer operator certificates since 1970. I took part in probably well over 1,000 impaired cases involving alcohol and drugs. My first year, there were about 100, as a rookie. In those days, I could arrest a guy for impaired driving, bring him into the office, do up all the paperwork, and get back on the road within an hour or an hour and a half, except once. This is how bad impaired drivers can be.
I remember a case when I arrested a guy for impaired driving and brought him back to the office. At the time, the policy of the attorney general and the province was not to hold or detain, or remove vehicles from the road. I brought the man in and he blew .26. We had to release him, so I released him. Fifteen minutes later, I saw him driving down the road. I picked him up, brought him back to the office, processed him, and gave him an appearance notice because I could not hold him, and let him go. Twenty minutes later, lo and behold, he drove by me again. This time, I brought him in and arrested him. Impaired driving has always been a very serious part of our society.
Is impaired driving going down, whether it is due to drugs or alcohol? That is debatable. We have to thank groups like MADD for their work, but I do not believe it is going down, and I will provide two specific reasons. One is that the time to process a simple impaired driving case takes anywhere from three to four hours, and closer to four hours. Therefore, the police officer is off the road for four hours in order to do the paperwork. Why does it take that long? It is because of all the different wording in all of the legislation. He has to cross all of his t's and dot all of his i's to get a conviction. All we are doing right now is bringing in more legislation, more work for lawyers, and it is going to complicate it that much more.
The second reason is deterrence. I had the good fortune to find a court book from 1950 for Vancouver Island and impaired drivers were being fined anywhere between $100 and $300 in 1950. The average salary in 1950 was about $1,700. In 1970, the fines were still $100 to $300, but people were earning about $5,700. Today, the minimum fine is $1,000 and people are earning an average of $50,000, though I think it is a bit higher than that. Therefore, there is no deterrent to cause people to think about drinking and driving.
I will comment on what my hon. friend from said. He brought up in committee that we need to strengthen some of the legislation. An example was to have a five-year mandatory sentence for someone who drives a vehicle while impaired and kills a person, and the Liberal government said no and voted against it. Right now, the minimum fine under summary conviction is $1,000. If we go to the more serious offence of causing injury or death, it is $500 more. That is ridiculous. It was more effective many years ago than it is today.
I will provide some simple statistics for those in the room. One shot of whisky is equal to 12 ounces of beer or a glass of wine. An average 140-pound woman who has three ounces in an hour would probably have a reading of .11, which would put her at .03 over the limit. Here is one place where I can say men might be just a little better than women. A 140-pound man having three ounces in an hour would have a .09 reading. That is because our dissipation system seems to be a bit better, and I will leave it at that.
Science gives us the ability to calculate the effects of alcohol. I could sit down with any person in this room, and if he or she told me what he or she had to drink I could probably break it down and tell him or her what the reading would be.
Proposed section 254.01 of the Criminal Code, the new one that we are talking about, states:
The Attorney General of Canada may...approve
(a) a device that is designed to ascertain the presence of alcohol in a person’s blood;
(b) equipment that is designed to ascertain the presence of a drug in a person’s body;
(c) an instrument that is designed to receive and make an analysis of a sample of a person’s breath to determine their blood alcohol concentration
Paragraphs (a) and (c) have been in existence since the 1960s. With respect to paragraph (b), we are told that some countries have some form of testing that they believe is correct. We are looking at that and testing it right now. However, it is not definite, for sure. I do not believe we have enough scientific evidence out there. However, we will be going ahead with this law to make marijuana legal.
Impaired driving, under proposed section 254 of the bill refers to any conveyance. Therefore, we will be able to go after anybody riding an electric bike, an electric wheelchair, an ATV, a lawnmower, all the way up to a transport truck. All these people will be subject to the new rules and regulations that we are imposing. Some of them will be able to use legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and others will use legalized marijuana for recreational use.
We all know that marijuana goes through the lungs into the bloodstream, then into the body, and gets stored in the fat cells. The sad part about it, which is different than alcohol, is that alcohol dissipates at about one ounce per hour for an average person. Therefore, it is gone. If one has three drinks in an hour, probably three to four hours later one's body is clear of that alcohol. That is not the case with marijuana. It stays in one's brain tissue and fat cells and can come up anytime one agitates one's body or gets excited. What does marijuana do? It knocks the heck out of our senses: sense of time, moods, movements, thinking, the ability to problem-solve, and memory. If we overindulge in the use of marijuana, then we can go into hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis. However, most people will just experience the former part, which is a form of impairment.
Duke University in New Zealand did a number of tests in the last few years with young people. I am saying this because it has proven that kids using marijuana on a regular basis had an IQ that was eight points less than their counterparts who did not use it. That is already a form of impairment right there.
According to Colorado State University, the tests it has done over the last few years show that the THC level of marijuana has increased over 30% in the past 20 years. It is much stronger than it used to be, which is another form of impairment.
My concern is that marijuana stays in one's body for three to 10 days immediately, and it takes up to three months for it to completely dissipate.
The shocking fact is that Colorado sold $14.6 million worth of marijuana in January of 2015. In the month of January 2016, it sold $36.4 million. That is more than double. To me, if the amount has doubled, so has the amount of impaired driving, which means we need to double the amount of money that we are going to spend on education. The current government has told us that it is going to spend a certain amount. We know that as soon as it becomes legal, the use of marijuana is going to at least double.
The legislation in Bill has some good intentions, and I do not disagree with it, but it needs to be reviewed with more scrutiny. It needs to be looked at. We need to get rid of a lot of the ambiguous parts that are written in there because it is going to tie up police officers on the road and make it very difficult for us to enforce impaired driving, especially with respect to drugs.
Mr. Speaker, once again, I rise to speak about the shortfalls and the negative consequences of Bill .
When I last voiced my concern about the bill back in May, I brought to the attention of the House a devastating tragedy that was suffered by the Van de Vorst family in my city of Saskatoon. Early last year, they lost four members of their family to an impaired driver. It is an unimaginable tragedy. Some say it was the worst accident in the city of Saskatoon's history. Linda and Lou Van de Vorst lost their son, their daughter-in-law, and their two grandchildren when an impaired driver blew through the intersection of Wanuskewin Road and Highway 11. Four members of their family were wiped out on that January night. Two nights ago, the first official roadside memorial sign, with the names of the Van de Vorst family, was put up at this intersection as a reminder.
I am sure all of us have driven through an intersection where we spot flowers, a white cross, and teddy bears from time to time, but this is the first sign with actual names in my province of Saskatchewan. The names are Jordan, Chanda, Kamryn, and Miguire Van de Vorst. I ask members this. Will Linda and Lou Van de Vorst be able to drive that road again, or will they look for an extra-grid road so that they do not have to pass by that sign? The impaired driver was three times over the legal limit. The sentence then for killing all four innocent people was a mere 10 years.
I have another story of Melanie and Allan Kerpan, another family that has suffered a tragic loss. Just a week ago today, the Kerpan family unveiled a sign on Highway 11 that reads “In memory of Danille Brooke Kerpan”. Three years ago this month, their daughter, Danille, was driving on a double-lane highway when a drunk driver going the wrong way—we understand for many kilometres and many minutes—ran into her vehicle, taking her young life. Allan Kerpan came to Ottawa about a year and a half ago and spoke on this.
I mentioned Kerpan's name, because Allan is a very good friend of ours and he is also a former member of Parliament for Blackstrap. The Kerpans' entire family have been outspoken about the changing attitude toward drinking and driving, the need for awareness, and the need for education.
There was a province-wide campaign led by Saskatchewan Government Insurance, or SGI, showing real-life victims of impaired driving crashes. Let us imagine on the television set that one by one these faces disappear. We lose one and then another and then another. It is a 30-second spot on Saskatchewan television.
Again I ask, every time Melanie and Allan Kerpan leave their family farm in Kenaston to go south on Highway 11, as they approach Bladworth, where this accident occurred, will they be reminded now of this tragedy, because of a sign?
Unfortunately, my province of Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates, if not the highest, of impaired driving in this country, as per Statistics Canada 2015, and families suffer as a result. I just talked about two of many families in my province. In 2016 alone, there were 6,377 incidents of impaired driving in our province of Saskatchewan. In my city of Saskatoon, with a population of under 300,000, we had 649 incidents of impaired driving.
This is an unacceptable statistic, which represents serious harm to the lives and the well-being of people not only in my constituency but in our province and certainly our country.
We are left here with Bill , a bill concerning driving under the influence of drugs, notably marijuana. It is a bill with substantial flaws, which the Liberal government refuses to address.
Actually, the motivating force for Bill would be Bill . The claim that this legislation will keep marijuana out of the hands of children and drive criminals out of the business of profiting from the sale of marijuana is simply ridiculous. I have stated before in this House that this is simply not true. It is fake news, if I could say that. A legal age for consuming alcohol has not stopped underage children and teenagers from consuming alcohol if they want it. Criminals will always be able to profit from a black market for illegal marijuana and will find more desirable targets in underage youth because of this Bill .
We have talked about the burdens on police and the justice system due to this Bill . When we look at statistics from 2015, we see that drug-impaired driving is on the rise nationally, even before marijuana becomes legalized. That should be deeply troubling to all members, combined with the fact that cases of drug-impaired driving take longer to resolve before the courts when compared to drunk driving, and are less likely to result in a guilty finding.
With an increase of people using marijuana or trying it out for the first time, we can only expect that these stats will become much worse after it becomes legalized. The government does not appear to be considering how difficult it will be and how many resources it will need to properly police drug-impaired driving. Unlike drunk driving, which we can predict will peak at times such as Friday and Saturday nights, drug-impaired driving is a problem, I think, which will occur any time of the day, any day of the week. Stats Canada reports:
What this suggests is that drug-impaired driving may be more difficult to combat than alcohol-impaired driving since research has indicated that targeting known peak periods is one of the most effective ways to combat drinking and driving.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, including my own Saskatoon police service, told the federal committee they need more time to properly train officers about the new cannabis laws, and they need more than double the number of police officers who are certified to conduct roadside drug-impaired driving tests. Police have asked the Liberal government to postpone the date for legal pot because there is zero chance they will be ready by July 1.
We also have the issue of growing marijuana plants. That is going to be a major issue. Just last week I had a delegation from the Association of Saskatchewan Realtors wondering about landlords' rights when renting out their property. Do they have any rights? This is an issue on which they have not been consulted.
As I mentioned, this issue is a burden that police face in response to how rushed we are now on this Bill . In my last speech I talked about it. However, I wonder if the Liberal government is even listening to these concerns.
The most important issue is education. We have not even started that. The Liberal government claims it is going to start it in the month of December, which is six or seven months prior to when we legalize pot on July 1. It has not even contacted the Canadian School Boards Association, yet these are the vulnerable people, age 15 and up, whom we are talking about, and they have not been educated on drinking and driving or the effects of marijuana. We are deeply concerned about the lack of education, and that the government has not progressed at all.
In conclusion, there are many glaring shortcomings that are present in Bill , which need to be addressed in order to improve the safety and well-being of my constituents and others in this country.
Mr. Speaker, over the course of the summer, I took on the task of holding five town halls on the government's legislation to not only legalize recreational marijuana, but also on Bill , which we are debating in the House today. I threw open the doors and invited constituents who cared to attend, so everybody would have a full understanding of what was being proposed in both pieces of legislation. It was from those five meetings that I got a better understanding of the concerns of not only everyday residents, but also from community leaders such as mayors, reeves, and councillors.
Listening to one's constituents should not only happen during town halls, it is a practice that every elected official should subscribe. If truth be told, not many members of the government hosted a no-holds barred public meetings on either Bill or Bill .
I would argue that legalizing recreational marijuana is one of the largest changes to the Controlled Substances Act in my lifetime. However, not many government MPs took the opportunity to meet with their constituents in an open door forum. If they did, they would have quickly become aware that not only was the Liberal government's political deadline of July 1, 2018, to implement legal recreational marijuana usage untenable, it would unnecessarily raise the risk of bodily harm and injury on our roads and highways.
At a recent Council of the Federation meeting, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister requested an extension of the Liberal government's deadline of July 1, 2018. for marijuana legalization. In response to Premier Pallister's request, the premiers established an official working group on marijuana, co-chaired by Manitoba justice minister Heather Stefanson. Since then, it has been closely following the debate in the House and in committee meetings that were held on this legislation.
As was stated by many expert witnesses at committee or quoted in the news, it is simply unfathomable to expect that police departments and the RCMP will be prepared for the July 1 deadline as currently set out.
I would like to quote Director Mario Harel, the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, who stated at committee on Wednesday, September 20:
The question many in policing have is what level of readiness the government, and more importantly, our communities, expect law enforcement to deliver. We can be ready at some level July 2018, but are we delivering on the public safety objectives Canadians would expect of us?
That question gets to the very heart of the concerns that many members of Parliament, including backbench Liberal MPs, have publicly voiced.
We know the science surrounding the impairment of one's ability to drive after consuming cannabis varies widely from one individual to another. We know that one's level of impairment can be impacted by how long an individual has either legally or illegally consumed cannabis. For instance, if one has been consuming cannabis on a daily basis for 20 years, that person's mind and body will be impacted differently than someone who consumes it on a monthly basis. Let me give the House a specific example.
During one of my town halls, a constituent stated that she had taken medical marijuana for years. She consumes cannabis in an edible form for her chronic pain. She said, not only in our public meeting but also publicly in the local newspaper, that it would be more dangerous for her to drive while not under the influence of medical marijuana. While I am not a medical expert, nor proclaim to understand the precise impacts of one's cognitive functions, driving under the impairment of marijuana is just as dangerous as driving under the impairment of alcohol or other prescription drugs.
While this is my belief, it was quite a shock to hear that some individuals who had consumed marijuana for years, if not in some cases for decades, pushed back on this premise. They pushed back because they felt that under no circumstances was public safety at risk because of their consumption of cannabis while driving a vehicle. This is a huge concern and I am quite certain that if a Conservative member of Parliament is being told this, it begs the question, What other long-term beliefs are held by Canadians who have long consumed marijuana?
In respect to the legislation, beyond a shadow of doubt, as it is currently written, it will be challenged almost immediately when brought into force. The reason I am so confident in saying this is that unfortunately Canadians will be caught and charged for driving under impairment of cannabis. It is safe to suggest that criminal defence attorneys will be looking at every available avenue to lessen the client's charge. There is empirical evidence to suggest this is exactly what will happen.
We know that the current drinking and driving laws are some of the most heavily litigated areas of criminal law. In respect to determining the exact nanograms of THC per ml of blood, it was good to hear even Liberal MPs, such as the member for , ask about the objectively determined standards for marijuana that the police could measure against.
What was disconcerting was that the did not respond directly to her colleague's question. She noted that the government had set up a drug impaired driving committee, but neglected to answer his question of setting the benchmarks to determine impairment.
Now, I am not the only one who is asking these questions. The Canadian Bar Association recommends that the federal government base any measurement of blood drug concentration on proven scientific evidence that links the concentration of THC to impairment. According to the briefing to the Minister of Justice, it outlined the difficulties of introducing specific blood drug concentrations of setting an objective standard for penalizing a person and then linking the findings to impairment. It even goes as far as saying that legislating specific blood drug concentration levels is problematic.
While the Canadian Bar Association is probably well aware of the legal quagmire that will soon engulf our nation's courtrooms, it is wise to take a moment and reflect on whether the government is rushing ahead without the scientific data to back up its legislation.
We all want our roads and highways to be safe from those who make the callous decision to get behind the wheel after one too many beers, and soon to be one too many tokes. With that in mind, it is troubling to hear from legal experts and marijuana users that the Liberal government's legislation may not hold up under heavy scrutiny of a well-funded legal defence team.
The other aspect of concern is that the costs associated will be borne by the provinces and municipalities regarding Bill . This was one of the most concerning matters raised by other levels of government.
Earlier this summer, I wrote the parliamentary budget officer requesting a costing analysis for implementing the Liberal government's legislation to legalize marijuana. I received a response from the PBO last month, describing both a lack of transparency by the Liberal government and an intention to offload costs onto provinces.
According to the PBO's letter, Justice Canada responded to its requests for information by stating that the estimated costs of marijuana legalization were a cabinet confidence. Similar responses were provided to the PBO by Public Safety Canada and Health Canada. In response to my letter, the PBO wrote:
This clearly indicates that the federal government does have access to some cost estimates of Bills C-45 and C-46, but without that information it would be difficult for the Office of the PBO to provide a reasonable cost analysis.
I requested an in-depth costing analysis for several areas of concern for my constituents, including the cost of education campaigns and workplace health and safety regulations. We know the has thrown out the idea of sharing any federal excise tax equally with the provinces, but even that was not enough to calm the nerves of the premiers and their respective finance ministers.
May there be no illusion of any member in the House that with the passage of Bill and Bill , the policing, legal costs, and court delays will go down. The fallacy purported by some well-meaning but ill-advised commentators about how police resources will now miraculously be shifted from cracking down on simple pot possessions to much more serious matters is but a dream.
First, as with anything the government regulates, legislates, and oversees, there will be no cost savings when equipment, training, bureaucracy, and simple paperwork are all accounted for. Second, as the provinces have announced, the government will make the purchase of legal recreational marijuana so restrictive that the neighbourhood pot dealer just gave a loud round of applause as his business will prevail in the near future.
The issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, while also updating the Criminal Code so police officers have the necessary tools and legal framework to keep our streets and highways safe, are not necessarily bound by one another.
Under no circumstances should the legalization of recreational marijuana be pushed forward without at least some time after Bill is brought into force. Not only should Bill be allowed to be tested, prodded, and probed, but the federal government has the responsibility to fund the vast majority of upfront costs of doing so. The provinces and municipalities should not be taken for granted and their cause of concern on the timelines proposed in the Liberal legislation should be heeded.
As I have stated on many occasions, the Liberal government should wade carefully into the full legislation of recreational marijuana. It needs to move beyond its politically motivated deadline, disclose the true cost of marijuana legalization, and provide municipalities and provinces with the resources they need to ensure safety for all Canadians.
Until that time, the legislation should not move forward. I encourage the Liberals to listen to the myriad of voices that echo similar apprehensions.