Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the floor.
I would like to remind everyone tuning in that the bill we are debating today takes aim at repeat offenders and the leading criminal cause of death: drunk driving. I would like to point out that Parliament has brought the bill to second reading.
Today, I would like the House to vote on sending this bill back to committee so that it can continue its work for one simple reason. This bill gives us three ways to reduce the number of traffic accidents caused by drunk driving.
First, the bill brings in minimum sentences for drunk drivers who repeatedly cause fatal accidents. Sadly, there have been several such incidents lately. Second, it will prevent the courts from getting bogged down in cases that go on forever because people invoke irrelevant provisions. The third is very important because it has to do with a measure that Canada should have adopted a long time ago: routine screening. This measure was introduced in Finland in 1977, more than 40 years ago, so Canada is lagging far behind. After it went into effect, the number of impaired drivers dropped by 58%.
In Ireland, where this measure was introduced around the same time, the number of fatalities dropped by 19%. This means that this measure works. It is based on scientific evidence. Many countries, including France, Switzerland, Finland, and New Zealand, have adopted this measure, as have most European countries and Australia. This is a remedial measure that we must take, because impaired driving is the leading cause of death in this country.
This measure allows a police officer to screen for the blood alcohol level of someone behind the wheel. Of course, no one is going into people's dining rooms or bedrooms, just public places. When one is driving, one has certain responsibilities: having a driver's licence, obeying the rules of the road, and abstaining from alcohol. As Senator Boisvenu said, when someone drives while under the influence, it is as though he or she has a gun and could fire at any second. It is the same thing.
As parliamentarians, we have a duty to introduce legislation that will save lives. I was lucky enough to appear before the committee with representatives of victims associations, including Families For Justice and MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
All of them are supportive of this measure, as well as security and safety groups. Some people in the House have personally experienced the horror of impaired driving and we have an opportunity as parliamentarians to reduce the number of deaths in the country related to impaired driving.
I am asking for a recorded division and for the three parties in the House to ask the committee to continue its important work. This bill was crafted with great care.
Now, without further delay, I will table three documents. The first is in response to the comment made in committee that there is no legal basis for the bill. This is the legal opinion of one of the leading authorities on the Canadian constitution, Peter W. Hogg, who wrote the two-volume Constitutional Law of Canada, which is in its fifth edition, and who also serves as a constitutional adviser. I will quote the conclusion by Mr. Hogg. By the way, this letter can be downloaded from my website.
“My opinion is that, if the Criminal Code were amended by Parliament to replace breath testing on reasonable suspicion with random breath testing, the amendment would be constitutional.” Let us say this clearly and loudly. This amendment is constitutional and is saving lives.
It is important for members to look at this clearly. I want members of the committee to invite the constitutionalists to hear for themselves that this is sound legislation that will save lives.
In the very last line he says, “I am confident that a constitutional challenge would be unsuccessful and that random breath testing would be upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.” We do not need to be lawyers to know that this law would pass the constitutional test, and as I said earlier, would save lives.
The most important thing we can do as parliamentarians in the House is to make laws that are legal and can save lives. We have a choice that is clear. There are victims, there are families of victims, there are criminals, and there are people who are addicted to alcohol. The choice is clear. We have a bill that will save lives and it is constitutional. This is the first document I table.
I have a second document to table and this is a letter written from the member for Papineau. This letter talks about a bill that has mandatory minimum sentences for drunk drivers. He says, “That bill will increase penalties against anyone who drives while severely intoxicated, and will also increase the penalties for impaired driving causing death”. What is the member for Papineau saying? He is saying that this is a heartbreaking story. He says, “I will also be supporting Bill C-590”, which was tabled by one of my colleagues, “a second private member's bill coming before the Justice Committee”.
Who is the member for Papineau? The Prime Minister of our country. One of the pillar's of this legislation is mandatory random breath testing, mandatory minimum sentences, supported by the Prime Minister of our country, and streamlining the judicial process at a time when justice delayed is justice denied.
This legislation would bring those important issues forward. It has been prepared with the help of officials in the justice department, who have put their hearts and souls into drafting the bill.
We as parliamentarians have the responsibility to go thoroughly through every clause of the bill. The committee should send it back to the House so we can vote on it with our conscience. That is the second document I am tabling.
Now I have a third document to table. I have been working on this bill with families, justice officials and my colleagues from beautiful Abbotsford and Langley. How many lives will have to be taken so that we as parliamentarians enact legislation that can save lives?
This third document is a picture of a young woman who lost her life.
I am tabling in the House a photograph of Kassandra Kaulius.