Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2017-10-20 12:45 [p.14350]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise to speak to Bill C-46, the government's alcohol and drug-impaired driving legislation. I had the opportunity to study Bill C-46 at the justice committee. One thing was very clear, coming out of the justice committee and based upon the evidence from a number of witnesses. Law enforcement is not ready to implement aspects of Bill C-46 related to drug impairment in time for the government's arbitrary and rushed July 1, 2018, timeline to legalize marijuana.
Once Bill C-46 is passed, it will require that some 65,000 police officers across Canada get trained and understand Bill C-46. That will take time and it will be costly. We heard the need for some 2,000 drug recognition experts. At present, only 600 drug recognition experts are in Canada. In answer to a question I posed to Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness officials at the justice committee, it appears that only approximately 100 more drug recognition experts will be trained by July 1, 2018.
There are issues surrounding per se limits for THC, whether these per se limits are appropriate and what the per se limits should be. The government has not addressed that yet. There are nine months until the July 1 rollout. There are serious questions about the correlation between THC levels and drug impairment. On the question of public awareness, the marijuana task force, as part of the public health approach that it took, called upon the government to launch an immediate and sustained public awareness campaign. Where is the campaign? It has not been sustained. It has not been fully rolled out. We are just nine months away.
Therefore, given these and other reasons, no wonder the law enforcement community has called upon the government to delay the legalization of marijuana beyond July 1, 2018. After all, law enforcement will not have the tools, resources, and time to deal with the multiplicity of issues that will arise from legalization. Quite frankly, it is really frustrating that notwithstanding that very resounding message, the government refuses to back down and is moving full steam ahead with legalization, even though law enforcement will not have the tools, will not have the resources, and will not have the time to keep our roads safe.
What will that mean for the health and safety of Canadians?
When legalization occurs, more and more Canadians are going to use marijuana. That is a fact. As a result, there will be more drug-impaired drivers. Without the tools, resources, and training to enforce the laws, including laws that would come onto the books once Bill C-46 is passed, it will mean more injuries, more deaths, and more carnage on our roads. The government will bear partial responsibility for those injuries, those deaths, and the carnage that is sure to ensue.
With respect to part 2 of Bill C-46, which deals with alcohol-impaired driving and makes a number of changes to the Criminal Code respecting alcohol-impaired driving, I congratulate the government for some of the measures it has introduced.
Bill C-46 would eliminate certain defences that have been abused by impaired drivers. It would increase the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing bodily harm from 10 years to 14 years. That is welcome. However, I am disappointed that Bill C-46 does not tackle the most serious offence related to impaired driving, and that is impaired driving causing death.
Bill C-46 does absolutely nothing to strengthen penalties for impaired driving causing death. One might say, if we look at the Criminal Code, the maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death is life behind bars. That sounds pretty good. It sounds appropriate that that should be the maximum penalty. The only difficulty is that very few individuals convicted of impaired driving causing death are sentenced to life behind bars. In fact, I am not aware of a single case. There may be one or two, but I am not aware of one and, if there are any cases, that is a rare exception to the rule. What we see instead are impaired drivers who get behind a 2,000-pound or 3,000-pound weapon and take the life of one or more human beings as a result of their choices to drink and drive, and they get off with a slap on the wrist.
There was a case in Saskatchewan involving a mother and her son who were killed by an impaired driver. The individual responsible got a $4,000 fine and not one day behind bars. There have been cases where individuals have walked free with as little as a $1,500 fine for taking the life of another human being. That is an absolute joke. It is fundamentally unfair and fundamentally unjust. It is why more than 100,000 Canadians have signed a petition calling for Parliament to act. It is why the families of victims who came before the justice committee called upon Parliament to take steps to move forward with mandatory sentences. It is why our previous Conservative government introduced Bill C-73, which would have provided for a six-year mandatory sentence for impaired drivers who kill. It is why I introduced an amendment to Bill C-46 at the justice committee to provide for a mandatory sentence of at least five years, which was the minimum sentence that the victims who appeared before our committee asked for.
Sadly, every single Liberal MP voted against that common-sense amendment. It is one thing to vote against an amendment, but they did not even try. They did not even put forward an alternative. They just shrugged their shoulders and accepted the status quo. The victims and their families deserve better from the government on Bill C-46.
I am hopeful that once the bill is passed through the House, which it inevitably will be given that we have a majority government, that the Senate can get to work to try to fix the bill and help ensure that the victims will finally have some justice.
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