Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, we are debating something that is very important and that really has an impact on the lives of Canadians, namely, impaired driving.
What is concerning to me first is that this is being partnered with Bill C-45. The government's attitude is, let us legalize marijuana and then talk about impaired driving. Clearly, the government members know that when legalization of marijuana occurs, we are going to have more impaired drivers on the road. Although I know it is an important discussion and that we need to have better laws for impaired driving, it is very upsetting and concerning that the bill is being rushed through in partnership with another bill that would increase impairment.
Members of the House come from all sorts of legal backgrounds. We have heard some dry facts, but almost everyone in this House has been touched in his or her life by impaired driving. I just want to put some personal perspective on this before I get into some of the details of the legislation, some areas that could be improved and some areas of concern.
I worked in a rural emergency health centre and clearly remember being on call one night and getting called into the health centre. There had been a single father and his young four-year-old daughter on a motorcycle. He had pulled over to the side of the road to make some adjustments, and then an impaired driver, in this particular case a drug-impaired driver, had struck the motorcycle. The vehicle had careened off the road and struck the motorcycle, killing the dad and leaving the daughter standing on the side of the road. At that point the impaired driver took off, and then, many miles farther on, went into a ditch. I was called in to deal with a deceased young dad and a four-year-old girl who had lost her father and had been left at the side of the road for a long time beside the body of her father before someone had passed by and called an ambulance. This is what we are talking about. This is about young girls losing their fathers. It is about mothers and sons. It is about family members and friends. Everyone is affected by this, so we have to be very serious and careful with this legislation.
This brings me to my first disappointment. The amendment that my colleague suggested was for a mandatory minimum sentence when impaired driving causes death. The member was not calling for life imprisonment or 30 years. The member suggested that an appropriate mandatory minimum sentence would be five years. If we lose a relative because someone chooses to take a substance and drive impaired, causing a death, the member sees a five-year mandatory minimum sentence as being perfectly appropriate. In our system, we also have to remember that this does not mean the individual would spend five years in jail. It means that in perhaps two or three years, that person would resume his life. It is a huge disappointment. It is so wrong, and it fails the sensibilities of so many Canadians who wonder how we could say that a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death is appropriate. That really is a failure.
As has been noted, impaired driving causing death is one of the leading criminal causes of death in Canada. These are not statistics that we should be proud of. As we look at other comparable countries, Canada's statistics are not very good. Again, I have to say that we already have statistics that are very concerning, and now we have two partner pieces of legislation that will inevitably increase our concerns in those terms.
There are three specific issues that point to the rushed state of this legislation. By Canada Day in 2018, the Liberal government wants Canadians to be able to celebrate by getting high on marijuana. Perhaps the Liberals believe it will help the fireworks look a little brighter; I do not know.
They are in a rush and have Canada Day as their target, which to me is a bit appalling. In their rush to deal with Bill C-45, the legalization of marijuana, they are rushing Bill C-46 without the proper due diligence in three areas: testing ability and levels, training and resources, and education.
We have talked a lot about testing levels. The presence of something like THC in someone does not actually measure impairment. I have heard the argument that we are just measuring levels, and impairment does not matter. I would argue that with alcohol, we tend to know that .08 is a level that is consistent with impairment in most individuals, whereas with THC, there is a much bigger disconnect. The association of police chiefs agrees with that.
The Canadian Society of Forensic Science, which has been tasked by the federal government, has suggested it is a controversial exercise to set a limit and that “there is not currently substantive and consistent scientific evidence upon which to base [those] limits.” These are the experts who have some concerns about the ability of a roadside device to test limits and to test impairment, which again is a bit of an issue.
The next area of concern is the police officers who will be asked to move forward with this legislation. I think there are about 65,000 police officers in Canada. They will all require training. From everything I understand, the witnesses who testified at committee indicated very clearly that they will not be able to have all our officers trained, nor do they have the resources to do so, by this arbitrary Canada Day 2018 date that has been set by the government.
The other area of particular concern is that everyone agrees on the importance of an education campaign. They talk about $2 million. Where is that campaign? If they are going for 2018, that is not a lot of months. It takes a long time. Anyone in the public health field knows that to penetrate and actually effect change, we need a public health approach that has had time to actually penetrate the consciousness of Canadians. I am not seeing anything. Perhaps I could be challenged on that. I would love to be challenged on that. However, if I am not seeing anything, and I tend to look at what is happening in the area, we can bet that nothing has penetrated the consciousness of the 20-year-olds, the 17-year-olds, the new drivers, and the 22-year-olds in terms of the new regulations and limits. The government is severely lacking in terms of any education or public health campaign.
Tackling impairment in a more robust way is an important thing to do. However, what is the rush? Let us get Bill C-45 right. Let us make sure we get the proper training done. Let us make sure things are in order. If they have to wait another bit of time to get Bill C-45 through, so be it, but what we will be doing is protecting the health and safety of Canadians.
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