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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2017-10-27 12:11 [p.14636]
Madam Speaker, I would like to pick up where I left off at the beginning of question period. I was talking about educating the public. At the risk of repeating myself, for those who are just tuning in, we can all see that the Liberals failed to really work with the provinces to ensure they have the planning time and resources they need to implement public education programs. These programs are so important to make sure people are educated about both marijuana use and, as we have been discussing, impaired driving.
I will move on to something else for now, but before I do, I think it is very important to emphasize something. Despite some of the comments I heard in this morning's debate that practically insinuated the opposite, all members in the House, across party lines, agree that impaired driving, whether involving drugs or alcohol, is a scourge. We want to eradicate it. There is no doubt about that.
As is the case with illness, these tragedies do not discriminate. Everyone here, across party lines, has been affected, or knows someone who has been affected, by the horrible consequences of someone making the tragic mistake of driving while impaired. It is important to acknowledge that, because we might not agree on how to go about, on the one hand, dealing with the new reality of legalized marijuana, and on the other hand, keeping our roads safe.
One of the big issues with the bill is this notion of mandatory stops and testing. This came up during the public safety committee hearings on a private member's bill that was tabled by a Conservative member, which sought to do something quite similar. Nothing in life is random, particularly, and unfortunately, in some of the work that is done in policing.
If we call for random mandatory testing, the odds increase exponentially for things like profiling, people of a specific socio-economic background being targeted. The New Democrats cannot accept that. I know my party's leader, Jagmeet Singh, considers this extremely important. It was central to the work he did in his leadership campaign, but also the work he now wants to do as leader of the New Democratic Party. He has said, much more eloquently than I can say in this place, that as a person of colour, he has been a victim of this.
When we put laws in place to ensure public safety, it always needs to be done in a way that ensures we will not be unfairly discriminating against certain segments of the population. I am not pulling this out of a hat. This was shared with the public safety committee by experts, although not on the specific line of study of this bill, even though that comment was raised by different members of civil society, notably the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and others. It was raised when other bills were tabled, both private members' bills and Conservative government bills that were discussed in the previous Parliament.
When we take this approach, we have to ensure we do not increase the risk of a problem that, let us face it, already exists, which is the problem of racial profiling. The is one of our concerns.
Another concern we have has to do with the THC levels that must be detected in a driver's blood before the driver can be charged with an offence. The bill barely mentions this, which is very troubling. How can police determine if an offence has been committed, or a crime in this case, if the law does not specify the precise quantity of THC that must be detected in the blood? That is extremely troubling.
In the United States, the various states that have legalized marijuana each take a different approach. Colorado and Washington state, for instance, have set a blood THC limit that must be detected before a driver can be charged with a traffic or criminal offence. Oregon, which has also legalized marijuana, decided to be more flexible and use the same test used for suspected alcohol-impaired drivers, that is, a test based on visual markers.
The lack of a fixed THC limit is compounded by the lack of police training. This is not to insult our men and women in uniform. It is something they themselves have said. This is yet another example of how the Liberals' planning fell short. Although we support the legalization plan in principle, we would have thought it was obvious that the consultation with police should have been much more thorough. The Liberals should have realized that police officers would need additional training, for example, to recognize the symptoms of marijuana impairment in drivers or to make proper use of roadside screening devices. They should have sat down with police to set a blood THC limit, something this bill does not cover. These are things they could have done in collaboration with police.
To go back to a question asked earlier by a Conservative MP, this also seems to be a case of too many players involved. There are the municipal police forces in some big cities, the Sûreté du Québec and the Ontario Provincial Police, some cities' own police services, and of course the RCMP, which serves outlying regions in the other provinces.
I am not questioning the hierarchy or the division of powers within Canada's different police forces, but there seem to be a lot of players at the table. There are many voices that still need to be heard, and these people think there is a lot of work left to be done, something that has not happened so far.
The importance of that training was brought up in committee. Also, the importance of training police officers to recognize the symptoms and use these technologies goes in two directions. First, it is obviously essential for public safety so they can do their jobs properly. It goes without saying they need to properly identify people who are driving under the influence. However, they must also know who is not driving under the influence, who has not reached the legal limit of what they are allowed to either drink or smoke, depending on which substance they are dealing with. It is not only a question of public safety; it is also a question of protecting and ensuring the rights of Canadians, which police officers are willing to do, but require the proper training to do that, as the representatives of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police mentioned.
The issue of training also extends to the technology used. When we hear the experts and look at different jurisdictions throughout the world, the jury is still out as to the efficacy of certain tools that can be used, particularly when it comes to marijuana, to measure someone's physical state after consuming marijuana. One great example of that, as we heard in committee and as has been mentioned in other platforms over the course of the debate, both here in the House and throughout civil society, is the issue of how long traces of marijuana can be found in someone's system. Traces of THC can still be found in someone's blood for days, even weeks in some cases.
It is difficult for me to fathom a situation where someone might use marijuana recreationally, in what will then be a legal and appropriate way in the privacy of their own home, make the responsible decision to save lives and not go behind the wheel. Then a couple of days later, while driving into work, could potentially be found as having a false positive, even though he or she is no longer under the influence and is at 100% of his or her mental faculties and physical abilities to drive a vehicle without putting anyone's life in danger. That is extremely problematic, particularly when we connect that with some of the issues and concerns we have with regard to certain types of profiling that might happen with these random mandatory tests. We are extremely concerned about that.
I heard the Minister of Justice talk about that this morning, when she said that there would be rigorous evaluation of the various technologies and that law enforcement would be properly informed and would participate in the process. The problem is that this is all happening very quickly, without the necessary consultations, and we are very concerned about how effective these technologies will be to ensure that the tests are viable.
For example, after a person provides an oral fluid sample, he or she could go to the police station and have to provide a blood sample. We are then talking about several types of tests, which shows a certain inefficiency and uncertainty relative to the samples taken for determining a driver's state and the levels of various substances in the person's blood. A number of experts have raised this serious concern, which the bill does nothing to address.
As I said, this is directly connected to our concerns about profiling. If someone who had allegedly consumed a substance long before being stopped, according to the proposed criteria, this individual could be be caught and suffer some serious lifelong consequences, even if he or she is a responsible citizen. This person could end up with a criminal record and could even go to prison. This could even lead to some very complicated legal proceedings that will have an impact on the legal system.
In Quebec, with the Jordan case and the shortage of judges, a number of violence and murder cases were thrown out because of delays in the legal system. We could draw a link between this reality and the challenges that could arise from this bill. We have to take that into account.
The Conservatives are talking a lot about mandatory minimum sentencing, a public policy that failed under their watch here in Canada, as well as elsewhere in the world. Judges are appointed to use their judgment on a case-by-case basis. Taking that discretion away from them is not one of the values we promote in our justice system and it is not something we want to promote as legislators. Mandatory minimum sentencing goes completely against those principles.
I mention that because the Conservatives keep bringing up this argument and, if I understand correctly, it is one of the reasons why they are opposed to Bill C-46. Meanwhile, a bill on random breath testing was introduced by a Conservative MP. The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security heard not only from legal experts, but also from psychologists, who explained to us the way of thinking of those who make the reckless decision to get behind the wheel when impaired, something that often proves to have tragic consequences.
Those experts shared something extremely interesting with us. They explained to us that the key thing we needed to look at as parliamentarians when it came to this issue was dissuading people. After all, that has to be the objective. If we are not dissuading people, then we already are dealing with the tragic consequences of driving under the influence. If we do not want to live with those kinds of consequences, then we need to dissuade people in the first place.
The argument is that punishment is one way of doing it. However, these experts told us that the magnitude of the punishment was not the disincentive to driving under the influence. The true disincentive was the likelihood of getting caught. That requires resources to the communities, to policing, and to education. This would allow us to teach fellow citizens that getting behind the wheel under the influence would not only be putting their own lives in danger, but they would be putting the lives of others in danger as well. This point is extremely important. Dissuasion and prevention are the objectives here. We do not want to see any more lives lost because of driving under the influence.
That is why we must invest in education. That is why we must ensure that our police have the resources they need to make arrests over the holidays, for example. Not every police force is able to do that because it takes human and financial resources. The numbers speak for themselves. We could work with organizations, such as Operation Red Nose, and support them. We know that, by putting these measures in place, we can reduce this alarming statistic, the scourge on our society that is impaired driving.
Let me conclude by saying that we will oppose Bill C-46 for the reasons I explained, because of the risks of profiling, because we feel these technologies are unreliable in measuring the level of THC in someone's blood, and because of the lack of a clear number of what the level of THC in someone's blood has to be in order to consider it a criminal offence.
However, let me be clear. That does not take away from the fact that no matter which party we may be in, we all agree that this is an alarming situation that needs to be dealt with.
We think that the government needs to focus on education and on giving the police the resources they need to eliminate this problem once and for all. I think everyone can agree on that.
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