Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-46, legislation that I know is important to the residents and law enforcement officers in Oakville North—Burlington and across Canada.
Impaired driving is a serious crime that kills and injures thousands of Canadians every year. In 2015, there were more than 72,000 impaired-driving incidents reported by the police, including almost 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents. Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada, and drug-impaired driving is increasing in frequency. Bill C-46 aims to address this serious issue and proposes to create new and stronger laws to punish more severely those who drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol. When I met with Halton police chief Stephen Tanner, we discussed the need for law enforcement to have more tools to better deal with impaired driving.
Today I would like to focus my remarks on the penalties proposed in Bill C-46. The bill would overhaul the penalty provisions to ensure there is coherence and rationality. The proposals include some higher maximum penalties, hybridization of bodily harm offences, and some new mandatory minimum fines. No new or higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment are being proposed.
Bill C-46 would raise the maximum penalties for impaired driving where there is no death or injury. In cases in which the prosecution proceeds by the less serious summary conviction procedure, the maximum period of imprisonment would be increased from the current 18 months to two years less a day. When the prosecution chooses to proceed by the more serious indictable procedure, the maximum period of imprisonment would increase from the current five years to 10 years. This new 10-year maximum would permit the prosecution, in appropriate circumstances, to make a dangerous a offender application. These changes send a clear message concerning the seriousness of impaired driving.
The dangerous driving causing death offence currently has a 14-year maximum period of imprisonment. Bill C-46 would raise this to a maximum of life imprisonment, which is currently the maximum penalty for all other similar offences resulting in death. With the increase of the dangerous driving causing death maximum penalty, there would no longer be a need for the prosecution to pursue separate offences in order to allow for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Bill C-46 proposes changes that would merge the offence of impaired driving causing bodily harm with the offence of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Currently, the offence is a straight indictable offence, which means that the prosecution must treat all cases the same, even those involving less serious bodily harm, such as a broken arm.
Bill C-46 proposes a maximum penalty on a summary conviction procedure of two years less a day, and on indictment it would increase from 10 years of imprisonment to 14 years. This is important, given that the vast majority of alcohol-impaired driving sentences are in cases that involve no death or injury. This change would therefore give the prosecution greater flexibility, and this additional discretion may promote efficiencies in our criminal justice system by reducing the time to process cases involving minor or no injuries.
Under Bill C-46, the existing mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for alcohol- and drug-impaired driving offences would apply to a number of hybrid offences, including driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug, driving while over a drug's legal limit, and driving with a drug-plus-alcohol blood concentration in excess of the legal limits.
Bill C-46 would also create a new mandatory minimum fine of $1,500 for a first offence of driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 120 milligrams. In addition, it would create a new mandatory minimum fine of $2,000 for driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 160 milligrams. The higher mandatory minimum fine penalties for a first offence will reflect the increased crash risk that is associated with higher blood alcohol concentrations.
Bill C-46 would also create a new mandatory minimum fine of $2,000 for a first offence of refusing a valid police demand for a breath sample, a blood sample, a urine sample, an oral fluid sample, a standard field sobriety test, or testing in a drug evaluation. This is important to ensure compliance with demands. Otherwise, first-offence drivers with a higher blood alcohol concentration could simply refuse to give a sample in order to evade the higher mandatory minimum fines.
For repeat offenders, having a high blood alcohol concentration would be an aggravating factor to be considered upon sentencing. The mandatory minimum penalty for a second offence would remain as it currently stands in the Criminal Code at 30 days' imprisonment, and for each subsequent offence it would remain at 120 days' imprisonment.
Bill C-46 does not propose any new or higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for the Criminal Code's transportation offences, including drug-impaired driving and alcohol-impaired driving. With respect to impaired driving causing death cases, I understand that provincial courts already typically impose or uphold penalties that are well above the existing mandatory minimum penalties and are in the range of at least three to four years, if not higher.
Bill C-46 does not propose a mandatory minimum penalty that exceeds the current sentencing range, because this is not necessary to ensure appropriate sentences and does not work as a deterrent. Indeed, the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which is based in my community of Oakville, is opposed to mandatory minimum penalties for these offences, citing charter concerns in certain circumstances, but also pointing out that mandatory minimums can have a downward pull on sentences. The organization explained that they become an inappropriate cap where longer sentences might be appropriate. The better route is to leave sentencing discretion to the trial and appellate courts.
I had the pleasure of meeting with MADD Canada's CEO, Andrew Murie, recently in my riding. In addition to his comments on mandatory minimums, he expressed his organization's confidence in our justice department and commented that he was pleased with the consultations that had taken place with his organization on this subject. He also expressed his thanks to our government, noting that we have such a deep understanding of the issue and are prepared to take a comprehensive approach to addressing it.
I will now turn to the subject of prohibitions and ignition interlock devices. Currently, where there is no injury or death on a first offence, the sentencing court must impose a mandatory minimum prohibition against driving anywhere in Canada for a period of one year. On a second offence, the penalty is a period of two years, and for a subsequent offence, the minimum driving prohibition is for a period of three years.
Bill C-46 also reduces the current waiting period before which the offender may drive when using an ignition interlock device. On a first offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current three months to no waiting time. On a second offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current six months to three months, and on a subsequent offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current 12 months to six months. These amendments would reflect the fact that ignition interlock device programs help to prevent recidivism.
Currently, the Criminal Code has a provision by which an impaired driving offender may be given a conditional discharge on the condition that he or she attend a program of curative treatment. This curative treatment discharge provision has not yet been proclaimed into force in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Bill C-46 would replace this provision with one that allows the defence to apply, with the consent of the prosecution, for a delay of the sentencing hearing in order for the offender to attend a provincially approved treatment program. If the offender successfully completes the program, the sentencing court would not be obliged to impose the mandatory minimum penalty or the mandatory period of prohibition against driving anywhere in Canada.
I am pleased to support Bill C-46. I respectfully ask my colleagues on all sides of the House to support this important piece of legislation that would make our communities safer for everyone