September 19, 1996

BQ

Michel Bellehumeur

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier-Montcalm, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, although I am sorely tempted to deal with certain of the Reform concerns about this bill, I shall restrain myself because I feel we are straying rather far from the clause.

There could be a debate on everything that has been done, everything that is being done, about parole, the pros, the cons and so on. Right from the start, I think, it has been said that this bill before us may contain things we would have liked to have seen changed but that, overall, it is a bill that merits careful examination.

For those listening to us, who are hearing all of the philosophical debates but are not too clear about what the hon. members are to vote on, Bill C-45, an act to modify the Criminal Code (judicial review of parole ineligibility), it might perhaps be worthwhile to understand the context, how it operates, and particularly why we in the Bloc Quebecois have some reservations about it.

Section 745 of the Criminal Code already covered parole, and this is the part the Minister of Justice wants to change with his bill. Looking at the summary of this bill, one can see there are three major points. It is not a revolutionary change to the entire Criminal Code, only to section 745. Three key points are affected by the changes.

The first removes the right of multiple murderers to apply for judicial review. The second introduces judicial screening of applications, and the third requires that decisions of juries to reduce parole ineligibility periods be unanimous. These are the three key points affected by the bill.

People need to understand how the system works. First of all, the individual "behind bars", as they say, who has fulfilled the conditions of section 745, applies in writing, according to the proposed changes. In the past, this could be a verbal request, but now, under subclause 745(1), the person applying for parole under section 745 must do so in writing to the appropriate chief justice of the province or a judge designated for the purposes of this section. That is the first step.

The second step is new, and the Bloc Quebecois has reservations about it as well, because it is an initial evaluation. The judge, on the basis of the written material in his possession, including the application, the report provided by the Correctional Service of Canada, or any other document submitted by the attorney general or the applicant to the judge, will decide whether the applicant has shown, on a balance of probabilities, that there is a reasonable prospect that the application will succeed.

There has already been an evaluation by an appropriate judge, a judge familiar with the field, to determine whether there is a reasonable prospect that the application will succeed. Our first reservation about this is that the judge is not given specific guidelines. As far as his evaluation goes, there is no problem. I understand that judges have experience in the field, that they will evaluate the case, that they will weigh the facts and make an informed decision, but I would have liked to have seen something clearer, or this part dropped altogether.

That is the second stage of the process. After written application is made, a judge evaluates it and decides whether or not to designate another judge to empanel a jury. Naturally, if the judge who examines the application concludes that, on the face of it, there is not a reasonable prospect that a properly instructed jury would approve the application, he will obviously reject it.

There are two possibilities, according to the amendment: either that the inmate will come before a judge in two years, or that the inmate will not be entitled to present himself for a specified number of years, because his record is not appropriate for parole, or no information is given. Then the law calls for the inmate to be allowed to make another application in two years.

Under 745 (5), if the judge says yes, deciding that the applicant has shown that there is a reasonable prospect that the application will succeed, the chief justice instructs a judge of the superior court of criminal jurisdiction to empanel a jury to hear the application.

The third step is another evaluation, this time before a twelve member jury. The jury has a whole series of criteria to apply. I have absolutely nothing to say on the criteria set by the minister; they are in keeping with jurisprudence and with what is being done at present. I have absolutely no comments to make on this.

Where I do have something to add, where we in the Bloc see an obstacle, is where it is stated in 745.3, subsection 3: "The jury hearing an application under subsection (1) may determine that the applicant's number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole ought to be reduced. The determination to reduce the number of years must be by unanimous vote". This is what bothers the Bloc Quebecois, the unanimity of 12 persons. Twelve people will have the file that has already been examined by a judge. The judge has said "Yes, there is a reasonable possibility of the applicant's being able to convince a jury, so we will move it to a jury". The jury of 12 examines all this and has to reach a unanimous conclusion. That will be very hard.

Finally, if the government had decided that section 745 ought to be abolished, that ought to have been done, but without imposing excessive criteria, because it is excessive to require unanimity on a case of this kind.

Mr. Speaker, you are telling me I have only two minutes left, but I thought I was entitled to 20 minutes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The Deputy Speaker

At 5.30 p.m., we will proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Michel Bellehumeur

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bellehumeur

In that case, I will give a very quick summary, Mr. Speaker.

The main aspect of this bill, an aspect to which we object, is unanimity, and we also object to the government's rushing to get this bill through the House. That is why my colleague, the hon. member for Bellechasse, tabled an amendment seeking an additional six months so that we can examine and study this bill and perhaps improve it. The government has shown undue haste, although this is a bill that deserves particular consideration.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The House resumed from May 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-201, an act to amend the Criminal Code (operation while impaired), be read the second time and referred to a committee.


REF

Garry Breitkreuz

Reform

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, on February 29 this year I seconded Bill C-201, introduced by my hon. colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley, and I would like to thank him at this time for the opportunity to speak to and support the bill.

This is the second reading of the bill. It has been deemed votable by a committee of the House. The bill essentially would amend section 255(3) of the Criminal Code of Canada to impose a minimum seven year sentence for a person convicted of the crime of impaired driving causing death.

This is a piece of legislation known as a private member's bill and it really deserves the support of every person in the House. I really and sincerely hope the Prime Minister will allow a free vote on this and that every member of the House will look at this piece of legislation and throw their political affiliation aside and listen to the debate and hopefully support it.

Before I go into many of the reasons here, I would like members to imagine for a moment what we must do in order to seriously consider drunk driving as a very serious type of behaviour, something we should not tolerate in our society.

We have done a lot of educating of members of the public to make them aware that they should not drive while impaired and much of that education has been taken to heart, but education in and of itself does not do it all. Other signals must be sent to society to illustrate how serious this is, something that no one should ever do, something akin to manslaughter. To take the life of someone while impaired is unacceptable.

This bill has the potential to save lives, much more potential than some of the other legislation that the justice department has brought down. I would like to make the point that good laws and punishment do not necessarily make people good but they do restrain evil, unacceptable behaviour and that is why this bill should be supported.

A drunk driver going down the highway is very much like a hand grenade lying on a playground with a timing device that has an arbitrary time on it. This hand grenade has had the pin pulled but the timing device as to when it will explode is completely unknown. We do not know if there is going to be someone in that playground when it goes off or maybe it will explode in the middle of the night when there is no one there. Maybe it will go off when there are a lot of people around.

That is what it is like when a drunk driver is going down a highway unable to completely control his vehicle and react appropriately to something that may happen very quickly. We would not tolerate someone placing a hand grenade in a playground not knowing when it would go off anymore than we should tolerate a drunk driver going down the highway. That is why this bill is really important.

Here are some of the reasons why I second this important piece of legislation in addition to what I have just said. Three times the number of people are killed by drunk drivers than are murdered. That is a lot of people in comparison to the number of murders. Even though the Criminal Code provides a maximum penalty of 14 years for drunk driving for killing someone with his car, the actual sentences are only one to four years. I ask members of this House is that all a person's life is worth?

We have to send a signal through our courts to people in society that this is very serious and they should obey the law. Such low sentences do not provide a meaningful deterrent to those who continue to drive while drunk, while out of their minds. Such low sentences do not reflect the public's concern for this type of crime. Impaired drivers are responsible for 90 per cent of the fatal car crashes in which they are involved. That is an unacceptably high level.

One of the main reasons the carnage on our highways does not stop is the present leniency of our courts. Imposing a minimum sentence of seven years for killing a person while driving drunk will send the strongest of messages that the lethal consequences of driving while impaired will not be tolerated by society.

Here are some other facts which I think need to be repeated. Forty to seventy per cent of impaired drivers have had prior alcohol related offences. They know they have a problem. It takes between 200 to 2,000 incidents of driving while impaired to produce one arrest, not a conviction, just an arrest. And 57 per cent of those charged had at least one similar offence in the previous five years. Impaired driving charges are dismissed or reduced in 40 per cent of cases. Our courts need to deal more seriously with these things.

Bill C-201 has had the support of many organizations. Here are some of them: Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Canadian Youth

Against Against Impaired Driving, Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving, Nepean Committee Against Impaired Driving, Friends and Family Against Drunk Driving.

I understand there has been material circulating in the government benches disputing the support of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, MADD Canada. Let me quote from two letters sent to the hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley. On March 20, 1996, Mr. Jim Wideman, executive director of MADD Canada wrote:

On behalf of the Board of Directors of MADD Canada, I would like to reaffirm our support of Private Member's Bill C-201. I am aware that other correspondence has been made to Mr. Rock's office. Let me reiterate that the National Board of MADD Canada, our Chapters and Members wholeheartedly support Bill C-201.

On May 16, 1996 Jane Meldrum, president of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers Canada, wrote:

It is my understanding that during the last hour of debate that [the hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River] rose in the House of Commons and referred to the letter from MADD Canada indicating that MADD did not support this bill. This letter was written by a member of the Board of MADD Canada and was the opinion of this person as an individual and not of that of the Board. This letter was not approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors and was not approved to be sent on MADD Canada letterhead. This individual has been advised of this and has been requested to retract his statement.

I would like to now respond to a couple of other criticisms of this bill in the short time I have remaining.

We have heard that some Liberal backbench MPs oppose this amendment because the minimum sentence would be inconsistent with the sentencing provisions of other sections of the Criminal Code, in particular section 220, criminal negligence causing death.

While we thank our hon. colleagues for pointing this out, the solution is not to oppose this bill but to propose an amendment or introduce another bill that would make sentencing provisions consistent.

We heard another concern that the mandatory minimum sentence might discourage accused drunk driver killers from pleading guilty and thereby typing up more time in the courts and causing more pain for the families of the victims. One of the most important principles of our criminal justice system is that the punishment must fit the crime. It is clear that drunk drivers who kill are quite literally getting away with murder.

If the average sentence for those convicted of impaired driving causing death was half the maximum sentence of 14 years, permitted under section 255(3), I would say let us leave well enough alone, but this is not the case. The average sentence for impaired driving causing death ranges between one to four years. I think the majority of Canadians would agree with me that this punishment does not fit the crime.

As for the rights and interests of the victim's family, the most important issue for them is to ensure there is a sense of closure to the case and, above all else, that the sentence equates with real

justice. The victim's family also needs to know that the death of their loved one served some purpose, that the punishment of the crime will in some way prevent someone else's death. This is what a mandatory minimum sentence will do. This is why thousands of Canadians have told us to support this bill.

Finally, our critics tell us that the minimum sentence of seven years for killing someone will be challenged under the charter of rights and freedoms because it is cruel and unusual punishment. If anyone really thinks that this sentence is cruel and unusual punishment, I would ask them to conduct a poll of all the families that have had a loved one killed by a drunk driver and ask them what they think.

While there are lawyers out there who would love to make some money bringing forward a charter challenge, and while the Liberal government is even willing to pay the lawyer to bring the case forward under the reinstituted court challenges program, and while there are judges who might agree with their claim regarding seven years in jail for impaired driving causing death, the government will lose the case in the most important court, the public opinion of this land.

Frankly, I believe we need to support this bill. I think I have put forth some good arguments and hopefully all members will be open to it.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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REF

Art Hanger

Reform

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for Sarnia-Lambton who also supports this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The Deputy Speaker

My colleague may not realize that the debate ends at 6.11 p.m., so there should be time for both to speak. I am not sure that on a private member's bill unless except by unanimous consent we can split 10 minutes into five and five, but if there is unanimous consent we certainly can. Perhaps the member will indicate his position. This time will not count against him.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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REF

Art Hanger

Reform

Mr. Hanger

I would request that unanimous consent be given then.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The Deputy Speaker

Very well. Is there unanimous consent to split the 10 minutes into two parts?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The Deputy Speaker

That will be five and five.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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REF

Art Hanger

Reform

Mr. Hanger

Mr. Speaker, impaired drivers kill innocent Canadians. No one in the House would dispute that fact which is so obvious. The question therefore is to what extent do our laws deter the impaired driver from getting behind the wheel of a car. I would like to contribute my perspective on this matter highlighting some

of my firsthand experience which I gained as a police officer who served in Calgary for 22 years.

First I can say with assurance that the current Criminal Code section 255(3) penalty for impaired driving causing death is not tough enough. When I say that it is not tough enough, I mean that the penalty is by no means an effective deterrent. I would argue that many lives would be saved if the penalty for impaired driving were increased, that is, through increased deterrence.

For my soft on crime friends, let me be precise as to say that the philosophy and definition of deterrence is just that, deterrence. The key instruments of deterrence are the certainty and severity of punishment. Deterrence prevents crime and saves lives. When potential offenders, considering the risks and severity of punishment, decide to commit fewer crimes, logically the number of people willing to commit crimes decreases as the danger of punishment increases.

Consequently the Criminal Code amendment presented today by my colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley is not only good legislation but one which is desperately needed by frontline police officers, attorneys general and prosecutors for the crown to deter drunk drivers everywhere.

At present section 255 of the Criminal Code provides a 14-year maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death. The legislation proposed today would require a judge to prescribe a minimum seven year penitentiary sentence to any individual convicted of drunk driving causing the death of a human being.

I can relate a situation that happened in my own riding not too long ago where an impaired driver ran over a seven year old boy, dragged him down the road. The boy died. The driver looked at him laying on the road, got back into his car and drove away. The court case finally came about and the individual driving that car got only nine months. That is totally insufficient. It shows that the sentencing in Canada is far too lenient for impaired drivers.

Let me also say however that the criminal justice system in Canada is at a crossroads. Two competing visions of the future direction of the criminal justice system exist. One view which is promoted by socialists argues that the failure of the criminal justice system to stem the increase in the long term trend of crime can be remedied through the welfare state criminology. This view espouses the belief that the solution to criminal behaviour is to redirect resources away from the punishment of crime toward alternative measures and jailing.

With alternative measures, just exactly what is going to happen now with that provision on the books to an impaired driver and one that may even kill someone? If an impaired driver will receive nine months now for killing someone, what are alternative measures going to do? They argue that crime is a product of social conditions and that the most effective remedy is for the state to intervene through programs such as stepped up welfare payments and other tax funded social experiments.

Thirty years after the first programs of Liberal criminology and penology were introduced, violent crime has increased by 400 per cent. I cannot see why impaired driving causing death should not be considered a violent crime. Property crimes have increased by 500 per cent. And impaired drivers continue to maim and kill innocent Canadians. For this reason, it is time to change the course of our criminal justice system back toward a system that deters criminal conduct through rigid sentencing guidelines for serious crime. Impaired driving causing death certainly falls into this category.

If there is any doubt as to why this type of legislation is needed, consider the lenient sentences handed down by soft on crime judges. Let us look across the country. Regina v. Lewis, New Brunswick 1992: The accused killed a woman after crossing the centre line of the highway. The accused received a one-year sentence. Regina v. McLean, Ontario 1990: The accused struck a motorcycle and killed its rider. McLean received only a two-year sentence. Regina v. Elkas, Ontario 1990: Elkas rear ended a car and killed two people. Even though the accused had a lengthy criminal record, the judge ordered only a four-year sentence.

Let us look at some other facts. In 1994, 87,838 people were charged with impaired driving. Also in 1994, 1,414 people were killed as a result of impaired driving, which is three times higher than deaths resulting from murder. Ninety per cent of impaired drivers are primarily responsible for fatal crashes in which they are involved. Out of the 1,315 fatalities in 1993 in Ontario, 565 were alcohol related. The statistics go on and on and on.

I will conclude by saying that every member in this House has an opportunity to take some action on this type of crime. I would urge them to vote in favour of this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Roger Gallaway

Liberal

Mr. Roger Gallaway (Sarnia-Lambton, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak in favour of Bill C-201, which as we have heard, is an amendment to section 255(3) of the Criminal Code dealing with impaired drivers.

I do not want to go into the background. I know a lot has been said on this. There has been a lot of talk of victims. I think everyone in this room and probably people who are watching these proceedings, we all know of someone or some family who has been touched by this.

I will deal with a particular part of this bill. I have heard the criticism that any minimum sentence fetters the discretion of the

judiciary. As a general rule, I believe that is true. There is no question that we do not want to fetter the discretion of the judiciary.

Judges have to deal with all the facts. They have to consider all the evidence and then they will pass a sentence. That is why in our system of laws, as a rule we do not impose a minimum sentence. We impose a maximum. In the case of section 255 it is 14 years. However, we are dealing with the exception here. There are always exceptions. In law there is the old expression of exceptions to the rule.

The hon. member has struck on one topic that has become a problem in this country: Too many people are careening around on the roads in an impaired state. According to the most recent statistics, approximately 88,000 people were charged with impaired driving. More important, more than 1,400 people in 1994 lost their lives as a result of impaired driving. To me the telling statistic is that this is three times higher than the murder rate in terms of victims.

The argument could be made that we do not have a minimum sentence for murder so why would we want to impose one on impaired driving? The answer is quite simple. We recognize that murders are committed for various reasons. Some are premeditated but more often they are crimes of passion; they are done on the spur of the moment.

Impaired driving involves two steps. One is putting yourself into the position of being impaired and that is not an act of passion. That is not an act that happens on the spur of the moment. That is something that in most cases people can control. I do acknowledge there are people in our society who have addiction problems, but people have some degree of choice in whether or not they will drink. They ought to realize before they start drinking that they have a vehicle somewhere in the neighbourhood.

Once people get into that impaired state they lose all judgment. As a result we see there is a problem on the roads and highways in this country. In 1994 it caused 1,400 people to be killed, not by a crime of passion, not by somebody who got into a state on the spur of the moment, but they were killed by someone who ought not to have been behind the wheel. As I said earlier, we all know someone who has personally been affected by an impaired driver.

There were 1,400 people in 1994, three times the number of people who were murdered, acts of passion, being killed. It is a problem. We do move to address problems in this House. We are required and it is our duty to address problems. I commend the member for moving to do it.

I want to deal with the whole question of minimum sentencing. Whether seven years is appropriate or not, I am not certain. Whether two years is appropriate or not, I am not certain. But this is a situation that we have to deal with. This is a signal.

There are those who suggest that we could use the money we are going to spend incarcerating people on an education campaign. Education campaigns on this have been going provincially for years. There are road checks, spot checks, the RIDE program in Ontario. They have reduced it some. Every year there are various ways of dealing with it. Some people are either immune to it or not affected by the education programs, whichever. The end result is we have to take a more extraordinary measure to tell people they have a choice as to whether they are going to drink. We have to tell people to think about it before they climb into that car if they have had a drink because they are the risk on the road.

The time has arrived for this place to send this bill to committee and let the committee decide whether seven years is too severe, or maybe three years is more appropriate, perhaps one year. In principle, without any equivocation I believe that we have to look at a minimum sentence.

This is not saying to the judiciary that we want to fetter their discretion. This is saying to the judiciary that we believe this is an extraordinary circumstance and we believe we have to tell them what the parameters are at the bottom and at the top rather than saying just what the top is.

People in this country want this. This is not falling into a trap. It is an exception to the rule. It is an exception to our normal rules of jurisprudence but this is an exceptional problem and sometimes we must take extraordinary measures.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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REF

Bob Ringma

Reform

Mr. Bob Ringma (Nanaimo-Cowichan, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, first on a question of timing, I am going to try very hard to leave a little time for my colleague the member for Skeena to say a few words. However if we fail, we would like to receive a one-minute warning from you, Sir, at five minutes after the hour so that there are five minutes left for the sponsor of this bill, the member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-201, an act to amend the Criminal Code in the case of impaired driving causing death. This is a bill that Canada really needs. It is long overdue and it deserves the support of members from both sides of the House.

I respectfully ask that all members dispense with partisan beliefs in order to pass this bill. With this in mind for the remainder of my intervention in this matter, I will refrain from any political implications of any type. All I ask in return is for hon. colleagues on both sides of the House to do the same so that we can avoid the usual political sniping that seems to plague our deliberations.

I firmly believe that the subject before us now transcends political differences and should unite us in a common cause. This is not a bill reflective of any given political party. It is a bill that seeks only to protect Canadians. Nothing more and certainly nothing less is asked for.

We have all heard the horror stories associated with driving while impaired accidents. They are called DWI. The yearly carnage which is altogether senseless and tragic must end. I do not delude myself into believing that the passage of this bill will entirely stop people from dying in DWI accidents. However, it will go a long way to giving the family and friends of victims some semblance of closure and the idea that justice was served.

This bill's greatest value may also be in its deterrent value to new drivers. They are the ones who can be educated on the perils of driving while impaired whereas those who are repeat offenders would only be stopped by the punitive sanction of a minimum seven-year sentence.

Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving will say that the status quo in sentencing can no longer be tolerated. They have seen too many tragedies and buried too many loved ones.

We have all heard the stories. Each member in this House has one and I will share yet another. His name was David Peters, a local boy, 25 years of age who was somebody's son, brother and friend. On June 24, 1989 he drove his motorcycle down Albion Road, south from where we are. A car travelling at a high rate of speed crossed the dividing line and hit him head on. He was killed instantly and the driver, as well as the passengers in the other vehicle, were taken to hospital with various injuries.

The driver was subsequently charged with impaired driving causing death. In the end, however, he walked free and received no custodial sentence. David Peters family and friends were crushed. A life had been extinguished and they deserved at the very least to see the perpetrator punished. Still, they resigned themselves to the fact that this cruel scenario plays itself out time and time again every single year.

It has been said before by the member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley but it deserves to be said again. Victims should not pay the penalty for impaired driving. Here are some government statistics that members heard a little of already to show how much of a problem this has been.

A 1992 Ottawa Sun editorial pointed out that over 13,000 people in that one year were killed or injured because someone drove while impaired. In 1994, 1,414 people were killed as a result of impaired driving. This is roughly three times the number of people murdered in Canada but one could argue that it is essentially the same thing. It is murder. Think about that number, 1,414 people.

If this Chamber were made four times larger, it still would not hold all those people. In 1993, of the 1,315 people who died on Ontario roads, 565 were alcohol related deaths. Sentencing for this crime, especially if it involves a fatality, is too lenient. That is the rationale behind this bill.

There is no ulterior motive save to bring justice to the families of victims and the sentencing of offenders.

I would like to close on that note and again urge members to put aside politics and vote, please, in support of this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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REF

Mike Scott

Reform

Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief because I know my colleague from Prince George-Bulkley Valley would like to say a few words in closing the debate.

I know my friend from Prince George-Bulkley Valley brought this bill forward in response to a very horrific accident which happened in his riding. It had very clear implications for my riding because a father and his two children were killed in an accident by a drunk driver who had previously been charged twice for the same offence.

This victim, Mr. Jim Ciccone, lived in Prince Rupert for many years. The victims of this particular accident are not just Mr. Ciccone's family, relatives and friends. It is the whole community of Prince Rupert because he and his family were well established in that community. There were very valuable members of the community, well known and well regarded. I cannot communicate how important this family was to the community.

In one thoughtless evening of drinking and driving three members of that family were killed. The people of Prince Rupert and I am sure the surviving members of the Ciccone family waited to hear what would happen as a result of this. When the sentence was announced it was three and a half years, just a little more than one year for each life that was taken by an individual who had a record of disregarding the law and driving while impaired.

What do we say to Mr. Ciccone's family when that kind of a sentence is given? Is that what their lives were worth? The question we have before us today is, are we in the House actually prepared to do something about this or are we just going to continue to talk about it while these kinds of horrific accidents take place and lives are lost?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley will now close the debate.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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REF

Dick Harris

Reform

Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George-Bulkley Valley, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to close the debate on the second reading stage of Bill C-201.

I close the debate on Bill C-201 on behalf of all the victims of drunk drivers and on behalf of the families of victims who have died at the hands of a drunk driver and, unfortunately, on behalf of people who will in the future become the victims of drunk drivers.

Impaired driving is an issue which touches every single region of our society. I would hazard to say that there is no one in the House tonight who does not know of someone, a family, a relative who has not been a victim of impaired driving. This issue touches everyone.

Many provinces in Canada have taken positive steps to deal with drunk driving. They have taken some very positive steps and we are happy to see that. But there have been no steps made at the federal level, no changes in the Criminal Code that would send a message out to the people of Canada that the Parliament of Canada takes impaired driving seriously, that reflects a zero tolerance toward impaired driving. The time to take that step is now with the passing of this bill.

Since introducing Bill C-201 in excess of 25,000 signatures have come into this Parliament and to the office of the Minister of Justice supporting this bill.

I did a walkabout on Sparks Street yesterday and talked to over 20 people. The media was there. We wanted to see what the person in the street had to say about it. There was 100 per cent support for this bill.

The Liberals know that this bill is supported by millions of Canadians who are fed up with the weak manner in which drunk drivers who kill are treated in the courts in this country.

This bill is also supported by numerous anti-drunk driving associations across the country, most notably MADD Canada, Canadian Students Against Impaired Driving, Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving, the Nepean Association Against Drunk Driving. This bill deserves the attention of the Liberal government.

As was pointed out earlier, and I am really saddened by the action on behalf of the government, but yesterday, purposely in this House, there was an attempt at circulating disinformation among the Liberal members. That was talked about by those who spoke earlier. The disinformation attempted to convey the message to Liberal members that MADD Canada did not support this bill.

I am absolutely ashamed of the people responsible over there who sent out this letter in a deliberate attempt to misinform the members and sabotage this bill on the very eve of the vote. They clearly knew, because we dealt with this in the spring, that MADD Canada's association with 110,000 members across this country, were 100 per cent in favour of supporting this bill. However, because they knew that this bill has broad support among the Liberal members, they attempted, through a disinformation program, to sabotage this bill. I am ashamed of that and ashamed for them.

Bill C-201 is not the magic bullet to eliminate impaired driving but it is an important first step. Other measures need to be pursued in order to stop this crime. Let us get this bill to the justice committee so that witnesses can be called and this bill can be discussed and receive the attention it deserves.

In closing, I would say to every Liberal member who is thinking about voting against this bill, if there are any, to ask yourself the question: Can you face the family of a victim of an impaired driver and tell them why you will not support this bill? I ask them to ask themselves that question.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Colleagues, conforming to an order made earlier today, the motion is deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, September 24, 1996 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

It being 6.12 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m.

(The House adjourned at 6.12 p.m.)

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink

September 19, 1996