April 4, 2017

LIB

Lloyd Longfield

Liberal

Mr. Lloyd Longfield (Guelph, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak to Bill S-230, which would authorize the use of approved screening devices to detect the presence of drugs in anyone operating a vehicle. I would like to thank the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for bringing this important issue onto the floor for debate.

The government has been clear on the matter of impaired driving and the hazardous effects on its victims. Canadians cannot tolerate this type of reckless and irresponsible action without consequences. Authorities must have the appropriate tools necessary to ensure the public's safety. That is why our Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness rose in the House on February 9 and reassured members that the RCMP and other police forces across the country, in co-operation with the Government of Canada, have been testing a number of scientific devices for roadside testing for drug-impaired driving. The minister also committed the government to having in place both the legal and scientific regime to deal with drug-impaired driving.

This legislation arrives at a critical time as the government prepares to fulfill an election promise to legalize, strictly regulate, and tax the production of cannabis. Bringing an end to this unsuccessful prohibition program is long overdue. New legislation would provide more protection for children who would no longer be able to purchase the drug from street dealers. Under the new regulations, the purchase of cannabis would take place in regulated businesses and require photo ID. This would protect our youth and remove control from the illicit market. Cannabis would no longer fund the activities of organized crime. Revenues from the sale of cannabis could then be taken back into the health care system, including counselling and education.

While this next step in progressive policy is welcomed by many Canadians, I acknowledge that this change will be cause for concern for some. This is why the government is proposing strict regulations on the production and sale of cannabis.

While regulation and legislation are necessary steps, they are not totally sufficient, and while I support the intent of the bill, what is more effective than punishing a driver who drives under the influence is educating people to prevent them from getting behind the wheel in the first place. Teaching youth about the effects of cannabis consumption is the best way to ensure they never get behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

The task force for legalization and regulation heard at length from Canadians on this very issue. That is why the members of the task force argued for a whole-of-government approach, specifically that Ottawa work with the provinces and territories to develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment.

The good work of the task force fell on receptive ears, and the government included funds to accomplish this very goal in budget 2017. Health Canada will support marijuana public education programming and surveillance activities in advance of the government's plan to legalize cannabis. The government would accomplish this by directing existing funding of $9.6 million over five years, with $1 million per year ongoing.

It is this kind of common-sense policy-making that Canadians voted for in the 2015 election. We made a campaign promise. We announced consultations for Canadians to provide further input, and the government listened to those concerns and acted.

Canadians and their government understand that the purely punitive approach is a failed one. We currently have the highest use of marijuana by youth in developed countries around the world. Ottawa must work with the provinces and territories to adopt a plan of action that comprehensively deals with the issues of drug use, based upon science as opposed to ideology.

Currently, anyone, including minors, can access cannabis with greater ease than alcohol or tobacco. This is because minors do not have to go through a regulated business to get cannabis. As it stands, the dealers are the only suppliers, and they have only one motive: profit. They do not care about age, quality control, or the strength of cannabis. Prohibition, even decriminalization, will not change this attitude.

While the members of the official opposition may still look upon legalization with skepticism, those on this side of the House understand that it is long past time for change. A comprehensive policy will allow Canadians the freedom to choose but to also encourage responsible consumption. At the same time, we will protect Canadians from impaired drivers using the most up-to-date technology.

In conclusion, Canadians can be assured that their government and their representatives in Parliament will not compromise when it comes to their safety and the safety of their communities. An important step is providing law enforcement with the tools they need now and will need in the future to ensure that drivers operating vehicles are not under the influence of cannabis.

This is only one step toward effective public safety policy. All orders of government need to work on providing devices and training so police forces are able to ensure that citizens and communities are safe from impaired drivers.

Governments also need to provide effective legislation for distribution, control and testing, and even municipal zoning regulations. Our government is committed to an all-of-government approach to personal and public safety policy and legislation. We will work with our provincial, territorial, and municipal partners, as well as our police forces, to provide improved safety and security for communities and the people living in them. We have to do better in the future than we have done in the past to provide safety for our citizens, especially our youth, and for our communities.

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

Kevin Waugh

Conservative

Mr. Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure tonight to speak to Bill S-230.

There is a problem in Saskatchewan. The province of Saskatchewan has had the highest number of impaired driving charges in all of Canada. The problem has existed for decades, if not a century, and the people of Saskatchewan are very concerned.

A daughter of a former member of Parliament for Blackstrap, Allan Kerpan, was involved in an accident involving drunk driving. He is one of many who has taken to the stage in the last couple of years to deal with the effects of not only drinking but also drugs.

Impaired driving due to drugs is an interesting one, because we all believe devices should be in cars now so police have a way of testing people. We are concerned with the government legislation on marijuana. It has not thought it out.

Last week I had a chance to go to one of the high schools in Saskatoon, Walter Murray Collegiate. It is the biggest high school, with over 1,500 students. I had a chance to talk about the marijuana legislation. Much to my surprise, most kids in the assembly did not want the legalization of marijuana. That was kind of a surprise because the Liberals assumed everyone was in favour of marijuana, and that is not the case. The students have spoken out against it. They are concerned about it. They have seen what alcohol and now marijuana can do to families.

I mentioned Allan Kerpan, an MP who was in the House of Commons in the 1990s and 2000, and his family. We need a way of testing if this is to come about. As people know, the municipal and provincial police and the RCMP need devices in their cars right now. We know what is going on in the country, not only on the back roads of Saskatchewan but from coast to coast to coast. That is very important when we deal with this private bill, Bill S-230. We have to get out in front of this, and that is why my hon. colleague brought the bill forward now. This is an important part. Families in our country have been absolutely decimated due to the accidents and deaths that have occurred.

It is very important that the hon. member bring Bill S-230 forward at this time. Police officers need the devices now. We have heard from coast to coast. The University of B.C. may have a device ready for testing. We need it right now. UBC is one of many places in the country trying to get a device that could be put in every police car. That is where we need to go. We need to get out in front of the government legislation that will be brought forward later this year, and possibly will be in law by July 1, 2018.

When we look back through the years, we see how many families have been affected by alcohol. Could we have prevented it? We sure could have. Devices are needed in vehicles today that can read .08. We have brought that number down in almost every province and territory, because we know drinking and driving is a problem. We know drugs, like marijuana, will be a problem when the law is passed. That is why I am very pleased to speak to Bill S-230 and give it my support in the House of Commons tonight.

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

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood will have five and a half minutes remaining in his time, should he wish it, when the House next resumes debate on the question.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(2), the motion to concur in the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-247, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (passive detection device), presented on Thursday, February 16, is deemed moved.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
LIB

Gagan Sikand

Liberal

Mr. Gagan Sikand (Mississauga—Streetsville, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to once again have the opportunity to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-247.

Although I respect and appreciate the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I must say I am disappointed by their report.

It is clear that impaired driving is a serious problem in Canada. Sadly, we are reminded of this much too frequently. This past holiday season, the Peel Regional Police, the police force that is tasked with keeping my riding safe, caught more than 400 impaired drivers between November 15 and January 2.

The current laws that we have in place to address impaired driving are ineffective and do not serve as a deterrent, as many Canadians continue to drive under the influence of alcohol. Survey data and criminal justice statistics indicate that on average, a person can drive impaired once a week for more than three years before being charged with an impaired driving offence. This is unacceptable and demonstrates the need to increase deterrent measures for impaired driving.

Despite what is included in the committee's report, I strongly believe that legislating passive alcohol sensors is an effective means of improving deterrent measures.

Currently, Canadian police forces rely on their own unaided senses to determine whether they have the legal grounds to administer a roadside sobriety test. They rely on observations such as an odour of alcohol, a flushed face, and slurred speech.

At sobriety checkpoints where the majority of these interactions between a peace officer and driver take place, police are under immense pressure to speed up the process in order to prevent impeding traffic. It may be difficult for an officer to detect some of these characteristics. This increases the potential for impaired drivers to go undetected.

Passive alcohol sensors would enhance the officer's ability to detect impaired drivers. Although the committee was skeptical of this claim, research has proven it to be true. Referring back to an academic study, it indicated that in comparison to sobriety checkpoints where passive alcohol sensors were not used, sobriety checkpoints with passive alcohol sensors had an 88% higher detection rate.

In their report the committee stated:

...the costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms for them outweigh the potential benefits.

Let me just say that one more time: “The costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms for them outweigh the potential benefits”.

Now please allow me to quote a July 2016 article in which the National Post reported:

Despite years of public messaging about the dangers of drinking and driving, Canada ranks No. 1 among 19 wealthy countries for percentage of roadway deaths linked to alcohol impairment....

The finding by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control should serve as a warning to lawmakers that new strategies are needed to combat impaired driving, which remains the top criminal cause of death in Canada....

I will move to the second part of Bill C-247, which proposes to amend subsections 255(3) and 255(3.1) of the Criminal Code by changing the wording in “impaired driving causing death” and “blood alcohol level over legal limit — death” by inserting “vehicular homicide as a result of impairment”. I was disappointed to see that the committee did not address this portion of the bill in its report.

As I have mentioned in my previous speeches, what inspired me to present this bill was a local high school teacher in my riding who lost his life while out on a bicycle ride.

Throughout my time conducting research for Bill C-247, I came across Canadians from coast to coast to coast who shared their story on how impaired driving had impacted their lives. While I was doing this, I came in contact with an organization called Families for Justice led by a woman named Markita Kaulius. Markita created Families for Justice shortly after the death of her daughter Kassandra, who was killed by a drunk driver while driving home from a baseball game.

The organization provides support for families who have been victims of impaired driving. In addition to this, Families for Justice is an advocate for government initiatives to prevent impaired driving. I was glad that Markita was given the opportunity to testify before the committee and share her story.

Sadly, every year the number of families that join Families for Justice grows unacceptably. With every family that contacts Markita to join her cause, she is reminded of her beautiful young daughter who had her entire life ahead of her. She was engaged to be married, was in school to be a teacher, and had her whole life ahead of her, which was carelessly taken away by a driver who decided to drive after consuming alcohol.

Through working with Markita, I also got to know a woman by the name of Sheri who had her own devastating experience with impaired driving, which led to the loss of her son Brad. For Markita and Sheri, one of the most difficult aspects of these tragic events is the sentences that were given to the people who took their children from them. The driver in Kassandra's death was released from custody after only two years of her three-year sentence. The driver in Brad's case will be eligible for full parole later this month, two years and eight months into his eight-year sentence.

The danger of impaired driving is not a new phenomenon. It is common knowledge that when people drive after consuming alcohol, they are putting everyone else around them at risk. It is for this reason that I feel it is time to call this horrific crime what it truly is, and that is a homicide. It is time that our government changed our Criminal Code to better reflect the impact these crimes have on the lives of their victims.

For Markita, Sheri, and the family of the teacher from my riding, the connotation of the offenders' actions should be on par with the amount of suffering they have gone through. These families view these crimes as homicides, and it is about time we do as well.

While the justice and human rights committee has recommended that the House not proceed further with this bill, I want to call on all members and our government to implement legislation to address impaired driving. As years go by, more families like Markita's and Sheri's go through the same devastating tragedy. We as a government have a responsibility to all Canadians to address this very serious issue.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
CPC

Ted Falk

Conservative

Mr. Ted Falk (Provencher, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-247, a private member's bill introduced by the member of Parliament for Mississauga—Streetsville. On February 7, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights decided unanimously to recommend that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill. I am here today to speak further to that decision as the vice-chair of that committee.

Bill C-247 is seeking to amend section 254 of the Criminal Code to allow police officers to use an approved passive detection device to sample the ambient air in the immediate vicinity of a person they have reasonable grounds to believe is impaired. This would be in advance of the police officer taking a sample using an approved screening device. The bill is also seeking to amend subsections 255(3) and 255(3.1) of the code, which would change the offence of impaired driving causing death to vehicular homicide as a result of impairment.

The purpose of this bill is to act as a further deterrent for drunk drivers and to increase apprehension rates, as a positive reading would provide reasonable grounds to conduct a breath test on an approved screening device, ASD. It has been referred to as a device that would act as an extension of the officer's nose.

I thank the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for putting forward a bill with such commendable objectives. Certainly all of us in this chamber can agree that we should do everything we can to keep Canadians safe and keep drunk drivers off of roads. In politics we disagree on a great deal of things, but I think this is one area where we all share a common goal that extends across all party lines. The intent of Bill C-247 is noble, but on further investigation with the help of expert testimony in the justice and human rights committee, we uncovered some issues in the bill that brought us to unanimously recommend that the House not proceed further with the bill.

Some of the most compelling evidence we came across was introduced by Dr. Daryl Mayers, who testified as chair of the alcohol test committee, known as the ATC, of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. The ATC, the alcohol test committee, has provided advice to the Ministry of Justice about detection and quantification of blood alcohol concentrations for the past 50 years. We learned that the introduction of a passive detection device would need to be tested against the ATC's published standards to determine if it is appropriate to be used in Canadian alcohol testing. This would be costly in both time and resources and, as Dr. Mayers testified, would stretch the ATC's resources well past the breaking point.

The chair of the alcohol test committee brought to our attention concerns regarding the nature of these devices. Because they test ambient air for alcohol molecules, they are subject to numerous environmental factors. These devices are unlike ASDs in that ASDs require a deep-lung air sample. They are also administered away from others and from traffic and in a police vehicle, where environmental conditions are understood and controlled. For example, the dissemination of alcohol molecules through different sizes of cars will be different. The use of a passive device would necessarily introduce elements beyond the control of law enforcement.

There are other environmental factors that could result in an incorrect response from a passive device. Open alcohol in the vicinity or an intoxicated passenger could alter results. We also discovered that methanol in windshield wiper fluid could contribute to a positive result. The recent use of mouthwash could result in a false positive; whereas, a person chewing gum, which increases salivation and diminishes mouth alcohol, could result in a false negative. In our study of Bill C-247, it was unclear whether a response on a passive device indicating no alcohol was present would render the officer unable to investigate further.

Another consideration which is especially relevant here in Canada is that the weather could affect the results of a passive detection device. It has been noted that these devices are less effective in windy conditions. Dr. Mayers also indicated that he would recommend devices that use fuel cell technology as a mechanism for detecting alcohol. We learned, however, that fuel cells can be affected by cold weather and can cause a false negative. Here in Canada we experience extremes in weather conditions and these vary dramatically from coast to coast to coast. The development of region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedures would be onerous, to say the least, for the volunteer-led alcohol test committee.

Our committee also questioned the invasiveness of the passive devices. There are many versions of these devices on the market, and while some recommend a distance of six inches between the device and the driver, some recommend as few as two inches. The close proximity between the device and a driver could be seen as quite invasive and consequently negates the subtleness intended in the administration of such a device.

These are all potential intervening factors that arose during the study of Bill C-247, and left us questioning the effectiveness of passive detection devices. We learned that for the alcohol test committee to test new products against the ATC's published standards, to account for all the factors discussed previously, and to develop region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedure would be substantial. Even if the committee were provided additional resources, it would still be a lengthy process, and the alcohol test committee would likely need to hire and consult numerous engineers throughout the process.

We also need to consider the capacity for human error in the administration of these devices. Dr. Daryl Mayers said the following before committee:

My experience with police officers, and I mean no disrespect, is that if you give officers a tool with all kinds of caveats attached to it—you have to do it this way, that way, make sure the wind isn't blowing, have your back to the wind, make sure you don't have the window open, check the car for spills—and you expect the officer to do [it] in a very rapid time frame, the more likely it is that one step or two steps will be missed, and that is a very serious thing once we come to litigate that case.

Dr. Mayers also brought to the attention of the committee the possibility of litigation arising from a false positive. The burden of lengthy and complicated litigation cannot be underscored.

I believe this legislation was introduced in an effort to provide law enforcement with additional tools to get more drunk drivers off the road. However, I fear that because of numerous factors that could affect the device, it would actually complicate matters for law enforcement and litigators. I think it is possible, if not likely, that adding this layer could result in even trickier litigation, and potentially result in less drunk driving convictions. I also think a false negative, whether caused by the wind or a stick of gum, could allow for the potential of an impaired person to avoid detection.

In addition, we heard from a Department of Justice official who confirmed that the present threshold for use of an approved screening device is very low. The threshold is simply suspicion of alcohol in a driver's body. That is the way we do things today. That suspicion could be arrived at through things like alcohol odour, glassy eyes, fumbling with documentation, and the like.

It was also confirmed that nothing presently prohibits an officer from using a passive alcohol sensor. In fact, the RCMP is already in possession of such a device. We never heard whether or not RCMP officers use the device regularly, but we know nothing prevents them from doing so.

I believe that as parliamentarians we need to do whatever we can as legislators to protect Canadians from impaired drivers. However, after the study of Bill C-247, I consider the costs and potential litigation complexity to outweigh the potential benefits. In fact, I think there is reason enough to believe that this bill could work against its very objectives. For these reasons, I suggest that the House not proceed further with this bill.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
?

Alistair MacGregor

NDP

Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in this debate on the justice committee's recommendation to the House. I do so as the second vice-chair of that committee. Before I start, I would like to commend the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville because I believe his intent behind the bill was very noble.

Bill C-247 was designed to allow police officers to use passive ambient air alcohol detection devices to basically detect alcohol in the air near a driver's mouth during roadside sobriety checks. The detection of alcohol by the sensor would then provide officers with reasonable grounds to suspect that the driver had consumed alcohol and allow them to then request a Breathalyzer test to check for impairment.

I was not on the committee when it was deliberating on the bill. There were two committee meetings on October 18 and October 20, and I was preceded by the hon. member for Victoria who was then a member of that committee. The bill was referred to committee on September 28, before those two meetings.

We fundamentally believe that we need to support effective measures against impaired driving, because each and every year we lose far too many lives in Canada, and indeed, as has been mentioned many times in this place, it is the leading cause of criminal death in Canada. The proposed devices in the bill would have several benefits if they were to show that they could work as effectively as the claims say.

The committee has made a recommendation to the House of Commons, and while the committee felt that the intent behind Bill C-247 was commendable, the committee concluded that based on the evidence gathered during its study, the costs of introducing such devices and the time and resources required for developing the appropriate testing mechanisms outweighed the potential benefits. We feel strongly that the government needs to consider taking this on with the resources of the Department of Justice and introducing legislation on this topic at the earliest opportunity.

We had a chance to talk to stakeholders. Law enforcement has suggested that, if this device were effective, it could be a potentially useful addition to the tool kit, but it is certainly not the one that is most urgently needed. Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which was supportive of the use of effective devices, wanted Parliament to make sure that we did not displace the more pressing questions of how to effectively deter impaired drivers and detect drug impairment.

During the witness testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, some of the witnesses clarified the issues that these detection devices have. Of particular note, it was the chair for the Alcohol Test Committee who stated that the bill asks us to enact legislation using approved passive detection devices. If we enact the bill now, it requires the Alcohol Test Committee to develop standards and procedures for the evaluations.

We would have to perform evaluations on the new equipment proposed as passive devices, and we would have to develop operational recommendations. We would need best practices relating to the maintenance and use of these devices, and this means that the scientific aspect of the approval process would be extremely costly in both time and resources. The potential influx of numerous new devices seeking approval as passive detection devices would stretch its current resources past the breaking point. Even after this approval process was finally finished, there would still need to be recommendations from individual forensic laboratories to create region-specific recommendations for calibration, training, and operational procedures.

Even the introduction of a newly approved instrument can be challenging in and for our courts. The introduction of a novel type of testing with completely unfamiliar devices would undoubtedly be the subject of lengthy litigation involving scientific staff from all the forensic laboratories across the country.

We know from questions that have been raised in the House and from media reports and indeed from across the country that the court system is already quite burdened and quite strained.

There are already serious criminal charges that are either being stayed or withdrawn in the wake of the Jordan decision, which has fundamentally altered the legal landscape. It is something that I hope the federal government and our provincial governments finally take note of and put in the resources that we need in the system.

We want to stop impaired driving, but we do not want to do it at the expense of clogging the very judicial system that is meant to operate efficiently to make sure we are actually delivering justice for those who do harm. If we are going to burden the justice system with even more litigation against devices, that is not going to solve the main problem. Defence lawyers would probably have a field day challenging these devices because of their reliability.

We look at the climate issues, because that was one of the main things that was brought forward in witness testimony. Canada is a country that is affected by cold temperatures and humidity in the winter. Unfortunately, I live in a section of the country that is certainly affected by the humidity, Vancouver Island. It is not known just as the west coast, but indeed the wet coast.

The testimony indicated that the devices may not be appropriate for our climate. We can go to the testimony of Dr. Daryl Mayers, the chair of the Alcohol Test Committee, who laid it out completely for all of us. If the weather is windy, excessively damp, or even below 8° Celsius, the reliability of these passive detection devices is brought into question. The Winnipeg police department did a test in the early 2000s that found that these devices did not work very effectively in the winter. Devices whose function is inhibited in either cold weather or by excessive amounts of precipitation in the air are simply too problematic for us to go forward, and we certainly need a lot more study to make sure these devices can actually do what they are supposed to do.

In light of these findings, I do agree with the committee's report that we need a comprehensive solution to this problem and that the government should consider introducing legislation on this topic at the earliest opportunity.

I would like to compliment the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, because I believe his intent was noble. He really does want to do the right thing, but we had a unanimously backed recommendation that we not proceed with this bill. There are Liberals, Conservatives, and our NDP member on committee. We listened to the evidence, and I agree with that report. I hope all hon. members will pay attention to the hard work that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights did.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
LIB

Bill Blair

Liberal

Mr. Bill Blair (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to rise and speak to the motion concerning Bill C-247, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding passive detection devices. The motion proposes to accept the recent report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that Bill C-247 not proceed further. Although I applaud and agree with the intent of Bill C-247, I want to advise the House that I intend to vote in support of the motion.

In particular, I agree with the concerns expressed by the standing committee that the bill may not achieve its intended effect, and I will not go over the very comprehensive explanation provided by my colleagues on the opposite side of the House. I also want to advise the House that the standing committee, as part of its report, recommended that the government ensure that there be a comprehensive solution to the issues under consideration and that the government should therefore consider introducing legislation to provide for that comprehensive response to the issue of impaired driving. I share this view.

Our government is best placed to consider all of the challenges with the legal framework surrounding the investigation of impaired driving. That is why the Minister of Justice intends to introduce new comprehensive legislation this spring, which will carefully address both drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. The new legislation will take a thorough and strategic approach, having regard to the minister's overall mandate with respect to criminal justice reform. In this way, our government is working to keep our communities safe, protect victims, and hold offenders to account. I very sincerely look forward to working with the members on the justice committee as we go forward with this important work. We all agree that we have a responsibility in the House to do everything possible to keep our communities safe and to protect our citizens.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the member for bringing this important issue forward. I would like to thank the standing committee for its thoughtful consideration of this bill. The members of the committee invested extensively of their time, attention, and expertise in considering the merits of the proposed bill, and I am grateful to them for their efforts.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee who shared their experience and expertise, and in particular those witnesses who spoke about their personal experience with the devastating impact of impaired driving. I want to thank them for their courage and their support.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Question.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(2)(d), the proceedings on the bill shall come to an end.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Justice and Human Rights
Permalink

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.


CPC

Tom Kmiec

Conservative

Mr. Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this adjournment proceeding. I had asked a question on February 24, 2017, regarding Reporters Without Borders and their 2015 World Press Freedom Index. At the time, it showed that, in fact, Canada had dropped from its eighth rank in 2015 to its 18th rank. It actually dropped 10 spots. Namibia, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Slovakia were all ahead of us.

The questionnaire this was based on was 87 questions long. Quite a bit of qualitative and quantitative data had been collected in 20 different languages. The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs gave me an answer that I would simply define as bafflegab or gobbledegook, something in that manner. It was a mash-up of buzzwords and talking points that would not be understandable in any sort of English, or a French translation, that would be acceptable to me.

One thing I would also mention is that the criteria, categories, and indicators for the questions talked about pluralism, media independence, environment of self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure. All six points were in this 87-question questionnaire I was bringing up in the House. I was seeking further clarification from the government on why, in fact, after a year in power, Canada had dropped to the 18th spot in terms of the World Press Freedom Index.

We have seen, over the past 18 months, many journalists complain about having been the victims or the targets of police investigations. I will switch to French here for a moment.

On November 2, 2016, journalist Marie-Maude Denis said on Twitter, “I've just learned that my incoming and outgoing calls have been spied on by the Sûreté du Québec in 2013”.

Alain Gravel said, “My turn to get a confirmation that I was targeted by court mandates to obtain a log of my calls by the SQ”.

Here is another quote from Isabelle Richer, who said, “Surreal … The SQ spied on my cellphone following a formal complaint made by Michel Arsenault in 2013”.

These statements were posted on Twitter on November 2, 2016.

That was not the only case. There were several other journalists in Canada who had been found to have been investigated by a police service of some sort, including Marie-Maude Denis and Alain Gravel, as I mentioned; Isabelle Richer, who I mentioned; Éric Thibault, from the Le Journal de Montréal; Denis Lessard; and Gilles Toupin and Joël-Denis Bellavance, who are both Ottawa-based journalists working for La Presse.

I felt that my questions to the minister and the parliamentary secretary, who answered, were pretty reasonable. They were just laying out the case that we were finding it unusual that so many journalists had been the target of what would be considered limitations on their press freedom. As well, there was this international organization, a well-regarded international organization, which had been producing this particular index at least since 2002, when it started, an index that had been going on for 14 or 15 years and was well respected internationally and is one the government should be aware of. The parliamentary secretary was simply incapable of providing an answer to the question.

I will mention that when the previous Conservative government took power in 2006, it was indeed in 18th spot, and over time, we actually saw it bounce up and down just a little bit, but it was going in the right direction, which was towards more press freedom. In fact, in 2015, it had finished in the eighth spot.

Again, going back to the categories and indicators, pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure, Canada had been going in the right direction, which was towards more press freedom.

My question to the parliamentary secretary, and it is a question I repeat today, is this. Why has Canada dropped 10 spots, and why are we behind countries like Costa Rica, when we should be moving ahead and up in the rankings?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
Permalink
LIB

Bill Blair

Liberal

Mr. Bill Blair (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on this issue and to do my very best to respond to the concerns and issues raised by my friend across the hall.

First, I would like to emphasize for the House how important this issue is to our government and to all Canadians. As the member opposite surely knows, our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. One of its most important guarantees is the right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media expression.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental Canadian value protected by our charter. It is also recognized in some of the core international instruments which are binding upon Canada, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

Our government has and will defend this right assiduously, as well as the underlying values of truth seeking, democratic debate, and personal freedom. Our commitment to openness and transparency is informed by these values.

I would also like to mention that the core role of the media in promoting freedom of expression is not only recognized by our government and our charter, but it is recognized throughout all our federal laws and programs. A specific example of this can be found in our Criminal Code, where courts have recognized the core role of the media in the context of police search powers. In exercising their discretion whether to issue a search warrant, there is clear legal authority requiring justices to consider the fundamental nature of the freedom of the press. These considerations are a natural extension of the value Canadians place on this important freedom.

According to the Supreme Court of Canada, media play a vital role in the functioning of a democratic society, and freedom to publish the news necessarily involves a freedom to gather the news. Because the media advance the search for truth and make vital contributions to the democratic debate on matters of public importance, a free press is essential for promoting the core values contained in the charter.

Of course, I am not talking only about freedom of expression, but also numerous other rights, such as freedom of assembly, association, and of course our democratic rights as citizens.

As we are all aware, section 1 of the charter guarantees charter rights subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Although reasonable limits of freedom of the press are justifiable under section 1, our courts will scrutinize any such limits carefully, in recognition of the crucial role played by the media in Canadian society.

Our government is aware of the most recent complaints that have been raised against the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal and the Sûreté du Québec with respect to journalists. We look forward to hearing details about these specific instances during the hearings and from the report that will be issued by the Chamberland commission, when its important work begins this week.

At the same time, I want to be perfectly clear for the member opposite and for the House that both the RCMP commissioner and the CSIS director have publicly confirmed that such practices are not taking place at the federal level.

We are reviewing the safeguards that exist federally to ensure they are appropriate and sufficient to protect the fundamental Canadian value of freedom of the press.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
Permalink
CPC

Tom Kmiec

Conservative

Mr. Tom Kmiec

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary did a much better job of trying to address the question but again failed to answer the question of why Canada had dropped 10 spots on the index. I fear the hon. gentleman on the other side, who has honourably served our country as a Toronto police officer for many years, has been hanging out with too many lawyers. I recently read an excellent biography written about him. We have had many conversations about judicial issues. However, with all due respect to the lawyers in the House, they are prone to bouts of legalisms and splitting of hairs.

My question is very simple. There is a Yiddish proverb that I want to bring up: “Truth is a slowpoke.” These complaints started in November. This index was put out in 2017. My question was in late February. Here we are in April, and I am still searching for an answer on why Canada dropped 10 spots on the index. It is not about our Charter of Rights. It is not about specific cases. It is a consistent, chronic problem. There is no other reason we would drop 10 spots on the 2015 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders. Why did we drop those 10 spots?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
Permalink
LIB

Bill Blair

Liberal

Mr. Bill Blair

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I am not aware of all the issues examined or the events that were under consideration by those who compiled the index. However, it is reasonably safe to conclude that most recent events, in particular the allegations concerning the activities of two major police services in Canada in their actions and dealings with journalists, may have had an impact on that index. As the member opposite has already acknowledged, it can go up and down in response to recent events. I would be reluctant to speculate, frankly, without further information on why that might happen.

I reiterate for the member and for this House that freedom of the press is essential to the preservation of an open and democratic society. I believe Canada has an outstanding record of resolutely supporting the right of journalists to pursue and share information.

As the member is well aware, there are rare occasions when we place reasonable limits on freedom of the press, particularly where public safety may be at risk. Nonetheless, I am very proud to reiterate our government's commitment to the values of protecting the safety and security of Canadians while respecting our rights and freedoms under the charter.

I hope that is a satisfactory response to the member's inquiry.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
Permalink
CPC

James Bezan

Conservative

Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to address a question I originally asked on November 30, 2016, about the decision by the Liberals to unilaterally change the number of fighter jets that the military needs and the decision to sole source the Super Hornet. The question was who wrote those statements of requirement, the air force or the PMO.

As we know, through this whole discussion, the requests and desires of the Royal Canadian Air Force have been completely ignored by the government. The Liberals announced on March 14 that they finally wrote the letter to the U.S. government for the decision to go ahead to sole source 18 Super Hornets. It took them five months just to write one letter. What the Conservatives have been calling on the government to do is actually hold an open and transparent competition so that we can get the best equipment at the best price for the brave men and women who serve us in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

I just want to point out that other allied countries have done full competitions in very short periods of time. The Liberals have punted the decision down the road to make a decision on what plane we are going to buy in a competition five years from now. That is unacceptable. They took five months just to write a letter to the Trump administration on getting permission to buy the Super Hornets.

Denmark ran a fair and open competition in just 11 months, Norway ran a fair and open competition in one year and 11 months, and South Korea ran a fair and open competition in one year and four months. Why are the Liberals wasting five years to hold a competition on the replacement of our CF-18s when the previous government and the Liberal government have already done all the surveys and all the analysis on all the planes that are out there? The statements of requirement can be written today, and the plane could be selected in a relatively short period of time.

If one talks to defence experts like Alan Williams and former commanders of the Royal Canadian Air Force, they all say that this decision can be made in a year and that we can get the best value and the best plane for our troops and taxpayers, while making sure we protect Canadian jobs.

As people know, the joint strike fighter program, the F-35, already employs hundreds of Canadians across this country in more than 100 companies that are already making pieces for the F-35, which is in full production and operation around the world.

We have to remember that, when the minister and the government talk about a capability gap, it is a manufactured capability gap. It is one that they fabricated on their own, and it has no reality or basis in logic at all. The Royal Canadian Air Force has always said that we have enough planes to do the job it is called upon to do, whether it is NORAD or NATO.

We also know that research done by Defence Research and Development Canada back in 2014, a public document that the Liberals will have classified and taken off the website, showed that we have enough fighter jets currently to do the job. There is no capability gap. That report also showed that running a mixed fleet of two or three different types of fighter aircraft is too expensive and too cumbersome for infrastructure training and operations here in Canada through our rather smaller fighting aircraft in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

It is not in the best interests of Canada, the industry, or taxpayers if the Liberals proceed with the sole source and not move immediately to an open, fair, and transparent competition.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Public Services and Procurement
Permalink
LIB

Steven MacKinnon

Liberal

Mr. Steven MacKinnon (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his advocacy, which I share, for our men and women in uniform. I appreciate his often thoughtful interventions on the issues of the day. That said, as the great Dave Mason once said, “There ain't no good guys. There ain't no bad guys. There's only you and me and we just disagree.”

The decision by the government to proceed with an interim fighter solution indeed addresses what we think is a pretty clear capability gap. In fact, it is a capability gap that was the legacy of the government which we took over from, a government which, during its entire tenure in office, failed to be resolute, failed to proceed, and failed to make a decision on the future of Canada's fighter jets. The Conservatives wasted precious years, mismanaged, and often, regrettably, highly politicized processes that resulted in failed procurements and suffered from an unfortunate lack of transparency.

Let us not forget the overall goal at the heart of this issue. It is to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the equipment they need to do their jobs. That is what animates this government. It is what animates the military advisers to the Minister of National Defence. It is what animates the Prime Minister and the government, and it is what will continue to animate us, whether it is air force purchases or military purchases generally. Those who serve our country are often in harm's way and our government is not prepared to take unnecessary risks with their safety.

Our government is actually dealing with the reality of Canada's aging fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft.

We have consulted widely to assess risks and analyze procurement options. We have made decisions, and we now are proceeding with a plan that addresses the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces in both the short and long term.

As part of our plan, the government will conduct an open and transparent competition to replace the fleet of fighter aircraft. This will be an open and transparent process, overseen by a fairness monitor, that will ensure that we get the right aircraft at the right price, with maximum economic benefits for Canadians.

We will not cut corners on this process. The process requires extensive planning and stakeholder engagement to successfully design and implement. We will take the time needed to consult, develop requirements, and assess solutions in order to get the aircraft and in-service support that meet Canada's defence needs and provide best value to Canadians.

The CF-18s were purchased in the 1980s and the fleet is down from 138 aircraft to 76 today. We are no longer able to meet our international commitments with certainty. Therefore, we have undertaken discussions with the U.S. government and Boeing about the potential acquisition of 18 new Super Hornets. These discussions are aimed at determining if an interim solution can be provided at a cost, time, level of capability, and economic value that are acceptable to Canada.

Last month Canada submitted a letter of request to the U.S. government as part of this process. The letter outlines Canada's requirements for the interim aircraft and associated in-service support. No offer, we can assure Canadians, will be accepted unless it meets Canada's requirements at a cost, schedule, and level of capability acceptable to Canada.

We believe we have come up with a good solution and we are very confident in what we are putting before Canadians. We are confident that, in perusing magazines like Skies, the Super Hornet is the right choice for right now according to experts. We know that this decision is being supported within and outside the government.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Public Services and Procurement
Permalink

April 4, 2017