THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
OTTAWA, Thursday, February 8, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional affairs met this day at 10:30 a.m. to continue its study of Bill C-46, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Senator Serge Joyal (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome, colleagues. I would also like to welcome the public who are following the proceedings of this committee. The committee is continuing its study of Bill C-46, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
This morning we welcome witnesses whose words we will have the pleasure to hear. We have Mr. Yvan Clermont, Director of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics at Statistics Canada. That sector of Statistics Canada essentially focuses on gathering data on the justice system. We also have Ms. Kathy Aucoin, Chief of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, also at Statistics Canada.
It is a pleasure to welcome you both this morning on behalf of my colleagues around the table.
I gather you will be making a presentation and will then be prepared to answer questions. Mr. Clermont, you have the floor.
Yvan Clermont, Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada: Good morning, everyone. First, let me thank the chair and members of the committee for inviting us to present the most recent statistics on impaired driving in Canada.
Statistics Canada has several sources of information on impaired driving. They include data provided by police departments and the courts and self-reported data from household surveys such as the Canadian Community Health Survey. Today I will be presenting an overview of the main indicators from the most recent ones drawn from the various sources of data on this issue.
Let me first highlight some of the key and most important findings in relation to impaired driving in Canada.
Only a very small proportion of people drive while being impaired, but of those who do, most are doing it recurrently. Impaired drivers also more often adopt more at-risk behaviours, such as being a passenger of another impaired driver, driving faster, more aggressively, not fastening their seatbelt, and using a cellphone without a hands-free device.
Police-reported statistics show a sharp decline in impaired driving over the last 30 years. Recent declines were more pronounced among categories frequently targeted by campaigns and policies, for example, among young drivers, males, and during the night.
Finally, drug-impaired driving incidents are less likely to be cleared by charge. They take more than twice the time to be completed in the courts than any other alcohol-related impaired driving cases, and they’re less likely to result in a guilty finding.
Since a small percentage of impaired driving cases are brought to the attention of the police, and that data may be influenced by the practices of the various police forces, I will first look at sources of self-reported data from a sample of nearly 32,000 Canadians who responded to the Canadian Community Health Survey. Since some of the content of this survey is optional for the provinces, we only have data for certain provinces, as you can see in slide 3.
In 2015, questions were also added to measure drug-impaired driving, but only Alberta participated. Self-reported data on drug-impaired driving is currently very limited, which is why we essentially focus on results concerning alcohol-impaired driving.
This chart shows the percentage of drivers who reported having driven after consuming two alcoholic drinks in the preceding hour at least once in the previous 12 months. Overall, slightly more than four per cent of Canadian drivers reported having driven after consuming two alcoholic drinks in the preceding hour. The figure rises to five per cent if you include motorized conveyances such as ATVs or other recreational vehicles.
The Chair: Pardon me for interrupting you, but can you indicate the page numbers you are referring to for the charts?
If you want to indicate which page you are on, it will be easier to follow your presentation.
Mr. Clermont: Absolutely, Senator Joyal. We are on slide 3.
For example, in 2015, nearly three per cent of drivers in Alberta — the only place for which we have data on drug-impaired driving — reported driving after consuming drugs, and nine per cent reported driving while alcohol-impaired.
In other words, drugs were involved in nearly one quarter of self-reported impaired driving cases in Alberta. That could indicate that current police data vastly underestimate the extent of drug-impaired driving since it represents only four per cent of the total number of impaired driving cases reported by police in that province.
Now we are on slide 4. The next chart shows the number of times impaired drivers reported driving while being impaired in the 12 months preceding the survey. Although a relatively small proportion of drivers reported they had driven while impaired in the past 12 months, the vast majority of those who did, did it more than once.
On average, impaired drivers reported six occurrences of impaired driving in the previous 12 months. Repeat impaired drivers were responsible for 97 per cent of all impaired driving occurrences.
Of note, a similar pattern was also observed for drug-impaired drivers in Alberta in 2015 where we disclosed this data for drug-impaired. Our courts data also shows that high proportions of offenders had been previously accused, even more so for the most serious offences.
Now we are on slide 5. This chart shows the proportion, by age group, of drivers who reported having driven while impaired. As you can see, young adults 25 to 34 years old are most likely to drive while impaired.
However, we also noted that older drivers were more likely to do it recurrently. For example, drivers 55 to 64 years of age who had driven while impaired said they had done so an average of eight times in the preceding 12 months, compared to five times for those 18 to 34.
Impaired driving is not an isolated behaviour and is often one of a set of risky behaviours. For example, a larger proportion of drivers who report driving faster, more aggressively, not fastening their seatbelt and using a cell phone without a hand-free device, and especially those who also say they have been a passenger of another impaired driver, reported driving while impaired than other drivers.
Furthermore, other research has also shown that the risk of accident increases when intoxicated passengers are in the vehicle. Consequently, targeting other risky driving behaviours, first of all, and raising awareness about being a passenger of an impaired driver could be effective ways of tackling impaired driving.
Now let’s look at slide 6 and police-reported data. This chart shows the changes that have occurred in impaired driving rates since the mid-1980s. As previously mentioned, we can clearly see a sharp decline in impaired driving rates over that period.
In 2016, about 67,000 impaired-driving incidents were reported by Canadian police services, which translates to a rate of 186 incidents per 100,000 of the population. The impaired-driving rate recorded in 2016 was three times lower than it was 30 years ago. By contrast, drug-impaired driving is on the rise, although still accounting for a small proportion, about 4 per cent, of all police reported impaired-driving cases.
Even though impaired driving has decreased sharply over the last 30 years, it remains one of the most frequent criminal offences reported by the police. In fact, when taking into consideration crimes that do not come to the attention of the police, impaired driving is likely the most frequent crime, and it is one of the leading criminal causes of death.
The next graph, on slide 7, shows the police-reported impaired-driving rate by province and territory. Like crime in general, we know important variations in impaired driving exist across the country, with the lowest rates being recorded in Ontario and Quebec and the highest being recorded in the territories and in Saskatchewan. You might have also noted that these variations are relatively similar to what was observed from the self-reported data previously. It should be noted that all provinces recorded declines over the past 30 years though, although not all at the same magnitude.
As for police-reported drug-impaired driving, the variations are relatively similar, however, with the highest rates being recorded in the Atlantic provinces. You can see that in some of the slides we presented in the annex.
Now I will turn to slide number 8. This next chart shows the impaired-driving rates by age of drivers, based on licenced drivers, for 2009 and 2016. As you can see, the impaired-driving rate declined among all age groups, but the opposite was observed for drug-impaired driving, where rates increased for all age groups. The greatest declines in overall rates were among the youngest age group. It is worth noting that some provinces recently implemented zero tolerance for young drivers, and, coincidentally, these provinces are where the largest decline in youth impaired driving occurred.
Another large decrease was observed at night. Although almost half of impaired-driving incidents are still happening between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m, about 70 per cent of the overall decrease in impaired driving in the past six or seven years occurred during that time period.
Targeting peak period is known to be one of the most effective ways to combat impaired driving. However, our data also show that drug-impaired driving does not have strong peak periods like alcohol-impaired driving does. There are about just as many drug-impaired driving incidents between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. as there are between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., which can be one potential challenge in addressing the issue of drug-impaired driving.
I’m turning now to slide 9. This next chart shows clearance status by type of substance causing impairment. As you can see, alcohol-impaired drivers — you can see that on the green line — are more likely to be charged than drug-impaired drivers, which is the blue line. However, it’s interesting to see that the gap between alcohol- and drug-impaired has narrowed, especially since the implementation of drug recognition experts in 2008.
Now I would like to turn to slide 10 and draw your attention to impaired driving cases prosecuted in the courts. These cases form a large part of the court caseloads, and represented approximately one in 10 cases in 2014-2015, which makes them one of the case types most frequently heard by the courts.
Now we turn to slide 11. This chart shows median court processing times for these cases. As you can see from the light blue line, processing time for alcohol-impaired driving cases is approximately 114 days, which is similar to that for other offences, here indicated by the red dashed line. However, it takes a median time of 245 days, more than twice as long, to settle a drug-impaired driving case, as indicated by the dark blue line. These times vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another, but, in all jurisdictions, it takes much longer to complete drug-impaired cases than alcohol-impaired ones.
Now I’d like to turn to slide number 12. This next slide shows the proportion of cases that resulted in a guilty decision. The alcohol-impaired driving cases are represented by the light blue line, and the drug-impaired are represented by the dark blue line on this graph for each of the provinces and territories.
As you can see, in addition to taking longer to be completed, drug-impaired driving cases are also less likely to end up with a guilty verdict. At the national level, 60 per cent of drug-related cases are found guilty, while this was 80 per cent for all alcohol-related cases. Still, for those who were found guilty, there were, overall, no or little differences in the sentences.
Now let’s look at slide 13. To summarize, our data shows that, while a very small proportion of drivers report that they drive while impaired, the majority of them are repeat offenders. Impaired driving is associated with other at-risk driving behaviours, such as being the passenger of another impaired driver. Despite a sharp decline in the number of impaired driving cases in police statistics, impaired driving is still one of the most frequent offences and the second cause of crime-related deaths. The largest declines have been recorded for young drivers, a group often targeted by prevention campaigns. Drug-impaired driving incidents may be more difficult to combat since there is no peak period during the day that can be easily targeted. These cases less frequently result in guilty verdicts and take more time to complete in the courts.
Before concluding this presentation, I’d like to bring to the attention of the committee that Statistics Canada is launching a National Cannabis Survey, which will have the objective of better understanding the frequency of cannabis usage in Canada and to monitor changes in behaviour as a result of the planned legalization of cannabis for non-medical use. The survey will enable us to establish, among other things, if Canadians have in the past three months driven a motor vehicle within two hours of using cannabis. We plan to be getting this measure at two different points in time before legalization, March and May, and at two other points in time after the legalization.
The survey will be used in conjunction with other data sources to understand how this potential change could impact the Canadian economy, as well as other health and social services.
That concludes my presentation. I want to thank committee members for their attention and the time they have allotted me today.
The Chair: Thank you very much for that presentation, Mr. Clermont. It will undoubtedly raise a lot of questions.
First, I would like to invite Senator Dupuis, deputy chair of this committee, to start the questions this morning.
Senator Dupuis: Mr. Clermont, thank you for being here this morning to help us understand the situation. I have a few very specific questions on the information contained in the charts you presented to us. The chart on page six concerns impaired driving rates and how they have declined over the past 30 years. Can you tell us how that stacks up against other countries? Is this part of a general trend?
Mr. Clermont: I don’t have any information about statistics on other countries. It is hard to establish comparisons with other countries since legislation varies from one to the next, but I can tell you there have been notable differences in trends among the various provinces. Saskatchewan, for example, has the highest rates, followed by Alberta and Prince Edward Island. The territories still have the highest rates, but the sharpest declines have been observed in Nunavut, Alberta and British Columbia, followed by Prince Edward Island and Ontario. Elsewhere, we see declines in rates comparable to those observed at the national level.
Senator Dupuis: According to the next page, page seven, the highest rates have been observed in the territories. I was wondering whether, based on your work, you had an explanation for the fact that Quebec and Ontario are the provinces with the lowest rates.
Mr. Clermont: Quebec and Ontario are the most urbanized provinces in the country. Impaired driving rates are overrepresented outside the census metropolitan areas. I have figures, and I could provide them to the committee or the committee’s analysts, but the conclusion is that impaired driving cases are overrepresented outside the urban areas.
Senator Dupuis: That’s the connection I was trying to make. Thank you. That answers my question.
I have another question. You say on page 10 that impaired driving is one of the most frequent offences in court cases. I would like to understand the 10.1 per cent figure that appears in the chart showing impaired driving cases in relation to theft, at 10.4 per cent. Aren’t we dealing with two types of offences that rank equally high in the statistics but that are almost equal?
Mr. Clermont: The size of court caseloads is a reflection of police operations; there is necessarily a correspondence between the two. Impaired driving cases have stood at approximately 10 per cent for a number of years and for nearly all the provinces, except British Columbia, where, in the past 10 years or so, there has been a sharp decline in the number of cases brought to court as a result of new statutory amendments and administrative penalties. Impaired driving prosecutions in British Columbia now stand at around two per cent.
Senator Dupuis: The other point that interests me is the number of times people admit to driving while impaired, which is five and eight times according to the table on page five. What impresses me is that the youngest drivers report having driven five times in the previous 12 months after drinking in the preceding hour, whereas, if I understand correctly, people 55 to 64 years of age reported having done so eight times. Does that mean that 10 per cent of impaired driving cases are really the result…. You said that a minority of drivers are repeat offenders.
Mr. Clermont: We conducted a study on that question and published it about two years ago. I don’t have the exact figure, but a significant percentage of court cases involve individuals who have been prosecuted for the same type of offence in the previous 10 years.
Senator Dupuis: In your work, have you managed to determine the percentage of those people who, for example, had their driver’s licences suspended but nevertheless wound up back in court? They didn’t necessarily steal a car seven times, but someone agreed to lend them a vehicle. Have you conducted that kind of analysis?
Mr. Clermont: We unfortunately don’t have the level of detail to know whether driver’s licences were suspended.
Senator Boisvenu: Welcome to our officials from Statistics Canada.
My first question is this: if so few impaired driving cases involve marijuana or other substances, have you conducted an analysis to determine whether that is attributable to a lack of equipment or a lack of training among police officers that would prevent them from making those findings? One of the issues today is the equipping and training of police officers so they can test for those substances. Can a parallel be drawn between the two?
Mr. Clermont: We don’t have any specific information on the level of equipment or the quality of the equipment available to the police forces. However, we have noticed among the trends that instances that have resulted in charges in drug-impaired driving cases have risen since drug recognition experts have been on the job. Consequently, that factor has definitely helped. As mentioned during the presentation, if you look at Alberta, for which we have self-reported crime statistics on both alcohol-impaired and drug-impaired driving, we can determine that roughly one quarter of cases involve drug use, whereas, based on police statistics, we put the figure at four per cent. There may be a connection, but we do not have all the evidence we need to make it.
Senator Boisvenu: We can see that the 25 to 34 age group commits the largest percentage of offences. It also has one of the highest levels of marijuana consumption. Can we assume that, if all police forces are well equipped and well trained, that age group, which is the biggest consumer of marijuana, will commit the largest percentage of drug-related offences in future, since we will have more equipment and more police officers, and that age group will be the one most likely to use drugs?
Mr. Clermont: That is certainly a very interesting hypothesis, and it’s what we propose to measure when the data lead us to that conclusion, once we have implemented the survey on cannabis consumption and driving habits. Then we will have numbers that date from before and after legalization. It’s definitely an issue we are studying.
Senator Boisvenu: There is currently zero tolerance for marijuana consumption. Police officers can intervene from the moment there is any suspicion of drug use, and evidence is easier to provide in court. Here there will be a certain level of tolerance since consumption of less than two nanograms will be allowed. Can we assume that the number of court cases will rise and that the number of cases not resulting in charges will also increase as a result of that level of tolerance that will come with the legalization of marijuana?
Mr. Clermont: Once again, once we have data on the courts and can differentiate among hybrid offences based on the levels of substances detected in the blood, which may be appropriately provided for under the Criminal Code, we will be able to determine accurately whether that is indeed the case.
I would also like to draw your attention to slide 15, which I did not discuss, and which in this instance shows trends in cannabis consumption and provides an interesting context for trends by age group. We can see here that, in recent years, there has been quite a significant increase in consumption among certain age groups, particularly the older age groups.
Senator Boisvenu: I have a final question before going to the second round. Have you identified offences committed as a result of marijuana consumption by employment class — vehicle drivers, heavy truck drivers, drivers of community vehicles such as buses or airplane pilots, for example? Is there any indication that, in future, a heavy vehicle driver, for example, might be a target that should be monitored by police officers?
Mr. Clermont: We haven’t conducted any analysis of that kind, which requires data from the courts to be matched against census data, for example, which would enable us to accurately establish the occupation of an individual who is charged and brought before the courts. That information is not gathered from the courts and even less so from police forces, and it would be very difficult to do so. Only by matching data from the census or other sources could we accurately determine whether there is a connection with the person’s occupation in a more detailed manner, if you consider people working in the transportation industry, for example. However, that has not been done.
Senator Pratte: Welcome to our committee. You referred to slide 15 a moment ago. We saw that chart in a recently published study, and, if I correctly understood the explanation provided in the Statistics Canada document, it is a kind of statistical hodgepodge combining several surveys.
Now, if I look at the end point, which is 2015, and if I compare it to statistics previously published by Statistics Canada, I am trying to reconcile it all in order to understand why, in 2015, the consumption rate for the 18 to 24 age group is slightly less than 40 per cent. When I look at the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, which was recently published, the consumption rate for that age group for 2015 is 30 per cent. There’s a difference between 30 per cent and 38 per cent. I understand that this is the result of statistical smoothing, but, if I want to know the actual consumption rate for young people in the 18 to 24 age group, is it 30 per cent or 38 per cent?
Mr. Clermont: I was referring to the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, which is a summary of consumption during the last month for people who used marijuana at least once, for example. That survey, which concerned 2015, provides data for various age groups, and it’s really a sample survey that will provide an unbiased estimate of consumption. National rates may vary from 10 per cent to 17 per cent, depending on the province, for the population 15 years of age and over. There are also tables by age group.
This was a somewhat more complex exercise that consisted in pulling together different sources of data from various surveys based on different sample bases in order to sketch out, from those sources, the general cannabis consumption trends from the past 30 or even 50 years. These differences may be explained as being the result of a smoothing process, but, if you really want accurate and recent estimates, I suggest you look at the results of the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey.
Senator Pratte: If we go to slide 12, which concerns drug-impaired cases that receive a guilty verdict, by province, we see that there are differences between drug-related and alcohol-related cases. What is interesting is that one province shows a smaller difference than the other provinces, and that is Quebec, where the conviction rate in drug-related cases is much higher than in the other provinces. Is there an obvious explanation for that phenomenon?
Mr. Clermont: No. I’m sorry, but there is no obvious explanation for that small difference here, which is obvious to me as a statistician.
Senator Pratte: And it’s calculated over four or five years.
Mr. Clermont: It’s over four years.
Senator Pratte: That’s interesting.
Senator Boisvenu: Could that difference be explained by the fact that, according to the statistics, Quebec is one of the provinces with the highest marijuana consumption rates?
Mr. Clermont: I think that’s an extremely relevant question, Senator Pratte. I would like to get back to the committee with some answers, if possible. I will consult the analysts.
Senator Pratte: That would be very much appreciated. We see in the self-reported surveys such as this one that there is a certain level of reliability because, when you look at the police affairs results and the self-reported results, there are similar trends. In some cases, however, people are asked to report behaviour that is criminal — impaired driving is criminal — because, for the time being, if you use a drug, that’s criminal. So people are asked to self-report criminal behaviour. Consequently, is it reasonable to think that the rates represented here are bare minimums and that they understate the actual situation? Because, if you ask someone if he has driven while impaired by drugs, you are asking him, first, whether he used an illegal drug and, second, whether he drove while impaired. Are we to think that the rates presented here understate the actual situation?
Mr. Clermont: The exact question is not whether people have driven while impaired, but rather whether they have driven within two hours of consuming alcohol, after two alcoholic drinks in the previous hour. From a legal standpoint, that may constitute impaired driving for certain persons and not for others who are more heavily built. So it’s an approximation.
With respect to drugs, on the other hand, they are also being asked whether they drove within two hours of consuming cannabis, which does not necessarily mean asking them whether they committed a crime. In these surveys, tests were done with focus groups in which participants were asked why they were reluctant to answer these types of questions. As many statistical agencies in the world do, we consult when we investigate extremely sensitive topics such as victimization. Generally speaking, in qualitative studies conducted with respondents to measure potential response bias, we often obtain a certain degree of confidence from respondents when they speak to a statistical agency rather than to the police. We have received these types of comments.
Now, we cannot prove beyond any doubt that this is not an estimate biased by a non-response error, for example. That’s just one possibility. In qualitative studies conducted with respondents to obtain their impressions, we generally get extremely positive answers in cases such as this.
Senator Pratte: I would like to clarify one point. When you use the expression “impaired driving”, that means that having two alcoholic drinks in the preceding hour, for example, constitutes impaired driving. Is that correct?
Mr. Clermont: That’s the question that is asked.
Senator Pratte: Then you say that this person who had two drinks an hour before driving…
Mr. Clermont: There is a possibility.
Senator Carignan: My question concerns the consumption rate, which relates to Senator Pratte’s question.
Consumption has increased in Colorado, but there has also been a rise in the number of times people consume. If the question is whether the individual consumed at least once in the previous year, there won’t necessarily be a major variation. However, the group of individuals who have consumed more frequently is changing. Is a breakdown of the changes in the number of individuals who are consuming more often currently available? Not necessarily the group of individuals who consume, but those who consume more than once.
Mr. Clermont: That’s an excellent question, Senator Carignan. In the new National Cannabis Survey, we will focus on whether respondents have consumed in the last three months only, given the lack of space we have in which to add questions. However, we have other survey vehicles, such as the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, which will gather more details on the subject. We will be able to determine precisely whether there is a difference in the structure of consumption for individuals by age group. That survey is conducted every two years.
Senator Carignan: Do you have any idea when the next study will be available?
Mr. Clermont: I couldn’t tell you exactly. I would prefer to get back to you with a more accurate answer. It may be in two years or a year and a half. I don’t know.
Senator Carignan: Do you have any statistics on the length of time between an individual’s arrest and when that individual sees a drug recognition expert? The average for cases in Colorado, for example, is an hour and five minutes. We know that THC blood levels fall very quickly; consequently, that period is fundamentally important. Do you have those statistics?
Mr. Clermont: We don’t have them from police statistics.
Senator Carignan: Could they be generated by a database?
Mr. Clermont: We would have to contact the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Information and Statistics Committee to determine whether it is possible to gather that type of information on an ongoing basis.
Senator Carignan: Would you check that, please?
Mr. Clermont: That’s something we can do.
Senator Carignan: In addition, with respect to the issue of impaired driving convictions, do you have statistics on THC levels and/or drug types, including the various levels, in cases where individuals were convicted? That would tell us whether there are more or fewer impaired driving convictions based on those levels.
Mr. Clermont: Unfortunately, we can’t make those connections. The data from the courts on police investigation conditions is quite fragmentary. You have to look at the police investigation and the uniform crime report, which doesn’t capture that type of information. Once again, that would require significant adjustments to the systems for gathering police statistics, and they would then have to be matched with those from the courts to determine whether there is a connection with conviction rates.
Senator Carignan: We saw on your website that the price of cannabis has declined in recent months. It seems to fall every week. Can you make a connection between declining prices and increased consumption?
Mr. Clermont: On the site you’re referring to, prices are calculated based on participatory production methods. That means that consumers voluntarily enter information on the prices they have paid for cannabis purchased on the black market. Consequently, from a methodological standpoint, it is hard to determine accurately whether the price reflected by participatory production represents the actual market price.
There are other ways to determine the actual market price, and that’s the kind of question my economic statistics colleagues could answer much more competently than I. I’m sure these are matters they will be monitoring closely.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Carignan. As they say, it’s food for thought.
Senator McIntyre: Mr. Clermont, thank you for your presentation, which I found very educational. How do you obtain this information? Is it based on data from a household survey? In other words, do people give you this information voluntarily?
Mr. Clermont: Absolutely. Yes, the self-reported data comes from household surveys based on existing household samples to which we have access.
Senator McIntyre: You have provided statistics on alcohol-impaired and drug-impaired driving. I understand that police statistics focus solely on drugs as a whole. In other words, there is no way to distinguish cannabis from other drugs. Drivers may also be impaired by prescription drugs. Is there a correlation between consumption rates and the decline in the incidence of impaired driving?
Mr. Clermont: That’s an excellent and very complex question. All other things being equal, there may be a connection between consumption and impaired driving. However, we see that several other factors may influence the decision whether to drive while impaired. The perceived risk of driving while impaired based on awareness campaigns is variable. We have seen from the data that the introduction of some of these measures has had an impact on impaired driving, even though we know there have not been any equally pronounced variations. We must be careful about the type of conclusion we may draw. Too many factors must be considered.
Senator McIntyre: In other words, you haven’t made a direct connection between what are commonly called clearance rates and the incidence of impaired driving.
Mr. Clermont: No, not directly.
Senator McIntyre: I draw your attention to slide 11, which clearly shows that it takes twice as long to clear a drug-impaired driving case as an alcohol-impaired case. I understand that this comes from administrative data.
Mr. Clermont: Absolutely.
Senator McIntyre: As Senator Boisvenu noted earlier, should we plan to step up pressure on the judicial system in the event Bill C-45 is implemented?
Mr. Clermont: That’s an excellent question. I’m as eager as you to see what will happen in light of the next round of data on Canadian courts in this matter. I can’t project; I can only observe what is measured based on the administrative data. That’s definitely something we will measure.
Senator Gold: Thank you and good morning. I have some brief methodological questions. I see from pages 11 and 12 that the data on the timing of cases comes from a few provinces, and I am surprised to see there is no data on Quebec or four other provinces. Can you explain to us why that is?
Mr. Clermont: You’re referring to chart 11?
Senator Gold: Yes, 11 and 12.
Mr. Clermont: It’s chart 11 because Quebec is included in chart 12.
The reason is simple. Impaired driving court cases are coded the same way whether they involve impairment by drugs or alcohol. Data from the courts and police forces must be matched in order to establish the connection and distinguish between alcohol-related and drug-related cases. Police data enable us to make the distinction, but only where the provinces report personal identifiers to us in the administrative databases.
Quebec is one of the provinces that does not report personal identifiers when responding, for example, to the administrative court survey; nor do they report them in police data. Consequently, we cannot match the two databases. This is a technical and capacity issue. We intend to do it eventually. We intend to obtain personal identifiers for cases prosecuted in Quebec courts. We are currently working very closely with them on this issue.
Senator Gold: If I understood correctly, you said that, according to the statistics, the number of drug-related cases represented approximately four per cent. I don’t know the exact source, but, according to certain studies, the figures probably come from the police, but we can see that more individuals unfortunately lost their lives as a result of impaired driving involving cannabis or drugs than alcohol.
MADD and other organizations have explained that it is much easier to prosecute an individual for alcohol-impaired driving, given the tests and case law, than for drug-impaired driving. Do you agree? I would like to know whether the problem of drug-impaired driving is more serious than the statistics suggest.
Kathy Aucoin, Chief, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada: I’ll try to answer in French, but it will be difficult.
Senator Gold: Please feel free to answer in English.
In our police admin data, someone who is charged for impaired, there’s a toxicology report; there’s an instrument that’s used.
With the MADD statistics, they’re often looking at whether there was a drug present in the car. If someone has killed themselves in a vehicle accident, they would not show up in our data because they wouldn’t have been charged with a criminal offence. So there are a lot of very large differences in our data compared to those of MADD.
In addition, when we look at our impaired statistics, it’s any motor vehicle that you’re driving, be it on a public or private road. My understanding with MADD is that they’re only looking at public roads rather than private. So there are a lot of differences between our data sets. They’re not directly comparable.
Senator Gold: I understand that. From a statistical point of view and given your experience in looking at different data sets and comparing apples to oranges, would you agree with the assumption that because it’s easier to convict for alcohol than for drugs, given the technology for impaired driving, that it is likely that the incidence of impaired driving by drugs is larger than the 4 per cent that the statistics disclose?
Mr. Clermont: As I said in the presentation earlier, the only bridge we can make in regard to linking the fact that there could be an underestimation by police statistics of drug-impaired driving if we compare it to alcohol-impaired driving is the bridge we’re making with self-revealed behaviours we get from Alberta, because that’s the only province in which we have information about both self-revealed drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired driving.
When we look at that province, we know that 25 per cent of self-revealed impaired driving is related to drugs. When we look at police statistics, we’re at 4 per cent. So we were concluding that there must be an underestimation of drug-impaired statistics when you look at policing stats or administrative data.
You can, if you want, make the link that it’s more difficult to charge people when technology is maybe not up to par if we compare it to the means we have to detect alcohol. It’s only when we get the data in the future that we’ll see. We’ve seen, as well, that the introduction of drug recognition experts in 2008 had an effect on the charge rate over time. Definitely these data are sensitive to the technical environment, if I can put it that way.
Ms. Aucoin: Not to confuse, but the police data is robust. When we calculate the rates, it’s on the population in that community, whether they’re drivers or not. That’s an important caveat.
When we look at the household survey where we’ve asked about their consumption, we ask, “Have you been driving in the previous 12 months, or are you a driver?” So we’re subsetting that population on drivers. There will be a little nuanced difference between the police data and overall prevalence and who is being charged with the self-reported. We need to look at these as complementary data sources to see where the stories are.
Senator Eaton: Mr. Clermont, on the under-reporting of drugs, we’ve heard from both the minister and his deputies that there are about 550 trained drug recognition experts and that they expect and hope to have about 3,000, which is probably what is needed in the country.
Would you not agree, then, that that will not skew but will certainly determine a higher level of drug impairment as we become more sophisticated in recognizing drug impairment as opposed to alcohol impairment?
Mr. Clermont: The past has indicated that there’s a link between the introduction of DREs and the charge rate. It will be interesting if that trend continues as they’re introducing additional numbers of drug recognition experts.
Senator Eaton: On your slide 16, police-reported drug-impaired rates are highest in the territories and the Atlantic provinces. Is it better policing? Is it less education? Do you have any statistics as to why the rates are higher in the territories and the Atlantic provinces?
Mr. Clermont: Unfortunately not. The trends or the differences we’re observing between drug impairment and alcohol impairment between provinces almost reflect each other. It’s always in the territories where we find more of these incidents. The only difference here is the Atlantic provinces, where it’s pretty high for drug impaired, and it’s not when you look the alcohol-impaired. There’s no reason I can bring up why in the Atlantic provinces they are catching more drug-impaired drivers.
Senator Eaton: Is there any correlation or do you have statistics on the number of people in the Atlantic provinces or the territories and Yukon who are substance addicted to either alcohol or drugs? Would that correlate with the number of drivers? Is there any linkage between those numbers?
Mr. Clermont: It is a very interesting avenue to be explored. The only thing I can say to this committee right now is that when we look at the percentage of people who have consumed cannabis in 2015, by province, only for Nova Scotia can we find a higher rate than for the other provinces. It is also higher in B.C.
I don’t have numbers for the territories on consumption readily available here, but that is definitely an interesting avenue to look at, especially the notion of addiction. I’m not sure we can circumvent that or measure that, but it is something we can come back to the committee on, if need be.
Senator Eaton: I just think it would be interesting if there was a correlation.
Senator Batters: Thank you for being here today and giving us some very important information early in the study of this bill. The more I hear about this issue, the more I can’t believe that the federal government is actually proceeding to legalize marijuana, the most widely used drug, because the consequences, especially in a critical area like impaired driving, are massive.
As you are aware, this committee did a comprehensive study on the criminal court delay crisis in Canada and completed it last year. With your presentation and these statistics presented today, I’m even more alarmed about how marijuana legalization and even more drug-impaired driving will further cripple our court system.
To me, one of your most important findings is the average impaired driving case involving alcohol takes a lengthy 114 days to get to trial, but the average drug-impaired driving case takes 245 days; more than twice as long. As you noted, drug-impaired drivers are less likely to be charged and convicted.
Please tell us more about these concerning statistics, particularly focusing on criminal court delays.
Mr. Clermont: Those are about all the observations we can make for now regarding what we have observed in past years. How these trends are going to behave once legalization comes into play is very hard to say, especially measuring the net effect. There are a number of Criminal Code offences which will be repealed which will not be coming into the court system, and other new offences that might. How everything is going to evolve in time, it’s very hard to say. We will have to measure before we can conclude anything on that.
Senator Batters: You only had a short time to highlight these statistics for us, so if there is more detail on these particular statistics that I was referring to on the court delay system, that would be helpful.
Mr. Clermont: Very good, thank you.
Senator Batters: Do you have any statistics where you’ve asked people whether they will use marijuana or whether they will use marijuana more often after it’s legalized?
Mr. Clermont: No, we have not asked that.
Senator Batters: Why not? Don’t you think that was perhaps a potential important area to ask about in the advent of legalizing marijuana?
Mr. Clermont: I’ll bring the suggestion back to the office, definitely.
Senator Batters: I would think that the Government of Canada would have been interested to know about that if they were really interested in delving into that issue in a deep way.
The Chair: I think the point raised by Senator Batters is a worthwhile one. In other words, if the government legalizes, one can expect there will be an increase because there are people who don’t consume now because it is illegal. But the day it is legal, you might expect that there would be a natural trend of those who might be interested who will go and consume. Is there a way to measure the impact of additional consumption once the product is legal?
Mr. Clermont: There will be ways of measuring the impact if there is additional consumption, or even consumption in general, pre-legalization and after legalization, and we can see what the differences are. That’s what the statistical system is trying to do in adjusting their various areas. We’ve been looking into designing the national accounting system to be able to make a right accounting of activities related to cannabis production, distribution and sales, and of the evolution of prices.
In the social area, we are looking into determining what would be needed in terms of metrics or indicators that will serve to make those types of studies, so we are adjusting.
It’s an interesting statement you make regarding legalization and the possible increase in consumption; I cannot conclude that. I look at past statistics.
However, the thing we’ve seen when we look at the trends in cannabis consumption since 1960, which is what you have on chart 15, is that in the early 1990s, consumption was going down. There was an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently making a link between consumption and perceived risk. So depending on how legalization is sorted, in terms of campaigns and everything, I don’t know that. And things will differ from one jurisdiction to another. I cannot predict.
The Chair: Sorry to have interrupted Senator Batters, but I considered that as a supplementary.
Senator Batters: I would think a large perceived risk would be the possibility of getting charged criminally with it and having a criminal conviction on your record for years and years. To me, that would be a pretty major perceived risk. To end on this, I wonder if the Government of Canada has a bit of wilful blindness in that they are almost afraid to know the answer that they fear doesn’t fit their narrative.
Senator Boniface: Thank you for being here and for the information. I want to follow up on Senator Eaton’s question around areas where you have a higher incidence of being impaired both by drugs and alcohol.
Have you sliced it differently on an urban-rural split? If I used Ontario as an example, is there an urban-rural split? I’m wondering to what factor it leads to the lack of public transportation, which makes people have limited choices?
Mr. Clermont: We do have a split of urban and rural, if you like, and we use census metropolitan areas and outside of census metropolitan areas. We have statistics and we could provide the committee with that, if you wish.
Senator Boniface: If I understand correctly from the charts, when you did the survey around who is consuming drugs and then driving, I noticed that 64 and up is one of the lowest.
One of the issues often discussed in the world I come from is prescription drugs, and the perception of people, particularly in an aging population, who either confuse prescription drugs or are using a combination and not realizing the effects of impaired driving. When you do that survey and ask that question of people who may be in an older age bracket, do you clarify it for them, including prescription drugs?
Mr. Clermont: I will have to check.
Senator Boniface: I think it may be helpful, not necessarily in this bill, but it’s an issue that the police community will tell you that they are starting to face over and over. It’s often the confusion on dosage, et cetera.
Mr. Clermont: Okay.
Senator Sinclair: Your data is kind of like looking at a puzzle which has various pictures, and you are trying to put them all together to figure out what the picture is about. Let me see if I can ask a question that might clarify the overall picture.
In looking at the data you referred to in your presentation, I wonder whether you have a breakdown as to the number of drug-impaired drivers who have consumed cannabis as the primary drug. I don’t see that hived off in this data. In other words, the assumption seems to be that the cannabis will result with more people being charged with impaired driving. I don’t know to what extent that’s now a factor. Do you have that at all?
Mr. Clermont: I will check. I think we might have some indication, but drug-impaired driving is usually treated in the statistics as a compound of all drugs. I can try to see if we have some proportion of what these should be in terms of cannabis in relation to other drugs.
Senator Sinclair: In addition to the police data, I just noticed that you also had self-reporting data, so I wondered if you had anything in the self-reporting data.
Mr. Clermont: Self-reporting would be for cannabis specifically.
Senator Sinclair: The self-reporting data we’ve seen here suggests that there has been a certain percentage that referred to using cannabis and driving in the year prior to the survey.
Mr. Clermont: Yes.
Senator Sinclair: The other question that occurred to me as I was looking at the data was whether your information can tell us the percentage in the overall population of drug-impaired driving versus the percentage of drivers. Do you understand?
Mr. Clermont: Yes, absolutely.
Senator Sinclair: Right now, I think this data tells us the percentage of drivers. If we are looking at a potential increase in consumption among the overall population, what is this data going to tell us versus what it might tell us in the future? Are you able to provide us with that either now or at a later point?
Ms. Aucoin: According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, when individuals were asked in the previous 12 months whether they were driving, amongst that population, 4 per cent said that they had driven within an hour after drinking two alcoholic beverages. That was of the driving population for that 12-month period.
Whereas when we look at the police data and impaired-driving statistics, the rate is calculated on the total population whether they are drivers or not, so the numbers are at a lower rate in the police data.
Senator Sinclair: You said the licensing data that the provinces have would tell us how many licensed drivers there are in a particular province.
Ms. Aucoin: Correct.
Senator Sinclair: We could utilize some of that data to compare the overall issue rate to the overall licensed rate. I think that would be important for us to have a handle on in terms of debate around this bill.
Finally, because of the length of time that drug-impaired driving cases take and the fact they are generally longer than those of alcohol-impaired driving — and might be even longer than other kinds of cases — are you able to comment on what might be done to speed up those cases? Does your data reveal anything that might be contributing to those delays?
Mr. Clermont: The thing we can find out are the characteristics of those cases: how many appearances there were or the characteristics of individuals involved.
The Integrated Criminal Court Survey collects lots of details about the cases being tried in front of tribunals, but, unfortunately, it is difficult to have the tribunals report all the information we are asking. Therefore, it’s hard to know sometimes if the hybrid offence was tried as indictable or a summary offence. The nature of the offence is not always known.
We are not able to determine whether the representation was legal aid or a private lawyer or practice.
So we lack a number of characteristics to explain what the incidence is of these characteristics on the cases going in front of the tribunal. But at the moment we are working on trying to get more coverage in terms of depth for that information.
The Chair: As we have seen from your stats and charts, it seems that a vast proportion of people always come back in front of the court with that kind of offence. Do you have what I would call a socio-economic profile of those people?
Mr. Clermont: Again, this requires data linkages. What we did when we linked policing and court data together was to measure the trajectories of those cases within the tribunal. In order to look at more in-depth socio-demographic characteristics of individuals being tried or going in front of tribunals, we would need to make some record linkages with census data. That requires that we get personal identifiers on each of these files, which is not always the case.
Whatever goes before the tribunals, sometimes we have good coverage in that area, and then we can develop metrics of over-representation of specific population groups to see if it is happening.
We are currently doing data linkages between courts and census data for the purpose of determining over-representation of specific vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system. We will be able to see if the over-representation translates the same way it does in impaired-driving cases compared to other types of criminal cases going in front of tribunals.
You would understand, though, that this is a costly and a difficult exercise and that the results won’t be available in a few days. It’s something we would have to work on for several weeks, even months, before we can achieve results.
The Chair: In other words, we don’t have a precise idea of the identities of those drug-impaired people who come back to court regularly and constitute a vast proportion of the Canadians who have been found guilty of those offences.
Senator Dupuis: With regard to the courts, I noticed a point on page 24 of your document concerning the way you may interpret statistics and the interpretation you may reach based on the statistics you receive from the courts. If I understood correctly, the courts do not necessarily provide the required data or the data they are supposed to provide to enable you to interpret the cases they hear.
Mr. Clermont: Through the provincial and territorial departments of justice, the courts forward an enormous amount of information on all cases heard by the adult criminal courts, particularly the provincial courts and for cases heard before the superior court. However, coverage of the superior courts is somewhat less extensive. We do not always get all the details we want for each of the cases for which we gather administrative data, often for technical reasons or as a result of procedural issues before the court and the information that is recorded. This is an issue we are currently examining. We would like to look at all survey fields so we can get better coverage.
This is a difficult, long-term exercise. We are finalizing the redesign of the national Adult Criminal Court Survey. That redesign will be finished shortly. We are working very closely with senior court administrators to improve coverage and obtain the necessary detail concerning, for example, the conduct of inquiries, whether each appearance is part of a preliminary inquiry, legal representation and the hybrid nature of offences, that is to say, how they are prosecuted in court, by summary conviction or indictment. It is slightly more difficult to obtain that level of detail given the way matters proceed before the court and how the information is compiled.
Senator Dupuis: If I understand correctly, the value of the statistics you are giving us also depends on the value of the information you receive with which to interpret that data.
Mr. Clermont: We produce indicators from information of sufficient quality. When we talk about the number of cases, clearance times, the dates on which the cases were initiated, the decision rendered and the type of decision, these are details for which we have very high-quality information. We are therefore able to report on them. However, if someone asks me for information on legal representation, I can’t conduct that analysis because the quality of the information is not adequate in that regard. We don’t do it when we don’t have high-quality information.
Senator Dupuis: One might also expect that, in an analysis, completion times for drug-impaired driving cases would appear in subcategories so the type of drug could be determined. That’s the kind of thing one would normally expect to get. If I understand correctly, we didn’t get it in this case.
I would also like to clarify a point concerning a question one of my colleagues asked. We’re talking here about cases heard by the courts and thus about the period from when a case arrives in court to when it leaves. This is not an indicator of completion time from the moment when the police officer arrests the individual, when the tests are done.
Mr. Clermont: No, you’re right.
Senator Dupuis: Now, on page 25, you state that the rates of cannabis possession and trafficking are on the decline. I wanted to relate that to the previous page, on which you discuss drugs in general. On what information source are you relying in saying that rates of cannabis possession and trafficking are on the decline?
Mr. Clermont: On the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, which covers 99 per cent of police forces in Canada.
Senator Dupuis: All right, that’s what I wanted to check.
The issue of rural regions versus urban regions is particularly important for Bill C-46 because many questions have been raised about the administering of tests and the time it takes to transfer an individual from roadside to the police station. I don’t know whether you have more accurate data. This also raises the question of the number of devices, which may be larger or smaller. We may assume that there will be more devices at police stations in the cities than in the rural communities. Since you say that the majority of cases occur in rural areas, all the data you have that will help us interpret the actual situation in the rural communities relative to that in urban communities will help us. Thank you.
Senator Boisvenu: I somewhat share the view of my colleague Senator Batters. It is quite troubling to see that cannabis consumption is declining among young people but that, among 20 to 34-year-olds, the number of charges, or at least cannabis-impaired driving cases, has doubled in recent years. Since we know that the plan is to legalize this drug, this trend could well continue over the next few years. Although people thought we would be clearing the courts by legalizing marijuana, I think instead we’ll be filling them. Do you have a profile of drivers who have driven while impaired and caused deaths? Do you have a profile of those people, by age group or…?
Mr. Clermont: We unfortunately don’t have those the details.
Senator Boisvenu: I see.
You have determined that approximately 50 per cent of impaired driving occurs on weekends, a piece of information that may be useful to police officers. Half of those 50% of cases occur between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.; that must be Saturday night. Do we also have the percentage of people who drive while impaired during the day and during the week? Do we have data on that?
Mr. Clermont: On times, yes. On days, I’ll have to check. For the presentation, we were able to provide figures for the various time slots in a day, but I’m not certain about days as such. I’ll have to check. Is that possible?
Ms. Aucoin: Yes.
Senator Boisvenu: There was a question on the profile of repeat offenders who have caused injury or death. Do you have a profile of those repeat offenders?
Mr. Clermont: That might be available only through data matching, and that takes a lot of time and resources. So it’s definitely an issue that should be checked.
Senator Batters: Since you’re here — it’s very timely, actually — I just noticed a CBC online article about a new Statistics Canada study about the price of marijuana across Canada right now. The government, of course, is setting the price of legalized marijuana in Canada at $10 per gram, but the new study released, I think, today shows that right now Canadians pay less than $7 a gram. In fact, when you break it down between provinces and territories, only people in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories currently pay more than $10 a gram, at $10.24 in Nunavut and $11.89 in Northwest Territories. Everywhere else it's less than $8 dollars a gram, with Quebec the lowest at just under $6, at $5.89. This doesn’t bode well. That’s quite a sale. I’m wondering if you can provide us with some comments about that particular study.
Mr. Clermont: I’d like to bring this question back to my colleagues in economic statistics — they are the ones handling this program — so that we can provide information regarding the way these statistics can be generalized. Like we said, the method of collection of the information is through crowd sourcing. I cannot comment on the value of crowd-sourcing data. It’s a new way of providing information, and people are going online and entering whatever they want. I’m not aware of all of the editing that can be done because some people can enter all sorts of amounts — zero if they get it for free. Nothing prevents them —
Senator Batters: That’s true, although they could give those same answers over the phone. I imagine that if Statistics Canada had concerns about how they were collecting data, they wouldn’t put out a study with types of those figures, right?
Mr. Clermont: That’s why I have to go back to my colleagues in economic statistics to comment more on this crowd sourcing.
Senator Batters: Yes, if you would be able to do that. Thank you.
Senator McIntyre: Mr. Clermont, you have already answered many of my questions, but I still have one more. This one concerns jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalized. To your knowledge, has the number of reported drug-impaired driving offences increased in places where cannabis has been legalized?
Mr. Clermont: Excellent question, Senator McIntyre. We haven’t analyzed the data from other countries or states that have proceeded with legalization or examined the type of legalization implemented or under way. That would involve a meta-analysis of data from the various countries or U.S. states have gone ahead with legalization, and the data sources would have to be compared to determine whether that is feasible. We have not done that. We only look at Canadian statistics.
Senator McIntyre: I hope those statistics exist. If they do, would it be possible to provide the committee’s analysts with a copy of them?
Mr. Clermont: We can look at what is available internationally.
Senator Carignan: You said there is no peak period for consumption because people who consume cannabis do so at all times of the day. Do you have any statistics on cannabis consumption times? Comparing this with alcohol, people rarely have a scotch before going to work. However, things may be different when people eat a muffin, smoke a cigarette or a joint or put concentrates into their porridge. Do you have those kinds of statistics?
Mr. Clermont: We don’t have any statistics on consumption times. The only data we have on times comes from police sources and concerns impaired driving arrests. That’s all we have managed to measure.
Senator Carignan: I understand we don’t have the statistics to answer many of our questions. The situation is quite unique. We are the first country in the world that intends to legalize marijuana in this way. Have you looked at what other countries are doing to determine how to conduct their analyses and create their statistics and databases, or, conversely, are other countries consulting you? Have we become the world’s laboratory in this area?
Mr. Clermont: That’s an excellent question. I can’t really comment.
Senator Carignan: I’m asking you for facts, not comment.
Mr. Clermont: My colleagues who work in economic and social statistics, the team to which I belong, are looking at what’s being done elsewhere in the world to measure the impact on health, economy, education and the labour market, for example. We are developing conceptual frameworks to guide statistical activities in the right direction. We are doing this in collaboration with our partners from the various departments: Health, Public Safety and Justice. We are also doing it with the provinces, territories and the Police Information and Statistics Committee of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Our colleagues are, of course, aware of what is being done elsewhere in the world in the way of innovative methods and statistical production, particularly in Colorado. We are currently working on that issue.
As far as I know, we have not received any requests from other countries to contribute to statistical efforts or to become a leader in statistical systems design in these kinds of cases, but that may happen.
Senator Carignan: There is one issue that we have not discussed, and that is transportation. In the U.S. states, when people buy cannabis, the product must be put in a sealed box and concealed inside vehicles, ideally in the glove compartment. There are specific ways of transporting the product in an automobile. However, we haven’t talked about that here. Have you looked at safe transportation methods?
Mr. Clermont: Not us at Statistics Canada, no.
Senator Sinclair: I wanted to ask a very important question for my colleague Senator Carignan. How many people have been charged with riding a lawn mower while impaired? Do you have any idea? No? If you find that out, would you let us know? Thank you.
More to the point, Senator Boniface asked you about rural versus urban data splitting. I wonder if you might take it one step further and look at the question of whether you can look at First Nations data, because I think it could be hived out through postal code information or court locations.
I know that courts generally do not track the racial identity of accused unless it’s a factor in sentencing, but when you’re looking at the rural data, or even the urban data, that might allow us to look at the potential impact down the road of the legalization of marijuana and impaired-driving offences relating to First Nations people, Metis and Inuit.
If you have that data, I would appreciate that. I know you don’t have it now. I don’t see it in any of the data sheets, and I don’t think you came here armed with that information, did you?
Mr. Clermont: We did not.
The Chair: Do you have anything on Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, where the population is rather homogenous?
Mr. Clermont: We have police statistics on the territories, yes.
Senator Sinclair: The last question I have generally concerns the fact that your data suggests that impaired driving is declining but has remained constant at about 10 per cent of overall crime rates. Is that what you said earlier?
Mr. Clermont: To bring precision, charge rates are going down, but currently the percentage of court cases pertaining to impaired driving is about 10 per cent. That’s what I said.
Senator Sinclair: I’m sorry. Has it always been in that range, about 10 per cent?
Mr. Clermont: In recent years, yes.
Senator Sinclair: So if the number of offences goes up, it’s possible that that percentage rate could go up over 10 per cent, unless crime goes up?
Mr. Clermont: If the Crown decides to proceed with the tribunals and there are more offences, necessarily there is an impact on the court workload.
Senator Sinclair: So you’ll be tracking that information as you go forward?
Mr. Clermont: Definitely, we will.
Senator Gold: I have an introductory comment for the benefit of those who are watching these proceedings. We’re studying Bill C-46, which addresses the serious issue of impaired driving and whether or not cannabis is legalized.
Canadians are still, unfortunately, consuming cannabis and other drugs, and alcohol, and driving. Notwithstanding some of the questions that we tend to ask — and they’re legitimate questions about the legalization of marijuana — our focus is and has to remain on the bill that’s seeking to reduce the harm caused by impaired driving, regardless of whether people are impaired by legal or illegal substances.
Regardless of the process for Bill C-45.
That said, I’m very interested in the surveys you’re contemplating doing both before and after legalization. Far be it for us to tell you how to do your job, because you do a marvellous job, might I suggest — that is, if you’re not already thinking of this — including the following question in that? I think it’s important that we understand, so that we can target educational campaigns towards drivers, what their self-perception is of their level of impairment and capacity to drive when they consume cannabis. In other words, at what point do you think — that is, after how many joints or whatever the right question is; I’ll let you decide — how much can you consume while still being able to drive properly?
I ask that because anecdotally we’ve heard — and I certainly have heard — that people say, “When I have a joint or two, I’m a really good driver. I can really concentrate.” Scientifically, we know that’s not true. I’m not asking you to comment on the science.
However, if we discover through the survey that people think they’re at low risk for driving while impaired, we need to target our campaigns, and knowing the demographic and the age, appropriately so. If it’s at all possible — and you may already have planned to do that — I think it would be enormously helpful for our efforts as a society to educate people about the harms of ingesting drugs, legal or illegal, when they drive a vehicle at the same time.
The Chair: Do you have any comments, Mr. Clermont?
Mr. Clermont: Thank you, senator, for the suggestion. I will definitely bring it back to the office.
Senator Boniface: I want to zero in on the question with respect to impaired driving by alcohol that results in a guilty decision.
There was a time — I think it may still be going in some courts — where they actually took pleas to careless driving in order to proceed through the courts. If I go in with a charge of impaired driving and make a plea bargain and it’s careless driving that I plead to, does that reflect in this statistic of 80 per cent, or would that be reflected differently?
Ms. Aucoin: That would be reflected differently. What you see in the data are those that, at the end of the day, after the plea bargaining, are found guilty of that clause.
Senator Boniface: So either impaired driving or over 80 milligrams; it would just be those?
Ms. Aucoin: Correct.
Senator Pratte: Earlier we talked about the difference between Quebec and the other provinces with respect to drivers convicted of impaired driving. There is little difference between alcohol and drugs in Quebec. I would like to go back to page 24, which concerns the time it takes to complete drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired driving cases in the courts. British Columbia and Quebec stand apart from the other provinces in that it takes much longer to complete cases there. There is also a big difference between alcohol and drugs in the other provinces, which is not the case in Quebec or British Columbia. In response to my request concerning chart 12, would you consult your analysts to see whether there is an obvious explanation for that distinction? We just want to add another assignment to the other 25 we have given you today.
Senator Dupuis: Most of the impaired driving cases in British Columbia have been moved out of the courts. Does that mean the most serious cases are before the courts?
Mr. Clermont: That’s correct. Slide 24 explains why cases take more time to complete. These are the most serious cases, which represent two per cent of cases. The others are resolved administratively.
Senator Dupuis: We cannot simply say that British Columbia completes cases more quickly because they are cleared administratively. On the whole, its performance is the worst from the standpoint of the time it takes to complete the most serious cases.
Mr. Clermont: Yes. In fact, you have to be careful when interpreting results concerning the completion of court cases. If you consider only the most serious or most difficult cases, it’s normal for it to take longer to clear them. That is not necessarily an indicator of underperformance. It is a result.
The Chair: Before I conclude, I’d like to raise the issue of racial profiling, which has been one of the elements that this committee has considered in dealing with this bill. As you know, there will be the opportunity now for a random test without any reasonable grounds to suspect or reasonable perceptions of any kind of wrongdoing.
Do you have any information in terms of racial profiling in our justice system so we have a better idea of what the impact of this bill could be?
Mr. Clermont: It is a very difficult issue to try and measure, statistically speaking. For police forces to be able to derive any racial profiling statistics, we need to know the ethic origin of the offender. Trying to get quality information around the ethnic origin of the offender is a very difficult thing. It might seem simple, when we look at people, to determine their ethnic origin, but when it comes to a contact between the police and an offender, these things are not always obvious. And the information being collected is not always of very good quality.
It has been tried in the past to collect ethnic origin in a feasibility study, and it was decided that we wouldn’t be able to get any good information out of it, especially when we deal with less severe types of offences.
For homicide, we get very good information about the ethnic origin, namely on the Aboriginal identity, because of the nature of the investigation being very complete and requiring lots of details and information.
For other types of crimes, it was decided we would not collect information like that. Therefore, this is why we’re linking the information we have in the criminal justice system with some of the other social data we have at our availability at Statistics Canada, to be able to determine if there is some sort of overrepresentation in certain areas, and that is the best we can do.
However, overrepresentation and racial profiling are two different things.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Clermont.
Senator Dupuis: The Ottawa police department’s report entitled Race Data and Traffic Stops in Ottawa, 2013-2015 specifically examines the racial profiling issue. We know that police forces resist doing this kind of work. This is a pilot project in which Ottawa police agreed to take part. Do you think this is the only report of its kind providing such data?
Ms. Aucoin: Kingston did a similar study a few years ago. There have been some other jurisdictions out West in the past 10 years, I think, but I couldn’t give you a complete list. But none of that data would have come to us. It was, as you say, a pilot for each jurisdiction.
The Chair: Mr. Clermont and Ms. Aucoin, thank you for your testimony.
This is very helpful and essential for our understanding of the implications of this bill and the social basis on which the bill has been structured.
We reserve the right to contact you again if we feel that further information would be useful in the work the honourable members are doing. Once again, thank you.
(The committee adjourned.)