According to Statistics Canada, “impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death in Canada.” Every year in this country more than 600 people are killed in drunk-driving incidents. By comparison, the number murdered most years is just over 500. The latter number includes murders with all types of weapons – knives, clubs, guns, fists and others.

The comparison isn’t entirely accurate. Of the 600 people killed in impaired driving crashes, more than 400 are typically the drunk drivers themselves. They can’t be classified as victims the same way people who are murdered can be.

Still, most years there are 150 to 180 Canadians murdered with guns, but 190 to 220 people killed by intoxicated idiots behind the wheel. By some estimates, the victims of impaired drivers could be closer to 600 annually, not including the dead drunks themselves.

And while most gun murderers know their victim, most drunk drivers do not. That means innocent Canadians minding their own business are far more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than by someone wielding a gun.

So, perhaps surprisingly, while there are plenty of mandatory minimum jail sentences for misuse of a firearm (even misuse that doesn’t end in a death), there is no law in Canada imposing mandatory minimum jail time on drunks who destroy innocent lives while driving – fines, yes, but not jail time.

Merely possessing ammunition that you know is “unauthorized” will get you a minimum sentence of one year on a first offence and two years on a second. You don’t even have to threaten to shoot the ammo at anyone. Heck, you don’t even have to have a gun to load the ammo into – just the ammo. You still get sent away for a year.

The former Liberal government thought firearms in civilian hands were so dangerous that even the simple act of owning bullets and shotgun shells should be severely restricted. And the current Tory government in Ottawa has done nothing to change that.

But neither government seems nearly as worried about drunks in cars, even though impaired drivers are a much greater threat to public safety than handgun brandishing drug dealers and gang members. Drunk drivers are an even greater threat than an angry spouse or ex-spouse.

In Canada, we have mandatory minimums against incest and bestiality, betting and bookmaking, motor vehicle theft (after a third conviction), fraud over $5,000 and high treason. But the most a court must give you the first time you are convicted of impaired driving causing death is a $1,000 fine.

Sheri Arsenault of Beaumont, Alta. wants to change that. Along with Families for Justice, Arsenault is petitioning federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay to amend the Criminal Code to impose a minimum jail sentence on those convicted of drunk driving who end up killing someone.

Arsenault’s son Bradley,18, was killed along with two friends, Kole Novak,18, and Thaddeus Lake, 22, by an alleged drunk driver, Jonathan Pratt, in November, 2011. Pratt faces nine charges related to the crash and will stand trial in April.

Arsenault claims the memories are still so painful it’s hard to get out of bed most mornings. Who can blame her? That is a parent’s worst nightmare.

And Arsenault makes a good point. No one made drunk drivers drink and climb behind the wheel. So they are as responsible for the deaths they cause as any crook who opens fire on a crowd of people. They should be treated the same, too.

Minister MacKay, who met with Arsenault in Calgary on Friday, has promised reforms to the sentences for impaired killers. It’s time those promises were turned into legislation.

Source: The Toronto Sun


Last updated on: 2014-03-02 | Link to this post