Grieving Beaumont mother Sheri Arsenault, second from left, recently met with Federal Minister of Justice Peter MacKay (far left) to discuss the introduction of a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death. To the right of Arsenault is Families For Justice representative Markita Kaulius and Red Deer Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen. The four hold a banner showing victims who have died as a result of impaired driving. Arsenault’s son Bradley was allegedly killed by an impaired driver on Nov. 26, 2011

Grieving Beaumont mother Sheri Arsenault says government red tape is blocking changes to Canada’s laws for impaired driving causing death.

During a Feb. 28 Calgary meeting with Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada Peter MacKay, Arsenault was assured a minimum sentence for those convicted of impaired driving causing death was on its way. 

Arsenault’s son Bradley, along with his two friends, Kole Novak and Thaddeus Lake, was killed by an alleged drunk driver on Nov. 26, 2011.

“The general tone of the meeting is that we didn’t have to make any arguments,” Arsenault said. “He absolutely 100 per cent agreed that the sentencing of this crime needs to be looked at very closely.”

She particularly appreciated the fact MacKay is not only a young father, but also has extensive experience as both a defence lawyer and prosecutor.

“He’s seen it firsthand and the impact it has on a victim’s family,” she said. 

But she’s also disappointed MacKay could not make any concrete commitment to spearheading legislative change. 

“He couldn’t give us a timeline though, so for me that was disappointing,” she said. “And I know anyone in my shoes, or anyone connected to something like this, we want it (to have been) changed yesterday.”

Arsenault and a group she is with, Families for Justice, have collected close to 60,000 signatures from people who support their cause. 

The ultimate goal is to see a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death, and to see the offence redefined in the Criminal Code of Canada as Vehicular Manslaughter. 

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of red tape in government,” she said. “And we’ve expressed to (MacKay) that he’s the only person who can help us.”

One of Arsenault’s grievances is there is currently no consistency when it comes to sentencing those who cause death as a result of impaired driving. It’s entirely in the judge’s hands.

“My son might be worth two years and yours might be worth 90 days,” Arsenault said. “It’s so hurtful to victim’s families when there’s absolutely no justice involved ... And we do absolutely believe in rehabilitation, we just think the sentence should fit the crime.”

During the meeting, Arsenault and a mother from Surrey B.C. who lost her daughter as a result of a collision with an impaired driver, went over the stories of victims whose faces are printed on a large banner with MacKay. Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen was also in attendance and supports the legislative change. 

“He very intently listened to the story of every one of those faces,” Arsenault said. “And to us, it’s a whole generation, and it’s just a small fraction of the people who have been affected by this.”

The group was encouraged to continue collecting signatures and MacKay said he would like to see the legislative change occur before the next federal election, which is slated for Oct. 2015. 

“He was pretty firm that the changes are going to come,” Arsenault said. “It’s recognized, it’s long overdue … We have to take Mr. MacKay for his word.”

In a statement from MacKay’s office, Press Secretary Paloma Aguilar said a working group was recently formed to discuss ways in which all levels of government can address the issue. 

“Our government understands more can be done to strengthen the Criminal Code with respect to repeat offenders and those convicted of impaired causing death,” she said. “That is why our government is in contact with our provincial and territorial partners in discussing the means forward on this issue.”

Arsenault is looking forward to the day when concrete changes are introduced. According to MADD Canada, four Canadians die every day as a result of impaired driving, but it still hasn’t become an issue on most Canadian’s radar. 

“What would we do if four people were shot every day at a Tim Hortons? We’d be outraged,” she said. “And yet when it happens on our roads, we don’t seem to bat an eyelash.”

Source: Beaumont News


Last updated on: 2014-03-12 | Link to this post