It was a sad, sullen affair during the Empty Shoes event at Mitford Park this past Saturday.  Row upon row of shoes were placed in perfect columns in front of the stage, over 1,800 pairs of shoes representing the number of people killed by drunk drivers every year in Canada.  

What was even more touching and heart-rendering than the empty shoes, were the pictures of young people placed besides the shoes, pictures of young people who are no longer with us because they were killed by drunk drivers.  The victims’ names were written on the back of each picture as well as the date they left us.  

The event was organized by Kim Thomas who is seeking justice, justice for her son Brandon who was killed by a drunk driver, and justice for all the families who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers.  She is seeking a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for impaired driving causing death.  The Criminal Code of Canada currently does not have a minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death.

However, not everyone thinks that mandatory sentences act as a deterrent.  Public defender, Greg Axelson, has handled hundreds of impaired driving cases throughout his illustrious career as a lawyer in Cochrane and he believes that many of the impaired drivers are repeat offenders and no minimum amount of time as a penalty will deter these drivers.  

“In my view deterrents are somewhat of an illusion,” explained Axelson.  “I think people who commit crimes don’t expect to get caught.  If they believe they are not going to get caught then a deterrent is a nonissue.  It applies to impaired drivers, which is compounded by the fact that their judgement is even more skewed because they are impaired.”

Axelson thinks the only way to deter people driving while impaired is for the government to legislate breathalizer devices on all vehicles.

“I think there is only one way to truly, significantly reduce impaired driving,” revealed Axelson.   “The government has to legislate the installation of breathalizers on all vehicles imported and manufactured in Canada.  It may take a few years, but if a person had to blow into a device and if they are impaired then the vehicle wouldn’t start.  People could disable them but you could apply a stiff penalty for that offence.”

I cannot pretend to know or feel the pain of someone like Kim Thomas who has lost a child to a drunk driver.  I did lose my Aunt Helen on Christmas Eve in 1973 to a drunk driver.  The drunk driver was incarcerated for eight months for his selfish act, and he got to go on with his life while her family fractured and eventually separated. Not much has changed since that time.  

The federal government, regardless of the political party that forms it, continues to spout its propaganda and rhetoric, and yet nothing has changed.  One would almost think that for any Member of Parliament, let alone the Wild Rose Member of Parliament, that this would be a golden opportunity to champion the people, and present legislation for a mandatory minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death, or legislation for the installation of breathalizer devices on vehicles. 

One would hope that the government will do something, anything.  How many more people have to die in vain?

Source: Cochrane Times


Last updated on: 2014-07-09 | Link to this post