Apr 08, 2015 - TWO ALBERTA MOTHERS PUSHING FOR STRICTER PENALTIES FOR IMPAIRED DRIVERS

Grace Pesa, middle, accompanied by her sons Hugo, 12, and Florian, 10, and Sheri Arsenault, far right, met with Calgary Northeast MP Devinder Shory to get his support for stricter penalties for impaired drivers. Both mothers lost sons in crashes where the driver was impaired.

Two Alberta mothers united by similar tragedies are pushing for stricter penalties for drunk drivers — and now they have Calgary MP Devinder Shory in their corner.

Grace Pesa and Sheri Arsenault are petitioning for mandatory minimum sentences for convictions of impaired driving causing death. They also support Bill C-652 which, if passed, would amend the Criminal Code charge of impaired driving causing death to vehicular homicide.

“Mr. Shory is 110 per cent on board,” said Arsenault on Wednesday afternoon after a meeting with the Calgary Northeast MP. “He fully supports our petition and is willing to present it in Ottawa and to further this as much as he can.”

Shory was not available for an interview. But according to his office, he expressed his support for the women’s efforts, and will present their petition — along with 500 signatures they presented to him — in Parliament when session resumes.

“And we will go to other MPs for support as well,” said Pesa, adding various other politicians and law enforcement officials have also thrown their support behind their efforts.

Pesa’s son, Francis Pesa, was killed by an impaired driver in Calgary on New Year’s Day 2014. The 20-year-old and his girlfriend were driving in his BMW on Metis Trail N.W. when a Dodge Ram crossed the centre line, side-swiped a Mazda, then crashed into the BMW. Another car then crashed into the Ram.

The driver of the Ram, 37-year-old Kulwinder Singh Chohan, pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and was handed a three-year sentence in January. He is also prohibited from driving for another five years after he has finished serving his sentence.

Arsenault’s 18-year-old son Bradley Arsenault was killed, along with friends Thaddeus Lake, 22, and Kole Novak, 18, in a crash near Beaumont, Alta., on Nov. 26, 2011. Arsenault’s Pontiac Grand Am was struck from behind by a Dodge Ram travelling 199 km/h.

Johnathan Pratt, the driver of the Ram, was found guilty of manslaughter and impaired driving causing death and sentenced to eight years in prison. He is appealing the conviction.

Arsenault, with advocacy group Families for Justice, said current sentences are “out of balance” and she believes Bill C-652 is “a good start.”

The private member’s bill, introduced by Langley, B.C., MP Mark Warawa, is also known as Kassandra’s Law in honour of 22-year-old Kassandra Kaulius, of Surrey, B.C., who was killed by a drunk driver in 2011.

“Kassandra’s law would do one thing that Families for Justice and tens of thousands of Canadians are calling for, which is to call this terrible crime what it really is: vehicular homicide,” Warawa said in an online statement.

Having mandatory minimums of five years for impaired driving causing death also “takes out the bargaining” part of the court process that is so painful for victim’ families, said Pesa.

Both mothers say their heartache will never fully heal, and there’s not a day that goes by where they don’t think about their sons.

“But this is also done in memory of our sons,” Arsenault said. “And it’s a powerful legacy that they will leave behind.”

Source: Calgary Herald


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Last updated on: 2015-04-12 | Link to this post