Rob and Sheri Arsenault address the media in Wetaskiwin on Aug. 28, 2015 after Johnathan Pratt was sentenced to eight years for manslaughter and impaired driving causing death in a collision that killed their 18-year-old son Bradley, along with Kole Novak and Thaddeus Lake. The Arsenaults have been pushing the federal government to instate a mandatory minimum sentence for impaired driving causing death and their efforts have been successful.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay proposed a law on Tuesday, June 16 introducing stiffer penalties for impaired drivers who kill or injure others. 

The news has been well met by a local mother who lost her son as a result of impaired driving.

The legislation would introduce a mandatory minimum sentence of six years for impaired driving causing death convictions. 

In a statement on the Department of Justice’s website, MacKay said he has heard from “countless” families about the heartbreak impaired drivers have caused them and said “the senseless behaviour has to stop.”

“With today’s introduction, this government is taking an important step to protect Canadians from impaired driving and other transportation offences,” MacKay said.

“We are sending a strong signal to those who choose to drive impaired, that this behaviour is not only unacceptable but is also creating a serious risk to public safety and putting everyone on the road at risk.”

Beaumont mother Sheri Arsenault, whose son Bradley was killed by an impaired driver in 2011, advocated for the change for years and collected more than 95,000 signatures of support with group Families for Justice.

She was at the House of Commons on Tuesday and is encouraged by the proposed legislation. 

“When we saw him present it yesterday morning, it was more than I could have hoped for,” she said. “It’s what needed to be in place a long time ago.”

The proposed law, called the dangerous and impaired driving act, would also increase the maximum penalty for impaired driving from five to 10 years, while the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing bodily harm would increase from 10 to 14 years. 

Currently, the mandatory minimum penalty for impaired driving causing death is a $1,000 fine. 

Arsenault also praised a portion of the proposed new law that would streamline the process of proving blood alcohol levels and plugs loopholes that can make it difficult to prove the driver was impaired at the time of the actual collision. 

The idea is to limit technical defences which can make cases drag on for significant periods of time. 

“In my case it was very rare they were able to lay those (impaired driving causing death) charges and get a conviction on those charges,” Arsenault said. “Often it’s just dropped or gets reduced to dangerous driving causing death.”

Parliament will not consider the bill before it rises for the summer. Arsenault is hopeful whichever government is elected after the fall election will pass the legislation. 

“It’s in the public’s interest,” she said. “I think all parties and all MPs from all over Canada should be supporting this and I think they probably will.”

Until then, she plans to lobby MPs nationwide to support the bill when it comes to the House of Commons. 

“My son is gone, but this is for everybody’s children,” Arsenault said. “I really feel that this may stop more people from making that bad choice of drinking and driving. And that’s what I want —  for it to not happen in the first place.”

Source: Beaumont News


Last updated on: 2015-06-22 | Link to this post