Aug 30, 2012 - THE ONGOING FIGHT FOR BKT AND OTHER VICTIMS OF DRUNK DRIVING

It has been almost a year since the tragic deaths of Brad Arsenault, Kole Novak and Thaddeus Lake, but Sheri Arsenault, Brad’s mother, said no amount of time can ever erase the tragedy that has taken hold of her family.

Arsenault said the months following her son’s tragic death, caused by an alleged drunk driver, have been some of the darkest months she has ever experienced in her lifetime. “Sometimes I feel like the only thing keeping me sane is our fight to make sure that this kind of things never happens to another family ever again,” said Arsenault.

Which is why for the past nine months Arsenault has been both focused and driven toward trying to impact change both in the way society views drunk driving and in the way the Canadian legal system punishes the crime.

“In a span of six months 22 people were killed in Alberta due to drunk driving,” said Arsenault. “There are currently three cases in Alberta outside of BKT’s that I am following very closely; one in Grande Prairie, one in Red Deer and one in Stettler. We are hoping that at least one of our cases can set a precedent for swift and severe punishments.”

Unfortunately, Arsenault is not entirely confident any of these cases will spark that change. To date the preliminary inquiry for Johnathan Pratt, the man charged in connection with the alleged drunk driving incident that killed Arsenault’s son and his two friends has been scheduled for January 2013, more than a year after the incident.

Arsenault expressed her frustrations with the process. “The general public needs to be made more aware of what goes on. People just don’t know how the justice system works until they have to deal with it.

A year, two years, sometimes three years later is too long for these cases to go to trial. Especially considering it is practically the first-responders who are on trial.

They were the first people on the scene of a horrific accident, traumatized, and now they are expected to remember fine details years after the fact. How severely a drunk driver is punished, hinges on those testimonies. Its just not realistic that it should take this long.”

This is Arsenault’s driving force; her desire to see a process she considers to be deeply flawed, change for the better.

But for change to happen Arsenault said it has to occur at the federal level, and for change to occur at the federal level an overwhelming amount of pressure must be imposed on the government first.

“There is a woman out of B.C., Markita Kaulius, her daughter was killed more than a year ago at the age of 22 by a drunk driver. Markita has come closer to anyone I’ve been able to find to make any headway in changing Canada’s drunk driving laws,” said Arsenault.

The change Arsenault is referring to is a petition that Kaulius and her husband started three months after their daughter was killed. The petition is called Families for Justice, and to date it has garnered more than 10,000 signatures and the attention of one MP out of Langley, B.C., Mark Warawa.

Kaulius explained that Warawa has agreed to take the petition to Robert Nicholson, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, in the hopes of putting it through as a private members bill. “If he is successful it could speed up the process and eliminate years worth of red tape. “We could start to see changes in our drunk driving laws and penalties earlier than anyone could have hoped.”

Essentially the petition calls for new mandatory minimum sentencing and for the government to redefine the offence of drunk driving as vehicular manslaughter.

According to Kaulius the Canadian justice system only outlines a maximum sentencing for drunk drivers of no more than 10 years. On average sentences are no more than two to three years, and Kaulius said to date no one has ever been given the maximum sentence.

“The reason we want the offence redefined as vehicular manslaughter is because drunk driving doesn’t happen by accident. People make the choice to do it, and they arm themselves with what is basically a 2,000 pound weapon,” said Kaulius.

According the MADD Canada’s website, drunk drivers kill an average of four people a day in Canada and that in 2011 a total 1,074 people were killed by drunk drivers alone.

“One in five drivers on the road are impaired by either drugs or alcohol,” said Kaulius. “That is simply not acceptable.”

In an effort to see the Families for Justice petition become a precursor for change, Arsenault has aligned herself with Kaulius and has been working diligently to do her part to get the petition out there.

Arsenault said there are currently copies of the petition available at Rexall, RAAD’s restaurant, Salon l’Hirondelle, and the Four Seasons Park concession stand for Beaumont residents to sign if they are so inclined.

“The Arsenault family will also have a booth set up with information and petitions for people to sign at this weekend’s BKT event, taking place at the Beaumont skatepark and adjacent soccer fields,” said Arsenault.

“It is sad to say, because it likely means more families will experience this kind of loss, but it really is going to take strength in numbers if we are going to impact change.”

In order to keep the public updated about the BKT court case, and many others ongoing across the country, the Arsenault’s have developed a website that they update frequently.

The website also documents all the various MADD/SADD events happening across the province and has a special section dedicate to Brad, Kole and Thaddeus where friends and family can share their stories of the boys.
 

To learn more about Families for Justice, to sign the petition or to simply track its progress visit the groups Facebook page by searching “Families for Justice.”

 

Source: The Beaumont News

 

Last updated on: 2012-09-12 | Link to this post