Mar 01, 2018 - SHERI ARSENAULT: PRESENTATION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS


The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, met this day at 10:30 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.


Thank you very much. As you know, I’m not a legal expert, and I’m certainly not an organization with vast resources like MADD, but what I am is a real victim. I’m the mother of an 18-year-old son, and his two friends, who were killed.

I hope that you were able to watch my video that I submitted prior. It’s very important to my written presentation because it’s not only my heartbreaking story, but it’s meant to represent what four Canadians a day go through. Time does not lessen our grief.

I won’t get into what happened to my son, but I can tell you my son had to be identified by his dental records — it was that horrific — he and his two good friends.

The previous government tabled Bill C-73 in 2015, which included a six-year mandatory minimum. In 2017, Bill C-46 was tabled, and all reasonable deterrents and accountability measures for impaired drivers causing death were completely removed.

The much-needed modernization and recognition of the seriousness of loss of life fell on deaf ears. The penalties given to convicted impaired drivers that cause death are extremely lenient and very inconsistent from coast to coast. With Bill C-46, they propose a minimum sentence of $1,000 for the general offence of driving, but it also proposes the same minimum sentence of $1,000 for what should be considered a much more serious offence, and that would be impaired driving causing death. There is simply no effective deterrent or punishment for impaired driving causing death in Bill C-46 with that minimum.

The vast majority of impaired drivers are caught only after a tragedy occurs. This now is considered their first offence, and there’s much weight put on a first-time offender. We all know the truth is it’s their first time caught.

We need to address the problem of repeat offenders. Our justice system perceives this crime as an accident, compared with other crimes that result in death. You would be hard-pressed to find any Canadians who feel the sentences for those that cause death are anywhere close to where they should be. It’s simple: The time just does not fit the crime.

Essentially, this is the same legislation from 2008, Bill C-13. The sentences are so lenient and the risk of being caught is so low that hard-core, habitual drivers are willing to take that risk.

I don’t believe the random breath testing or the mandatory screening would deter that kind of drunk driver. You would find harsher penalties for hunting out of season or fishing without a licence, yet four families a day bury their children.

I will tell you why I think mandatory sentences would be good. They would greatly strengthen the deterrence goal in sentencing. They would provide a level playing field for judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers while still leaving a wide area of discretion for judges between the minimum and the maximum number for considerations such as mitigating or aggravating factors.

Most importantly, a five-year mandatory minimum would be commensurate with other serious crimes that cause loss of life, not to be viewed as an accident or an unfortunate tragedy. Stronger deterrence is critical, but also, very importantly, accountability is crucial.

To me it’s inconceivable that impaired driving causing death is not taken more seriously by our government. There is nothing more serious than loss of life or the death of our children. I believe that Bill C-46 should be reviewed with an open mind, with particular reflection on the impacts, the deaths, the injuries, the victim impacts and the cost on our society, respecting Canadians’ clear demands for harsher penalties. Without having a five-year mandatory minimum in the Criminal Code, it means that Canadians are forced to accept these two-year or three-year sentences for such a criminal act with such serious outcomes. This is 2018, and in this day and age I believe to make the choice of being an impaired driver is actually wilful.

I sincerely believe it is incumbent upon your Senate committee to review Bill C-46 very carefully from a non-partisan perspective with respect to impaired drivers that cause death, especially with the introduction of cannabis into the equation. It’s now an even more critical imperative that necessary legislation on this life-and-death matter not be treated lightly or overlooked. We can no longer perceive it as an accident and treat it as such.

It’s recommended that the Senate propose that Bill C-46 be amended to include a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for convicted impaired drivers who cause death, the same as stipulated in the previous bills. To reduce the impact this serious crime has on society, it’s our only hope to reduce the carnage, the deaths and the suffering caused by impaired drivers and restore the injustices to Canadian families.

Source: Parliament of Canada


 

Last updated on: 2018-03-27 | Link to this post