Sheri Arsenault holds a photo of her son Bradley Arsenault, 18, (left) and his friends Kole Novak, 18,(centre) and Thaddeus Lake, 22, (right) at her acreage south of Edmonton, Alta., Sunday July 14, 2013. The friends were killed Nov. 26, 2011 by an alleged drunk driver. On Monday July 15, 2013 Sheri Arsenault will travel to Vancouver to talk to Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson about mandatory minimum sentencing for drunk drivers that cause fatalities.

There are 29 different offences in the Criminal Code that carry mandatory minimum sentences. Surprisingly, impaired driving causing death is not one of them.

It should be.

The campaign by Beaumont mom Sheri Arsenault and Families for Justice to impose a minimum sentence of five years on drunk drivers convicted of killing other motorists makes good sense. Even if a new mandatory minimum does nothing to discourage habitual blind drunks from getting behind the wheel, five years seems appropriate given the gravity of the crime.

I can’t imagination anything more agonizing for a parent than the death of a child. For the rest of your life there would be a hole in your soul.

Arsenault, whose son Bradley, along with his friends Kole Novak and Thaddeus Lake were killed by alleged drunk driver, Jonathan Pratt, in November 2011, says she still has to find a reason to get out of bed every morning, the memories remain so painful.

It’s an emotion most of us with kids can understand, I’m sure.

We have mandatory minimum sentences for murder in this country. For first degree murder, it’s life in prison without chance for parole for 25 years. For second-degree murder, there is no eligibility for parole for from 10 to 25 years.

It’s probably clearer to say we have mandatory minimums of 25 years for first-degree murder and 10 years for second-degree.

There is a minimum for manslaughter (4-7 years), but only if a firearm is used in commission of the crime.

In other words, if you murder someone with a knife or a gun, if beat them to death with your firsts or bludgeon your victim with a section of pipe, you will be sent away from at least a decade. Kill them with your car or pickup and there is no guarantee you’ll go to jail for more than a few months, if at all.

How does that make any sense?

Drunk driving is a problem. Most years nearly 60,000 Canadians go to court on impaired driving charges. Nearly 45,000 are convicted. If that many are caught and convicted, there are undoubtedly many times more who go undetected.

Of the 2,500 Canadians who die annually in traffic crashes, it is estimated that around 1,000 are the victims of drunk drivers.

That’s a scourge, plain and simple.

By contrast, there are about 600 homicides in Canada each year; 200 by stabbing, 150 with guns, 125 by beating and 40-50 by strangulation. Anyone convicted in any of these 600 murders would receive at least a decade in jail.

Not so if your weapon of choice is a Dodge Ram and a case of beer. If you drink yourself bleary-eyed then slam into a family in a minivan, you could be back on the street (and driving) in a year or two.

I think the disparity comes from our courts seeing drunk driving as an accident. Or maybe it’s because most people -- including the politicians who make the law and the judges who pass sentence -- have had a little too much to drink and then driven home once or twice.

The photos of Brad, Kole and Thaddeus at bradkolethad.com -- the website for Arsenault’s petition and campaign -- are just like the photos of thousands of other high school kids around the province. That’s what makes them so heartrending: They could have been classmates of any of our kids.

Heck, they could have been OUR kids.

It’s time to end the light treatment highly intoxicated drivers receive from our justice system.

It’s time to impose a prison sentence of at least 5 years on impaired killers.

Source: Edmonton Sun


Last updated on: 2013-07-17 | Link to this post