More than 30,000 sign petition demanding mandatory sentences for impaired drivers

Sheri Arsenault (left), whose son Bradley was killed by an allegedly impaired driver, is joined by Bradley’s grandparents George Marrinier (centre) and Florence Marrinier (right) to raise awareness about Families for Justice Society.

If Beaumont resident Sheri Arsenault has learned anything in the last year and a half, it’s that anything is possible – including getting more than 30,000 Canadians to sign a petition calling for minimum sentences for impaired drivers.

“We very rarely have someone say, ‘No, I don’t want to sign that,” said Arsenault.

The petition has gained approximately 12,000 signatures since January.

“The education is out there. Nobody can tell me they don’t know drinking and driving is wrong and the horrors and the horrors that it can cause. But the sentences are considered a joke…this is a Canadian problem.”

On Nov. 26, 2011, Arsenault’s son Bradley and two of his peers, Kole Novak and Thaddeus Lake, were struck and killed by an allegedly impaired driver. Arsenault learned it is possible to become part of a dark statistic, as on average four Canadians are killed by an impaired driver every day.

She discovered the ensuing court case may takes years. Dates in the spring on 2014 have been set for the trial by Jury and judge of the man charged in connection with her son’s death. Yet, Arsenault said she is far from certain the trial will take place, noting the accused could enter a plea in the interim or fire his lawyer.

“Anything could happen,” said Arsenault.

The justice system frustrates her. “We have court dates to make court dates. It cost the taxpayer a lot.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada estimates that in 2010, impairment related crashes cost approximately $625 per Canadian. In the same year, Alberta had an estimated 32,469 impairment related crashed – the second highest number out of all of the provinces and territories.

Instead of relying on the justice system in its current state, Arsenault has set out to change it, believing this, too, is possible. She campaigns with the Families for Justice Society.

“The society started the petition that call for – among other changes to the Criminal Code – a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for those convicted of causing a collision resulting in death while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Arsenault said the campaign’s founder, Markita Hunt-Kaulius, told her, “We’re either going to get down on the ground and never get up, or we’re going to hit the ground running.”

Arsenault has already seen how far 30,000 signatures can get you. She has met with political and judicial figures, from MPs to B.C. Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond to the Edmonton Chief of Police. She has had a roundtable meeting with Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Rob Nicholson.

“This could be done tomorrow if the politicians wanted it to be,” said Arsenault.

Arsenault said she next hopes to meet with Nicholson in a one-on-one meeting, and also to meet with premier Alison Redford.

When asked why she champions a small organization like Families for Justice instead of a group with more resources like MADD, Arsenault said her passion is for changing the law not just bettering education.

Nobody does it better than MADD in terms of education and awareness and support for victims,” said Arsenault.

“But the legal side of it is where we firmly believe that if the sentence truly fit the crime, it would deter others. That’s why I wanted to go for that side of it.”

She said that thanks to the efforts of MADD and others, the younger generation is better educated. “It’s the 25-plus and that I worry about,” she said.

Leon Deller, who is also affiliated with Families for Justice, said even 10 concerned citizens should be enough to get the government’s attention. Still, he’s surprised there aren’t more than 30,000 signatures.

“There’s a lot of people who haven’t been reached or don’t really understand the impact until it happens to them,” said Deller, whose 16-year-old son Mattthew was killed by an impaired driver in 2011.

Arsenault said she and other Families for Justice members pay to maintain the Families ofr Justice Facebook page and their associated website, bradkolethad.com, as well as circulating the petition.

“I think of all the weddings, birthdays, grandchildren I won’t have, that might have been – I don’t mind spending out of my own pocket,” Arsenault indicated.

She said anyone can download and print the petition from bradkolethat.com and then mail it to the address provided.

Source: Town and Country


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