Sheri Arsenault and her father George Marrinier recently met with federal justice minister Peter MacKay. (l-r) Sheri Arsenault and George and Florence Marrinier with photographs of Arsenault's son Bradley, who was killed by a suspected drunk driver.

Sheri Arsenault, an activist with Families for Justice, is more hopeful than ever that Canada’s laws will be amended to include mandatory minimum sentences for impaired drivers after meeting with Canada’s new federal justice minister on July 25.

Arsenault had a seat at a two-hour victim’s rights roundtable at the Edmonton Westin with Minister of Justice Peter MacKay and representatives from approximately 10 other victim’s rights groups. After the roundtable, she had a 15-minute private meeting with the minister — a meeting that affirmed for her that MacKay will push for tougher legislation.

“He recognizes the seriousness of this crime and the little done to deter people that cause fatalities,” said Arsenault, a resident of Beaumont.

Arsenault joined Families for Justice after her 18-year-old son Bradley was killed, along with two other young men, in November 2011 by a suspected drunk driver.

“We find victims truly don’t have any rights. Most of the rights are given to the criminal,” said Arsenault.

Families for Justice lobbies for, among other mandatory sentences, a five-year minimum sentence for impaired drivers who cause death.

MacKay has declined to detail what an overhaul of impaired driving laws might entail, saying he wants to meet with more victims before drafting changes.

George Marrinier, Arsenault’s father and a resident of Athabasca, also attended the meeting.

Arsenault said MacKay told her he would like to meet with her again “as soon as possible, anywhere you would like to meet.”

Aresnault said she’s willing to go anywhere — even Ottawa — for another chance to meet with MacKay, this time for an hour.

“One thing we don’t want to do is wait another year,” she said.

The Families for Justice petition has 35,000 signatures so far. More than 200 of those were added at the Magnificent River Rats festival at Athabasca’s riverfront last month, where Families For Justice had a booth.

“People just said, ‘Where do I sign’?” said Arsenault, adding that many shared stories of how impaired driving had affected them.

Athabasca’s Delores Martynek assisted Families for Justice at River Rats. She also takes the petition to Athabasca businesses and invites all her houseguests to sign it.

Martynek said she helps Arsenault and the Marriniers not only because she is distantly related to them, but also because her aunt lost two children in car accidents. Alcohol was a factor in at least one of the fatal crashes.

“I know how devastating it was and how little they got. They didn’t even get an apology,” said Martynek.

“It hits home every time,” she said of each impaired driving death she encounters.

Arsenault said it would behoove MacKay to build a legacy of impaired driving law reform and prevent such deaths.

“He would always be remembered for helping keep the public safe — our children, our wives, our husbands … if he really looked at this seriously.”

Source: Athabasca Advocate

Last updated on: 2013-08-09 | Link to this post