Mothers petition for tougher sentencing in impaired driving cases
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 5:33PM MST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:01PM MST
There are renewed calls for stricter penalties including minimum sentencing for impaired driving causing death in Alberta.
A petition that began in B.C. is gaining traction across the country, including in our province.
Sheri Arsenault is part of a national lobby to pressure members of parliament to take their cause to Ottawa.
Arsenault lost her 18-year-old son last year in a collision with an alleged drunk driver and says the penalties in place don’t go far enough.
“Some of us mothers have gathered together because the sentencing is so out of balance with the crime,” Arsenault said.
“It’s a crime of choice we believe and we want the government to start recognizing it for what it is. I have a petition that started in B.C. by a lady there but I’ve gotten on board with it and I’m trying to gather support for minimum sentencing.”
Janel Boettger lost her 17-year-old daughter earlier this year in a collision with an alleged drunk driver.
“What we’re trying to address is DUI causing death or injury. We would like to see stricter sentences and more importantly minimal sentences put in place for people who cause injuries while drinking and driving or unfortunately take the lives of innocent people while they’re making that poor choice,” Boettger.
“Right now the Criminal Code says the maximum sentence for causing bodily harm is 10 years and taking a life the maximum sentence is life but unfortunately what we see for these people who are convicted of this crime comes nothing close to what is the maximum sentence and quite frankly it doesn’t even meet some of the maximum sentences for just drinking and driving.”
The mothers are hoping for more petition signatures and have met with Edmonton Mill Woods Beaumont MP Mike Lake, in the hopes that he will join the push for harsher penalties in impaired driving cause death cases.
“Everyone you talk to says the justice system is a joke. The support is there but it’s a matter of getting signatures and getting it fanned out more,” Arsenault said.
Lake says the government is always open to more ideas on the issue.
“We’re always looking for ways to make the law better. Just a couple of weeks ago the Federal Minister of Justice met with provincial ministers and they formed a working group to look at ways to strengthen the law to address issues in the Criminal Code,” Lake said.
Lake said he’ll take the information discussed with Arsenault and Boettger and present it to the federal minister moving forward.
“A big part of that process to listen to families like this who have gone through these very difficult circumstances and hear what they think needs to be changed,” Lake said.
“I’ll take the information that I hear here today and take it back to the minister and present it to the minister so as they move forward with their working group trying to address these issues that they have the best information possible from the people most affected.”
Stricter penalties for impaired driving is a cause that Karla Green hopes will prevent other families from the grief hers endured, after Green’s sister and husband Krista and Brad Howe were killed in a collision by a drunk driver three years ago in Red Deer.
The collision devastated the family and Green became both the mother and father to the Howe’s five children.
“It’s tough to tell the girls a reason why their mom and dad aren’t here anymore and I can’t,” Green said.
She was living in Vancouver by herself before the collision.
Now she’s in Red Deer, taking care of her sister’s children and joining the push for harsher sentences in impaired driving cases.
“I think people need to take a stand against the system that is not severe enough,” Green said.
“If you got life in prison for killing someone by drinking and driving you might think again about it. If the punishment was severe, people wouldn’t do it.”
If changes are implemented, Arsenault and Boettger say they wouldn’t be applicable to their children’s cases.
They say their goal is help families in the future who may be affected by impaired drivers.
“We’re trying to promote change and promote awareness for other people,” Boettger said.
“People aren’t getting it. They’re not getting the message.”
With files from Serena Mah