by Julia Wong
Bill C-226 is being hailed as a major step forward in the fight against drunk driving. Sheri Arsenault lost her son to an impaired driver near Beaumont in 2011 and she's been pushing for these changes.
A woman who has been directly impacted by impaired driving says stricter legislation introduced in Ottawa on Tuesday has been a long time coming.
Sheri Arsenault has been fighting for tougher, longer sentences for convicted drunk drivers ever since her son Brad and his two friends were killed in Beaumont in November 2011.
The three friends were in a vehicle that was hit from behind by a drunk driver. That driver, Jonathan Pratt, was eventually sentenced to eight years in prison - five years concurrent for three counts of manslaughter and three years concurrent for three counts of impaired driving causing death.
Arsenault said the drunk driving legislation brought forward by Conservative MP Steven Blaney will send a serious message about the perils of drunk driving.
"It had everything we wanted and more. I don't anticipate much opposition because it's non-partisan. It's public safety," she said.
"It needs to be taken more seriously. Put a weight on it that tells the public this is a very serious crime and it can be prevented."
Some of the specifics included in Blaney's bill include:
- The introduction of a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for impaired driving causing death, with a maximum sentence of 25 years. There are currently no minimum sentences for impaired driving causing death or bodily harm.
- The maximum sentence for impaired driving causing bodily harm would go up from 10 to 14 years.
- When more than one life is lost, a judge could apply consecutive sentences.
- Repeat offenders, when found guilty, would face a one year prison sentence for a second offence, and a two year prison sentence for a third.
- Judges could favour guilty pleas by handing down lighter sentences to those who admit to their offence "in good faith."
She said the bill, if passed into law, would have made a difference in the sentencing of her son's killer.
"Mr. Pratt's sentence would have been multiplied by three. That would have been a 24 year sentence. That, to me, sends a very strong message to the public," she said.
"Anybody can go out that door, to school, your child, your mother, your husband, your brother and you may never see them again."
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