Feb 13, 2016 - TWO ALBERTA MOTHERS CONTINUING FIGHT FOR STRICTER PENALTIES AGAINST IMPAIRED DRIVERS

Sheri Arsenault, left, and Grace Pesa, right, meet with Calgary Skyview MP Darshan Kang to discuss support for Bill C-73.

Two Alberta mothers are continuing their fight for changes to drunk-driving laws, and are urging the Liberals to pick up where the Conservatives left off last year.

Grace Pesa and Sheri Arsenault, who lost their sons to impaired drivers, were overjoyed when former Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced Bill C-73 in June, just before the end of the 41st Parliament.

It was a big win for the pair, who had spent the greater part of 2014 and 2015 meeting with politicians – including Calgary Conservative MP Devinder Shory – collecting signatures for a petition supporting stricter penalties.

The proposed legislation under Bill C-73 would have seen escalating penalties for repeat offenders and a mandatory minimum of six years for impaired driving causing death. It also contained a provision allowing involvement in a crash causing death or bodily harm to be reasonable grounds for police to obtain a breath sample.

But when the Liberals took power in the last federal election and the bill died on the table, Pesa and Arsenault knew they would have to keep the momentum going to keep the issue alive, and they’ve started by contacting Alberta’s four Liberal MPS to get them on board.

After conversations and meetings with the four MPS, the two mothers are feeling optimistic.

“To me, these crimes are preventable and they are senseless,” said Leduc’s Arsenault, with the advocacy group Families for Justice, adding the current penalties are too lenient and don’t act as a deterrent. “The important thing is to get this bill reintroduced.”

“Whatever I’m doing won’t bring Francis back,” said Calgary mom Pesa, of her son. “This is for everyone who is still alive.”

Francis Pesa, 20, died on New Year’s Day 2014 when a Dodge Ram crossed the centre line on Metis Trail in northwest Calgary, side-swiped a Mazda, then crashed into Pesa’s BMW.

Kulwinder Singh Chohan, who was driving the Ram, pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and was handed a three-year sentence in January. He is also prohibited from driving for another five years once he has finished serving his sentence.

Arsenault’s 18-year-old son Bradley Arsenault was killed, along with friends Thaddeus Lake, 22, and Kole Novak, 18, in a crash near Beaumont, Alta., on Nov. 26, 2011, when Bradley’s Pontiac Grand Am was struck from behind by a Dodge Ram going 199 kilometres per hour.

The driver of the Ram, Johnathan Pratt, was found guilty of manslaughter and impaired driving causing death and sentenced to eight years in prison. 

Arsenault said she’s hopeful the bill will remain alive because this is a “non-partisan” issue and one in the interest of public safety. She added she’s crossing her fingers for a meeting with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

“I am putting my patience hat on,” Arsenault said. “But I will do anything to get this bill passed.”

Source: Calgary Herald

Last updated on: 2016-02-19 | Link to this post