Alberta mom lends her support while dealing with impaired driving tragedy
Watch above: Justice has been delayed for the families of three Beaumont boys killed by an impaired driver. Meanwhile, one’s mother is fighting for change. Laurel Gregory reports.
EDMONTON – A Leduc County mother faces yet another delay in the sentencing of the impaired driver who killed her son. Since Bradley’s death, Sheri Arsenault has dedicated herself to fighting for justice and supporting those affected by impaired driving.
“It helps when people know when they’re talking to someone that that person actually knows how they feel,” explained Arsenault.
Bradley was 18 when he was killed – along with Kole Novak, 18, and Thaddeus Lake, 22 – when a pickup truck slammed into their car on Nov. 28, 2011.
In mid-May, Johnathan Pratt was found guilty of three counts of impaired operation causing death and three counts of manslaughter.
Over two years and 30 court appearances later, Arsenault expects to visit the court house one last time on August 28 to hear Pratt’s sentencing.
The sentencing was supposed to happen Friday, Aug. 1. Arsenault had already written her victim impact statement when she heard that the sentencing would be delayed. According to Alberta Justice, more time was needed to prepare the Gladue report, a report that can be requested when the offender is Aboriginal.
“We were ready,” said Arsenault. “It’s hard. It’s very hard to understand how a report can’t be done for such a serious crime.”
WATCH: Beaumont crash memorial
Since the tragedy, Arsenault has been an advocate for Families for Justice, a non-profit organization that supports those who have lost a loved one to impaired driving.
“We’re here for them for support,” explains Arsenault.
“Together we feel our arms are stronger and we can make a difference.”
Arsenault discovered the organization through a woman in B.C. who had lost her daughter about six months before Bradley was killed.
Now, she is helping other families cope with their own tragedies. The latest is Bob and Marilyn Rinas, brother and wife of Wayne Rinas, 52, who was on his way to work when he was killed by an impaired driver in 2013.
Arsenault traveled to Rocky Mountain House on July 29 to attend the sentencing.
“She’s a wonderful lady,” Bob Rinas said. “She took a day of her holidays to come and give us her support.”
“It makes a huge difference,” he explained. “It’s hard to describe, knowing that they’ve been in your shoes…it’s been a great help to us.”
Families for Justice also aims to change the laws surrounding impaired driving. Arsenault has written countless letters to local, provincial and federal politicians urging them to create a mandatory minimum for impaired driving causing death. The organization currently has a petition to change the legislation that will be presented to the federal government.
“The law isn’t harsh enough for them to not do it,” Arsenault said. “There needs to be a sentence that deters.”
Arsenault would like to see a mandatory minimum of five years for impaired driving causing death. Bob expressed similar sentiments.
“I firmly believe a mandatory five-year sentence would help to deter these people,” he said. “ And a 15-year driving ban”
On August 28, Arsenault hopes to see a sentence of eight to 12 years.
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