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Memorial for drunk driving victims approved in Saskatoon

The memorial at Saskatoon City Hall will honor those killed by drunk drivers in Saskatchewan.
The memorial at Saskatoon City Hall will honor those killed by drunk drivers in Saskatchewan. City of Saskatoon

It’s a memorial the Van de Vorst family hope they will never have to add a name to.

“These aren’t just names, they’re people, they’re individuals that were lost to a needless accident, a needless and preventable accident,” Lou Van de Vorst said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s first roadside memorial signs honour Van de Vorst family

In 2016, the Van de Vorsts lost their son Jordan, his wife Chanda and the couple’s children, two-year-old McGuire and five-year-old Kamryn in a collision just north of Saskatoon. A drunk driver collided with a car carrying the family of four after failing to stop at a stop sign at Highway 11 and Wanuskewin Road.

“Saskatchewan has got the highest incidents of impaired driving deaths and injuries in Canada, that’s an appalling statistic to us,” Van de Vorst said. “We want to do what we can do to start dropping that statistic.”

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The Van de Vorsts are part of a group who, together with MADD Canada, are trying to erect a monument to honour all the victims killed by drunk drivers in Saskatchewan, a process that brings up hard memories for the family.

Lou Van De Vorst lost his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in a drunk driving accident in 2016, he hopes the memorial will raise awareness to the issue in the province. Adam MacVicar / Global News

“It brings up all the loss, it brings up the hurt, it brings up the gap that we have in our family again,” Van de Vorst said.

READ MORE: MADD Canada memorial pays tribute to Danille Kerpan

The provincial monument was approved unanimously at the city’s committee on planning, development, and community services meeting on Monday.

“Something I think is going to be tastefully designed as a place of thoughtful reminder and contemplation but also to remind the public as a whole that this brings tragedy to many people’s lives and that we all need to be diligent about reducing drink driving,” Mayor Charlie Clark said to reporters after the meeting.

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The memorial will be built on the north lawn of City Hall along 24th Street near 4th Avenue. Memorials for victims of drunk driving have typically been erected in cemeteries. It’s a change of scenery the city believes is important.

“Way too many families are affected by drunk driving in Saskatchewan,” Clark said. “So if you just have a memorial in a cemetery it doesn’t serve as that public awareness and reminder.”

READ MORE: Van der Vorst case turned spotlight on drunk driving but Sask. rates still high

A point that rings true for the Van de Vorsts; Lou spoke to the committee ahead of their decision.

“It’s not just about to remember our loved ones we’ve lost, but it’s also a way to educate the public on the importance of planning a safe ride home,” Van de Vorst said.

The memorial will be designed and paid for by MADD Canada and will consist of benches around a flower bed with a stone wall engraved with the names of those killed by drunk drivers in the province.

The Van de Vorsts are encouraging those who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver in Saskatchewan to contact MADD to get their name on the memorial.

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While there is no timeline in place, the Van de Vorsts hope to see the memorial up in the fall.

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