Alberta mothers join MP in calling for changes to impaired driving laws

A group of Edmonton mothers join MP Michael Cooper in calling on Ottawa to toughen impaired driving laws. Global News

St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper wants the federal government to reconsider some proposed changes to the way impaired drivers are prosecuted in Canada.

A group of Alberta-based mothers, whose own children have died, have joined him.

READ MORE: Alberta mother who lost son to a drunk driver renews calls for changes to Criminal Code

The proposed changes are part of omnibus Bill C-75.

Cooper said if enacted, the changes would “water down” how impaired driving is prosecuted.

“Contrary to the minister’s claims, Bill C-75 has everything to do with sentencing and everything to do with watering down sentences for the most serious of offences. Bill C-75 is a terrible bill for victims, it is a terrible bill for public safety, and it is why Conservatives will work to defeat Bill C-75,” Cooper said, speaking before the House of Commons on June 5.

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“Speaker, the Minister of Justice claims that Bill C-75 has nothing to do with sentencing. Bill C-75 makes serious indictable offences prosecutable by way of summary conviction. Therefore, instead of a sentence of up to 10 years if prosecuted by way of summary conviction, the maximum sentence would be two years less a day or as little as a mere fine. That is right, under Bill C-75, a maximum sentence could go from 10 years to two years less a day.”

The federal government has said the bill would create efficiencies in the justice system and help deal with the backlog.

A second reading of the bill is set for this week. It will then be referred to the Justice Committee, where Cooper says he will propose amendments to remove the sections on impaired driving he finds troubling.

Mothers Sheri Arsenault, Sage Morin and Grace Pesa have joined the Conservative MP in his fight to stop the proposed changes.

Morin wants to the see any changes to the impaired driving laws isolated from the greater omnibus bill.

“These things aren’t even related so why are they all in the same bill?” Morin told Global News. “I’ve already seen the attitude that people have to [more strongly prosecute] impaired driving and I think that Bill C-75 is going to be more detrimental to that.”
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“They should not be lumped together in one bill.”

“I just hope Canadians really wake up,” said Grace Pesa, who also lost her son. “[It’s] just a matter of who is next. We all know it’s happening every day. We have four to six deaths a day.”

Arsenault spoke before the Senate Justice Committee earlier this year.

She asked for a mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who kills someone as a result of driving while being impaired.

“We’re pushing for a mandatory minimum of five years, which we all know would never be served with early parole and statutory release provisions. But it’s a starting point where then they can take into account aggravating and mitigating factors,” Arsenault said earlier this spring.

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