It’s bittersweet for the family of Demi McKechnie when they look at photos of the late 24-year-old. They’re full of happy memories, like giving her nephew an Edmonton Oilers hat.
“This was the last picture that my son got with my sister. She got him that hat when she went to Calgary to watch the Calgary Flames,” Demi’s sister Destiny Schaffer said.
About one month after the photo was taken, Demi was killed in a rollover near Morse, Sask., on Feb. 23, 2018.
Family photos now serve as a reminder of happy times with Demi, but there will be no new memories of her.
“Demi was the baby. Demi was always my reason to keep going even after my son passed away,” Demi’s mother, Denise McKechnie, said.
“Demi was more than a daughter to me, she was also my friend. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her.”
The driver, Adrian Spencer McLaren, ultimately pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death. He was sentenced to two years in jail, but released after nine months for good behaviour.
“It crushed my heart all over again. I mean, he was given two years less a day, and he should have served those two years,” Schaffer said. “It should have been mandatory that he serve those two years. How is nine months fair? I mean, she’s dead. She’s not coming back.”
Now, the Moose Jaw family is working to advocate for tougher penalties for impaired driving.
“Demi can’t get married. I won’t have any grandchildren from Demi. I feel it’s just very, very unfair. I really just want the laws to change at this point,” Denise said.
Neither Denise nor Destiny have a number of years behind bars they would like to see offenders see. Schaffer would like to see lifetime driving bans for those convicted of impaired driving causing death.
“She lost her life. I mean she’s not here to tell about it, I’m here to tell her story. So I believe the justice system has failed my sister and they failed a ton of other people and that’s why I’ve come forward,” Schaffer said.
The family credits MADD Canada for helping them cope with their loss during the past year. The anti-drunk driving organization also wants to see tougher penalties for impaired driving causing death and/or bodily harm.
Demi’s name was added to a MADD memorial for victims of impaired driving in May, located outside Saskatoon city hall.
Any changes to the Criminal Code, like mandatory minimum sentences for impaired driving, would fall to the federal government.
In recent years, the Saskatchewan government and SGI have done extensive impaired driving awareness campaigns and introduced penalties for driving with a blood alcohol level between .04 and .08.
According to SGI, around 40 per cent of fatal collisions in the province involves alcohol. The insurer’s monthly traffic safety spotlight regularly records hundreds of impaired driving offences.
Schaffer and Denise know they can’t help Demi anymore, but they want to do what they can to try and advocate for tougher penalties.
“We made an email address, it’s called firstname.lastname@example.org. If anybody has any similar stories or would like to reach out to us we would love it. We would love to go as far with this as we can to try and implement change,” Schaffer said.