Peter MacKay says changes could be coming to impaired driving laws -

Peter MacKay says changes could be coming to impaired driving laws


EDMONTON – The new federal justice minister says the Conservative government is considering changes to impaired driving legislation in the Criminal Code.

But Peter MacKay, who only took over the portfolio earlier this month, wouldn’t say exactly what is being pondered as he headed into a meeting with crime victims in Edmonton.

“I can tell you I did numerous trials on impaired driving cases, first as a defence lawyer and then prosecuting cases,” MacKay said Thursday, recalling his time working as a lawyer in Nova Scotia.

“I recall vividly a judge making a statement in a trial that I was prosecuting to the accused that driving down the road while under the effect of drugs or alcohol is no different than pointing a gun at another human being.”

MacKay said he wanted to meet with more victims of impaired driving before announcing the changes the government is contemplating.

One of the people MacKay met with Thursday was a mother whose 18-year-old son was one of three Alberta men killed in a crash where drunk driving was suspected.

The ministers words were a huge relief for Sheri Arsenault, whose son Bradley Arsenault died along with two friends south of Edmonton on Nov. 26, 2011.

Jonathan Pratt, 28, of Beaumont, Alta., is charged in the case, which is still before the courts.

“Finally somebody in government is maybe going to listen to us,” Arsenault said.

Arsenault has become a spokesperson for a group, Families for Justice, which has been collecting names on a petition calling for mandatory minimum sentences for impaired driving causing death. The petition also calls for the Criminal Code to be changed to redefine the offence of impaired driving causing death as vehicular manslaughter.

Last fall, provincial justice ministers asked the federal government to consider increased penalties for impaired driving, particularly crimes involving repeat offenders, serious injury or death.

MacKay said impaired driving laws need to send a strong message because of the consequences involved.

“I believe we have to continue to send that signal of just how serious an incident that is, and the consequences — the consequences that you cause, and the consequences that you have to live with when you put drugs and alcohol in your system and get behind the wheel of a car,” MacKay said.

Arsenault was originally supposed to meet with former justice minister Rob Nicholson, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet shuffle earlier this month meant that meeting had to be cancelled.

MacKay apologized to Arsenault on behalf of Nicholson, saying Nicholson had been looking forward to meeting with her.

Arsenault said MacKay’s announcement Thursday was the first she had heard the government was considering changes to the Criminal Code.

“He gave me the sense that he’s a regular father with a regular family who sees this crime for what it is,” said Arsenault.

Arsenault noted the Harper government has made being tough on crime a motto and has brought in mandatory minimums for drug offences.

She said there should also be mandatory minimums for impaired drivers who kill.

“With drunk driving being the largest cause of criminal death in Canada by far, it’s a serious concern. Nobody’s safe at any time out there.”

Filed under:

Peter MacKay says changes could be coming to impaired driving laws

  1. Alcohol is the fuel of the justice system. Alcohol is the most destructive “recreational” drug in Canadian society. Alcohol is the only recreational drug in Canadian who’s consumption is both regulated and marketed and profited by various levels of government.
    Can you say hypocritical?

    • Part of what you say may be true but you forget that the people of this country elected those governments you say are hypocritical. Unfortunately a small number of people in our country have no regards for others and because of their way of thinking and action, as a result of taking alcohol, other people have and will continue to die. Laws have been slow to change the tragic outcomes that come from people drinking alcohol. May be Mr MacKay will come up with some better laws. Hopefully he will be a better federal justice minister than he was as defense minister.

      I would say that the only punishment a drunk driver that kills someone deserves is one that makes sure that he never goes drinking and driving again. It does not involve death or jail. Just take the drivers eyes. Can’t drive when you can’t see. You can drink but you can’t drive. Hell I could go out today and drink and drive and kill someone and as first time offender may only get 5 years. 7 years tops. Meanwhile the victim’s family will live with the loss for the rest of their lives. Not very fair but that is what we have decided is the punishment for someone who kills someone while drinking and driving.

  2. I’m not sure if new laws are really required. I think strict enforcement and social stigma are doing a good job reducing rates year over year. This is a problem that will never completely go away (until we have driverless cars) but we can stigmatize the behaviour and increase police in problem areas.

    I just don’t see the purpose of tougher laws. Some moron who’s dumb enough to drive a car when impaired isn’t thinking long term anyway.

  3. Dring and texting, or using the ” smart” phone at all while driving, is as bad as drunk driving, I would like to see more enforcements on that level

    • prob with drinking and/or texting and driving is that, unless the carnage happens within one’s own personal circle ie to a loved one, dear friend, relative, work colleague, neighbour (etc etc) then one doesn’t often ”get” the message…so when they do, it’s too late.

      would love to see more car companies get on board with this, given all the technologies we have nowadays