Tougher laws instituted by Bill C-46 continue to ignore the need for minimum jail sentences for impaired drivers who cause death and are only a small step in the right direction, believes Kim Thomas, who lost her son Brandon to an impaired driver just before Christmas in 2012.
Thomas remains frustrated over the government’s refusal to establish minimum sentences for impaired drivers causing bodily harm or, worse, death.
“If the government all of a sudden feels it should impose a minimum mandatory sentence for “drug-related” offenses not causing harm or death, why shouldn't they impose minimum mandatory sentencing for this offense if it causes harm or death?” she questions.
Thomas is among thousands of parents and organizations like Families for Justice and Mothers Against Impaired Drivers (MADD) who continue to push for mandatory jail terms for impaired drivers, who are estimated to kill four people every day in Canada. Her insistence for a five-year minimum sentence is as strong as ever.
“This request for a five-year minimum is not unjust or unfair. The person whose life was taken doesn't get a second chance and they were innocent of any wrongdoing,” says Thomas. “They don't get parole or a chance to go home ever again. The families of the innocent victims don't get parole, they don't get a break from their grief, they don't have another day or holiday with their loved one.”
Her son was killed on Dec. 6, 2012 by convicted impaired driver Ryan Gibson. He received a 32-month sentence, eight months more than proposed by his defence attorney. The conviction was upheld in an appeal. After less than six months, though, he was granted day parole and shortly afterward received full parole.
“Mr. Ryan Gibson was heavily alcohol-impaired, hit two other vehicles and killed Brandon and for this, he spent 5 3/4 months in jail. So four months for driving “drug” impaired in jail, when harming no one and 5 3/4 months in jail for being “alcohol” impaired and killing someone?
“To us, we have a very unjust legal system--not a justice system--a legal system and not one put in place to protect its citizens and the victims, but to protect the offenders.”
St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper also believes C-46 simply doesn’t go far enough and in October 2017 launched an e-petition calling for a minimum five-year sentence for impaired drivers causing death. When the petition was launched last October, he said the minimum sentence was $1,000 for causing death, something he considered a slap in the face to the 1,200 to 1,500 Canadians killed each year by impaired drivers.
The e-petition closed on Feb. 20, 2018, and received just 4,456 signatures, half of which came from Alberta.
The government responded by saying sentences for impaired driving causing death have been increasing. pointing to the example of a first offender who received a 10-year sentence for causing multiple deaths. They also point out C-46 increases the maximum conviction to a life sentence from 14 years.
“Bill C-46 signals to the courts that sentences for impaired driving should reflect the seriousness of the offence,” states the response.
The full impact of C-46 is only starting to be realized with the recent move to beef up detection of impaired drivers just before Christmas and has been met by a mixed reaction by Canadians.
With C-46, a police officers can demand that any lawfully-stopped driver provide a preliminary breath sample to test for alcohol without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body. They can also demand an oral fluid sample if they reasonably suspect a drug is in a driver's body.
For the last five years, the Show Your Ride for Brandon Thomas show and shine has been held the last Sunday in August. The 2018 edition was held on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede, attracting over 740 registrants and the highest amount of foot track effort in the downtown location.