OAKVILLE, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 04/26/13 -- Sharing the perspective of victims of impaired driving is one of the most important parts of MADD Canada's work and is a key focus of recent and current activities.
Beginning today and going through until Sunday, MADD Canada hosts its National Conference for Victims of Impaired Driving in Toronto. Approximately 200 victims from across Canada will take part in keynote and workshop sessions covering a wide range of topics designed to help them as they cope with traumatic, life-altering experiences.
Sessions will include: coping with life while grieving the loss of a loved one; loss of a sibling; impaired driving civil cases; understanding the criminal justice system; and coping strategies for the injured. A special stream of programming will also be held for young victims of impaired driving, ages 15 to 25.
"The weekend offers support to victims of impaired driving and helps them see there is a light to grasp as they cope with their terrible losses," said MADD Canada National President Denise Dubyk. "None of us can change what has happened. But we can show one another that we are not alone in our struggles. For so many victims, including myself, there is great comfort in knowing others understand the journey of an impaired driving victim."
The cornerstone event of the weekend, the Candlelight Vigil of Hope and Remembrance, will be held on April 27. With photos and the lighting of a single candle for each victim, the ceremony offers delegates a safe and supportive environment where they can pay tribute to the loved ones they've lost as a result of impaired driving or acknowledge injuries caused by impaired driving.
Sharing the perspective of victims, and talking about the issues that affect them, were the topics in several meetings with Members of Parliament yesterday, as a small group of MADD Canada representatives visited Ottawa during National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. Specifically the group, wanted to talk about a 2009 report released by the Federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights called Ending Alcohol-Impaired Driving: A Common Approach.
That report made 10 recommendations to better address the problem of impaired driving in Canada. Key among them, from MADD Canada's point of view, were the recommendation to implement random breath testing, and two recommendations calling for stronger sentences for repeat offenders and offenders with excessively high blood alcohol levels.
MADD Canada supports these three recommendations and encourages the Government to implement them.
Random breath testing has been a major focus for MADD Canada over the past few years. This countermeasure has significantly reduced impaired driving in other countries and has the potential to save some 200 lives and prevent some 14,000 injuries each year, yet there has been no move thus far by the Federal government to implement it.
Sentencing is a particularly important issue for victims. MADD Canada has long promoted the need for stronger sentencing, particularly in cases of impaired driving causing death. In fact, MADD Canada has established its own framework for sentencing ranges, which it believes meet the purposes of sentencing and better represents justice for the victims. (MADD Canada's Sentencing Framework for Impaired Driving is available in the Resource Library of the MADD Canada web site.) In yesterday's meetings with MPs, MADD Canada's representatives talked about sentencing and specifically about the recommendations in the 2009 report which called for longer sentences for repeat offenders, and longer sentences for those with blood alcohol concentrations at double or more the legal limit.
"We still have hundreds of people being killed in impairment-related crashes each year, and thousands more being injured," said Ms. Dubyk. "We as a country need to be doing more to stop this. That is the message our group shared with MPs and we asked for their support in urging the Federal Minister of Justice to move forward with those three recommendations."
Note to Media in the Greater Toronto Area:
Media are welcome to attend the Candlelight Vigil of Hope and Remembrance on April 27, 2013 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the BMO Financial Group Institute for Learning, 3550 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough. For details, please contact Deb Kelly, MADD Canada Communications Manager at 416-995-8237.
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