Markita Kaulius with photo of her daughter Kassandra, 22, who was killed by a drunk driver in Surrey in 2011. (Photo: Now-Leader).

Sign drunk driving petition, grieving mom of Surrey victim pleads

She says time is running out to sign an online petition asking for mandatory minimum sentences

The mother of a young Surrey woman who was killed by a drunk driver says time is running out to sign an online petition asking for mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of impaired driving causing death.

Families for Justice founder Markita Kaulius — whose daughter Kassandra, 22, was killed in 2011 when a drunk driver ran a red light at 152nd Street and 64th Avenue and slammed her company van into the driver’s side of Kassandra’s BMW at 103 kilometres an hour, — noted that another 1,074 people were killed by impaired drivers and over 63,000 were injured the year her daughter died.

Her group has lended its support to an online petition to the federal minister of justice — E-1327 (Impaired Driving) — initiated by Jesse Furber from Sturgeon County, Alberta and sponsored by Conservative MP and justic critic Michael Cooper. Anyone wishing to sign this online petition has until Tuesday, Feb. 20 to do so. The petition is calling for prison sentences “proportionate to the gravity of the offence for impaired driving causing death.”

To date, 3,464 signatures have been collected.

READ ALSO: ZYTARUK: Fighting still, in Surrey and Ottawa, for Kassandra’s Law

READ ALSO: Mother of Surrey woman killed by drunk driver weighs on on proposed impaired driving laws

In the aftermath of Kaulius’ daughter’s death, Natasha Leigh Warren, 35, of North Delta pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death, failing to remain at the scene of a crash and driving with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit causing death. Warren was sentenced in Surrey provincial court to 37 months in prison and is also prohibited from driving for eight years.

She had drank more than a bottle and a half of wine before getting behind the wheel and was driving around Surrey for about 45 minutes before T-boning Kassandra’s car. Kassandra was only three blocks from her home and had been returning from playing softball at Cloverdale Athletic Park. Warren got out of her van, walked up to the young woman as she lay dying, then ran to hide in some bushes, where she was later arrested.

“We ask the public to show the federal government that Canadians feel the jail sentences handed out across Canada right now are much too lenient considering the severity of the crime and loss of life,” Kaulius told the Now-Leader, noting that four to six people are killed and roughly 190 people are injured in Canada each day in a crime that she says is “100 per cent” preventable. “We hope the federal government will listen to what Canadians have to say and not vote down what the public is asking for.

“I know that some people feel this may not apply to them as they have not had a loved one killed by an impaired driver,” she said. “We never expected this crime to happen to our family nor did the thousands of other families who have lost their loved ones each year. The public can go online and take two minutes to sign this online E petition. We have already lost our loved ones — we are now trying to protect others from losing theirs. With the legalization of marijuana this coming summer we have great concers about the rise in impaired driving.”

Families for Justice has been lobbying federal governments, Conservative and Liberal, for the past seven years in an effort to change impaired driving laws “in the interest of public safety,” Kaulius said. “We submitted a petition with over 120,000 signatures on it to the federal government of Canada.

She said Canadians have asked for the charge of impaired driving causing death to be redefined as vehicular homicide as a result of impairment, “as this is what this crime truly is.

“This would include any future impaired driving deaths caused by drugs or alcohol.”

Kaulis said she will be heading to Ottawa on March 1, for the fifth time, as a lobbyist. This time, she’ll be presenting to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The Senate will be making recommendations next month for amendments to Bill C-46, the Impaired Driving Act.

“The greatest gift the public can give all victims of impaired driving is by signing and sharing the petition with their friends, family and co-workers and ask them to go online and sign the E1327 petition,” she said. “We ask for the public to help us make this go viral across Canada.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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