17 ways to look at it

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

Thatthere is a huge prob­lem in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice in Canada and in Que­bec was made com­pletely clear this week when the em­ploy­ees of the Rock For­est Metro Plouffe averted a po­ten­tial dis­as­ter by call­ing the cops af­ter a highly ine­bri­ated cos­tumer, early in the morn­ing to boot, went to his car af­ter buy­ing a case of beer. It was the sev­en­teenth time he was ar­rested on drunk driv­ing charges, this time at twice the max­i­mum level ac­cepted.

The time has come to re­con­sider the way that drunk driv­ing is seen: only an in­frac­tion, likened to an un­paid park­ing ticket, those be­ing real rev­enue mak­ers which I’m sure are get­ting more at­ten­tion from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties than drunk driv­ing.

Which, for those un­aware, is a crime, as in Crim­i­nal Code. Prob­lem is that not too many peo­ple seem to be aware of the fact, judges first. This brought a rare in­ter­ven­tion from Que­bec’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter, Ber­trand St-Ar­naud, ask­ing that crown pros­e­cu­tors con­sider drunk drivers for what they are: crim­i­nals who have a slim chance of get­ting caught, by the way; about 1 in 500.

And when they are that un­lucky, they al­ways deny the facts. They are the vic­tims of an un­just sys­tem sin­gling them out for a mi­nor in­frac­tion, like a speed­ing ticket. Noth­ing more.

Mind you, while we truly be­lieve that if our roads were in good con­di­tion and cars in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion with drivers in top shape, that speed lim­its could go higher if traf­fic was light and weather per­mit­ting, still, the penalty for drunk driv­ing is min­i­mal. A $600 fine, 4 de­merit points. A slap on the wrist, a don’t do it again type of thing. But drive fast, and you get 24, 30 de­merit points and at least a $1,500 fine.

Now driv­ing while drunk can eas­ily be likened to car­ry­ing a loaded firearm in a shop­ping mall at Christ­mas time. It would not take much for a dis­as­ter to hap­pen and some­one do­ing this in Que­bec would be sent to jail im­me­di­ately.

The time to ad­just is now. The fed­eral government is re­spon­si­ble for the Crim­i­nal Code as­pect, it should re­vise it im­me­di­ately so that a first of­fender re­ceive a 15 day im­pris­on­ment term, most would be sus­pended, but the stigma of hav­ing a prison term at­tached to you would be a good de­ter­rent. Fines should be adapted to to­day’s re­al­ity: a min­i­mum of $2,000 seems rea­son­able with the of­fend­ing ve­hi­cle held in lieu of bond if the amount of the fine is not paid im­me­di­ately on site. This is cur­rent in the USA, when you pay the fine to the of­fi­cer on the spot. At the sec­ond of­fense, a min­i­mum 30 days in jail should be im­posed and the fine upped to $5,000. In lieu of the jail time, a year­long ther­apy, paid by the ac­cused, should be ac­cept­able. Need­less to say, we don’t be­lieve that noth­ing ex­cept seizure of the ve­hi­cle, a fine of $50,000, a prison term of 2 years should be im­posed to any­body stupid enough to be caught more than twice.

Que­bec also has a duty. The rule should be a lim­ited per­mit, not the id­i­otic 4 points of de­mer­its, with the oblig­a­tory al­co­hol sen­sors in­stalled in any ve­hi­cle that the drivers would use. With a huge fine for those who don’t fol­low the rules.

If not, well, why stop at 17 times? The record seems to be in the twen­ties…

The pub­lic trans­port com­mit­tee of the Mem­phrem­a­gog MRC is ques­tion­ing an as­pect of ac­ces­si­bil­ity to ed­u­ca­tion which of­ten goes un­no­ticed: the phys­i­cal ac­ces­si­bil­ity by the av­er­age per­son to pub­lic trans­port. We rep­re­sent the ci­ti­zens of Or­ford County, sit­u­ated not far from a univer­sity and a cegep but where the num­ber of peo­ple hold­ing a univer­sity de­gree is four points be­low the Que­bec av­er­age, at 22.1% when the av­er­age is 26.2%. Fur­ther­more, presently, more than five hun­dred stu­dents at the come from our MRC.

One of the main prob­lems en­coun­tered here, as in other re­gions, is the dif­fi­culty in at­tend­ing ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions with­out the ser­vice of pub­lic trans­port. Stu­dents, used to tak­ing school trans­port for their ele­men­tary and high school ed­u­ca­tion, are con­fronted with dif­fi­cul­ties once they reach cegep and univer­sity. Un­for­tu­nately, in ru­ral zones rel­a­tively close to city cen­tres, it is rare to have ac­cess to a sys­tem of or­ga­nized trans­port.

The stu­dents who live in th­ese ar­eas must pay for their trans­port, some­thing which greatly in­creases the cost of their stud­ies. When the fam­ily can af­ford to buy a ve­hi­cle, the stu­dent is helped by the time saved, the re­duc­tion of worry, and school re­sults im­prove. The marks of stu­dents who live with their par­ents are sta­tis­ti­cally bet­ter than the av­er­age. The so­cio-eco­nomic mi­lieu is there­fore a de­ter­min­ing fac­tor in the pur­suit and success of an af­ter-high school ed­u­ca­tion.

Some young peo­ple who are less well-off see no other alternative but to leave the re­gion, of­ten for good. Con­sider, for ex­am­ple, those from the city of Ma­gog who go to Cegep or to univer­sity in Sher­brooke, 30 kilo­me­tres away: the trans­port will cost them a min­i­mum of $200 per month, de­spite the fact that the two mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are be­side each other. They may get a loan from the government of $91 a month in the ab­sence of pub­lic trans­port. They are there­fore obliged to work just so they can get to school, some­thing that takes time and en­ergy, re­duc­ing the en­ergy avail­able for school work, forc­ing them some­times to move, and putting them more into debt. We con­sider this un­ac­cept­able that the stu­dents must pay for the in­ex­is­tence of pub­lic trans­port, which should be avail­able to the en­tire pop­u­la­tion.

We de­mand that the Government of Que­bec oblige all MRC’s (re­gional mu­nic­i­pal coun­ties) to put in place ef­fi­cient, pub­lic trans­port and en­sure that it is ac­ces­si­ble to the en­tire stu­dent pop­u­la­tion at a rea­son­able cost. The Comité pour le trans­port col­lec­tif dans la MRC

de Mem­phrem­a­gog www.trans­mem­phre.com

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