Notes for a long weekend

(James Turner)

It’s rapture day. And while I’m still waiting for the brimstone to fall and my dogs to start talking about how awesome heaven is, I thought I’d make these [maybe final?] notes.

If a tree falls?

It’s been a violent week in Winnipeg. Lots of apparently culpable homicides and other violent acts taking place — including one in particular that has a lot of people on edge.

But I wanted to give kudos to Gabrielle Giroday of the Free Press for her story today about Iris Heald, who died earlier this week after an attack on the street. Likely due to the overwhelming amount of violence, Heald’s death went largely unreported. And although I tend to personally eschew the news convention of chasing grief, Giroday acknowledged the victim in this case with respect and distance — and best of all, honesty.

“Iris Heald had few friends. And she had no family in the city.”

And, at the root of it, is why it’s sad she died the way she did, and why the story is, in my view, an important one.

A personal aside

Two people who touched my life years ago recently died. I found out about both of the deaths today.

One was a young woman who I dated extremely briefly in the year 2001. She killed herself in early May.

Having not seen her for years, I can’t say what went wrong, but my understanding is she suffered from severe bouts of depression — despite being (at least outwardly) a vibrant, creative and outgoing person. Regardless of whether we kept in touch or not, I’m sad she’s gone. She touched a lot of people’s lives, judging by the reaction to her death.

It’s odd the impression people leave: she had the most lovely nose.

The second was an Irish doctor who used to work in Osborne Village who was regular customer at the bar at the former Tap and Grill restaurant, where I worked for many years.

Although he was likely one of the most ornery people I’ve ever met, he was in turn funny, interesting and at times, even encouraging.

“You’ll be a great poet,” he once told me, despite my denials of having any interest in that line of work. Regular readers of this blog may even find that comical.

He died at the Riverview Health Centre on Wednesday. I don’t know what from. He was heavy smoker and drinker when I knew him, so maybe that had something to do with it.

RIP to them both.

From the notebook –

I wanted to put on the record — at least more comprehensively — Judge Linda Giesbrecht’s comments to John Petriew during his sentencing hearing last year for his sixth impaired driving conviction. The 35-year-old is being held in custody after a boating mishap last Saturday on the Assiniboine that police believe claimed the life of a 37-year-old man. In her reasons, Giesbrecht stated she was uncomfortable accepting a plea deal where Petriew pleaded guilty and got a time-served sentence of 10 months [at double credit].

The joint recommendation is a bit difficult for me, because it’s low in my view …

You keep drinking and driving … you are endangering the public every time you do this. And this is your sixth time in committing this type of offence …

Every day in this country people are killed, people are injured and there’s massive property loss — and thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost wages of people being hurt and injured — nevermind the toll it takes on people who have lost loved ones because of drunk drivers …

You have a couple of kids — how would you feel if one day they were off to school and a drunk driver smashed through some intersection and kills one of them or puts them in a wheelchair?

She then cautions him that any subsequent DUI convictions could lead to serious prison time.

I just want you to know … that what you’re risking is a penitentiary sentence — the sentences will just keep going up. And if you were ever in an accident where you hurt someone when you were drunk, you would probably be going into the penitentiary for many, many years. There’s just no question of that.

I’m talking you could even go double digits because of your terrible driving record. You cannot afford another impaired drive. That’s all I’m telling you.

I’ll direct readers at this point to consider today’s Globe and Mail and it’s feature on the persistence of drinking and driving in Canada.

Specifically, I’d ask you to read page 3 of the article — regarding repeat offenders.

Essentially, if sanctions and punishment won’t work for people like Petriew, maybe incentives will, Erin Anderssen’s subject suggests:

Since punitive sentence fail to deter these people, they are more likely to be influenced by incentives. For instance, Dr. Brown suggests, they may agree to installing an interlock device, requiring a driver to provide a breath sample before the car will turn on, if it means lower insurance rates and a reduction in fines. (Ontario introduced a law last August allowing first-time offenders to reduce their license suspension if they install the device.)

Dr. Brown concedes that “anything with the whiff of a reward” may be unpalatable to the public. But one reason broader campaigns are facing diminishing returns may be that they’re failing to reach the niche of the population likely to cause more accidents.

Following this, is the DUI rate in Manitoba a further argument for rapid, accessible transit? We’re likely not gonna get any better if the car culture stays entrenched.

It’s the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. The problem in Manitoba is statistically more an issue here than elsewhere.

Like the local judge above says, the toll impaired driving takes on people, their families and the public purse is huge.

But we don’t — to my knowledge, anyways — have a dedicated unit of police officers (like homicide, for example) working 24-7 to hunt down drunks and keep them off our roads.

Why is that?

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