VANCOUVER –The deep-rooted effects of Canada’s residential school system must be considered in the sentencing of a drunk driver who killed three people after mowing down two cyclists on a British Columbia highway two years ago, the man’s lawyer said Wednesday.
Crown counsel is asking that Samuel Alec be handed a 12-year sentence, which Alec’s lawyer, Paul McMurray, said would be the longest ever given to someone responsible for impaired driving causing death in Canada.
Alec, 45, pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired driving causing the deaths of two cyclists, Kelly Blunden and Ross Chafe, as well as Paul Pierre, a friend of Alec’s who was a passenger in the vehicle.
Twelve years is an unfit sentence, especially given the relationship between Alec’s alcoholism and colonialism, McMurray told the court.
“In my submission, there is a direct, causal link between the offences that are before you and the experience of his First Nation, of alcohol abuse stemming from a residential school system,” he said.
“The Crown asks you to do precisely what courts and judges have always done in Canada, and that is to lock up an aboriginal offender and throw away the key.”
In an agreed statement of facts, the court heard how in May 2015, Alec was returning to his home in Lillooet along a winding mountain highway after a “lengthy binge of drinking” following a friend’s funeral in Pemberton.
Prosecutor Adrienne Lee told the court Alec displayed a callous disregard for others, including failing to stop after a nearly hitting another vehicle while passing it around a blind corner shortly before he struck the cyclists.
“This accused chose to drive while highly intoxicated on a challenging, popular, scenic, mountainous highway where he knew there would be other motorists and cyclists present,” she said. “He had no business being on the road.”
Alec deserves a “significant sentence” partly because of his lengthy criminal record, which includes four impaired driving infractions, as well as more than a dozen non-criminal instances of driving without a licence, Lee said.
“The accused’s deliberate choice to drive has caused devastating and irreparable harm to the wives, the children, the grandchildren, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends of Paul Pierre, Kelly Blunden and Ross Chafe,” she added.
“The accused’s record is significant and an aggravating factor, and cries out for a need to protect the public.”
In addition to a 12-year prison sentence, minus about two years for time already served, the Crown is asking that Alec be barred from driving for 18 years. Alec was under several driving prohibitions at the time of the fatal collision, both from the courts and from the superintendent of motor vehicles.
McMurray asked that his client be sentenced to two years less a day, beyond the time he has already served, which would be followed by three years’ probation.
A man in the public gallery yelled out “This is crazy” after McMurray made his sentencing recommendation.
Alec has been incarcerated since August 2015, though three months of that time was spent serving a sentence related to a separate conviction.
More than a dozen victim impact statements were read from friends and family members of the three victims during the sentencing hearing.