Monthly Archives: September 2013

Is Driving a Right or a Privilege? Part Deux (for those in the courts, Part Duh)


If it’s a right, then why are we paying so much money for our daughter to get licensed (between Drivers’ Education courses and the multiple tests for each level of licensing).  Why isn’t it automatic?  You turn 16 and low and behold your license arrives in the mail.

If it’s a privilege, then why are people with 17 Impaired Driving convictions  still licensed ? (that was actually a case in the same courthouse that refused to charge the driver that was involved in our crash with more than Over .08 )

I don’t have the answers to everything, I’m just putting the questions out there .

For those of you that have followed from the beginning, yes this is a re-post but after reading an article that was sent to me by Sheri Arsenault, I am feeling the need to say it again.  The article was about a Drunk Driver that killed two teenagers.  He did receive a prison sentence (almost unheard of in Ontario) but when the Crown (thank you for renewing my faith in Crown Attorneys, by the way) asked for a lifetime ban on driving – as per the laws that we Canadians asked for and expect to be followed – the judge (there goes my faith in the courts) felt that that was too much to ask for and only gave him a 10 year licence suspension.

When Grace and I were hit, the drunk driver received a 1 year licence suspension. It took me almost 1 year to be able to drive again – with a lot of hard work and  in car sessions with Young drivers.  Stay with me, this will make sense.

So here is how I think that licence suspensions should work.  The drunk driver’s licence suspension time frame should last as long as it takes their victims to be able to drive and then should begin.  So in cases like mine, he would have been able to drive 1 years after I started, so the suspension would have actually been 2 years.  In the case of the drunk driver in the case above his 10 year licence suspension should begin when his victims could drive again.  Oh wait,  they won’t be driving because he killed them.

So the next time that you hear about a drunk driver, recommend my suggestion to the judge.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get our point across.

Apparently there are no victims of drunk drivers

I have now spent 8 weeks poring over every study, statistic, report about Impaired Driving or Impaired Drivers and believe me there are a boatload  of them.  I have discovered a very disturbing trend among them.  Everyone seems to want to study the Impaired Drivers and their deaths and injuries but I can’t find one study about the damage done to the victims of their crime.  All of them point to a drop in the number of Impaired Drivers that are dying or are injured but there are no statistics being kept on the innocent victims of Impaired Drivers.

For anyone that is reading this from outside Ontario do not look at our rates and say, “well if they can do it, so can we.”  The truth of the matter is that most victims are not counted.  Victims are only counted if the Impaired Driver is charge with Impaired Causing Death or Injury and only 1/4 of Impaired Drivers are charged with that crime even when there is a death or injury involved.  It is a failing of our provinces courts.  It is a failing of our government and a failing of our Attorney General’s office.  Take the number that you see in the statistic and multiply it by 4.  Now you’re much closer.  Most are pled down to Over .08, which is a victimless crime.  Therefore, we are not counted among the dead and dying.

I know that sometimes making the system change seems insurmountable but remember, “Policy is made from the top down but change is made from the bottom up.”

A late night thought


This sign was taped to Gracie’s headboard:

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

If I were a child today, I think that I’d ask for our loan to be called due.  With the mess that we’re making we’ve become a pretty big credit risk.

I’m sitting here, in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep because of pain, and I have heard no less than 20 adds on the TV for lawyers and ex-coppers that will represent you if you’ve been arrested for a DUI.  Obviously, it’s big business.  If only we had that many Crown Attorneys willing to prosecute as passionately and as many politicians willing to recognize there is a problem and to close up the loopholes so that that is possible to get these criminals (yes, I used the “c” word with drunk drivers) off of the roads, preferably before they kill someone.

What we can all do.

I keep getting asked, “If we want to help but have not lost someone to a Drunk Driver, what can we do to help?”

There are a few things that you can do.  The first thing that you can do is contact your local MP and MPP and insist that they do something to actually prosecute all Impaired Drivers that are involved in a crash that results in an injury or death. For most provinces that actually means a change in the legislation.  Ontario is particularly bad for the back room games played with the wording of the law, so that needs to be changed.  Any law cannot be left open for “lawyer/judge interpretation”.  The law needs to be very clear and concise – You drink, you drive, you crash, someone is injured or dies, you go to jail.

Second,  you can pass along the website so that more people can find it and more people can become involved.

Third, you can go to the Families For Justice Petition and print it off, sign it and send it back.  Actually, do this first and fax a copy to your MP and your MPP.

Fourth, I am going to make a “cheat sheet” that you can print off and spread out so that we can reclaim our language and use it properly.  Also, so that you have topics handy to make people re-think what they “know” about drunk driving in this country.

If alcohol is involved it is not an accident it is a crash.

If you drive drunk, it is not a mistake it is a crime.

If you are caught driving drunk you are a criminal.

Twice as many people are killed by Drunk Drivers than all other forms of homicide combined.  So why are only 6% of the prison population of killers in for Impaired Driving?

How can someone that killed someone while driving drunk be charged with a victimless crime?

Finally, look at your loved ones – Your children, your significant other, your parents, your siblings, your friends.  If you truly love them and want to spend a lifetime enjoying them, then join us.  Help try to stop this runaway train before it does affect you directly and you are faced with burying one of those important people or watching them suffer for the rest of their lives.


They Must Be Using “New Math”

I have been digging through statistics – yet again- and the numbers just do not add up for me.  I may not be an accountant but I do have enough book keeping experience to know that if a business showed numbers the way the government did for Drunk Driving statistics, the auditors would be all over them.

It has been long established that 40% of all motor vehicle collisions involve alcohol.  At the best of times, Ontario just couldn’t break through the 35% mark.  I just found the most recent Ministry of Transportation report from 2010 (file://localhost/Users/juliewynen/Desktop/ and it has the rate of of conviction for motor vehicle collisions at 1.4% of all collisions.  That means that the other 38.4% of motor vehicle collisions involving alcohol were not prosecuted as a criminal act in the courts.

Another way of looking at this is that imagine that you owe $4000.00 in income tax for the year but only paid $140.00.  Do you think that the government would say that was good math?  How is it that we don’t hold our own government that we voted into office- that is supposed to be working for us to the same standard?

If you drink and drive and hit something or someone that is a criminal act under the criminal code.

That’s When My Brain Went spdddd (insert raspberry sound here)

So, last week we finalized the new logo.  Again, thank you to Jon for making the process as simple as possible.  He broke the process down to the point where every day or so I had to make a choice between a few different ideas he had.  Sounds simple enough….unless you have scrambled eggs for brains.  What it meant (and those of you with, or dealing with, someone with a bran injury is that IT IS MAKING A CHOICE EVERY DAY – not something that we deal well with.)

Then we get the logo all straightened out and my John (no not a spelling mistake. 2 separate Jon/Johns) says, “Okay, now what ‘tag line’ do you want on the cards.”.  To which I replied, “What????” .  And that’s when my brain went spdddd.       I have spent the last few days trying desperately to come up with a very short (6 words) tag line that defines what The Empty Shoe Project is about and it’s not working.  My language pathologist would laugh that it’s because I don’t do “convergent thinking” very well anymore.

So, I am going to do something that will absolutely floor my therapists and I am going to ask for help.  I am trying to convey the idea behind The Empty Shoes Project.  I am trying to convey the feeling that we all have when we see those empty shoes in our house and know that no one is every going to walk in them again.  Or, if injured, never going to use them again.  I am trying to convey the idea that people are being killed every day and that this is completely preventable.  I am trying to convey the absolute apathy that I run into with most people about making a change to this system.  I am asking for ideas.

Please think about this and help me come up with something that best represents those that we’ve lost and parts of ourselves that we’ve lost.  I look forward to reading all of them and hopefully between us, we can come up with something because I obviously can’t do it in anything less than 360 words, which is way too long for a business card.

Be Part of The ….

“You can be part of the problem or part of the solution.” 

-Norm Murphy (my Dad) – I’m sure that someone much more famous said it originally and I am probably plagiarizing them right now but as far as I’m concerned I grew up hearing this from my Dad.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to experience We Day in Toronto.  For those of you unfamiliar with We Days, they are events held in different cities by the people associated with Me to We and Free The Children.  They are a combination of motivation, inspiration and reward for service for young people.  You cannot buy a ticket.  You must earn your way in by community service.

To set the scene, imagine 20,000 screaming, excited, highly motivated young people filling the Air Canada Center.  And who are they screaming for – Brittany Spears, Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus – no.  They are screaming for Craig and Marc Keilburger, Chris Hadfield, Spencer West, Darren Criss (Glee cast member who does a lot of charity work on the side and always has).

And what are they being told.  That they are “the Generation that we have been waiting for”, “they are the Generation that will be the change”, “they are the Generation that fight injustice and make the world better”.  They are told not to just sit back and accept the status quo.  If they see something that is wrong, then it is up to them – it is expected of them- that they will make it right.  They are told not to stop just because someone is telling them that something can’t be done but to instead figure out HOW to do it – how to make a change.

Craig Keilburger started Free The Children with a small group of 12 year olds holding meetings in his parents’ house.   Now he has thousands of kids hanging on his every word believing that they can make a difference.  Surely if a bunch of kids can have enough faith in themselves to make the world a better place for everyone, can we not, as adults, take the same stance and work together to make a change that will benefit those same children.

I know that this is not going to be a “one time” event taking the shoes to Ottawa.  I know that this is going to be my life’s work, for however long I can manage.  But I also firmly believe that The Empty Shoe Project is a worthwhile cause.  This is life and death.  This is about human suffering.  This is necessary and I for one am choosing to be part of the solution.  It’s time to make your choice.

Through the looking glass

So, if anyone wants to know how it feels to be Alice in Wonderland just get hit by a drunk driver or talk to someone that has been hit by a drunk driver.  I always believed in our “Judicial System”.  Now I believe in the “Criminal Courts”.

In a Judicial System one would commit a crime, a victim would be identified, and the criminal would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  This would not just serve the purpose of justice for the victim but would also serve as a detriment to future criminal behaviour from the defendant and others that would see the judicial system at work.

Instead in the “Criminal Courts”  the victim would feel like Alice in Wonderland -up is down, down is up, right is wrong and wrong is right.  The only thing is, in the Criminal courts, there is no victim – well there is but most of us would refer to them as the criminal.  Instead, they are the poor person that is a victim of circumstance.  They are a good person that made a mistake and should they really suffer for the rest of their life for one mistake?

Well…actually, yes.  We are going to suffer for their “choice”, not a mistake – you make a mistake in addition on a math test, you make a choice to drink and drive.  There are some things in life that you cannot do while you are drunk.  I don’t think that people would consider having surgery done by a drunk doctor or want to get on a plane with a drunk pilot, so why are they so understanding of a drunk driver?

New Logo

Our new logo

Thank You Jon at Synergen Studios for our fantastic new logo!

I know that a lot of people thought that I was somewhat delusional when I first started this campaign.  I started it rather quickly without thinking through the potential scale of it and steps necessary to do it but I know that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  They thought that I would put my heart and soul into making a difference only to get my heart (and sense of Canadian pride) stomped on yet again.  Well, I may very well be delusional in my thinking that I can make politicians stand up and take notice of us but at least I am gaining support in my delusions.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my husband’s friends offered to help us with a real, official, printable logo.  One that represents everyone (I hope).  Sure, there were choices that we made that clearly represent Gracie but we also tried to keep in mind that we wanted them to represent other things for other people.  We picked two different coloured shoes because Gracie always wore two different socks and often wore two different shoes (she always, “had another pair just like them at home”) but we picked pink for girls and blue for boys.  We did pick very bright colours because “bright” was Gracie’s favourite colour.  I loved the idea of “Converse” type shoes because they are a classic.  Regardless of your age or gender, you or your loved one has worn a pair in their lifetime (and they are similar to what we’ve decorated).  Finally, Jon (the artist that designed the logo) came up with the image of them looking like someone had just stepped out of them as if they were going to come back any minute to put them back on.  It’s an image that I know each of us deals with every day.  Our dog still goes to the back door every day at 3pm to wait for Gracie to come home and I still expect her to come bounding in every day from school.

I asked Jon for a logo that would impart a feeling of what we deal with constantly, whether it’s a loved one that will never fill those shoes again or, for those of us that survived, a pair of shoes that we will never wear again because of our injuries (for me it’s skates, ski boots, cycling shoes, running shoes, and high heels that sit empty – that person is gone forever).  I also asked him for something that people would come to recognize by the symbol alone – even if they’ve misplaced their reading glasses (Mom…John…Kerry…).

I think that he succeeded in all of those things, so Thank You Jon Schlaich.  You managed to get into my head (which is a pretty scary place most days) and walk me through the process to get exactly what I wanted for The Empty Shoes Project.  For everyone reading this, if you want a great looking logo from an exceptionally talented person, point your browser at Synergen Studios!

I hope that the rest of you like it as much as I do and I hope that you also feel like you can find something in it that relates to your loved one or you and inspires you to join in my delusion and send me actual, real shoes that I can display on Parliament Hill on October 21, 2013. (I need them by October 15th, so please send them soon).

I have already received a few and am going to start posting them on the website, so that people can see them already (as soon as I beg my husband to show me how).

Because no one told me I couldn’t

Every time I meet someone that has had an up close view of my medical records from the crash (with the exception of the Insurance Company Examiners – very polite wording- and one adjustor) they ask me how I’m walking and talking.  Most people with my injuries end up in long term care facilities.  It’s simple.  No one told me I couldn’t walk or talk.  Okay, there was apparently that time in the ICU when my mother mentioned that the reason that I couldn’t speak was because they had my hands restrained.  My mother is the sweetest person that I know (as well as my mother-in-law) so I don’t believe my sisters that she REALLY said that .  Since I was coming out of a coma at the time, I can’t say that I was really aware of the conversation.

When the physiotherapists walked into the room and handed my a walker, – my medical records were sent incomplete (yay e-health Ontario)- so we assumed they knew what they were doing so I stood up ,ignored the pain and the wobble, and each day my husband helped me walk a few feet further.  When I started with my team of therapists when I got home, none of them said what they didn’t think I’d be able to do. If I set something as a goal, they helped me to slowly try to reach it until I realized it wasn’t going to happen.  But I got a good portion of the way there.

When I decided to start The Empty Shoes Project, John (my husband) set up the website and has offered me suggestions to spread the word and has supported me on bad days, my sister offered up her business to accept the shoes, my family went out and bought shoes to decorate, my friends spread the word.  In other words, No one told me I couldn’t.  So I’ll keep doing and hoping that we can come together to represent our loved ones – to make them count.  To do something big enough that we can’t be dismissed.

The short answer is that John and Hannah have never told me I couldn’t (no matter how ridiculous the goal).  John especially has pushed, pulled, and dragged me (when I needed), held my hand when I needed stability, put his arms around me when I faltered, picked me up when I fell, and even been a Drill Sergeant when I needed to get up and try again (which is not easy to put yourself out there and appear to be the “mean one” when it was what I needed to hear).  But the one thing that he has never said is that I can’t do something.

Maybe that’s where my unwavering belief that together we can do this comes from.  We can make a difference for those that come after us because NO ONE WILL TELL US WE CAN’T EVER AGAIN.