Shark Week Re-Post

This particular post has been mentioned to me as a favourite.   It is actually one of my favourites too.  It’s funny what we worry about an protect our kids from and then something comes out of left field and shows you what you should really be afraid of.   So, Gloria, this re-post is for your family.

Okay, I know that everyone is going, “huh???” but let me finish.

I was watching Shark Week (guilty pleasure) last night when I was reminded of a funny story about Grace.  We had just come back from Mexico and Gracie was telling her teacher about it and her teacher asked her what her favourite part was.  Grace told her it was swimming in the ocean.  Her teacher asked, “Weren’t you afraid of sharks?” to which Gracie replied, “More people are killed every year by falling coconuts than shark attacks.”

Someone else gave the same speech last night so I decided to look it up and sure enough 150 people die every year from falling coconuts and only 15 die from shark attacks.

It made me think about perception of risks versus real risks so I thought that I would give you some numbers to think about. (and know that there is no disrespect for anyone that has lost a loved one this way, I merely want to give people some perspective)

  • Falling Coconuts -150 -Worldwide
  • Sharks -15 -Worldwide
  • Lightning Strikes -10 -in Canada (deaths)
  • Lightning Strikes- 164 -n Canada (injuries)
  • Airplane Crashes- 200 -Worldwide (average over 10 years)
  • Scuba Diving- 150 -Worldwide
  • Mounting Climbing- 25 -Worldwide
  • Skydiving- 21 -Worldwide
  • Hang Gliding- 7- Worldwide
  • Bungee Jumping – the statistic is so low it doesn’t even come up to 1 per year – Worldwide
  • Sanctioned (with referees and rules) Mixed Martial Arts 3 (total, ever, even unsanctioned didn’t rate an annual number) Worldwide – and by the way, this sport has been banned in Ontario until very recently because of it’s inherent danger to the participants
  • Homicides from Guns- 178- Canada
  • Deaths from Drunk Drivers -1500- Canada
  • Injuries from Drunk  Drivers -64,000 -Canada

So, I guess the moral of today’s blog is:  Strap on that oxygen tank and swim with sharks (just make sure that you run quickly under the coconut trees to get to the water), climb Mount Everest, run yourself off a cliff with only a kite strapped to your back (hang gliding description, not instructions for certain mayhem), go out to BC and bungee off the bridge like Rick Mercer and Rick Hanson, learn to fly and then learn to jump out of a perfectly operational airplane.  Take up cage fighting.

Just be really careful on the roads driving there because that’s where the real danger is.

I Said Australian Not American

With working with Families for Justice on getting the petition signed, I have heard a lot lately about people not agreeing with Mandatory Minimums because it wreaks of an American style of justice and Canadians don’t want that.

You’re absolutely right….surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  When it comes to Impaired Drivers and Courts and Sentences, I don’t want an American system of justice.  Besides, even though they are making progress with Impaired Drivers, which is more than we can say in this country, they are not making great progress.  They are going at a snails pace.

I don’t even look at how the Americans are dealing with Impaired Drivers, unless it comes up in an article or report that I happen to be reading about something else.  In the immortal words of  Dalton McGuinty I have been looking at changes “more in keeping with European Standards” (of course, he was using these words with reference to opening up beer tents).

The EU may have some serious issues with their economies, but the have set up clear rules, firm consequences, and consistent application of punishments in the courts.  That’s all that we are asking for.

We actually have a very well defined law in this country with regards to Impaired Driving, Impaired Driving Causing Injury, and Impaired Driving Causing Death.  Unfortunately, we have allowed  Myth  to override fact and therefore muddied the word and spirit of the law.

We don’t have clearly defined consequences.  Sometimes they are charged, more often they are not.  On rare occasions (22% of the time),they  are charged with Impaired driving Causing Death/Bodily Harm.  More often they are charged with Over .08mg.  That’s a little like charging someone with Uttering Threats after they have shot someone.  Even the police officers are complaining about the lack of consistency (they never know what charges the Crown will choose….personally, I think that Crown Attorney’s Offices come with one of those spinning wheels with a list of charges on it like on The Price is Right.  They spin the wheel and whichever charge it lands on….)  Oddly, it is not even classified as a violent crime…perhaps one day I will make a list of all of the damage that I have heard about inflicted on the children that I have heard about. Trust me when I say….it is violent.

As for consistent application of punishment…it is totally left to the discretion of a few people, so on occasion it is jail time but more often it is either ignored or a small fine if imposed (for the most common violent crime in the country).  How many judges are there in Canada?  Well, that is your answer to how many different punishments there could be.

If you don’t like the European Standard, then just look to Australia.  They have dropped their rate significantly too by doing a lot of the things that MADD has been advocating for for years but also that there is a consistency all the way along the system.  From prevention to punishment…it is made perfectly clear what an Impaired Driver can expect.

That’s all we are asking for.  Put it in writing and hold people accountable.  Not so bad…not so hard.

Lest We Forget

Act of Remembrance

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.

Response: We will remember them[4]

Those that fail to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.  Lest We Forget.

158 Soldiers have been killed overseas since 2002.

Approximately 15,000-20,000 Canadians have been killed by drunk drivers since 2002.

If we are willing to send young Canadians overseas to fight and possibly die for someone else’s freedoms, shouldn’t we at least be willing to make sure that we do everything in our power to keep their families safe while they are away.

Lest  We Forget.

Let’s Talk Money

I’m sitting here in the middle of the night thinking about money.  It seems like it’s been the subject of the week.  I have been hearing about Mike Duffy and the $90,000 “scandal”  all week.  Let me put this into perspective for you.

Based on 24 hours per day and 365 days in a year, Impaired Drivers have an HOURLY RATE (YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT.  I SAID HOURLY) of $94,748.86.  And it is you, the Canadian taxpayers that pay that hourly rate.

I am no fan of Mike Duffy (believe me) but relatively speaking, he seems like kind of a deal.


Great Expectations

Expect….it’s a word we don’t use often enough.  We use want, desire, hope, need, demand but not expect.

Yet there are certain things that we should expect.  The doctors and nurses weren’t’ sure that I would ever talk or walk again.  My husband didn’t say that he wanted, desired, hoped, needed or demanded that I would walk or talk again, he just expected that I would.  Since he expected it, it just did it without any question. That’s why I’m up and moving….it was expected.

I think that  is what has become wrong with our society….we hope that since we follow the rules, that others will.  So, I am saying let’s change that.

I expect that since I follow the rules that others will.  If they don’t then I expect our police to arrest them, I expect our Crown Attorneys to prosecute them, I expect our judges to sentence them appropriately, and if there is a flaw in the system which prevents any of that from being done then I expect our politicians to fix the laws so that  the system can work to punish (yes I used the “p” word) the offenders.

I expect everyone that reads this blog to print off the Families for Justice Petition  (the link is on the right hand side of this blog), sign it, find 5 other people to sign it and send it back to 4 Country Spring Walk, Conestogo, ON, N0B 1N0.

It’s not a perfect petition, it’s not going to fix everything wrong with the court system when it comes to Impaired Drivers but it is a start and I expect my politicians to listen to the 60,000+ signatures that we have already collected.  I also expect to add at least another 60,000 signatures to the list so pass it along…see how many signatures you each can collect.

I expect your help because it is for your kids that we are doing this.  Those of us involved in Families for Justice, our kids have already been killed and our expectations have not been met by our country, so I think that we all deserve to expect you to step up for your own family now.

I am Humpty Dumpty

It’s funny what runs through your mind when you are sitting waiting for an appointment and I have done a lot of that the last 3 years.  On one of those occasions, I rewrote the Humpty Dumpty poem after someone had given me that nickname.

Humpty Dumpty one day was struck.  Humpty Dumpty by a Drunk in a truck.  The Doctors and Nurses had absolutely no luck …and had to tell Humpty her body was f#@%&d.

For whatever reason, the last few days I have had to recount my injuries numerous times to several different people and pretty much every one of them followed up that conversation with, “but you’re fully recovered now, right?”

I have been struggling with how to explain my injuries to people not because I am anything special in my injuries but because it is quite the opposite – I actually really struggle with letting people know what is really going on because I was raised by the strongest woman I know who never complained about anything even though I know she was in pain a lot – so I am opening up so that people recognize what others are experiencing.  I recognize that I represent so many other survivors that can’t speak for themselves because the speech portion of there brain was damaged where mine…not so much – just don’t ask me to jump,  that won’t ever work.

Anyway, I have come up with a little experiment that I am going to ask everyone to do.

Step 1.  Soft boil an egg and place in the fridge until chilled.

Step 2. Put the egg into a Ziploc bag.

Step 3.  Take the egg outside and stand about 12 feet from a wall (with no windows)

Step 4.   Throw the egg (in the bag) against the wall as hard as you can.

Step 5.   Now, put it all back together as it was when it came out of the fridge.

When you can do that, I will be fully healed.  Now do you get it.  That is what happens to the human body when it gets hit by a pick up truck going 120km/hr driven by a Drunk Driver.

Some things just can’t be fixed.  I, like so many other survivors, will never be “all better”.  I will never have a day without pain (and may I point out that I gave birth to 2 children 100% naturally without so much as a Tylenol and didn’t think that it was that bad – I would rate it a 5 on my new pain scale and I live between a 6 and 10 every day now).  I will never have a night without pain.  I will never do half of the things that I used to do.  I will never be able to get through a day without needing a rest/nap.  I will never jump – not 1 inch off the ground – ain’t gonna happen.  There are 190 more of us each day.  We are a rapidly growing club that no one ever wants to be a member of.  The price of admission is way too high.

Plan B….or….What do you call a dog with no legs?

Please don’t be mad at me for the title.  It will all make sense at the end.  I am not advocating animal cruelty in any way, shape or form.  So Ginger (our dog), please stop looking at me with those big brown hound dog eyes. (Can you tell I am writing this in the middle of the night?)

Hi everyone.  Firstly, I wanted to say thank you to everyone for being so supportive in sending shoes and reading the blog.  I am still trying to get the word out there about The Empty Shoes Project.  I am still collecting shoes from victims families and from survivors but in order to get the shoe count up, I am asking people to clean out their closets and send me any shoes.  I would like to have enough shoes to represent at least the number of people killed this year. (around 1500-2200 depending on the stats you use.)  If I get more then my next number would be to display enough shoes for how many have died since my Gracie. (6500 victims – 5 per day – most stats estimated between 4-6, so I averaged but I still think both estimates are too low).  For these shoes, anyone can collect them and get them to me.  As long as you want to support this cause.  You do not have to have lost someone, yet. (Although survivors will definitely be represented there, I don’t have room to store 235,440 shoes.  That is how many people will have been injured by Impaired Drivers by May 21, 2104 – although that would be a pretty cool statement to make.)

I also wanted to let you know what is going on.  I did not get up to Ottawa as planned.  In speaking with a few people, I decided that I hadn’t collected enough shoes yet to make as big an impact as I would like to.  I don’t want to give the politicians the impression that this is not an important issue to a lot of people in Canada.  So, I took a step back and figured out Plan B. (It seems like my whole life for the last 3 years has been Plan B so I guess I’m getting better at it.)

The second thing that I wanted you to know about is that I have joined up with Families For Justice and have agreed to be their Ontario representative.  They are currently, not only trying to get the information about Impaired Drivers, the inadequacies of the laws, the injustice of the courts out there, but they also have a petition attempting to get a Mandatory Minimum set for anyone that is convicted of Impaired Driving Causing Death.  Currently the average sentence is about 3 years.  In Canada that means that they are eligible for day parole in about 5 months and eligible for full parole in about 8 months.  Also, their sentences run concurrently.  What that means is that it doesn’t matter if they killed one person of 5 people in a car.  They will still only get a 3 year  sentence.  Since they are not considered “violent offenders” (just try to wrap your head around that one), pretty much all of them get their parole.  Most never spend a holiday in prison.

We are asking for a 5 year minimum sentence.  That still means that they would not spend even 2 years in jail but we need to start somewhere.  For those of you asking if that is not what MADD does, the answer is no.  MADD primarily focuses on “before the crime occurs” issues – Random Breath Tests, increased RIDE programs, trying to get the BAC lowered to .05.  I don’t want it to sound like that is not useful but they only have so many resources and time.

I had a conversation with a Professor of Law who also volunteers with MADD and when he started in the mid-80’s, MADD was trying to do what we are doing but he said because the ideas were all new it was a little like “wagging the dog”, so I am going to stick with the dog analogy for explaining the whole criminal system.  I suggested that they could continue to work on things at the “front end of the dog” (the things that help to educate, catch Impaired drivers before they hurt someone, and deterrents).  We will work on the back on the “back end of the dog”.  God knows that victims and families of victims have gotten very used to navigating around assholes (sorry, did I use my outside voice there).

The simple fact of the matter is that it really doesn’t matter if the dog’s front legs are broken or the dog’s back legs are broken.  Either way the dog is still crippled.  And right now, our Criminal Courts are like a dog without any legs to stand on.

“Courage is Grace under pressure” -Ernest Hemingway

To anyone that is reading this and knows me, the irony of me having an Ernest Hemingway quote is not lost on me.  I hate Hemingway.  Please don’t hold it against me.  I just was Hemingwayed to death by a Grade 11 English teacher that made us study Hemingway for an entire year – 2 months on just “The Old Man and the Sea (a 96 page book). I just couldn’t resist the quote because it is so true.

Anyway,  the last couple of days I have received a lot of notices from people talking about our family’s courage in making the decision to donate Gracie’s organs.  I think that I need to clarify that.  My daughter Gracie was brave, my daughter Hannah is so brave, my husband John is also very brave, I did not make the choice out of bravery.

I was shoved into a big dark pit by someone’s criminal act.  Other families were standing on the edge of that same dark pit.  Not donating Gracie’s organs would have pulled 8 other families into that same pit.  That would not have made the pit any less dark and scary…..just more crowded.

1096 days/ 26,304 Hours/1,578,240 Minutes

Every day was Halloween in my world.

Every day was Halloween in my world.








That is the amount of time that has passed since Gracie was killed – yes, I used the k-word.  It was not an accident.  Once alcohol is involved, it is no longer an accident…it is a crash…it is a choice…it is a crime…it is not an accident.  


These numbers represent lost hugs and kisses, missed bedtime stories, missed stories about her day…her first boyfriend…her first kiss…her Grade 8 graduation….her first day of high school, missed laughter, vacations, missed birthdays, missed Christmases, missed Halloweens.  These times represent each breath that I have taken since Grace died.  These times represent each time that I have curled up into a ball in bed or pulled off to the side of the road and cried until I had nothing left.  These times represent the “family events” that we fake our way through with our now incomplete family.  They represent sleepless nights.

Here are some other numbers for you. Since Grace was killed,  5480 more people have been killed by Impaired Drivers in Canada (as compared to approximately 1750 that have been victims of all other forms of Homicide combined).  197,280 have been injured by Impaired Drivers in Canada.  Somewhere between 75 BILLION dollars and 249BILLION dollars (depending on source) have been spent cleaning up after Impaired Drivers.

40% of Motor Vehicle Collisions in Canada involve alcohol (World Health Organization and Insurance Bureau of Canada).  Canada has the highest rate of Impaired Driving of all of the more developed countries (World Health Organization, MADD).  We are one of only a very few countries with a Blood Alcohol Level still at the .08mg (World Health Organization).

Of all of the cases where an Impaired Driver is involved in a crash and a death occurs, only 22% are actually charged with Impaired Driving Causing Death.  Only  50% of those are convicted of that crime (most plead down).  Only 11% receive a jail sentence (that works out to 12 jail sentences for every 500 cases of Impaired Driving Causing Death).  In our case, the driver pled guilty to Over .08mg.  He was given a $1250.00 fine and a 1 year licence suspension.  That is what an 11 year old child’s life is worth in our courts.

The average jail sentence for a person convicted of Impaired Driving Causing Death is 3 years.  In Canada, if there is more than one victim the sentences are served concurrently.  That means that it doesn’t matter if they hit a motorcycle with one victim or a van load of 5 kids, they will still only have a sentence of 3 years.  If they are sentenced to 3 years, they are eligible for day parole in 5 months and full parole in 8 months. ( So, as in the Grande Prairie case where 4 boys were killed and 1 severely injured the Impaired Driver was sentenced to 3 years on February 27, 2013.  He was granted parole in early October of 2013…just before Thanksgiving.)

Yesterday I asked all of you to recognize Gracie’s Life Legacy by registering for Organ Donation.  Today I am asking you recognize her Fighting Injustice legacy by logging onto the Families for Justice website and printing a copy of the petition.  Then please sign it and ask your friends and families as well and send them into the same address as The Empty Shoe Project on our About Us page.

The petition is asking for changes to be made to the law to close up some of the loopholes (loopholes big enough to drive a Ford F-150 through).  It is also asking for Mandatory Minimums.  We are not asking a lot.  We are simply asking for the penalty to be consistent and to send a slightly stronger message.

It is devastating enough to have your child die.  It is devastating enough to have your child killed.  It is too devastating to then be beaten down by the Criminal Court System when you were a victim of someone else’s crime.  The members of Families for Justice have already lived these numbers.  We have already lived this pain.  We are fighting so that you do not have to be dragged into this dark place with us.

80% of Canadians rank Impaired Driving as a problem that needs addressing.  I guess that if you are reading this, you are probably one of the 80%  so, please, take the 5 minutes that it will take to print off the petition (the link is on our Home page down the right side), sign it, pass it around the office to be signed, put it into an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it and mail it back to me.

Yesterday, I asked you to take 5 minutes to register as an Organ Donor and potentially save 8 lives.  Today, I am asking you to take that same 5 minutes and potentially save thousands.


This Should have been posted yesterday

I am sitting at my kitchen island at 2am trying to decide if I should post this or not.

3 years ago today I finally started to truly come out of my coma.  I had started to wake up and have conversations but October 29, 2010 is my first day of any memories after the crash.  It is a day that will forever be burned into my memory.  Gracie’s doctor came into the room.  I’m sure that I had met her before but I didn’t remember her.  She explained Gracie’s condition and told us that she would never recover at all.  The only thing keeping her breathing was the ventilator and before much longer, her organs would slowly start to fail.

Because we had lost our dear France-Anne the year before (FA was more than a neighbour.  She was my other daughter.  She was my girls’ big sister.  She was another bright light in our lives), Gracie was very aware of Organ Donation and she had said multiple times that as soon as she got her licence she was going to sign it to be an organ donor.

We knew that Gracie would want someone else to have a chance at the life she wasn’t going to get so we made the most difficult decision anyone should ever have to make.  We chose the date to have her removed from life-support – October 31, 2013- Halloween, her favourite holiday.  We didn’t know that at the time, we just said Sunday.  We had no idea what the date was.  (she would be making plans for her costume the next year starting November first).

On Sunday October 31, 2010 the nurses at McMaster Hospital back boarded me into Gracie’s bed so that I could hold her one last time.  Her family and friends had a chance to come in and say good-bye.  Then at around 10pm (not sure of the time, it wasn’t really what I was thinking about) they took us downstairs to a room and removed her breathing tube, her lungs stopped moving, her lips turned blue and her heart stopped beating.

Like I said, I really debated about posting this or about making it even less graphic than I already made it but the fact of the matter is that every day in this country, this scene is replayed by yet another family.  Maybe it’s time for people to realize how raw and painful it is.

It is a scene that I replay every day in my head – how she smelled, how she felt.  Wishing that I had had just a little more time with her – just another day to hold her, even if she didn’t know that I was there.  The rational part of my brain says, “would it really have made a difference to how great the loss feels.  After all, what’s one more day?”.  The mother in me says, “One day is a lifetime when it’s your baby girl.”

I am telling you this because this is Gracie’s legacy.  She changed at least 8 lives that day.  This is what I want people to know about Gracie.  Every day that she was alive she changed someone’s life.  That’s just who she was.  And she would expect me to end this blog by telling you all to register to be Organ Donors.  The two easiest things that you can do to save lives – don’t Drink And Drive and register to be an Organ Donor.  Do it for Gracie.  Make that her legacy.