Advocates against drunk driving are upset that a Labrador woman was given house arrest, even though she was convicted in a case that left two people dead.
Angela Gregoire, a resident of the Innu town of Sheshatshiu, was given a conditional sentence this week, with Newfoundland Supreme Court Justice William Goodridge noting Gregoire's aboriginal status in his decision.
In addition to two years of house arrest, Goodridge sentenced Gregoire to perform community service, and ordered that she be unable to drive for 15 years. She will be allowed out of her home for work and for medical appointments.
Goodridge said that the law concerning aboriginal status obliged him to consider alternative sentencing for Gregoire, who was found guilty in May of two counts of impaired driving causing death, and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
In a decision released Tuesday in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Goodridge wrote that Gregoire's life has been dysfunctional from the start. He described her as a young alcoholic who grew up in a home filled with alcohol abuse, and who was physically and sexually abused as a child.
Noting that the families of Gregoire's victims had forgiven her and that community leaders had spoken on her behalf in pre-sentencing, Goodridge said that Gregoire, who has stopped drinking, would be best rehabilitated in the community.
'Sending the wrong message'
Josephine Gaulton-Rowe, who heads Mothers Against Drunk Driving in western Labrador, said the sentencing decision is too light. "The justice system is sending the wrong message to the aboriginal community as well as the general community," Gaulton-Rowe said.
Gaulton-Rowe said house arrest is never an appropriate sentence for a drunk driver who kills someone.
Gregoire was driving a car in February 2006 when it smashed into an oncoming pickup truck. Passengers were thrown into the road, and one person was run over by an oncoming vehicle.
Goodridge said he also considered the fact that Gregoire has an infant son when he came to his sentencing decision.
The ruling has sparked a debate in central Labrador. At the post office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Wednesday, some residents feel Gregoire was let off easy.
"I mean there's people getting heavier sentences for, for instance, poaching salmon or poaching big game," said Sean Crann, who said anyone who kills someone drinking and driving should go to jail.
"They get one sentence, white man will get another. Rules got to be changed," Steve Williams said. "It's got to be the same for everyone."