New billboards in Norway House discourage drunk driving

A Norway House mother wants people will think twice before getting behind the wheel while impaired. Susan Menow hopes a billboard with her late son's face on it will prevent more deaths.

Susan Menow fundraised for MADD billboards after her son was killed by a drunk driver in Norway House

Leroy Menow helps construction crews guide a Mothers Against Drunk Driving sign into place on Norway House Cree Nation. The sign contains pictures of people who have been involved in fatal drunk-driving incidents, including Menow's son Mitchell. (Susan Menow)

A Norway House mother hopes a giant photo of her late son will discourage people from drinking and driving.

Susan Menow's son was killed by a drunk driver in 2015. On Tuesday, she put up two MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), billboards on the northern First Nation.

"We're trying to make people aware that it hurts losing loved ones to something that can be prevented," Menow told CBC News. "It has a ripple effect on everybody in the community."

Mitchell Menow died in 2015 after being hit by a drunk driver in Norway House. (Facebook)

Mitchell Menow, 24, was walking home at 11:30 p.m. on June 1, 2015 when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver.

His mother was the paramedic on call that night and got a page about a pedestrian hit by an SUV. She said her niece called just as she was leaving her house and that's how she found out it was her son.

"It opened up a lot of wounds for people in this community where they've lost loved ones in the same way," Menow said.

She and her husband met with those families for support after losing Mitchell. Menow said that is how the idea of the 10-foot by 12-foot billboards came to be.

"[My husband] had brought up about putting up signs or putting something up," she said. "We were able to accomplish the fundraising to purchase five billboards within a week."

The families of drunk driving victims in Norway House stand beside a new billboard awareness campaign. (Submitted by Susan Menow)

She said they raised more than $6,000 for the billboards and ribbon decals to put on vehicles. The billboards feature seven people from Norway House who were killed the same way as her son. 

"There's no sidewalks," Menow said. "Everyone knows people need to get places and they're walking on the road."

'It's still happening'

Menow said she is still responding to drunk driving calls as a paramedic, even though Norway House is a dry community.

"No one has died from drinking and driving, which is a relief, but it's still happening," she said.

RCMP said last year it charged 52 people in Norway House with impaired driving.

Sheryl Anderson, of Norway House, pleaded guilty in Menow's death and was sentenced to 4½ years in jail.

Susan Menow raised more than $6,000 to put up five MADD billboards in Norway House. (Facebook)

"She is the first person in our community to actually get sentenced and go to jail for something like this," Menow said. "All the other victims that are on this billboard, the people that were charged didn't go to jail for it."

RCMP Spokesperson Tara Seel said the Mounties have charged 226 people from the community over the past five years.

"More than half of the impaired drivers we charge are the result of the public phoning in a complaint," Seel said.

"To be honest, since my son's passing, there are a lot more reports," Menow said. "A lot of people in the community are reporting people who are drinking and driving."

She hopes the faces on the billboards will discourage the deadly behaviour even further.

"We want to remember them … I guess make it personal for everyone in the community to know that it just doesn't affect the the one family, but throughout the years it affected a lot of people in this community."

About the Author

Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been reporting for a decade. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor