Brampton resident leading fight for increased driving penalties
On June 25, the pain of one family’s loss was on full display. In a eulogy, Connie Ciasullo, spoke through a stream of tears, talking about loved ones lost to dangerous driving.
“To say there are no words is not an entire truth. There are words. Words that describe the happiness they brought to our lives and places they held and will forever hold in our hearts,” Ciasullo, said. Her sister in-law, Caledon resident Karolina Ciasullo and her three daughters, Klara, Liliana, and Mila, were killed in a violent crash in Brampton on June 18.
The accident sent shockwaves through social media and prompted messages of condolences from politicians and other officials all across the province. International media coverage illustrated just how devastating the news was to people around the world shocked by the loss caused by an utter disregard for human life.
Brady Robertson, a 20-year-old from Caledon is facing dangerous driving charges for slamming his car into the young family’s vehicle. Allegedly speeding, Robertson hurtled into the SUV near the intersection of Torbram Road and Countryside Drive. He also faces a dangerous driving charge in an incident that occurred two days before the fatal crash, when he drove onto a sidewalk and then tore away as stunned bystanders tried to stop him, all of it captured on a video that has been widely circulated.
The loss of the Ciasullo family is not the first time such an incident has occurred in the GTA. In Brampton and Mississauga particularly, street racing and dangerous driving are common. It’s often a topic of discussion at city council meetings with many voicing their concern around the all too familiar trend.
Just two weeks after the tragic deaths of the Ciasullo family, CCTV footage captured a speeding vehicle catapult through the air after clipping a curb on Williams Parkway Drive in Brampton.
Wide streets, high speed limits and not enough activities for youth, have created a mix of dynamics that leads many young drivers to treat thoroughfares in the two cities as their own personal race track.
For one Brampton resident, constant talk of having rules changed has become frustrating. As someone who witnesses street racing and close-call-accidents often, she’s fed up with the lack of response. To make a difference, she’s taking matters into her own hands.
Jillian McLeod started a petition directed toward the Federal Minister of Public Safety, Bill Blair to strengthen laws and penalties for a number of different driving convictions.
Her call has reached upwards of 63,000 Canadians across the country who have signed her petition and has even attracted the attention of politicians at the provincial and federal level. “It's truly inspiring. I'm really in awe. I never actually expected this many people to reach out to me,” McLeod told The Pointer.
What fuels her is the lack of action, despite the continued loss of innocent lives.
“I think the problem that [families] feel is that they haven't been heard by anyone in the government both provincially and federally,” she said. “Even since [the Neville-Lake family] in 2015, in the past five years, nothing has been done to fix anything.”
Brampton resident Jillian McLeod
In 2015, Jennifer Neville-Lake, and her husband Edward, lost their three young children and Neville-Lake’s father to a collision caused by impaired driving that also seriously injured the kids’ grandmother and great-grandmother. Marco Muzzo pleaded guilty to charges of driving under the influence of alcohol causing death and driving under the influence causing bodily harm in February 2016. He was given a 10-year sentence, and was granted day parole in April.
The despair of losing a loved one in a blink of an eye is something McLeod knows well – 27 years ago, she lost a friend who was 18 at the time to a drunk driver. Hit head on, the vehicle of McLeod’s friend was sent into an embankment, killing the driver instantly. “I had to go to the funeral and watch teenage kids crying, including myself.” This past January she lost a second friend because of an impaired driver in Edmonton.
She now wants stricter sentences handed down for those drivers who are not getting the message, and she fears that others who think the Canadian judicial system is lenient when it comes to dangerous driving will continue the cavalier attitude toward recklessness on the streets.
It has created a dangerous mindset, one that too often has resulted in horrific tragedies.
Peel Regional Police continue to share the most egregious speeding violations on its social media accounts.
She has been in communication with officials at both the federal and provincial level. Liberal MP Maninder Sidhu (Brampton East) has expressed his support for the petition, McLeod said. At the provincial level, she has been told by the office of MPP Prabmeet Sarkaria (Brampton South) that her petition has been received and talks with transportation Minister, Caroline Mulroney, would be taking place. “Ministers Mulroney and Sarkaria have discussed this issue [of aggressive driving] and our government’s role in keeping our roads safe,” the Ministry of Transportation told The Pointer. A round table on the recent spike in stunt driving charges was also held but no details were provided on the context of the conversation.
NDP MPP Sara Singh (Brampton Centre) has also backed the petition, McLeod said, with talks of presenting it in the provincial legislature in the near future. But there is no date attached to this promise. Suzanne Nurse, a constituency assistant for Singh’s office, said she could not speak about the petition as the local MPP had not yet signed it.
While no legislative action has been taken, the attention from politicians is a positive sign for McLeod. But not every person she has reached out to has acknowledged her petition, which is frustrating because when horrific accidents occur politicians are often quick to express their shock and condolences on social media. “They're all saying it's important. They’re all saying changes need to be made, but nobody's actually taking the action to do so to get something done,” she said.
McLeod is fearful her push could become another effort where “federal and provincial governments pass the buck to each other” with neither taking concrete actions to produce lasting change. She has seen it before.
When a health care emergency was declared earlier this year in Brampton, the city advocated to both higher levels of government only to hear them point the finger at each other, with federal officials saying it’s a provincial responsibility and Ontario officials saying they need more financial support from Ottawa.
In an effort to deal with dangerous driving at the municipal level, the City of Brampton is moving ahead with the implementation of its Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) program, which will lead to the automatic tagging and ticketing of speeding vehicles at locations across the city where cameras will be located. However, due to over-capacity in the local provincial offence court, it will take years before all 200 cameras are utilized, with five planned to be operational by the end of September.
Photo radar cameras will soon be launched in a limited capacity on streets in Brampton.
While the move does not address McLeod’s petition directly, slowing people down and preventing accidents is part of what she would like to see. Harsher penalties could be what’s needed next to confront this deadly trend.
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