A face-to-face meeting between a victim of impaired driving and the man who killed her family members has resulted in the two pledging to work together to push for tougher penalties for drunk drivers.
Sandra Green, whose daughter and son-in-law, Krista and Brad Howe, were killed by impaired driver Chad Olsen, arranged to meet Olsen recently at the same Red Deer intersection where the parents of five young children lost their lives.
Since Green and Olsen spoke in person about the fatal collision, the two have been working towards a shared aim — Green said both are committed to lobbying government for lengthier prison sentences for convicted impaired drivers.
Olsen had indicated when he was granted parole that he was committed to sobriety, and changing his life, she added. And he recommitted, during their meeting, his intention to write to politicians, urging them to adopt tougher anti-drunk driving laws.
Olsen also pledged to keep speaking to members of the public, including school groups, about the magnitude of the tragedy he caused, said Green.
“It’s not like we’re working together, arm in arm . . . but we are on the same page,” added the mother, who has since been in email contact with Olsen.
She initially requested a meeting with him last spring through Restorative Opportunities, a Correctional Service of Canada program that offers people who have been harmed by a crime, either directly or indirectly, a chance to communicate with the offender who caused the harm.
As participation is voluntary, Olsen also had to agree to the meeting, and he was willing.
The two first got together at the Red Deer Lodge in March, and then again in June at the 30th Avenue intersection where the February 2010 collision occurred.
While Green is not sure if ‘closure’ can ever happen when a personal loss is so profound, she does feel she gained something by seeing that Olsen was truly remorseful about his actions. “You never get over something of this magnitude, but the end of (Krista and Brad’s) lives is not the end of mine, and is not the end of their children’s lives . . . you have to achieve some kind of resolution.
“It’s helped me that I feel (Olsen) is sincere, he is sorry and he has regrets. It’s better than if he had just thumbed his nose at me and didn’t come.”
While Olsen spoke to the Advocate at length about his remorse in an earlier interview, he did not want to comment further when contacted this week.
Green said Olsen had asked her about which politicians he should send letters to about toughening penalties against drunk driving. He also spoke publicly in Northern Alberta about his actions and how his life was also changed that night.
“Everyday I think about it, but I think about what I can do to make it better. I don’t want to see anybody go through what (the Howe’s relatives) have done though or what I’ve put myself through,” Olsen stated to another media outlet after the meeting with Green.
He added that returning to that intersection was about facing his demons and accepting responsibility, “not hide away and shy away from it. It would be easier to not know my victims, know nothing about them and just try to move on but . . . I don’t know, it’s just not me I guess.”
Green said Olsen also plans to speak at a school in his home hamlet of Sedalia.
She noted that she will be forever joined to him by a terrible event that neither of them chose to happen, but resulted because of Olsen’s decision to drive that night. “I don’t suppose (impaired drivers) are trolls or ogres, or terrible people who have no conscience. But they make choices that in some cases lead to something horrible happening that claims lives.”
She hopes that Olsen’s discussions about how the crash impacted his life, beyond his seven-month prison sentence, will help get more Albertans to support getting tougher penalties. “It should carry some impact.”
Both she and Olsen were among 35,000 people who signed a petition launched by the Families for Justice group in B.C., who are lobbying for a five-year minimum prison sentence for impaired drivers who cause death.
Green doesn’t believe that’s even long enough, “but it’s a start.”