TRURO – It was an easy meeting for members of 100 Women Who Care Truro last month, as they didn’t have to cast their vote.
Instead, Cindie Smith, of Caregivers Nova Scotia, asked those gathered to give the collective donation to MADD Cobequid, the only other presenter. Normally, the meetings see three non-profit organizations each make a five-minute pitch to the members before votes are cast. This month, one had to pull out from presenting.
Smith told those gathered that Caregivers Nova Scotia is fully funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.
“As such, we’re using this time this evening only to raise awareness of our service,” she said, giving thanks for the opportunity. “But for now, there is another organization that has greater need of your funds.”
Susan MacAskill presented on behalf of MADD Cobequid, which was established in the area in 2003 by citizens concerned with driving safety.
MacAskill is one of the volunteers who keep the local chapter running, and has her own reasons for having joined the non-profit organization.
“There’s not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of my
family’s loss,” MacAskill said. “My dad was driving home from a day at the
beach on the Northumberland Shore.”
She said it was a beautiful summer evening when a man from Truro Heights crossed the centre line near Maritime Auto Parts, hitting her father’s vehicle head-on.
“I had no idea when my dad left that morning it would be the last time I would ever see him, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye,” she said.
On average, four people lose their lives every day in Canada, while another 175 are injured due to drug or alcohol-related incidents. Despite efforts in education awareness, media public service announcements, and legislative changes, impaired driving still remains the number one criminal cause of death in Canada, says MacAskill.
“The communities of Truro, Onslow, Salmon River, Bible Hill, and surrounding area are no exception to the rest of the province,” she added. “These tragedies happen right here, just as they do in other parts of Nova Scotia. Families are left to pick up the pieces after the devastating loss of a loved one, or to cope in the aftermath of their injuries because someone chose to drink or do drugs and drive.
“Lives are changed forever because of someone’s irresponsible choice.”
Over the 16 years of existence, the local MADD chapter has been active in public awareness, promoting Project Red Ribbon and Call 911 to report impaired drivers. The chapter values their partnership with the RCMP in Bible Hill and Truro Police Service, which gives them the opportunity to hand out thousands of red ribbons annually at checkpoints.
“The red ribbon serves as a powerful statement to safe and sober driving and a solemn reminder to those who were innocently injured or killed,” she said.
The chapter’s volunteers participate in displays and school presentations, and team up with Nova Scotian chapters at the annual Strides for Change event. They’ve participated in community parades and mock crashes with police, and MADD Cobequid gives out hot chocolate during the annual Christmas tree lighting festivities in Truro. Thousands of students in high and middle schools in Colchester County have participated in MADD Cobequid’s school assembly program.
The chapter advocates for legislative changes to the Motor Vehicle Act and Criminal Code of Canada with volunteers meeting with elected officials to request improvements to graduated licensing, vehicle impoundment, and mandatory roadside screening for alcohol. They’ve also been asking officials for affective drug impaired driving measures since the legalization of cannabis last year.
“We’re a committed group of volunteers whose priority it is to sponsor families to attend the annual MADD Canada national conference for victims of impaired driving, as it provides them an opportunity for healing, for hope,” said MacAskill.
The chapter also partners with Millbrook First Nation on awareness campaigns and provides victim services to the community.
“Millbrook Chief Robert Gloade shared his family’s personal tragedy so a story banner could be produced to commemorate his brother who was killed by an impaired driver,” said MacAskill.
“Impaired driving is a complex problem and as MADD Canada volunteers, we realize that anyone could be easily affected. These needless and senseless tragedies are 100 per cent preventable. No one should be injured or killed.”
She said the money would allow the chapter to continue on with its mission to stop impaired driving and to support the victims.
“We do what we do to honour our loved ones, because we know we’re going to see them again someday.”