'4 years is not enough': Sask. family reacts after day parole granted for drunk driver who killed family
SASKATOON -- When Catherine McKay was handed a sentence of nine years for driving drunk and killing four people north of Saskatoon, Lou Van de Vorst says he didn’t think the sentence was enough.
After learning the 53-year-old had been granted day parole on March 26, just four years into her nine-year sentence, Van de Vorst said he doesn’t feel she served enough time as restitution for her crime.
“She made a horrific decision that night to consume alcohol and then driver her vehicle and that decision she made led to the death of four of our family members,” Van de Vorst said.
Jordan Van de Vorst, his wife Chanda and their two children Kamryn and Miguire died as a result of the crash.
“It’s just the system and the way it works, four years frankly is not enough in terms of restitution."
In July 2016, McKay pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death for her role in a fatal crash at Highway 11 and Wanuskewin Road.
Court heard how McKay had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit.
“Four lives were lost, two generations wiped out,” wrote the Parole Board of Canada in its decision to grant McKay day parole. “These losses had a devastating everlasting impact on the victims’ families, friends, colleagues and the greater community.”
The board's hearing in Maple Creek, Sask., heard McKay’s application for full parole, however the board only granted McKay six months of day parole, with several conditions including not to consume, possess or purchase alcohol, avoid drinking establishments, not to consume drugs, avoid the family of the victims, not operate a motor vehicle and to follow a treatment program for her substance abuse.
Lou and his wife Linda said they planned to attend the hearing in person, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic McKay had the option of delaying the parole hearing or moving ahead with a parole hearing by video.
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Van de Vorst said he was told McKay chose to appear by video and he and Linda were not able to attend because of public health restrictions.
This meant they did not have the chance to read their victim impact statements.
“We’ve done victim impact statement many times. They are very difficult to do they take a lot out of us,” Linda said, adding she was told McKay had the chance to read those impact statements ahead of the hearing.
Linda said she believes the statements still had an impact on the parole hearing.
“I feel that because she did not get full parole, the victim impact statements did have an impact on the parole board and to anyone who was listening at that point,” she said.
In its decision to grant McKay day parole, the parole board indicated that McKay pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death. McKay also admitted her criminal history and explained that alcohol has been a factor in her offences.
The board heard how McKay also carried a poor driving record including three previous collisions where she was found 50 per cent or more responsible.
However, the board also said McKay has shown measurable changes over the period of her incarceration, by addressing her substance abuse issues and her unresolved personal and emotional trauma.
The board heard how McKay reported a strict but good upbringing but was the victim of trauma for several years by a family acquaintance.
The board heard how McKay began using alcohol and drugs as a young teenager and McKay admitted she relied on alcohol to cope with physical pain, emotions and stress.
In her submission to the board, McKay said if she could go back and change one thing, she would not have been drinking at all.
Considering all the submission before them, the board concluded McKay was “at low risk to reoffend in a similar manner and at low risk to reoffend generally,” the board wrote in its decision.
For Lou and Linda, they said no amount of prison time will bring their family back. The loss of their son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren has left a big hole in their lives.
“I don’t think there could be any sentence that would be strong enough to provide satisfaction because our kids are gone, Lou said.
Linda said anytime the family gets together, it’s hard not to notice who is missing.
“It just leaves a big hole, it really leaves a big hole,” Linda said. Whatever we do, birthdays or celebrations, there’s always four missing on every special occasion and that hurts. They brought so much to every event, the giggles and laughs. You can’t replace that.”
Linda said she’ll never forget a promise McKay made in July 2016 following her sentence.
“She said she will do anything she can in her power to promote no drinking and driving and wherever she is I hope she remembers that. I’ll be watching until the day I die that she follows through with that so no one else has to suffer for a lifetime like we are,” she said.