July 21, 2020
London city councillors will vote Tuesday on a motion, passed unanimously at the committee level, to move forward with plans to create a memorial for victims of impaired driving.
The family of Cody Andrews, in partnership with MADD Canada, issued a request to the City of London for permission to erect a memorial at Dundas Street and Highbury Avenue — the scene of the September 2016 crash that killed Andrews, 23, as well as Jerry Pitre, 46, and seriously injured two others.
The committee decided to move forward with a motion to have city staff work on a memorandum of understanding with MADD Canada that council would later vote on. But the motion also included a clause requesting that city staff work with MADD Canada to find a single permanent location in London for the purpose of memorials.
Speaking on The Morning Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL after the civic works commitee meeting, Shauna and David Andrews said the goal is to honour their son and Jerry Pitre and to educate the public.
“Maybe, just maybe, it’ll stop someone from getting behind the wheel impaired, whether by drugs or alcohol. We think it’s a really important message. I don’t want any other family to live through what we have lived through,” said Shauna Andrews.
Whether a memorial is put up at the crash site or elsewhere, she said that they’re honoured.
“But I believe if it’s maybe not in the public eye, are people going to see that? And I think there’s an important message being missed if it’s not maybe in the public eye. I don’t know if the crash site is the proper place for it to be. I don’t know. It kind of leaves our hands, I think, at this point.”
“We’re just trying to do something positive in Cody’s honour,” said David Andrews.
“And if that sign goes up there maybe someone will change their mind about drinking and driving and city council, and us as a family, and MADD together combined — we might save a life. So that’s what we’re looking for.”
At last week’s committee meeting, Mayor Ed Holder shared his concerns about the potential for numerous single memorial sites, stressing that he empathizes fully with the families of those who’ve died in crashes as he lost his own 14-year-old son in a crash in 1996, though he noted his son was “not a victim of drinking and driving, just bad judgment of a young driver.”
“When my son was killed at the corner of Fanshawe and Richmond, for 10 years I laid a wreath on his death day, which was December 20, right through to just Boxing Day, after Christmas… I understand why people want to do that. But I will also say to our friends who’ve lost a child: that’s what a cemetery, that is what a place of worship and respect is for,” he said.
“I do not want to see a cross or memorial at every place, at every corner, at every intersection, at every other spot. I don’t want to be a place where we are tombstones of a community where we have lost great loved ones.”
Steve Sullivan with MADD Canada Victim Services was surprised by the idea that these memorials could be considered a distraction, telling Global News that he doesn’t believe the group has ever had any such complaints. Currently, MADD Canada has an agreement with the province over memorial signs along highways.
“I think it might be a bit of a misunderstanding that people have about what the sign actually looks like,” Sullivan said, referencing the signs that MADD Canada has along highways as part of an agreement with the provincial government.
“I heard some of the concern about ‘there’d be signs on every corner.’ That’s just not realistic, I don’t think. I’d just try to Google in London the number of people who’ve been convicted of impaired driving causing death — because our agreements are very limited — and there weren’t very many, you know, in the last couple of years.”
However, Sullivan said MADD Canada is very happy that the city reviewed the request from the Andrews family and is looking forward to working on the project.
“The permanent location, the one single site — that’s new to us. That was, I think, just brought up as the committee. So we really don’t have much of an understanding about where that would be, what they envision, that kind of thing. But again, I’m happy to have that discussion. I know our local chapter is happy to engage with the city on that.”
If the project moves forward, MADD Canada would also cover all costs associated with sign creation, installation, and maintenance.