A man who fled the scene of his own accident to a nearby bar was convicted of drunk driving in Steinbach provincial court on Thursday.
Michael Vaillancourt, 53, pled guilty on July 8 to operating a vehicle while under the influence in 2020. The court heard he left a barbecue at a friend’s home to pick up more beer upon running out.
The statement of facts read that just after 8 p.m. on July 11 Ste Anne police received a call of a single-vehicle accident on Dawson Road and a man was seen walking away from the scene towards the Thirsty Cactus in Ste Anne. After finding a red GMC Terrain SUV with all its airbags deployed and front-end damage at the side of the road officers made their way to where the alleged driver was seen to be headed.
Upon arriving to the bar officers found Vaillancourt to be alone in the establishment drinking a beer, with employees stating he arrived only moments ago. Despite not providing a successful breath sample, police concluded he was under the influence and was charged with impaired driving before being released to a sober party.
Crown Attorney Inderjit Singh in his statements before judge Cynthia Devine relayed aggravating factors of the case including a prior conviction for impaired driving from 2015 in Saskatchewan resulting in a $1,200 fine and a one-year driving prohibition.
Omri Plotnik, Mr. Vaillancourt’s attorney appearing in court by phone with his client, provided Gladue circumstances despite a formal report being waived by the court during previous proceedings. Factors included his status as an Indigenous man and adoption at a young age which separated him from his biological siblings who are residential school survivors. In 2019 Vaillancourt was diagnosed with cancer for which he received treatment for but said launched him into a depressive state.
Given his prior conviction a joint recommendation from Singh and Plotnik asked for a $3,000 fine and a one-year driving prohibition. Judge Devine took a softer stance in her ruling, factoring in Vaillancourt’s Gladue circumstances.
"We know from the Supreme Court of Canada in the Gladue pages the long-term consequences of colonialism in this country, particularly for Indigenous people," she said.
"In those circumstances…I'm thinking that the fine might be a little on the high side."
During his statement Vaillancourt said he accepts responsibility for what he did and he’s willing to accept the consequences. Devine imposed a $2,000 fine and a one-year driving prohibition on Vaillancourt, barring him from operating a motor vehicle anywhere in Canada.