A 24-year-old repeat drunk driving offender has been sentenced to six years in prison following a March collision that killed another young man on Highway 20 in Sainte-Hélène-de-Bagot in the Montérégie.
Mathieu Veillette appeared in the Saint-Hyacinthe courthouse Wednesday on six charges, including dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
On March 11, Veillette drove eastbound for 11 kilometres in the westbound lane of the highway at 100 km/h before slamming into an oncoming vehicle carrying five people.
One passenger, 18-year-old Mathis Filion, was ejected from the vehicle and died of his injuries in hospital. The car's driver and three other passengers were taken to hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
The victim's family and friends came to witness the conclusion of the case.
One of the surviving passengers was the first to speak in court on Wednesday, emphasizing the injustice of the case.
"We were five young people, all aware of the importance of not driving under the influence of alcohol. Despite this, alcohol still took Mathis's life," she said.
The woman's identity is protected, as she was a minor at the time of the collision.
Veillette drove for 11 kilometres in the opposite direction on the highway before slamming into an oncoming vehicle carrying five people. (Elyse Allard/Radio-Canada)
Veillette's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit, according to investigators. Police also said he was noticeably drunk when they arrived at the scene. His eyes were glassy and bloodshot, his breath smelled of alcohol and he had difficulty expressing himself.
An empty beer can was also found in the back of his vehicle.
Investigators say he repeatedly said the other vehicle had crashed into his own.
Veillette, who is from Williamstown, Ont., about 100 kilometres from Ottawa, pleaded guilty to another case of impaired driving in his province in 2016.
'He didn't stand a chance,' says victim's mother
In handing down his sentence, Judge Marc-André Gauthier emphasized the "great paradox of the situation," saying although the victim wasn't the one driving under the influence, he still suffered the worst of the consequences.
"It's infinitely sad for everyone," he said.
The judge sentenced Veillette to six years in prison and a 12-year driving ban — "an appropriate sentence in the court's view," Gauthier added.
Catherine Corriveau, the victim's mother, spoke to journalists following the sentencing.
"I want Mathis's story to serve as an example," she said, noting her son was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"He was on his way home from the gym with his friends when he came across a drunk driver going the wrong way on the highway. He didn't stand a chance," she said.
I want Mathis's story to serve as an example.
- Victim's mother, Catherine Corriveau
In court, she insisted on speaking directly to the accused and showing him photos of her son. "I said, 'Look. Look at what you've done. I want you to see.'"
Corriveau set up a cross made from her son's hockey sticks at the site of the collision as a reminder to other drivers.
"I want this to serve as an example," she said. "Drinking and driving is a crime."