VANCOUVER — A drunk driver wept in a British Columbia courtroom as he turned to face the families of the three men he killed, telling them he takes full responsibility for the loss of their loved ones.
Holding an eagle feather in one hand, Samuel Alec told the families of Kelly Blunden, Ross Chafe and Paul Pierre that he will never be able to make up for the pain and suffering he has caused after driving into a pair of cyclists on a winding mountain road northeast of Whistler, B.C.
"I know I am to blame and I take full responsibility for my actions. I am sorry for what I have done," Alec said Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court, his voice breaking and his breathing laboured.
"I ask myself what had become of my judgment, my common sense, my willpower. Why could I not see that drink meant ruin to me?
"This is by far the biggest mistake I have ever made," he said, starting to sob. "I apologize. I am sorry."
Alec, 45, pleaded guilty last month to three counts of impaired driving causing death after he mowed down Blunden and Chafe, who were out for a weekend ride in May 2015. Alec's good friend Pierre was a passenger in the vehicle and also died in the collision.
In an agreed statement of facts, the court heard Alec was heading home to Lillooet along Highway 99, a popular route for cyclists, after a "lengthy binge of drinking" following a friend's funeral in Pemberton.
Alec prompted gasps from the public gallery, made up mostly of friends and family members, when he told the judge he believes he has paid for his crimes. He listed off the many people in his life who died, including his father, brother, adopted mother and half a dozen cousins.
Crown counsel is asking for a 12-year sentence minus two years for time served, which Alec's lawyer, Paul McMurray, said would be the longest term ever given to someone guilty of impaired driving causing death in Canada.
McMurray countered with a proposed sentence of two years less a day plus three years of probation, a term that he said would keep his client in the provincial jail system and with the same rehabilitation programs where he is currently enrolled.
Alec's mother, Georgina Alec, spoke in court earlier Thursday about how the sexual and physical abuse she suffered in Canada's residential school system made her a poor parent, which had a profoundly negative impact on her son.
The only parenting role models she had were the priests, nuns and brothers who were supposed to care for her during the 12 years she spent at St. Mary's Indian Residential School in Mission, B.C., she said.
"I didn't know how to show love," she said. "I'm supposed to love my children unconditionally. At that time I didn't know how. It took me years … to learn how to be a good parent."
Alec's mother, who later suffered from alcohol addiction, told the court how she and her fellow residential school students were called "stupid Indians" so frequently that she started to believe the only thing she is worthy of "is getting beat up and strapped and punched and knocked on the head and abused."
"We're always told by the non-natives at home, 'Get over it. Get over it.' I'd like to see them get over something so drastic as what the residential schools put me through," she said.
Alec's mother finished her testimony by apologizing to the victims' families, saying she hopes to one day have a conversation with them.
Crown counsel is expected to deliver a brief reply Friday morning, after which the judge said he would reserve his decision on sentencing until April 28.
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Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press