'Never drive impaired': MADD launches national campaign in honour of Alberta victim

Brenda Brown officially launched MADD's 34th red ribbon campaign with the ceremonial ribbon cutting in Red Deer, Alta. on Nov. 1, 2021. (Jay Rosove/CTV News Edmonton)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is honouring a Red Deer, Alta., family as part of its 34th annual national red ribbon campaign.

Brenda Brown's daughter Chloe Kaniusis was killed by a drunk driver in 2014 when the two were returning home from a Christmas shopping trip in Red Deer.

Brown was pinned inside the vehicle for three hours following the crash.

Kaniusis, who was a mother of two, was killed instantly.

She was 30 years old.

"I wasn't able to go back to work for 27 months after she died," Brown told CTV News Edmonton at the red ribbon campaign launch on Monday. "But I knew I wanted to bring a message of change to high school students."

Brown, a high school librarian, said she joined the MADD organization in 2017 as a way to bring a message of change around the issue of impaired driving.

"We just have to keep educating people," she said. "(MADD has) so much to offer those who have been affected, whether they're victims, survivors; support through victims services, numerous and limitless resources."

Officials with MADD said the campaign is meant to be a reminder to drive sober this holiday season and all year round.

"We just try always to share victims' stories like the one that Brenda shared today, to keep impaired driving at top of mind to remind motorists that it is still a real risk," national president of MADD Canada Jaymie-Lyne Hancock told CTV News Edmonton.

According to a MADD Canada statistical report, 86,964 impaired driving-related incidents were reported in Canada in 2019, an average of 238 per day.

Late last year, the Alberta government passed legislation to create stronger and more immediate penalties for drivers under the influence.

"The main message is really simple," Hancock said. "Never drive impaired, never get in the car with anyone who's impaired. Plan ahead for a sober ride home."

Over the next two months, MADD will be handing out thousands of red ribbons as a symbol of commitment to never drive impaired.

Brown said, while she considers herself an optimist, she doesn't believe the work MADD does will ever be finished.

"It is such a problem still," said Brown. "And Alberta is one of the worst provinces, so you know, we’ve got to do something more.”

The national campaign runs until Jan. 3.