TORONTO – A Toronto family received a standing ovation in the Ontario legislature Wednesday for their efforts to change the heart-wrenching process to get a death certificate for people whose remains have not been found.
Linda and Clayton Babcock have struggled for nearly two years to obtain a death certificate for their daughter, Laura Babcock, who vanished in 2012.
Five years later, two Toronto men – Dellen Millard and Mark Smich – were found guilty of fatally shooting the 23-year-old woman and burning her body in an animal incinerator. But under the existing legislation, the coroner could not declare her dead without a body.
The couple’s struggle to obtain a death certificate for their murdered daughter prompted the province to change the Vital Statistics Act so that no other family finds itself in similar circumstances in the future.
“I’d like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Babcock family for their advocacy, in particular on this very sensitive and important issue,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of government and consumer services, said in the legislature.
The new regulation, which took effect this week, has been named after Laura Babcock.
“Laura’s Law will ensure that in the future the death registration process is less burdensome for families who experience a similar unthinkable tragedy,” said Attorney General Doug Downey.
Laura Babcock’s parents welcomed the new regulation, which the government officially announced on Wednesday.
“I’ve been working on this for a while,” Linda Babcock said in an interview. “I’m very pleased.”
The family’s 18-month odyssey began shortly after the murder trial when they received Laura Babcock’s voter registration card for the provincial election in the mail. Frustrated by the lack of progress, they reached out to their local legislator, who then relayed their concerns to both the attorney general’s office and the minister of government and consumer services.
Linda Babcock also reached out to Premier Doug Ford, who personally got involved and helped solve the problem. Last summer, the couple went before a Toronto judge, who eventually declared Laura Babcock dead.
“Losing a loved one is devastating, and my heart goes out to the Babcock family in the face of such an awful tragedy,” Said Ford, who visited the family a few weeks ago to hand-deliver their daughter’s death certificate.
Under the new system, a court order declaring an individual has died can be used along with a statement of death, which can either be filled out by the family, their friends and relatives, or the Registrar General.
The government said it is now aligned with British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan for families in similar circumstances.