A mother in Ottawa, whose son drowned in a boating accident east of Kingston a year and a half ago, has turned anguish into action.
Cara McNulty says the law to protect all children on the water and the mandatory use of life jackets has to be changed at the federal level.
“It can happen. It happens in a second,” said McNulty.
“You never think it’s going to happen. But it can and does … it happens all over Canada.”
McNulty is the mother of 11-year-old Joshua Steinburg, who drowned in a boating accident on Sept. 1, 2018.
The 26-foot speed boat he was riding in hit a wave, capsizing on the St. Lawrence River near Rockport, Ont.
Joshua had removed his life jacket minutes before the accident.
“Sadly Josh’s story isn’t an isolated incident,” said McNulty. “His accident is only one of hundreds of boating related drownings that occur each year.
“Thousands over the last two decades.”
Last winter, McNulty, through her grieving process, launched the Life Jackets for Life initiative, aiming to amend the current law when it comes to wearing a life vest for children under the age of 14.
Currently, life jackets only have to be accessible on the vessel.
“The Bill is asking that parts two, three and four of the small vessel regulation be amended,” said McNulty.
On Wednesday, Pierre Poilievre, MP for Carlton, read a petition in the House of Commons to make it mandatory for children under the age of 14 to wear a life jacket or PFD (personal flotating device) while passengers in or drivers of small vessels.
“I support Cara’s efforts and I am honoured to table this petition on her behalf,” he said.
According to McNulty, the United States and several other countries around the world have mandatory laws to protect children on watercrafts.
“Accidents are the leading cause of death in children. Motor vehicles is number one … drowning is number two for accidental deaths,” McNulty said.
“And we have responded seriously with motor vehicles in terms of car seats and seat belts and regulations around that. And water safety seems to be a gap there.”
“I think we can learn from these tragedies,” said McNulty. “We can learn from these families.
“And if we make these necessary changes, this will spare families in the future for having the outcome we did.”
The OPP will launch Safe Boating Awareness Week this May long weekend. In the last 10 years, police say, 80 per cent of the people who died in OPP-investigated boating incidents were not wearing a life jacket.