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Ottawa mother calls for lifejacket changes at federal level after son’s Rockport drowning

Click to play video: 'Mother calling for life jacket change at the federal level: son drowned in Rockport' Mother calling for life jacket change at the federal level: son drowned in Rockport
WATCH: Cara McNulty, the mother of 11-year-old Joshua Steinburg, has launched an initiative called Life Jackets for Life. She is calling on Ottawa to make it mandatory for children under the age of 14, to wear a life jacket while in or driving some watercraft. – May 15, 2020

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.”

Cara McNulty. Global News

McNulty is the mother of 11-year-old Joshua Steinburg, who drowned in a boating accident on Sept. 1, 2018.

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11 year old Joshua Steinburg drowned in a boating accident in the summer of 2018. Cara McNulty/Global News

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.

The 26-foot boat that capsized on the St. Lawrence River on Sept. 1 2018. Global News

“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.

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“Thousands over the last two decades.”

READ MORE: Should kids wear life jackets or personal flotation devices? What one viral video is teaching parents

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.

Click to play video: 'Busy weekend on the water in the Kawartha’s' Busy weekend on the water in the Kawartha’s
Busy weekend on the water in the Kawartha’s – Jul 7, 2019

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.

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“I support Cara’s efforts and I am honoured to table this petition on her behalf,” he said.

READ MORE: Barrie police marine unit offer water safety tips following two water related deaths

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.”

That gap is backed up by a recent report from the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition.

Canadian Drowning Prevention Plan 6th Edition. Canadian Drowning Collision/Global News

“I think we can learn from these tragedies,” said McNulty. “We can learn from these families.

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“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.

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