Lifejackets save lives – MPP Goldie Ghamari honours family with introduction of Bill 93-Joshua’s Law

Goldie Ghamari, MPP for Carleton, wants to raise awareness of the importance for children under 12-years of age to wear a lifejacket when on a boat or being towed behind one. She recently introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Ontario Legislature, Bill 93 – Joshua’s Law (Lifejackets for Life). Bill 93 would make it mandatory for children aged 12 and under to wear a lifejacket when participating in recreational boating activities, but not on a boat if a child or children are in an enclosed cabin. MPP Ghamari was surprised to learn that lifejackets are not required for children aged 12 and under, albeit knew it was mandatory that every boat must carry a lifejacket for every passenger, but not mandatory to wear them.

Responsible boaters will tell you that it is just ‘common sense’ for everyone to wear a lifejacket when in a boat or tubing and water skiing behind one. All it takes is a sudden rogue wave, a stalled engine or worse, an accident, that will send your passengers into the water. Passengers not wearing a lifejacket or a personal flotation device is the number one cause of death when recreational boating as cited by Drive a Boat Canada and the lack of this safety item, the leading cause of death for children.

Former MPP Norm Miller, who retired in 2022, reached out to Ghamari to emphasize that an Act was needed and wanted his advocacy to continue. With Miller’s call and the fact that no legislation currently exists in Ontario regarding young children and the use of lifejackets, MPP Ghamari knew she had to re-introduce a Bill and ensured it was a priority for her. In 2021, Miller had introduced a similar Bill: Bill 76 – Life Jackets for Life. The Bill had reached second reading, but when the Ontario election was called in 2022, the Legislature rose, the Bill expired and Miller had retired.

MPP Ghamari agreed to continue the efforts and advocacy that Norm Miller felt strongly about. Her other impetus was learning that a resident of her riding, Cara McNulty, had lost her 11-year old son, Joshua Steinburg, in a 2018 boating accident. The boat in which he was riding capsized after hitting large waves on the St. Lawrence River. The other passengers survived.

MPP Ghamari told Stittsville Central, “I wanted to honour Cara McNulty and her family by renaming Miller’s Bill to Bill 93 – Joshua’s Law. I wanted to put Cara’s work into perspective and turn the accident into something positive for Ontario“. “Joshua had been wearing a lifejacket throughout the ride, but for some reason, he was not when the waves hit the boat.”

Cara McNulty has worked tirelessly to bring awareness to the fact that lifejackets are not mandatory for children aged 12 and under. After her son’s death in 2018, she began a website – Lifejackets for Life – in which she asks for stricter lifejacket laws and boating safety in Canada. Cara asks the public to support her in her efforts to have the law changed and to make Canada’s waterways safer for children.

Bill 93 has passed second reading in the Ontario Legislature and is now referred to the Standing Committee on the Interior for future public consultations.

Proposed under Bill 93 – Joshua’s Law, a parent or guardian would be liable and could receive a fine of $200.00 for those children 12 and under not wearing a lifejacket while on a boat. When asked if the fine was obligatory, MPP Ghamari responded, “it would be up to the discretion of the police, but this could be discussed at the public hearings. Bill 93 is not to penalize people, but to raise awareness of the importance of wearing a lifejacket. I want Ontarians and Canadians to take this important issue more seriously and save lives”.

Should Bill 93 receive Royal Assent, MPP Gharmari states, “I would like to see Ontario as the first jurisdiction to be the catalyst for enacting such a law and hopefully see something similar across Canada“.



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