This matter is now with the Hon. Kelly Block, P.C. M.P. Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek and has not progressed
The Honourable Pierre Poilievre P.C. M.P.
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
March 13, 2019
Dear Mr. Poilievre,
My name is Cara McNulty, a resident of Stittsville, Ontario and I am writing seeking your support in my effort to change the law in Canada to require that all children under 18 years of age wear a life jacket when on board a small vessel. This issue is a very personal one for me. My son Joshua Wade Steinburg, aged 11 drowned as the result of a boating accident that took place on the St. Lawrence River at Rockport, Ontario on September 1st, 2018. My older son was injured in that same accident. My children were with my ex-husband who owns a cottage on an island in the area. They were returning from a swim and an errand to get gas and ice cream. They were traveling approximately 2 kilometers back to their cottage and weren’t wearing life jackets. They hit large waves and the boat capsized. Nobody saw Josh and he never resurfaced. He was very likely unconscious when he hit the water.
It took 49 days to find and retrieve Josh at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River. Thankfully, private divers, cadaver dogs and a search team from Minnesota with sophisticated sonar equipment assisted with these efforts after police search and dive teams were no longer available. This accident was covered by major news outlets and the subsequent search was widely followed and shared on social media. Josh’s funeral was held on October 30th, 2018 and was attended by over 800 people. His visitations were attended by over 1200.
It’s unfortunate that it takes a grieving a parent to push for change. I think it’s because we, who have suffered incomprehensible losses know what’s it’s like to wear the heartbreak every day. From soul to soul we understand one another and the loss we’ve suffered. We try to not only spare other parents from that fate but to bring lasting meaning to the lives of our lost and precious children. My son Josh was 11 years old. He went to St. Philip School in Richmond, Ontario. He was supposed to start sixth grade on the Tuesday morning after his accident. His back to school items still sit untouched in his room today. He was loved by all who knew him. He was kind, funny, outgoing and compassionate and he is so missed every single day by his family and friends. What we wouldn’t give to turn back the clock. The world was surely a better place with him in it.
I have struggled with why Josh wasn’t wearing a life jacket that day, even if they were going on a short trip. I can say that over the course of those 49 days searching the river, the shoreline, rocks and docks or waiting for news, I watched as boat after boat and parent after parent made that very same decision. Anecdotally, many of my friends and acquaintances have admitted that both they and their children do not wear life jackets on a consistent basis when boating, fishing or engaging other water related activities. This is an issue of boating culture which requires legal intervention to change behaviours and keep our children safe on Canadian waterways. This is no different from past initiatives requiring young children to travel in car seats, wear bicycle helmets and seat belts. Governments have long concluded that there are certain fundamental safety decisions that we must take out of the hands of parents alone to protect society’s most vulnerable, its children.
If you support this change, it will undoubtedly save lives. That in and of itself may be enough of a reason for celebration however, in 5 or 10 years when wearing a life jacket becomes second nature and happens automatically as a part of recreational boating, that is when we’ve truly won. Boaters won’t thank you or the police when their boats are searched and when fines are handed out but you will know. You will know what you’re saving those families from that only we, grieving parents truly understand. It’s not just about saving lives, money, or resources. Whether they know it or not and whether they thank you or not, you are saving parents and families from what could be the most devastating loss they will ever experience. If that is not a true service and gift to the public, then I am at a loss as to what is.
I would greatly appreciate your public support in this initiative as I circulate a petition and advance the issue using social media and other platforms. I will also be seeking the support of various public and private organizations.