Children 12 and under don’t have to wear a life-jacket in Ontario, but a new law would change that

Children ages 12 and under aren’t required by law to wear a life-jacket when they’re in a boat in Ontario. But that could change thanks to a new bill.

Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari has introduced a private member’s bill, called Joshua’s Law, that would make it mandatory for children ages 12 and under to wear a life-jacket or personal flotation device while on a boat in Ontario waters.

Bill 93 takes its name from Joshua Steinberg, who was 11 when he died in a boating accident in 2018. He was not wearing his life jacket at the time.

Since then, his mother, Cara McNulty, has been a strong advocate for stricter laws around life-jackets for children.

Currently, boaters are required to have a life-jacket aboard for every person in the boat, but people aren’t required to wear them.

A woman with dark hair wearing a blue dress.
Goldie Ghamari is the Ottawa-area MPP for Carleton. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Ghamari said she was surprised to hear that.

“It’s not mandatory anywhere in Canada except for within the city of Calgary,” she said.

“They have a municipal bylaw which mandates life-jackets.”

Ghamari’s bill has reached its second reading, and she said it has unanimous support from all parties.

But it might not pass before the current legislative session ends.

“Worst case scenario I’ll continue working on this pushing it forward back when we start up in the fall,” she said.

It would save lives at the end of the day.– Brigitte Labby, safe boating instructor

Brigitte Labby, a safe boating instructor with the Life Saving Society, based in Sudbury, Ont. said she supports the bill.

“I always encourage my boating participants to wear their life jackets, fasten their life jackets and make sure it’s the right fit and condition for them,” she said.

Labby said in 80 per cent of drownings the person wasn’t wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device.

“It would save lives at the end of the day,” she said.

If life-jackets aren’t aboard a boat, the fines are $200 per person in Ontario. Joshua’s Law would have the same fines in place for every child not wearing one.

Labby said enforcement is more common on large, popular lakes with more people on them. But smaller and more remote lakes rarely have a police presence, she added.

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