Bagby bill becomes law

Daniel MacEachern
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Bill sparked by toddler’s death gets royal assent

Seven years after Zachary Turner was killed by his mother, Shirley, a bill to reform Canada's bail laws sparked by his death has received royal assent. The private member's bill, presented by Liberal Avalon MP Scott Andrews gained royal assent in Ottawa Wednesday.

It has been seven years since 13-month-old Zachary Turner was killed by his mother, Shirley Turner, when she walked into the waters off Conception Bay South, drowning them both.

At the time, Shirley was out on bail, accused in the murder of Andrew Bagby, Zachary’s father, and awaiting extradition to the U.S. to stand trial.

The deaths sparked criticism of the Canadian legal system for allowing Turner custody of the son she had with the man she was accused of killing.

David and Kate Bagby, Andrew’s parents, became advocates for Canadian bail reform after the death of their grandson.

On Wednesday, Gov.-Gen. David Johnston gave royal assent to Bill C-464 — championed by the Bagbys and put forward by Avalon Liberal MP Scott Andrews two years ago.

It’s a law Zachary’s grandparents hope will prevent what happened to their grandson from ever happening to anyone else, by giving courts the right to refuse bail to those charged with serious crimes in the name of protecting their children.

Andrews decided to put forth his private member’s bill when he saw a documentary — “Dear Zachary” — about what happened.

“It started from that moment in December in ‘08, and we moved it along, got it drafted, went through a number of drafts, found something that was acceptable, and lo and behold, got it to the House (of Commons). And with help of Senator Tommy Banks, we got it through the Senate,” he said, adding that the Bagbys are excited by the new law.

“It gives them some sense that someone has heard their cries so this will not happen again, to change the law to make sure something this tragic will never happen again,” he said, adding that it will still be several weeks before the effects will be seen.

“These processes now normally take three or four months for the (federal) Justice Department to send word to the provincial departments of Justice and down through the system, saying that the Criminal Code has changed,” he said. “At some point in the future we’ll see this law enacted and a judge at that time will deny bail because of this provision, and then we’ll know that we’ve accomplished something.”

Andrews is also proud of the fact this marks the first time a private member’s bill put forth by a Newfoundland MP received royal assent.

“It’s pretty amazing to be the first Newfoundland MP to get a private member’s bill through Parliament, and in particular through a minority Parliament, too,” he said. “That’s a point that is not lost when you have to find support from all parties and work with colleagues on both sides of the House and get your bill approved.”

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Justice Department

Geographic location: Conception Bay South, U.S.

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Recent comments

  • maryann
    December 17, 2010 - 02:27

    Grandmother 0f six...Its great to get laws passed,now get someone to follow them.Our social services ,dealing with children,is very flawed.You only find out how bad when you are involved.I just shake my head and say What did we learn from that childs death?Good luck to all those who are dealing with children in care

  • Jeannie Emerick
    December 16, 2010 - 22:10

    The only thing greater than "judge welch's" stupidity is her overwhelming arrogance. She and Shirley Turner will make a good pair together in hell.

  • Sandra
    December 16, 2010 - 21:35

    Well, John, you may think that Mr. Andrews must have had his head stuck in the sand, but you know what he pulled it the hell out didn't he. This man, who I admit I did not vote for, has impressed the hell out of me since he was elected. You may think he did this for political gain, I really don't give a rat's ass. I did not see anyone else working so hard to get this bill passed. Way to go, Mr. Andrews. RIP, little Zachary, maybe this bill will make those responsible for protecting innocents like yourself, from placing them in imminent danger. And, Mr. and Mrs. Bagby, my heart goes out to you, who have lost so much. But you fought to make sure, hopefully, it would not happen to some other innocent.

  • M
    December 16, 2010 - 16:11

    While I am happy to see a bill that should be common sense passed, I still think that the big picture is still unseen. Although bail reform was the first step, it's the CYFS Department that put Zachary in the hands of his mother. I have also watched watched "Dear Zachary" and although it is very informative of the circumstances surrounding the Turner case, it too fails to place a legitimate focus on CYFS and their involvement. It should be their responsibility to deny access to a parent who is facing serious charges just as much as a court should reserve the right to deny bail. I know the Turner Inquiry made a lot of changes to CYFS, but they still have a LONG way to go! If there were a case in the future where there was a loophole that prevented a bail denial, then there is the possibility that CYFS would let the accused have access to there the children. Kudos on the great start, but the buck doesn't stop with the justice system.

  • Katy
    December 16, 2010 - 13:32

    About time! Since Zachary's murder, Newfoundland has had two other high-profile murder cases involving an accused and a victim who were (at one time) partners, and their child who could be left in the accused's care. This law will allow the Crown to request - and a judge to decree - that the accused be refused bail where a minor child is involved.

  • Jeremiah
    December 16, 2010 - 11:49

    This was a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Bagby. If that monster had not been a doctor, this would never have happened. Somewhere there is a social (s) worker who dropped the ball and was intimidated because of this murderer's title. What a shame.

    • Christa
      December 16, 2010 - 20:56

      Jeremiah, I dont think it was a social worker who dropped the ball it was the justice this not what this article and Bill C-464 is about, to enure that no one with a minor child will be allowed bail when charged with a serious crime, what has that got to do with a social worker... they dont make the laws

    • Shelly
      September 21, 2015 - 03:35

      Crista, I do not believe hi thinks it is only the social worker to blame, but obviously the courts and cfs was involved in this case as the grandparents were trying for custody that a case worker could have seen everything as red flags and keep her away from the child without supervised visits. Any one could plainly see that if someone is accused of and likely to be extradited to another country to face charges of first degree murder that it would not be safe for them to have care of an infant.

  • John
    December 16, 2010 - 11:04

    While the intent of the bill is fine, I feel that it was wrong to pass it for political gain. If Mr. Andrews didn't know about this case until he saw a documentary on TV, he must have had his head stuck farther into the sand than I thought any body could - it was all the talk of radio call in shows, TV and print media at the time. If a Canadian visited the USA and tried to get a bill passes, they would rightly be told to butt out of their business. The Bagby's should have been told the same thing by Andrews about butting into our business. All I see is a politican trying to make brownie points with his constituents.

    • Rangerzs
      February 16, 2013 - 07:44

      You sir, are nothing short of a moron. If Canadian law actually protected victims there would be no need for outside influence. Come to think of it, it's people like you that protects these nut jobs from justice on principle. You should be ashamed for making such an insensitive comment.

  • chris
    December 16, 2010 - 10:17

    When the message gets to the provincial courts via carrier pegeon taking a couple of months according to the article they can get computers and be able to communicate this faster, so in the future more cases don't slip through the systems while the judges are standing with their windows open waiting for carrier pigeons to deliver new laws to the lower courts of the land.

  • mother of two
    December 16, 2010 - 08:56

    congradulations!!! I do agree that if up for murder, a thought of bail should never cross the mind. This is an incident that could have been prevented and a little boy would have been able to enjoy life but because of our system that life never had a chance. Hopefully with this new law many young lives will get the chance and not be taken away like Zachary Turner's was. God bless and again, I congradulate your hard state of mind and your strength to make this happen

  • Violet Holmes
    December 16, 2010 - 08:33

    Thank God, for the passing of this very important 'Bill.' Hopfully, any other child shall never be caught up in previous circumstances!!

  • OMG
    December 16, 2010 - 07:59

    About time.. there are too many people out there who slip through the system and things like this happen. I commend the Bagbys for all their hard work and dedication to making sure that what happened to their precious grandson does not happen to anyone else.

  • liz chipp
    December 16, 2010 - 07:59

    Good that the Bill is passed, but the reporting leaves something out. We still don't know what the Bill, or resulting law entails. All we know is "this law enacted and a judge at that time will deny bail because of this provision." It seems that the point of the story is that Scott Andrews got a Bill passed. Maybe I am looking for more in this story then I should be.