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.”