Bill C-464 moves closer to becoming law
Avalon MP Scott Andrews never had the privilege of meeting Zachery Turner. However he wants to make sure the 13-month old’s life and death is never forgotten. Last week Andrews received unanimous support from members of the House of Commons Standing Justice Committee for Bill C-464. The Private Members’ Bill, introduced by the MP on Oct. 23, 2009, seeks to change the Criminal Code of Canada by allowing the courts to refuse bail to an accused person in custody if there is a question about the welfare of their own minor children.
On August 18, 2003 Dr. Shirley Turner ( Zachary’s mother), who had been accused of murder, jumped off a wharf in Foxtrap in Conception Bay South with Zachery in her arms — both drowned. At the time Turner was awaiting extradition to the U. S for the murder of Zachary’s father, Andrew Bagby.
While the extradition process was making its way through the courts Shirley Turner was given custody of Zachary, whom she gave birth to after Bagby’s death. She fled to Conception Bay South to try and out run the law as well as Zachary’s grandparents Kate and David Bagby ( Andrew’s parents) who were seeking custody of the child. In 2002 the Bagbys moved to the province to be near their grandson and to continue their legal battle for custody.
Since Zachary’s death the Bagbys have been presenting their story and lobbying government to change Canada’s bail policies.
When Bill C-464 becomes law it will help prevent what happened to their family from happening to other families.
Andrews also wants to protect other children from suffering the same fate and is just a step away from achieving that goal.
“Bill C-464 is another tool that’s going to give courts the power to deny bail and protect children under the age of 18,” said Andrews in an telephone interview with The Compass last Wednesday. “It’s unusual for a private Members Bill to get through a minority parliament and receive unanimous support like this bill has, but that just proves how much it is needed.”
Andrews started working with the Bagbys to change the Criminal Code of Canada after he saw the documentary “Dear Zachary” (A letter to a son about his father) produced by Kurt Kuenne, a lifelong friend of Andrew Bagby.
The documentary had such a profound impact on Andrews, afterward he and Senator Tommy Banks of Alberta distributed DVDs of it to every member of the House of Commons.
The MP says he knew right away his first Private Members Bill would focus on bail reform.
“ The documentary and Zachary’s death really affected me,” he said. “It was something that may have been preventable and I wanted to try to do whatever I could to keep it from happening to another family.”
The Bill, which has been aptly dubbed as Zachary’s Bill, was read in the House of Commons for the second time in December 2009. After receiving the support of all parties it went straight to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights where once again it got the green light.
“All that’s left now is for it to come back to the House for a third reading and then it will go off to the Senate where the amendments will be made and it’ ll become law,” said Andrews.
However before the bill can go back to the House of Commons for a third and final reading it will be added to a list of other bills waiting to be presented.
When The Compass f irst spoke to Andrews last Wednesday bill C-464 was at the bottom of the list, however Andrews was hoping to have it moved up.
“If it stays where it is now, it might take a few months before it goes to the Senate and the final legislation is in place,” he said.
“ But I’m hoping one of the other MPs, whose bills are higher on that list, will switch places so my bill can be read earlier.”
In less than an hour later Andrews called back to report that Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer had agreed to the swap.
“ I can’t tell you how excited I am about this,” said Andrews. “ This means Bill C-464 will be back in the House this week.”
There are three key messages in bill C464.1.
1. The protection and safety of minors remaining in the custody of people charged with serious crimes be considered during bail hearings.
2.Judicial decision makers must be attentive for the necessity to protect minors that remain in custody of people charged with serious offences.
3. A decision to deny bail to an accused may be appropriate for the intended protection of the rights and safety of minors in the custody of the accused.
Meanwhile in 2006, Dr. Peter Markesteyn conducted a Review and Investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Zachery Turner in 2003 and concluded that Zachery Turner’s death was preventable; and that he was in his mother’s care when he should not have been.
Andrews would like to know if the recommendations made by Dr. Markesteyn in his report have been implemented.
“It’s time someone took that report off the shelf, dusted it off and seen what has been done to implement the recommendations,” said Andrews. “A thorough study of what has or has not been done is needed. It’s time to find out who has been carrying out the implementations, how many implementations have been carried out and if they haven’t been carried out, who is responsible?”
But before Andrews goes looking for those answers this week he will be rising in the House for the final time to read Zachary’s Bill. When he does he’ll be thinking about the father and son whom although he never got to meet, were the inspiration and the driving force behind bill C-464 and bail reform in Canada.
“ This is an accomplishment that reflects the strength and determination of the parents and grandparents of the late Andrew and Zachary,” said Andrews. “ It is in their memory that we move this bill forward and do everything in our power to prevent this from happening to another family.”
BAIL REFORM - Avalon MP Scott Andrews, centre, asks members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to protect children of people accused of serious crimes. Kate and David Bagby, grandparents of 13month old Zachary Turner who was drowned by his mother Dr. Shirley Turner on August 18, 2003, supported Andrews.