Garrett’s Legacy Act expected to be passed this fall, ensuring all soccer nets properly anchored

Garrett Mills.

Adam Prudhomme

Nearly six years to the day of Garrett Mills’ tragic passing due to an unsecured soccer net, a bill aimed at preventing a similar occurrence took a big step towards becoming law. It was May 12, 2017 when the 15-year-old Mills did a chin-up on a soccer net in Napanee’s King Street Park, causing the net to topple forward and land on Mills, killing him instantly.

Hastings-Lennox and Addington MPP Ric Bresee has been working with Mills’ parents Dave and Gwen to get Bill 99, Garrett’s Legacy Act, passed to ensure all soccer nets across the province are properly secured. Earlier this month the bill, which has been in the works since 2017, received its second reading and is on track to get passed this fall.

“It’s had a couple attempts and we need to keep on pushing to make sure that it eventually gets through so that nobody else has to go through what Dave and Gwen went through,” said Bresee. A major component of the bill is designed to raise awareness of a potential hazard on the playground of which most people probably aren’t aware. “When I was a parent on the soccer field I certainly never thought of it,” Bresee said of a soccer net possibly tipping over. “I’ve seen kids climbing on these things for years so anything that we can do to promote awareness and that’s actually something that we included in the bill this time was specifically the ability for the minister to create signage and stickers and an education plan to make sure that people are aware of the dangers as well as well as the regulations with how to use them and mount them, stake them down, weight them, whatever is appropriate for that particular net or surface.”

In researching the issue, Bresee found there had been more than 40 such fatalities due to falling soccer nets. That doesn’t account for hundreds of serious injuries and the unknown amount of near misses. Shortly after the tragedy Dave Mills, also known as radio personality Buzz Collins, began working with local government to get a bill passed to prevent a similar tragedy. MPPs Todd Smith and Sophie Kiwala first took on the bill prior to the 2018 election. Unfortunately for the Mills family the bill wasn’t passed soon enough and fell to the wayside come election time. In 2019 it was once again brought to the provincial legislature, this time by MPP Stan Cho, only to lose momentum when the government was prorogued. Finally it was Bresee who took it on and now has it closer than ever to being passed. Bresee said the bill has received support from all sides of the house and all parties, which is a good indication it will pass within the next couple of months.

“It is done second reading and it is referred to committee, we anticipate that the committee will do its work over the summer to review the bill,” said Bresee. “This has been through a number of these vetting processes, we’ve had input from a wide variety of stakeholders already. I don’t perceive that this is going to be a long, involved process. The house doesn’t sit over the summer, but the committees do. We believe that this will be done over the summer and when the house resumes in the fall in September, October, we’ll see this return for a third reading which will be the final stage, assuming it passes, then royal ascent.” For Bresee the bill has a personal connection, not only because Garrett’s tragedy took place in his riding. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with Dave and Gwen Mills, Garrett’s parents,” said Bresee. “They are truly wonderful people. I lost my daughter in 2017 as well. That was a few months after Garrett passed. Dave actually reached out to me in my time of grief to provide some support, some advice, just an ear. He’s a very compassionate man and I greatly appreciated that as I was going through something similar. He and I are members of a club that nobody wants to be in-people that have had to bury their own children. It is not something that anyone should have to do. If this bill, with Garrett’s name attached to it, can prevent even one case of someone having to bury their child, it is most definitely worth it.”

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