Garrett’s Legacy Act-ensuring moveable soccer nets be anchored-officially becomes law

Garrett's legacy Act, drafted in memory of Napanee's Garrett Mills, officially became a law on May 30.

Adam Prudhomme

At long last, Garrett’s Legacy Act is now an Ontario provincial law.

Bill 99 passed its third reading with unanimous support on May 30, ensuring strict regulations for moveable soccer goals such as requiring them to be securely anchored on a level surface. The bill was brought forward by Hastings-Lennox and Addington MPP Ric Bresee.

Seeing the bill officially pass was a bittersweet moment for Dave and Gwen Mills, parents of the late Garrett Mills. It was in May of 2017 when 15-year-old Garrett attempted a chin up on an unsecured soccer net in Napanee’s King Street Park. The net toppled over, causing fatal injury.

Not wanting another family to have to endure a horrific incident of this nature, the Mills began lobbying the province to ensure safer measures regarding soccer nets. Twice the bill made it to a second reading only to fall by the wayside due to a provincial election and then prorogation.

“Certainly frustrating setbacks,” said Dave, who is also known as radio personality Buzz Collins. “After the second time that happened I was wondering whether or not it was really worth the effort to try again and see if we could get another MPP to sponsor it the third time around. Fortunately Ric Bresee was more than willing to step up and I really got to credit Ric for seeing this through for us. His staff did more research and essentially had to re-write the bill to make it more feasible and compatible to get to the point where it could pass into law. A lot of people putting in a lot of effort. I can’t thank them enough.”

Bresee spoke with the Beaver from Queen’s Park just ahead of the bill’s passing.

“This time as we came into this session of parliament I thought it was a key important one both for our local riding as well as key safety issue of course for the entire province,” said Bresee. “I was happy to take it on and champion it through.”

A key piece of the legislation is education surrounding the potential tipping hazards of a soccer net. Warnings that could have prevented that tragic day in May 2017.

“These events, injuries cause by soccer nets that have happened, at this point I can’t call them accidents anymore,” said Bresee. “They are entirely preventable. Tragedies happen, if its unpreventable, it is simply that, it’s unpreventable. Because we know of the issue, we can no longer say it’s unpreventable and therefor it’s not an accident. With this legislation and the education that will come around and that the insurance that all of the operators are handling the nets properly, whether its weighting them down or attaching them or just locking them up appropriately when not in use, we will make sure that all mobile soccer nets are treated so that they’re safe for the kids to be around.”

Bresee credited the Mills for continually speaking out about this tragedy so that they could get this bill passed.

“The families of the parents, Dave and Gwen specifically, but other parents that have had the courage and I don’t know how they manage it, to be able to talk about these things in public to make sure that these things don’t happen again,” said Bresee. “I’ve lived through the loss of a child as well. The bravery that they’ve shown and I’m incredibly grateful to them.”

Dave and his wife were on hand in Toronto to witness the bill pass its third reading and officially become law.

“It was a bitter sweet day,” said Dave. “I wish this had never been our cross to carry. But certainly glad to see it cross the finish line yesterday.”

“Very shortly after the accident I thought there has to be a way of something positive coming out of this,” added Mills. “This can’t have been for nothing or it is a complete waste. To see that something positive did come out of it, doesn’t bring our son back, but I think it tangibly affects change and has the potential to save lives. My co-host and I were talking this morning how the thing is, the lives saved by this legislation we’ll never know. The fact that it has that potential to do exactly that, save lives, and make something that you would think is safe for your kids, a park, it was worth the effort.”

Knowing the bill is now a law will allow the Mills to remember the good times with Garrett.

“I love talking about my son. He’s one of my favourite topics of discussion,” said Dave. “I can’t stand talking about the events behind his passing. The fact that I’m not going to have to do that anymore is a good thing.”

Those aware of Garrett’s story know the significance behind the title of the bill. Just days before the tragedy, Dave and Garrett were talking about the meaning of a legacy.

“He said when I go, I want to leave a legacy,” Dave recalled. “Low and behold four days later he was gone. I almost panicked with this thought of how is he going to leave his legacy now? This is not all of Garrett’s legacy, but it’s a part of it. We’re overjoyed that its come to fruition.”

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