Bill C-484 (Historical)
Unborn Victims of Crime Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
Ken Epp Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
- March 5, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Special Committee on Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code
Private Members' Business
September 21st, 2012 / 2:05 p.m.
Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to express my strong opposition for Motion No. 312. I am strongly opposed to this motion based on my own personal convictions, but dozens of my constituents have also asked me to oppose it because they are concerned. While I am honoured to speak today, I am very disappointed that I am addressing the House about an issue that most Canadians thought was completely closed. The hon. member for Kitchener Centre wants to reopen a debate on an issue that we thought had been resolved for many years. It seems that he wants to try to break the social peace that has settled over this country. He brought forward a motion that reads as follows:
That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth;
The motion also sets out the composition of and powers given to the committee.
I would first like to clarify certain statements that the hon. member for Kitchener Centre made in the speech he gave during the first hour of debate and other speeches.
The definition dates back to 1892 and not to the 17th century, as he led us to believe. Many of our laws were sanctioned in the early years of our federation and they are still in effect and still relevant to the governance of the country. He also said that abortions were done in the third trimester, more specifically that there were no rights to protect the fetus in the third trimester. I would like to remind the hon. member that 90% of abortions are done in the first trimester. Only 0.3% of abortions are done after the 20th week, and most of those are done for quasi-medical reasons or when the mother's health is in jeopardy.
I would also like to mention to my colleague that abortions are down by an average of 1% per year. So, it is not true that fetuses are being aborted during the third trimester. The Conservatives are twisting the facts to justify their ideologies. Canadians have the right to have the real facts rather than twisted ones.
As I said earlier, in the mind of Canadians, this debate has been closed for many years, following many Supreme Court decisions. It is up to Parliament to make legislation, but it is the responsibility of the courts to review the legislation and to make sure that it is consistent with our Constitution and the individual rights that we all enjoy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is important to know the political and legal history behind this debate. Let me quickly go over the facts to refresh the memory of the hon. members opposite, in case they may have forgotten them. In 1988, the Morgentaler decision held that the Criminal Code provisions on abortion were unconstitutional. They violate section 7 of the Charter.
After the 1988 Morgentaler decision, a number of provinces tried to restrict access to abortion by using the health care system in terms of reimbursing costs. They prohibited abortions that were not performed in public hospitals by not paying for abortion fees. In the Morgentaler decisions against the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Quebec, courts ruled in all cases that the provinces’ attempts to restrict abortion were contrary to the Charter.
All of these decisions always focused on a woman's inalienable rights concerning her body. However, as my colleague from Gatineau mentioned in a passionate speech, there was a fundamental aspect missing from the speech by the member for Kitchener Centre: a woman's right to control her own body. This right is included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But the member for Kitchener Centre seems to have completely forgotten that, or simply ignored it. The member said that he wants a study in good faith on the issue and that the definition in section 223 of the Criminal Code is dishonest.
Let us talk about honesty in speeches and statements. The member for Kitchener Centre said:
Motion No. 312 simply calls for a study of the evidence about when a child becomes a human being. It does not propose any answer to that question. In fact, it directs the committee to make no decision and no recommendation but merely to report options.
However, the Chief Government Whip said:
...the ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions in Canada at some fetal development stage.
The member for Ktichener Centre also indicated in an interview with Metro Ottawa published on April 26, 2012, that if we reach a conclusion on when a child becomes a human being then all of the other issues that are so complicated about abortion can be discussed with that honest conclusion as a bedrock foundation. Either the member is contradicting himself, or else the member for Kitchener Centre is hiding his real desire to turn women who have abortions into criminals. So, the member should be careful when he talks about honesty.
The Conservative Party does not have a good record on this issue. The Conservatives have been trying to criminalize abortion for a long time. The Mulroney government introduced Bill C-43 in order to criminalize abortion, but fortunately it was defeated at third reading.
In 2004, the then leader of the opposition, who is now the Prime Minister, said that the first Conservative government would not be interested in reopening the abortion issue.
In 2008, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park tried to create a loophole for the criminalization of abortion by introducing Bill C-484, which would have made the murder of a pregnant woman a double homicide. Almost every Conservative, including the Prime Minister, voted for the bill.
In 2010, when the Muskoka Initiative for maternal health was launched by the G8, the Prime minister imposed a moratorium on funding for projects involving abortion in the developing world. Still in 2010, the member for Winnipeg South introduced Bill C-510, which would have made it an offence to coerce a woman to have an abortion.
In 2011, the Prime Minister reiterated this promise with the assurance that his party would not reopen the abortion debate. We know what happened: a member moved a motion with the ultimate goal of restricting access to abortion. One cannot help but wonder about the Conservative Party's ability to be consistent. The Prime Minister seems to have difficulty keeping the more extremist elements of his party in line with his position to not reopen the debate. In any case, the Conservative Party cannot be trusted when it comes to protecting women's rights.
How many times will the Conservatives try to reopen this debate? The Conservative ideology believes that the government should be as small as possible and that it should not interfere in the private lives of people, as demonstrated by its position on the firearms registry.
Strangely enough, this does not seem to apply when it comes to defending the rights and equality of women. If such a motion is accepted by the House, it could lead to the criminalization of abortion, which is completely unacceptable. Criminalizing abortions will not stop women from having them, even if that means having them in conditions that could jeopardize their health and life, not to mention the criminal prosecution that could follow.
Let us look at the example of the United States, where abortion is now severely limited. Women have to travel hundreds of kilometres to have access to this procedure. They have to use their rent and food money to pay for it and they have to go to judges to get permission. When they go to the clinic, they have to listen to anti-abortion propaganda and push their way past violent and aggressive anti-choice activists. They sometimes even have to wait for hours in their cars in the clinic parking lot because of a bomb threat, which is a frequent occurrence. All this to say that most women will do whatever it takes to have access to this procedure, regardless of the difficulty or risk involved.
Is this really the type of society that we want? Do we want to take such a big step backward? Women have fought for decades to assert their individual rights and to protect their safety and security.
We must never impose our beliefs and opinions on others. Members of the Conservative Party may never have to resort to abortion, and I fully respect their positions and their beliefs, but they should never judge women who do resort to abortion, nor should they attempt to take that right away.
Members of the New Democratic Party strongly oppose this motion, which is a direct attack on women's right to choose. The Conservative government, which now has a majority, is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on this issue. We want the Prime Minister to keep the promise he made to Canadians during the most recent election campaigns and to put a stop to these regressive debates. Abortion must remain a matter between a consenting woman and her doctor.
In closing, I am confident that the NDP members will unanimously oppose this motion.
Special Committee on Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code
Private Members' Business
September 21st, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
Mr. Speaker, the motion being debated in the House today is nothing less than an attempt to reopen the abortion debate in Canada. This is quite literally a slap in the face to women who have fought long and hard for the right to control their own bodies and their ability to determine for themselves when they wish to have children. Motion No. 312 states:
That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth....
The member for Kitchener Centre's desire to open up this debate has an end goal of changing the legislation to enable the fetus to be declared a human being. We are all very aware that such a change in the definition will place Canada directly on the regressive path to banning abortions.
The member for Kitchener Centre held a press conference earlier this week. In that press conference he quite clearly stated that the current definition of a person is an exclusion of a class of people. These types of statements distort the truth. In reality, over 90% of abortions in Canada are done in the first trimester. Only 2% to 3% are done after 16 weeks and no doctor in this country performs abortions past 20 or 21 weeks, except for compelling health or genetic reasons.
The comments by the member are a blatant attempt to misrepresent the facts. A fertilized egg is not a class of people, and I am offended that the member would shamelessly misrepresent the women's rights movement as an example of why we should open the door to changing abortion rights in Canada.
I would like to highlight several legal precedents that have already dealt with the question that Motion No. 312 raises, in particular Tremblay v. Daigle, Dobson v. Dobson, Winnipeg Child and Family Services v. G., Borowski v. Canada, and R. v. Morgentaler.
These rulings have concluded or noted that the fetus has never been a person nor been included in the meaning of “everyone” in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; that a fetus must be born alive to enjoy rights, the born alive rule; and that the law has always treated a pregnant woman and her fetus as one person under the law.
We need not look far to see the danger of Motion No. 312. In the United States fetuses have legal personhood rights in at least 38 states, most through so-called fetal homicide laws, which are supposedly aimed at third parties who assault pregnant women.
In reality, these laws are used to justify prosecuting pregnant women under child welfare laws, and they function much like the 2008 bill of the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, Bill C-484, which proposed changes to the Criminal Code that would, if passed, also threaten a woman's right to choose. The intent of that bill was to amend the Criminal Code to have two charges laid against anyone killing a pregnant woman, and it would in effect have given legal rights to a fetus, thereby changing the definition of when a fetus becomes a person under the law. While the stated purpose of the bill was the protection for a woman and her fetus, in practice, like Motion No. 312, these laws are primarily used to justify the prosecution of women.
Motions and bills such as these create obvious dangers for those who counsel or perform abortions. They also turn pregnant women into lesser citizens whose rights are subordinated to those of a fertilized egg.
What is absolutely clear is that Motion No. 312 is taking aim at a woman's right to choose and is a direct attack on jurisprudence. Canada was once a world leader in the promotion and protection of women's rights and gender equality. It was committed to the view that gender equality is not only a human rights issue but also an essential component of sustainable development, social justice, peace and security.
These goals can only be achieved if women are able to participate as equal partners, decision-makers and beneficiaries of the sustainable development of their societies. How can Canada be considered a world leader in women's rights when we have members of Parliament suggesting that we revert to the barbaric days of gender inequality through the restriction of abortion?
When abortions are illegal, women do not stop having them. They only take more risks to access the service and these risks can have deadly consequences. For instance, before abortions were legalized in South Africa in 1997, there were an average of 425 deaths stemming from unsafe abortions every year. Today, the numbers are below 20.
In Latin America, most abortions are considered illegal, yet roughly 3.8 million procedures are performed each year and are directly linked to over 4,000 avoidable deaths.
The same happened here. Before abortion laws in Canada were struck down, there were over 35,000 illegal abortions taking place every year. Between 1926 and 1947, there were an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 deaths as a result of desperate women submitting themselves to clandestine procedures.
Despite assurances from the Prime Minister—known for his tight control over his caucus members—that the government does not plan to reopen the abortion debate, there is a troubling trend in the government's backdoor actions and its support for backbenchers who are continually trying to revive this issue.
In the last Parliament, the member for Winnipeg South tabled Bill C-510, An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne's Law). In 2008, as I mentioned earlier, we saw Bill C-484, a bill that nearly the entire Conservative caucus supported, including the Prime Minister.
In 2010, as part of the maternal health initiative at the G8 summit in Muskoka, the government imposed a moratorium on the funding of safe abortions in 10 developing countries, emphasizing the protection of life yet ignoring the consequences of systemic rape in some of those countries. The statistics from those developing countries are heartbreaking. Approximately 70,000 women die each year due to unsafe abortions and 5 million are hospitalized because of complications resulting from unsafe abortions.
Women's groups in Canada fighting for comprehensive maternal health funding were told by a Conservative senator to shut up about abortion or else there might be a backlash. The senator contended that Canada was still a country with free and accessible abortion and to leave it at that.
This thinly veiled threat points to a greater fallacy, that abortion services are in fact available across Canada. Some provinces have very few hospitals providing services. Prince Edward Island has none. Canadian women living in rural areas and those in jurisdictions without an abortion provider travel long distances, encountering significant costs and additional stress. These constraints have the most impact on young women, those who have little job security, or women with significant family obligations.
Turning back the clock and reopening the debate on when human life begins is a dangerous path to take. The Canadian government should be working to strengthen women's rights instead of heading down a path that exposes women to the dangers of illicit, unsafe procedures.
Women in Canada have the right to choose. That has been established by the Supreme Court of Canada, and we demand that the government ensure this right's continuation and that all equality rights are protected. We need a government that will champion programs and policies that ensure that women's contributions to society, the economy, and leadership in this country are respected and encouraged. Access to safe, legal abortions are integral to these rights.
I want to make it very clear that I do not support this motion. New Democrats do not support this motion. We will actively fight against any motion or bill that will threaten a woman's right to choose. It is both frightening and insulting that the men who have introduced these bills and motions have so little respect for a woman's ability to determine what is best for her, her body and her family. The right rests solely with women who choose. No one has the right to interfere. The Supreme Court has upheld that right and so should the members of this Parliament.
Private Members' Business
December 13th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC
Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we have a tendency to recite the long list of the Conservative government's faults. But upon reading Bill C-510, I finally found something positive: this government is inventive.
Its dedication to limiting a woman's right to choose regarding abortion fascinates me. We thought it had tried everything, particularly with Bill C-484 on unborn children and its regressive international policy on maternal health. The cuts to Status of Women Canada, the court challenges program and the women's program are just more examples.
Although their actions show that they want to criminalize abortion and set back women's rights, the Conservatives keep repeating that they do not want to reopen the debate. But they are the ones who keep bringing this issue back to the House.
This time, with Bill C-510, An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort, the government wants to impose five-year prison sentences for anyone who coerces a woman to have an abortion and two-year prison sentences for anyone who attempts to coerce a woman to have an abortion.
The Conservatives are using the case of Roxanne Fernando, who was killed by three men, to misrepresent things. The crown prosecutor, one of the murderers and his lawyer have all stated that the murder had nothing whatsoever to do with the woman's refusal to have an abortion. The Conservatives are using this barbaric act to threaten the right to abortion, even if this right was not the issue. This was a case of domestic violence.
With Bill C-510, the Conservatives are moving forward with their right-wing political agenda instead of attacking the real problem, which is violence against women. The real solutions are based on achieving equality between men and women. This has to do with better access to the justice system through legal aid, financial assistance for victims of crime and their loved ones, pay equity and other improvements to social programs.
In addition to being so creative, the Conservatives also have a talent for bringing women's rights groups together. The Fédération des femmes du Québec is opposed to passing Bill C-510. It has declared that since the Conservatives took power, “abortion has never been so threatened”.
The Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances has also spoken out against Bill C-510. The federation expects the bill to have a number of negative consequences, one of which is that it will open the door to the criminalization of abortion. The federation also fears, with good reason, that workers in this area could be prosecuted if the bill is passed. The very vague concept of “coercion” would give the unborn child certain rights to the woman's detriment.
For these same reasons, a number of other organizations, including Canadians for Choice, are strongly opposed to the initiative of the hon. member for Winnipeg South.
At the very least, it can be said that the Conservatives do not give up. Since coming to power, they have tried every sly tactic they can think of to reopen the debate on abortion, but have been unsuccessful. On September 2, 2010, the infamous Dimitri Soudas stated that his party did not want to reopen the debate on this issue. Since that time, several members have made similar statements. Nevertheless, last May, the hon. member for Winnipeg South said that it is “always important to take steps, small steps, to acknowledge the value of the unborn”. Finally, a Conservative member who is willing to tell the truth about his intentions.
Twenty-two years ago, the Supreme Court invalidated the anti-abortion provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada. Since that time, there has been a strong consensus in our society that the debate on this issue should be over. However, from time to time, the Conservative Prime Minister agrees to reward the most well-behaved radicals in his party by letting them introduce regressive bills. Each time, the members of the House oppose these bills, with the exception of the Conservatives and a few misguided Liberals.
But that does not matter. Listening to the peoples' representatives in Parliament is not an option for this government. Not only is Bill C-510 downright disgraceful, it is also useless.
Counsellors at abortion clinics already screen women to ensure that they have not been coerced into abortion. Clinics refuse to perform abortions on women who are not sure of their decision or who are being coerced by a third party. In addition, the Criminal Code prohibits threats and assaults against women. That is why the criminals who murdered Roxanne Fernando are in prison. Nathanael Plourde was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and Manuel Toruno was sentenced to at least 10 years in prison. Their 17-year-old accomplice was given the maximum sentence for a minor: six years in prison and four years of probation. The maximum prison sentences proposed by this bill, five years and two years, are totally absurd and useless.
A woman's decision to abort is rarely made alone, although it is a decision that must clearly be made without any persuasion. As I just said, such coercion is already prohibited by the Criminal Code. However, it is normal for an adolescent or a woman to seek advice from those close to her. If this person's mother, father, brother, sister or partner counsels her not to keep the baby, the bill is so vague that the pregnant woman's family could be subject to jail time. That is completely unacceptable.
Bill C-510 is also condescending towards women. It suggests that they are often coerced into abortion and that they cannot make the decision on their own. But women are free to make that choice and they must continue to be free.
To conclude, I would like to emphasize that my political party and I are fiercely opposed to this bill. As a woman and a mother, I am personally insulted by these dangerous measures that restrict freedom of choice regarding abortion. In the name of women's right and freedoms, I ask all members to oppose it.
Status of Women
Committees of the House
February 26th, 2009 / 10:35 a.m.
Nicole Demers Laval, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her excellent question. As I pointed out in my speech, I have never seen a government attack women's rights the way this one has. I have never seen a government attack women to this degree. I have never seen a government purposely do as much as this one has to eliminate appeal rights and try to pass private bills of which it is the silent architect.
Last year, we had Bill C-484, and I have no doubt that another Conservative Party member will introduce a similar bill. If so, I hope the government will know what to do.There is nothing so pernicious as a government that would have everyone believe that it believes in women's equality. There is nothing so pernicious and violent as a government that would have women believe that they have everything they need, then does everything it can to override and chip away at their rights, and, for all intents and purposes, extinguish them. That is terrible.
RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY
Speech From The Throne
November 24th, 2008 / 6 p.m.
Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC
Madam Speaker, you will probably notice that my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I have something in common. My speech will touch on the same topics. I also live in a region that is particularly affected by the forestry crisis.
That said, first I would like to take this wonderful opportunity to sincerely thank the voters in my riding of Laurentides—Labelle, who have elected me for a third time. I am keenly aware that they have once again put their trust in me, and I will say once more that I am committed to fully representing them, to defending their interests and to being their loyal spokesperson. I would also like to congratulate each member for their victory in the latest election and, in particular, my Bloc Québécois colleagues. It is both reassuring and exciting to see another large delegation of Bloc Québécois members in this new Parliament. Quebeckers rejected the Conservative ideology when they made their choice. In addition, they chose to elect a majority of Bloc Québécois members because they, meaning Quebeckers, firmly believe that the Bloc are effective in Ottawa.
We keep our promises to the Quebec nation and we will oppose this Speech from the Throne because it reflects an ideology that was rejected by 78% of Quebeckers during the election and does not reflect the consensus in Quebec.
I would also like to talk about the people this visionless Speech from the Throne has forgotten, the same people that the Conservatives have abandoned since their first mandate in 2006 and the same people it seems they are going to continue neglecting. I am thinking about the unemployed, women, the manufacturing and forestry industries, the environment, the homeless, the provinces and, in particular, Quebec and its regions.
It is extremely disappointing to see that the Prime Minister has not learned a single lesson from the election results in Quebec. On the contrary, he has remained completely insensitive to the growing concerns and worries of Quebeckers. In his Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister has not risen to the occasion and appears to be ready to ignore the situation as if everything were under control, even though things are far from being under control.
The situation is particularly disastrous in my region, which has been hit hard by the forestry crisis. In my region, residents of the RCM of Antoine-Labelle—a single-industry regional municipality—are very concerned about the Conservatives' inaction and neglect. They are concerned and uncertain because hundreds of people have lost their jobs over the past year. Hundreds of forestry industry workers have watched their mills and plants close one after the other. Many of them are too old to retrain and will have to choose between living on social assistance, or, worse still, leaving their region, their community, their town, their friends and their family. They will have to make the terrible choice to leave everything they worked so hard to acquire over the years. It is a shame that the government is bent on staying its disastrous course.
It will come as no surprise to you, Madam Speaker, to hear that during the most recent campaign in my riding, I saw no sign of the Conservative candidate on the ground. He hid out in his basement so that he would not have to answer for his government's irresponsible and inexcusable actions. He was too scared to face the disgruntled unemployed.
As always, the Bloc has taken responsible action in this area. We put forward concrete, intelligent solutions to this crisis. We asked the government to introduce a loan and loan guarantee program for the purchase of new production equipment for the forestry and manufacturing sectors; refundable tax credits for research and development; an income support program for older workers; and an enhanced employment insurance program. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not mention any of these things in his speech. At this point, I would like to quote my leader, who said the following in his reply to the Speech from the Throne:
It was the government's job to be clear about its desire to provide a workable plan to support businesses in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. That is a priority for Quebec and its regions. Instead, we got vague promises. Thousands of workers have already lost their jobs in the forestry sector, yet the government is bent on staying its disastrous course.
That sends a terrible message to thousands of workers, communities and regions that rely on the forestry industry: “You are on your own.” That is unacceptable.
What wonderful message of hope can the people in my region take from the throne speech? Nothing. They are being told to fend for themselves. This attitude is quite simply unacceptable. That terrible message has devastating consequences for the Upper Laurentians, and the people there have good reason to be angry with the federal government.
Showing drive and motivated by a strong desire to revive the economy in the Upper Laurentians, elected representatives and representatives of various socio-economic sectors rolled up their sleeves and set to work developing other niches, including tourism.
Mont Tremblant International Airport in La Macaza is one of the main sources of economic prosperity in my region. The government now has the duty to support the airport's plans to expand and upgrade its facilities and must settle once and for all the issue of imposing customs charges on regular flights.
All the elected representatives from the Laurentians region worked to have the airport considered on a par with the airports in Montreal and Quebec City. We all celebrated the unanimous adoption of a motion made by the Bloc Québécois. I myself led that fight in this House last June. Now, we want to take the next step. The government must reassure my community and allow the general manager of the airport to sign new commercial agreements without having to worry that customs charges will again be imposed.
We estimate that my region will lose $9 million in annual economic spinoffs if these new agreements are not signed. The government must act responsibly and take an open-minded approach to my region and all the regions of Quebec.
And it is not just the regions of Quebec that are suffering as a result of the Conservatives' ideological stubbornness. As the Bloc Québécois deputy critic for the status of women, I have to say, unfortunately, that women have been hit hard since the Conservatives came to power in January 2006. Judging by the content of the throne speech, things are not going to get much better.
Women have been hit hard these past two years with cuts to Status of Women and the women's program, the abolition of the court challenges program and the tabling of Bill C-484, which attempted to reopen the debate on criminalization of abortion. By the way, another similar bill is still on the Conservative horizon.
Yet, the Prime Minister promised in the 2006 election campaign and last October to not reopen the abortion debate. Women fought hard to have freedom of choice and there is a strong consensus in Quebec society that the issue has been debated and that it is no longer up for discussion.
What is disturbing is that there is no mention of this in the throne speech. What is even more striking is that the word “women” appears only a couple of times in this famous speech, and is used in a general context without making any commitment to them.
Even more disturbing about the Conservatives' intentions, is the adoption of a resolution concerning the status of the fetus at the recent Winnipeg convention. We cannot help but be very alarmed by this resolution because it comes from the militant grass roots of the Conservative Party.
My colleague from Laval and I demanded that the Prime Minister immediately lay to rest concerns raised by the adoption of such a proposal. Unfortunately, we have to face the fact that the government has no intention of doing so and the temptation is great within the Conservative caucus to reopen the debate.
What does the government plan on doing to clarify its intention of not reopening the debate on abortion? Nothing.
What does the government plan on doing to put a stop to violence against aboriginal women on reserves. Nothing.
What does the government plan on doing to end poverty, which affects twice as many women as it does men? Nothing.
The answer is clear: the Conservative government will do nothing for women, nothing for the unemployed, nothing for the manufacturing and forestry industries, nothing for culture, nothing for the environment and the homeless.
In closing, I would say that Quebec is still the most forgotten in the throne speech.
Unborn Victims of Crime
June 19th, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB
Mr. Speaker, once again I have a whole handful of petitions. These are in support of Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act.
The 1,523 people who signed this particular group of petitions are pretty well all from Markham and Scarborough. They support the legislation. They want Parliament to enact legislation that recognizes it is just wrong to force upon a pregnant woman the death or injury of her unborn child and that this is a violation of a woman's right to protect and give life to her child.
The petitioners urge that the legislation be passed. Of course I am delighted to present their petition in the House on their behalf.
Status of Women
Committees of the House
June 18th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
Nicole Demers Laval, QC
Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development by simply saying that if there really was a strategy to decrease poverty in Quebec and Canada, the Conservative government would have voted in favour of Bill C-207 to keep young people in the regions. The Conservative government would have voted in favour of Bill C-269 to give women and youth access to employment insurance. The Conservative government would have voted in favour of Bill C-490 to give seniors the right to an increased and retroactive guaranteed income supplement. And the Conservative government would have voted against Bill C-484 to ensure that women will always have access to legal and free abortion.
Mr. Speaker, as you can see, I do not need two-and-a-half minutes to respond to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development because I think I have summarized the situation.
Status of Women
Committees of the House
June 18th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
Nicole Demers Laval, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their enthusiasm.
I am obviously very pleased to speak about this topic raised by the member about the appointment of an independent commissioner to conduct a gender-based analysis of the government's measures and policies in order to ensure that women are properly treated.
We know that this is nothing new. When the Standing Committee on Status of Women decided that this measure should be put forward, it was not without considerable thought. The committee members made this decision after carrying out an extensive and serious study and after consulting international experts. We learned about other countries where commissioners had already been appointed, and where they had had some success after these appointments were made.
It is also nothing new that the government is supposed to be doing something to promote gender equality. In 1981, the government undertook to promote gender equality in a CEDAW document, because we thought that the United Nations was the best place to ensure that men and women would one day be equals in law and in fact.
Furthermore, in 1995, at the conference in Beijing, the government at the time reiterated that commitment. It increased the budgets of Status of Women Canada to promote the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. It was a comprehensive action plan if there ever was one, and should have been fully implemented. Unfortunately, as with many other things in the government, things get lost and very few things happen.
We will also not forget the current Prime Minister's commitment. When I say “commitment”, I am choosing my words carefully. During the election campaign in January, he did not say he would ensure equality among men and women. He did not say he was promising that men and women would be equal under his government. He said he was committed to it. Commitment is a strong word. It is a word that the Prime Minister should have had the wisdom to respect. If there is one thing that he has not done over the past two and a half years, it is to honour the promise he made to the women of Quebec and Canada.
In the various policies and measures put forward by this government, this commitment has been completely ignored. The government began by cutting Status of Women Canada funding. It continued by eliminating grants to women's advocacy groups and telling women that they could no longer defend their rights. It then eliminated the court challenges program, which had allowed women to take their demands and their struggles to the highest authorities.
It also slashed funding for women who wanted to do research to ensure they were always on the leading edge in the defence of women's rights. It cut grants to women lobbyists and women's lobby groups. If women cannot lobby to assert their rights, how can they possibly do so? As we all know, there are only so many ways of going about this. Yet the oil companies that lobby here are very successful. The companies and big businesses that lobby here have a great deal of success. The reason they do not receive funding for their lobbying activities is because they are quite capable of using their own money to lobby.
Respecting commitments should be a prime minister's first priority. In the budget and the throne speech, the government indicated that it would produce a plan to ensure equality for women.
It is now June, the end of the session, and we have not heard or seen anything. There has been no talk of a plan. In fact, it is just a virtual plan that has been put on paper, but so far there is just a title, “A plan for women's equality”. There is no need to reinvent the wheel to come up with such a plan. Just take what is already being done quite well and has been validated by women's groups here and throughout the world. These groups have said that this plan would ensure that all women, throughout the world, are equal to men, can combat violence, have a roof over their head and achieve equality.
We asked the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to appoint a commissioner because we realized that despite the efforts by Status of Women Canada to educate, inform and train the various departments on gender based issues and gender specific budgets, these departments did not really understand what that meant. That was our impression.
The only analysis done was done after the fact. It was not done before the policy and measure were in put in place, but well afterward and it was wrong. Since the analysis was wrong even though it was done after the measure was implemented, we are entitled to wonder about the quality of the information received or interpreted. I believe that the problem stems not from the quality of information provided, but from how the information was interpreted by the people who received it.
Equity advocate positions were established in various departments, but the women who occupied those positions were replaced one after the other over a period of a few months by others who had fresh experience and expertise. They had to start over from what the others had done without getting any extra support. And when those women started to master the job, they disappeared and were transferred elsewhere. Some departments did not even replace the equity champions after they left.
This makes us wonder whether the government truly wants this equality to become a reality because we are not seeing that in any of its actions, policies or measures.
If the government had really wanted its policies to advance women's equality, we would not be debating Bill C-484. If the government had really wanted women to be equal, it would not have given them a child care allowance of $100 a month. Instead, it would have created a program that allowed women to choose to send their children to a specialized day care centre with specialized teachers and caregivers. Quebec is fortunate enough to have such a system. If the government had really wanted women to be equal, it would not have chosen to leave pay equity measures and programs at the point where they are now, unfortunately.
We know that pay equity measures are not worth it. In fact, some companies and their employees have been in court for more than 20 years over pay equity for women. These women come under the aegis of the federal government. It is terrible.
The government says it wants equality for women, but it is not doing anything to make that happen. All we are getting from this government is fine words and empty promises.
Different tax measures have also been mentioned.
For example, the government has introduced the tax-free savings account or TFSA. This is great for people who have money, but women, who still today earn only 70% of what men do, do not fall into that category.
When the government says that these measures were put in place for women and will benefit women as much as men, I wonder who thought about that. Was it men? Because if it was women, I am sure they would have seen the problem with that sort of thinking and I am sure they would have realized that it did not make sense.
A tax-free savings account is an attractive idea, but it will not benefit 80-year-old women. If the government had really wanted to introduce measures that would benefit 80-year-old women, it would have increased the guaranteed income supplement and made sure people who were entitled to it received full retroactivity.
For years the Bloc Québécois has been fighting for real people, real equity measures and real policies, whether in connection with employment insurance, seniors, women or children. No matter what anyone says, the Bloc Québécois is fighting real battles for real people. That is what we have always done and what we will continue to do.
When we talk about equality, we must also talk about social housing. There is no equality for single mothers if there are no special social housing measures for them.
Miloon Kothari, the United Nations special rapporteur, came to Canada to study what is being done in terms of social housing here in a supposedly civilized and advanced country. He learned of the existence of a tent city in Edmonton where people who work 40 hours a week do not have enough money to pay rent. Women, families and children live in tents in the middle of downtown Edmonton. He realized that many people did not have comfortable and adequate social housing in which to raise their children responsibly and decently.
He also realized that Canada had taken a step backward. He found out that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has astronomical surpluses in excess of $12 billion. It is shameful that this government has not given a portion of that money to provinces that have social housing programs to ensure adequate housing everywhere for people who need it.
The concept of equality and equity encompasses all of these programs. Unfortunately, I believe that unless an independent commissioner is appointed—as my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville was saying—that will never happen. We will never see the day when women can finally breathe easy and say that they have the same working conditions, living conditions and benefits as their male colleagues, and that they can finally look forward to and work together toward a better future.
Only then will we be able to say that we have succeeded. I do not think that a government like this one, which is always trying to crush low income earners, such as those in the manufacturing and forestry sectors, will give us the measures we need to ensure equality between men and women.
I can guarantee that we will study the action plan that the government says it will put forward very thoroughly. We will take a very serious look at it. But I do not think we will have a chance to do that before next year. It seems to me that the plan is all in the minister's head and is not about to come out anytime soon. She has too many things on her mind.
It is true that nowadays, Conservative Party members are having a hard time remembering their responsibilities to the voters. We see evidence of that every day. We have been hearing all kinds of nonsense about all kinds of issues here in the house, despite the fact that we have serious questions about issues that are important to all Quebeckers and Canadians. The only thing the Conservative Party ever does is get one or two people to give utterly vague answers that are completely unrelated to the questions we ask.
Given this party's track record, we do not imagine that it has time to think about action plans for women's equality. It does not have time for that; it thinks about the strategy of the moment to try to confuse people a little more. And that is what we are seeing.
Unfortunately, the only way to achieve equality between men and women is to ensure that the government appoints an independent commissioner for gender budgeting analysis and that these recommendations are carried out.
In recommendation No. 20 of the report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we are asking that when the Department of Finance brings down its budget, and with all subsequent budgets, it publish its gender-based analysis of the measures included therein. Mr. Speaker, do you think I believe this will be done? It is a very good report. It is not a rosy report as they said it was at last week's press conference. It is an excellent report. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this government has the will to implement it.
In coming here to the House of Commons to represent the citizens of Laval, I thought I would be surrounded by people who all wanted the same thing: to represent those who elected them in a responsible and respectful manner. Women live in the ridings where Conservatives were elected. We know that most women do not want to elect Conservatives—we can understand why—but they do live in those ridings. In my opinion, once elected, we represent everyone, not just those who voted for us.
The government should think twice about shelving this report. This report was prepared with a great deal of conviction, hard work and cooperation. All the hon. members who worked on preparing this report have spoken to one another. It deserves to be studied by the government and for the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages to take into account and carry out our recommendations. There are a number of them, but if she carried them all out, we would finally achieve equality between men and women.
Unborn Victims of Crime
June 17th, 2008 / 1:10 p.m.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by Canadians, many of whom are my constituents from towns in my riding in Alberta, including Camrose, New Norway, Kelsey and Bawlf.
The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation that would recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during an offence against their mothers, allowing two charges to be laid against the offender instead of just one.
The bill would give rights and legal protection to unborn children. I voted in favour of Bill C-484 which specifically addresses this issue and the concerns of those who have signed the petition.
Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Private Members' Business
June 16th, 2008 / 11:20 a.m.
Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond briefly—since I have yet to give my speech—to the criticism of the Bloc's approach to Bill C-505 as a bit clumsy and heavy-handed.
I understand the NDP's vision, since its members are centralists. They have a centralist vision of Canada. I understand when we hear about the Couture-Cullen agreement. Nevertheless, people who decide to immigrate to Quebec do so in the context of the Canadian nation. Parliament has recognized the Quebec nation. It must also be understood that our distinct society needs all of the tools available to develop and that mixed messages are being sent to the immigrants who choose Quebec, because of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act as well as other acts. Is it not Canadian citizenship that one obtains when one chooses Quebec or any other province? So, does this Parliament really want to recognize the Quebec nation, with all that that entails? That is where we differ.
As for Bill C-505 on the ideology of multiculturalism, there has been endless debate since the concept was introduced in a bill by Trudeau in 1970 and in the legislation that followed in 1988. For many Quebec nationalists, this is one way of shifting the balance of power in Canada. Earlier, we heard our hon. Liberal colleague say that, thanks to section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everything is just fine and that it shows an openness towards immigrants. This would seem to suggest that Quebeckers are not open to immigration. On the contrary, but their approach is very different and is based much more on interculturalism.
Does Canada really protect and accept cultural communities? Is that the goal of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act? In his book Selling Illusions, Neil Bissoondath responds to such questions by indicating that Canadian multicultural ideology pigeonholes cultures into dusty stereotypes and politically-driven clichés, but obstructs the creative possibilities that arise when diverse groups meet.
Adopting the vision of multiculturalism also means adopting the vision of a Canadian nation governed by an anglophone majority. I will come back to the vision that comes with that approach to multiculturalism later on. It is aimed precisely at minimizing our francophone society in Quebec and providing it with fewer tools.
For many nationalists, it is a way of changing the balance of power in Canada at the expense of the francophone community. The Quebec vision goes against that vision of multiculturalism designed to encourage minority groups to preserve and perpetuate their culture, as well as to promote these differences within Canadian institutions. So, in a way, the concept of multiculturalism promotes the Canadian nation, and the political discourse backs up this ideology.
One can read all that in a booklet published by the federal government.
Canada is populated by people who have come from every part of the world. Through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the government encourages Canadians to take pride in their language, religion and heritage and to keep their customs and traditions, as long as they don’t break Canadian laws.
Encouraging Canadians to take pride in their language, religion and heritage is a one-track approach and it is a problem in Quebec. Why? Because multiculturalism rejects the idea of a common culture by encouraging multiple cultures to coexist. Although it is defined as a model for integrating newcomers, in reality it promotes peaceful coexistence.
Concerned that multiculturalism divides society into a multitude of solitudes, Quebec has always deplored the Canadian approach, especially since it trivializes Quebec's position within Canada and refutes the existence of the Quebec nation. In 1971, Robert Bourassa, Premier of Quebec, stated in a letter to Pierre Elliott Trudeau: “—that notion hardly seems compatible with Quebec's reality—".
Quebec has adopted interculturalism as the model for integration. It requires immigrants to learn French as the common language. With the multiculturalism approach, not even a mention is made of the existence of a nation defined as the Quebec nation, the Charter of the French Language or French as the common language.
I would like to digress from my speech for a moment. With regard to the bilingualism approach, I am reminded of when I was a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and we went on a tour regarding the Broadcasting Act. I remember a certain individual who belonged to a cultural community, had become Canadian and said he was bilingual: he spoke English and his language of origin. This reaction is quite understandable because, according to multiculturalism, this person must retain his language and his culture. I can understand that. However, it is evident that we are sending mixed messages that are very dissimilar. This person honestly believed that he was bilingual, because that was his definition of Canadian bilingualism. That is not at all the intent of multiculturalism.
In other words, unlike the Canadian approach, which tends to value diversity, the Quebec approach supports integration through the learning of the French language—the official and common language of its citizens—and adherence to a set of fundamental values. Accordingly, the Quebec department of immigration and cultural communities states on its website:
An intercultural society's challenge is a collective one: to ensure harmony by maintaining and adopting the values and principles of action that unite all citizens.
I would like to come back to what a Liberal Party colleague said earlier when he referred us to section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This section is at odds with Quebec's wishes and vision for itself. What we have here are two different visions of how to integrate cultural communities, and we are well aware of the magnitude of the challenge.
Today we are discussing a Bloc Québécois bill that seeks to exempt Quebec from the policy underlying the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. I remember that even in 1998, when I was on the Canadian heritage committee, the Bloc Québécois opposed the vision set out in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.
I know that I will not have time to say everything I planned on today, but I would like to speak about the Quebec nation. It is often said that the Quebec nation has been recognized, but what Quebec nation has been recognized if the tools are not there to fully develop it socially and economically?
As Prime Minister Trudeau hoped in 1970 when he established this law, later amended in 1988, the ideology behind multiculturalism was to reduce the influence of an evolving nation. Since the 17th century, this nation has often been described as a distinct nation in search of its own definition of what constituted a Quebec society on North American soil.
Unfortunately, my time is nearly over. I could have raised many other points to show that this House's recognition of the Quebec nation was nothing but an empty shell. In reality, this vision of Quebec is being denied in a number of areas. For example, there is Bill C-10 concerning financial support for films that are in line with public policy. What is public policy for the Conservative government?
We could also wonder about Bill C-484, which would give legal status to a fetus and which could drastically change the entire—