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.

Sponsor

Ken Epp  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of March 5, 2008
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code by making it an offence to injure, cause the death of or attempt to cause the death of a child before or during its birth while committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 5, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

May 2nd, 2016 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me first say a few words to the people who I am sure are following this debate closely.

To Jeff Durham, his friends, family, and the people of Windsor, Ontario, who have stood with him since December 2014, and all of those who have lost loved ones to violence, I would say that every member of this House stands with them. I cannot fathom the depth of grief that they must feel. However, we can all see their strength and determination to fight to save other Canadians from experiencing a similar grief.

I want to begin by acknowledging the passionate speech by my colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville. I hope that all members, wherever they stand on this particular measure before us, will take this opportunity to rededicate themselves to the task of not just reducing but ending violence against women.

Let me say at the outset that although I understand and sympathize with the important objective of the bill, I have serious concerns about the legal implications of some of the provisions within it. Whether intentional or incidental, some of the provisions in the bill would have effects far beyond the principle and scope of this bill. After careful review, we have decided that these flaws are so fundamental and potentially harmful that they would undermine the very objective of the bill. For those reasons, we will not be supporting the bill at second reading.

The bill would, for the first time and in defiance of multiple rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada, legally separate a fetus from its mother. The inescapable effect of that separation would be to reopen the debate on the reproductive rights of women, which has rightly and definitively been resolved by Canadians. It has been the object of more than 40 bills or motions in this House since 1987.

The member for Yorkton—Melville has said that it will not reopen the debate on the reproductive rights of women. She has said that abortion is explicitly excluded from the ambit of this bill. However, even if that is not the intention of the bill, its effect would be to lay the groundwork for the reopening of this contentious debate on the reproductive rights of women.

If these particular provisions seem familiar to members, it is because they are nearly a carbon copy of a measure previously proposed in the House in Bill C-484, the so-called unborn victims of crime act. The member does not seem to grasp that by enshrining the term “preborn child” it will have a significant ripple effect on the law in this context. It is defined as “a child at any stage of development that has not yet become a human being”.

First, I would note that under existing laws the victim's pregnancy is already used by judges as an aggravating factor in sentencing, despite the absence of any specific statutory requirement to do so in the Criminal Code. Second, I would note that Cassandra's killer already faces the most severe punishment available since the abolition of the death penalty, namely, a life sentence without parole for at least 25 years. Third, the victim's family members will have the opportunity to express their views in court by means of a victim impact statement. Fourth, even if separate charges were laid in the death of the fetus, they would most likely be served concurrently, that is, subsumed within the life sentence for first degree murder of the mother, leaving the number of years to be served unchanged.

The bill I mentioned earlier was debated in 2007. It did not proceed at that time in part because of the opposition of more than 100 organizations across Canada, many of which are dedicated full time to ending violence against women and upholding the rights of all. We cannot proceed with a flawed bill that fails to provide effective relief to those it seeks to protect and that may well jeopardize the constitutional rights of Canadian women.

Indeed, the experience of jurisdictions that have adopted such laws, including many in the United States, failed to reduce violence against women, and despite the best intentions of their sponsors, have been used to launch legal actions against mothers.

What is to be done?

The best way to protect fetuses is, of course, to protect mothers, which means directly protecting pregnant women by providing all the necessary resources to ensure good pregnancy outcomes, and by upholding women's constitutional rights. What is required then is a holistic approach to ending violence against women through both the protection of the constitutional rights of women and the prevention of violence, including intimate-partner violence.

The present government made a number of platform promises in the most recent election with relevance to this debate. They include the following: Criminal Code amendments to tackle intimate-partner violence, including listing it as an aggravating factor in sentencing; increased investment in shelters and transition houses; and a comprehensive federal gender-violence strategy and action plan.

The NDP supports these goals and other measures, such as restarting the police officer recruitment fund to ensure that communities have the officers they need to keep every family safe, yet no action has been taken to update the Criminal Code. Resources for shelters and transition houses remain woefully inadequate. Also, there has been no discernible progress on the development and implementation of a comprehensive federal gender-violence strategy and action plan.

Just last week, The Globe and Mail reported that the majority of women and children seeking shelter from violence, 73%, are turned away because of a lack of resources, and nearly half of the shelters that were studied had received clients from other provinces. This is truly a national problem. It is a crisis, from my home on the west coast in Victoria, to small towns, big cities, and remote communities all across Canada. The government must do more to ensure that no woman in Canada is denied the help she needs to escape violence and abuse.

In a previous session, the NDP member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski tabled a motion to develop a national action plan to end violence against women. I salute the ongoing work to that end by the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith who has taken up this initiative. This is the kind of holistic approach that will be required to eradicate violence, including intimate-partner violence, but also to take positive steps to achieve equality in our society and our economy.

This is not the time for tinkering. This is the time for bold national action. Sadly, the bill before us is neither the solution we need nor is it free of further problems. For those reasons, we cannot support proceeding with further consideration of the bill.

I hope all members will join us in not only ensuring the government delivers on its platform promises to address intimate-partner violence, funding for shelters, and public safety, but also in bringing forward proposals of its own to ensure we are doing everything in our power to end violence against women in Canada.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

May 2nd, 2016 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join in the second reading debate of the private member's bill, Bill C-225, an act to amend the Criminal Code, injuring or causing the death of a pre-born child while committing an offence.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the member for Yorkton—Melville for her compassion and sincerity in bringing the bill forward. I also want to assure her that I have listened very carefully to her speech. In addition, I have read her bill very carefully and I have also examined some of the case law and some of the preceding matters brought before the House.

Bill C-225 would make it a separate offence to cause injury or death to a fetus during the commission of an offence against the fetus' mother. Similar reforms, but not identical, have been proposed by two former private members' bills before the House: Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence); and Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of a child before or during its birth while committing an offence). Bill C-484 died on the Order Paper in 2008, and Bill C-291 was designated a non-votable item in 2006 because it was deemed not charter compliant.

Unlike these previous private members bills, Bill C-225 seeks to codify abuse of a pregnant woman as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. We can all agree that protecting women from violence, including pregnant women, is a pressing objective. I, quite frankly, have spent much of my adult life in attempting to deal with issues of domestic violence and the protection of the most vulnerable citizens in our society, in particular women and pregnant women.

However, I am concerned that most of the proposals in Bill C-225 will not ultimately meet this objective. In order to reach this objective, the focus must be placed upon violence against women and not on the fetus. In fact, by focusing on the fetus, we may have the unintended effect of negatively impacting women, in particular women's right to choose. Please allow me to explain.

First, providing protection from violence to pregnant women would likely involve ensuring longer sentences in these types of cases. However, sentencing an offender for two separate offences in cases involving abuse of a pregnant woman, one for the harm caused to the fetus and the other for harm caused to its mother, will very likely result in not a longer sentence since sentences are generally served concurrently in cases involving two convictions arising out of the same set of facts or series of events. In other words, it is unlikely the convictions for two offences would result in a lengthier sentence than a conviction for one offence under these aggravating circumstances.

Second, the law already protects pregnant women from violence. First and foremost, case law shows that abusing pregnant women in committing an offence is already considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes and is punished severely. As an example, in 2015, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in R. v. Grandine, a 15-year sentence was imposed and the offender convicted of manslaughter in the killing of his 20-week pregnant wife. In that case, the judge very specifically stated, “...I consider the fact that the deceased was pregnant to be an aggravating factor”.

Acts of violence against pregnant women are already addressed by existing criminal law in several ways.

Subsection 223(2) and section 238 of the Criminal Code, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, prohibit causing the death of a child, who has not become a human being, in the act of birth under certain circumstances. Subsection 223(1) of that section provides that a child becomes a human being when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother...”.

The Criminal Code contains comprehensive assault and homicide offences which apply to violent acts against pregnant women, and case law shows that abusing a pregnant woman in committing an offence is considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes and is punished severely.

I realize that Bill C-225 would not directly impact a woman's right to choose. However, because its proposed offences apply to a fetus at any stage of its development before birth, which means they could apply from the moment of conception, they give the fetus a status that is not currently recognized in law.

Moreover, unlike Bill C-484, Bill C-225, as the member for Yorkton—Melville has mentioned, does not specify that its proposed offences do not apply to cases involving lawful termination of pregnancy, persons acting in good faith to take steps to preserve the life of the mother or the fetus, or any act of omission by the mother.

The fact that the bill's proposed reforms indirectly implicate women's rights issues is deeply problematic in my view. The possibility of restricting a woman's right to choose was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 in the Morgentaler decision, and we have known for quite some time now that any kind of limit on access to abortion implicates women's section 7 charter rights.

A woman is indivisible from her fetus. Protecting her necessarily means protecting her fetus. We must therefore focus on protecting pregnant women from the violence that they experience, and supporting legislative changes that may lead to a loss of a woman's section 7 charter rights is not the answer to the serious problem of violence against pregnant women. Simply put, gender-based violence has no placed in our society.

Our government has committed to addressing violence against women in all of its forms. A federal gender violence strategy and action plan is being developed which will include measures to better protect victims of domestic violence. This approach will include prevention, support for victims and appropriate criminal justice responses. Examining this issue through the violence against women lens is the best way to ensure the protection of pregnant women.

The criminal law already treats abuse of pregnant women very seriously. Judges routinely consider abuse of pregnant women as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. While there may be some merit in ensuring that this is clearly stated in the Criminal Code, I am not convinced that Bill C-225 is the right legislative vehicle to effect that, since the bill's main purpose is to protect the fetus by creating separate offences for those who would cause it harm, not to protect pregnant women by codifying a principle already routinely applied by sentencing judges.

I acknowledge the very good intentions of Bill C-225. I acknowledge the compassion and sincerity that the member has demonstrated in bringing this matter forward. However, with great respect, I do not think it would achieve the important objective of protecting pregnant women. Therefore, I will be opposing it for the following reasons.

The criminal law already takes violence against women, including pregnant women, very seriously. The bill fails to address the broader issues of violence against women. In addition, it is very likely in my opinion that the bill would be challenged under the charter.

I would like to thank the sponsor for bringing this important issue forward for debate. Violence against women is a terrible crime and impacts us all. It has no place in our society and I join with the member in condemning it.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

May 2nd, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved that Bill C-225, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of a preborn child while committing an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand today in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-225, the protection of pregnant women and their preborn children act, which I will refer to as Cassie and Molly's law.

I was motivated to bring forward this bill after learning about the very tragic story of Cassie and Molly Kaake from Windsor, Ontario. Cassie was seven months pregnant with Molly when she was brutally attacked and killed in her home in December 2014. Molly's father, Jeff Durham, has been working tirelessly to bring some good out of this horrific tragedy.

I would like to quote a statement that Jeff Durham made on the day I introduced this bill in the House. He said:

Without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, neither Cassie nor any pregnant victim of homicide or violence would want their choice, their babies, to go ignored. Just because they're not here to say this law is needed, for anyone with a conscience and the power to do something about it, I say for them that this bill is needed.

I would like to explain now exactly what Bill C-225 would do and, just as importantly, what it would not.

This bill would create new offences for injuring or causing the death of a pregnant woman's preborn child while committing or attempting to commit a criminal offence against the woman—for example, while assaulting or killing a pregnant woman—with the knowledge that she is pregnant. These offences are not stand-alone offences. They would only apply when a person is, which I stress, committing or attempting to commit a criminal offence against a pregnant woman. In addition, it would only be when the offender has the knowledge that she is pregnant. The new offences are called “causing the death of a preborn child while committing an offence” and “injuring a preborn child while committing an offence”.

With this law in effect, two charges can be laid in crimes involving attacks on pregnant women that result in harm or death to their preborn children. One charge would be in relation to the criminal offence against the woman, and the second charge would be in relation to one of the new offences created by the bill, which would be either causing the death of the preborn child or causing injury to her preborn child.

This bill would also add pregnancy to the list of aggravating factors for sentencing purposes. Although judges can already treat pregnancy as an aggravating factor, codifying it in the criminal law is a way to more clearly and strongly denounce violence against pregnant women. We know from researching the case law that it is often unclear to what extent a woman's pregnancy is considered in sentencing. This bill would send a strong message to the courts that pregnancy must now be considered in the sentencing hearing.

Pregnancy should be a joyful and exciting time, the building of a family and a new generation. Unfortunately, the tragedy of Cassie and Molly, along with too many other Canadian women who were targeted and harmed because of their choice to carry their children to term, reminds us that the safety of women remains threatened.

According to the Canadian perinatal surveillance system, women abused during pregnancy were four times as likely as other abused women to report having experienced very serious violence, including being beaten, choked, threatened with a gun or knife, or sexually assaulted. Cassie and Molly's law would be a strong deterrent to committing violence against pregnant women because of the severe penalties it would carry for intentionally causing the death of a preborn child.

In existing criminal law, if a pregnant woman is assaulted, not killed, and her child dies, the offender is charged only with assault on the woman, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years for aggravated assault. Under Cassie and Molly's law, the offender would be charged not only with the assault on the woman but also with the new offence for causing the death of her fetus. If her attacker's intention was to kill her preborn child, then that person would be liable to imprisonment for life, with a minimum punishment of 10 years. This is a far stiffer penalty than the offender would get under the simple charge of assaulting the woman.

Not only that, a judge has discretion on whether to impose consecutive or concurrent sentences. Therefore, in cases where this new law is applied, judges may very well require the offender to serve the sentence for each offence consecutively. In the most tragic case, both the woman and her preborn child die, as was the case with Cassie and Molly. It was also the case with Olivia and Lane Jr., the assailant confessing that his intention was to kill the child, shooting Olivia three times in the abdomen before shooting her twice in the head. In these cases, the judge may impose two life sentences and, at the judge's discretion, these could be served consecutively.

I want to be very clear about the intent of this bill so that there is no misunderstanding of what it is attempting to do. Cassie and Molly's law is about protecting pregnant women and their preborn children from the actions of third parties who want to do them harm. It would protect a pregnant woman's choice to bring her child safely to term.

I have been assured by legal experts that this bill cannot in any way be used to impact a woman's choice to terminate her pregnancy. Abortion is by definition excluded from the bill, because of the clear wording that makes causing injury or death to the preborn child an offence only if the person does so, and I am quoting from the bill,

while committing or attempting to commit an offence under this Act against a female person that the person knows is pregnant,

I want to reinforce that these new offences are not stand-alone offences. The new offences in Cassie and Molly's law address only the situations where a third party harms or kills a woman's preborn child while committing or attempting to commit a criminal offence against the woman, action which she is clearly not consenting to.

This legislation honours and protects a woman's right to choose to give birth to her baby free from harm committed by others against her will.

Cassie had chosen to have Molly, and was so looking forward to mothering her. As Molly's father, Jeff, stated:

Before they were killed, Cassie was the happiest anyone had ever seen her. She was happy to have chosen to be having our baby girl. She beamed with excitement and anticipation that was impossible for anyone who knew her not to see.

As the title of Bill C-225 makes clear, this law would protect pregnant women and their preborn children. With respect to preborn children, our health care system already offers them substantial protection, so why not our criminal justice system? In the area of fetal medicine, surgeons are able to perform delicate surgeries while babies are still in the womb, such as treatments for fetuses with spina bifida and life-saving heart interventions.

In the case of a pregnant woman who is rushed to the hospital after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident, physicians will do everything in their power to save the lives of both the woman and her unborn child. Even if the mother tragically dies, the doctors will not give up hope on saving her baby's life. No one questions these policy decisions because they are common sense. It makes perfect sense to save the baby in utero who is struggling to survive after its mother was harmed or killed in a car accident.

However, in the house across the street, there is another pregnant woman, and she is being beaten and kicked in the abdomen and loses her baby as a result. What does not make sense is that this woman's child does not matter in the eyes of our justice system, just like Molly, just like Lane Jr. Our justice system says it does not matter that their lives were brutally taken when their mothers were brutally attacked.

Why should women at their most vulnerable not have the backing of our criminal law to help them to protect what is most precious to them? It is simply wrong, and completely incoherent, when compared to the efforts and resources that our health care system puts into improving and saving prenatal life.

No one makes the argument that in order to protect abortion, we should not be performing life-saving surgeries on babies in utero. We allow both types of surgeries to take place in our hospitals, based on a woman's choice.

Our criminal justice system should do the same. If we can allow abortion to coexist with life-saving fetal surgeries in our health care system, then we can allow legal abortions to coexist with the law in our justice system that makes it a crime for a third party to harm or kill a woman's preborn child against her will. To do otherwise not only lacks coherence, it lacks compassion.

I turn now to concerns that have been expressed in the past by the medical profession. I understand that several physicians groups feared that a similar bill, Bill C-484, which was debated in Parliament in 2008, could criminalize doctors for performing abortions. I want to assure Canada's physicians that I have paid close attention to those concerns in the drafting of Cassie and Molly's law. Provisions in the earlier Bill C-484 explicitly excluded consensual abortion under a “for greater certainty” clause. However, that provision was causing concern amongst some physicians, who thought it would criminalize them for performing abortions. It was not a necessary provision and was only included for greater certainty.

Given that it did not have its intended effect, what was to make it clear that abortion would not be criminalized, and on the advice of my legal drafter, I decided not to include that provision in my bill. I have been assured by legal experts that this law cannot be used to criminalize doctors for performing abortions. I am confident this new approach will assuage any concerns that Canadian physicians had with the earlier bill.

The reason the bill does not interfere with the duties of physicians is that a person could only be charged with one of the new offences created in the bill if that person commits or attempts to commit a criminal offence against the pregnant woman. A doctor performing an abortion on a consenting woman is not committing any criminal offence against the woman, since abortion is not regulated by criminal law in Canada, and has not been since 1988.

Therefore, these new offences would not apply. They are not stand-alone offences, meaning that they can only apply while committing or attempting to commit a criminal offence against the woman.

I have also been assured by legal experts that Cassie and Molly's law cannot be used to prosecute a pregnant woman in Canada for any harm she may cause to her own preborn child. This is because, by definition, the new offences only apply when a person knowingly commits a criminal act against a pregnant woman and thereby harms or kills her preborn child. Simply put, the bill is strictly aimed at third parties who knowingly commit a crime against a pregnant woman and in the process harm or kill her preborn child.

Importantly, Bill C-225 could never act as a precedent for the courts to criminalize the behaviour of pregnant women, because Canada's criminal justice system does not allow courts to create criminal offences. That is the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament. There is absolutely no way that Cassie and Molly's law could now or ever be used to criminalize any act or omission by a pregnant woman with respect to her own pregnancy.

Another point that must be stated clearly to negate any confusion about the bill relates to the definition of “human being” in the Criminal Code. The bill does not change the legal definition of human being or create fetal personhood, as some critics have tried to claim. Because the Criminal Code definition of human being precludes preborn children, the existing criminal offences against human beings, for example, murder, manslaughter, and assault, do not apply when the preborn child is harmed or killed during attacks against the pregnant woman. Instead, the bill creates brand new offences to cover the very narrow circumstances whereby a preborn child is harmed or killed during the commission of an offence against the mother, in spite of the fact that these children are not considered human beings in our criminal law.

The criminal law can be used to protect entities other than what is covered under the Criminal Code's definition of a human being. For example, the Criminal Code, in section 238, already protects a child during “the act of birth". It makes it an offence to cause that child's death in such as way that if the child were a human being it would be murder, even though that child during the act of birth is not a human being under the Criminal Code's definition.

We have criminal laws to protect animals from cruelty, and against the unlawful killing or injury of animals. There are also criminal law protections against the destruction of private property.

Families are the foundation of our country. The Criminal Code is missing a crucial component to protect Canadian women and their families. The increased penalties under Cassie and Molly's law create a legal mechanism that will enhance the safety of Canadian women and recognize the safety of their families. This approach is specific and robust. It is a common-sense approach designed to fill a gap in the Criminal Code that renders women and their preborn children vulnerable.

I truly believe that all of my colleagues want to do what they believe is compassionate and just. We should not turn a blind eye to the brutal violation of Cassie's choice to continue her pregnancy. We should not turn a blind eye to Molly's death.

We as parliamentarians have the long overdue opportunity to bring something good out of a horrific tragedy that is actually only one of many.

It is my sincere hope that we can put partisanship aside. I am asking all my colleagues to listen to their conscience. I am asking them to listen to everyday Canadians who instinctively know that it is wrong to violate a woman's pregnancy and cause the death of her yet to be born child against her will.

As legislators, we must hold to our responsibility to protect the innocent, with sound reasoning combined with compassionate and caring instincts.

Let us protect pregnant women. Let us work together to increase the chances that a pregnant woman will be able to continue her pregnancy free from violence. Let us protect the child she longs to bring into her family.

One of the tools we as federal parliamentarians have at our disposal to offer this much-needed protection is the criminal law. It is the 21st century, and the time is right.

Protect pregnant women and their preborn children. Vote for the passage of Cassie and Molly's law.

Special Committee on Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2012 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP 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 CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP 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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc 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 WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 26th, 2009 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc 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 REPLYSpeech From The Throne

November 24th, 2008 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc 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 CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 19th, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative 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 WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc 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 WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc 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 CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2008 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc 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—

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 13th, 2008 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have another 598 signatures of petitioners mostly from Quebec.

The petitioners trust that the wording of the bill is accurate when it says that it specifically does not apply to elective abortion and that it is meant totally and entirely to protect a pregnant woman and the child that she was wants from an assailant, a third party, who would come with a knife or a gun and would attack her and take away both her choice and the life of the child she wants.

The petitioners are pleading with Parliament to pass Bill C-484.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, we continue to receive petitions, name after name, day after day, supporting Bill C-484. These petitioners recognize that pregnant women who have decided to bring their pregnancy to term and have a child actually deserve protection in law for that choice. The most poignant part of their petition is that they ask that injuring or killing an unborn baby during a violent act be a criminal offence.

I am very pleased to present these petitions, which today come mostly from the town of Estevan in Saskatchewan.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that expresses profound concern regarding Bill C-484, the proposed unborn victims of crime act, and states that it conflicts with the Criminal Code because it grants a type of legal personhood to fetuses, which would necessarily compromise women's established rights.

Violence against women is part of a larger societal problem and it is everywhere. Fetal homicide laws elsewhere have done nothing to reduce this violence because they do not address the root causes of inequality that perpetuate the violence against women. The best way to protect fetuses is to provide pregnant women with the support and resources they need for a good pregnancy outcome, including protection from domestic violence. The petitioners ask that the Government of Canada reject Bill C-484.

June 5th, 2008 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

There has been a suggestion that we have a joint committee meeting with the justice committee. If we want to explore a joint meeting, then we need a motion. So the committee needs to pass a motion that a joint meeting be held with the justice committee to express our concern on Bill C-484.

June 5th, 2008 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Mr. Goldring.

I just wonder if the committee would consider, in light of trying to take this forward, just keeping it so general as to simply say, “That pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee study the subject matter of Bill C-484.”

You can't put that in there?

June 5th, 2008 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

I don't mean to speak out of order, but the reality of the justice committee before March 11 was that no piece of legislation was reported back to the House—in the time that I spent on the justice committee—without appearing before the justice committee. The justice committee has made every effort it can, which are the extra hours and the extra sitting.... I understand the concern of this committee in having this legislation reported back to the House without the scrutiny of the committee.

I guess I would implore my colleagues at the table here from the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois to talk to their colleagues on the justice committee. If it's the will of this committee to have that piece of legislation discussed, I'm sure we could find all-party agreement to at least have a meeting where we could sit down and discuss the merits of Bill C-484, outside the other issues the justice committee is currently facing. I would make that request of my colleagues here at the table in the hope that that might satisfy some of the concerns this committee has with Bill C-484.

June 5th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Chair, I can't presume to speak on behalf of the committee. I can just speak for myself. From my perspective, I would guess—and this is all it would be—that given the fact that Bill C-484 is approaching the 60-day limit, the justice committee, should it agree to go over this legislation, would do everything it could to at least have a few hearings on Bill C-484. This is what we've normally done. We've used the regular sittings to discuss government legislation and we've had extra sittings to discuss private members' legislation.

June 5th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

So it's quite conceivable that Bill C-484 may just pass its 60-day deadline and be assumed to have been adopted and sent to the House again if you do not address the bill. Is that true?

June 5th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Chair, my concern is that the promises of the justice committee meeting and getting on with the job of looking at the legislation seem rather elusive. I want to know if Bill C-484 is the first piece of legislation they'll be looking at, because it's my understanding that a number of pieces of legislation are backlogged, and Bill C-484 may not necessarily come before them. If that's the case, I think it is even more important that we move on this motion.

I'm quite prepared to make whatever changes, whatever amendments, are necessary, and I certainly accept that “Therefore be it resolved” could most certainly indicate that we will study the subject matter of Bill C-484 with regard to examining it from a gender budget analysis perspective. It needs to be worded better than that.

At this point, I have very grave concerns about the justice committee sitting and that this will go by the wayside.

June 5th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I've been on this committee now for about six minutes, but I am a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Perhaps I can just add a little bit from that perspective.

I know we have an impasse, and I'm not here to get into the blame game about that impasse. I can tell you, though, that the committee is working very hard to try to get around the impasse we have right now. I do believe that discussions are going on, and those discussions should bear some fruit here in the near while.

Given the fact that Bill C-484 is going to approach the 60-day time limit in the near future, it does need to appear before a committee. I do believe, because it is a Criminal Code matter, and it makes minor amendments to the Criminal Code--some people think they're significant and others think that...and I'm not here to debate the opinion of that.

If I can add some assurance to this committee, I'm very confident that the justice committee will work very hard to try to meet so that we can discuss the substantive issues pertaining to Bill C-484 before the 60-day expiry date, before it gets reported back to the House unamended.

June 5th, 2008 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

We could do that, but I think it's important that we look at the content and subject matter of the bill, that we put forward our comments. I understand the justice committee doesn't meet. I would agree with Ms. Minna that a joint meeting with them would be helpful. If they won't meet with us, we can report to them. But I think it's important that the status of women committee look at the content and subject matter of Bill C-484.

I can tell you, Madam Chair—and I'm sure my office is no different from many others—that many women across the country have a profound concern and anxiety about this bill, and somebody has to look at it.

June 5th, 2008 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you.

Ms. Minna preempted some of what I was going to suggest.

What we're looking at here is the content and the subject matter of Bill C-484, and I agree completely with Ms. Mathyssen's comment. This is a bill that has a profound impact on women. It should at least be subject to a gender analysis, if nothing else.

June 4th, 2008 / 7:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, maybe that coffee cup is the reason he was unable to hear my arguments about Bill C-484.

Nevertheless, had he wanted to, he would have understood that I was asking the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages to stand up for women. That did not happen.

I am not surprised, but I am disappointed. This evening, I am disappointed on behalf of all women of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, and on behalf of the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances, the AFEAS, the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec and the Fédération des médecins du Québec. None of these groups want Bill C-484 to pass at third reading because they are all aware of the threat it poses to women.

I really hope that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages will hear our appeal even if she chooses not to answer our questions. I hope she will assure us that she intends to stand up for this issue because if she does not, I can promise her that the women of Quebec and Canada will not forget.

June 4th, 2008 / 7:10 p.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, right off the get go, let me just sort of refute the main thrust of my colleague's argument.

Her argument or suggestion is that somehow the bill introduced by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, Bill C-484, is in some way a backdoor attempt to reopen the abortion debate. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the bill specifically excludes women who wish to seek an abortion from the provisions of the bill. This bill only deals with women who choose to go full term, who want a child. It does not speak to those women who do not wish to carry their child to full term.

The member asked why the bill is not before the status of women committee or the heritage committee.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, as I know, and I hope my hon. colleague knows, that it is the right of a member who introduces a private member's bill, to determine in the motion to which committee the bill should be referred. In this case, since the bill is about amending the Criminal Code, it is natural that it goes to the justice committee. In fact, not only private members' bills but government initiated bills and legislation that deals with amendments to the Criminal Code are normally referred to the justice committee.

Second, in Marleau and Montpetit on page 634, the procedure and practice manual that we all follow in this place, it states once again that members have the right, in the motion contained in the bill itself, to determine to which committee the bill gets referred. That is further supported by Standing Order 108.

I would suggest to the member opposite that it is an appropriate place to send the bill; that is, the justice committee. I hope the member, if for no other reason, would understand, from a procedural standpoint and from our own practices that we follow in this place, that the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, who introduced the bill, has followed the correct procedure. The justice committee is the correct place to discuss the bill.

June 4th, 2008 / 7:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 3, I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages a question. Unfortunately, the answer I received came from the Minister of Justice. I must say that the question really was meant for the Minister of Status of Women.

The Standing Committee on the Status of Women passed a motion advising the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that it was not in support of Bill C-484. We asked the Minister of Status of Women to take over where the committee left off and inform her colleagues of the importance of quickly dealing with this matter in order to ensure that the bill would not go to third reading.

I hope that the minister will answer this evening. Because Quebec and Canadian women expect her to take her place and to demonstrate leadership for her colleagues and for Quebeckers and Canadians. She must let us know and make us understand what is happening. Above all, she must reassure us that the abortion file will not be reopened. Women want assurances that, where they live, they will not have to experience what happened 40 or 50 years ago when abortion clinics were illegal and women had to carry out their own abortions with knitting needles, and died as a result.

I know that the minister voted against this bill. Since she voted against it, I would like her to now show us that she is capable of convincing her colleagues and telling them that women do have the right to choose.

At present, women are very afraid and I can understand that. I am a woman, a mother and a grandmother and I know what it is like to be afraid of losing our rights.

This government took a very underhanded approach. There are four bills right now that could potentially reopen the abortion debate. Before they were introduced, funding was cut to Status of Women Canada for groups that defend women's rights. Then, the court challenges program was abolished. Furthermore, women's advocacy groups have had to close their doors for lack of funding.

Now that women are having a harder time defending themselves and bringing a case before the Supreme Court, they are being hit with bills that will likely reopen the abortion debate if they go through. This must not happen.

For all the women of Quebec and Canada, I sincerely hope that the minister will be able to give me a positive answer this evening. I hope she will tell me that she will defend women and that she will inform her colleagues and make them aware of this cause.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 4th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, support for Bill C-484 continues to grow and is expressed right across the country. These petitioners come from: St. John's; Regina; Lambton; Gander; Dauphin, Manitoba; Dartmouth; Sudbury; Barrhead; Saskatoon; Golden; and a place called St. Alban's, which I had not even heard of. The petitioners are universal in their support right across the country. They urge the Government of Canada to support Bill C-484, a bill that would provide for a separate offence in the event that an unborn child is injured or killed during an attack on its pregnant mother.

These petitioners recognize that it is a severe and serious offence to force upon a pregnant woman the death or injury of her unborn child. It is a violation of her right to protect and give life to that child she wants.

Bill C-484Statements By Members

June 3rd, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 1, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Montreal to condemn Bill C-484, which threatens to reopen the abortion debate.

Nearly 1,500 women and men of all ages from community organizations and various groups that support women's rights joined the march, which began in front of the clinic run by Dr. Morgentaler, a true icon in the fight to decriminalize abortion. My colleague from Laval and I were proud to take part in the march.

The Prime Minister had promised not to reopen the abortion debate. Yet Bill C-484 breaks that promise. These are devious, hypocritical tactics to undermine women's dignity and basic rights.

I invite people to condemn the Conservatives' hidden agenda by taking part in activities to protest Bill C-484 and signing the Bloc Québécois petition.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 2nd, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again, I have 1,500 new names on Bill C-484. The petitioners come from right across the country, but most of them are from Calgary and Fort McMurray in Alberta, and a large number in this group is from various locations in the province of Quebec.

The petitioners draw attention to the fact that when a pregnant woman decides to have a child, the forcing upon her of the death or injury of her unborn child is a violation of a woman's right to protect and give life to that child.

They urge Parliament to support Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act.

Bill C-484Oral Questions

June 2nd, 2008 / 2:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Montreal on Sunday, some 1,500 people demonstrated against Bill C-484. Despite what the Conservatives say, this bill opens the door to the recriminalization of abortion. Everyone in Quebec is critical of it, and the National Assembly adopted a unanimous motion asking that this bill be withdrawn.

Will the government shed its ideological straitjacket and vote against this regressive bill that threatens women's rights?

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 29th, 2008 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I submit a petition which expresses profound concern regarding Bill C-484, the proposed unborn victims of crime act, because it conflicts with the Criminal Code and provides personhood to fetuses that would necessarily compromise women's established rights.

Violence against pregnant women, as members well know, is part of a larger societal problem of violence against women. Legal homicide laws elsewhere have done nothing to reduce this because they do not address the root inequalities that perpetuate the violence.

The best way to protect fetuses is to provide pregnant women the supports and resources they need for a good pregnancy outcome, including protection from domestic violence.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 28th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present another 550 names of petitioners who urge Parliament to pass Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act. These petitioners recognize that the bill specifically does not apply to elective abortion. They also recognize that when a pregnant woman has a child that she wants, there ought to be second offence when that choice and child are taken away from her against her will and with violence.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 28th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by 158 constituents from my riding who urge the House of Commons to support Bill C-484, which is a private member's bill introduced by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 26th, 2008 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions for the House today.

The first petition expresses profound concern regarding Bill C-484, the proposed unborn victims of crime act that conflicts with the Criminal Code because it grants a type of legal personhood to fetuses that would necessarily compromise women's established rights.

Violence against pregnant women is part of a larger societal problem of violence against women everywhere. Fetal homicide laws elsewhere have done nothing to reduce this violence because they do not address the root causes of inequality that perpetuate this violence.

The best way to protect fetuses is to provide pregnant women with the support and resources they need for a good pregnancy outcome, including protection from domestic violence.

The petitioners ask the Government of Canada to reject Bill C-484.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 16th, 2008 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present this petition. The petitioners note that under current federal criminal law an unborn child is not recognized as a victim with respect to violent crime. They note that a vast majority of the public supports laws to protect unborn children from acts of violence against their mothers that also injure or kill the child in their womb.

They call on Parliament to enact legislation which would recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers, allowing two charges to be laid instead of one. Of course, if Bill C-484 were passed, it would do exactly that.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

May 14th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-543, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (abuse of pregnant woman).

Mr. Speaker, the reason I am tabling the bill is many of us felt that Bill C-484, while it did attempt to accomplish certain things in protecting pregnant women from assault or abuse, left too many unanswered questions and too many doors were left open.

For those of us who are pro-choice, but did not want to go down that road, I have created a simple bill, which would provide judges with the ability to increase the penalties for those who would knowingly assault or abuse a pregnant woman.

I have had this tested to see whether it would open the door to recriminalization of abortion, and it will not. I have had it tested to see whether it would have any censure against the women herself, should she choose to have an abortion, and that will not be the case. In fact, it plugs all the holes left by Bill C-484.

I invite members, who felt as awkward as I did in not supporting Bill C-484, to look at this as a very helpful option to assist pregnant women, should they be attacked by those who are knowingly aware they are pregnant.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a large number of petitions. It almost makes me think of the Hank Snow song I've Been Everywhere when I look at the names on these petitions, people from North Bay to Morinville, High Prairie, Devon, Bonavista, Edmonton, Sooke, and many other cities.

These people have signed their names in support of Bill C-484, a very important bill which says that when a woman is pregnant by choice and wants to give her child life, love and care, no one has the right to take that right and that child away from her before the child is born. They are urging Parliament to pass Bill C-484.

With these over 2,000 names, I believe the total is now approaching 24,000 names that have been tabled in this House.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 9th, 2008 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have received quite a number of petitions with regard to Bill C-484, which was spoken to earlier in the House.

The petition contains hundreds of, if not over a thousand, signatures, many of which are from my riding. Therefore, I, too, take the honour of presenting this petition.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 9th, 2008 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the number of people who are responding positively to Bill C-484, the bill that would provide protection for unborn children when they, as well as their mothers, are victims of a criminal attack.

The people who are sending in their names today come from right across the country, as I have experienced over the last number of days. They draw particular attention to the fact that forcing upon a pregnant woman the death and injury of her unborn child is a violation of a woman's right to protect and give life to her child.

This petition contains another 735 signatures today. I am very proud to present the petition.

Bill C-484Oral Questions

May 9th, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the pro-life rally held yesterday here in Ottawa, a number of Conservative members demonstrated to reopen the debate on abortion. Yet the government insists that it does not want to reopen this debate.

If the Minister of Justice agrees with the Prime Minister, will he do everything he can to ensure that his colleagues vote against Bill C-484, which could recriminalize abortion?

Unborn Victims of Crime ActStatements By Members

May 8th, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we speak, a pro-choice demonstration is being held at the human rights monument on Elgin Street to counterbalance the March for Life, which was organized by pro-life groups and is taking place on Parliament Hill. These pro-life groups do not hesitate to recruit Catholic school children and bring them to the event.

Groups such as the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and Planned Parenthood of Ottawa invited members of Parliament to participate in the pro-choice demonstration in order to show their support for women's freedom of choice regarding abortion and their opposition to Bill C-484—the bill that would extend rights to the fetus and could set women back 20 years.

The women of Quebec are no fools. They see the Conservatives' ploy, which could re-criminalize abortion instead of tackling the problem of violence against women.

I urge everyone here to show their opposition to Bill C-484 and to sign the Bloc Québécois' petition.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 6th, 2008 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present many names on petitions in support of Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act. These petitions keep pouring in from all areas of the country. In this particular instance, I have over 2,500 names on the petitions I am presenting today.

These people are asking that Parliament pass Bill C-484. They mention specifically my name as the sponsor of the bill and are asking us to recognize in law the life of the child that the woman wants to give birth to, give life to and give love to.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActOral Questions

April 28th, 2008 / 2:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages emphasizes that she voted against Bill C-484.

She should tell us today the real reasons why she voted against this bill. She should tell us what fears led her to oppose the bill.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActOral Questions

April 28th, 2008 / 2:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the National Assembly of Quebec, women's groups and the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec are speaking out against Bill C-484. More than 25,000 people have signed the petition on the specialists' web site calling for the rejection of this bill that could reopen the debate on the recriminalization of abortion.

Will the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages prevail upon her colleagues and convince them not to vote for such a bill?

Unborn Victims of Crime ActStatements By Members

April 28th, 2008 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am really sad that the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-484, has been so focused lately on misrepresentation of the facts. This is a totally pro-choice bill in the true meaning of that phrase. It explicitly does not apply to elective abortion. It applies to a woman who wants to have a baby.

There is a serious gap in the law that allows a criminal to violently take that choice and the child she wants away from her, against her will, without her consent, and with violence.

People who support this bill understand the difference between a woman who goes to a doctor or clinic and says, “I'm pregnant and I don't want to be. Please help me”, and the woman who is lying on the floor while being attacked with a fist, boot, knife, sword or gun, who is crying, screaming and pleading for her life, and the life of the unborn child that she wants.

Detractors of Bill C-484 can stand with the assailant if they wish, but I am standing with and for the woman and the child that she wants.

Bill C-484Oral Questions

April 17th, 2008 / 2:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Fédération des femmes du Québec and the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances are again stating their opposition to Bill C-484, because it represents a real threat to the right to abortion. While the women's movement is mobilizing across Quebec and Canada, the Minister of Status of Women is doing nothing.

Will the minister stop hiding behind excuses, such as saying that it is a free vote? Will she do her job and defend women?

JusticeOral Questions

April 16th, 2008 / 2:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, Pro-Life is boasting that Bill C-484 is a triumph that could recognize fetal rights. It is very clear that the Conservatives' old reformist slant is resurfacing, and that it was with an eye to an election that the Prime Minister did not show up to vote on the second reading of this bill.

Why is the Minister of Justice allowing the debate about a woman's right to abortion to be re-opened via the back door and under false pretenses?

JusticeOral Questions

April 16th, 2008 / 2:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, Conservative Bill C-484 is creating some serious concerns in Quebec. The Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec, the Fédération des femmes du Québec and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux are speaking out against this bill that would throw open the door for the recriminalization of abortion.

Instead of hiding behind false pretenses and saying that it is a free vote, will the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages finally assume her responsibilities and defend women so that this regressive bill will never pass?

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 15th, 2008 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am once again very pleased, honoured and humbled to present petitions in the House that have been brought here by thousands of people. I now have well over 20,000 names on petitions in support of Bill C-484. These people recognize that there is a difference between a woman who wants to end her pregnancy and one who does not and wants to have the right both to have the child and to have her choice protected in law.

These people, around 1,200 of them today, are asking that Parliament enact Bill C-484, which provides protection for women and for their unborn children, which they want.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 14th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition on behalf of a number of constituents in the St. Catharines and Niagara community in regard to Bill C-484. The member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park also introduced a petition, and I would like to do the same.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 14th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, once again, to rise to present petitions from across the country on Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act.

The petitioners recognize that when a pregnant woman is wanting to bring her pregnancy to term and to give life and birth to her child, that no one has the right to take that choice and that child away from her.

Therefore, I am presenting today some 1,500 additional names on two petitions, and I am very honoured to do that. I appreciate the support from Saskatchewan, Weyburn, Spy Hill, Langenburg, Assiniboia, Saskatoon, and then from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saint John, New Brunswick and Sydney, Nova Scotia. The bulk of these names come from there. Support is right across the country.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 9th, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured again to present petitions that support Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act, which I have introduced. In this particular case, I am adding just a few short of 1,300 additional names on this petition.

These petitioners are, like the vast majority of Canadians, supportive of legislation that would recognize unborn children as victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against the mother.

April 8th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

--which updates the Youth Criminal Justice Act; the impaired driving study report; or private members' bills, BillC-426, Bill C-484, Bill S-207, and Bill S-213, which have been referred to this committee.

I would like to turn everyone's attention to a recent and most unprecedented statement by the Speaker of the House, which is aimed directly at our committee.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 7th, 2008 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today to present a petition signed almost exclusively by my constituents. They drew up the petition before Bill C-484 was introduced, but that is essentially what they are supporting. In particular, the petitioners are calling on Parliament to enact legislation to recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence. As this House has voted upon it, it is a timely petition.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 7th, 2008 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour and the privilege of presenting yet another handful of petitions, this time a little smaller. It is under a thousand names at 738, but they come in every day from people right across the country who recognize the target of Bill C-484, that is, to protect the right of a woman who chooses to have a child to have that right, that choice, and to have the baby protected in law. There is support from Surrey, Terrace and Richmond in British Columbia and from a number of other places in the country.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2008 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured today to present yet another handful of signatures that are in support of Bill C-484, my private member's bill, which would provide for criminal sanctions against someone who would attack a pregnant woman and thereby injure or cause the death of her unborn child. This petition has a total of almost 2,500 signatures.

The petitioners urge that this bill be passed.

That brings a total number of names now presented to 17,547 in the House.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2008 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have two petitions from constituents in Miramichi.

All petitioners are very much concerned with assaults on pregnant women. They ask the House to give speedy passage to Bill C-484.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

April 4th, 2008 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

The Conservative government, I mean, has ignored the appeals for assistance from farmers and forestry workers who have been the victims of an unprecedented income crisis.

Another one of the Bloc's demands that comes up often has to do with employment insurance. The Bloc Québécois was calling for the creation of an independent employment insurance fund and for significant improvements to the plan. In particular, we were calling on the government to implement a minimum eligibility threshold of 360 hours for all regions and all claimants. Under this minimum eligibility threshold, however, claimants would be eligible for a varying number of weeks of benefits, based on the unemployment rate in their region. We also called on the government to lengthen the benefit period by five weeks for all regions, regardless of the number of hours required to qualify. The maximum number of weeks of benefits would go from 45 to 50 weeks. Furthermore, we wanted the rate of benefits to be increased from 55% to 60%.

What do we have in the Conservative budget? The budget provides for a new crown corporation, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, which will report to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.

This board will be responsible for managing a separate bank account. Each year, any employment insurance fund surplus will be saved and invested until it is needed to cover the program costs.

Moreover, as of 2009, a new rate-setting mechanism will be put in place. It will take into account any surpluses or deficits so that income and expenses balance out over the years. The rates set by the board cannot fluctuate more than 15% in a given year, in order to ensure a stable rate.

In addition, the government plans on maintaining a balance of $2 billion in the bank account of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board.

As we can see, the Conservatives have finally bowed to one Bloc demand and will stop pillaging the employment insurance fund. The Bloc Québécois believes that instead of creating a new crown corporation, the mandate of the employment insurance commission could have been amended. The Bloc Québécois believes that creating an independent fund should improve the plan and not just reduce contributions.

In addition, the Conservative government is ignoring the $54 billion debt to those who contributed to the plan and to all Quebeckers. It is paradoxical that the Conservatives say they hope to “ensure that EI premiums are dedicated exclusively to the EI program” but that in a few weeks time they will take the 2007-08 surplus and pay down the debt.

They seem to be going against their own philosophy. The Bloc Québécois asked that a $1.5 billion fund be established to ensure that this year's surplus be used strictly for the employment insurance fund. The Conservative budget fails to enhance in any way the employment insurance fund and, once again, there is a lack of consideration by this government for the unemployed. Nevertheless, we must consider the creation of this fund to be an immense victory for the Bloc Québécois.

With regard to aboriginal peoples, the Bloc Québécois had demanded that the federal government respect the agreements between the former government and aboriginal peoples and make provision for the required funding. The Bloc Québécois also expects the federal government to meet the urgent need for housing on reserves.

The 2008 budget sets aside an additional $660 million over two years for economic development and the improvement of academic performance, health, and the well-being of children and families, as well as the improvement of water quality and management. Unfortunately, although the $660 million investment may seem to be a large amount at first glance, the funds come primarily from monies set aside in the 2006 budget.

The budget does not meet the needs of aboriginal Canadians, since the money should have been announced in 2006. This funding comes too late and is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the defunct Kelowna accord. Expectations were high when the Kelowna accord was signed, and now there is major disappointment. No significant money was provided for social housing on reserves. Despite the need for more than 10,000 homes in Quebec alone, there is not enough allocated to improving the socio-economic conditions in first nations communities. Although there was a surplus in the last fiscal year, no money was set aside to fight poverty among aboriginals.

I would now like to talk about the Bloc's demand concerning the status of women. The Bloc Québécois wanted a series of measures to foster equality between men and women, in particular, the reinstatement of the court challenges program, the reinstatement of funding for Status of Women Canada and the improvement of the employment insurance plan, which is currently not advantageous for women. The Conservative budget does nothing for women. In fact, the word appears only six times in the budget, including the note in the French text regarding the use of the masculine gender to cover both men and women.

The budget includes the following paragraph entitled, “Advancing Equality of Women”. It reads, “Budget 2007 increased the women's program budget to $20 million. Over the next year, the government will build on this achievement through the development of an action plan that will advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.”

Members will recall that women's rights groups saw their funding disappear, since they were excluded from the new women's program, and will also recall that the women's program was funded through cuts to Status of Women.

The Conservative budget ignores women's concerns such as pay equity and the fight for equality. The Bloc Québécois is eagerly awaiting the Conservative action plan, but is expecting the same reactionary and backward-looking vision we are used to on this issue. And I will not even begin to speak about Bill C-484, introduced by a Conservative member, which is an embarrassment to all women.

The Bloc Québécois had even more expectations in terms of international cooperation, including achieving the goal of 0.7% of the GDP by 2015, as set out by the UN. We could reach that by increasing ODA budgets by 12% per year over the next three years and then by 15% per year until 2015.

In the 2008 budget, the government is committing to double international aid based on 2001-02 numbers, to bring it up to $5 billion by 2010-11. The budget also includes an additional $100 million for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, which would bring the projected value of Canada's aid program in Afghanistan up to $280 million in 2008-09. As well, aid to Africa would be doubled by 2008-09.

There is $450 million, for the next three years, for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. As well there is $50 million over two years for an innovation fund. However, the federal budget still does not present a credible plan for achieving the goal of 0.7% of the GDP by 2015 so that Canada can reach the UN's millennium goals.

All of the Bloc's demands were ignored. There is nothing for workers. There is no POWA, no regional development, no reinvestment in culture and nothing for social housing. It is equally bleak for women. For these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will vote against this bill.

JusticeOral Questions

April 3rd, 2008 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Status of Women passed a Bloc Québécois motion advising the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of its unequivocal opposition to Bill C-484, which undermines a woman's right to abortion.

Will the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages agree to take over where the committee left off and also approach the Minister of Justice, or will she abandon women once again?

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 3rd, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being able to present this petition before the last person to present. This petition today calls upon Parliament to enact legislation which would recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers, allowing two charges to be laid against the offender instead of just one. There are nearly 1,000 signatures on this petition and in polls we have seen clearly that 72% of Canadians support this important legislation, Bill C-484.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 3rd, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured today to present yet again over 1,500 names on a petition in support of my Bill C-484. These petitioners, recognizing that when a woman has chosen to have a child, the right and that child should not be taken away by violent means, ask Parliament to enact legislation that would make it a separate offence to cause the injury or death of an unborn child. Today's petition brings the number of petitioners' signatures in support of this bill to over 13,000.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 1st, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to again rise in the House to present more petitions on Bill C-484. This bill has immense support out there. Every day, I am getting a thousand or more names on petitions in support of the bill. This time, they come all the way from Kelowna to Kanata, from all points in between, and from points beyond.

I am very pleased to present this petition in which the petitioners ask that Parliament enact legislation to protect and recognize unborn children when the mother wants them. It is very clear to them what the meaning is. I hope parliamentarians pick up on that.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 31st, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add another large number of names with respect to Bill C-484. The petitioners, in this case 1,336 of them, are giving their support to this bill which proposes to give protection to the unborn child of a pregnant woman who wants to have that child and who is attacked and that choice is taken away from her.

The petitioners are from right across the country. There are even some from Balgonie, Saskatchewan this time. Many communities right across this country support this bill.

Status of WomenPrivate Members' Business

March 14th, 2008 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support the motion presented by the member for London West. I know that she is very committed to women's equality and has fought for that. Therefore, I am pleased, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to support her motion.

I am assuming that the motion will get support from all members of the House. As we know, because of the outcry that has happened across the country and because the Conservative government took out the mandate of equality from Status of Women Canada, it has now had to rethink its position.

Based on the massive opposition from women's organizations across the country, the minister responsible for the Status of Women has finally agreed that equality will go back into the mandate of the Status of Women.

Therefore, that is a victory and it is a victory for all of the women's organizations and members of the House who pushed back on the government and said that it was completely unacceptable that equality be taken out of the Status of Women mandate.

Having said that, I want to focus on what this issue of equality for Status of Women in Canada means. As we just celebrated International Women's Day, I think it is important to note that while we have won equality in a legal sense, equality in a real sense, day to day in terms of programs and services and the wage gap, and equality in terms of access to the law are still things that are being fought for.

For example, when we look at the wage gap that still exists in this country, the Canadian Labour Congress has produced excellent information that is really quite shocking. It shows us that women working full time all year still make only 70¢ for every $1 men earn. For racialized women it is even worse. It is 64¢. For aboriginal women it is 46¢. In fact, the gender pay gap in Canada is even bigger than the wage gap in the United States and that may surprise some people.

What was most shocking to me to learn from this information is that by age 51 women's average income in this country is only 41% of the average income for 51-year-old men. That is truly appalling to know that, after years of striving for women's equality, we are still so far behind.

We have further evidence of the struggle and what needs to be done by looking at the last federal budget. In fact, at the parliamentary committee on the Status of Women just a couple of days, March 13, Kathleen Lahey, who is a professor at the Faculty of Law at Queen's University, pointed out in her presentation that the only reference to women in the budget had to do with the fact that $20 million was allotted to the Status of Women to develop an action plan for women.

However, when we examine this, we find out that the $20 million that has been allocated in the Conservative budget is actually $4 million less than Status of Women Canada received in the year 2002-03.

Therefore, we are not even keeping pace with the cutbacks that have happened over a number of years in terms of this department fulfilling its responsibilities for the equality of women in Canada.

If we take that number of $20 million and apportion it out for the number of females in Canada, Professor Lahey pointed out that it amounted to $1.21 per woman and child in Canada. That is what women's equality is worth to the government in the budget. That is something that we find quite outrageous and one of the reasons that we voted against the budget.

Another benchmark to see whether or not we are actually meeting the goal of equality for women is to again look at the budget to see what is happening with some of the tax cuts. Again from the professor's analysis, corporate income tax rates have been established and the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, has rolled back corporate taxes. This means a loss of about $60 billion in public revenues. Professor Lahey points out that low income individuals, most of whom are women, now pay higher income tax rates than even large corporations.

So much for this gender analysis in the budget because when we strip it all away and look at the numbers, we can see the impacts of cuts and that the tax load is disproportionately being carried by women and in particular low income women.

The corporate income tax cuts “shift the overall tax burden onto low-income individuals at the same time they drain revenues needed to redress growing gender disparities”. That is from Professor Lahey's brief.

I believe that in passing this motion today we should see it as a step forward, but we should recognize that we have a huge struggle here in terms of attaining equality for all women in Canada. I am very proud to say that in the NDP we have a very strong action plan, “Fairness for Women”, which covers everything from political representation to violence against women, pay equity, programs and services, support for women, and child care.

These are the basics that we need to see happen. When we look at a federal budget, we see that there are some very basic choices made by any government when it brings in a budget. Clearly, in the last budget that we saw, those choices were made in favour of people who already have very significant resources. It was a budget that clearly said the government does not care about women in this country and is leaving them behind.

Like my colleague from the Bloc, I have to say that along with other women in this House I was truly dismayed that the private member's bill, Bill C-484, passed through this House a few days ago. We see this as an absolute attack on women's equality and on reproductive rights. It was a bill brought in by a Conservative backbencher. It is clearly a back door way of trying to unravel the decades of struggle for women's equality in this country, for reproductive rights and for choice on abortion. I know that from the emails and messages that I got from across the country, people could not believe that today we are still in this battle to uphold those rights.

Today we are debating this motion to insert the word “equality” in the mandate of the status of women department, and of course that is essential. It is symbolic. It is the whole essence of what that work is all about, but while we do that, and while I have no doubt that this motion will pass today, please let us be committed and understand the reality that women in this country, particularly low income women, immigrant women, racialized women, aboriginal women, and women with disabilities, are struggling for their lives. They are struggling for dignity. They are struggling to have the basic necessities of life, whether it is housing, education, a living income, access to programs and the legal system, and so on.

On behalf of the NDP, we are very pleased to support this motion. I want to congratulate the member for bringing it forward. It is an important motion. We want this Parliament to speak with one clear voice and say that women's equality must be part of the status of women program and mandate. It could not be otherwise. We could not let this go unchallenged. I am thankful to the member for bringing it forward.

However, let us be clear that we have many other struggles and issues to face to ensure that women's equality truly is living and breathing in this country.

Status of WomenPrivate Members' Business

March 14th, 2008 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening very carefully to the hon. Conservative member for Simcoe North and I must say that there is a big difference between what he says and what he does, as Status of Women Canada would certainly agree.

I would like to commend my colleague from Laval, who explained the Bloc Québécois position so well during the first hour of debate on this motion by the hon. member for London West, whom I would also like to congratulate for her motion on promoting the status of women, a motion that is totally non-partisan. I would like to congratulate both hon. members.

In the days following International Women's Day, I must say that it worries me deeply to sit in this Parliament under a Conservative government. I was elected almost four years ago and I have never had to make so many speeches to promote the status of women. This is unusual. I feel like the rug is being pulled out from under us.

It seems to me that this Conservative government is attacking the promotion of the status of women. Some attacks are obvious. The most obvious, of course, are the cuts made to Status of Women Canada, so that the organization would stop promoting the status of women. There have been many other attacks. The most recent is Bill C-484, introduced by a Conservative member, a legislative measure that greatly concerns me. The bill has to do with unborn victims of crime. Under the pretense of protecting fetuses and protecting women, it would give a legal status to the fetus. This could mean sending women to prison for having an abortion. It would turn back the clock on women's rights by decades.

I am surprised that, as I speak here today in 2008, I am forced to defend women's equality, to defend women's bodies and to tell men they must stop trying to legislate on women's bodies. They cannot simultaneously be a legal entity and have another legal entity inside them. That is schizophrenia. I say this jokingly, but I am really very worried.

As the labour critic, I would simply like to draw the House's attention to some of the elements in the Bloc Québécois platform that improve the living conditions of women working under federal jurisdiction. In Quebec, the status of women is not under threat as it is in this Parliament and working women have privileges not enjoyed by women working under federal jurisdiction. Among others, the anti-strikebreaker legislation significantly reduces the number of person days lost due to labour disputes. There is also the protective reassignment of pregnant women. If we truly wish to protect women and their unborn children, we must support this measure. It allows a woman working in a factory or workplace that is unhealthy for her or her fetus to leave her employment early and to be paid under the protective reassignment program, without affecting her maternity leave. That is what is currently happening at the federal level. That is what this Conservative government is forcing on all women working in the public service, in ports, airports or telecommunications.

In addition, women earn less than men. I have the statistics and I have provided them many times. I believe everyone is aware of this.

As I said earlier, the anti-strikebreaker legislation and protective reassignment are very important measures in support of working women.

I do not wish to take up too much time but I do wish to reiterate my concerns about this Conservative government that is causing the status of women to be eroded.

Unborn Victims of CrimeStatements by Members

March 14th, 2008 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the public debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-484, is going very well. When people hear and understand the true purpose of my bill and are assured that it is targeted totally and directly to the pregnant woman who has chosen to give birth to her child, they agree that this legislation is urgently needed.

This bill would protect women because a person cannot get to the child without attacking the mother. Studies show that pregnant women are much more vulnerable to attack and the attacks are more vicious. My bill would protect them. A woman should not be left to stand alone in defence of her life and the life of her child.

Seventy-two per cent of Canadians support this legislation. Seventy-five per cent of women support it. Seventy-nine per cent of youth support it. Support crosses political lines, with the lowest level being at 66% for those who identify that they vote for the NDP. Every group has a majority of people in support of this legislation.

When a willing mother is having a wanted child, no one has the right to take that choice and the child that she wants away from her.

Bill C-484PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 13th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, petitions keep roaring into this place in support of my bill, Bill C-484.

Thousands of petitioners believe that if a woman is purposefully pregnant and wants to have her child, she deserves the right of the law to protect that unborn child. They ask that we in this Parliament produce legislation to that effect, and, of course, my Bill C-484 would do that.

This is another group of some 800 petitioners, which brings the total number now that I have presented to over 10,000.

March 13th, 2008 / 9:05 a.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

I was getting to that point, Madam Chair.

I think this is a very good motion. I would also like to say that based on what we know about the impact of Bill C-484 on women and their right to choose, and how similar bills have been used against women in 37 states in the United States, it's incumbent upon all of us to become fully informed—and there's lots of information out there—and make sure our caucus colleagues have this information. It would seem to me that decisions made in ignorance are very faulty decisions, no matter how private and personal.

March 11th, 2008 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Madam Chair, last week, when we voted on Bill C-484, I realized something, and I think that most of the women present here also realized the same thing.

For nearly six months, we have been the victims of a propaganda campaign regarding this bill. Mr. Epp has been sitting in Parliament since 1993. At that time, he was a member of the Reform Party. The members of the Reform Party have been trying to present a bill against abortion for a long time, by making people believe that this bill was meant to help and protect women. There is such legislation in 37 American states, where some women are currently reduced to performing abortions on themselves. If they are caught, they are jailed. Some women who are taking medication are also locked up because the medication can put the life of their fetus in jeopardy. There are other women who have substance abuse problems, and rather than sending them to drug treatment centres, they lock them up. We hear about such horror stories in those states.

I submit to everyone around this table that it is important to be informed on the impact of such legislation. Last week, if we voted, it was because everyone was not fully informed. We were so certain that such a bill could not be adopted. We could not believe that it would be adopted because 20 years ago, we decided that women were in charge of their own bodies. We did not want to believe that we had been caught with our pants down.

We must do our work and make sure that the bill does not pass. If it is carried, it would be a step backwards, not 20 years, but 50 or 60 years back, and there would be frightening tragedies.

March 11th, 2008 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

The motion reads as follows:

That all the women of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women request the support of the women of their respective caucus, to denounce Bill C-484 and the dramatic consequences which it could have on the women of Quebec and Canada.

Status of WomenOral Questions

March 10th, 2008 / 2:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the president of the Quebec office of the Campaign Life Coalition, Luc Gagnon, said that Bill C-484 is a first step towards recriminalizing abortion.

Right-wing religious groups also applaud this initiative. The situation is worrisome, because the same strategy was used by the opponents of freedom of choice in the United States to have abortion criminalized.

Will the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages take action to defend the rights of women against such a possibility? That is her duty. Will she fulfill it?

Status of WomenOral Questions

March 7th, 2008 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives may have their blinders on, but the women of Quebec and Canada do not.

The president of Quebec's Campaign Life Coalition, Luc Gagnon, has said that Bill C-484 is the first step towards recriminalizing abortion. Joyce Arthur, of the Abortion Rights Coalition, said that once a person is found guilty of murdering a fetus, the Supreme Court will use the verdict to determine that a fetus is a human being.

Will the minister listen to the Bloc's recommendations and convince her colleagues of the dangers of voting for such a bill?

International Women's DayStatements By Members

March 6th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 8 is International Women's Day and will be celebrated this year with the theme, “Strong Women, Strong World”.

To mark the occasion, I would like to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion. Indeed, on January 28, 1988, in the Morgentaler decision, the Supreme Court declared section 251 of the Criminal Code unconstitutional because it infringed on women's rights to life, liberty and security.

This decision helped reduce the number of clandestine abortions, which were causing serious health problems for women, often even leading to women's deaths. Since the Morgentaler case, not a year goes by when the rights of women to exercise autonomy and free will are questioned, jeopardized, limited and even threatened. The Conservatives are the masters of this, as evidenced by Bill C-484.

Vigilance is crucial with this backward-thinking government that has no other wish than to see the rights of women take a step back, even though they are strong women for a strong world.

Rights of the UnbornStatements By Members

March 6th, 2008 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canada is known as a country in which we have laws that protect all equally and where citizens are compassionate and caring. However, one important change is needed to preserve that reputation. Canadians are surprised to know that in Canada a woman who has chosen to have a child gets no help from the law in protecting her unborn child.

The member of Parliament for Edmonton—Sherwood Park has introduce Bill C-484 to address this gap in the law. His unborn victims of crime act recognizes that a woman who has chosen to have her child and to give it birth has a right to protection for her child as well as for herself. Seventy-two per cent of Canadians support this legislation. I hope MPs here continue to support it as it works its way through committee and on to third reading.

Let us support the choice of the woman and the child she has chosen to keep.

Opposition Motion--Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 6th, 2008 / 1:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel a little uncomfortable about the motion put forward here today. I find it somewhat unfortunate the women are being used, International Women's Day is being used and women's issues are being used to try to make this an opposition day, when the Liberal Party knows full well that the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Conservatives will all vote against this motion. I think that was their goal here today, but I find their actions very pernicious.

While the motion raises issues that we defend wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, issues that we really care about, we nevertheless find ourselves compelled to vote against it. I find that especially unfortunate, considering that most of the women who have spoken so far are aware of what is at stake in terms of women's issues today. They know that the Conservatives made drastic cuts to all social programs for women. They also made significant cuts to both the court challenges program and the women's program.

When a party drafts such a motion and forces the opposition parties to vote against it, knowing full well that the members of those parties care about the issues identified by its premise, I think that is somewhat dishonest, especially since we know that the Liberal Party has recently been joining forces, almost openly, with the Conservative Party.

Refusing to vote against a budget and a throne speech is the same as adopting the positions of the party in power. In other words, one supports that party. If one does not vote against something, one is for it. And if one is for something, one supports the policies and positions of that party. Supporting the positions of the Conservative Party and then trying tacitly to denounce them is somewhat dubious as a position, I find.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to vote against this motion. I say unfortunately, because as a woman, I would like to tell my Liberal colleagues, my NDP colleagues and my Conservative colleagues—even though there are fewer women in that caucus—that the recent cuts, the adoption of Bill C-484 yesterday and the elimination of the court challenges program threaten all women in Quebec and many women in Canada. No matter what we said or did, the government boasted that 72% of women supported the adoption of Bill C-484. In my opinion, there was a huge amount of manipulation and disinformation with regard to this bill, and I think that is a shame.

We know that the member who introduced the bill had previously introduced bills designed to reopen the abortion issue. In addition, the e-mail that was received came from anglophones in English Canada, where the right has a much stronger presence. Most of these people are members of the pro-life movement. We did not receive any e-mail from women or other people in Quebec urging us to vote for this bill, because we know that it represents a direct attack on women's rights and a step backward in terms of women's freedom, independence and self-determination. I think that is a shame.

I think it is a shame that the Liberals are taking an opposition day so lightly when we have so few of them. Why waste them doing nothing? Why waste them on empty rhetoric? We cannot vote for this motion, especially since the Liberal Party is condemning the Conservative Party for what it has done, while in 2005, FAFIA, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, denounced the Liberal Party for the cuts it had made, which set women back significantly. Ten years of federal budgets: double whammy for women. That is what FAFIA said in 2005 about the period from 1995 to 2005.

We should add that the United Nations Human Rights Committee severely reprimanded Canada, on November 3, 2005, for its treatment of aboriginal and incarcerated women. That was before the last election, when the Liberals were still in power. It was not in 2006. However, we know that aboriginal and incarcerated women are not treated any better today.

We should not always blame the party in power. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and determine what we have done that was good and what was not so good, admit it and move on to other things.

This does not allow us to move on to other things nor to lend credibility to the file for which the Standing Committee on Status of Women is responsible. This gives absolutely no credibility to all the interventions made in this house to defend the cause of women. In fact, today's motion ridicules this cause.

Personally, I am very angry. I believe that women deserve better than a motion such as this one, which destroys all our attempts to advance the cause of women. It is already a difficult enough task with the Conservative Party. We have already taken enough steps backwards in the past year one political party is not aware of the potential impact of a motion on the entire Parliament and the outside groups following the debate.

When it comes to the cause of women, we should be united, not divided. There should be no partisanship. Otherwise we will make no progress and just spin our wheels. It is deplorable to use this cause for narrow political purposes.

I am getting worked up even though I know that the authors of this motion may not have realized its potential repercussions. If I get worked up it is because I sometimes find that there are too many leaders in a party, or not enough, that is to say that the actual leader is not doing his job.

Insofar as pay equity is concerned, I want to remind the House that women have been fighting for it for more than 20 years. It goes back not just to the Conservative government but to the Liberals as well. They try to cast blame on the Bloc Québécois and the NDP when all the Bloc members have done is to oppose any measures brought before this Parliament that did not seem right to them. That is the mandate we have adopted: to oppose any measures or programs that would be a setback to the status of women or injurious to anyone living in Quebec.

We cannot be blamed for doing our job. The day we stop doing it will be the day the voters throw us out. If some parties are losing their credibility and are being abandoned by some of their MPs and party members, it is not because the Bloc Québécois told the electors how to vote. It is because the party in question did not do its job, did not take the time to examine itself, make the necessary corrections, and admit its errors.

I must say, with all the humility I can muster, that I sincerely believe the voters will be as convincing in the next election as they were when they threw the Liberals out of Quebec. This time, though, the voters will be equally as convincing elsewhere. They will take into account the actions of the Conservative Party, which won only 36% of the vote, making it a minority government, but does whatever it wants regardless of what Parliament decides.

I doubt the voters will want to put this government back in power—at least, not out west or in the eastern provinces. Maybe in Alberta, because it gives them lots of money. Apart from that, though, the voters have not been fooled.

We should all work hard in this House for the well-being of our citizens and the people we represent. I hope we will have the courage and audacity to rise, oppose this motion and say what we think of it. If we pass motions like this in the House, we will only be diminishing ourselves as members of Parliament and representatives of the people.

My colleague from Laurentides—Labelle and I did a tour of Quebec in the spring and summer to meet with women’s groups and all the groups that could tell us what women were concerned about in their daily lives with respect to the legislation and the various programs created here.

We met a lot of women’s groups and they told us, without exception, how concerned they were about what this government was doing. All these groups, without exception, told us how happy they were that someone was finally showing genuine concern about their issues and preoccupations and how we could help them and work together with them to achieve as much as possible—under the circumstances, naturally.

All these women’s groups were also opposed to the cuts the government had made, especially to the court challenges program, the women’s program and social housing. When the government cuts social housing programs, it has a real, immediate impact on the lives of women.

The CMHC has made huge profits. It has a surplus of over $11 billion. And not one penny of that is going towards building social housing or affordable housing, so that single mothers and their children can live in a safe environment.

Absolutely nothing is being done to help these women return to the labour force with more pride and dignity. In fact, access to EI has been cut for women. The various programs have been getting cut for several years now. There were several billion dollars in the EI account, but programs were still cut.

Unfortunately, such a motion reminds us that there are a number of problems surrounding the challenges facing women. It reminds us that there are also many problems concerning everything that women must do and can do to be able to move forward and gain more freedom. It also reminds us that there is pettiness in politics, and there is never room for pettiness. It should never exist, especially not on March 6, two days before March 8, International Women's Day, whose theme is “Strong Women, Strong World”.

Where are the strong women in the Liberal Party who could have prevented this motion? Where are they? Strong women are women who would dare rise, speak, and tell their colleagues how they feel about something as low as what was introduced today. That is a strong woman. I am ashamed to know that today, there are women in this Parliament who have not shown their strength.

They let themselves be manipulated and tempted by a remote political objective, and I am disappointed.

I see that it is now time for question period. Mr. Speaker, if you tell me how much time I have left, I would be happy to—

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 6th, 2008 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question, but I must tell her that I am not a specialist in program evaluation and the adequate use of public funding, in particular for Status of Women Canada.

Of course the Bloc Québécois is of the opinion that the tax dollars of citizens, of Quebeckers, should be put to good use. That money must be used to serve the interests of the voters and taxpayers. It is not our money we are managing here in Parliament, but money that belongs to Canadian and Quebec taxpayers. Their money and taxes should be used to reflect their values. One value that is important to the Quebec nation is equality between men and women.

To help women in need in any way possible, this government must drop its hidden political agenda that is inspired by the right-wing women's group REAL Women of Canada. In any event, it is not by cutting funding to Status of Women Canada, nor by passing bills such as Bill C-484, that the government will be able to help defend the interests of Quebeckers and promote their values.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 6th, 2008 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want first to congratulate my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle, who did such a good job of explaining the Bloc Québécois’ position on the Liberal opposition day devoted to the status of women. As well, I am very pleased that we are speaking on the eve of International Women's Day about the status of women, improvements in that status, and equality between men and women.

I am very sorry, though, that this is being done in connection with a partisan motion that ends on a partisan note and tries to stick it to colleagues in the NDP and Bloc Québécois for reasons that are not very clear in the motion. It is also very regrettable that the Liberal Party’s motion intrudes on jurisdictions belonging to Quebec, the Quebec nation and other provinces. It is too bad that the Liberals are interfering once again in areas of Quebec’s jurisdiction. That really is too bad.

All the women in Parliament are extremely fortunate and privileged to be here and to be able to further the well-being of our fellow citizens, especially women. On the eve of International Women's Day I think it would have been appropriate to make a grand gesture of solidarity, all the women together, to find a way to advance just one of the causes dear to women and to take just one step toward improving the status of women. Instead, we are busy here saying one party thinks this and the other party thinks that. That is really too bad.

It is even worse that International Women's Day is being marked so shortly after the passage yesterday of Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence). I can hardly express how offended I feel, as a woman, by this bill. I am offended in several different ways.

First, this bill makes a pretence of protecting pregnant women and fetuses. In actual fact, it provides legal status to fetuses, which could even result in women who try to get an abortion being imprisoned as vile criminals. This is a bill that deprives women of control over their own bodies. What upset me the most is the fact that, even though the women in the party that introduced this bill were opposed to it, the people who voted in favour were mostly men. That is a real setback for the status of women. I think the Conservative Party will set the status of women back in several ways.

Among them are the cutbacks to Status of Women Canada on the pretext that the money does not go directly to women. Nothing could be more misguided. The need is still there. Status of Women Canada is an agency that teaches women how to fish rather than just giving them fish. I suspect the government knows very well what it is doing. On the pretext that the money does not go directly to women, it is eliminating the regional offices of Status of Women Canada.

Something else really shocked me. On one occasion, I had to sit in for one of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I was amazed to see that the main witnesses were two experts on the status of women representing Status of Women Canada. They had come to share their expertise with this government, particularly with the representatives of the Conservative government, who were asking them for opinions and advice and who were drawing on their expertise, all the while saying, in public, that Status of Women Canada was not doing its job.

I was enormously shocked, and I still am. I cannot come to terms with the fact that Status of Women Canada has had its budget slashed and Bill C-484 has been passed. I know it will be studied in committee, and I hope it will never get out of committee.

As labour critic, I am going to talk about women’s working conditions. There was a question from the member for Beaches—East York concerning pay equity. I have to say that women in Canada generally have incomes lower than men. There is still a lot to be done regarding the status of women.

In 2003, the average annual income—income from all sources before taxes—for women aged 16 and over was $24,400. That included income from employment, transfer payments, investment income and other pecuniary income. It amounted to only 62% of men’s income, which averaged $39,300 in the same year.

In Quebec the Pay Equity Act of 1996 has remedied the wage gap within the same company where it results from gender-based discrimination against people employed in predominantly female job classes. That law affects all women in Quebec, with the exception of the just under 10% of women covered by the Canada Labour Code.

Although section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act provides that an employer who establishes differences in wages disparities between male and female employees who are performing work of equal value in the same establishment is committing a discriminatory practice, there is still a wage gap between men and women at the federal level.

The Bloc Québécois is calling for the existing pay equity model, which is based on complaints, to be replaced by a separate, proactive new pay equity law that would make pay equity a fundamental human right, consistent with the situation in Quebec, so that there would no longer be two classes of women workers in Quebec.

On the subject of two classes of women workers in Quebec, I would like to talk about the anti-strikebreaker law. This is another thing that results in two classes of women workers in Quebec. It is the same two classes—women who come under the Quebec Labour Code and have access to a number of reasonable privileges, and women who come under the Canada Labour Code, who work in banks, ports, airports, communications and telecommunications, who are less fortunate. Not only do they not have pay equity, but they also do not have protective reassignment or anti-scab legislation.

This morning, the Minister of Labour said that Canada ranked first among G-7 countries in the number of person days per worker lost due to labour disputes. I would like to remind the minister, as I have told him on several occasions in our discussions on the anti-scab bill, that from 1992 to 2002 in Quebec, out of 1,000 employees, 121 person days were lost, while in Canada, there were 266. The main reason, if not the only reason, is that Quebec has anti-scab legislation that works and that changes the employers' negotiating strategy. It gives unionized and non-unionized workers a means of applying pressure to match that of their employers. The anti-scab legislation also means that women who work in Quebec and are covered by the Canada Labour Code are in a more difficult situation than those who are covered by the Quebec Labour Code.

I would now like to address the question of protective reassignment. Women who work in Quebec under the Canada Labour Code have only the employment insurance program, which is not working well and needs improvement, as coverage when they must withdraw from a work environment that is harmful to them or their baby. Thus, a pregnant or nursing woman must meet the eligibility criteria for the employment insurance program. When we know that, in 2001, only 33% of women paying into EI were eligible for benefits, this means that many women have no protection.

Moreover, women entitled to these benefits only receive 55% of their gross pay, whereas in Quebec, under the occupational health and safety act, expectant mothers receive 90% of their net pay. In addition, this forces pregnant women working under federal jurisdiction to mortgage their maternity and parental leave because weeks used before the birth are deducted from their total weeks of benefits.

In Quebec, pregnant or nursing workers are covered under the Quebec workplace health and safety commission, the CSST, which provides wage protection for the number of weeks deemed necessary by their doctor to ensure the safety of the woman and the child, without having to use up their weeks of employment insurance.

Determined to rectify the unfair situation of Quebec women in workplaces under federal jurisdiction, the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill on May 10, 2005, to provide these workers with the right to be benefit from the provisions of the Quebec plan.

In spite of Liberal opposition, the Bloc Québécois succeeded in passing the bill at second reading, but it was not adopted before the end of the parliamentary session and died on the order paper. We realize that it is only a matter of time.

In conclusion—

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

March 5th, 2008 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-484 under private members' business.

The House resumed from March 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 4th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to present a petition on behalf of petitioners who have noted that in federal criminal law an unborn child is not recognized as a victim with respect to violent crimes. They point to the situation in Edmonton when Olivia Talbot was shot and killed in November 2005 and her 27-week-old unborn son, Lane Jr., also died. Because the law offers no legal protection for unborn children today, no charge was laid in the death of baby Lane.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation which will recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers. Members will have the opportunity to do that tomorrow night on Bill C-484, which is sponsored by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 3rd, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured today to present in the House again a large number of names signed to petitions in support of Bill C-484, the bill that would provide for charges to be laid when an unborn child is a victim of a crime against its mother. These petitions are from right across the country, from, little towns, big towns, cities and rural areas. These signatures represent the 72% of Canadians who support this legislation.

I am very honoured to present today another 2,276 names to be added to the list, so that we now have almost 10,000. I think that the next time I stand up it will be 10,000.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

March 3rd, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, 19-year-old Olivia Talbot from Edmonton was 27 weeks pregnant when she was brutally murdered on November 23, 2007. Her killer, Jared Baker, fired three shots into her abdomen and then two shots into her head. During his trial, Baker told the court he aimed the shots directly at her torso to “get the baby”.

The attack on Olivia's baby boy, Lane junior, was not treated as a crime. Although not yet born, baby Lane was alive before Olivia was murdered. Although not yet born, baby Lane was wanted and loved and anticipated before Olivia was murdered. Yet Lane junior was not recognized by our criminal law, our justice system, and our government as a victim of a heinous criminal act.

Lane junior was very much a wanted child. Olivia was very much a willing mother. Just ask Mary Talbot, the mother of Olivia and the grandmother of the baby, Lane. She has been campaigning since 2005 for a change to our law to allow charges to be laid in the injury or death of an unborn child when the child's mother is the victim of a crime.

More recently, Aysun Sesen from Toronto was eight months pregnant when she was stabbed to death by her husband. No charges were laid in the death of her daughter, Gul. Like Mary Talbot, Aysun Sesen's brother-in-law, Aydin Cocelli, has been campaigning for a change to our laws.

We have found at least 15 similar cases since 2004 where wanted unborn children were killed as a result of attacks against their mothers. Canadians are aghast to learn that no charges can be laid today in these deaths.

Bill C-484 would make it an offence to intentionally or recklessly harm or kill a pregnant woman's unborn child while committing a criminal offence against the child's mother.

This is a bill that families of slain women are urging members of Parliament to support. This type of legislation has wide-ranging support among all Canadians across party lines. A poll released in October 2007 found that 72% of Canadians and 75% of women would support legislation making it a separate crime to injure or kill an unborn child during an attack on the mother. Voter support was as follows: Conservatives, 77%; Liberals, 71%; Bloc, 71%; and NDP, 66%.

Why the strong public support? Because the vast majority of Canadians see this bill for what it is: a law that recognizes that a crime has been committed. This is a bill that is right and good and necessary in a just and compassionate society. Such a law hopefully would act as a deterrent to committing violence against women when they are most vulnerable.

Surviving family members are asking for separate charges to be laid in these situations. From what we have seen from letters, emails, and signed petitions rolling into MPs' offices from Canadians across the country, this is also what the Canadian public is demanding. That is because it is obvious to Canadians and especially to the surviving family members that there are two victims in these crimes and the law needs to recognize this by allowing two charges to be laid. As for the family members who are left behind to cope, their grief goes unvalidated. They try desperately to mourn a death that our law refuses to recognize in that there are no charges to be laid in the injury or death of an unborn child when the child's mother is the victim of crime.

The Supreme Court of Canada has consistently said in numerous rulings that it is not up to the courts to decide what level of protection to give the unborn child, that it is up to Parliament. In fact, in the 1988 Morgentaler decision which struck down Canada's abortion law, all seven Supreme Court justices were unanimous in finding that the state has an interest in the protection of the unborn child. Justice Beetz said:

I am of the view that the protection of the foetus is and, as the Court of Appeal observed, always has been, a valid objective in Canadian criminal law.... I think s. 1 of the Charter authorizes reasonable limits to be put on a woman's right having regard to the state interest in the protection of the foetus.

In this ruling, the Supreme Court was looking at the issue of controversial abortion. Even in that context, all justices agreed that the criminal law had a role to play in protecting the unborn child and the court left it to Parliament to figure out how to do that.

Therefore, if the court is acknowledging that the state should protect the child in some circumstances, even when the mother wants an abortion, then how much more appropriate is it for the state to protect the unborn child when the woman does not want an abortion? If the state cannot step in and protect the wanted child from a brutal third party attack against the mother's will, then just when can it? What cases would the Supreme Court judges have in mind if not the cases where a pregnant woman and her wanted child are victims of a criminal act of violence?

Our current law, which fails to recognize a woman's unborn child as a separate victim of criminal act, amounts to telling those people who abuse women that since society places no value on human life growing inside of them why should they. If the state has no interest in protecting a woman's unborn child, why should they?

By our failure as a society to recognize any worth whatsoever in the baby, who the pregnant woman wants and is trying to protect, we are only encouraging abusive behaviour toward pregnant women. We must all share in the blame of the consequences of children maimed or killed in their mothers' wombs.

As for the family members who are left behind to try to cope, their grief goes invalidated. They try desperately to mourn a death that our law refuses to recognize because it refuses to recognize that a living baby ever existed at all.

Responding to the coordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, who has publicly misrepresented both Bill C-484 and the intentions of the member who introduced this bill, last week Mary Talbot said:

I hope you never have to experience the pain and anguish and sense of injustice of losing a beloved family member to violence, only to learn that no crime was committed, only to learn that the one your heart breaks for, was of no worth.

I hope colleagues in the House would also demonstrate this respect in a concrete way by voting on Wednesday in favour of sending Bill C-484 to the justice committee to be studied further.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

March 3rd, 2008 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to private member's Bill C-484, which proposes to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence to injure, cause the death of, or attempt to cause the death of a child before or during birth while committing, or attempting to commit an offence against the mother.

I do not think that anyone in the House could oppose the intent of this legislation. The assault of a pregnant woman and a direct or indirect assault against the child she is carrying is deserving of a very significant and strong penalty.

The bill is technically complex and therefore, in my opinion, should be carefully reviewed if it is referred to committee for study.

Bill C-484 proposes a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years for the offence of directly or indirectly causing the death of a child while committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother, who the person knows or ought to know is pregnant. I am not a lawyer, but I hope that the term “ought to know” satisfies the constitutionally required mental elements for criminal offences intent.

I am concerned that if two charges are laid as proposed in the bill, one charge for assaulting the pregnant woman and one charge for injuring or killing the child she is carrying, it may not necessarily result in a lengthier sentence for the accused, as most sentences in this country are served concurrently. I therefore believe we need to address this deficiency not just within the bill before us today, but in general.

I know that the justice minister has had a full agenda over the last year, and I strongly applaud him for his initiatives, for example, with the tackling violent crime bill, but I do hope that in time he will address the issue of concurrent sentences by allowing for consecutive sentences for limited offences. In my opinion, it is not right that an offender who may seriously assault multiple victims serves the sentences for each of those offences concurrently.

I would also urge our government to continue the ongoing commitment and efforts to address spousal violence and violence against women.

According to a 2006 Statistics Canada report, women in this country are still more likely than men to be the victims of the most severe forms of spousal assault, as well as spousal homicide, sexual assault and criminal harassment. The report states that only 8% of sexual assault victims report the assaults to police.

The key findings of the report with respect to spousal violence are: women are more than twice as likely as men to be physically injured by their partners; women are four times more likely than men to be choked; women are six times more likely to receive medical attention; women are five times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of the violence; women are twice as likely than men to report ongoing assaults, and by that I mean 10 assaults or more; women are more than three times as likely as men to indicate that they feared for their lives from a violent spouse; and, the rate of spousal homicide against females has been three to five times higher than the rate for males.

This government's tackling violent crime priority aims to ensure that everyone, particularly the most vulnerable members of our society, can feel safe and secure in their communities and their homes. This government has introduced and passed a number of bills, including Bill C-9 in the first session of this Parliament, which ended conditional sentences for serious personal injury offences such as aggravated sexual assault.

This government has also introduced a number of non-legislative measures, including the announcement of a $52 million boost to programs, services and funding for victims of crime over the next four years to help federal, provincial and territorial governments respond to a variety of emerging issues facing victims of crime across the country. The appointment of Steve Sullivan on April 23, 2007 as the first federal ombudsman for victims of crime is a part of that package.

Since February 2006 the federal-provincial-territorial working group on missing women has been examining the issue of missing women and, in particular, cases involving serial killers who target persons living a high risk lifestyle, including but not limited to those working in the sex trade.

Justice Canada, through the family violence initiative, actively addresses family violence, which has a serious impact on women through ongoing activities that focus on criminal policy development and support research, programming, public legal education and evaluation.

Although Justice Canada does not have the mandate to provide sustained funding for direct service delivery, including shelters, it does contribute to programs, public legal education materials and consultations that are designed to protect aboriginal women and children from family violence.

This government is firmly committed to protecting women and other vulnerable persons from all types of violence and to holding perpetrators accountable for their acts.

The intent of the bill before us today aims to protect women. It is a bill that I wholeheartedly support, and I encourage all of my colleagues to support it as well.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

March 3rd, 2008 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in the debate at second reading of Bill C-484, which makes it a criminal offence to injure or cause the death of a child, before or during its birth, while committing an offence against the mother. The bill presented by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park has the merit of being simple. However, it has serious repercussions for women in our society.

As a woman, mother and lawyer, I am disturbed, when I read this bill, by the underlying reactionary aspect of what at first seems to be a good intention. In fact, the logic of Bill C-484 suggests that an individual who causes the death of a fetus by attacking the mother may be prosecuted for the death of the fetus. Hidden behind what would seem to be a praiseworthy intention is a restriction on the right to abortion.

At first, this statement may seem surprising. However, my thoughts on the matter hinge on the fact that Bill C-484 attempts to limit abortion under the pretext of safety concerns which, typical of the Conservatives, emphasize repression rather than prevention. Therefore, the purpose of Bill C-484 is not what we might be led to believe by the preamble.

There are three points I wish to make. First, subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code clearly states that a child becomes a human being when it has completely proceeded from the body of its mother. This is very clear. Moreover, in 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Tremblay v. Daigle that Canadian common law and Quebec civil law do not recognize the rights of the fetus unless it is born alive.

However, Bill C-484 rejects this definition and gives the fetus rights. It gives the fetus a totally separate personality under the law. In other words, Bill C-484 opens the door to an automatic quasi-right to life. In my opinion, this would create a direct conflict with the woman's rights, her personal dignity, her physical integrity and her independence.

The bill sets a precedent by recognizing the right to life of the fetus, which would lead to a restriction on the right to abortion or even pave the way for abolishing this right.

I have two children, and I am very proud of them. I have nothing but admiration for these joys life has given me. Like many parents, I find it regrettable that some women choose abortion. It is not something anyone wishes for. But women must be able to make that choice, for any number of reasons. Women fought long and hard to win the right to abortion. I could tell stories about that fight. With this bill, the Conservatives are trying, in a roundabout way, to undermine that right.

However, the courts have repeatedly had to rule on the rights of the fetus and the possibility of restraining the conduct of the mother in order to protect the child's right to be born. In every case, the Supreme Court has refused to invade the privacy of pregnant women and limit their right to freedom and independence.

In the famous case of Tremblay v. Daigle, which I mentioned earlier, a father sought an injunction to prevent the mother from having an abortion, claiming that the fetus had a right to life under the Quebec Charter. The Supreme Court once again ruled that only human beings have constitutional rights and that these rights start at the time of live birth. The Court also rejected the father's claim that he had rights over the fetus as a father. The Court determined that the father could not obtain an injunction to prevent the pregnant mother from exercising her constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.

This could not be clearer. Bill C-484 is at odds with this decision. It runs counter to the general consensus in today's society.

Furthermore, the Leader of the Conservative Party promised in the last election campaign that he would not reopen the debate on abortion. However, the measure proposed in Bill C-484 has just completely contradicted that promise.

Second, Bill C-484 can result in some rather absurd situations. For example, granting these rights to the fetus will have to be done against everyone else, including the mother, whose habits and behaviour can just as easily compromise the development of the unborn child. Should we control all pregnant women and their lifestyle? I will leave the worst scenarios to your imagination, but the fact remains that controlling the mother is precisely what the Supreme Court has previously rejected.

As I was saying, the nature of Bill C-484 is appalling considering how living conditions for women have improved and the context of the times we are living in. The sponsor of Bill C-484 cannot be neutral either, since the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park is a self-described pro-life advocate. In 1997, he even said that if he were elected, he would work to exclude abortion from the services covered under the Canada Health Act. In 2003, he supported Motion M-83, a motion by the Canadian Alliance that attacked women's freedom of choice. The legacy of everything women have fought for is at stake here.

If he wants to protect life, my colleague should understand that far too often women's lives are endangered when they are forced to resort to underground abortions performed by people without training. To criminalize or restrict abortion is in fact to knowingly put in danger the lives of women who, for one reason or another, do not want to bring their pregnancy to term.

Third, I want to point out that there are solutions that better respond to the needs of pregnant women, or those who no longer wish to be pregnant. Those solutions would more easily achieve the hidden goal of this reactionary bill and still respect the freedom of choice of women.

I indicated earlier that abortion is a rights-based choice, but we have to recognize that it is a painful solution. It should be considered only as a last resort, after careful consideration. As a parent, I recommend to young women education, understanding and support as the best ways to help those who are pregnant and struggling with financial or marital problems. Compassion must also be shown to women in dealing with a pregnancy caused by rape, or any unwanted pregnancy. Through simple actions such as these, we could reduce the number of abortions in our society in a natural way.

Unfortunately, Bill C-484 does not provide for that. There is no compassion in it; only an expression of suffering and rancour, both of which would be dealt with using a purely punitive approach. It would invariably fail to achieve its hidden goal of curtailing abortion instead of protecting the fetus.

To conclude, for all these reasons, I must oppose Bill C-484, whose approach would slowly take us back sometime before 1969, to a time when it was illegal to perform abortions in Canada.

Again, the Conservatives would really like to take us back 40 years. It is the same thing with the death penalty. They supported it by defeating on January 31 Motion M-411 designed to reiterate our formal opposition to such an inhumane punishment. To my way of thinking, they are contradicting themselves because they want, on the one hand, to defend life and, on the other hand, to take it away.

Frankly, we can do better than that for pregnant women through enhanced social services, support from others and guidance with a human focus. Bill C-484 distracts from that necessity by making it illegal. Unless it proposed a solution respectful of the rights of women, this bill deserves at best a mention in the House of Commons records of deliberations. While the Conservative Party wants to take us back 40 years, Quebec chooses to be modern and to respect freedom.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

March 3rd, 2008 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel it is my duty to rise in the House here today to speak to this bill. I would like to begin by quoting a majority decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 1999 in a historic case, which found that a pregnant woman and her fetus are physically one indivisible person. In Dobson v. Dobson, the majority judges eloquently stated:

Pregnancy represents not only the hope of future generations but also the continuation of the species. It is difficult to imagine a human condition that is more important to society. From the dawn of history, the pregnant woman has represented fertility and hope. Biology decrees that it is only women who can bear children. Usually, a pregnant woman does all that is possible to protect the health and well-being of her foetus. On occasion, she may sacrifice her own health and well-being for the benefit of the foetus she carries. Yet it should not be forgotten that the pregnant woman—in addition to being the carrier of the foetus within her—is also an individual whose bodily integrity, privacy and autonomy rights must be protected... The biological reality is that a pregnant woman and her foetus are bonded in a union.

During the first hour of debate on this bill back in November 2007, this House heard stories about the terrible violence suffered by pregnant women who compromised—and often ended—the incredibly complex and mysterious bond that forms during pregnancy. I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to the victims of such violence against women, which is somehow even more heinous when directed at a pregnant woman or young mother.

I have taken a great deal of interest in this bill since it was introduced and have studied it closely. In my view, it fails to adequately address what is a very real issue and what should be the central issue, that of violence against pregnant women and new mothers. It fails on two fronts, which I will now explain.

The first is in its painstaking and yet completely unnecessary focus on the fetus. In spite of the protestations of the bill's sponsor and some of the Conservative speakers who I have heard today that this was not his intent, the bill would effectively revolutionize how the Criminal Code defines life.

Currently under section 238 of the Criminal Code, paragraph (1) reads:

Every one who causes the death, in the act of birth, of any child that has not become a human being, in such a manner that, if the child were a human being, he would be guilty of murder, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment....

As for how the code defines a human being, we must look to section 223 of the Criminal Code, which reads:

(1) A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not (a) it has breathed; (b) it has an independent circulation; or (c) the navel string is severed.

(2) A person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.

Bill C-484 completely rewrites section 238(1) of the Criminal Code, creating new offences for attacks against the mother that kill or injure the fetus. Furthermore, it has a specific clause, clause (5), which reads:

It is not a defence to a charge under this section that the child is not a human being.

By eliminating this defence, it effectively negates the section 223 definition of what is a human being. I can only imagine the legal confusion this would create around existing jurisprudence on human life and the relationship between a mother and her fetus.

As I mentioned at the outset, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the fetus and mother are one and the same. Any attempt to separate the two through a redefinition of a human being in the Criminal Code would only cloud the issue of a woman's rights over her own person. I cannot say whether this confusion and clouding of a woman's rights over her own body is the intended consequence of this bill or not but it is, nevertheless, alarming.

This brings me to my second criticism of Bill C-484. In introducing this bill to parliamentarians, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park sent out a letter on November 28 to all parliamentarians of all parties in which he argued emphatically that:

This bill is all about protecting the choice of a woman and protecting the unborn child that she has chosen to give birth to.

Members will notice that there is no mention whatsoever about protecting the women, only about protecting her choice. Additionally, Bill C-484 implies that the protection of the woman and of the fetus are of equal but separate importance.

I have heard from various groups that this bill is about women's rights. If, indeed, Bill C-484 is about women's rights, why the blatant reference to the need to protect the choice of a women, rather than protecting pregnant women, pure and simple?

Violence against pregnant women and new mothers is a very real and growing concern. In the United States, homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women and new mothers. According to a study, which was released in 2000, one in six women are abused during their pregnancy.

In 2004, Health Canada reported that women who were abused during pregnancy were four times as likely as other abused women to report having experienced very serious violence, including being beaten up, choked, threatened with a gun or knife or sexually assaulted.

Further, this same Health Canada study reported that of the women who were abused during pregnancy approximately 18% reported they had suffered a miscarriage or other internal injuries as a result of the abuse.

Those figures are shocking, but what is of great concern is that Bill C-484, which purports to protect the rights of women, ignores the 82% of abused pregnant women who do not have their pregnancy ended prematurely by abuse. To me, this is a glaring oversight.

The question is whether it is an intended oversight or simply an unintended consequence. All abuse against pregnant women is unacceptable. We should be concerned about the health and well-being of the mother.

While attacks on pregnant women in Canada are considered by judges during sentencing, by parole boards during parole hearings and are even included in the Criminal Code hate crime law, its gender clause would cover attacks against women because they are pregnant. There are also examples where new offences for attacking a pregnant or new mother can be created.

Thirteen U.S. states have enacted legislation which either makes assaulting a pregnant woman an aggravating factor during sentencing or have created specific new offences for attacking or abusing pregnant women. This, I believe, would be the most effective means of addressing this very serious issue.

In ignoring this more effective model for addressing violence against women, I can only conclude that the sponsor of this bill and his colleagues in the Conservative Party are hoping to divide Canadian women on the emotional issue of violence against pregnant women. By couching his proposal in the language of choice, the rights of the unborn and recognizing the grief for a lost child, the member is once again playing the classic Conservative game of playing on emotions and playing to its socially conservative base while trying to make this issue appear to be one that all women should support by playing on the grief and heinous nature of the crimes involved.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

March 3rd, 2008 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today to support my colleague from Edmonton—Sherwood Park and his private member's bill, Bill C-484.

First, why do we need this legislation? Many Canadians are shocked to learn that when an attacker kills a pregnant woman's unborn child, no charge can be laid in that child's death, even when the attacker purposely intended to kill the child. This is because our criminal law does not recognize children as victims of crime until they are born alive. This gap in federal law gives rise to grave injustices.

In November 2005, Olivia Talbot of Edmonton who was 27 weeks pregnant was shot three times in the abdomen and twice in the head by a long time friend. No charge could be laid in the death of baby Lane.

Another pregnant Edmonton woman was slain by her husband in the summer of 2005. Again, no charges could be laid in her baby's death.

In March 2007, a man from Surrey, B.C., was charged with second degree murder in the death of his wife who was four months pregnant at the time.

Recently, a woman from Toronto was seven months pregnant when she was repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen.

In all of these cases, there has been no recognition of a crime against these women's unborn children. Clearly, there are two victims in these types of crimes and this is recognized by the public. The grieving families of the victims have made impassioned pleas to their members of Parliament and the government to enact legislation to recognize unborn children as separate crime victims when they are harmed or killed during criminal attacks against their mothers.

This bill is totally focused on protecting the choice of a pregnant woman to carry her baby to term and to give her child life. The bill uses terminology that describes the injury or death of the unborn child during the commission of a crime against the mother.

The unborn victims of crime act would not change the definition of “human being” in the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code defines homicide as follows in subsection 222(1):

A person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being.

Therefore, in today's criminal law, legal protection is afforded the child only once it has been born alive.

The unborn victims of crime act would amend the Criminal Code, so that legal protection will not only be given to human beings as defined by the Criminal Code but also to unborn children who are harmed or killed during the commission of an offence against the mother.

The amendment would not change the definition of human being. It would offer protection to the unborn child in a very particular circumstance despite the definition of human being.

Why do we need to recognize the unborn child as a separate victim? Our criminal justice system already takes into account aggravating factors, so why can the pregnancy not be treated as an aggravating factor?

First, aggravating factors are taken into account only for sentencing purposes, not when determining what offence was committed in the first place. The issue here is not just about how severe the sentence should be. It is about creating an offence specifically for the harm done to the preborn child in recognition of the fact that the child is also a victim of a crime when it is harmed or killed during an attack on the mother.

Even though treating pregnancy as an aggravating factor would serve to acknowledge that pregnancy makes a woman more vulnerable, it would send the message that it is only the physical condition of pregnancy that is relevant and that prenatal human life has no intrinsic value.

Any pregnant women who survives a violent attack but loses her preborn child, a child she wants and loves, will grieve for that child and no one can say she grieves for that child any less simply because that child had not yet been born. Failure to recognize these children as crime victims amounts to telling women that they lost nothing of value when their children were killed.

In existing criminal law, if the pregnant woman survives the attack but the child dies there is no murder charge. The offender is charged only with assault on the woman, but under the unborn victims of crime act the offender would be charged not only with the assault on the woman but also with the offence in the death of the child.

Second, if a mother and her already born child were attacked and intentionally killed, or if a person opened fire in a public place and killed multiple people, the offender would be charged with multiple counts of murder, not just one, regardless of our concurrent sentencing system. The point is that our criminal law recognizes each of these victims and recognition is not dependent on whether or not more jail time would be served.

In this respect, unborn victims legislation is no different about how our existing criminal law handles multiple victims. Some people have claimed that this type of law would be used to target pregnant women, citing U.S. examples of women with drug abuse problems being prosecuted under unborn victims of violence laws in the U.S. as evidence to support this claim.

Bill C-484 could never be used to prosecute pregnant women because it applies only during the commission of an offence against the woman. For greater certainty, the bill states that it does not apply in respect of any act or omission by the mother of the child.

I believe the intent of Bill C-484 is to protect the unborn child from third parties during the commission of an offence against the woman. Canada is unique in the democratic world for having virtually no legal protection for children before they are born. This legislation seeks to address this injustice by creating an offence for injuring or causing the death of an unborn child during the commission of an offence against the child's mother.

An Environics poll released in October 2007 found that 72% of all Canadians and 75% of women would support legislation making it a separate crime to injure or kill a fetus during an attack on the mother. Unborn victims of crime legislation protects a woman's choice to bring her child to term safely and it protects the life of that child. It is an area of common ground between those who call themselves pro choice and those who call themselves pro life.

Unborn victims of crime legislation is about protecting children whose mothers have chosen life for their children. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that any legal protection for unborn children must be decided by Parliament, not the courts. The legislation is an attempt by Parliament to do something the Supreme Court has said is up to Parliament to do.

According to the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System, women abused during pregnancy were four times as likely as other abused women to report having experienced very serious violence, including being beaten up, choked, threatened with a gun, knife or sexually assaulted. It is very disturbing that when a woman is at her most vulnerable she is at increased risk of attack.

The bill would act as a strong deterrent to perpetrating violence against pregnant women. Researchers have found that the most common area of the body struck during pregnancy was the abdomen. This suggests that those who attack pregnant women are purposely targeting the baby.

We give more legal protection to animals than we do to the preborn human child. We have cruelty to animal laws, humane slaughter laws et cetera. What message are we sending to the woman when we refuse to recognize that the child growing inside of her is worthy of protection under the law? What message are we promoting about the value of human life?

Bill C-484 is supported by 72% of Canadians. Protecting preborn children in law is constitutional. The bill does not apply to actions by the mother. This new offence applies only if the woman's attacker knew or ought to have known she was pregnant.

I would urge all members in the House to support Bill C-484.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

March 3rd, 2008 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-484 proposes changes to the Criminal Code that will have no real positive effect, but rather will potentially jeopardize a woman's right to choose.

This proposed private member's bill would have two charges laid against a person who kills a pregnant woman. This would in effect give legal rights to a fetus and change the definition of when a fetus becomes a person under the law. Currently a fetus is not considered a person until actual live birth.

While I will not argue that murdering a pregnant woman is particularly abhorrent, this bill will in the end do more harm than good for women's rights in Canada.

This House has heard from some who may contend that this bill has nothing to do with abortion and is just about ensuring that someone who murders a pregnant woman will pay doubly for his or her crime. However, this bill is the thin edge of the wedge as it will change the definition of when a fetus becomes a person.

This change will have an effect on the legal status of abortions in Canada. Canadians, Parliament, the courts and the Senate all made a determination on this issue and have supported a woman's right to choose. This is not something that needs to be opened to debate again.

Canadian women fought long and hard for the right to safe, legal abortions in Canada. Women have been forced to put their private lives under scrutiny in the courts in the fight for the right to choose. If we take away that right, women in desperate situations will have to take desperate measures, like a young woman who in 1989 bled to death after attempting to perform an abortion on herself. This tragedy was the result of fear and despair and happened while the federal government debated making non-emergency abortions illegal.

I am profoundly concerned that Bill C-484 is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to make abortions illegal in Canada. I am extremely disappointed that the member would use tragic murders of young women to push an anti-abortion agenda.

Bill C-484 calls into question a judge's ability to take mitigating circumstances into account. Courts already take aggravating circumstances into account when deciding on sentences for crimes and would most certainly consider injury to or the death of an unborn child to be a serious aggravating circumstance.

Furthermore, two separate offences would not necessarily mean more jail time. In Canada, unlike the United States, multiple sentences are often served concurrently. I bring up our neighbour to the south for a reason. As many of my colleagues well know, this type of bill has been passed in several U.S. states. This bill does have some impact there because jail sentences are often served consecutively, thus actually increasing time served. I would also like to note that it is also the same country where there is an active attempt to ban access to abortions for American women at the state and federal levels. The supporters of this type of bill are the very same people actively working to ban abortions.

The evidence is clear. To date, courts across Canada have blocked provincial attempts to substantially regulate the issue of abortion, finding that the pith and substance of such attempts is actually an attempt to recriminalize abortion through the back door.

Bill C-484 essentially represents an indirect recognition of an unborn child as a person with legal status. Such an initiative could have significant ramifications in a number of different areas of law and opens a Pandora's box in the abortion debate.

I believe it is essential to this debate to discuss an area of concern that the Conservative government has failed to address, and that is, of course, violence against women. Homicide is a leading killer of pregnant women and it is well known that violence against women increases during pregnancy.

What the government needs to address is better measures to protect women in general and pregnant women in particular from domestic violence. A fetal homicide law would completely sidestep the issue of domestic abuse and do nothing to protect pregnant women from violence before it happens. It would also do nothing to protect women who are abused shortly after giving birth.

Before we start talking about laws to protect fetuses, the government has an obligation to make sure that women's rights are protected first by addressing the systemic problem of domestic violence. If a woman is safe, her unborn child is safe.

In Canada, women have guaranteed rights and equality under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Persons do not gain legal status and rights in our society until after a live birth, as per the Criminal Code. Also, the Supreme Court has ruled that a woman and her fetus are considered physically one person under the law, as in Dobson v. Dobson.

If we give legal rights to a fetus we must automatically remove some rights from women, because it is impossible for two beings occupying the same body to enjoy full rights. If we try to balance rights, it means the rights of one or both parties must be compromised, resulting in a loss of rights. Legally speaking, it would be very difficult to justify compromising women's established rights in favour of the theoretical rights of the fetus.

It is also of concern that Bill C-484 essentially contradicts the election promises of the Conservative Party. During the last election, its platform stated, “A Conservative government will not initiate or support any legislation to regulate abortion”.

Bill C-484 does just that. It initiates legislation that will effectively regulate abortion in Canada by changing the definition of the legal status of a fetus. It opens the door to making abortion illegal in Canada.

If the government is truly concerned about women and their children, it will abandon its recent budget and reverse its unacceptable policies, policies that have removed equality from the mandate of the women's program, cancelled the court challenges program, closed 12 regional offices of Status of Women Canada, and ended research, lobbying and advocacy on behalf of women in a dismal budget document that failed to reintroduce a national housing strategy or affordable decent housing.

Let us imagine what such a housing policy would do for these women fleeing violence, including those carrying unborn children. The government could also introduce a national child care program and needed changes to maternity and parental leave. It could have provided adequate funding for legal aid, restored the court challenges program, helped women with disabilities, implemented proactive pay equity and invested in programs that would address violence against women.

It could do all these things, but that would require a real commitment to women, children and families. Instead, the Conservatives have chosen to promote Bill C-484.

A woman's right to choose was hard fought for. It would be detrimental to Canadian women and an international embarrassment to remove that right. The Conservatives are not standing up for Canadian women by tabling such bills. It is indeed time that the government remembered its election pledge.

I hope all thoughtful members of this House will respect a woman's right to choose and respect the fact that women need safety, not this kind of indirect attack.

The House resumed from December 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 29th, 2008 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have, once again, a whole handful of petitions that have been signed by people right across the country in support of Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act.

I really appreciate the people who are doing this. I would like to mention a few towns. We have many from the major cities, but there is Pambrun, Saskatchewan, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Regina and Pembroke.

All of these petitioners come from right across the country and they are supporting legislation that would recognize that there would be a separate charge laid when an unborn child dies or is injured when its mother is the victim of a crime.

Unborn Victims of CrimeStatements By Members

February 29th, 2008 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park for his excellent work on Bill C-484, which is an improved version of a bill that I introduced and debated in the House about a year ago.

This bill, if passed, would protect unborn children who are targets of violence when their mother is a victim of a crime.

Mary Talbot, the mother of 2005 murder victim, Olivia Talbot, and grandmother of Olivia's unborn son, said to Joyce Arthur, who is a detractor of this bill:

Please show some respect for my daughter's and her unborn baby's memory....And I feel I can ask the same for the rest of the families who are at this time grieving the loss of their loved ones. I hope you never have to experience the pain, anguish and sense of injustice of losing a beloved family member to violence, only to learn that no crime was committed, only to learn that the one your heart breaks for, was of no worth.

Mary has said it well, and it is enough reason for all MPs to vote for Ken Epp's bill, Bill C-484.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 27th, 2008 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to present another 1,533 names on a petition supporting Bill C-484. This is a bill that calls for Parliament to enact legislation to recognize unborn children as separate victims when their mothers are the object of the commission of an offence.

I am very impressed. These petitioners come from Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and other large cities, but I noticed in my estimate that all of the citizens of Kamsack signed it. Members have probably never even heard of Kamsack. It is in Saskatchewan. We also have a whole bunch of names from the little town where I was born, Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

Status of WomenStatements by Members

January 29th, 2008 / 2:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week marks the 20th anniversary of a very important ruling for women. In the Dr. Morgentaler case, the Supreme Court of Canada decriminalized abortion.

After a tough 20-year battle led by doctors and women's groups, this ruling finally allowed women to take control of their bodies and their pregnancies and to have access to safe abortion. Since then, they have had the freedom to choose.

That is why any threat by this Conservative government to limit the right to abortion is a direct affront to women's rights. Bill C-484 by the hon. Conservative member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park opens the door to criminalizing abortion.

We are against taking any steps backward. Abortion is a vested right ensuring the well-being and equality of women.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2007 / 4:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat uncomfortable with this bill. I was listening before to the speech by the NDP member for Halifax and I agree with what she said.

As a Catholic priest, I find it somewhat difficult to relate to this bill quite simply because the member who tabled it belongs to a pro-life group, the Campaign Life Coalition, which, in my humble opinion, is a fairly extremist and fanatical group. I am pro-life, but I do not belong to that group.

In my opinion, this bill will open the door to recriminalizing women who have an abortion, and that is not a good thing. I am against abortion, but I do not believe that is how we will deal with the problem of abortion. I have always stated that we need education, support and assistance for women dealing with unwanted pregnancy. In my opinion, the problem of abortion will be solved with these types of measures and not by recriminalizing abortion. I absolutely do not want that.

When a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed and her fetus is killed at the same time, I agree completely that it is an abominable crime. It is revolting, but at the same time I believe that when the fetus is in its mother's womb, they are one being. Only when it leaves her womb does it become a child. I believe that is the Supreme Court definition of 1969.

I know that killing a pregnant woman, like any murder, is a serious matter. However, I believe it is dangerous to establish a new law that would treat the murder of the fetus and of the mother as a double murder. I believe that it is dangerous and that is not how we will put an end to abortion. Not in this way.

As I just said, it is more through education, support, love and understanding. There are any numbers of things we can do to reduce the abortion rate in this country. As long as we fail to take control of the situation and we fail to be there to help these pregnant women, who are often facing financial difficulties or problems in their relationship, until we resolve those problems, there will always be abortions. That is what is needed, rather than—through new legislation, that is Bill C-484—recriminalizing the murder of a pregnant woman.

I also mentioned that pro-life group, Campaign Life Coalition. I know that the president of the Quebec group is Luc Gagnon. That group's journal is always full of condemnations and rejections, and there is never any love or compassion in their journal. In my view, what is needed is compassion when a woman is dealing with a pregnancy caused by rape or any unwanted pregnancy. I do not feel there is any compassion within that group. I therefore oppose that pro-life group, just I oppose the pro-choice group, whose views are, in my opinion, too exaggerated, too unrealistic.

As I was saying, I think a moderate approach is needed. It is not by creating new legislation that we will successfully reduce the number of abortions and creating new committees, if we can say—

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2007 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to private member's bill, Bill C-484, which aims to amend the Criminal Code with respect to the injury or causing the death of an unborn child. I commend my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, who proposes the creation of new offences and penalties where an unborn child is injured or killed when an offence is committed against the mother.

I believe the majority of the members in the House agree with the intent of my colleague's bill.

On a personal note, his heartfelt passion to ensure that violence against women and children does not occur is very compelling. I have looked at all his notes and the bill very carefully I support 100% the intent of the bill.

Surely a criminal assault that seeks to involve or harm an expected child is deserving of a sanction. However, I am not yet convinced that the private member's bill in this form is the best way to proceed without a bit of further examination. I have some concerns that the bill may reduce rather than increase the actual penalty for causing harm or death to an unborn child, and I will tell members why.

Subsection 223(2) and section 238 of the Criminal Code currently provides some protection to the unborn child by stating that a person commits homicide by killing an unborn child in the act of birth, under certain conditions. Both offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The Criminal Code also contains comprehensive assault and homicide offences, which apply to violent acts against pregnant women. Under the accumulated common law, resulting harm to unborn children is considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes and the offender is punished severely.

Should the code permit two charges to be laid in such cases, as proposed by Bill C-484, it is likely that the two sentences would be served concurrently. Pregnancy, as an aggravating factor, could no longer be taken into account and, therefore, the end result ultimately could be a shorter sentence than is currently provided for in the law.

I do not believe this is the intent of this important bill, but we have to realize that it could be the result and we have to guard against that.

I would respectfully suggest that perhaps what is most needed is a Criminal Code amendment to allow for consecutive sentences for offences of this nature, as well as other serious personal injury offences.

During the last election campaign, our government proposed that sentences for multiple convictions be served consecutively. I have spoken with the justice minister and I am confident he will introduce legislation early in the new year to address this deficiency in the law.

The justice minister has been extremely busy over the course of the year. Our government's efforts and our aggressive law and order agenda, including Bill C-2, the tacking violent crime act, are very much appreciated by women all across the nation.

Bill C-2, which is currently before the Senate, merges most of the criminal laws from the last session of Parliament into one comprehensive bill, and we know what that bill includes. It includes mandatory minimum penalties for firearm offences, age of protection, dangerous offenders, impaired driving and reverse onus on bail for firearm offence.

The proposed reforms to deal with dangerous and repeat violent offenders are of particular importance to this dialogue today to address a concern that I believe needs to be looked at today in the context of this very important debate, which is violence against women and children in general.

The dangerous offender proposals are designed to address concerns with respect to the ability of police, crown prosecutors and the courts to sentence and manage the threat posed to the general public by individuals who are at very high risk to reoffend sexually and violently. The victims of sexual and violent assaults are all too often women.

Under Bill C-2, where offenders are convicted of a third sufficiently serious offence, the Crown must formally advise the court that it has considered whether to bring a dangerous offender application forward. The declaration requirement is intended to ensure more consistent use of the dangerous offender sentence by Crowns in all jurisdictions.

Where the Crown decides to bring such an application, an offender convicted of a third primary designated offence, a narrow and proportionate list of the 12 most serious and violent sexual offences that commonly trigger a dangerous offender designation, and often that is involved in this kind of a crime that we are speaking of today, will be presumed to be a dangerous offender unless he or she could prove otherwise.

Bill C-2 also proposes reforms to ensure that persons who are designated as dangerous offenders are appropriately sentenced.

I do not want to go over my time and I want to make sure that I get everything that I wanted to say said. The approach our government has taken has been a step in the right direction to bring law and order to our country. We are all familiar with Bill C-2.

Early last month the Minister of Canadian Heritage acknowledged woman abuse prevention month in Ontario. Members were talking about combating violence against women and women abuse, and these are common threads in legislation here in Parliament. In Winnipeg several projects were announced recently, one of which is to combat violence against women with intellectual disabilities.

I want to applaud our government for its efforts to recognize and prevent violence against women. I want to particularly applaud the member for bringing this bill forward. I reiterate my support for the intent of this private member's bill.

I do question its effectiveness in its present form in actually providing lengthier jail terms for the offence of injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an assault against the mother. This type of horrendous, abhorrent crime must be addressed. Having said that, all these issues should be taken into consideration so that this bill achieves its intended objective.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this afternoon, in the dying moments of this fall session, to speak to Bill C-484, a bill that its sponsor has chosen to entitle the unborn victims of crime bill.

Having reviewed this private member's bill, and even before hearing the speech of the member who has introduced it, I came to the conclusion that there were some major concerns about it. They have lead me to indicate that I am unable to support such a bill.

It is a private member's bill and it is important to remember that. Every member has the opportunity to consider where he or she stands on the bill. However, a brief discussion among my colleagues does not lead to the conclusion that there is a great deal of support or enthusiasm for the bill.

At the outset, I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. I listened to his comments, which came after my having read the bill. Therefore, I was even more intent on listening to what he would say in introducing the bill, to determine whether he would dispel some of the very uncomfortable concerns I had about the possible implications of the bill.

He devoted a considerable part of his speech in the House this afternoon to the victims of families that have lost a wanted child, the successful outcome of a pregnancy through a violent attack on a pregnant women.

I do not think there is a single member here, regardless of where they stand on this bill, who cannot empathize 100% with the grief that such a loss would cause an individual and their loved ones. However, it has reminded me that there is a good reason why we do not turn over the drafting, or the crafting or the adoption of laws in a democratic and diverse society to people who are singled out for being grief-stricken by personal tragedy.

I did not expect to say this until I listened to the amount of focus on the issue of grief, but I returned briefly in my own life experience to my period of time as a psychiatric social worker. Grief is a very normal human emotion, and it is something around which we comfort people and support them. However, we also know that grief is almost always accompanied by feelings of anger, despair, rage and quite often revenge.

In our democratic society, we have long decided that revenge is not a proper basis for drafting or adopting our laws. A great deal of psychiatric evidence indicates that if there is a great deal of reinforcement for the notion of revenge, when someone has suffered a loss through a violent, unacceptable act, it impairs the emotional healing process.

I do not want to go further down that road, but my discomfort with the bill, before hearing the comments of the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, has been deepened and intensified by the amount of emphasis he placed on the issue of grief, anger and rage. I do not question his sincerity about identifying and empathizing with the grief, but I think it is a very questionable basis for introducing such a law.

Let me say that I also heard many comments about how this is something that women very much want and need, and he even referred to some polling. I have to say I would need to be convinced based on a great deal more information than he shared, but if he wanted to share the basis for a claim that there is a very high percentage of women who are really looking for this, I would give it my consideration.

However, I would find it extremely surprising, because I have to say that in my almost 40 years of involvement in the women's movement, and my 28 years in public life, where it has been well known that I very much see the responsibility of myself and every other woman in public life to be responsive to women's concerns, I have never had a single woman, a single advocate, a single representative of a single organization, or an individual family member come to me and say that this is a law they would like to see implemented.

That does not mean it is not worthy of introduction and consideration, I want to say that, but to cite it as something that large numbers of women want and need, I find surprising. Maybe I am a little bit suspicious about that, when I would think that if this was something widely felt and wanted by women there might be some indication in the House and there would be a good number of women here for this debate and wanting to put forward their views.

Maybe I am a little unfair in saying this, but in regard to coming from the caucus with by far the least number of women in the House, then one wonders whether it is really an authoritative basis for the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park to talk about how much women want and need this.

I will speak from my own personal experience. In my region of Atlantic, the government party has run 32 men for Parliament in the 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, so I am not sure about the authoritativeness of speaking on behalf of women's pressing needs.

Let me say, however, that there are a lot of things women desperately need that have been ignored by the government. Not one of them that has ever come to my attention is a call for this kind of bill. Women certainly need a lot more protection against domestic violence and violence that is visited on them in far too many communities.

I would say that at the heart of my concern about the bill is that it does indeed arouse considerable concern, real apprehension, about whether it is in fact a thinly veiled step in the direction of recriminalizing abortion in our country. I am sure there are going to be protestations, with people saying, no, no, that was made clear, the language was made clear and all the rest of it, but let me say that it further made me uncomfortable to hear several references, both from the Conservative sponsor of the bill and from the Liberal who spoke in support of it, to a number of American states, mostly southern U.S. states, and in particular, South Carolina, as one of the states that has had considerable experience with this bill.

Let me say the evidence is very clear that the bill not only could become a thin edge of the wedge in the direction of recriminalizing abortion, but actually identified as one of the benefits of the bill is that to adopt such a bill could in fact accomplish that very objective that sponsors of the bill in South Carolina have cited as the reason for their introduction of the bill.

There are many more things I could say, but I think that in the final analysis the point is that women need to be protected far more effectively and aggressively against violence, and that is the best way to protect vulnerable fetuses. If that were the objective, then we would be very much wanting to support such a bill.

We do not, however, feel persuaded. As I say, it is a private member's bill. I do not want to speak for others in my caucus, but I, for one, am very uncomfortable with where the bill is intended to go and what its real purpose is. I want to say that those concerns have already been expressed by a good many of my colleagues, so I think members have gotten the impression: I will not be supporting this private member's bill.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-484. I will start by saying that, as a woman, I would have never believed that I would still be here fighting for the rights of women. It has been a fierce battle, waged by so many women before me.

The Conservatives, with this bill, are implicitly trying to achieve an objective, that is, restrict the right to abortion. I will explain.

With this bill, the Conservatives hope to add a new offence to the Criminal Code. This bill proposes that an individual who directly or indirectly, causes the death of a child during birth or at any stage of development before birth while committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother of the child, who the person knows or ought to know is pregnant—is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of 10 years if the person means to cause the child’s death...

Basically, a person who assaults a pregnant woman and causes the death of the fetus could be charged with murder. As the member said, this bill would introduce a new offence. The text of the bill provides that the pregnant woman herself can be charged with causing the death of the fetus inside her. Clearly, the battle for women's rights is not yet won. The bill clearly states that in cases of a crime committed against an unborn child, a fetus, a person cannot use the defence that the child was not a human being.

Gestation of the unborn child begins with conception and ends with birth. Case law has confirmed that an unborn child is not a legal person. I understand that such a clause can apply at the moment of birth, when the fetus becomes a human being. It is something else entirely to grant these rights to an unborn child, a fetus, when it is not a separate entity from its mother.

The Conservatives are trying to make substantial changes to the Criminal Code's definition of a child, which is quite specific. Section 223 of the Criminal Code states that:

223.(1) A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not

(a) it has breathed;

(b) it has an independent circulation; or

(c) the navel string is severed.

I am sure you will agree that the government is making a surreptitious attempt to deprive women of their freedom of choice regarding abortion.

After attacking the right to abortion by questioning the medical necessity of that procedure, the government is now attacking that right by attempting to recognize the rights of the fetus. It seems that this bill was devised to set a precedent for recognizing the fetus' right to life and thereby restrict the right to abortion and perhaps even abolish it completely.

It is up to women to decide. They have their own reasons for their choices. This is a pro-life bill that is trying to hide behind the concept of the unborn child. This bill opens the door to limiting women's power to be free and to make the choices they have the right to make.

I was recently reading some surveys and responses to surveys. We learned that the Conservative member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, who describes himself as pro-life, had said in response to a survey conducted by the Campaign Life Coalition for the 2006 federal election that he considered that human life began at conception. In 1997, he responded that if he was elected, he would work to remove abortion from the services covered by the Canada Health Act. He is not the first Conservative member to have said that. There are also rumours going around about a committee being formed here in the House with both Conservative and Liberal members.

The previous bill the Conservatives introduced was similar, but was deemed unconstitutional. A few changes have been made to it, but the objective is the same. The Conservatives' determination is an indirect threat to women's rights, and that threat is evident in the member's remarks.

He is trying to do indirectly what he would like to do directly.

No one is happy about an abortion. It is not something anyone wishes for. But women must be able to make that choice, for any number of reasons. Women are entitled to have their decision honoured. It is a difficult decision they do not take lightly. Women fought long and hard to win the right to abortion.

With this bill, the Conservatives are trying, in a roundabout way, to attack those rights by making dangerous statements or by attempting to give legal personality to the fetus. They are separating the fetus from the mother and rewriting the legal definition of the child. That is what they are trying to do with this bill.

Women have a fundamental right to interrupt a pregnancy. It is a way of exerting control over their lives and their living conditions. This bill challenges women's rights. The courts have repeatedly had to rule on the right of the fetus and the possibility of restraining the conduct of the mother in order to protect the child's right to be born. In every case, the Supreme Court has refused to invade the privacy of pregnant women and limit their right to freedom and independence.

This was the case in Tremblay v. Daigle, in which a father sought an injunction to prevent the mother from having an abortion, claiming that the fetus had a right to life. The Supreme Court once again ruled that only human beings have constitutional rights and that these rights start at the time of live birth. The Court also rejected the father's claim that he had rights over the fetus as a father. The Court determined that the father could not obtain an injunction to prevent the pregnant mother from exercising her constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.

With all due respect to the members, the consensus in society is clear and was evident during the last election campaign. The Leader of the Conservative Party himself made a commitment not to reopen the abortion debate. The measure proposed in Bill C-484 goes against that commitment. The House will obviously have to look at this issue and women will have a decision to make come election time. It is clear that the lobbies who subscribe to moral and social conservatism are hard at work in the back rooms of Ottawa. We need to be vigilant. Putting an initial restriction on abortion opens the door to a whole series of other restrictions.

With respect to the rights of the fetus, there is already a large body of case law arguing that the fetus is not a human being. I think that the mistake in this bill is to try to change the definition of a child. The law is clear on the definition of a human being.

I urge the House not to support this bill, which opens the door to the criminalization of abortion. There is a hidden objective in this bill to prevent a woman from choosing whether or not to have a child.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me start out by congratulating the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park on finally managing to get a private member's bill before the House. I should point out just for the record that getting private members' bills into the House is not a question simply of merit. There is a bit of mathematical chance involved so all of us are treated fairly equally, but I am sorry the member had to wait so long to get a bill in front of us.

I should also note that the member for Vegreville—Wainwright had a bill similar to this one but not identical before the House in a previous Parliament.

The member opposite speaks of the grief that accompanies death or serious injury as a result of a criminal act. I have often found it difficult in the House and the justice committee to import that element of grief. It is very real for all of the victims, their families and friends and for Canadians. I often find that the analysis of our laws around here is pretty clinical and academic at times, pretty legalistic, so I thank the member for putting on the record the emotional and the grief components that accompany this area of law.

Bill C-484 attempts to address what is arguably a gap in our criminal law, and it has been a gap for some time. One might ask why it has been a gap or why we have failed to note the protection that should be accorded to a pregnant woman and her child. We certainly afford protection to the woman.

It is perhaps the long national debate over the termination of pregnancies, that whole field, that has obscured this particular piece, and I am pleased that the House now has an opportunity to deal with it.

Having said that, it is important to note that this bill meticulously imports the element of mens rea, the element of intention into the bill. It makes sure that the perpetrator, in order to be charged and convicted, has to know that there is a woman who was pregnant and victimized by a criminal act. That is a very important component linking the perpetrator to the wrongdoing involved. If we were not to do that, there could be a scenario where the perpetrator of a crime might not be aware of the pregnancy, and in our criminal law we almost never convict people in law unless they know the consequence of what they are doing.

There is a section of the Criminal Code that now partially, some will say very partially, protects the unborn child, the fetus. Section 238 makes it an offence to cause death during the act of birth, causing death to the child being born in the act of birth. That is a very narrow window of time. Of course, this bill looks well in advance of the time of birth.

I am advised that according to the National Conference of State Legislatures in the U.S.A., our neighbour to the south, some 37 states have fetal homicide laws, in other words, laws that protect the unborn child, the fetus. Two of those 37 states have developed their law, not by passing laws in their legislatures, but by judicial case decisions, by judicial case law.

Each state in the U.S. develops its own criminal law in this field. In Canada we do it cross-country. We have one Criminal Code. I say that to signal that Canada would not be alone in this. In fact, we are not even near the front of the pack on this, as my friend earlier pointed out.

One other thing I want to mention is that the bill explicitly by its own terms does not deal with the lawful termination of a pregnancy consented to by the mother. It does not deal with that category of action, but it does very much deal with protecting an unborn child during a criminal act directed at the mother knowing that the mother is pregnant.

In layman's terms, I ask myself the question, who could reasonably deny to a child prior to birth during an assault or another criminal attack on the mother, knowing that the mother is pregnant, the protection of the Criminal Code that that child deserves? I could not deny that. It sounds so very reasonable. Admittedly the circumstances where it might occur are not going to be too common but it just takes one instance.

My friend from Edmonton—Sherwood Park has put on record reference to a number of incidents where exactly this kind of thing has happened. In a world of over six billion people and a country of 33 million, there are going to be unfortunate incidents.

I believe that we should act now to pass this law. I could not deny that protection and I do not believe my constituents would either.

My friend has pointed out that according to some polling, 75% of Canadians agree some form of law would be appropriate. I am one of those 75%. I think my constituents would support me in that. I will be supporting this bill.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

moved that Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting for this moment for over 14 years. Those members who have been in the House frequently have heard me say, during private members' business, that I have never been drawn. That was true until now, just as I am about ready to leave the place.

I am very honoured to have this extraordinary privilege of bringing forward a very important piece of legislation. It is especially important because it will be the last piece of legislation debated here in this fall term.

I want to begin by putting forward some background. I have to do this on a very personal and somewhat emotional basis because what we are dealing with here is crime. We are dealing with vicious criminal attacks against pregnant women and we are dealing specifically with addressing the issue of grief for the families who are left behind. Grief is always extremely sad.

I remember some five years ago when my father died. He was almost 91 and everybody said that he had a good life. However, I still distinctly remember how sad I was. He had been my dad all my life and now he was gone and it seemed so brief. There was sadness but it was somewhat softened by the fact that indeed he had had a good long life.

Just a couple of months ago, my wife's only brother passed away. The grief was also great there. He was a younger man. He succumbed to cancer but there had been a little warning because his fight with cancer extended about three years. As he was gradually losing this battle, people in the family were being prepared to deal with that grief. When he finally passed away on September 1 of this year, there was both relief, because he was no longer suffering, but also grief.

We also had a very sad event in January of this year when my first niece passed away. The grief there was notched up from the previous two that I mentioned because Sherry died suddenly. She started her life on Friday morning, as normally as we did this morning, but she had an aneurysm and died instantly, totally unexpectedly. She was only 47. She left her loving husband, her children and the rest of the family. There was tremendous grief. I cannot express the sadness that a family goes through when dealing with such a death.

Then there was a very bad accident this past summer in British Columbia on Canada's Highway No. 1. Some distant relatives of ours were travelling along the road and as they were going along a gravel truck came around the corner. He was going too fast for that corner. The pup trailer that he was pulling, which was also full of gravel, lost its position and rolled onto the car an instantly killed a young man in his late twenties.

There is an added notch to the grief there because, like my niece, the death was sudden but there was another element and that is that it was due to the truck driver's carelessness. The family is anguished. Why did the truck driver not pay attention? Why did he not drive properly?

There is the normal grief of the loss of a loved one but now there is also that element of grief that is added because it could have been prevented.

The reason I mention those examples is because this bill is about helping the families of people who have been murdered, and that is a whole compounding of grief yet again. Unlike the accident, where it was somebody's negligence, the truck driver, I do not think, could ever be accused of saying that he was going to go out and kill someone today with his truck. It was an accident. It was a misjudgment. It was not planned.

However, when a family experiences the murder of a loved one, we have another level of emotion and grief and that is a level of anger. Why would someone deliberately kill my loved one and take away that life so unnecessarily?

Bill C-484 deals with the death as a result of a criminal act against a pregnant mother. Now the grief for the family is compounded yet again, because not only have they suffered the maximum level of grief by having their loved one murdered, but they are also suffering the loss of that wanted and anticipated child, that nephew, niece or grandchild. In a very real sense, they are suffering and grieving a loss under the most egregious of circumstances and the loss of the unborn child. This is what my bill addresses.

I will try to build a case here for support of this bill from all people, regardless of their views on other issues. I want to ensure we all know what the bill deals with. It deals specifically with the death or injury of a mother and/or her unborn child, where that mother has made the choice to have that child. It is a wanted child, an anticipated child.

I can tell members from my own experience, I am getting old but my memory is still good, I remember when my wife and I were having babies. It was almost as much fun as having grandchildren. In each case, when the anticipated birth was there, everyone got excited. This is very personal, but my wife used to invite me to put my hand on her abdomen to feel the movement of that baby. I think we have all experienced that.

When that is happening, both the mother and the father, and other members of the family, especially little brothers or sisters, are building an emotional attachment to a wanted child. They are anticipating its birth and welcoming it into the family. My bill deals specifically with when that desire, that decision is taken away from that family, from that mother against her will, against her choice, not of her choosing, without her consent and, in this bill, always in a criminal way, because charges will only be laid if the individual was committing an act of crime against the child's mother.

This is a very specific, focused bill. It deals with no other issues. It deals with this issue, the unborn victim of a crime.

I want to give a few examples. One of the most well-known cases for this happened in the United States when Laci and Conner Peterson were killed in California. California is a state that has had for many years an act similar to this. As a result, Scott, who was convicted of the crime, was in fact charged and convicted of two crimes. There were two offences to which he was found guilty.

Another case that comes to mind was in a city that is real close to my riding. It happened in Edmonton in 2005 and it is the case of Liana White, a young pregnant mother. She was a mother because she already had a three year old daughter, Ashley. Liana was stabbed to death by her husband, Michael. He was later convicted of the crime of assault and murder of the mother but there were no charges for the death of the unborn child. At the time, Liana was four months pregnant. The family grieved over the fact that the child was not recognized.

Another example is of Olivia Talbot in Edmonton, a tremendously sad case. She was a 19 year old girl who had some youthful troubles but she was working her way out of it and making progress. She was seven months pregnant when a childhood friend shot her. He first shot her three times in the abdomen. His target was the unborn child. He then went ahead and shot her twice in the head to make sure that she also was dead.

Can members imagine the family's grief? Olivia's mother, Mary, has been and is on a crusade to this very day and probably will be for years until a bill such as this is enacted. She said that it grieved them tremendously because Olivia was seven months pregnant and they were anticipating the birth and the welcoming of the new child. The mother was, as I said, making huge progress and putting the troubles of her past behind her, and then suddenly she is brutally murdered and her unborn child with her.

I am appealing to my fellow colleagues in the House of Commons to support this bill because we are dealing explicitly with cases where women have been injured or killed and their unborn children, who they wanted to bring to term and to give life, have been taken away from them. In a way, somebody else forcibly made the decision for them and the woman's choice was totally negated.

I can think of another case in Surrey. I will not go into all of these in detail because it would take too long. We have the case of a 38 year old mother in Surrey who was four months pregnant. She disappeared. The police looked for her. A week or so later they found her charred body. She had been burned, killed by her husband because she was pregnant.

We just heard a very sad story recently in Toronto about the case of Aysun Sesen, a 25-year-old who was seven months pregnant. She was killed by her boyfriend. He killed her by repeatedly stabbing her in the abdomen with a knife until both she and the child were dead.

This is what my bill is about. It is about a woman being the victim of the most egregious crime, her own death and the death of her child.

I think, if I dare do this, the biggest case was in the United States, the case of Tracy Marciniak. She was only about a week or so away from the baby's due date. She was pummeled in the abdomen until her child was killed but she survived. The only charge laid against the father was assault. The life was not recognized.

What I am saying is that this bill, which I hope all members have read, provides for a separate offence in the death or injury of an unborn child.

I want to assure all members present that those issues about constitutionality and some of the things that were raised in the previous debate on this issue when my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright raised it, have all been addressed. As I said at the beginning, we threaded the needle on the wording. People who have other concerns do not need to worry. This was all done. I have had the legal opinions of a noted constitutional lawyer. I simply urge all members to support this bill because it is right.

I urge all members to vote on what the bill says, not on what it does not say. I urge every member of the House to take the time to read and study the four-page missive I have sent to every member of Parliament where all of those issues are addressed in detail. I thank the members for their support.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActRoutine Proceedings

November 21st, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence).

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply honoured to introduce my bill, entitled unborn victims of crime. This bill addresses the heart-rending grief that loved ones experience when a pregnant woman is assaulted or killed. My bill would provide a second offence for the injury or death of the unborn child.

I urge all members to support this bill, as it affirms the woman who has chosen to bring her child to term and to give it life.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)