An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne's Law)

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercion)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


Rod Bruinooge  Conservative

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


Defeated, as of Dec. 15, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence for someone to coerce or attempt to coerce a female person to have an abortion.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Dec. 15, 2010 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Prevention of Coerced AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 10th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to present two petitions from the people of Saskatchewan to all members of Parliament.

The first petition calls upon all members of Parliament to support Bill C-510, Roxanne's law, to help empower women to press charges if they are coerced into an unwanted abortion.

Prevention of Coerced AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 10th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition in hand. These petitioners indicate their support for Roxanne's law, Bill C-510, which would empower women to press charges if they are coerced into an unwanted abortion.

The petitioners also reference Roxanne Fernando, a Winnipeg woman whose boyfriend attempted to coerce her to abort their unborn child and subsequently murdered her for not doing so.

The petitioners would also like Parliament to support Bill C-510, which would help protect vulnerable women from being aggressively coerced against their will to have abortions.

Prevention of Coerced AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 6th, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.
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Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition today signed by hundreds of men and women from right across Canada. They would like to draw the attention of Parliament to Roxanne's law, Bill C-510, which empowers women to press charges if they are coerced into an unwanted abortion.

Whereas Roxanne Fernando was a Winnipeg woman whose boyfriend attempted to coerce her to abort their unborn child and subsequently murdered her for refusing to do so, they ask that members of Parliament and the House of Commons support Bill C-510, which will help protect vulnerable women from being aggressively coerced against their will to have abortions.

Prevention of Coerced AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 3rd, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House to present a petition from Canadians asking members in the House to support Roxanne's law, also known as Bill C-510, which would allow women to press charges if they were coerced into an unwanted abortion.

Prevention of Coerced AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 3rd, 2010 / noon
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Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by hundreds of Canadians. The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to support Bill C-510, which would help protect vulnerable women from being aggressively coerced against their will to have abortions.

Prevention of Coerced AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 26th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition that calls on Parliament to pass Bill C-510, Roxanne's Law, a law that will help stop coercion against pregnant women, coercion to make those pregnant women end their pregnancy.

This is an important law that I am hopeful will get passed. This petition is calling for that.

Prevention of Coerced AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 1st, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.
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Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit this petition from more than a thousand Canadians in support of Bill C-510, Roxanne's law.

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law)Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
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Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reflect for a moment. I remember when I became pregnant for the first time. My husband and I were thrilled that our hopes and dreams of raising a family together would soon become a reality. I was so thankful that I had a loving and supportive husband to accompany me on this journey to motherhood.

As any woman anticipating the birth of her child will tell you, the unique experience of pregnancy is exciting, scary, exhilarating, and emotional. It is filled with many ups and downs. With all the changes and challenges, hopes and fears that pregnancy and expectant parenthood can bring, pregnant women need much support. I cannot imagine the loneliness and rejection a vulnerable young woman must feel when those closest to her, like a boyfriend, husband, mother, or father, would not be there to support her decision to have a baby and who would, even worse, actually threaten, intimidate, and pressure her into terminating the pregnancy she wants to bring to term.

As soon as I realized I was pregnant, I began bonding with my baby. I cannot describe what that feels like. Only the pregnant woman who is carrying that baby, fetus, child, whatever you want to call it, inside her womb can know exactly what it means, what it feels like to be the sole source of sustenance for this tiny human who is totally dependent on her for survival.

Whether or not the pregnancy is planned, who has the right to tell that woman that what she is carrying inside her is a burden and must be disposed of? Who has the right to coerce her into ending her pregnancy, thereby ending her chance to give birth to her baby? No one has that right. That is why we need Roxanne's law. We need to protect pregnant women, especially when they are at their most vulnerable, from being coerced into having abortions they do not want.

It is well documented that women can suffer tremendously after having a miscarriage. When a woman loses a wanted pregnancy, she can experience intense feelings of sadness, anger, and guilt for not having been able to keep her unborn child safe. Many people cannot fully comprehend the extent of the grief a woman suffers after a miscarriage, because they do not understand the bond that has already begun to develop between her and her unborn child.

I can imagine that a woman who has been forced to have an abortion would suffer at least as much and perhaps more, because the loss would not be accidental. Instead, the loss results from a cruel and deliberate exploitation of her vulnerability by someone she should be able to trust and depend on.

Research shows that when women feel pressured into having abortions they are at increased risk of suffering negative psychological outcomes. A 2005 study published in General Hospital Psychiatry found that male pressure on women to abort was significantly associated with negative abortion-related emotions in the two years following an abortion. A 2004 study in the Medical Science Monitor found that pressure to abort was predictive of adverse psychological adjustment following the abortion experience.

Some people have said that we do not need such a law because coercion does not happen. In many cases, women freely choose their abortions, but we also know from anecdotal evidence that many other women are coerced.

When enacted into law, Bill C-510 will send a clear message that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong. It will send a message to women that the law is there to protect them, so that if someone attempts to coerce a woman to have an abortion she does not want, she can press charges before it is too late for her and her baby.

When Roxanne's law comes to a vote next month, I will stand up for pregnant women and for motherhood. I will remember Roxanne and be grateful for the small part I have played to bring some good out of her tragedy.

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law)Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
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Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-510, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercion). It is with some distress that I am rising to speak on this particular bill.

Many women who have fought long and hard for a woman's right to choose believe that this is a backdoor way of reopening the debate on abortion. This is a debate that over the years people have agreed not to reopen in Parliament. Part of the reason that women are so distressed and angry about this private member's bill is that they see it as undermining women's equality.

I want to acknowledge the member for London—Fanshawe, who argued that over the last five years we have seen an erosion of supports for women. Any number of programs are simply not available to women, including the court challenges program and access to universal child care.

I want to talk briefly about a definition of equality that the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has put forward. This definition speaks to why women are feeling as if their right to equality is being undermined. The definition of “equality” is as follows: “To achieve equality, all women must have the right to decide for themselves whether and when they will bear children, and how many. Without control of their fertility, women cannot have autonomy over their lives and cannot play a full and equal role in society”.

The right to autonomy includes both a woman's right to choose to have children and a woman's right to choose not to have children. In both circumstances, we would look to the state to provide the tools and resources to support women in their decisions.

With respect to a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, health care needs to be provided along with the necessary tools, resources, and supports. At the same time, when a woman chooses to bear a child, supports should also be in place. Some of this is health care, but a lot of it is pay equity.

The member for London—Fanshawe talked about pay equity. A woman should have a right to earn as much as a man. Women need a right to child care, not $100 a month, so they can raise their children to become contributing members of society. There are rights and responsibilities on both sides of this argument.

The opening of this painful debate arises from an event that was absolutely tragic. But coercion is not what we should be debating in the House. Other members have ably argued that the Criminal Code already prohibits coercive behaviour. One of the members opposite stated that he has grave concerns about whether this bill, as it stands, would be subject to court challenges.

I want to put this in a historical context. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has outlined Canada's legal situation. It states:

Canada first liberalized its criminal abortion law in 1969, allowing it to be performed in hospitals with the approval of a “therapeutic abortion committee.” But the law resulted in unequal access for women so the Canadian Supreme Court threw out the entire law in 1988. Although the Canadian legislature soon tried to re-criminalize abortion, the bill failed to pass. Governments have said repeatedly over the years that they do not intend to re-legislate against abortion. This leaves Canada as the only democratic, industrialized nation in the world with no laws restricting abortion. (Only two other countries have no laws: China and North Korea). Yet Canada has a relatively low rate of abortion compared to other industrialized countries and one of the lowest rates of abortion-related complications and maternal mortality in the world. Over 90% of abortions are performed before 12 weeks gestation, and 98% before 16 weeks gestation. These statistics prove that no laws are needed to regulate or reduce abortions, and that women and doctors can be trusted to exercise the right responsibly.

It is important to understand, in this context, that women and doctors can be trusted to exercise their rights responsibly. This underpins a woman's right to safe abortion.

The Supreme Court grounded the right to abortion in Canada's Constitution, where the primary protection cited was women's right to “security of the person.”

The Supreme Court has stated that women's equality rights are enshrined in Canada's Constitution. This is something to be kept in mind whenever we raise the issue of a woman's right to choose. It is clear that equality rights are enshrined in our Constitution, that these rights guarantee women the right to choose to abort, and that this right has been upheld in Canadian courts.

I want to turn to the bill before us, Bill C-510. It has been argued that it protects women and their rights. But this does not pan out when we start examining the bill.

On April 19, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada put out a press release that said it was wrong to pressure women into an abortion. I think we would all acknowledge that. None of us would say it is right to pressure women into abortion. The release also says that such pressuring does not occur on the grand scale often claimed by anti-choice propagandists, that It mostly stems from situations of domestic abuse.

As was referred to previously, a recent U.S. study examined reproductive control of women by abusive male partners. Some were pressured to have an abortion, but women also reported that their partners prevented them from obtaining or using birth control, threatened them with pregnancy, or forced unprotected sex on them. If they became pregnant and wanted an abortion, some partners threatened or pressured them to carry to term.

If we really want to protect women, we should make sure that women have access to transition houses and income equality. These things would give them a way out of abusive relationships. We should look for new ways to protect women from domestic violence. Women should not be forced to stay in relationships just because they do not see any way out, or because their communities do not have safe houses for them to go to.

The member for London—Fanshawe mentioned the murdered and missing aboriginal women. We saw an announcement on Friday that is heavy on enforcement and light on protecting women before they go missing or are murdered. Yes, we acknowledge that it is important to have the database and some other resources in place once women go missing, but what are we doing to protect them before they go missing? Where are the resources for them in their communities so that they have someplace to go when they are unsafe?

In their press release, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada gave several reasons that Bill C-510 is not needed or is suspect:

First, the bill is mostly redundant, because threats and illegal acts are already illegal under the Criminal Code.

A number of people have already touched on this. Under the Criminal Code, people can already be charged for uttering threats.

Second, counsellors already screen for possible coercion in women seeking abortion. Clinics do not perform abortions on women who are conflicted or being coerced. That protection is already in place.

Third, the bill patronizes women by implying they are frequently coerced into abortion, but the vast majority of women make their own decision to have an abortion and take responsibility for it.

Fourth, if the intent is to really protect women from abusive partners, we need better solutions that this bill. Women's safety and security is best assured by helping them win equality and autonomy.

I already talked about pay equity, affordable child care, legal aid, and other programs.

I would urge all members in the House to vote against Bill C-510 and work toward adopting other measures that actually protect women's equality.

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law)Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot say that I am pleased to be taking part in this debate on abortion, as I thought it was already over.

I have received some letters from Canadians about this bill. Rather than gave a speech, I will just read the letter that I sent in reply to inquiries which, for the most part, opposed this bill, although a few were in favour of it.

It states:

Dear [Sir or Madam]:

Thank you for your recent letter on the topic of Bill C-510, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercion), also known as “Roxanne's Law”.

This Private Member's Bill is a clear attempt to reintroduce an unwanted debate on abortion in the House of Commons. As such, I will not be supporting it at second reading.

I will not be recommending to my caucus members to support it at second reading. In fact, I will be strongly urging them not to support this bill at second reading.

It goes on to say:

The Prime Minister's office has also indicated, after some delay, that it does not support this legislation.

It is important to note that the remedies proposed by [the member of Parliament for Winnipeg South] are wholly redundant, as existing sections of the Criminal Code already apply to cases of “coerced abortion”.

I am referring to the provisions on uttering threats, assault and extortion.

Subsection 264.1(1) of the Criminal Code—Uttering threats—states:

Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat

(a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person;

(b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or

(c) to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.

Subsection 265(1) on assault states:

A person commits an assault when

(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;

(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or

(c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

It is obviously already covered under paragraph (b).

As for subsection 346(1), it states:

Every one commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done.

I will conclude my reading of the letter that I sent out in response:

It should also be noted that the sentences provided for in C-510, a maximum of five years for an indictable offence, are equal to or LESS than what is provided for in the provisions mentioned above. For example, the punishment for aggravated assault can go up to 14 years for an indictable offence.


The Honourable...

And I signed my name.

The provisions of the Criminal Code on uttering threats, assault and extortion cover very well what Bill C-510 is trying to target. We do not need this bill to protect pregnant women who suffer pressure, threats, assault or extortion from a partner, the child's father or anyone else who wants them to have an abortion against their will or who wants to prevent them from having an abortion.

The Supreme Court of Canada already issued a ruling in a case that was famous in Quebec. A woman wanted to have an abortion, and her spouse at the time tried to prevent it by taking her to court. The Supreme Court ruled that he, or anyone else, did not have the right to force a woman to have an abortion or to stop her from having one, through threats, assault or extortion.

The member for Winnipeg South might have had good intentions, but he probably did not read the Criminal Code properly. If he is complaining that it is not being used, then we need to be talking to police forces to ensure that they enforce the provisions they already have. Furthermore, we must educate and inform women to ensure that they are fully aware of their rights when they have a decision to make about a pregnancy and that they know that the Criminal Code protects them against threats, extortion and threats of assault.

I will end there. I have no doubt that the member for Winnipeg South means well, but his bill is redundant, in light of the provisions in the Criminal Code that already deal with the situation addressed in his bill.

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law)Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec


Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate at second reading on Bill C-510, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercion), also known as Roxanne's law. This bill was introduced by the hon. member for Winnipeg South in response to an incident that occurred in his riding in 2007.

Bill C-510 would amend the Criminal Code and create two new criminal offences. The first would be to coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion and would carry a punishment of five years' imprisonment on indictment and 18 months' imprisonment on summary conviction. The second offence would be to attempt to coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion and would carry a maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment on indictment and six months' imprisonment on summary conviction.

The bill defines several terms for the purpose of enforcement of this legislation, including the word “coercion”, which can include the following behaviour: committing or threatening to commit physical harm to the female person, the child or another person; committing or threatening to commit any act prohibited by any provincial or federal law; denying or removing, or making a threat to deny or remove, financial support from a person who is financially dependent on the person engaging in the conduct; and attempting to compel by pressure or intimidation including argumentative and rancorous badgering or importunity. However, it does not include speech that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Conversely, the bill does not define other expressions, such as “compel by pressure” and “rancorous badgering”. These are new terms that appear in this bill. The bill provides an exemption for a physician who recommends that a woman end her pregnancy for physical health reasons.

Lastly, the bill includes a very unusual provision related to severability, whereby any provision of the bill that is deemed invalid or unenforceable must be construed so as to give it the maximum effect permitted by law or, if that is impossible, it must be severed from the bill. This is an unusual provision.

Bill C-510 proposes making an offence out of certain conduct that is already prohibited under the Criminal Code and other acts—again, already prohibited under the Criminal Code and other acts—by way of offences such as assault (section 265 of the Criminal Code), uttering threats (section 264.1 of the Criminal Code) and intimidation (section 423 of the Criminal Code). It also proposes prohibiting interpersonal conduct, which is generally outside the traditional domain of criminal law—again, outside criminal law—such as non-violent disputes between spouses or between parents and their children where one of the parties is opposed to the continuation of the pregnancy and favours abortion. I am talking about non-violent conduct and discussions between various parties.

The proposed offences are likely to be difficult to interpret and subject to charter challenges because of the use of vague and undefined expressions such as, “compel by pressure”, which is quite new, and “rancorous badgering”, which is extremely new, because of the attempt to make the offence consistent with the charter by excluding from the definition of “coercion” speech that is protected by the charter, and because of the unusual provision, as I was saying earlier, with regard to severability, which hinders the discretionary power of the courts to order suitable restitution under the charter.

There are major legal difficulties with this bill and that is why I cannot support it.

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law)Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

There are names.

In 1991, a committee report entitled “The War against Women” thoroughly studied the measures the federal government should take to reduce the violence faced by women. If the member for Winnipeg South really does care about reducing violence against women, I would urge him to read this report and work towards implementing the recommendations. The report explains that the vulnerability of women to violence is integrally linked to the social, economic and political inequities women experience as part of their daily lives, inequities exacerbated by the government of which the author of Bill C-510 is a member.

Tragically, violence against women has not been substantially reduced since that 1991 report. Women are far more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner. In 2009, 43% of female deaths were women killed by a male intimate or ex-intimate partner, whereas 4% of male deaths were at the hands of a female intimate or ex-intimate partner.

While all deaths are tragic, we must be determined to advance women's equality because that is the only way to reduce violence against women. Canada does not have a comprehensive long-term plan to address women's equality. The Conservative government offers only band-aid solutions to systemic problems. In truth, the government is part of the systemic problem.

Aboriginal women in Canada are five times more likely to die from violence than other women in the country. Nearly 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered in the last 30 years, yet the Government of Canada is only now indicating it will dispense the $10 million of funding to address this violence. Even at that, the plan is inadequate. There is no mention of important healing programs for families and individuals. Most of the funding is for policing. That is not what first nations requested. They wish a comprehensive plan that includes support for the aboriginal victims of violence and their families.

When it comes to the women of this nation, we have the statistics, the studies and the reports from expert panels, but what we do not have is the political will to implement the long-term solutions that will reduce the inequity between men and women. The government could introduce a national child care program, make needed changes to maternity and paternal leave, provide adequate funding for legal aid, restore the court challenges program, help women with disabilities, implement real proactive pay equity, create a national housing program and invest in programs that would address violence against women. It could do all of these things, but that would require a real commitment to women, children and families.

Bill C-510 will do nothing to reduce violence against women. Like the other anti-choice private members' bills introduced by government backbenchers, it is a Trojan Horse. When we examine Bill C-510 carefully, we see it defines abortion as causing the death of a child. Currently under the law a fetus does not become a person until born.

This bill recognizes the fetus as a child and therefore 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.

In Canada women have been 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 under the law, 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 rights of one or both parties must be compromised, resulting in loss of rights. Legally speaking, it would be very difficult to justify compromising women's established rights in favour of the theoretical rights of a fetus.

It is also of concern that Bill C-510 essentially contradicts the election promises of the Conservative Party. During the past elections, their platform stated, “A Conservative Government will any legislation to regulate abortion”.

Bill C-510 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. 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.

I would like to take a moment to thank all the brave women, organizations and abortion providers who fought for our right to choose.

I urge all members of the House to recognize this bill for what it is, an underhanded attack on women's choice. I urge all members to vote against it.

If we are to sincerely, sincerely, honour Roxanne's memory, we will end violence against women. We will not tolerate the sham that has been perpetrated against the women of this country.

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law)Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-510 is no more than a thinly veiled attempt to criminalize abortion providers and promote an anti-choice agenda. This is the fourth time in four years that a Conservative backbench member of Parliament has introduced an anti-choice private member's bill that masquerades as legislation that will protect women. In this case the member belongs to the secretive parliamentary anti-choice caucus.

Coercion is already illegal under the Criminal Code, section 264.1, and abortion counsellors are already screened for possible coercion in women seeking an abortion.

I must also point out that though the member for Winnipeg South claims that Roxanne Fernando was murdered because she refused to have an abortion, the murderer himself, his lawyer and the crown prosecutor all agreed that this was not the motive. The judge who presided over the criminal trial wrote this in his decision. Please read it:

The murder was apparently motivated by...[the defendant's] irritation and panic that Ms. Fernando, who was carrying his baby, was insistent on having a relationship with him.

I am extremely disappointed that the member would use the tragic murder of a young woman to push an anti-abortion agenda because what is quite clear is that this law would most likely be used against abortion providers and would have a chilling effect on women's access to abortion services.

Women in Canada already face challenges when trying to access abortion services. Canadians for Choice released a report in 2007, which noted that abortion services are only available in one out of six hospitals in Canada and that these services are poorly dispersed across the country, being concentrated mostly in urban areas. Some provinces refuse to fund abortion services, leaving many women with no choice.

If the bill is passed, it may restrict women's access to abortion even more, by criminalizing abortion providers.

The member for Winnipeg South is right on one point. Women do suffer abuse at the hands of their partners. Last week Statistics Canada reported that women continue to be about three times more likely to victims of spousal homicide than men. If the member for Winnipeg South were actually concerned about violence against women, he would urge his caucus and the Prime Minister to stop dismantling frameworks that address the systemic discrimination that women face.

Since 2006 the Conservative government has denied women access to justice by cancelling the Court Challenges Program, shut down 12 of 16 regional offices of Status of Women Canada, cut 40% of Status of Women Canada's operating budget, removed question number 33 from the census, the question that dealt with unpaid labour, denied funding for research and advocacy on women's equality issues, removed the term “gender equality” from policy language at DFAIT, removed abortion from maternal health policies abroad and excluded federally regulated workers from chapter 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the pay equity provision.

It has been four long years of nothing but contempt for women by the government. Little by little the Harper Conservatives are dismantling frameworks set up to advance women's equality—

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law)Private Members' Business

November 1st, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

moved that Bill C-510, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercion), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-510, known as Roxanne's Law, and I do so on behalf of Roxanne's family, including her sister, Ana Maria.

This legislation would give much needed protection to pregnant women, empowering them to press charges should someone coerce them into ending their pregnancy.

The day Roxanne Fernando arrived in Canada from the Philippines was one of the best days of her life. She had been waiting a long time to see her sister again. Roxanne's life in Canada started off so well as she easily made friends. After her friend Sandy got her a job as a server at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg, Roxanne quickly became everyone's favourite. Sandy recalls the time when Roxanne was out with about eight co-workers after their shift and, when no one was noticing, Roxanne paid for everyone's dinner. They all pleaded with her to take their money knowing the humble means that she had but she would not take their money. Her friends meant a lot to her.

Roxanne was also excited about her new boyfriend. She met her boyfriend at a restaurant where they both worked. What started as a normal relationship, changed quickly when Roxanne became pregnant in early 2007. Roxanne's excitement at being pregnant was not shared by her boyfriend. Her boyfriend immediately began threatening and coercing Roxanne into having an abortion. After being rejected the first time, her boyfriend returned to continue the pressure and threats but in the end Roxanne would not change her mind. Roxanne was choosing to have her baby.

Unfortunately, her boyfriend would decide to take his coercive threats a terrible step further and devised a plan to kill her. Her boyfriend and some friends he hired beat Roxanne to the edge of death with a hockey stick and left her in a snowbank to die.

Roxanne's final moments are very disturbing. Roxanne likely cried out for help in that field and she died thinking no one could hear her. Today, however, in the House of Commons her voice is being heard.

This bill might be based on Roxanne Fernando but there are many Roxannes across this country and, sadly, many of these vulnerable women are often targeted for violence. When women find themselves in dangerous situations and without specific legal protection, they may feel that an unwanted abortion is their only option. Roxanne's law would empower pregnant women to take legal action should they be intimidated and pressured into ending their pregnancy. Had this bill been in place in 2007, it would have been much easier for Roxanne to press charges against her boyfriend when he was coercing her to end her pregnancy.

Bill C-510 would communicate to all Canadians that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong and unacceptable in a nation that values compassion, justice and human rights.

Roxanne's Law would not affect women's access to abortion in any way. With this law in place, Canada will continue to have no legal restrictions on the procedure permitted in all nine months of pregnancy. However, t for those women who choose to have their baby, this law would give them added protection to fulfill their hopes and dreams of having a family.

Pregnant women are not adequately protected by our current laws. Our current laws against coercion and uttering threats do not specifically address the issue of abortion coercion. Roxanne's story demonstrates that this type of coercion takes place but I am not aware of any cases where a person has been charged under our existing laws. This is proof that clarity in our law is necessary.

Roxanne's Law, Bill C-510, would clarify the law by defining what exactly constitutes coercive behaviour in the context of an unwanted abortion, making such behaviour a criminal offence and liable to imprisonment for a period ranging from 18 months to 5 years, depending on the circumstances. This would send a clear message to everyone in Canada that coercing a woman into ending her pregnancy when she has chosen to remain pregnant will not be tolerated. Knowledge is power and such clarity will empower women with the knowledge of their rights.

As a result, coercive behaviour toward pregnant women should decrease in the future and, hopefully, tragedies, similar to what happened to Roxanne, will be averted. When coercive behaviour does occur, women will be empowered to take legal action before the coercion escalates to more serious forms of violence.

Opponents of this bill have said that it would criminalize those who provide counselling to pregnant women. This is entirely false. Any discussion of the various pregnancy options in a non-threatening manner is perfectly legitimate. For added clarity, there is an exemption in clause 3 of the bill for speech related to lawful pregnancy options in any speech that is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Opponents have also indicated concern about the use of the word “child” in clause 3 as it pertains to the unborn. However, the Criminal Code's language concerning a pre-born baby currently uses only the word “child” and, in the interests of simplicity, there is no reason to add a new word.

The member for Halifax has suggested that she would prefer using the word “fetus”. Although that term is currently not used in the Criminal Code, an amendment to introduce that term and use it instead of “child” could easily be made at committee. This change would not alter the intent of Roxanne's law and would likely be accepted as a friendly amendment.

What do the international and legal communities say about coerced abortion?

At the International Conference on Population and Development, the international community agreed, in paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD program of action that:

Coerced abortion is explicitly recognized as a violation of basic human rights and principles.

Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board has strongly condemned coerced abortion.

In a 2004 case, a Chinese woman, who had been involved in carrying out China's so-called family planning policies, was claiming refugee status in Canada. Thomas H. Kemsly, who wrote the decision, referred to forced or coerced abortion as “a crime against humanity”, ”an act of barbarous cruelty that shocks the conscience”, and “contrary to human dignity”. “Forced” abortion was considered “to include situations when a woman 'agrees' to an abortion after extreme, unrelenting psychological pressure and threats”. Because of her involvement in forcing and coercing women in China to end their pregnancies, this woman was found to have committed crimes against humanity and her claim for refugee status in Canada was thus denied.

Not only do we deny refugee status to those who have committed forced or coerced abortions abroad, but we also protect refugee claimants who are targets of such coercive policies. The Refugee Protection Division of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board has granted protection to women who fear being victims of China's one-child policy.

For example, one claimant who had become pregnant a second time in violation of that country's one-child policy was arrested when she was eight months' pregnant and forced to end her pregnancy. The refugee division found that she had been persecuted by being forced to have an abortion and that there was more than a mere possibility that she would suffer either another procedure, forced sterilization or both if she returned to China.

Clearly, then, we know that when justice and compassion demands this, it is given to our refugee claimants.

It is now time we act justly and compassionately when it comes to women who face coerced abortion right here in Canada. It is now time to give Canadian women legal protection against the same coercive behaviour we condemn at refugee hearings and use as a basis for granting or denying refugee status. It is now time for Roxanne's law.

Roxanne's law would help vulnerable women to safety continue a wanted pregnancy by acting as a deterrent to coercive behaviour. Roxanne's law would empower to press charges should someone attempt to coerce them into ending their pregnancy. Bill C-510 would become a new tool in the fight against domestic abuse.

We cannot continue to ignore the dangerous situations many pregnant women find themselves in when they choose to continue a pregnancy. When a pregnant woman is faced with intense and repeated pressure to have an abortion against her will, her ability to bring her wanted child safely to term is threatened. No one has a right to threaten, intimidate or badger a woman into ending her pregnancy just because that person thinks her child is an unwanted burden. No pregnant woman should ever have to choose between protecting herself and protecting her baby.

I repeat that no pregnant woman should ever have to choose between protecting herself and protecting her baby. A compassionate society such as Canada cannot abandon a woman who is already dealing with the many challenges of pregnancy when she is facing such intense threats and coercion. Surely we have an obligation to give a woman the best chance possible to bring her wanted child safely to term. Bill C-510 would provide explicit protection so that a mother could make it safely through the pregnancy and fulfill every parent's greatest wish to have a healthy child.

Our own Supreme Court of Canada emphasized this obligation and recognized the value of pregnancy in Dobson v. Dobson:

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.

Abortion is obviously a very emotional issue that divides Canadians. There are intelligent and passionate women and men on each side and this bill does not judge either side. I hope that no matter how each of us feels about this issue, we can join together to protect women who are being threatened and intimidated into having abortions they do not want. For Roxanne's sake and for the many women who suffer from this form of abuse, I hope we can look past the rhetoric and provide them with some much needed protection.

A few weeks ago I spoke at a banquet at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg. As I often do these days, I told the story of Roxanne Fernando. All of the staff in the room were welling up with emotion. After I sat back down in my seat, a few of them came over and told me that Roxanne had been serving in that very room just a few years ago. They were her co-workers and friends. It was a stark reminder of how connected this person was to my home community and how important it is to remember Roxanne for her bravery.

I ask my fellow members of Parliament to honour the memory of Roxanne Fernando, to stand up for pregnant women and to vote in favour of Bill C-510 at second reading. Roxanne Fernando is a Canadian hero.

An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne's Law)Routine Proceedings

April 14th, 2010 / 3:15 p.m.
See context


Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-510, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercion).

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to introduce this private member's bill. This bill would be known as Roxanne's law and it is based on the untimely death of Roxanne Fernando.

Roxanne Fernando was coerced into having an abortion but she did not go through with it. In the end, her boyfriend decided to kill her for not going through with it.

This bill would protect vulnerable pregnant women. I hope everyone in the House can support it.

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