Sex-selective Abortion Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sex-selective abortion)

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Cathay Wagantall  Conservative

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

Status

Defeated, as of June 2, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-233.

Summary

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 a medical practitioner to perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought solely on the grounds of the child’s genetic sex. It also requires the Minister of Health, after consultation with representatives of the provincial governments responsible for health, to establish guidelines respecting information provided by a medical practitioner in relation to a request for an abortion.

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

June 2, 2021 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sex-selective abortion)

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2021 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I would really like to say that I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-233, which was introduced by the member for Yorkton—Melville, but that would be a lie.

Unlike what some would have us believe, Bill C-233 does not seek to restore the balance between the situation of young girls and young boys. It is not a bill to combat sexism. It is anti-abortion legislation, period. It is a pretext, a roundabout way for the member to achieve her purpose, an attempt to reopen a debate that we hoped had been closed for several decades now. The member is shamefully using and hijacking the discourse on human rights to hide other intentions. I am not trying to freely impute motives, unlike what some of my colleagues might try to accuse me of following my speech.

This is a fairly well documented situation, which was the subject of at least two CBC reports just before the last election in which the journalists talked about new pro-life lobbying methods. As an aside, I want to mention that, in my opinion, the term “pro-life” is a term that has been overused so that people do not have to say anti-abortion, even though that is what it means.

The groups featured in these reports have abandoned certain strategies in recent years and have adopted new ones. Their stated purpose is to get dozens of anti-abortion members elected. Alissa Golob, one of the cofounders of the group RightNow, explained on camera that if, instead of spending two hours holding a sign on the sidewalk, they were to spend that time knocking on doors for a candidate, it would probably be a much more effective use of their time.

In the report that was recorded in June 2019, RightNow explained that it was employing several tactics. First, the group encourages pro-life activists to run for office. Then, during the nomination races in various ridings, it suggests to its supporters that they become members of a party that is running a pro-life candidate and that they vote for that candidate, obviously. Finally, RightNow's volunteers go door to door to find voters who would be willing to support anti-abortion politicians. The day of the election, the group encourages voters to go vote. Without specifically naming them, the lobby admitted to targeting some fifty-odd ridings during the 2019 election.

Scott Hayward, another co-founder of RightNow, explained in the same report that the group's objective was to get into the corridors of power to pass legislation that will reduce the number of abortions in Canada as much as possible. He conceded that the strategy to have a total ban on abortion was doomed to failure. This group's new strategy is to take incremental steps.

Another news report from September 2019 revealed the communications strategy of lobby groups. Their strategy is to attack the consensus that the issue of women's right to control their own bodies is a debate that should be considered to have been closed for decades.

Although the leader of the Conservative Party at the time, the current member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who has openly stated that he is pro-life, said in the last election campaign that the debate would not be reopened, the same story reported otherwise. The report reminded readers that backbenchers would nevertheless have the right to introduce private members' bills seeking to restrict the right to abortion.

The group We Need a Law is another anti-abortion group. The same news report explained that its approach is to lobby the public and politicians to convince them that Canada needs an abortion law.

It is important to remember that the general situation in Canada is that we trust women to make their own decision, and we trust doctors, who receive guidelines from their associations that cover the stage of pregnancy starting at which specific criteria must be taken into consideration before they can sign off on termination. According to We Need a Law, in order to change the law, we must first change the way people think. For both We Need a Law and Right Now, that means the discourse must be refreshed, but also softened.

These days, anti-abortion groups are deliberately softening their approach. They are moving away from the all-or-nothing route and focusing more on a middle-of-the-road approach, and guess what? One of their strategies involves creating a precedent with abortion-related legislation, particularly by trying to get laws passed that seek to criminalize sex-selective abortion or to ban abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy.

Bill C-233, the bill before us today, fits that pattern exactly. It seeks to chip away at abortion rights with the stated long-term goal of making it harder and harder to access abortion. That is the frame of mind we need to put ourselves in as we examine this bill.

After all that, I have not even talked about the many other problems with Bill C-233, such as the potential interference in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction.

The member for Yorkton—Melville is clearly trying to use the Criminal Code to regulate medical practice, which is not something that falls under federal jurisdiction. However, we have become accustomed to this tactic. It is something that we debated in the House just yesterday during the study of Bill C-268, which seeks to criminalize certain aspects of medical assistance in dying as a way to indirectly sabotage something for which there is a consensus, particularly in Quebec.

I am not even talking about the difficulties associated with implementing Bill C-233, which would involve a major violation of doctor-patient confidentiality for charges to be laid under the Criminal Code provisions Bill C-233 proposes.

Nor am I talking about the possible consequences of this bill for racialized people. If Bill C-233 passes, doctors could engage in profiling by only asking pregnant women of Asian or Indian origin, communities in which sex-selective abortion seems statistically more prevalent.

No, I am going to talk about what is behind Bill C-233.

I am talking about the red herring and the tactic that some members use when they say they do not want to reopen the abortion debate but then turn around and introduce bills like Bill C-233 to do just that. I urge the bill's sponsor and her leader to at least have the decency and transparency to acknowledge the real purpose of the legislation they put forward.

I was born in 1984, only four years before the Supreme Court ruled in the Morgentaler case. From that moment on, logically, my adult life should not have been punctuated by attempts to ensure that others could decide in my stead what is good for me or dictate what I should be doing with my own body. What is being proposed is a step backwards and a disservice to the progress that women's rights have supposedly made since then. That is why I believe it is still relevant to quote Simone de Beauvoir, who said, “Never forget that it only takes one political, economic or religious crisis for women's rights to be put in jeopardy. Those rights can never be taken for granted. You will have to remain vigilant your whole life”.

Let us not be fooled. Let us stay vigilant, as she said. This bill is nothing more than the umpteenth iteration of a form of antiquated bigotry temporarily clad in the guise of feminism, which is suddenly so timely. No matter how sugar-coated the pill is or how polished Bill C-233 looks, we must not lose sight of the fact that, deep down, it is motivated by values that have no place in a democratic institution.

Because I am a woman, because I am a feminist and because I am progressive, I simply cannot support Bill C-233.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2021 / 2 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-233, which is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to criminalize abortion and attack our reproductive rights. I want to acknowledge the critical work of so many advocates of Abortion Rights Coalition, who have made clear that Bill C-233 is not actually about protecting girls and women, or supporting vulnerable women, but rather, a veiled attempt to criminalize abortion in our country.

It is a bill that opens the door to racism, misogyny and abuse. Today, I acknowledge that, as I stand again in this House, in support of a woman's fundamental right to choose, that we stand on the shoulders of giants, giants like the women of the abortion caravan, trailblazers like Henry Morgentaler; feminist leaders like Judy Rebick, Carolyn Eagen, Joyce Arthur; the women of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and many more.

I think of the women and two-spirited activists who created the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and the fierce feminist activists of the Radical Handmaids.

I think of the women in my own community and in our own region who fight to make sure that women and transgender people have access to reproductive rights.

Let us get to the core of the issue. This bill is also a key part of the Conservative Party of Canada's not-so-hidden agenda. Its members tell us they have rebranded. They tell us they are pro-choice. They tell us they are pro-LGBTQ rights. They slap an emoji on it, a hashtag on it, and they are good to go. Then its members put forward bills like this one. It is not by accident and it is also not the first time.

Almost 10 years ago, in 2012, and feminist activists will remember, Motions Nos. 312 and 408 were put forward by Conservative members at that time that again, were backdoor attempts to criminalize abortion in Canada. I spoke to those motions as a member of Parliament almost 10 years ago. These motions, yes, were overwhelmingly opposed, but they were not meant to pass. They were meant to send a signal at that time, like they are today, that the Conservative Party also holds the belief that women and some transgender people should not have the choice to do what they want with their bodies. These motions were meant to send a signal that the state ought to have the final say and criminalize those who choose abortion. These motions stoke the fire of possibility of a reactionary, patriarchal view of our world where women are subservient.

If the Conservatives truly cared about gender equality and the rights of girls and women so much, what else could they do to spend their time fighting for us? My answer is: so much more. First of all, they could start by recognizing that indigenous women in this country have been and continue to be subjected to genocide. They could support the findings of the historic National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, an inquiry that they opposed and pour their energy into action on its recommendations, but instead, the Conservatives are not doing that.

It is May 2021. We are a year and some into a global pandemic. Women have borne the brunt of care work in this pandemic, in our care homes, hospitals, homes and schools as essential workers. The Conservatives could fight for them for paid sick days; for desperately needed protection; for targeted shutdowns of dangerous workplaces; for immigration status for women migrant workers and all migrant workers, but the Conservatives are not doing that. They could speak up for the thousands of Canadian women who have lost their jobs, had to leave their work, had to scale back their employment because of a lack of child care, a lack of elder care; a lack of supports. They could speak up of the she-session and the clear recognition that women in Canada have lost significant ground during this crisis. They could fight for them, for universal child care, for cancelling student debt, for free education, for affordable housing; for publicly owned compassionate models of care that value the women who need that care and the women who provide it, but the Conservatives are not doing that either. Instead, we have Bill C-233 that will set the clock back on our reproductive rights.

I am here to say that Canadian women and transgender people are not having it. Many, including in my own province, have been on the front lines of fighting for greater access to abortion, particularly the availability of Mifegymiso. Thanks to the immense public pressure from advocates of the grassroots, Mifegymiso became universally covered by the provincial government here in Manitoba.

However, the struggle continues. Many women and some transgender people still do not have access to medical or surgical abortions in real terms when they need them. Here I also want to highlight the hypocrisy of the Liberals, who aim to score points on being pro-choice but do next to nothing to make abortion services available to women across our country, particularly in northern and rural areas.

Many are fighting back. I want to acknowledge the leadership of Emily Pruder, an abortion doula and advocate for reproductive justice here in our north, who said, “Northern and rural people already face incredible barriers just to access abortion. People are often forced to travel long distances, pay for travel out of pocket and wait weeks before they can have an abortion. We don't need more barriers. This paternalistic bill is an attack on reproductive justice.”

The struggle is ongoing: for access to abortion, for control over our own bodies, for reproductive justice, for gender justice, for liberation. The struggle is not over. Women in the United States are taking on struggles in defence of reproductive rights in their home states and across their country. Women around the world, from Ireland to Argentina, have made it clear: our bodies, our choice.

Bills like Bill C-233 are not fooling women across Canada. The not-so-veiled agenda of the Conservative Party of Canada is on full display.

It is 2021. Women deserve leadership, leadership that will fight to make our lives better. Bill C-233 not only would not do that, but it would make our lives worse. That leadership starts with the fundamental respect of our right to control our own bodies, to allow us to make the choices that we know are best for who we are: when we want to get pregnant, whether we want to have kids and when we want an abortion.

Today I stand, along with so many women and so many people across our country, including my colleagues in the NDP, to state our clear and unequivocal opposition to Bill C-233, which is nothing but a not-so-veiled attack on a woman's fundamental right to choose.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2021 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tamara Jansen Conservative Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, it is with utter sadness that I rise today in the House of Commons to speak on the current issue of femicide in our country.

Unfortunately, the treatment of women as non-human and therefore not worthy of protection is not new. In ancient Athens, it was very common for couples to take newborn baby girls out to the wilderness and leave them to die: an act they called exposing the baby. “Everybody raises a son even if he is poor”, one Greek writer wrote, ”but exposes a daughter even if he is rich”.

In ancient Rome, this was just as common, especially in poor families. There are records of a lower-class Roman writing to his wife about her pregnancy: “A daughter is too burdensome and we just don't have the money; if you should bear a girl we will have to kill her.”

Even in ancient Egypt, which gave women comparatively equal rights, the poor often left kids to die. “If you have a baby before I return”, one letter shows an Egyptian man writing to his wife, “if it's a boy, let it live; if it's a girl, expose it”.

For centuries, daughters were considered lesser. Sons were given more food when food was scarce, better medical care and a better education. Boys were assets while girls were liabilities. We think, of course, that we no longer suffer from this in modern times, but medical advancements have made the problem even more complex and helped it persevere into the 21st century. Families no longer need to wait nine months to know a baby's sex. Through ultrasound imaging, families now have the ability to choose early to abort their daughters.

I know there will be some in the House who take offence at the suggestion that this even happens in Canada. Some say there is no need for any sort of legislation in our country because we do not do this here, but investigative reporting has shown that this actually is happening in Canada.

Years ago when I was having my babies, I was not even allowed to be told the sex of my child following the ultrasound because it was common knowledge that girl babies were at risk. However, here we are in a country that prides itself on statistics, data and evidence-based decision-making, and it is nothing less than outrageous to see that we do not track abortions by sex.

Let me repeat that: We do not track abortions by sex. Every Canadian woman should be absolutely shocked by this intentional exclusion, yet despite this lack of transparency, the Canadian Medical Association Journal managed to publish two research papers in 2016 studying imbalanced sex ratios at birth. These studies linked the gender imbalance to induced abortions, so I ask you this: Are we keeping these statistics hidden so we can claim ignorance, and so that the practice can continue while we turn a blind eye? Do we seriously think that we are immune because we are a progressive western society?

International organizations, including the World Health Organization, United Nations Women and United Nations Children's Fund have identified unequal sex ratios at birth as a growing problem internationally. In response, many countries have laws or policies on sex selection, including China, which has an extremely lenient framework around abortion. I do not believe we can ignore these uncomfortable facts.

The Minister of Justice recently released a statement in response to a petition submitted by my hon. colleague for Yorkton—Melville stating the government's position on the issue of sex-selective abortion. He stated unequivocally that the Government of Canada “condemns all practices that are motivated by discriminatory views of women and girls, including sex-selective practices”. Let me highlight that official statement once more: The Government of Canada condemns sex-selective practices.

With that statement on the record, and knowing that 82% of Canadians polled in 2019 did not support sex selection as a reason to terminate a pregnancy, no one could be faulted for thinking this private member's bill would sail through the House uncontested, yet when we stand up to speak out and call for an end to gender-based violence in the form of sex-selective abortion, suddenly this is twisted to claim that we are anti-women. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The bill we are debating today is about equality. It is about women in our country who have been forced into terminating a pregnancy simply because her child is a girl.

How many times has this happened? We will likely never know, because the system is designed to hide that information. Without a law against it, without actual legislation from the leaders of our country that says “no more”, this practice will continue to happen, despite all the speeches about violence against women that we have heard from this supposedly feminist government.

Recently, at a take note debate on violence against women, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality said the following:

These conversations are important and our government will continue to create spaces for them. However, this cannot just be about words, but has to be followed by action....We lost more than 160 women to femicide last year, and one life lost is too many.

I would like to put for the minister that her numbers are off. In fact, we lost many more than 160 women to femicide last year, and yet we will never know how many. Their numbers are shrouded in darkness because discrimination continues unabated. If we do not take action and create legislation to stop the practice of sex-selective abortion, it will continue undeterred.

Many of us participated recently in what was described as a historic and momentous debate in the House concerning violence against women. I know that I and my colleagues meant what we said, and that this is truly a problem that we need to fight against. I would ask all my colleagues to consider their vote on the bill in light of their position in that debate.

It is interesting that Canada does have legislation on the books that acknowledges discrimination against a female fetus. In Canada, if in vitro fertilization is used, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act makes it illegal to choose which embryo is selected based on its sex. It demonstrates how we know in our heart that to deny a girl a basic right to life simply because she is a female is utterly wrong. How can we not insist that this applies to our naturally conceived girls as well?

I recently read an article on the occasion of International Women's Day. It was from the Sikh Research Institute, which said the following:

The Sikh culture, as envisioned in the Guru Granth Sahib and created by the Ten Nanaks, insists on the dignity and respect of all human beings. In today’s parlance, this is complete equality and equity in society. There is no stratification spectrum of inferior or superior status...be it gender or other social divisions.... In the Sikhi lifestyle, IkOankar is enshrined in every heart. The same divine light is present in all human beings. Every man and woman is an image of IkOankar.

The same basic tenet is also found in the Christian tradition. It is this kind of countercultural thinking that changed the ancient world and their practice of leaving unwanted girl babies to be exposed and unprotected, simply because they were girls.

In 180 AD, Tertullian wrote that Christians in Rome rescued the tiny bodies of newborn babies from the garbage and dung heaps, and raised them as their own. Their belief that each individual person had worth because they were created in the image of God was foreign to the society at the time, where the state, the tribe and the collective were the only values they knew.

The right of a woman to live life as an equal, safe from violence and discrimination must apply to all stages of her being. As a fetus, an infant, a toddler, a teenager, a mother and a grandmother, every stage must be protected by society. When we take action by enshrining those protections in law, we move forward as a country, demonstrating that we understand the intrinsic value of every individual who calls this place home.

I urge all my colleagues in the House to consider their vote carefully and support the women this bill would protect.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2021 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I am here today to speak to private member's bill, Bill C-233, an act to amend the Criminal Code, sex-selective abortion, at second reading.

I really wish I did not have to do this. I am, quite frankly, disappointed that I have to spend time in the year 2021 on the abortion debate in Canada, when a woman's right to choose has been law for over 30 years. It really is unfortunate that members of Parliament are still seeking to restrict that right.

The sponsor claims that this bill is to address sex-based discrimination. To achieve that goal, this bill would create a new Criminal Code offence prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion when they know it is being sought solely on the grounds of the genetic sex of the fetus.

While I note that the offence is ostensibly aimed at doctors, I must point out that it would also criminalize women as parties to the offence. Make no mistake, Bill C-233 will limit a woman's right to choose by doing this. Criminalizing a woman for seeking an abortion is a violation of the fundamental rights of women in Canada, and it is just plain wrong.

I would like to speak to what we know about the impact of using criminal law to regulate abortion. We need not look further than Canada's own legal history of abortion regulation and its impact on Canadian women. That history reflects what the international evidence tells us. Criminal restrictions on abortion result in women having less access to them, and having less access negatively impacts women's equality rights.

Let us take a look at how we got to where we are today. Currently, no criminal offences apply to abortion, and the provinces and territories are responsible for providing safe abortion services to Canadian women. However, we must not forget that, until 1969, abortion was absolutely prohibited in Canada. That meant that very few, if any, safe options were available to women. Women were forced to either bring an unwanted pregnancy to term or access unsafe and unregulated methods such as back alley abortions, which often led to infection and death.

Women who sought abortions also risked criminal sanctions, and doctors who provided safe abortions risked punishment. Many of us will remember Dr. Morgentaler. He was incarcerated for saving women's lives. He risked his own safety to champion women's rights and for that he was awarded the Order of Canada in 2008.

I cannot emphasize enough how much we do not want to return to that era. I am proud to live in a country where women have safe access to abortion and do not need to worry about criminal reprisals. Again, I am very disappointed to be here today having to fight against an attempt to limit these hard-earned and important rights.

The evidence before the court in the Morgentaler case highlighted the medical risks and psychological trauma restricting access to abortion caused women seeking abortion services in Canada, and the importance of affording women autonomy to make decisions about their own bodies. The provisions were found to violate women's security of the person rights.

This is because, and I quote Justice Bertha Wilson, the first woman justice of the Supreme Court, who said that those provisions asserted that, “the woman's capacity to reproduce is to be subject, not to her own control, but to that of the state.”

The court found the violation of women's rights by limiting access to abortion to be completely unacceptable, and so do I. The court has been very clear on this front, and I think that a court could also find this legislation unconstitutional for the same reasons, should it pass.

The 1969 provisions remained in the Criminal Code, but were unenforceable until they were repealed in 2019 by our government in the former Bill C-75. Other related abortion offences were repealed by our government in 2018 in former Bill C-51. Even though they were inoperable, I am proud that our government took the important step to remove these discriminatory provisions.

It took more than 100 years to remove abortion-related criminal offences from our Criminal Code, which is, frankly, a shameful mark. However, again, I am quite proud to be part of the government that finally removed them from the books, and I have no intention of supporting any attempt to add them back.

Consistent with the Canadian experience, international research has shown that using the criminal law to regulate any aspect of abortion results in barriers to accessing abortion services, which contributes to gender inequality. For example, international research indicates that laws restricting the use of technology for sex selection purposes, as well as sex-selective abortions, are likely to have harmful impacts on women. These impacts include women seeking unsafe procedures that fall outside regulations, protocols and monitoring.

I fail to see how criminalizing women who choose sex-selection abortion, perhaps because of familial pressure to do so, protects them, or other women for that matter, from discrimination. Rather, a criminal law response is more likely to detract from women's equality rights by creating barriers to accessing abortion.

The United Nations recommends combatting this form of discrimination by addressing the root causes of gender inequality. This includes focusing on advancing access to education, health services and economic resources for women and girls. I am pleased to note that our government has made significant investments to advance gender equality, guided by women and the framework for assessing gender equality results, introduced in budget 2018.

Criminalizing women seeking abortion is not the solution to this problem and would be a massive step backwards for this country. I cannot emphasize enough how disappointed I am to see that there is yet another attempt in this bill to limit a woman's right to choose.

In Canada, I am proud to say that abortion is treated like the medical service that it is and falls within the responsibility of the provincial and territorial health sector. All medical procedures are subject to medical professional standards.

Ultimately, what could happen if we were to enact an offence such as this? Perhaps doctors would refuse to provide abortion services out of fear of criminalization, because they believe their patient may be choosing abortion for the wrong reasons. Perhaps a woman who needs access to an abortion would be afraid to seek it out in case she is reported and charged for having done so. Perhaps women from certain communities would be denied access to abortion based on discriminatory views about their reason for seeking it. In short, I fear that this bill could undo decades of arduous work to ensure that women never face these barriers again.

I was really disappointed to see the Leader of the Opposition indicate that his caucus will be allowed a free vote on such a fundamental issue as protecting women's right to choose.

I hope that members of the Conservative Party who are currently heckling me will recognize, as all other members of this House do, how important it is to protect equality rights for women in Canada and join me and the government in voting against this proposed legislation.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2021 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, today we are debating an extremely sensitive topic that should not even be up for debate, in my view.

I cannot believe that the Conservatives want to reopen the abortion debate. It boggles the mind. Let us just say what this bill really is. Bill C-233 is an anti-abortion bill. My colleagues will say that opinion is divided within the Conservative Party, but each Conservative member chose to join a party with common values.

When I went into politics, I joined a party that shared my values. I can say without hesitation that the Bloc Québécois and I unequivocally defend women's right to control their own bodies, women's right to choose, and the right to free, accessible abortion services.

I have a serious problem with the fact that these rights are being called into question. I have a serious problem with the fact that a woman is trying to tell other women what to do with their bodies. That is what the member for Yorkton—Melville is doing with her bill. She is reopening a debate that was thought to be closed for good, on an issue that women have already fought too long to settle.

I want to remind the House that women did not obtain the legal right to seek an abortion until 1988. In Quebec, the consensus is that the abortion debate must not be reopened. That consensus has been in place ever since the 1988 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the provisions criminalizing abortion.

The decision to have an abortion is one of the most delicate decisions a woman can face. Such a serious decision must be left up to women, and only women. A woman's body belongs to her alone. No one can make that decision but her. “My body, my choice”, as the slogan goes.

As we can see, this is a fragile right that continues to be threatened by opponents who are using backdoor tactics to reopen this debate and limit women's right to make free choices about abortion.

I was worried about the rise of Donald Trump in the United States, as well as the appointment of certain conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court and their interest in reopening this debate. I never thought it would happen here, in a free and democratic society that generally promotes women's rights.

As a woman, I am disappointed to once again be fighting for rights that should already be a given. It is disappointing to hear the Conservatives say that they do not want to reopen the abortion debate, even though they keep bringing it up. This time, they are going about it in a roundabout way by raising the issue of sex-selective abortion. This issue adds all kinds of nuance to the debate, and the Conservatives are using it as a flimsy pretext to find new legal grounds to criminalize abortion.

I must say that it is hard for the feminist in me to avoid qualifying my comments in this debate. As a woman and as a feminist, I do not approve of sex-selective abortion. However, I am firmly opposed to allowing the government to interfere in women's bodily autonomy. That is not the role of the government or elected officials. Women are free to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy. They are the only ones who can make that decision.

Although sex-selective abortion is based on misogynistic and sexist ideas, we cannot fight it by imposing more social control on women. We cannot fight sexism with sexism. The solution is not more control, but more equality.

I do not agree with this bill, and I will go even further by saying that rhetorical manipulation and the hijacking of the discourse on human rights and the fight against discrimination are outdated, worn-out stratagems that do not show the manipulators in a good light and that undermine public confidence in democratic institutions.

Hijacking the discourse on human rights undermines the fight for human rights. Parliamentarians have a moral responsibility to state their real intentions when they open a dialogue on behalf of the citizens they represent. That is what determines the quality of the democratic conversation.

Obfuscating the debate on abortion rights reduces the quality of the democratic conversation. These tactics must be recognized, called out and stopped. I sincerely hope that the leader of the Conservative Party will publicly acknowledge that Bill C-233 is just a strategy to attack the right to abortion and that he will call on his members to oppose it out of respect for all women.

The Conservative member's initiative is part of a series of tactics used by anti-abortionists to challenge the status quo in Canada. Sex selection is one avenue that pro-lifers and Canadian and U.S. evangelical groups enthusiastically pursue to make things tricky for the pro-choice side at every turn.

For those who might not be familiar with the concept, sex-selective abortion is selective abortion based solely on the sex of the fetus. Unfortunately, the practice is typically carried out on female fetuses in countries where cultural norms place a higher value on boys than on girls.

For cultural reasons, there is apparently a certain segment of the population in Canada that uses abortion to favour the birth of boys, which is absolutely deplorable. The idea that it is legitimate to selectively terminate female fetuses on the grounds that girls are inferior human beings is absolutely unacceptable. I feel sick just thinking about it.

I do not want my comments to be taken out of context. There is a huge difference between opposing a practice and supporting its statutory prohibition. It should be noted that this is an extremely marginal phenomenon in the country and the numbers show that it has no impact on the ratio of male to female births. It would be wrong to believe that this is common practice within cultural communities in Quebec and Canada, because the vast majority of communities do not practice sex-selective abortion.

Fortunately this practice is fading away and will hopefully soon disappear entirely. This change happens precisely because of the influence of culture and the value placed on gender equality, and not because of any prohibition. It reminds us that we must counter instances of discrimination by emphasizing the importance of valuing equality and promoting human rights, not by relying on coercion and control.

As a young woman and a parliamentarian, I want to promote the values of equality and the advancement of rights. Women do not need to justify their decision to terminate a pregnancy. The only concern of health care professionals should be the health and safety of their patients, who have the right to a safe abortion.

The provisions of Bill C-233 compromise patient safety by introducing fear and mistrust into the patient-doctor relationship. Clause 2 of the bill would make it an offence, liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years, for a medical practitioner to perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought on the grounds of the fetus's genetic sex.

I think it is extremely problematic for the state to interfere in the patient-doctor relationship. That is why I am vigorously opposed to this bill. I am opposed to this bill because I do not want to reopen the abortion debate in any way. I am opposed to this bill because women and only women can decide whether to have an abortion. I am opposed to this bill because I want to protect the health and safety of women.

Today it is sex-selective abortion, but what will it be tomorrow? We do not want to reopen the debate. The selective abortion of female fetuses is merely a symptom; it is not the problem. The root of the problem is misogyny and the undervaluing of girls and women.

A law banning sex-selective abortion would simply sweep the problem under the rug. We must work to raise the status of girls and women over the long term by actively preventing discrimination and by promoting equity and equality.

The symptom of selective abortion of female fetuses will end when families feel that their daughters have equal opportunities and are valued just as much as a son would be. We have much work to do to continue to advance women's rights. Now is not the time to roll back those rights. We owe it to our mothers, our daughters, our wives, our friends and our sisters. We owe it to ourselves.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to my hon. colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-233, the sex-selective abortion act.

Canada is a nation that has long been firmly committed to and defended human rights, both at home and abroad. We have often been proactive in our efforts to protect those who cannot protect themselves and to stomp out discrimination.

Now we are being confronted with the issue of sex-selective abortion. It is an issue that will test our commitment to protecting human rights. The bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence for a medical practitioner to perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought solely on the grounds of the child's genetic sex. It also requires the Minister of Health, after consultation with representatives of the provincial governments responsible for health, to establish guidelines respecting information provided by medical practitioners in relation to a request for an abortion.

It must be noted that in Canada, sex selection in the case of embryos is already illegal under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, 2004, section 5(1)(e). I believe that a criminal prohibition should be added to the Criminal Code in order to extend this same protection to pre-born girls.

Research from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, as well as several provincial colleges of physicians and surgeons, has indicated that sex-selective abortion is an issue in Canada. This is intolerable. In fact, Canada's health care profession has shown concern with sex-selective abortion and discourages the practice.

Sex-selective abortion is wrong and this practice is happening in Canada today because there is no law against it. It is also well documented that sex-selective abortion disproportionately targets girls. There is this idea, and it is perpetuated from the beginning of life, that for some reason the life of a male is more valuable than the life of a female. How can we proclaim ourselves a country of equality when we continue to allow the practice of terminating a pregnancy on the grounds of the genetic sex of a child, perpetuating the belief that one sex is more valuable than the other?

In a society such as ours, one that strongly advocates for and seeks to protect equal rights between the sexes, sex-selective abortion has no place. If as a society we are truly serious about fighting sexism, we must start at the very beginning with the practice of sex-selective abortion. It is an inherently discriminatory practice that targets females and promotes sexism, and it must be stamped out.

Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that every person should be treated with the same dignity, respect and consideration regardless of sex. However, the practice of sex-selective abortion starts females off on an uneven footing. They are being treated differently from the very beginning. This practice cannot be allowed to continue in a society that claims to support equality of the sexes.

It is also important to note that while a majority of Canadians support access to abortion, a majority of Canadians oppose sex-selective abortion. The purpose of the bill is very clear. It is not intended to limit access to abortion; rather, it is being put forward to address the inequality that exists between the sexes in their earliest forms.

To summarize, the bill would prohibit medical practitioners from knowingly performing sex-selective abortions and includes indictable and summary offences should they do so. It includes a directive for guidelines to be established on how medical practitioners would provide information on the prohibition to pregnant persons. Finally, the penalties outlined in the bill are consistent with those found in section 241.3 of the Criminal Code for failing to allow the medical assistance in dying safeguards.

I implore every member of the House to give their support to this bill. This is not a question of access to abortion, but a question of the use of abortion for a specific purpose that targets females.

For a society that has come so far in combatting sexism, we must continue in our fight to stop sexist practices. This is a time when we can all come together and send a message that the targeting of pre-born girls is unacceptable and we will not allow it to continue in Canada.

By adopting appropriate legislation to end discrimination against any person based on sex, we are reconfirming Canada's commitment to advancing human rights.

I would ask all members in this place to vote in favour of this bill to send the message that discrimination is not acceptable in Canada and will not be tolerated. This protection is long overdue.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2021 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, as we close second reading on the sex-selective abortion act, I have some thoughts to share.

I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of this House for contributing to the debate. Regardless of our political stances, parliamentarians have begun to have the important discussion that Canadians have been asking for on this universally condemned practice.

Eighty-four percent of our constituents have been clear that an evaluation of sex-selective abortion and its place in our country is overdue. I am glad this House and this minority Parliament, have begun to honour their wishes.

We should not be afraid to have this conversation. Despite claims to the contrary, sex-selective abortion does not fit within a rigid understanding of abortion in Canada. Let us remember that a majority of Canadians would like to continue to have access to abortion. That is what makes this debate so unique.

It is clear that Canadians identify and treat sex selection as a stand-alone human rights issue. The medical community, cultural groups and those with divergent views on the matter of abortion believe that this procedure, performed solely on the basis of sex, is fundamentally wrong. As I have said many times during the course of this discussion, the vast majority of those who would like sex selection to be made illegal are in fact pro-choice. They are not pro-abortion for any reason, but pro-choice. These facts should send a strong message to everyone in this House. We have a mandate from Canadians to act.

As Dr. Kiely Williams, MD, said, “We are finally in a position to stop [sex-selective abortion]. It is very rare in politics when we’re presented with a bill that all parties can support. There are no Canadian political parties that do not support a woman’s right to life.”

Indeed, I was encouraged to hear from my colleagues throughout this debate that they believe sex-selective abortion is wrong, so why are some members against passing this bill into law?

We should be gripped by this discussion and treating it with the seriousness it deserves. As direct representatives of the people of Canada, we were elected to defend the equality of all Canadians before and under the law, regardless of race, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability. We have an obligation to address gaps in our laws that fail to meet this standard.

The continued practice of sex-selective abortion is a glaring hole in our laws that denies equal rights to Canadians on the grounds of age and sex at a minimum. It needs to stop and we have the power to do so.

Furthermore, we were each sent to this place to enact the reforms that Canadians want. That is a key reason why I introduced this bill and I am so proud of it.

Poll after poll tells us that the tolerance of Canadians for sex selection has run out. Rather than resorting to tired accusations that do not speak to the heart of this bill, we have the opportunity to judge it for what it is, which is a reasonable limit on abortion that forms just one part of a response to the prevalence of sex-selective practices. On this issue, parliamentarians should abandon absolutist narratives on the abortion debate and accept that Canadians have identified a key problem that is in need of a legislative solution.

I truly believe this House has taken the first step on behalf of women and girls in addressing a persistent human rights failure. Indeed, as the only democratic country internationally that lacks a sex-selection law, the world is looking at Canada to fill this void.

The debate that we have had on this bill will not soon be forgotten by Canadians and the human rights community. It is one thing to permit a debate to take place. It is an entirely different thing to take the necessary action to rectify the tragedy of sex-selective abortion. This Parliament has the power to make a bold statement in defence of equality between the sexes in the next generation. Canadians are counting on us to make that important decision now so that future generations can benefit from it later.

Today I am asking members to continue to honour the wishes of Canadians by taking the next step forward and voting in favour of Bill C-233. To me the choice could not be clearer. On the one hand, we can allow divisive politics to continue to obscure this debate and permit the deliberate termination of baby girls to continue solely because of their sex. On the other hand, we can take a bold stand for women in this country, see this bill for what it is and pass a prohibition on sex-selective laws. We can send a clear message, both here and around the world, about the values our country stands for and what it does not permit.

I know our nation is behind this bill, and wants it to be sent to committee so it can receive the debate and constructive scrutiny it deserves. Finally, I rest my case for today. I know I have represented the concerns and desires of the majority of those who have been called here to serve to see the sex-selective abortion act become law in Canada.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved that Bill C-233, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sex-selective abortion), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, one of my responsibilities I have greatly enjoyed and look forward to again is attending many of the trade shows throughout my riding of Yorkton—Melville. They are an incredible way to connect with hard-working Canadians. I always bring along petitions to ensure I am responding to the concerns of my constituents, everything from firearms to palliative care and also a petition on sex-selective abortion.

Every member of the House will know that Canadians are not shy in voicing their deeply-held opinions on matters of conscience. Like a majority of Canadians, many expressed to me how they firmly believed in continued access to abortion. However, as we talked, all were horrified to learn of the practice of sex-selective abortion in Canada, which is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy due solely to the sex of a child. Further, they were shocked to learn that Canada had no law against it. Needless to say, those who were at first very apprehensive were very quick to sign my petition.

Sex-selection abortion is wrong, it is a discriminatory practice on the basis of sex and it takes place in our country because we have no law against it. As members of Parliament, we have been sent here to represent the Canadians' concerns and their needs. That is why it is an honour and privilege to rise today to represent the 84% of Canadians who would like to see this Parliament enact a Criminal Code prohibition of sex-selective abortion.

I am speaking this evening on behalf of pro-choice and pro-life Canadians, religious and non-religious, those on the left, right and centre of the political spectrum; new Canadians, the young, the elderly and those in the medical profession across our country seeking support for a framework from the federal government to make sex selection in utero illegal. I am standing today in response to all seven Supreme Court justices who agreed that the state had some interest in protecting the fetus and expected a new law to be created to fill the gap left by their decision in the 1988 Morgentaler case.

The sex-selective abortion act would create protections for unborn baby girls whose lives are ended simply because they are girls. During the past quarter of a century alone, sex-selective abortion and post-natal sex selection has deprived over 100 million women and girls the opportunity to live, work and affect change through their unique abilities. These global trends are very disconcerting, however, they are not the focus of my bill.

Sex-selective abortion is a Canadian problem that requires a Canadian solution. Peer-reviewed studies from the Canadian Medical Association Journal point to a worrying trend in Canada. In fact, a ratio of 1.96 males to every female has been recorded among those who had previously given birth to two girls. Following one or two induced abortions, the ratio becomes even more alarming.

The absence of any law to protect preborn girls shouts to the world that valuing one sex over the other is permissible in Canada. We are the only democratic country that has no law against it, the only one. The only other country that also fails in any way to protect preborn children from sex selection is North Korea, not good company for Canada. Our health care profession has shown concern about sex-selective abortion and discourages the practice.

In 2007, the executive of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada stated that medical technologies for the sole purpose of gender identification in pregnancy should not be used to accommodate societal preferences and that the SOGC did not support termination of pregnancy on the basis of gender. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario as well as British Columbia and Saskatchewan also echoed these concerns. However, medical bodies do not make laws. Canadians send parliamentarians to Ottawa to work on their behalf and to reflect Canadian human rights values at home and internationally.

It is in this spirit that I brought forward this proposed sex-selective abortion act. Over a year ago, I introduced Bill C-233 to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to make it an offence for a medical practitioner to perform an abortion, knowing that abortion was sought solely on the grounds of the child's sex. It would also require the federal Minister of Health, in consultation with provincial counterparts, to establish guidelines respecting information provided by a medical practitioner in relation to a request for an abortion from the medical practitioner to the individual asking for an abortion. Fittingly, the criminal sanctions in my bill for a medical practitioner who is found guilty mirrors those that are actually found in Canada's assisted dying laws.

I introduced Bill C-233 in response to Canada's lack of the legal framework to respond to the wishes of a clear majority of Canadians and to honour our core values.

Canada prides itself on our commitment to ending discrimination against any person on the basis of sex. Equality between men and women forms a crucial part of Canada's efforts to promote and protect human rights, as reflected in its laws and international commitments.

As long as we do not have a law, we continue affirming ending the lives of baby girls simply because they are baby girls. Canadians believe it is time for our country to join the rest of the world by implementing a strong legal framework prohibiting sex-selective abortions. If a baby girl is unwanted simply because she is a girl, I am pleased to say that the majority of Canadians believe abortion access has gone too far.

A new reality is rising in Canada. A very recent national poll found that a majority of Canadians would be more likely to support a political party if that party promised to legally restrict sex-selective abortion in its platform. Among the results, 52% of Canadians overall, 58% who voted Conservative in 2019, 51% who voted Liberal and 61% who voted for the Bloc would be moderately to much more likely to vote for a party that promised to restrict sex-selective abortion. This critical mass of Canadians is calling on political parties to stop playing politically with the lives of baby girls and legally restrict sex-selective abortions in Canada. There is unity across the country for Canada to assert itself on this fundamental human rights issue.

This poll result comes less than a year after the results of a 2019 DART & Maru/Blue poll conducted for the National Post, which found that 84% of Canadians believed it should be illegal to have an abortion if a family did not want the baby to be a certain sex.

These 2019 poll results reinforce that Canadians are united and no longer accept the myth that Canadians are polarized. They are not. They want this law.

In the same DART poll, it was determined that 62% of Canadians identified as pro-choice, while 13% identified as pro-life. With 84% of Canadians opposed to sex selection, it is clear that this issue has overarching public support.

I have been so truly humbled by the response of Canadians to this bill. Tens of thousands have signed petitions and family and youth are urging their MPs to support the bill in creative and unique ways. Citizens across the country have taken notice.

In its statement of endorsement, the Vedic Hindu Cultural Society Of British Columbia declared that Bill C-233 was a reasonable limit on abortion that would work to enhance Canada's human rights image. The United Sikhs is a UN-affiliated international non-profit, non-governmental, humanitarian relief, human development and advocacy organization. The Canadian chapter sent a letter of endorsement as well. It stated, “C-233 proposes a reasonable limit that would reflect Canada’s respect for human rights at all stages of life. The practice [of] sex-selective abortion takes place in Canada and it is our duty to defend those whose lives would be ended simply because of their sex.”

The Minister of Justice has also publicly declared, in response to petitions tabled by many members of the House, “The Government of Canada condemns all practices that are motivated by discriminatory views of women and girls, including sex selective practices.” Countless Canadians are encouraged by that statement and wait with anticipation for how members of the Liberal Party will vote on this bill.

If the Prime Minister and his cabinet truly claim to be feminist and wish to condemn sex-selective practices, then their voting for Bill C-233 at second reading and sending it to committee is a reasonable expectation by their supporters. I encourage every member of the House to have the courage to exercise their rightful freedom to vote their own conscience, the way that we on this side of the floor have that freedom to do, and pass this bill.

Stopping short of a full commitment to ending sex-selective abortion in the second half of the Minister of Justice's petition response, he attempts to wash his hands of any responsibility. It reads, “In Canada, the administration and funding of health care services is a provincial responsibility that falls under the purview of the provincial governments. As is the case for other medical procedures, the delivery of abortion services is determined by the policies of the provincial governments and the standards set by the medical profession itself." On delivery, it is very true.

Canadians, however, are very aware that there are many bills that we have worked on in the House together, such as Bill C-7 and Bill C-8, where the federal government chose intentionally to legislate on primarily provincial issues when it believed a charter interest was in play. With regard to discrimination on the basis of sex, the same applies.

The federal government has already recognized the inherent discrimination tied to sex selection. In 2004, a Liberal government created a precedent in law with regard to sex selection through the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. According to the act, no one may, “For the purpose of creating a human being, perform any procedure or provide, prescribe or administer any thing that would ensure or increase the probability that an embryo will be of a particular sex, or that would identify the sex of an in vitro embryo.”

In an attempt to downplay the need for a law, I have heard the justification that choosing to abort a baby girl simply because she is a girl rarely takes place in Canada compared to countries like China and India. The number aborted is not a legitimate reason to not have a law, and currently research indicates that this number is approximately 2,000 per year in Canada.

Canadians have spoken loudly on other issues for women. When the Liberals tried to remove female genital mutilation from our citizen book, they spoke out loud and clear, and we have a law to highlight that value. Those who are fine with allowing sex-selective abortion in Canada also claim that the law would be useless because it would be impossible to enforce.

As members of Parliament, our role is not to enforce laws, but to create laws that reflect Canadians' values and respond to the concerns of Canadians. Through Bill C-14 and Bill C-7, the federal government crafted a response to a national mandate it received from vocal Canadians and the courts. Ultimately, the enforcement of assisted dying laws were delegated to the provinces and provincial medical bodies, as would be the case here.

Bill C-233's language clearly outlines a directive to the federal government to work with the provinces to determine effective communications on the framework that sex-selective abortion is illegal in Canada. Indeed, enforcement is an important consideration, but just as impaired driving laws have not removed all drunk driving from our roads, the sex selective abortion act would not put a hard stop to the practice all on its own. However, the bill enshrined in Canadian law will send a clear message about what our country stands for within our country and to the rest of the world, and also what it does not permit.

Canada must bring legislation in line with human rights obligations to prevent sex selection before birth. Bill C-233 is a necessary step in doing so.

It is an honour to rise alongside my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London today. We are traditionally from opposite sides of the abortion debate. However, we are both part of the 84% of Canadians who recognize that sex selection is not permissible in a society that advocates for equality of the sexes. Adopting appropriate legislation to end discrimination against any person based on sex is part of Canada's commitment to advancing human rights. My bill addresses inequality between sexes at the earliest stages of life.

This is a cause for which Canadians are united. While some oppose and some promote, we can all stand together, side by side, against sex-selective abortion, as we all have a moral obligation to stand against gender inequality. No issue important to Canadians should be vetoed from debate in this place by absolutist political narratives for political gain. It is past time to stand in the gap and do the right thing in defence of preborn girls.

Will elected members of Parliament from all political parties condemn this practice and make it clear to all that Canada values women and equality? Every female preborn child who is terminated because of her sex has paid the price with her life because our lack of laws say she does not matter. With the implementation of this bill, we will be telling the world that Canada has had a change of heart.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Pickering—Uxbridge Ontario

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, nobody would support sex-selective abortion. However, that is not what this bill is and the member knows it. Ninety per cent of abortions that take place in the country are within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy when we cannot even determine sex. This is just another example of Conservatives who just recently got together to strategize on how to create backdoor anti-abortion legislation.

If the bill is truly only about banning sex-selective abortions, then why did her own leader come out saying that he did not support it and that he would vote against it? If it is truly not a backdoor way to remove women's rights, why does her own leader not support it?

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, in my party, we have the freedom on private members' bills to bring forward whatever is important to us as individual members of Parliament, something that I do not think is available on the other side of the floor. We also have the freedom to vote our conscience. I respect that choice in my leader, as he respects mine.

I would say this to the individual who is indicating that this is a back door to other abortion laws. As she knows, 84% of Canadians support this. That means 16% of Canadians do not. Of that 84%, the vast majority are individuals who are pro-choice. This is a bill Canadians want, right across this country. It is time we respect that call to protect baby girls in the womb.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, polls that are taken out of context are not useful.

The member said that 84% of Canadians are against sex-selective abortions. This is not a news flash, since no one supports sex-selective abortions. Does that mean that 84% of Canadians are in favour of chipping away at abortion rights and going as far as passing a law? Really?

She also said 52% of Canadians were in favour of abortion. It is odd, but the firm behind this poll is led by former members of the Conservative Party. Can we really trust these numbers?

Finally, she encourages Liberal members, who claim to be feminists, to vote for her bill. I, in turn, encourage Conservative members who claim to be feminists to vote against it because, frankly, it contravenes the principal and fundamental right of women to control their own bodies.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, the truth of the matter is that every one of those recommendations, as far as percentages of Canadians go, is accurate. The same poll the member is referring to also indicated that the majority of Canadians want to continue to have access to abortion. That is the truth. However, it also asked the question very specifically on certain issues, whether this narrow concern should be legal or illegal. Eighty-four per cent of Canadians indicated that a sex-selection abortion, where the abortion is taking place solely because of the desire for a certain sex of that child, should be illegal.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I too want to express my deep, heartfelt dismay at this debate today and support my colleagues who have raised amazing questions with respect to the member's statistics, which are wrong and misleading. I am truly upset by the fact that she is directly misleading her constituents, as she said at the beginning of her speech.

I would like to know this. Our Supreme Court struck down the abortion law in 1988 because it violated women's right to bodily security. Why does she not believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I do not totally remember what the member's question was after all of that, but I will say this.

It is really important that we recognize that the Canadian Medical Association did major studies in 2012 and 2016 with ethnic researchers involved and with the ethnic community involved, and they indicated that this is a growing problem in Canada that needs to be addressed. Of course, it is happening for other reasons as well, but the truth of the matter is that this is a scenario where the majority of Canadians are saying they are not polarized the way certain groups would like them to think they are. This is an issue where Canadians come together and want a law that restricts sex selection as an option for abortion.

Sex-Selective Abortion ActPrivate Members' Business

April 14th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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Oakville North—Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-233.

Let me start by saying that our government condemns all forms of gender-based violence. We have taken strong legislative action and made investments to protect women and girls since we took office, from improving judicial education to prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression, investing in an ambitious gender-based violence strategy and, yes, approving the use of Mifegymiso in Canada.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have provided an additional $100 million in funding to organizations across the country to support their efforts to end gender-based violence. In my community, $170,000 of that funding has gone directly to organizations that are dedicated to combatting gender-based violence.

There is no evidence to support the need for Bill C-233. This is a bill searching for a problem that does not exist. Canada is not seeing a disproportionate number of male versus female births. The sex ratio at birth for Canada is consistent with the global average. In fact, I believe this bill introduces considerable risk in stigmatizing racialized communities, which already experience disproportionate police surveillance, over-criminalization, and violence and discrimination at the hands of public officials.

Abortion providers and counsellors are trained to ensure that each person is comfortable and certain about their decision and that they are not having an abortion under pressure from anyone. Abortion is health care, and the patients' health and life need to be the primary concern for health care providers; that means ensuring that they can have access to a safe abortion.

We must assess the bill's ability to achieve its intended objective in light of the evidence showing that ensuring access to abortion services advances gender equality. Evidence shows that restricting such access, in particular through criminal law, has a detrimental and negative impact on equality rights. I am concerned that this bill may serve to exacerbate sex-based discrimination, not combat it.

This is not the first time the Conservative Party has attempted to legislate women's bodies. The anti-choice movement has co-opted the language of human rights and feminism to try to limit access to abortion.

The United Nations has issued reports recommending against criminalizing any aspect of abortion, including sex-selective abortion, since research shows that doing so creates barriers to accessing abortion services, which negatively affects women's equality. International agencies have made strong statements that women's right to make decisions about their own bodies is at the very core of the fundamental right to equality, and I agree.

Abortion is a medical decision made between a woman and her doctor. There are already safeguards in place within the medical community surrounding abortion. Legislators are not doctors and have no business interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. I firmly believe that legislators have no place in the uterus of women across our country.

There are obviously those in the Conservative Party who do not feel that way, including the sponsor of this bill, who has said she believes that abortion should never be performed, under any circumstances. If the hon. member truly is concerned about gender-based violence and discrimination, I would ask whether she supports preventative measures that are far more effective at reducing abortions, including comprehensive sex education, consent-based awareness-raising activities and campaigns, free and accessible birth control, and laws and policies that promote gender equality and actually address gender-based discrimination, including gender parity in all decision-making spaces, pay equity, paid parental and other forms of leave, and comprehensive social support services, including affordable housing, universal pharmacare and national child care. The list goes on.

If we want to tackle stereotypes that value men over women, the answer is not criminalizing women's bodies. The answer is getting to the roots of misogyny and sexism and doing the hard work, as a government and society, that we need to do to ensure that women's lives are valued. We need to ensure that young women who want birth control can access it without fear of recrimination. We need to ensure that we support the work that local women's organizations like SAVIS and Halton Women's Place are doing to cultivate male allyship, and we need to call out all people, regardless of gender, who think it is their right to control what a woman does with her body.

In 1988, in the Supreme Court of Canada's well-known Morgentaler decision, restrictions on abortion were found to violate women's section 7 security of the person rights. Since then, it has remained a medical decision, as it should be.

This bill is one more example of the rising power of the anti-choice movement across our country. Here in my riding, I have worked with the Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services to raise awareness about how hard it is for women in my region to access abortion services. One cannot get an abortion in Halton unless it is an emergency. Over half a million people live in Halton Region. We are one of the safest and wealthiest communities in the country, and one out of five women in my region who choose to have an abortion in their lifetime will have to go outside the region to seek essential health care.

Halton Region is the best-case worst-case scenario. We sit between Toronto and Hamilton and are part of the most densely populated area of the country. Members should think about the barriers that exist for women who live in rural or remote areas or women who do not speak English or French. Members should think about the barriers that exist for women who cannot pay for the $100 taxi ride from Oakville to Hamilton. Now members should think about how these barriers are amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel between provinces is limited, sometimes outright banned, and clinics have closed. These barriers do not make our communities safer; they put women in danger and they act to restrict choice.

The rise of the anti-choice movement has also led to dangerous online misinformation campaigns sponsored by Alliance for Life Ontario, spreading dangerous falsehoods about medical abortion. This is part of a larger ideological initiative that seeks to misinform individuals and restrict their reproductive rights.

What is medical abortion, and why does the anti-choice movement want to convince Canadian women that it is unsafe and can be reversed? To begin with, medical abortions have been practised all over the world for more than 30 years. Despite three decades of evidence that proves they are safe and effective, they were only made available in Canada since 2017 under our Liberal government.

There are two drugs that are used for a medical abortion, sold together in a product called Mifegymiso. Mifegymiso is prescribed by a doctor, and it can only be given within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. A woman takes one tablet, and then 24 to 48 hours later the subsequent tablets, and that is it. Medical abortions are safe and effective, and the vast majority of abortions in Canada, about 90%, happen very early in a pregnancy, before the sex of the fetus is even known, I might add.

The campaign is targeting women who are seeking an abortion with wrongful claims that a medical abortion can be reversed mid-procedure, in the 24 to 48 hours after the first tablet. Advocates for the abortion pill reversal frequently cite research from Dr. George Delgado, a medical adviser for the Abortion Pill Rescue Network and medical director of Culture of Life Family Services in San Diego, a self-professed provider of Christ-centred medical care. This research has been condemned by the medical community, and compelling evidence exists that abortion pill reversal is ineffective and potentially dangerous. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada has released a statement condemning the practice, as has the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Simply put, denying access to health services that only women require, including abortion, is a form of gender-based violence. The UN has recognized this, our Supreme Court has recognized this, and I am confident that a majority of the hon. members in this place will recognize this.

I call on all members of this House to call out the anti-choice movement and recognize this bill for what it is, a bill that is trying to find a problem that simply does not exist in Canada, and I ask all members to join me in voting against this bill.