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.