moved for leave to introduce Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (violence against pregnant women).
Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the member for South Surrey—White Rock for seconding my bill. It means a great deal to me.
It is my honour to rise to introduce this private member's bill, which would go a long way to addressing violence against some of the most vulnerable people in our society, pregnant women. The violence against pregnant women act seeks to amend the Criminal Code to ensure that the acts of knowingly assaulting a pregnant woman and causing physical or emotional harm to a pregnant woman are factored in as aggravating circumstances during the sentencing process.
Colleagues, the risk of violence against women increases when they are pregnant. However, consequences for their attackers do not increase at all. There are more than 80 cases in recent Canadian history of women who have been killed while pregnant. Each of these women was killed by men who knew they were pregnant. The killers intentionally sought to do harm to the mother or, in many cases, end the pregnancy. As it stands at this moment, our justice system fails to take these actions into account.
I am confident that this bill will receive widespread support from a House that stands united against gender-based violence in all its forms. In the words of the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, “It is a form of abuse that costs lives, and it must not be tolerated in Canada. These acts are part of a continuum of hate that needs to be disrupted, and each one of us has the power to help break that cycle.”
Canada is failing its pregnant women and the children they have chosen to carry to term. Sentences issued by our courts should match the crimes committed. Our country needs this law to ensure that criminals who attack or kill a pregnant woman can be sentenced appropriately by our courts.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)