Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this afternoon, in the dying moments of this fall session, to speak to Bill C-484, a bill that its sponsor has chosen to entitle the unborn victims of crime bill.
Having reviewed this private member's bill, and even before hearing the speech of the member who has introduced it, I came to the conclusion that there were some major concerns about it. They have lead me to indicate that I am unable to support such a bill.
It is a private member's bill and it is important to remember that. Every member has the opportunity to consider where he or she stands on the bill. However, a brief discussion among my colleagues does not lead to the conclusion that there is a great deal of support or enthusiasm for the bill.
At the outset, I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. I listened to his comments, which came after my having read the bill. Therefore, I was even more intent on listening to what he would say in introducing the bill, to determine whether he would dispel some of the very uncomfortable concerns I had about the possible implications of the bill.
He devoted a considerable part of his speech in the House this afternoon to the victims of families that have lost a wanted child, the successful outcome of a pregnancy through a violent attack on a pregnant women.
I do not think there is a single member here, regardless of where they stand on this bill, who cannot empathize 100% with the grief that such a loss would cause an individual and their loved ones. However, it has reminded me that there is a good reason why we do not turn over the drafting, or the crafting or the adoption of laws in a democratic and diverse society to people who are singled out for being grief-stricken by personal tragedy.
I did not expect to say this until I listened to the amount of focus on the issue of grief, but I returned briefly in my own life experience to my period of time as a psychiatric social worker. Grief is a very normal human emotion, and it is something around which we comfort people and support them. However, we also know that grief is almost always accompanied by feelings of anger, despair, rage and quite often revenge.
In our democratic society, we have long decided that revenge is not a proper basis for drafting or adopting our laws. A great deal of psychiatric evidence indicates that if there is a great deal of reinforcement for the notion of revenge, when someone has suffered a loss through a violent, unacceptable act, it impairs the emotional healing process.
I do not want to go further down that road, but my discomfort with the bill, before hearing the comments of the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, has been deepened and intensified by the amount of emphasis he placed on the issue of grief, anger and rage. I do not question his sincerity about identifying and empathizing with the grief, but I think it is a very questionable basis for introducing such a law.
Let me say that I also heard many comments about how this is something that women very much want and need, and he even referred to some polling. I have to say I would need to be convinced based on a great deal more information than he shared, but if he wanted to share the basis for a claim that there is a very high percentage of women who are really looking for this, I would give it my consideration.
However, I would find it extremely surprising, because I have to say that in my almost 40 years of involvement in the women's movement, and my 28 years in public life, where it has been well known that I very much see the responsibility of myself and every other woman in public life to be responsive to women's concerns, I have never had a single woman, a single advocate, a single representative of a single organization, or an individual family member come to me and say that this is a law they would like to see implemented.
That does not mean it is not worthy of introduction and consideration, I want to say that, but to cite it as something that large numbers of women want and need, I find surprising. Maybe I am a little bit suspicious about that, when I would think that if this was something widely felt and wanted by women there might be some indication in the House and there would be a good number of women here for this debate and wanting to put forward their views.
Maybe I am a little unfair in saying this, but in regard to coming from the caucus with by far the least number of women in the House, then one wonders whether it is really an authoritative basis for the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park to talk about how much women want and need this.
I will speak from my own personal experience. In my region of Atlantic, the government party has run 32 men for Parliament in the 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, so I am not sure about the authoritativeness of speaking on behalf of women's pressing needs.
Let me say, however, that there are a lot of things women desperately need that have been ignored by the government. Not one of them that has ever come to my attention is a call for this kind of bill. Women certainly need a lot more protection against domestic violence and violence that is visited on them in far too many communities.
I would say that at the heart of my concern about the bill is that it does indeed arouse considerable concern, real apprehension, about whether it is in fact a thinly veiled step in the direction of recriminalizing abortion in our country. I am sure there are going to be protestations, with people saying, no, no, that was made clear, the language was made clear and all the rest of it, but let me say that it further made me uncomfortable to hear several references, both from the Conservative sponsor of the bill and from the Liberal who spoke in support of it, to a number of American states, mostly southern U.S. states, and in particular, South Carolina, as one of the states that has had considerable experience with this bill.
Let me say the evidence is very clear that the bill not only could become a thin edge of the wedge in the direction of recriminalizing abortion, but actually identified as one of the benefits of the bill is that to adopt such a bill could in fact accomplish that very objective that sponsors of the bill in South Carolina have cited as the reason for their introduction of the bill.
There are many more things I could say, but I think that in the final analysis the point is that women need to be protected far more effectively and aggressively against violence, and that is the best way to protect vulnerable fetuses. If that were the objective, then we would be very much wanting to support such a bill.
We do not, however, feel persuaded. As I say, it is a private member's bill. I do not want to speak for others in my caucus, but I, for one, am very uncomfortable with where the bill is intended to go and what its real purpose is. I want to say that those concerns have already been expressed by a good many of my colleagues, so I think members have gotten the impression: I will not be supporting this private member's bill.