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House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-31.

Topics

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, perhaps instead of the normal Thursday question, I wonder if the government House leader would be prepared to see if there is a disposition in the House to deem Bill C-18 to be read a third time and passed. Then there might also be a disposition to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, there is a response to the Thursday question and then I will get to the specifics that the member has asked about as part of our business to attend to Bill C-18.

This entire week has been a week of delivering results. I am pleased to see that we have done that this week. The House performed in an exemplary fashion on Tuesday, I believe, when we dealt with the legislation on the national research universal reactor to get that safely restarted so tens of thousands of Canadians and people all around the world can benefit from the availability of isotopes.

Earlier today, we voted on the budget implementation bill.

This bill reduces taxes for Canadians by, for example, decreasing the GST to 5%, and reduces personal and corporate taxes. The bill is now in the Senate. The government hopes that the upper chamber will examine it quickly so that it becomes law on January 1.

As well, just before question period, the House passed Bill S-2, implementing a tax treaty. It is now awaiting royal assent. It will help provide certainty and benefits for Canadian business.

We hope that in a few moments our verification of residence bill for elections will pass the House. This bill is important because it solves the problem of verifying the residences of voters who do not have a civic address on their identification. I know that all members want to ensure that legitimate voters are able to exercise their fundamental rights.

We will have business when we return on January 28. We will continue to focus on the priorities that were laid out in the Speech from the Throne.

They include: tackling crime and strengthening the security of Canadians, providing effective economic leadership for a prosperous future, strengthening the federation and our democratic institutions, improving the environment and the health of Canadians and strengthening Canada's sovereignty and place in the world.

Before we go to the motion, I would like to recognize the work done by all members of the House over the past year. We have delivered results in 2007, and the week's theme was accurate.

While at times the activities and debates do get heated and tense, I know that all members have the best interests of their constituents at heart and that all members are working hard to make Canada a better place to live, work in and raise a family.

Since this is the last Thursday statement of the year, I want to take the opportunity to wish all members of the House, including the House leaders in particular, with whom I work closely, and you, Mr. Speaker, the staff and the pages of this great chamber, and the people of Canada a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (verification of residence), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

I would seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That Bill C-18 be deemed read a third time and passed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it agreed that Bill C-18 be deemed read a third time and passed?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, before we get to the next order of business, there have been discussions among all parties and if you seek it I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study on Veterans Health Care Review and Veterans Independence Program, twelve (12) members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs be authorized to travel to Quebec City, Quebec, and Petawawa, Ontario, and six (6) members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs be authorized to travel to Comox, British Columbia, Cold Lake, Alberta, Shearwater, Nova Scotia, and Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, in January and February of 2008, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee;

And that, in relation to its study of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, twelve (12) members of the Standing Committee on National Defence be authorized to travel to Kandahar and Kabul, Afghanistan, and Brussels, Belgium, in the winter of 2008, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to invite the House to exercise one of the extraordinary powers that applies only to this workplace, that is, to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Veterans Affairs and National DefenceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

December 13th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

moved that Bill C-484, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting for this moment for over 14 years. Those members who have been in the House frequently have heard me say, during private members' business, that I have never been drawn. That was true until now, just as I am about ready to leave the place.

I am very honoured to have this extraordinary privilege of bringing forward a very important piece of legislation. It is especially important because it will be the last piece of legislation debated here in this fall term.

I want to begin by putting forward some background. I have to do this on a very personal and somewhat emotional basis because what we are dealing with here is crime. We are dealing with vicious criminal attacks against pregnant women and we are dealing specifically with addressing the issue of grief for the families who are left behind. Grief is always extremely sad.

I remember some five years ago when my father died. He was almost 91 and everybody said that he had a good life. However, I still distinctly remember how sad I was. He had been my dad all my life and now he was gone and it seemed so brief. There was sadness but it was somewhat softened by the fact that indeed he had had a good long life.

Just a couple of months ago, my wife's only brother passed away. The grief was also great there. He was a younger man. He succumbed to cancer but there had been a little warning because his fight with cancer extended about three years. As he was gradually losing this battle, people in the family were being prepared to deal with that grief. When he finally passed away on September 1 of this year, there was both relief, because he was no longer suffering, but also grief.

We also had a very sad event in January of this year when my first niece passed away. The grief there was notched up from the previous two that I mentioned because Sherry died suddenly. She started her life on Friday morning, as normally as we did this morning, but she had an aneurysm and died instantly, totally unexpectedly. She was only 47. She left her loving husband, her children and the rest of the family. There was tremendous grief. I cannot express the sadness that a family goes through when dealing with such a death.

Then there was a very bad accident this past summer in British Columbia on Canada's Highway No. 1. Some distant relatives of ours were travelling along the road and as they were going along a gravel truck came around the corner. He was going too fast for that corner. The pup trailer that he was pulling, which was also full of gravel, lost its position and rolled onto the car an instantly killed a young man in his late twenties.

There is an added notch to the grief there because, like my niece, the death was sudden but there was another element and that is that it was due to the truck driver's carelessness. The family is anguished. Why did the truck driver not pay attention? Why did he not drive properly?

There is the normal grief of the loss of a loved one but now there is also that element of grief that is added because it could have been prevented.

The reason I mention those examples is because this bill is about helping the families of people who have been murdered, and that is a whole compounding of grief yet again. Unlike the accident, where it was somebody's negligence, the truck driver, I do not think, could ever be accused of saying that he was going to go out and kill someone today with his truck. It was an accident. It was a misjudgment. It was not planned.

However, when a family experiences the murder of a loved one, we have another level of emotion and grief and that is a level of anger. Why would someone deliberately kill my loved one and take away that life so unnecessarily?

Bill C-484 deals with the death as a result of a criminal act against a pregnant mother. Now the grief for the family is compounded yet again, because not only have they suffered the maximum level of grief by having their loved one murdered, but they are also suffering the loss of that wanted and anticipated child, that nephew, niece or grandchild. In a very real sense, they are suffering and grieving a loss under the most egregious of circumstances and the loss of the unborn child. This is what my bill addresses.

I will try to build a case here for support of this bill from all people, regardless of their views on other issues. I want to ensure we all know what the bill deals with. It deals specifically with the death or injury of a mother and/or her unborn child, where that mother has made the choice to have that child. It is a wanted child, an anticipated child.

I can tell members from my own experience, I am getting old but my memory is still good, I remember when my wife and I were having babies. It was almost as much fun as having grandchildren. In each case, when the anticipated birth was there, everyone got excited. This is very personal, but my wife used to invite me to put my hand on her abdomen to feel the movement of that baby. I think we have all experienced that.

When that is happening, both the mother and the father, and other members of the family, especially little brothers or sisters, are building an emotional attachment to a wanted child. They are anticipating its birth and welcoming it into the family. My bill deals specifically with when that desire, that decision is taken away from that family, from that mother against her will, against her choice, not of her choosing, without her consent and, in this bill, always in a criminal way, because charges will only be laid if the individual was committing an act of crime against the child's mother.

This is a very specific, focused bill. It deals with no other issues. It deals with this issue, the unborn victim of a crime.

I want to give a few examples. One of the most well-known cases for this happened in the United States when Laci and Conner Peterson were killed in California. California is a state that has had for many years an act similar to this. As a result, Scott, who was convicted of the crime, was in fact charged and convicted of two crimes. There were two offences to which he was found guilty.

Another case that comes to mind was in a city that is real close to my riding. It happened in Edmonton in 2005 and it is the case of Liana White, a young pregnant mother. She was a mother because she already had a three year old daughter, Ashley. Liana was stabbed to death by her husband, Michael. He was later convicted of the crime of assault and murder of the mother but there were no charges for the death of the unborn child. At the time, Liana was four months pregnant. The family grieved over the fact that the child was not recognized.

Another example is of Olivia Talbot in Edmonton, a tremendously sad case. She was a 19 year old girl who had some youthful troubles but she was working her way out of it and making progress. She was seven months pregnant when a childhood friend shot her. He first shot her three times in the abdomen. His target was the unborn child. He then went ahead and shot her twice in the head to make sure that she also was dead.

Can members imagine the family's grief? Olivia's mother, Mary, has been and is on a crusade to this very day and probably will be for years until a bill such as this is enacted. She said that it grieved them tremendously because Olivia was seven months pregnant and they were anticipating the birth and the welcoming of the new child. The mother was, as I said, making huge progress and putting the troubles of her past behind her, and then suddenly she is brutally murdered and her unborn child with her.

I am appealing to my fellow colleagues in the House of Commons to support this bill because we are dealing explicitly with cases where women have been injured or killed and their unborn children, who they wanted to bring to term and to give life, have been taken away from them. In a way, somebody else forcibly made the decision for them and the woman's choice was totally negated.

I can think of another case in Surrey. I will not go into all of these in detail because it would take too long. We have the case of a 38 year old mother in Surrey who was four months pregnant. She disappeared. The police looked for her. A week or so later they found her charred body. She had been burned, killed by her husband because she was pregnant.

We just heard a very sad story recently in Toronto about the case of Aysun Sesen, a 25-year-old who was seven months pregnant. She was killed by her boyfriend. He killed her by repeatedly stabbing her in the abdomen with a knife until both she and the child were dead.

This is what my bill is about. It is about a woman being the victim of the most egregious crime, her own death and the death of her child.

I think, if I dare do this, the biggest case was in the United States, the case of Tracy Marciniak. She was only about a week or so away from the baby's due date. She was pummeled in the abdomen until her child was killed but she survived. The only charge laid against the father was assault. The life was not recognized.

What I am saying is that this bill, which I hope all members have read, provides for a separate offence in the death or injury of an unborn child.

I want to assure all members present that those issues about constitutionality and some of the things that were raised in the previous debate on this issue when my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright raised it, have all been addressed. As I said at the beginning, we threaded the needle on the wording. People who have other concerns do not need to worry. This was all done. I have had the legal opinions of a noted constitutional lawyer. I simply urge all members to support this bill because it is right.

I urge all members to vote on what the bill says, not on what it does not say. I urge every member of the House to take the time to read and study the four-page missive I have sent to every member of Parliament where all of those issues are addressed in detail. I thank the members for their support.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park for bringing forward this important bill.

I have to say it was a bit difficult when I thought about some of the cases. My wife is about eight months pregnant now with our fifth child, and in thinking about the state of some of the women in these very high profile cases that we are talking about here, and anticipating a child and waiting for a child, I could not imagine if a crime like that were ever committed against her.

The context of the bill is appropriate. This is a criminal justice issue. It is an assault against women issue. I certainly commend the member.

I would like him to hone in on the importance of this being a bill that is in support of women. That is an important component of what we are doing here. I think all members in this House are seized with the importance of sanctions for these kinds of acts of violence against women and against unborn children as well. I wonder if the member would comment on that.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely correct. It is an issue about women, criminal attacks against pregnant women and sanctions being available for those criminal acts against the unborn child as well as the attacks on the mother.

I also want to point out that the general public understands the necessity for this kind of legislation. In a recent Environics poll it was shown that 72% of Canadians support such legislation. That is tremendously high. I would venture to say that is well above the support of any political party in this country right now. Canadians support it.

There are a couple of other things that are amazing. Women supported it at a higher level, which is not surprising I guess, but what I found surprising is that among the youth ages up to 30, the support was up at 79%. I think that is a feather in the hat of our youth. They think about these things and they realize that this is a very important issue and one to be clearly differentiated.

I want to assure the member that yes, this is a very important issue. It has widespread support. Definitely, to vote for it is to vote for what is right.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member specifically regarding his bill. Several things about this bill bother me. Consider, for example, a pregnant woman who is attacked by someone in the street who wants to steal her purse. But when the thief grabs the purse, the woman falls down and her baby dies.

Is that individual charged with theft or murder? In fact, the person intended to commit theft, not murder. Can my colleague respond to this question? I wanted to ask him another question, but it will have to wait until later.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I urge the member to actually read the bill. It says specifically in the bill that the attacker must have intent. He must know that the woman is pregnant. He must intend to injure the child. Remember that this is a separate offence. The offence against the woman would be there in any case in terms of charges being laid. But if the attacker intends to harm the child and he knows, or ought to have known, that the woman was pregnant, then there is room for a second offence to be laid because he harmed the child. That is not available in the present law.

Unborn Victims of Crime ActPrivate Members' Business

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me start out by congratulating the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park on finally managing to get a private member's bill before the House. I should point out just for the record that getting private members' bills into the House is not a question simply of merit. There is a bit of mathematical chance involved so all of us are treated fairly equally, but I am sorry the member had to wait so long to get a bill in front of us.

I should also note that the member for Vegreville—Wainwright had a bill similar to this one but not identical before the House in a previous Parliament.

The member opposite speaks of the grief that accompanies death or serious injury as a result of a criminal act. I have often found it difficult in the House and the justice committee to import that element of grief. It is very real for all of the victims, their families and friends and for Canadians. I often find that the analysis of our laws around here is pretty clinical and academic at times, pretty legalistic, so I thank the member for putting on the record the emotional and the grief components that accompany this area of law.

Bill C-484 attempts to address what is arguably a gap in our criminal law, and it has been a gap for some time. One might ask why it has been a gap or why we have failed to note the protection that should be accorded to a pregnant woman and her child. We certainly afford protection to the woman.

It is perhaps the long national debate over the termination of pregnancies, that whole field, that has obscured this particular piece, and I am pleased that the House now has an opportunity to deal with it.

Having said that, it is important to note that this bill meticulously imports the element of mens rea, the element of intention into the bill. It makes sure that the perpetrator, in order to be charged and convicted, has to know that there is a woman who was pregnant and victimized by a criminal act. That is a very important component linking the perpetrator to the wrongdoing involved. If we were not to do that, there could be a scenario where the perpetrator of a crime might not be aware of the pregnancy, and in our criminal law we almost never convict people in law unless they know the consequence of what they are doing.

There is a section of the Criminal Code that now partially, some will say very partially, protects the unborn child, the fetus. Section 238 makes it an offence to cause death during the act of birth, causing death to the child being born in the act of birth. That is a very narrow window of time. Of course, this bill looks well in advance of the time of birth.

I am advised that according to the National Conference of State Legislatures in the U.S.A., our neighbour to the south, some 37 states have fetal homicide laws, in other words, laws that protect the unborn child, the fetus. Two of those 37 states have developed their law, not by passing laws in their legislatures, but by judicial case decisions, by judicial case law.

Each state in the U.S. develops its own criminal law in this field. In Canada we do it cross-country. We have one Criminal Code. I say that to signal that Canada would not be alone in this. In fact, we are not even near the front of the pack on this, as my friend earlier pointed out.

One other thing I want to mention is that the bill explicitly by its own terms does not deal with the lawful termination of a pregnancy consented to by the mother. It does not deal with that category of action, but it does very much deal with protecting an unborn child during a criminal act directed at the mother knowing that the mother is pregnant.

In layman's terms, I ask myself the question, who could reasonably deny to a child prior to birth during an assault or another criminal attack on the mother, knowing that the mother is pregnant, the protection of the Criminal Code that that child deserves? I could not deny that. It sounds so very reasonable. Admittedly the circumstances where it might occur are not going to be too common but it just takes one instance.

My friend from Edmonton—Sherwood Park has put on record reference to a number of incidents where exactly this kind of thing has happened. In a world of over six billion people and a country of 33 million, there are going to be unfortunate incidents.

I believe that we should act now to pass this law. I could not deny that protection and I do not believe my constituents would either.

My friend has pointed out that according to some polling, 75% of Canadians agree some form of law would be appropriate. I am one of those 75%. I think my constituents would support me in that. I will be supporting this bill.

Tabling of OPP StatementsPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

3:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

There were requests yesterday that I table documents that I had quoted from in the House. These are statements from the OPP that had exonerated the Minister of the Environment of the cloud of suspicion that had been cast over him, by, among others, the member for Ajax—Pickering who persisted in asking questions in the House about him.

I read from these statements and I know there was a request that I table them. I was remiss in not doing it today after question period. I had planned to, but I did not have the documents with me at the time, so I am now rising to seek permission of the House to table them at this time.

Tabling of OPP StatementsPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am not sure the hon. government House leader needs the permission of the House because he was asked to table them but I thank him for doing so.