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.