Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to close the second hour of debate on my private member's bill, Cassie and Molly's law. This bill is in response to the 2014 murder of Cassie Kaake in Windsor, Ontario, when Cassie was weeks away from giving birth to their daughter Molly. In Canada, there is no component in the Criminal Code to protect pregnant women from violence. This gap is leaving women vulnerable. Cassie and Molly's law would address this specific issue to protect pregnant women and their future families.
Since introducing this legislation in February, I have been inspired by the support of Canadians across the country for Cassie and Molly's law through a flood of letters, phone calls, emails, and meetings with everyday Canadians who know both Cassie and Molly deserve justice as do all the women who have been victims of violence while pregnant.
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime endorse Cassie and Molly's law because it is justice for victims of serious crime. The Native Women's Association of Canada has endorsed Cassie and Molly's law because this bill is one step closer to justice for at least 18 of the missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Canadians want this legislation.
In a nationwide poll by Nanos Research in which 97 respondents identified as pro choice, nearly 70% of Canadians were supportive of this legislation. Support among women was even higher at 75%. Canadians understand what this bill would do and, just as important, they understand what the bill would not do.
The bill would create new offences for injuring or causing the death of a pregnant woman's preborn child while committing or attempting to commit a criminal offence against the woman. These offences are not stand-alone offences. The new charges under Cassie and Molly's law would only apply when a person was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offence against a pregnant woman. In addition, charges could only be applied when the offender had the knowledge that the female victim was pregnant.
The new offences are called causing the death of a preborn child while committing an offence or injuring a preborn child while committing an offence. With this law, two charges could be laid in crimes involving attacks on pregnant women that resulted in the harm or death of their preborn children: one in relation to the criminal offence against the woman, and the second charge in relation to one of the new offences either causing the death of or the injury to the preborn child.
Cassie and Molly's law would also add pregnancy to the list of aggravating factors for sentencing purposes. Codifying it in criminal law is a way to more clearly and strongly denounce violence against pregnant women. While the government suggests that courts consistently recognize pregnancy as an aggravating factor, I want members to know, from deeply researching case law, that it is often unclear to what extent a woman's pregnancy is considered in sentencing.
Opponents of Cassie and Molly's law claim that the bill could be a back door to limit a woman's access to abortion services. This is untrue and entirely misleading to Canadians. Simply put, Cassie and Molly's law would only add new offences for existing crimes against a pregnant woman that resulted in injury or termination of her pregnancy.
Because this bill would only affect existing crimes, and abortion is not criminal, Cassie and Molly's law would have no impact on abortion services. The bill would not change the legal definition of a human being or create fetal personhood as some critics have tried to claim. The constitutional experts at the leading firm, Supreme Advocacy, which the government highly respects, confirm that Cassie and Molly's law would have no impact on abortion laws. In fact, I would challenge the justice minister or the minister's representative in the House of Commons right now to present legal arguments that refute the expertise of these lawyers. Addressing violence against pregnant women is the strict and sole objective of the bill.
The government promised a strategy to combat gender-based violence. We are still waiting. Right here, right now we have an opportunity for a Liberal government and every member of Parliament to take a step toward reducing gender-based violence in Canada. Members of Parliament are here to serve Canadians, and Canadians have made their voices heard, loud and clear. They support this bill.
This is the proof: an e-petition with 6,100 signatures; paper petitions, over 20,000-plus; letters; emails; and phone calls reflecting all ages, men, women, expectant mothers, pro-choice supporters, victims, and those left to mourn. The Nanos Research poll confirming 70% of Canadians cannot be denied. Canadians across the great country support Cassie and Molly's law, and they expect the House to do the same.