Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to shed light on a very important topic that is affecting individuals across Canada. The issue that I speak of is with regard to the Criminal Code of Canada and a crucial component that is in fact missing from it.
In current law, if an offence against a pregnant woman is committed, one charge can be laid, which is for the offence against the woman. Despite the fact that her preborn child may also have been injured or in fact killed in the altercation, the mother's loss of her child is not recognized in our current system.
Cassie and Molly's law, the proposed law that is before us today, is a direct response to pleas for justice, the pleas of moms and dads from across our country who have lost a preborn child to acts of violence committed against the mother.
I stand here today in full support of this piece of legislation. I recognize that there is a significant gap in the Criminal Code, which fails to protect pregnant women and their preborn children.
The private member's bill was introduced by my colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville, in hopes of creating a reform that would better protect Canadian women and their families. Bill C-225, if it were to be brought into effect would establish a new offence for violent criminals who knowingly injure or cause death of a preborn child while committing a criminal offence against a pregnant woman.
Our current law, which does not recognize harm caused to a preborn, or even the death of a preborn, is absolutely unacceptable in Canada. Criminals are let off without any consequence for their violent actions against mothers who have chosen to have their children. Their actions are destructive and intentional, yet without due consequence. At this time, the firmest penalty for assaulting a woman is 14 years. With Bill C-225, two charges could be laid, one charge for the criminal offence against the woman, the mother; and the other charge for causing the injury or death of the child. The criminal would then face a maximum penalty of life in prison and a minimum penalty of 10 years under the new legislation.
The Criminal Code of Canada is missing a very critical component for protecting pregnant women. Through this new law, a legal device would be put in place that would improve the protection of women and recognize that safety is of utmost importance. Ultimately, it would fill a gap in the Criminal Code that would be a response to those who are seeking justice for their loss.
The bill was put forward as a result of one man's very tragic and very sad story. This man is Jeff Durham. Nearly two years ago, he suffered the heartbreaking loss of his partner Cassie and their daughter Molly. Cassie and Jeff were two individuals who chose to commit to being parents of Molly and who eagerly anticipated her arrival. On December 11, 2014, when Cassie was seven months pregnant, a man broke into her apartment and committed the unimaginable. As a result, both lives were taken that night, leaving Jeff without his child.
The man responsible was charged on several accounts, including first degree murder, break and enter, indecent interference with a dead body, arson causing property damage, possession of incendiary material for arson, and arson with disregard for human life. His crimes are absolutely disgraceful and no person should ever have to hear of their loved one facing this type of reality.
During the investigation, police have concluded that Cassie did not die from the fire but actually from severe blood loss due to trauma. Police have also stated that the crime scene was one of the most disturbing ones they had ever seen. Cassie was brutally murdered by a man who was well aware that she was pregnant and only weeks away from giving birth to her baby, Molly.
Jeff has expressed his thankfulness that the perpetrator was convicted of first degree murder, but he has also voiced his difficulty in finding comfort, as he feels that the charges do not properly represent Cassie's rights as a woman. Cassie made the choice to carry Molly to term. She made the choice to become a mother. Jeff made the choice to become a father. However, that night they were robbed of that choice.
Canada is a nation that values human rights and equality. I am proud to live in this country that holds to these principles. However, our government has failed to acknowledge that the Criminal Code is missing a crucial component of protecting pregnant women and ultimately has turned a blind eye to this issue.
This piece of legislation is important in making our Canadian democracy stronger.
I am urging the government to stand by me and my colleagues, as well as by Jeff and his family and the millions of other Canadians who believe that this amendment is desperately needed.
This issue has gained overall support from both men and women from coast to coast to coast. According to a Nanos poll, it is suggested that 69% of Canadians are, in fact, in support of a law that would make it a separate crime to injure or cause death to a preborn while attacking a pregnant woman.
A study on the deaths of pregnant women determined that a pregnant or recently pregnant woman was more likely to be a victim of homicide than a woman who was not. This is a very scarey statistic for families across Canada, and Canadians are looking for ways to ensure that they are kept safe.
The bill would protect women when they are at their most vulnerable, and it would protect a woman's choice to bring her child to term safely.
The bill is about protecting the most vulnerable among us and about taking a stand against violence, particularly violence against women. By passing Cassie and Molly's law, Canada's government would demonstrate that this issue is not taken lightly in our nation. It would serve as a strong statement concerning the value we place on women and their right to choose. The bill is about protecting families, it is about standing up for the rights of women, and it is about taking a stand against violence.
It was suggested earlier that the criminal law already takes violence against women very seriously. However, the problem Bill C-225 seeks to address is not that the Criminal Code fails to take violence against women seriously; it is that the criminal law does not take certain forms of violence perpetrated against women seriously enough. Specifically, I am talking about crimes committed against pregnant women, thus preventing their choice from becoming reality. That is unacceptable in the country of Canada, and it is time for us to take a stand.
Canada is a country that continually seeks to uphold the fundamental principles of justice. We value human beings and their lives, and we recognize that it is vital to continue striving to defend the people who live within our borders. Part of this is defending their freedom of choice. It is time for us to take a stand for pregnant women who have chosen to carry the beautiful hope that lies within them; that is, carrying a child to full term.
In closing, the charges that have been laid on the accused are insufficient and are an absolute injustice to Jeff, who is left without ever knowing his daughter Molly. Unfortunately, he will never be able to hold her or rock her to sleep or tell her that he loves her. What he is left knowing, however, is that Molly had a loving and caring family that was anxiously awaiting her arrival. Unfortunately, that day did not come.
It is extremely shameful that Molly's life is not accounted for in the charges against the accused.
Sadly, Jeff's story is one of many. He speaks on behalf of those who have experienced similar tragedy and injustice.
Going forward, we absolutely need this piece of legislation. We can no longer stand idly by when there are no consequences in place when a criminal knowingly injures or causes the death of a preborn while committing a criminal offence against a pregnant woman. This cannot be tolerated any longer. Canadians are looking to us in this place to take leadership with respect to this issue. They are looking to us to amend this gap. They are looking to us to make the tough call to protect freedom of choice and the well-being of humanity.
Canadians seek a safer environment for pregnant women and their preborns who are susceptible to the same kind of harm and violence that Cassie and Molly tragically endured.
I am calling on this House to support this piece of legislation on behalf of nearly 70% of Canadians who agree that we need this change.