Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-225. I want to thank my colleague from Yorkton—Melville for tabling the bill. I also want to thank previous speakers who have spoken so eloquently from their hearts.
Over 63,000 pregnant Canadian women were victims of spousal violence between 2004 and 2009. Since 2000, 24 pregnant women have been murdered. The bill is needed to fill a gap in the Criminal Code that is leaving pregnant women vulnerable.
As the law currently stands, women and families who are violated by those who abuse pregnant women have no recourse in law. Only one set of charges can be laid, but two lives have directly felt the impact of the crime.
The bill would create new offences for injuring or causing the death of a preborn child while committing a criminal offence against a pregnant woman when the person knows she is pregnant. This would allow for two charges to be laid when someone attacks a pregnant woman, and as a result kills or harms her preborn child. In current law, only one charge can be laid and that is for the offence against the woman, because injury or death of the child is not recognized.
When an individual receives no punishment for knowingly harming or killing a preborn child through an intentional act of violence against the child's mother, justice has not been served.
Bill C-225, the protection of pregnant women and their preborn children act, would allow two charges to be laid under such circumstances and includes an amendment to paragraph 718.2(a) of the Criminal Code, which would require the courts to consider pregnancy as an aggravating factor when sentencing those convicted of violence against women.
Cassie and Molly are remembered together. Their names have become known in households across Canada. While this acknowledgement and recognition of the heinous crime committed against both Cassie and Molly lends itself to a small measure of justice, justice has not been fully realized. Where two lives full of hope and promise were horrifically ended, only one murder charge stands. Molly matters.
There is no pro-life versus pro-choice debate. The choice has already been made. Molly's arrival was eagerly anticipated by her mother Cassie, her father Jeff, and countless other family members and friends.
Over the past 10 years, as I have served as a member of Parliament, one of the services I and all members of Parliament offer to our constituents in this chamber is to present petitions on their behalf. Over the past months and in fact years, petitioners from my riding and all across Canada have flooded my office and the offices of my colleagues, pleading to be heard, begging for action on this crucial issue.
I have heard them loud and clear. We need to fix this gap in the legislation and right the wrong that Cassie and Jeff have to endure. It is true that nothing will bring back the lives of Cassie and Molly, but we can take a stand for parents who have made the choice to welcome a baby into their family and have that choice taken away by violence.
A large majority of Canadians agree with the intent of Bill C-225. In fact a Nanos poll commissioned by the creator of the legislation found that 69% support or somewhat support a law that would make it a separate crime to harm or cause the death of a preborn child while attacking a pregnant woman, versus 21% who oppose or somewhat oppose such legislation.
The Prime Minister has, on several occasions, labelled himself a feminist. If that is true, I look forward to his support of the legislation as over 70% of women support these protections.
The bill would directly act as a deterrent against the abuse of women and their preborn children. The bill would add pregnancy to the list of aggravating factors for sentencing purposes. Although judges can already treat pregnancy as an aggravating factor, codifying it in the criminal law is a way to more clearly and strongly denounce violence against pregnant women.
We know from researching case law that it is often unclear to what extent a woman's pregnancy is considered in sentencing. The bill would send a strong message to the courts that pregnancy must now be considered in the sentencing hearing.
Pregnant women are four times more likely than other abused women to report having experienced a very serious violence, including being beaten, choked, threatened with a gun or knife, or sexually assaulted. This legislation would act as a strong deterrent against committing violence to pregnant women because of the increased penalties it would carry for intentionally causing the death of a preborn child.
Molly's story reminds me of an incident that occurred close to my riding in London, Ontario. Last year, at a Costco parking lot, a woman unintentionally drove into the entrance directly hitting a family of four. The family of four was torn apart by the immediate death of a six year old and the death of a baby who was born a week after the incident. Complications arising directly from the accident caused the subsequent death of the baby.
The results of this case may not have changed as a result of Cassie and Molly's law, however, the very real reaction from the victims' grandfather and other family members show the emotional heartache they felt, whether one had met or were waiting in eager expectation to meet a child. As I said, this case was an accident. How much more pain would the family be going through today if the perpetrator had carried out this offence intentionally.
Listening to the debate this evening and following it previously, it is clear that those who oppose this legislation want to make it about opening the abortion debate. This could not be more wrong. This is not about reopening the abortion debate. No part of this legislation could do that. The bill could not be used to criminalize doctors or any physician for providing abortion. Neither does it change the definition of human being nor give fetus personhood.
The bill would protect the preborn child in a very narrowly and precisely defined circumstance when the woman had not chosen to abort and a third party knowingly caused death or harm to the preborn child against the mother's will. As stated earlier, the bill would close a serious gap in the Criminal Code. When two lives full of hope and promise are intentionally and violently ended, it is simply common sense to expect that our laws would send a strong deterrent message, standing against the abuse of women and their preborn children.
Tonight and previously we have heard our Liberal colleagues say, “gender-based violence has no place in society”. If that really is true, if my Liberal colleagues really believe that, I ask them to stand up against gender-based violence and support Bill C-225.