Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in this place and speak to Bill C-225, the protection of pregnant women and their preborn children act, Cassie and Molly's law.
To begin, I want to recognize and thank my friend and colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville, for the good work she has undertaken in introducing this bill and for the passion she brings to this important debate.
As I have shared in this place before, I am the mother of four wonderful children, three of whom are married. I am also the grandmother of seven beautiful grandchildren, three of whom I have not met yet; one will be arriving next month and the other two just after the new year in January and February. Our entire family is eagerly awaiting their arrival. Nurseries are being prepared and books of the most popular names are being pored over. As grandparents, my husband and I can hardly wait to love them, spoil them, and then return them to their parents.
As my entire family prepares to welcome these three new members, the reality that this bill seeks to address is very near and dear to my heart. Let us talk about what this bill would do.
Bill C-225 would allow for two charges to be laid for causing the death of or injury to a preborn child while attacking a pregnant woman. One charge is for the offence against the woman, like assault or murder, which currently exists in the Criminal Code; and the other charge would be for the new offence that this bill would create for causing the death of or injury to the preborn child from the commission of the offence against the woman.
The bill would also give added protection to pregnant women, even in cases where the preborn child is not harmed or killed, because it would codify pregnancy as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. While judges can already treat pregnancy as an aggravating factor in sentencing, codifying it in criminal law would require a judge to always consider this factor in sentencing. Codifying pregnancy in criminal law is another way to more clearly and strongly denounce violence against pregnant women.
I cannot even begin to imagine the range of emotions that I would experience if one of my daughters or daughter-in-law, or my unborn grandchildren were harmed or killed by someone. If a woman has chosen to have a baby, should she not be entitled to justice if her unborn child is harmed or killed?
This bill would provide some justice. How would the bill do this?
Justice is not served when a person does not face any consequences for intentionally causing the death of or injury to a preborn child while attacking a pregnant woman. Bill C-225 is aimed at third parties who knowingly commit criminal offences against pregnant women.
The new offences are not standalone offences. They apply in a narrowly and precisely defined circumstance: only when a third party is committing or attempting to commit an offence against a pregnant woman knowing she is pregnant. The stiff penalties of a minimum of 10 years and maximum of life imprisonment for intentionally harming or causing the death of a preborn child would act as a strong deterrent against the commission of violence against pregnant women, since the offender cannot get to the child without going through the woman. In other words, if the child is protected, the woman is protected.
For the remainder of my time I would like to highlight what the bill could not do, contrary to what some have suggested.
This bill could not change the definition of a human being or create false personhood. The criminal law can be used to protect entities other than what is covered under the Criminal Code's definition of human being. The bill could not be used to criminalize doctors or anybody for performing abortions. Finally, the bill could not be used to criminalize pregnant women for any acts of commission or omission that may cause harm or death to her own fetus.
I want to quote the sponsor of Bill C-225, who was motivated to bring this bill forward after hearing Cassie and Molly Kaake's story. She stated:
The Criminal Code is missing a crucial component to protect Canadian women and their families. The increased penalties under Cassie and Molly's law create a legal mechanism that will enhance the safety of Canadian women and recognize the safety of their families. This approach is specific and robust. It is a common-sense approach designed to fill a gap in the Criminal Code that renders women and their preborn children vulnerable.
I would encourage all members in this place to take the time to read the bill and then support it, as it is clear in its aim, which is to protect the preborn in a very narrowly and precisely defined circumstance, when the woman has not chosen abortion, and a third party causes death or injury to her unborn child against her will.
To conclude, choosing to have a child is one of the most important commitments one will ever make. As a grandmother, I would share in the grief of my daughters and their husbands should anything like this ever happen to them.
Finally, as a member of Parliament, I have always and will always stand up for the rights of victims in the face of horrific crimes, and this bill would do that.