Mr. Speaker, I rise today to respond to what is no doubt an important private member's bill. As other private members' bills come along, I acknowledge the efforts that members often put into their proposed legislation for a wide variety of reasons.
I have had the opportunity to go over this member's bill and have some serious concerns.
Often I stand in this place and talk about the importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I have argued in the past and I personally believe in the charter. The Liberal Party is a party of rights and freedoms. Listening to the member, I cannot help but reflect on that issue.
It is important to recognize that the government condemns all forms of violence against women, including pregnant women. We recognize that the criminal law must strongly condemn and hold fully accountable those who perpetrate violence against others, particularly those more vulnerable to violence.
When I think of our current legislation, it is important for us to emphasize a couple of aspects that are very germane to this debate. Subsection 223(2) and subsection 238 of the Criminal Code carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, which prohibits the causing of the death of a child who has not become a human being in an active birth under certain circumstances. Another aspect is to recognize that the Criminal Code contains comprehensive assault and homicide offences which apply to violent acts against pregnant women.
It is important to look at case law. One of the privileges I had serving as the justice critic in the Manitoba legislature for many years was to look at case law. What is being practised through our courts is important for all of us to take into consideration. Case law shows that abusing a pregnant woman and committing an offence is considered an aggravating factor for sentencing proposed and punished severely. That is a very important aspect that we need to take into consideration.
As I indicated, criminal law does take violence against women, including pregnant women, very seriously. The government believes that gender-based violence has no place in our society and we are committed to developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy against gender-based violence. Canada's approach includes prevention, support for victims and the criminal justice responses.
I am not one to shy away from what I believe are very important issues. This chamber deals with a wide variety of issues that affect the lives of the constituents who we represent. I represent the riding of Winnipeg North. When I knock on doors, there are different issues that people bring up. However, one of the issues people want to talk about, no matter what their background, is the issue of crime and safety as a whole. It is an area of discussion that I genuinely appreciate and want to explore. I am constantly looking for ways in which we can improve communities in which we live.
I have articulated, whether it is at the door, or inside this chamber, or inside the Manitoba legislature, that individuals have a right to feel safe in the environments in which they live, the neighbourhoods and the communities. In some areas of Canada there are concerns.
I want to highlight a bit of that, given what I have already said about the private member's bill. I do think it is important for us, when we have the opportunity, to incorporate into the dialogue what we believe are important issues for our constituents.
That is why, when I look at Bill C-225, I somewhat understand why the member is bringing it forward, though I would tend to disagree. Ultimately I believe there are laws in place, which have been demonstrated through our court system, that have already taken into consideration some of the sensitivities that the member is attempting to bring forward within this legislation. I started by talking about the importance of the charter, and that is something which I believe also needs to be highlighted.
In having this discussion at the doors with my constituents, I believe that what I am reflecting in the House today is an honest reflection of what my constituents would want me to be saying. In addition, I would argue that there are other aspects of the criminal law that could be looked at and considered.
We have had a government in the past that tended to take an approach of getting tough on issues, getting tough on the issue of crime. Sometimes we need to recognize that our constituents want us to put more emphasis on getting tough on some of the causes of crime. This is something that we lose sight of at times. The member has brought forward a piece of legislation that caters to a specific issue that raises a number of other concerns that members might have. Let me suggest that the best thing we can do is to look at ways we can prevent abuse that is taking place against women, let alone pregnant women. We recognize that it does take place, and I suggest that one of the best ways we can prevent violence is to ensure we have the types of programs that will make a difference.
That means, for example, that we have to start working more with our different stakeholders, in particular our provinces and municipalities. Let me raise specifically the importance of our schools, through education and the role that school divisions play in establishing the curricula, for example. If we want to really have an impact on combatting domestic violence, as an example, we need to consider the role that our teachers and our social workers could play, whether they work for our municipalities or provinces. That is why, when we have legislation of this nature, it affords us to expand the debate to encourage the government of the day, which I happen to be a part of, and all members, to explore the ideas that would make a difference in preventing some of the abuse taking place in our communities. I suggest that if we put a higher priority on that issue in itself, we will better serve the constituents we represent. At the end of the day, this should be about making our communities safer and better places to live.
Do not misunderstand what I am saying. I truly believe that there should be a consequence for a crime that is committed. I sat as an honorary probation officer, as a chair of a youth justice committee, for many years, and I appreciate the importance of consequences to a crime. Specifically with respect to the bill we are debating today, I suggest that there are aspects that have been overlooked, in particular issues such as our current case law and how it has been taken into consideration. In particular, there are other aspects of our Criminal Code which do take it into consideration, and hopefully will provide some assurances to the member who is sponsoring the bill.