House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.

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The House resumed from May 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-225, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of a preborn child while committing an offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to Standing Order 37, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-225 under private members' business.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, as tempted as I am to respond to my colleague on the issue of trade, that would not do justice to the important subject in front of us.

I want to again congratulate my colleague for bringing forward this important legislation, what we are calling Cassie and Molly's law, Bill C-225.

For those just joining the debate or watching, it is very important to underline what this bill would do and what it would not do. The bill would create a circumstance under which if a pregnant woman were attacked, killed, or assaulted, and her unborn child was harmed or killed in the process of that assault, then a separate offence would now exist under the criminal law which would punish the person who committed the offence for the attack on the unborn child, as well as on the mother. Punishment is not the core of it. The core of it is a recognition of the impact that this has on not just one, but on multiple people. That is what the bill would do.

It is very important to underline that the bill would only apply that offence in the case where another offence already exists. There is no possible way, under this legislation, and it is very well written and clearly put, in which a person could be charged for an offence against an unborn, preborn child if there were not also an offence against the mother.

I know that any time, in this place or elsewhere, we have this discussion that involves preborn, unborn children, there is a whole other debate that stirs in the minds of some people. However, because this only applies in the case where there is an offence against the mother, there is no possible way in which this bill could be twisted, or honestly there is no way in which it could be reasonably inferred to in any way inform a kind of legal change on an issue like abortion. It just is very clear there in terms of the way this bill operates.

If we were just isolating the question of the bill as it actually exists, I do not think anyone here would disagree with the principle, that when there is an offence against a mother and an unborn child, there is an impact, and two beings are involved. The suggestion by some members that we cannot pass the bill because it somehow, linguistically, indirectly, seems to invoke another controversy, I find unfortunate.

Obviously we know the question, for instance, of abortion is a challenging and divisive one. Can members who disagree on that question not come together on something that I think we should all agree on, which is combatting violence against women and which is the impact that this also has on another life.

I know some people object to the terminology. They do not like the term “unborn child” or “preborn child”. They would rather use the word “fetus” or something else. My understanding is that fetus is just a Latin word for the same thing. I try to avoid Latin ceteris paribus, but it really does not matter what terminology is used.

The point is that we have legislation which is just eminently sensible, which responds to a reality that if a woman loses a child because she is attacked, that she feels that loss in a particular way. To suggest that she does not, to suggest that this, for the person who is attacked, is simply akin to another kind of assault, or to suggest that there is not an added impact or added element calling out for some kind of justice really ignores the lived experience and the testimony of people who have brought forward this issue, and who have said that this is a priority for them.

The bill is named after real people who have real experience with this, who have spoken to my colleague and to other members, who have asked that we respond to it in this way, and who have asked that, hopefully, we come together as a House, across party and ideological lines.

I would encourage my colleagues, if they are hearing different things about this bill from different places, to take the time to have a look at the legislation and decide for themselves.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

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.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

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.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

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.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

October 17th, 2016 / 6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Cassie and Molly's law, Bill C-225.

Canadians want fairness. Canadians want justice. This is a prime example of an opportunity to provide that justice in Canada.

A piece of legislation called the unborn victims of crime act was presented to a previous Parliament, and that Parliament decided that it was an issue worthy of debate. The bill was about to go to committee at second reading, but unfortunately time ran out and that Parliament ended. That piece of legislation was put forward by former member of Parliament Ken Epp. We now have a new piece of legislation. It is similar, but it has been refined to clarify that this is not about abortion but about justice. I strongly believe that Canadians would like this legislation to at least be sent to justice committee.

For clarity, in the House, it is a rarity for a member of Parliament to be given a number at the beginning of Parliament. That number stands for the order of precedence for presenting a private member's bill. The member who introduced this legislation was given the unique opportunity of getting a low number. There is a connection too. She respected Ken Epp, and she remembered the time when his bill was almost sent to committee. She now finds herself representing her community and being given the honour and privilege of presenting her private member's bill. It was laid on her heart. She heard the story about Jeff Durham and the tragic loss of his partner, who was carrying their preborn child Molly. They were excited. For him to lose both his partner and his little girl who was yet to be born was tragic. Molly would have been born just a couple of months later.

Jeff wants justice. Canadians want justice. I believe strongly that the majority of us here in Parliament would agree that Jeff Durham deserves the opportunity to go to justice committee and tell his story and why he believes we need changes in the Criminal Code of Canada. At this point in time, the Criminal Code does not recognize the loss of Molly, but it does recognize the loss of Cassie.

The government has said that it is opposed to all forms of gender violence. This is its opportunity to allow the bill to go to committee. The vote will be happening shortly on second reading. Traditionally, a private member's bill is a free vote. I would hope that the Prime Minister would allow justice, would allow fairness, would allow transparency, and would allow victims of crime in Canada the opportunity to have a voice in this Parliament. That will only happen if members of the Liberal majority government give Mr. Jeff Durham and others the opportunity to come to committee and speak. If the Liberals vote against Bill C-225, it will end. The bill will die, and justice and fairness will not be served.

I cannot dream what it would be like to experience the loss that Jeff Durham and his family have experienced. He has the moral right to stand before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This Parliament has been set up exactly for examples like this. To cut the process short would be a travesty of justice.

If, after hearing from a victim at committee, the government still considers that C-225 should not be supported, that would be their opportunity to vote against it. However, to cut it short before victims have a chance to speak about their losses and why they strongly believe that the Criminal Code needs to be changed and improved is not transparent, is not open, and is not inclusive.

This is a test for this Parliament. This Parliament is a majority Parliament. The Liberal Party of Canada and the Prime Minister have a majority in this House. This is their opportunity to do the right thing. I trust that they will. They have said that they will not support this. I believe they should have an opportunity to reconsider and allow Jeff Durham and others to come to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Removing that opportunity would leave a very unfortunate message, which is that only certain people and certain issues will have an opportunity for justice, and only certain issues will the government listen to and consider.

Is this an opportunity to listen and allow victims to have a voice? I believe so. This is a prime example. I ask the government, and particularly every member in this House, to allow Jeff Durham and his family to have a voice, a voice to call for justice, a voice to call for an amendment. I ask the House to please allow justice to prevail in this land.

Canada is known as a country where one is treated fairly. One can accomplish whatever he or she wants with hard work and commitment. This is an opportunity for the House to show its true colours, its true colours of justice, fairness, and respect for the law. The world watches things like this, as do our children.

This is a political House, yet it is a partisan House at times. This is also an opportunity to lay aside partisan issues and do the right thing. Each of us is here for a short period of time. We will look back at our time here and do some soul-searching and wonder if we did the right thing. Maybe we do not always do the right thing.

This is an issue of conscience. It has been made very clear that this would not reopen the issue of abortion. It is whether the victims should have the right to share their experience, the travesty they went through. Would that be part of a healing process? I hope so. Hopefully this House will not deny justice being done.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

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.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 19, 2016, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, veterans who signed up to serve our country before Canada entered the Afghanistan mission signed up with the understanding that should they become injured during their service, they would be able to rely on a lifetime pension to ensure that they and their families would be taken care of by their country. However, the Liberal government of the day changed the rules and these men and women were sent into combat with no such protections. Some of those veterans took the government to court, calling on the sacred obligation we owe to veterans, to underscore the promises made by many governments to our men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces. This includes a financial obligation of a lifetime pension.

The previous Conservative government callously decided to fight those veterans in court, denying their rights and costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to refute the idea that we owe our veterans a sacred obligation for putting their lives on the line in defence of our country and the missions we ask them to undertake.

In 2015, the House of Commons unanimously passed an NDP motion that recognized Canada's covenant of moral, social, legal, and financial obligations to all veterans. Every member of the House agreed that we did, indeed, owe this sacred obligation to our veterans. Many of those members still serve in this place. Yet here we stand today in the same place as we were in 2012, with the current Liberal government back in court fighting those we pledged to protect, our veterans and their families, and veterans are begging the government to recognize the sacred obligation they are owed.

To add insult to injury, the Liberals have even hired the same lawyer, Paul Vickery, who was contracted by the Conservatives to fight this case. It is the same lawyer, the same situation, the same lawsuit that Liberals denounced in the House not so long ago, and I am wondering why. The Liberals made their commitment to veterans very clear just a year ago in their platform, which states:

Veterans and their families have earned our respect and gratitude. It is time our government lived up to its sacred obligation to them. Our plan will give back to those who have given so much in service to all Canadians, and will ensure that no veteran has to fight the government for the support and compensation they have earned.

My simple question is this. Why is the government, despite campaigning a year ago with the promise to respect veterans, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting wounded veterans in court instead of spending that money to ensure that those veterans receive the benefits and services they require, the benefits and services to which they are entitled?

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it was with great pride that I had the privilege of serving in the regular forces for a number of years and had the opportunity to march with veterans on many special occasions, and I am very happy with the way this government has been addressing this very important file.

Allow me to provide the member with a more formal response by stating that with any issue in this place, it is important to represent all the facts accurately.

I will point out that this lawsuit began years ago. Like her, I find it deeply regrettable, and I know that the minister does as well, that veterans felt that they had to take the previous government to court to ensure their own well-being.

While we would rather the plaintiffs were not still pursuing this avenue, we acknowledge their right to do so. That said, our government is working to address the issues raised in this court case. It is precisely because of this situation that the Minister of Veterans Affairs was given the strong mandate to restore access to services for veterans and to ensure long-term financial security and independence for disabled veterans and their families.

I would like to point out that the mandate letter addresses most of the concerns laid out in this lawsuit, including the option of a lifelong pension. We are committed to delivering on that mandate and to getting it right in a timely manner, not getting it wrong quickly.

When it comes to veterans' financial security, this government is not backtracking. Budget 2016 delivered $5.6 billion in additional financial security for veterans.

We invested $2.6 billion to increase the earnings loss benefit. The ELB is a temporary income replacement to support a veteran financially through physical rehabilitation, vocational retraining, and counselling. Under the previous government, a veteran received 75% of his or her pre-release salary. With budget 2016, that benefit increased to 90%. These changes came into effect October 1, 2016.

In addition, the permanent impairment allowance was changed to better address veterans' individual needs. Renamed the career impact allowance, it will see each veteran's injury or impairment assessed individually instead of having their situation fit into a predefined category. This will better determine the impact an impairment might have on a veteran's career advancement opportunities. These changes come into effect next April 1.

The third benefit to be improved and enhanced in budget 2016 is the disability award, a tax-free payment that recognizes the pain and suffering a service-related disability causes in one's life. As of April 1, 2017, the maximum disability award payment will rise from $310,000 to $360,000. Those already receiving a disability award will receive a top-up backdated to April 2016.

We deliberately packaged these improvements together to help veterans and their families get ahead by putting money in their pockets now and ensuring that no one falls through the cracks.

When military service is prematurely ended, we are determined to do all we can for our courageous men and women in uniform. We are actively engaging veterans and veterans' organizations to hear directly from them. The minister established six advisory groups and held three stakeholder summits, including one that concluded two weeks ago, as part of his commitment to improve transparency and seek consultation on issues of importance to veterans and their families.

This is, indeed, a very important issue and has been for this government since day one, and even when we were in opposition. The entire Liberal caucus stands behind our veterans, and we will do what we can to support them.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have heard over and over about the minister's mandate letter and the promises that have been made.

We have seen a slow trickle of some of the promises, a slow reopening of some Veterans Affairs offices, and some additional money for injured veterans, but nothing of the promised pensions or the significant reforms that are desperately needed.

Veterans are falling through the cracks. Those cracks are deep, and our veterans are not getting the help they need.

Will the government live up to its sacred obligation to all veterans and ensure that they, no matter when they served, receive the services and benefits they are entitled to? Will the government support a one-veteran-one-standard approach and work quickly to make the necessary changes so that no one falls through the cracks?

Will it abandon this disgraceful lawsuit?

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, since he was named to the post last year, the minister has held three stakeholder summits to hear directly from veterans, their families, and veterans' organizations on this and other important issues, and to work toward the best way to deliver on his aggressive mandate in a way that would work best for them. Veterans want us to get the pension issue right. They told us they want to be consulted and to work with us to find a better solution. We are doing just that.

The minister has been clear, as has the Prime Minister. Canadian veterans will receive the quality benefits and services to which they are entitled. They will be treated with the care, compassion, and respect their service and sacrifices have earned them.

As I indicated, I had the privilege of marching with many veterans when I served in the regular services. I believe the government is on the right track in making sure our veterans are getting the services they require and justly deserve.

Disaster AssistanceAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to bring back a question to the government relating to disaster assistance in northern Saskatchewan. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the shortfalls that northern remote communities live through have been going on for far too long.

Communities are neglected. Their resilience is inspiring me to be here and to speak out. To show children, the elders, and their communities that they matter, we must make sure that they are treated with respect and are provided with the appropriate attention and resources. This means investing in adequate mental health services and cultural activities. It also means investing in the broader sphere, including complementary infrastructure such as roads, energy systems, broadband connectivity, and what we are here to talk about today, disaster assistance to mitigate the effects of natural and/or climate change related disasters.

I stood in the House a few months ago as a fire was inching its way into Saskatchewan from Fort McMurray. I asked the government about the kind of support it had offered to communities like Buffalo River, Clearwater River, and La Loche, to name a few. These communities were being affected by low air quality and were increasingly concerned about the spread of the fire in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, I have not received a reassuring response from the government.

Maybe not many people know this, but northern Saskatchewan is a region where the effects of global warming stand out all too often. Northern trappers, hunters, fishermen, farmers, and harvesters are well aware of climate change and are very concerned with the affects it brings. They should also be part of the solution.

One major example among many others is the increase in wildfires. Climate change is leading to higher temperatures and drier conditions, which make the sky ripe for dry lightning. Professor Toddi Steelman, a leading expert in the country on wildfires, stated that communities living near forests will have to learn how to coexist with fire better because she thinks this is what we are going to see in the near future.

In the summer of 2015, northern Saskatchewan experienced a horrible wildfire. Residents are still living with its effects today. This last summer, several fire bans were issued across the region because of the high risk.

The 2015 annual forest fire assessment by Natural Resources Canada says a warming climate will contribute to a 50% increase in large fires, new tree diseases, and more insect infestations. Although scientists say it is difficult to link any single natural disaster, such as a flood or fire, to man-made global warming, the frequency and intensity of such events has been increasing and is likely to continue, especially in a northern country like Canada.

Saskatchewan saw fires burn three times its 10-year provincial average area. Scientists agree that this reality should motivate concern and activity to better prepare over the coming decades to reduce the impacts of global warming. In the meanwhile, communities need to feel they can manage the effects of global warming.

Saskatchewan is prone to more disasters. Northerners want to know if they can count on their federal government to be prepared for assistance when difficult situations arise. First, I would like the minister to inform us about the disaster assistance efforts that were provided, particularly to the communities who were affected by the wildfire this summer in my riding.

Second, how is the government going to invest its community infrastructure and training budget to ensure that in the long run communities will be better equipped and trained to mitigate the effects of such natural disasters?

Disaster AssistanceAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Montarville Québec

Liberal

Michel Picard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the opportunity to address the concerns raised with respect to wildfire preparedness in Saskatchewan and the government's commitment to providing disaster assistance for the Fort McMurray wildfire and the surrounding areas, including areas on reserve.

The Fort McMurray fire affected over 580,000 hectares of land, not only in Alberta but also in Saskatchewan. This devastating wildfire resulted in approximately 90,000 people being evacuated and 2,400 structures destroyed. However, I am grateful to say that because of the courage and bravery of the first responders, there were no casualties directly resulting from the fire.

Emergency management in Canada is a shared responsibility between all levels of government. While provinces and territories manage actual firefighting resources on the ground, each year the federal government develops a seasonal wildfire risk assessment and corresponding contingency plan. The plan guides the federal government in preparing for and responding to any potential requests for federal assistance.

The Government Operations Centre, housed in Public Safety Canada, monitors events on a 24/7 basis, and issues notifications and situation reports, as well as creates dedicated event teams when fire activity becomes significant, as it did for Fort McMurray.

The Government of Canada was engaged from the outset to ensure a coordinated response and deployment of the appropriate federal resources and assets. Throughout the events in Fort McMurray, the Government of Canada provided a great deal of support to the province of Alberta in an effort to limit the impacts on Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities.

For example, the Government of Canada, working with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, facilitated a request for additional resources by the province of Alberta in the form of domestic and international firefighting personnel and equipment. Key federal departments coordinated this request to ensure that over 500 international firefighters from the United States, South Africa, and Mexico, arrived without delay. These additional firefighting resources, combined with favourable weather conditions, allowed for a more efficient response to the fire, preventing further risk to additional communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Every fire season, the federal government monitors fire activity throughout the country and assesses the impact of specific fire activity on communities, critical infrastructure, and the national interest. Should any province request federal assistance, the Government Operations Centre will efficiently and expeditiously fulfill the request and lead a coordinated response on behalf of the federal government, as was the case with the Fort McMurray wildfire.

The Government of Canada is reviewing its response throughout the 2016 wildfire season and incorporating lessons learned from the Fort McMurray event into its forward planning activities.

Disaster AssistanceAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate the concern about the long-term effects of global warming on the everyday lives of northerners. This includes first nations communities, rural municipalities, farming communities, and small towns.

Scientists are warning us about what the future holds for us. While efforts to mitigate global warming are necessary, the government must also be ready to assist residents in remote communities by providing them with the appropriate disaster assistance, training, and infrastructure.

My constituents are counting on their government to meet their needs to mitigate the effects of wildfires and other natural disasters. Our elders, knowledge keepers, and communities are eager to provide their suggestions to reduce the negative impacts of global warming.