Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-225. At the outset, I want to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for bringing forward this important and much-needed legislation to protect women and close a glaring void in justice under the Criminal Code.
The legislation is appropriately named after Cassie Durham and her preborn daughter, Molly. Just 10 weeks away from giving birth to Molly, Cassie was brutally murdered. Cassie's killer was appropriately charged with first degree murder. However, what charges did Cassie's killer face for targeting Cassie as a pregnant woman and terminating a perfectly viable pregnancy against the wishes of Cassie? The answer is that no charges were laid, because there were no charges to be laid under the Criminal Code.
In 2005, Olivia Talbot was pregnant with her preborn son, Lane Jr. Like Cassie Durham, Olivia Talbot was brutally murdered. Her killer shot at Olivia three times and by his own admission he specifically targeted Lane Jr., yet no charges could be laid for those crimes.
The victims' families, Olivia Talbot's, Cassie Durham's, and other families, ask where the justice is. Where is the justice when there is no provision in the Criminal Code that would hold criminals who target pregnant women accountable? Where is the justice when there is no provision in the Criminal Code to hold accountable those persons who violently terminate a woman's pregnancy against that woman's choice? The answer to those families who ask, “Where is the justice?” is that there is no justice.
The stories of Cassie Durham and Olivia Talbot are not isolated stories. Indeed, over the last 15 years some 24 reported cases have involved women being attacked or murdered while pregnant.
There are some who say this legislation is not necessary. They say, simply provide that, for those who target pregnant women, that can be an aggravating factor in sentencing. It already is an aggravating factor in sentencing in common law. Bill C-225 would codify the common law and that is a step in the right direction. However, simply providing that targeting a pregnant woman is an aggravating factor at sentencing is not sufficient for justice to be truly done.
An important component of our criminal justice system is that criminals are held accountable for all of the crimes they commit against their victims and not just some of the crimes. However, clearly in the cases of Cassie Durham and Olivia Talbot their killers were only charged and held accountable for some of the crimes, not all of the crimes. That is unjust.
With respect to sentencing, we can take for example someone who knowingly targets a pregnant woman, assaults her, and in the process of the assault terminates her viable pregnancy. What would happen to that individual if targeting a pregnant woman were merely an aggravating factor? It is likely that the individual would be charged with aggravated assault. The maximum penalty for aggravated assault is 14 years, and because it is an aggravating factor, it is more likely that the perpetrator would be sentenced closer to 14 years than less, which is a positive thing.
Let us face the reality that what would have occurred in that situation is something more than aggravated assault. A woman's viable pregnancy would have been terminated against her will, her bodily integrity infringed upon, and her choice as a woman violated.
Bill C-225 recognizes that reality and would give judges the tools they need to hold criminals who commit those kinds of crimes truly accountable by potentially putting those types of criminals away a lot longer than 14 years.
There are some who say, and we have heard it today from several hon. members who spoke, that this is really about reopening the abortion debate. The fact is that, in Canada, abortion is available and lawful for the full nine months of a woman's pregnancy, and Bill C-225 does absolutely nothing to change that fact.
Not only does Bill C-225 do nothing to change that fact, but Bill C-225 expressly provides that a preborn child is not a human being in law, to leave no ambiguity and no confusion: Bill C-225 has absolutely nothing to do with abortion.
What Bill C-225 has a lot to do with, however, is justice. It is justice for women who are targeted because they are pregnant; justice for women who are injured because they are pregnant; justice for women whose rights are violated; and justice for women by ensuring that those who violate the rights of women are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Let us, as a House of Commons, do what is right, what is fair, and what is just. Let us close this glaring loophole in justice under the Criminal Code, and pass Bill C-225.