Canada provides no legal recognition or protection for pre-born children. Our failure to recognize pre-born children as human beings means they are left unprotected throughout all of pregnancy. This also means they cannot be counted as victims when they are killed as the result of violent crime. There are more than 70 cases in recent Canadian history where pregnant women have been murdered and their pre-born child not counted as a victim.
Over the years, various Members of Parliament have spoken to this issue, and attempted to introduce laws recognizing these pre-born children as the victims they are. Here’s a brief snapshot of that history.
In 2007, Conservative MP Ken Epp introduced the Unborn Victims of Crime Act (Bill C-484). This opened a discussion about pre-born victims of crime and drew attention to a gap in Canada’s law: unborn victims are not counted by our criminal justice system because they were not legally recognized as human beings. This bill passed second reading by a close vote and was sent to a committee for study. The session of Parliament ended before third reading could occur, and the bill died on the order paper.
In April 2010, MP Rod Bruinooge introduced Bill C-510, An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort. This private member’s bill was commonly referred to as Roxanne’s Law, in honour of Roxanne Fernando, whose boyfriend tried to pressure her into having an abortion in 2007. When she refused, he had her killed. The bill sought to penalize anyone who coerced a woman into ending her pregnancy. The bill was voted down in Parliament later that year.
In 2016, Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall introduced the Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Pre-born Children Act (Bill C-225). The bill was also referred to as Cassie and Molly’s Law, in honour of Cassandra Kaake and her pre-born child Molly who were murdered in Pickering, ON when Cassie was 7 months pregnant. It sought to have pre-born children recognized as victims of violent crime when their mothers were victimized. This bill was voted down as a result of abortion politics, with opponents arguing against any legal recognition of pre-born children.
In 2022, Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall introduced the Violence Against Pregnant Women Act (Bill C-311). This bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code by adding two aggravating factors for sentencing to the list in Section 718.2:
- Evidence that the offender abused a person whom the offender knew to be pregnant;
- Evidence that the offence caused physical or emotional harm to a pregnant victim.
This means that, when a judge is dealing with a person who assaulted a pregnant woman and caused injury to her pre-born child, the judge will consider those factors in sentencing. All else being equal, that person will receive a harsher sentence than a similar offender who assaulted a non-pregnant person. This would help make the sentence match the crime.