Paul Tuns:

Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton-Melville) introduced her private member’s bill, C-311, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (violence against pregnant women), on Jan. 31.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Wagantall said, “It is my honour to rise to introduce this private member’s bill, which would go a long way to addressing violence against some of the most vulnerable people in our society, pregnant women.” She explained her bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code “to ensure that the acts of knowingly assaulting a pregnant woman and causing physical or emotional harm to a pregnant woman are factored in as aggravating circumstances during the sentencing process.”

Wagantall noted that “the risk of violence against women increases when they are pregnant” but that “consequences for their attackers do not increase at all.” She said, “There are more than 80 cases in recent Canadian history of women who have been killed while pregnant” and that, “Each of these women was killed by men who knew they were pregnant (and) the killers intentionally sought to do harm to the mother or, in many cases, end the pregnancy.” She said, “As it stands at this moment, our justice system fails to take these actions into account.” Wagantall insisted, “Canada is failing its pregnant women and the children they have chosen to carry to term.”

The preamble to the bill notes, “Whereas Parliament wishes to denounce and deter violence against pregnant women by explicitly including pregnancy as an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing,” C-311 would amend the Criminal Code to require judges to consider whether offenders who commit violence against women they know are pregnant and if the offence caused physical or emotion harm to a pregnant victim.

C-311 does not go so far as previous unborn victims of abortion private member’s bills that would have allowed police to charge assailants with assault or murder charges if a preborn child was harmed during the commission of a crime. Wagantall said she was “confident” C-311 would “receive widespread support from a House that stands united against gender-based violence in all its forms.”

Liberal MP Pam Damoff (Oakville-North Burlington) tweeted her opposition to C-311: “#CPC (Conservative Party) continue their push to restrict women’s rights and access to abortion … Canadian women have the right to choose and will not let you turn back the clock.”

Campaign Life Coalition Youth replied via tweet with the full text of C-311, which does not mention abortion, and asking, “to which part of the bill do you take objection?”

CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson said that Damoff’s criticism of C-311 “probably indicates that the extreme pro-abortion position of the Liberal government means they will oppose this common-sense legislation designed to protect and provide justice to pregnant women who are victims of violent crimes.”