Local MP’s bill encounters stiff opposition

Despite initial optimism for multi-partisan support, Cathay Wagantall now says her private member’s bill currently being debated in the House of Commons is coming up against some stiff opposition.

The Yorkton-Melville MP is seeking to make it a separate criminal code offence “to cause injury or death to a preborn child while committing or attempting to commit an offence against a pregnant woman….” The law would also codify pregnancy as an aggravating circumstance for purposes of sentencing.

Bill C-225, dubbed Cassie and Molly’s Law is a response to the 2014 murder in Windsor, Ontario of Cassie Kaake, who was seven months pregnant with a daughter, Molly.

Pro-choice groups across the country have lined up against the bill fearing it is a backdoor attempt to re-open the abortion debate in Canada.

Wagantall, who is openly and vehemently pro-life disputes that saying she, along with Molly’s father Jeff Durham, who is pro-choice, specifically crafted the legislation not to redefine “human being” thereby protecting a woman’s right to choose while providing enhanced protection for those who have chosen to take their pregnancy to term.

As debate on the bill continued in Parliament last week, Wagantall was frustrated with Liberal MPs for what she said was “misleading their constituents about the real effects of Bill C-225.”

Wagantall’s office provided a letter to a constituent from the office of Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety and Liberal MP for Regina-Wascana, which outlines the Liberal position:

“For several reasons, the government cannot support this bill,” constituency assistand Robyn Sullivan wrote. “First of all, it fails to address the broader issue of violence against women. Secondly, the proposed offenses [sic] for harm done to a fetus pose multiple criminal law policy and Charter concerns.

“It’s important to note that criminal law already takes violence against women, including pregnant women, very seriously. The Criminal Code includes assault and homicide offences that apply to violence against pregnant women, and case law shows that courts consider abusing a pregnant women in committing an offence to be an aggravating factor and severe sentences are handed down for these offences.

“And finally, the Bill may serve to reopen the abortion debate. The government is strongly committed to a woman’s right to choose and cannot support legislation that could put this right into question.”

Wagantall views these criticisms as invalid citing a legal opinion to the contrary by a constitutional law firm called Supreme Advocacy, which she says is non-partisan.

“It is disappointing that Liberal MPs would choose to not be truthful with their own constituents about the purpose and effects of Cassie and Molly’s Law,” said Wagantall. “Rather than supporting an opposition MP’s private member’s bill or providing an accurate reason for not supporting it, this government simply misleads Canadians with fabricated claims that Bill C-225 would limit a woman’s right to choose an abortion.”

In any event, she told Yorkton This Week, the mere potential of a future constitutional challenge to a law should not stop Parliament from passing required legislation, which she passionately believes her bill is.

Goodale replied to the accusations of lying with a curt statement.

“Mrs. Wagantall is free to promote her point of view and to argue in support of her Private Member’s Bill,” the minister said. “Other MPs are equally entitled to have a different perspective on the facts and the law. The onus is on the sponsor of any private member’s bill to persuade enough of their colleagues to vote for their proposal.”

In addition to disputing the Liberal’s legal position, Wagantall cites heavy popular support. A Nanos poll commissioned by her office showed while 97 per cent of Canadians support a woman’s right to an abortion under varying circumstances, nearly 70 per cent are supportive of her bill. She says that indicates the law enjoys widespread support from both pro-choice and pro-life camps.

Passing a private member’s bill is frequently an uphill battle. It now appears that will the case for Bill-C225, popular support or not.

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