Mike Schouten of Weneedalaw.ca at a booth at the Manning Centre Conference Feb. 26. He said he hopes Cathay Wagantall's Bill C-225 gets all party support Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Molly and Cassie’s Law aims to strengthen legal protection of unborn children

  • February 29, 2016

OTTAWA - A Saskatchewan MP has tabled a bill in the House of Commons aimed at deterring “senseless assaults” on pregnant women in Canada.

Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall’s Bill C-225 is aimed at protecting unborn children in the womb from crimes of violence perpetrated against their mothers. It’s the latest attempt over the last 15 years by backbenchers to get Parliament to make it an additional offense under the Criminal Code to harm or kill an unborn child while committing a crime of violence against the mother.

“The Criminal Code requires crucial reforms to ensure violent criminals are held accountable for their actions,” said Wagantall in a release. “Cassie and Molly`s law will create a legal mechanism that enhances the safety of Canadian women and recognizes the safety of their family.”

In a YouTube video, Wagantall said the “bill codifies the existing practice of treating pregnancy as an aggravating factor for the purpose of a sentencing process.”

Wagantall, who tabled Bill C-225 in the House of Commons Feb. 23, said she hoped her bill would “deter senseless assaults on pregnant women.” The bill would amend the Criminal Code to make for a separate offence to kill or injure an unborn child while committing violent a crime against a woman while knowing she is pregnant and would add stiff minimum sentences if the unborn child is killed or injured.

Dubbed the Protection for Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly’s Law), Bill C-225 is named after Cassandra Kaake and her daughter Molly, who were murdered Dec. 11, 2014 in Windsor, Ont. Kaake was seven months pregnant when her bludgeoned body was found after her home was set on fire.

Jeff Durham, Molly’s father, has been mounting a campaign to get justice for his daughter. He launched the web site Mollymatters.org and a petition. On the day that would have been Molly’s birthday, Feb. 14, 2015, he wrote an open letter to the then Conservative MP for Windsor-area MP Jeff Watson.

“Cassie was healthy and round and was as happy to be carrying a baby as you could ever see a woman be,” Durham wrote Watson. “Before this, we didn’t know that a perpetrator of such a heinous crime in Canada was only legally accountable for a crime against the mother.”

Watson, who lost the last election, said he is happy to see Wagantall has introduced the legislation.

“Mr. Durham has a powerful testimony born from unspeakable grief, but it’s a testimony Canadians need to hear,” he said.

Watson expressed hope the bill would not “get dragged into the quagmire of abortion politics when it doesn’t need to be. Our legal regime has to change.”

“We had a mother who was expecting and eagerly expecting,” he said. “Everyone knows it was a baby girl. The further insult is that the law in Canada only allows a single charge to get laid… There is nothing that upheld (Cassie’s) choice in the law to see and have this baby.”

Mike Schouten of Weneedalaw.ca insisted the bill is “not a Charter issue” and is “about protecting a woman’s right to choose.”

“When women exercise their right of choice to carry their child to term and somebody, through a violent act, takes that choice away, that woman’s choice should be respected by enacting a law that grants justice for the child that she had chosen to carry to term,” he said.

Wagantall’s bill follows MP Garry Breitkreuz, who had put forward a motion as early as 2004 to amend the Criminal Code so that anyone who murders a pregnant woman would also be charged with an additional offence for the death of the child. Other efforts were pushed by former MPs Leon Benoit, whose bill was deemed non-votable, and Ken Epp, whose 2007 Bill C-484 passed second reading 147-132 but died with the call of the 2008 election.

“Ken Epp’s bill had multi-party support,” Schouten said. “It was sent to the committee stage and there was a good likelihood it would have been passed into law.”

“We are grateful to our local NDP representatives in Windsor and Essex for taking the time to consider our plight and acknowledging that this is an issue that transcends party politics,” Durham said in a news release on Wagantall’s site.

He also thanked Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett for agreeing to present petitions in the House on his behalf.

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