Cathay Wagantall, a member of parliament from Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan, commissioned a Nanos poll to test support for her private member's bill C-225 Cassie and Molly's Law introduced in February. Photo/Public Domain Pictures

Poll shows Canadians favour criminal charges for intentionally harming fetus

  • August 4, 2016

OTTAWA – Most Canadians would support a law allowing separate charges for injuring or killing an unborn child while committing a violent crime against the mother, a poll commissioned by a Saskatchewan MP has found.

Cathay Wagantall commissioned the Nanos poll to test support for her private member’s bill C-225 Cassie and Molly’s law introduced in February.

“It was important to me to get a real sense of how Canadians feel about this topic,” said Wagantall.

The Nanos Research Poll conducted nationally in July shows about 70 per cent of Canadians would support or somewhat support a law making it a separate crime to harm a fetus while attacking a pregnant woman.

“We’ve heard of instances where someone punches (the expecting mother) in the stomach because he doesn’t want the child,” Wagantall said. “It’s a minor injury to her, but the child’s life is lost. Right now, the only charge could be a charge of assault on the mother.”

The poll found half of Canadians say penalties should be more severe for harming a pregnant women. Canadians are more likely to support Molly and Cassie’s law if it doesn’t impact legal abortion, and nearly two-thirds say it’s possible to have a law protecting pregnant women and their unborn children from violence without interfering with abortion.

Bill C-225 responded to the 2014 murder of Cassie Kaake of Windsor, Ont. Her daughter Molly, who was only weeks from birth, died too, but the charges could not take into consideration the death of her unborn child. Cassie and Molly’s law would create a new Criminal Code offence for crimes committed knowingly against pregnant women that result in injury or death to their unborn children.

When women are pregnant it is “one of the most vulnerable times” in their lives, Wagantall said.

“Often women are attacked because they are pregnant.”

Pregnancy also makes it more difficult for a woman to defend herself from criminal attack, Wagantall said.

She noted Statistics Canada reported 63,000 pregnant women were victims of domestic violence between 2004-2009. She hopes the passage of her law will send a message to anyone who hopes to disrupt a pregnancy by harming the mother.

“This poll shows the need for this law to come into place,” she said.

Molly’s father, Jeff Durham, who launched a web site to obtain justice, played a role in persuading Wagantall to table the bill. Wagantall pointed out Durham has been so active because he lost not only his wife, but also his unborn daughter.

“He has sacrificed lots of time to bring this issue to the attention of the Canadian public,” she said. “People are shocked to know there’s no regard for the loss of the child.”

The poll also found 52 per cent of Canadians believe there should be a time limit on when abortion is allowed, somewhere between three and six months of pregnancy.

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