The murder of Pickering, Ont.'s Arianna Goberdhan, who was nine months pregnant, has revived calls for Ottawa to amend the Criminal Code to recognize unborn victims of crime. Photo from Sherry Goberdhan via Facebook

Murder of pregnant mom, unborn child revives call for new law

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  • April 11, 2017

OTTAWA – The murder of a pregnant mother and her unborn child has revived calls for Ottawa to amend the Criminal Code to recognize unborn victims of crime.

Arianna Goberdhan of Pickering, Ont., was found stabbed to death in her home April 7. She was nine months pregnant and her baby also died.

“Tragically, two horrific deaths will result in only a single charge relating to Ms. Goberdhan. Canadian criminal law, again, will refuse to recognize her baby,” said Mike Schouten, director of WeNeedaLAW.ca.

Nicholas Tyler Baig, Goberdhan’s husband, faces second-degree murder charges in his wife’s death.

If the baby had been born alive, and then died due to injuries, the man would face additional charges for the death, Schouten said. The law, however, does not provide for an additional charge if the baby dies in utero as a result of a violent crime against the mother.

“It’s unconscionable that we live in a country that does not protect a woman’s choice. While the Liberal government purports to care about gender-based violence, it appears to be mere lip service,” said Schouten.

The death of 27-year-old Goberdhan and her baby comes months after Parliament rejected a private-member’s bill dubbed Cassie and Molly’s law that would have amended the Criminal Code to permit charges against someone who harmed an unborn child while assaulting a woman they knew to be pregnant.

Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall’s private member’s bill had no support from the Liberals or NDP and was defeated last October by a 209-76 vote. The bill was named in honour of Cassie Kaake and her unborn daughter Molly who were murdered in Windsor, Ont., in 2014.

One Conservative leadership candidate, former MP Pierre Lemieux, has vowed to introduce an unborn victim’s crime act if he wins the race and eventually becomes prime minister.

“There is something fundamentally wrong with our current laws which do not protect both the mother and the child that she has chosen to bear,” Lemieux said in an email statement. “Given recent events, simply allowing private members’ bills this is not enough.

“Government legislation that protects pregnant women and their babies from violent crime is needed,” he said.

“I will also add pregnancy to the list of aggravating factors for sentencing to ensure that pregnant women are properly protected,” Lemieux said. “As this weekend’s tragic event demonstrates, we cannot afford to wait.”

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