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Guess who is coming to justice? These are the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. | House of Commons

Guess who is coming to justice? These are the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. | House of Commons

News

An Act to amend the Criminal Code Bill C-484 private member’s bill passes second reading - so what’s next?

by Jude MacDonald | March 11, 2008

Last Wednesday, Bill C-484 – An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence) – was read in the House of Commons for a second time. The vote – Yeas: 147; Nays: 132.

What does this result mean? That the bill has now been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

And now, many Canadians are wondering what that means.

a private matter

C-484 – also known as the Unborn Victims of Crime Act – is a Private Member Bill introduced by Conservative Member of Parliament Ken Epp. Because it was not a government bill, all the parties followed House of Commons tradition and allowed a free vote. Only the Bloc Québecois voted uniformly – against. The majority of Conservatives supported it. All but one New Democrat voted against. The Liberal Party was the most divided for and against the bill.

While supporters of this bill insist that it excludes abortion, choice activists are concerned that it opens up the question of “personhood” and rights for the fetus. They point to things like the number of times the word “child” is used in the bill: 15, to be exact. They also point to similar laws elsewhere, which can be (and are) used to control pregnant women.

Supporters of the bill point to increased rates of violence against pregnant women. While violence against women in general is a serious problem, the rate in fact increases with pregancy and soon after giving birth. A U.S. study discovered “that a pregnant or recently pregnant woman is more likely to be a victim of homicide than to die of any other cause.”

It raises the question: What do we as a society do to stop this violence?

abuse during pregnancy

  • 1 in 6 pregnant women are abused during pregnancy (Middlesex-London Health Unit, 2000).
  • Women abused during pregnancy were four times as likely as other abused women to report having experienced very serious violence, including being beaten up, choked, threatened with a gun/knife or sexually assaulted. (Health Canada, 2004).
  • Of the women who were abused during pregnancy, approximately 18% reported that they had suffered a miscarriage or other internal injuries as a result of the abuse. (Health Canada, 2004.)

— Peel Committee Against Woman Abuse

going through the motions

This bill has passed second reading. It is a long way from becoming law. And, right now is a perfect time for people to have their say about whether the Unborn Victims of Crime Act should move forward, whether it needs to be amended, or whether it should not be considered beyond the committee stage.

To become law, a bill must first be intoduced in either the Senate or the House of Commons. It must then pass through various stages in each House: first, second and third reading. Then it must receive Royal Assent.

—How a Government Bill becomes Law – Canada

With last week’s vote, the House agreed to refer Bill C-484 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It will be a while before we know when the committee plans to review the bill. We do know that it can ask witnesses and experts to speak about issues around the proposed legislation.

So there are a couple of things to do right now:

  1. Contact the full committee by sending a message to JUST@parl.gc.ca. Be sure to direct your message to Miriam Burke, Clerk of the committee.
    — Send in your name – or the name of your organization – for consideration when the committee begins its witness selection process.
    — Send a formal written statement to the full committee.
  2. Contact individual committee members. Below you will find their names, party affiliations, how they voted, email addresses and a link to each member’s general contact and information page. Let the one woman and 11 men on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights know what you are thinking. It’s what democracy is all about!
Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST)

Y = voted for Bill C-484
N = voted against Bill C-484
BQ=Bloc Québecois | C=Conservative | L=Liberal | NDP=New Democratic Party

chair
Y | Art Hanger (C) email: Hanger.A@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page

vice-chairs
N | Réal Ménard (BQ) email: Menard.R@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
N | Brian Murphy (L) email: Murphy.B@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page

members
N | Larry Bagnell (L) email: Bagnell.L@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
Y | Blaine Calkins (C) email: Calkins.B@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
N | Joe Comartin (NDP) email: comartin.j@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
Y | Rick Dykstra (C) email: Dykstra.R@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
N | Carole Freeman (BQ) email: Freeman.C@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
N | Dominic LeBlanc (L) email: Leblanc.D@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
Y | Derek Lee (L) email: Lee.D@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
Y | Rob Moore (C) email: Moore.R@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page
Y | Daniel Petit (C) email: Petit.D@parl.gc.ca | MP Profile page

A bit more background: politics, pregnancy and crime, section15.ca blog item | February 12, 2008

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