In past federal election campaigns, it would have been laughable to suggest that pre-born human rights would be a probable issue to be discussed by party leaders. The 2015 campaign may well be different. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau seems intent on discussing the issue at every opportunity. He hasn’t backed down from his unilateral decision last year to force all members of his caucus to vote pro-choice. In spite of criticisms from both within – who can forget MP John McKay’s “bozo eruption” comment – and outside his party, Trudeau has stood by his position.
While the Liberal leader’s pro-choice stance is principally the same as all the party leaders, he clearly went farther than any other with his ‘no choice but pro-choice’ declaration; he has essentially bound the consciences of all Liberal members on a moral issue. What is not surprising is that, in taking this seemingly dictatorial stance, Trudeau has not lost support. In other words, his edict was not a bozo eruption.
The Liberal leader and his advisors have built political capital by taking a traditionally divisive issue and turning it from a losing one into a winning one. A number of tactical decisions have led to this and one of them is the consistent use of the term ‘reproductive choice’. Even though reproductive choice cannot possibly include abortion – a procedure which terminates an already reproduced human being – using the term allows Trudeau to avoid the use of the ‘a’ word. It is a slight-of-hand that has, for the most part, gone unchallenged. Misinformed supporters listen to Trudeau’s declarations as if somehow a woman’s right to equality is founded solely on her ability to terminate the life of her pre-born child. On the other hand, a large component of the Conservative party base grow increasingly frustrated by a Prime Minister who is too afraid to counter the mistruths Trudeau promulgates.
The result is that we remain a country with an immense legal void when it comes to the protection of rights of children at any stage before birth. This legal void continues to result in real life tragedies for Canadian families.
Consider the story of Cassandra Kaake. Cassie was found bludgeoned to death in a burned out Windsor, Ontario residence on December 11th last year. Her murder is a tragedy, but she wasn’t the only one who lost a life that night. Cassie was 30 weeks pregnant; her baby girl – she had already named her Molly – was killed in the attack too. Yet her daughter, though recognized as a child, is not recognized as a “human being” under Canadian criminal law because she had not yet exited her mother’s womb. And because of that legal deficiency, no murder charge will ever be laid against the person who took Molly’s life. The “reproductive choice” Cassandra made when she decided to carry Molly to term was brutally stolen from her and her family. Where is the justice for Molly? Where is the politician speaking out for Cassie’s choice?
The Kaake family is campaigning for the re-introduction of the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. This piece of legislation, Bill C-484, was introduced in 2007 by MP Ken Epp. It passed Second Reading in Parliament but failed to become law because an election was called in the fall of 2008. However, Epp’s bill had cross-party support and there is still majority support for it today. Even Prime Minister Harper voted in favour of it!
If the hastened debate on Bill C-51 is any indication, the government could certainly pass a pre-born victims law before the current Parliamentary session is over. In doing what is right the Prime Minister could expose the extremist views of both the NDP and the Liberals. In fact, Windsor West MP Brian Masse (NDP) has already indicated that while he is sympathetic to the Kaake family’s loss he would not vote in favour of any legislative change. “There is real concern about that process and the constitutionality of it,” he said when asked by a local reporter. In other words, he’s not interested in justice for Molly.
The reality is a pre-born victims of crime law has nothing to do with abortion. Abortion is legal in Canada throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy for any reason. A pre-born victims law does nothing to change this. A pre-born victims bill modeled after Bill C-484 would not criminalize abortion and could not be interpreted as Parliament restricting a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. Currently, when a pregnant woman is attacked and her assailant causes harm or kills her pre-born child, no charge can be laid in the death of the woman’s child, even if the sole purpose of the attacker was to kill her child. The Kaake family, together with the vast majority of Canadians, wants this injustice corrected by creating an offence in law for causing harm to the pre-born child during the perpetration of a violent crime against the child’s mother.
It’s clear that Justin Trudeau is willing to discuss reproductive choice. He is resolute in his belief that a woman has a right to her own reproductive choices. The question for Trudeau and his supporters is whether they will stand with those who have chosen to carry to term. The Prime Minister should consider engaging Trudeau by introducing a pre-born victims of crime bill. In doing so he would be shown to be the compassionate, reasonable leader who is standing up for women and children and victims of crime. As for Trudeau – he will be forced to show Canadians if he really does believe what he says.