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e-4445 (Justice)

Initiated by Megan Johnston from Moosomin, Saskatchewan

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

  • Private Member’s Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (violence against pregnant women) creates an “aggravating circumstance” clause in the Criminal Code to allow for greater penalties when a pregnant person is attacked;
  • Abortion Rights Coalition Canada wrote an opposition paper where they argue that Bill C-311 is an anti-abortion bill, their arguments are as follows;
  • The bill is redundant as other clauses in that Criminal Code can cover pregnant victims;
  • Judges already have the discretion to apply greater penalties for aggravating circumstances;
  • Judges are not required to apply these clauses, only consider them;
  • The government can do better things to address gender-based violence than pass a criminal law;
  • No anti-violence group has expressed support for this bill, it is supported only by anti-choice groups and individuals;
  • The bill was introduced by MP Cathay Wagantall;
  • She introduced two defeated anti-abortion bills C- 233 and C- 225;
  • MP Wagantall’s website has both pro-choice and “pro-life” petitions in favour of this bill;
  • Both petitions mention abortion but the “pro-life” petition also uses language like “preborn children”; and
  • Anti-choice groups have been promoting Bill C-311 as a means to recognize two victims, this is a route to establish fetal personhood in law and if this bill passes, it would be leveraged for that purpose.
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to protect abortion rights in Canada and vote in opposition of Bill C-311.

Response by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Parliamentary Secretary James Maloney

Our Government will always defend a woman's right to choose. Women, and women alone, should decide what happens to their bodies. Private Member’s Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (violence against pregnant women), which proposed aggravating factors that would apply to sentencing cases involving pregnant victims, was being used as a stepping stone toward opening the abortion debate in Canada. The Bill was defeated at second reading in the House of Commons on June 14, 2023. The sponsor of this legislation has specifically noted she was trying to fill a so-called void on abortion law in Canada. Canadian women fought for decades to ensure they have access to abortion services here in Canada and our Government will prevent the right to choose from being undermined in any way. Any attempts to introduce abortion into the Criminal Code will be vigorously opposed by our Government.

Gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, has no place in Canada and our Government has made it a priority to end it in all its forms. Committing an offence against a pregnant victim is already an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes at common law.

The Criminal Code’s sentencing provisions require offenders to receive sentences that are proportionate to the gravity of the offence and to their degree of responsibility, taking into account aggravating factors, including evidence that the offender abused their intimate partner or a member of the victim’s or the offender’s family (paragraph 718.2(a)(ii)), and evidence that the offence had a significant impact on the victim, considering their age and other personal circumstances, including their health and financial situation, which includes consideration of a victim’s pregnancy (subparagraph 718.2(a)(iii.1)).

Bill C-311 would have actually made pregnant women less safe by narrowing the circumstances in which existing aggravating factors that protect pregnant victims apply. Specifically, the Bill’s first proposed aggravating factor would have only applied where there is evidence that the offender knew of the victim’s pregnancy. This could have unintentionally resulted in sentencing courts refusing to treat a victim’s pregnancy as an aggravating factor in cases where there is no such evidence.

The legislation was inconsistent with its stated purpose and we had concerns that it was yet another backdoor attempt to re-open the abortion debate in Canada, which should remain firmly closed.

Open for signature
May 12, 2023, at 4:16 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
September 9, 2023, at 4:16 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Laurel Collins (Victoria)
April 19, 2024 (Petition No. 441-02400)
Government response tabled
June 3, 2024
Photo - Laurel Collins
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia