OTTAWA (CCN) — Jeff Durham says he feels betrayed by the defeat of Cassie and Molly’s law Oct. 19, a bill named after his murdered unborn daughter and her mother, Cassie Kaake.
Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall’s private member’s Bill C-225 that would have made it an additional criminal offence to injure or kill an unborn child while committing a crime against his or her mother was defeated on second reading in the House of Commons by a 209-76 vote.
For Wagantall, the bill was her last opportunity to present private member’s business in the House after the next election.
“They shut it right out of committee, which was just wrong,” said Wagantall in an interview. If the Liberals and the NPP had “issues as they claim, they could have raised them there.”
“They did not have a challenge to our legal opinion,” that the bill would have no impact on legal abortion, she said.
Despite tens of thousands of signatures and a poll showing nearly 70 per cent of Canadians would support such a bill, the vast majority of elected representatives chose to vote “against any conversation,” Durham said. He pointed out the vote was not on a final bill, but on whether it would go to committee for further study. “It was voting on discussing the situation.”
“They voted that this wasn’t a problem for them. They voted it shouldn’t be a woman’s choice, but it should be anybody’s choice to terminate a woman’s pregnancy.”
Cassie or Cassandra Kaake was seven months pregnant with Molly when they were murdered in Windsor, Ont., in December 2014. Though a man has been charged with Cassie’s murder and has undergone a preliminary trial, no additional charges were laid for Molly’s death.
“We feel that the whole point has been missed,” said Durham, who speaks for Cassie’s mother Nancy Kaake, other family members and the wider community that has grown around his MollyMatters.org campaign for justice. “The whole point for us was protecting a woman’s choice. Her choice to have an abortion is already protected. Nobody wants to protect her choice when she chooses to take her child to term.”
Meanwhile, Durham and all the people who loved Cassie and eagerly awaited Molly’s birth, continue to await the outcome of the murder case, which has yet to reach a conclusion. “It’s all been difficult,” he said. “The fact is, whatever the possible outcomes, with what is in place now, he will not be held accountable for the reality of the crime.”
“Two lives ended,” he said. “Two of our family members were brutally slain.”
Though Durham is not sure what he will do next, he said his campaign for justice will continue. He expressed gratitude for the level of support MollyMatters.org has received across Canada.
“We will keep on going even if nobody supported us,” he said. It is a matter of justice, because the way the criminal justice presently treats families like his and the many others who lose mothers and unborn children through violence creates a “massive indignity to the victims.”
“For us, it feels like we’re being re-victimized,” he said.
Wagantall said she will continue to present petitions in the House of Commons aimed at protecting pregnant women and their unborn children from violence. She will help with “anything Jeff and Nancy need,” she said. “I value them very highly and I will continue to do what I can personally as well.”
Wagantall had argued in the House the Criminal Code has “no component” to “protect pregnant women from violence. This gap is leaving women vulnerable.”
Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime endorsed her bill.
Opponents objected to her bill on grounds it could provide a “back door to abortion,” she told the House during the bill’s second and final hour of debate Oct. 17. “Because this bill would only affect existing crimes, and abortion is not criminal, Cassie and Molly’s law would have no impact on abortion services,” she stressed.
“This vote tells us that our members of Parliament are unwilling to take a small step in increasing consequences for violence against women in Canada,” said WeNeedaLaw.ca director Mike Schouten. “They continue to ignore cries for justice and instead allow fear of the abortion discussion to colour their decisions regarding women’s health and safety.”
“Medical teams will fight to save premature babies, yet our criminal justice system will not take a stand against violence targeting pregnant women, he said. “This devalues the choice of the hundreds of thousands of women each year who desire to carry their child safely to term.”