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BTC: ‘It has become clear’


 

The full sentence is as follows: “It has become clear that Canadians wish to see more serious consequences for those who attack a woman while she is pregnant.” That’s Justice Minister Rob Nicholson explaining today’s announcement of an intention to table legislation on the matter, assuming the Prime Minister doesn’t dissolve Parliament in the next two weeks.

Various questions followed on the politics of this, but at least a couple reporters apparently wanted to know what had become clear and how clarity had been achieved. Their questions and the corresponding responses, copy-and-pasted from the transcript.

Moderator: Ben O’Hara, CanWest.

O’Hara: Mr. Nicholson, just on a more concrete (inaudible) for this bill.  How big a problem is violence against pregnant women? What was, concretely, what was the problem with the sentencing out there? Was there, did you go back and do some real look into, to figure out whether or not this was an actual problem out there, that people who are hurting pregnant women were getting soft sentences compared to what you think they should be getting?

Nicholson: I think what we are doing, and we’re doing on all of this, I mean, it’s, it’s against the law to sell drugs in this country but we are bringing forward a bill that makes a very clear statement as to where this government stands, whether it be on drugs, guns, violence against women.  We are making a very clear statement and we’re indicating to the courts that this will be a consideration anytime violence is directed towards a pregnant woman.  So I think consistent with what we have been doing and that is to make it very clear as to where we stand on all these issues.  And so it’s certainly consistent with what we’ve been doing at the, up to this point. 

O’Hara: But the way you’re discussing it, one would assume that this is an urgent matter for the government to deal with. You seem to, coming here to announce it. This is something that needs to be done urgently.  Is this an urgent problem?

Nicholson: I have a sense of urgency, believe me, with everything in our criminal law agenda. And I’ve indicated we’re moving forward with changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. We’ve moved forward on tougher sentences for people who commit crimes with guns. We have a bill before Parliament right now with respect to drugs that I think sends out the very correct message as to this government’s attitude towards people who sell drugs in this country. And so it hasn’t been easy to get our agenda. As I’ve indicated to people, I’m part of a political party that’s alone on this.  We are the ones who are consistently prepared to stand up and fight against crime across this country and it’s been a lonely pursuit in the House of Commons looking for support on that. But this is certainly consistent with everything that we have done for the last couple of years.

Moderator: Allan Woods.

Woods: Minister, you come here with this announcement. There’s no draft legislation, there’s no background. (Inaudible) of, what it seems is no impact estimate. How long have you been working on this?

Nicholson: We’re working on all issues within the criminal justice issue. I can tell you that I haven’t introduced other than the changes that were made in C-25 under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but I can tell you we’ll be moving forward on that.  So I’m giving you a preview of what we will be introducing in the fall and the changes that I have talked about today and changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act will be a part of that. 

Woods: (inaudible – off microphone) determine how well it’s been thought through.  So it’s a couple of days or, or…?

Nicholson: We, we think through, everything gets well thought through in this government and I’ve been very pleased to be a part of a portfolio that has moved forward with those items that we promised Canadians in the 2006 election  And as I always indicate to my colleagues when it comes to fighting crime in this country, we’re just getting started.


 
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BTC: ‘It has become clear’

  1. A very few moments of research shows that the courts do, indeed, take crimes against pregnant women very seriously:

    From R c. Pilon (Docket: C.A. Qué. Montréal 500-10-003910-070):

    First, the accused committed a violent act toward his de facto spouse while she was pregnant and caused her significant injuries. This is an aggravating factor.

    From R .v Brown (Docket: V01368)

    The facts accepted by the jury are considerably more aggravated than many sexual assault cases that come before our courts. A pregnant young lady was abducted under threats of violence. The knife used was a weapon that would strike fear into the heart of any normal person. The length of time of this incident and the declarations of harm, not only to Leann Pennell but to her child, are some of the aggravating features of this assault.

    From R. v. Thompson: (Docket: Doc. 77/90/CA)

    We are of the opinion that there were aggravating factors in this case which justified the imposition of a custodial sentence. As the trial Judge put it, it is difficult to understand Mr. Thompson’s brutality in kicking Ms. Claus who is his common-law wife and who was seven months pregnant with his child.

  2. And their agenda, for the most part, is becoming law. But both the above and this gets in the way of the image Harper’s harpies want the average Canadian to digest — crime is bad, it’s everywhere and only the CONservatives will stop it.
    Those pesky journalists keep asking questions, however. You think they needed to know, or something.

  3. Didn’t you hear Nicholson a couple of weeks ago? The Conservatives don’t make policy based on statistics and facts, they make them based on their guts!

  4. more serious consequences for those who attack a woman while she is pregnant

    Presumably on the premise that there is a second victim to the attack. Well, ok, fair enough. But how often is the consequence more severe right now when there are two non-pregnant victims (as opposed to a single victim) of violence? Lawyers and judges are invited to clarify, but too often I get the sense that a violent attack on a single victim is not that differently punished than a violent attack on more than one. It’s almost like the extra attacks are “free” when sentences are served concurrently for multiple charges, or charges are not fully laid in the first place, or whatever.
    Legislate guaranteed harsher penalties for violence against multiple victims in the first place, then feel free to count a pregnant woman as multiple victims, and you’ll pass my smell test.

  5. I fear the passage of this law for one reason and one reason only: if it is indeed possible to ‘murder’ a fetus, it would place us on a slippery slope, no?

  6. So the CPC withdrew the bill affirming the legal status of the unborn simply because it would have been troublesome during the election.

    Right. If pro-choice Canadians can’t figure out from this what a re-elected, unfettered Harper government would do, then we are doomed.

    – JV

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