2016: The Year the House of Commons Sacrificed the Safety and Well-Being of Women for the Comfort of Extremist DogmaPosted by Jeff Durham | Posts
It started with a protest in January. It was the beginning of the preliminary trial for the man who murdered my daughter. He was not being charged for this crime. At the same time, in the news was a story of a dog from the same area that had been beaten, bound, and left for dead. That story had caught national attention. A man had been charged and there was an outcry for the presiding judge to inflict the most severe sentence.
My daughter Molly, on the other hand, had no charges in relation to her death.
The dog’s nickname in the media was “Justice”. He is alive and healthy now. His abuser was given the most severe sentence.
In February, Molly’s Grandmother and I met with our local members of parliament. This would turn out to be our only meeting with them. At the time it seemed to be a success. They agreed that something could be done to the criminal code to acknowledge the crime against Cassie and our family.
They said they would help. They took the opportunity to appear sympathetic in the media, but in the end, that’s all they did.
After that we went to Ottawa to meet with MP Cathay Wagantall.
I had been discussing a bill with Mrs. Wagantall since December when she first contacted me about Molly Matters. We discussed a law that would see a kid like Molly represented in the charges when a crime of violence is committed against her mother. One would protect a woman’s right to choose to be a mother. One that had nothing to do with abortion. One that was named for Cassie and Molly.
On February 23rd she introduced her first private members bill titled, “Cassie and Molly’s Law”.
Almost immediately thereafter, it had come to my attention that the notorious abortion advocate Joyce Arthur began her efforts to muddy the waters. She had used her well established channels to urge the government to ignore our plight. She told them, “we can’t let the passage of laws or administration of justice be driven by the grief and anger of victims or their families.”
I had expected her to oppose any law that would acknowledge a woman’s choice to carry her baby safely to term for the simple fact that it had to acknowledge the existence of an unborn baby in the criminal code. I had done in-depth research into the matter and knew that, in Canada, Arthur was the most outspoken advocate against any legal protection for the choice of a woman who wanted to keep her pregnancy, but what truly shocked me was her unabashed request to the government that they ignore us outright.
She was urging the government to discriminate against Cassie. It was unreal – but we forged on with the hope that logic and integrity would ultimately prevail.
In April we began trying to raise money to go back to Ottawa to meet with Members of Parliament in person. We timed our trip to be there for the first debate. Again, from Windsor, we drove to our nation’s capital.
The meetings generally seemed to be successful. The MP’s we met with were sympathetic and agreed that there was a definable difference between what a woman’s choice was and what happened to my daughter Molly. In fact, two of the Liberal MP’s we met with voted in favour of a similar bill back in 2008 that would have addressed the issue.
The debate was another story. It became clear to us at that point that one of the main political parties was content to treat this as a partisan issue and they had no intention to address the actual injustice we were talking about. That party was the NDP – the same party that our local representation belonged to! It was a very personal blow.
It became clear why we were being brushed off back home. Cassie’s very own MP’s had chosen to represent their party instead of her.
What was worse is that Sheila Malcolmson of the NDP stood up in the House of Commons and stated very specifically that, “She is an exception,” and that Cassie’s choice should be ignored in the charges against her killer. I had never been so acutely been aware of discrimination directed at me or my family.
Mrs. Wagantall showed great integrity and did a wonderful job articulating the facts. Unfortunately for her, and us, and for any Canadian woman who is pregnant and the victim of a crime, it was starting to become apparent that it was something other than the facts that mattered most in this debate.
In the summer a national poll was revealed that showed a majority of Canadians thought that there should be a law to hold a person accountable for the baby’s life when a pregnant woman is killed. It seems obvious, like one of those “studies” that shows a truth that you already know, but it had to be done to illustrate that there was a problem here that needed attention outside of the arena of abortion politics – the very arena that the vocal minority kept trying to push it into.
The ironic thing was that most of the people polled were pro-choice. Contrary to what Joyce Arthur and the NDP were telling people, almost all Canadians thought something had to be done in these circumstances, not just the ones who identified as pro-life.
The results of this poll were ignored by those in the government whose narrative it did not fit. The independent legal analysis that showed the bill would in no way affect anything having to do with abortion was also completely ignored.
The next few months were all about reaching out again to the ones I thought it should matter the most to – the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the other leaders of the political parties. I wrote again to the local MP’s that were elected to represent Cassie and I, and our families. I sent them Molly’s clothes. It was all that was left to compel them to look before they actually voted on whether or not to talk about it. How could they continue act as if there was nothing wrong when they had a piece of my reality in their hands?
To this very day I have never received a response from any of them.
In October the bill was debated again in Parliament and again we were in Ottawa to represent Cassie and Molly. MP Wagantall and her husband Marty were kind enough to let us stay with them at their apartment. We could not have been their without their help.
All we could hope for was a free vote – the kind that was one of Trudeau’s election promises.
It didn’t happen.
On October 19th Cassie and Molly’s Law was voted down by the sitting Canadian government.
In November I saw our daughter’s killer for the first time. It was the day he plead guilty to killing her mother. Somehow, even though she died because of his crime, even though it was his intention to kill her, our daughter’s life was omitted in all of this. The laws of this country will never hold him accountable for what he really did.
What does a father do in a situation where a man kills his daughter and there is no law to hold him accountable for his crime?
It is now the end of December. Christmas was Cassie’s favourite time of year. I have not one doubt that it would have been Molly’s too. They were murdered two weeks before Christmas two years ago now.
I have written thousands of letters. I have travelled thousands of kilometers. I have spent thousands of hours trying to find words to describe this terrible affront to Cassie’s right as a woman, to us as a family, to the whole purpose of justice, but how do you make someone see when they believe it will be easiest for them not to look?
How can the well-being of a mother and her child be sacrificed for another’s ideological comfort?
This was not an accident. This was not the choice of a woman. What happened to our daughter was intentional and there is no real reason to ignore that – but in 2016, in spite of everyone’s efforts, our collective government definitively decided that there was not a problem here. But there is a problem for me.
In January the person who killed Cassie will be sentenced. It is the absolute height of vulgarity that a father can be made to beg a judge to also consider the crime against his murdered child. A child that was born of a woman’s choice.
But I guess that is just another normal part of our family’s suffering, right Joyce?