One year ago – the same week that Mathew Brush was being sentenced – I received a letter from the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.
Aside from an email response from his office indicating that no one would be available for the meeting we had requested the year before, it was the only response to the many letters and emails which I had sent.
The letter from the PM’s office acknowledged that Bill C-225 had been voted down months before and offered sympathy for our tragedy. It concluded with the assurance that our concerns would be forwarded to Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Minister of the Justice Department.
My first reaction was to be angry and cynical. I was being told that the issue would be forwarded to the very person whose only official response was that the justice system already takes violence against pregnant women seriously enough.
My emotions were high. It was a difficult time. I put the letter aside.
When I went back to it weeks later, I tried to see it in another way. Maybe under the direction of the Office of the Prime Minister it would be taken more seriously by the Justice department. Maybe – somehow – they were aware of what I had just witnessed – that in the practical outcome of a trial, the fact that a woman was pregnant when she was murdered can actually be used in a way that leads a shorter sentence for her killer.
I’ve waited one year to see if something would come of that letter. So far, nothing has.
Last April, another pregnant woman was murdered. Arianna Goberdhan was nine months pregnant with her first child – a little girl she named Asaara. To know that her daughter – Arianna’s choice – could also be bartered in a plea that will potentially lead to a shorter sentence for their killer is obscene. How could those that claim to value a woman’s rights, or justice for that matter, not be compelled to do something about it?
Around the same time, I received a letter from victim services indicating that Cassie and Molly’s killer would become eligible for different forms of parole three years sooner than the 22 years set by the judge.
By virtue of inaccurate and misleading language, we had been betrayed again by the justice system.
Last June the Liberal Strategy to Combat Gender Based Violence was revealed. It mentioned nothing about violence against pregnant women. I can’t count how many times in Parliament during the debate for Cassie and Molly’s Law that the politicians opposed to the bill pointed to this pending “strategy” as something that will address this specific issue. Now that it was announced it wasn’t hard to see it did nothing of the sort. Not even close. Not even indirectly.
With the passing of time it has become impossible to interpret the letter from the Office of the Prime Minister in any other way than my initial impression. It didn’t deny a problem – it just implied they wouldn’t be willing to do anything about it. It was a brush off.
When a woman’s choice can be rewritten by her killer, is it not an egregious violation of her rights? When the unlegislated “factor” that is her pregnancy can be used in such a way that it reduces the time spent in jail for her murder, is a problem still not visible to the spectrum of certain politicians?
There are less than two years left before the next federal election. I want to believe that some element of this government’s “feminist” and “pro-choice” messaging will be applied here – something more than just misappropriating this as ground in which to plant a tribal flag…
Something that indicates they can acknowledge gender based crimes outside of the dilution of what they consider politically convenient – Something that pulls certain inalienable realities of women back into periphery – Something that responds appropriately to “crimes of non-consent”, or whatever other language fitting to their chosen political narrative, instead of just backing away slowly out of their own discomfort.
Substance – something real – something genuine. These things are yet to be seen.
I want to believe that their messaging is more than just a show – that they can consider fairness – that there is some integrity behind it all…
I want to be proven wrong about this letter. I want the choice of women like Cassie to matter.