Infanticide -Criminal Code of Canada

Mothers Getting Away With Murder

Canadian Children's Rights Council Position Statement on Eliminating the Criminal Code of Canada Offence of Infanticide

updated May 2019

It is the position of the Canadian Children's Rights Council that a baby's life is worth as much as that of an adult and that the Criminal Code offence of Infanticide should be eliminated from the Criminal Code of Canada.

Most of the social issues have changed over time and the situations for new mothers have greatly improved, including, but not limited to; the historic stigma of single motherhood out-of-wedlock; the implementation of universal health care, availability of abortions for unwilling mothers; the morning fter abortion pill, other current birth control methods and the equality of women are justification for eliminating special consideration for women and a maximum 5 year sentence for women who murder their babies.

The same homicide charges should apply for babies, children and adults.

Historically, women were treated as inferior and less responsible for their own actions than men. The infanticide offence discriminates based on sex, a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Criminal Code of Canada includes a provision for a defence of diminished responsibility based on mental illness for all people charged with criminal offences. Postpartum depression also called postnatal depression suffered by some women, and even some men, after child birth, and any other mental health issues can be, if applicable, a defence at trial..

When the police and Crown attorneys charge a mother with infanticide, there is an element of predetermination of her mental state at the time of the murder.  The equivalent charge doesn't exist with regards to the murder of an adult. If it did exist, it would be murder by a mentally ill person. Justice is better served by leaving such a judgement up to the court which considers all of the expert evidence in an impartial way without influence or predetermination.

This position is consistent with that of the United Nations.

From the UNICEF U.N. Digest 2 Children and Violence

Infanticide and homicide of children

"An analysis of 285 homicides committed in the United Kingdom from 1989 to 1991 involving victims under the age of 18 years found just 13 per cent had been killed by strangers; 60 per cent were killed by parents. 56 Similar results have been reported in the United States and in Australia. In countries where homicide statistics are analysed according to age of victim, infants and very young children are often found to be the age group most at risk. In the United Kingdom, under-one-year-olds are four times as likely to be victims of homicide as any other age group almost all killed by their parents.

Infanticide remains defined in many legal systems as a lesser crime than murder, although it involves the intentional killing of a baby. The rationale is to provide a special defence for mothers suffering psychological trauma as a result of birth. However, in many of the same legal systems, there are general recognized defences of diminished responsibility to charges of murder which could be applied in special cases. It therefore seems clear that the roots of the special status of this crime lie in regarding an infants life as of less worth than that of an older person.

Contrary to the usual assumption that infanticide is an Eastern rather than a Western problem, Lloyd deMause in his classic History of Childhood documents that infanticide of legitimate as well as illegitimate children

was a regular practice of antiquity, that the killing of legitimate children was only slowly reduced during the Middle Ages (hence the grossly unequal ratios of men to women in many societies) and that illegitimate children continued to be regularly killed right up into the nineteenth century. . . . Even though Thomas Coram opened his foundling hospital in 1741 because he couldn't bear to see the dying babies lying in the gutters and rotting in the dung-heaps of London, by the 1890s dead babies were still a common sight in London streets . . .

Infanticide has been practised as a brutal method of family planning..."

The digest from the U.N. also states:

"In the case of many categories of violence to children, greater sensitivity is leading to greater visibility a prelude, it is hoped, to effective prevention. Available research from different countries suggests that, at least outside active war zones, children are most at risk of violence, including sexual violence, within their own homes and from the adults closest to them. But generally attempts to document the overall extent of violence to children are in their infancy, a reflection of the low status of children, and the low political priority accorded to them and perhaps more immediately a reflection of the individual and collective guilt of adult perpetrators of violence to children........"

".......It is a sad reflection on human civilizations that the smallest and most vulnerable of people should have had to wait until last for consistent social and legal recognition of their equal right to physical and personal integrity, to protection from all forms of interpersonal violence. Only a handful of countries have as yet adopted laws to give children the same protection that adults enjoy

from physical assault. In most states violent punishments, including beatings with tools, remain common and sanctioned by the law.

Nevertheless, there is now growing recognition that asserting children's right to protection from routine physical violence in the home and in institutions is as vital to improving their status as it has been to women's status to assert their equal right to protection from routine violence in the home and the community.

Leading this trend is the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the international monitoring body for the Convention, which has consistently challenged laws that permit any physical punishment of children, recommending clear legal reform and educational programmes." PDF Click here

Edmonton Journal logo

Revisiting Canada's infanticide law

The Edmonton Journal
November 12, 2006

A safeguard for women? An insult to women? Canada's infanticide law, like the crime itself, ignites strong emotions on both sides. Just how did the legislation evolve and why do some legal experts want it scrapped?

"You heartless bastards!"

The words rang out in a Wetaskiwin courtroom, Ryan Effert's verbal attack on the eight-woman, four-man jury that had just found his 20-year-old sister, Katrina, guilty of murdering her newborn baby.

Ryan Effert was the first to lash out at the jury, but his angry words have been echoed by many others. Defence lawyers, legal experts, pundits and members of the public have all expressed upset and bewilderment at the decision on Sept. 26.  Read More ..

Calgary Sun

Infanticide law must die

The Calgary Sun
September 25, 2010

For six decades, women who have killed their babies have typically benefited from reduced sentences under our infanticide law because of the belief their minds were disturbed from giving birth.

University of Alberta law professor Sanjeev Anand wonders why only mothers who kill their infants get a break.

Fathers and adoptive parents should have a shot at judicial compassion as well, he argues in a provocative article in the Alberta Law Review.

There is little evidence of a direct connection between the physical effects of childbirth or lactation and the onset of mental disturbances in women, he declares.

Rather, poverty, isolation and other social stresses are more likely causes of the mental illness some women experience after childbirth, Anand argues.

And if mothers are vulnerable to mental breakdowns because of the socio-economic burden of child-rearing, surely fathers and adoptive parents risk the same stress and should also be able to use the defence of infanticide, he says.

"Once the law recognizes biological mothers who kill their children may commit these acts because of the effects of mental disorders caused by social stresses, the law must also acknowledge all parents are susceptible to such influences," Anand writes. Read More ..

Infanticide is justifiable in some cases, says UK ethics professor

One of British medicine's most senior advisers on medical ethics has provoked outrage by claiming that infanticide is "justifiable".

Professor John Harris, a member of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, said that it was not "plausible to think that there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal" - suggesting that there was no moral difference between aborting a foetus and killing a baby.  Read More ..