R. v. Sullivan

1) Under the pretences of the criminal code of Canada: Criminal negligence 219. (1) Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons. Definition of “duty” (2) For the purposes of this section, “duty” means a duty imposed by law. R.S., c. C-34, s. 202. Any responsible midwife would have taken the time to understand their profession via training and further research to ensure their success during something as critical as child birth. Therefore the midwives failing to receive this training and information, even without malicious intent make them guilty of negligence.


Crown Defence
The defendants willingly accepted the job without enough experience.

Should have called the hospital faster in order to provide a greater possibility of the child living.

Knowing hired the midwives with very little experience who lacked the prerequisite to help in child birth.

Attempted to perform the ethically and procedurally correct protocol to call the hospital when their natural birth method failed.

3) The reason why British Columbia Court Appeal dismissed the conviction of the charge of criminal negligence causing death and substituted a conviction for criminal negligence causing bodily harm was because the baby was not technically a person under the Criminal Code. Due to the baby not actually leaving the woman’s birth canal, the baby is not a person and was a part of the mother. Because the mother did not die but was harmed by the baby’s death due to the negligence of the two midwives, the charges were substituted.

4) The significance of this ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada only helps maintain the ruling that babies who have not left their mother’s birth canal are not considered “persons” under the Criminal Code. Had the Supreme Court made an expectation and charged the midwives with negligence causing death, they would have opened the platform for progressive arguments to make all fetus-related deaths “persons” under the Criminal Code which would allow for the re-criminalization of abortion.

2) No I don’t believe there is a need to pass this law protecting the right of the unborn child. A private member’s bill called The “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” (Bill C-484), was introduced by Conservative MP Ken Epp (Edmonton Sherwood Park), and defeated shortly after in 2008. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to allow separate homicide charges to be laid in the death of a fetus when a pregnant woman is attacked. This bill cannot be allowed to pass because it is simply taking progressive steps toward re-criminalizing abortion and infringing on the rights of women. Allowing an unborn fetus the same status its mother under law while determining homicide charges is absolutely ludicrous under the pretences in which the bill is being proposed. Such an amendment would allow “Pro-lifers” to make the argument that babies receive the status of “persons” during homicide charges, why not all the time? Though a baby can survive a premature birth during its third trimester with artificial support (once born), the fact that its internal cardiovascular system is not independent from that of its mother while inside cannot justify it has an equivalent to its mother; the mother can survive without the presence of the child, not vice versa. It is unchallenged that pregnancy is a period of severe vulnerability for a woman and placing two murder charges for the killing of a pregnancy woman would definitely help deter domestic violence toward pregnant women, but it would inevitable open the “gates” to progressive argument to re-criminalize abortion. Furthermore the bill doesn’t actually make it a crime to attack pregnant women, but applies narrowly only to the fetuses of pregnant women. What is even more distressing is Mr. Epp’s stated intent of the bill is to protect only wanted fetuses. (He said: “This is all about protecting the choice of a woman to give birth to her child.” However, women who have recently given birth, or have had abortions or are planning to have abortions, are also at increased risk of domestic violence. This bill completely fails them. In Canada, women have guaranteed rights and equality under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Persons do not gain legal status and rights in our society until they have completely exited from the birth canal, alive (as per the Criminal Code, Section 223[1]). This means that Epp’s bill conflicts directly with the Criminal Code, because it assumes the legal personhood of non-persons under the law.

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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