An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and to amend other Acts in consequence

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Martin Cauchon  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 25, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to present a petition from constituents in my riding. They call upon Parliament to reject Bill C-22, to consider parental rights along with parental responsibilities and begin with the presumption of mandatory equal parenting in the event of a divorce.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I often meet with Canadian and Quebec women's groups. I heard a comment this week and I would like to hear what the member for Lotbinière—L'Érable thinks about it.

First, people told me that if the House adjourns because of an election and if we in fact move up the implementation of the new electoral map, that will mean that what they have said to their members before the election will get lost. To them, this means that it will take almost a year before they can get an answer or a solution to their problems.

Somebody else asked me: “What do we do about Bill C-22 to amend the Divorce Act? What do we do about Bill C-25 on labour relations in the public service? What do we do about victims of harassment? What do we do about same sex marriage? What will happen with all these bills that people are waiting for? What will happen with poverty and social housing?”

That is what the women's groups were asking and it is also what I am asking my colleague.

Divorce Act
Oral Question Period

September 22nd, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, in February, the Secretary of State for the Status of Women promised to conduct an analysis to determine whether the changes to the Divorce Act in Bill C-22 would have a different impact on men than on women.

The Secretary of State for the Status of Women made this promise eight months ago. We want to know today whether this gender equality analysis has been concluded and when it will be referred to the committee that is studying this issue.

Lobbyists Registration Act
Government Orders

June 5th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act.

We have dealt with the bill before in this place. It has been to the Senate and is back with an amendment. The amendment makes a slight improvement to the bill, but in our humble estimation, it does not go the distance required to ensure that we have before us a piece of legislation that does the task at hand and has provisions for the utmost transparency and the highest of ethical standards. Let us remember where the bill came from, why it is before us and what it was intended to do.

Members of the House will recall that back in the spring of 2001 the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology held hearings on this matter and heard evidence from a wide variety of sources. The committee made recommendations to the House for the development of appropriate legislation in its report entitled “Transparency in the Information Age: The Lobbyists Registration Act in the 21st Century”.

The question for us today is, does Bill C-15 actually do what the process intended to accomplish? Does it take us down the path of legislation that ensures absolute transparency in the work and dealings of lobbyists vis-à-vis government? Have we set the highest ethical standards in terms of this very important aspect of government? We all know how cynical people have become. Our constituents are suspicious of government because of their perception of undue influence by corporate entities, by big money interests, in our society today over the legislation and programming established by government.

This is a very important issue in terms of democracy and in terms of restoring faith in the democratic process. It is very important in terms of assuring the general population that we operate on the basis of the highest standards. I am afraid we cannot say that has been accomplished under the bill as amended by the Senate.

Certainly the bill accomplishes a number of important objectives. Bill C-15 proposes to close some loopholes in the lobbyist regulatory system under the federal Lobbyists Registration Act. Specifically the bill requires that lobbyists who are invited to lobby government will now be required to register. The bill also states that the registration requirements for in-house corporate lobbyists will require more detailed listings of employees who are lobbying. That is very good. The bill also states that because of an amendment made by the House of Commons, a lobbyist for a corporation or organization who had been a public servant, politician or other public officer holder, will have to disclose the past offices the lobbyist held.

Some important changes have been made. Certainly some are on the right path. We are going in the right direction. We are in the process of moving toward greater transparency and higher ethical standards in the whole area of government, but are we there yet?

By all accounts by those who observe this process very carefully and by those who are concerned about the future of democracy in Canada, we are not there yet. We missed the mark. The bill is not perfect and it should be perfect because, goodness knows, we are dealing with a fundamental aspect of parliamentary process and democratic faith in our system.

Let us be clear. Some very key loopholes still remain in Bill C-15. Those loopholes allow many lobbyists to escape registration, to hide key details about the extent and nature of lobbying activities. They allow lobbyists to have inside access and undue influence and weaken enforcement of the Lobbyists Registration Act and the lobbyists code of conduct.

These are significant loopholes and must be closed. Our caucus, all members of the NDP in the House have been saying that time and again. Our critic, the member for Windsor West, has been very diligent and persistent about ensuring that the bill is amended to reflect those very concerns.

Our member for Windsor West told the House time and again that the act fails to address the issue of compulsory disclosure. He has said, and we agree with him, that the act should include a requirement that anyone covered by a federal code of conduct, including ministers, political appointees, civil servants and lobbyists, disclose any wrongdoing of which they have knowledge. It is very important to point out that it has not been addressed by the government.

There is another matter on which the member for Windsor West and also the member for Winnipeg Centre have been very outspoken. It has to do with the matter of whistle-blower protection. The member for Winnipeg Centre has had legislation before the House. He has tried to convince this place of the need to have such provisions entrenched in law so that we have a way to give protection to those in our civil service who know of wrongdoing, who want to report that wrongdoing, but fear for their jobs and repercussions in their working lives.

The member for Winnipeg Centre, reinforced by the member for Windsor West and others, has said very clearly that there must be whistle-blower protection in the legislation. Of course it needs to be in this legislation. We are talking about lobbying. We are talking about those who can exert undue influence on government. We are talking about loyal members of our civil service who observe, know and learn about wrongdoing and who want to report that wrongdoing for the public good, to serve the public interest.

What is holding the government back from ensuring whistle-blower protection in the legislation? As my colleague for Windsor—St. Clair has said, what are they afraid of? What are the Liberals afraid of? Why is this absolute bottom-line requirement, this fundamental position for whistle-blower protection, not in Bill C-15?

Is it because the government is afraid of the results, the outcome of the possibilities that their civil servants, those who work in the departments, know too much, see too much and can do too much damage to the politicians in this place, to members and ministers in the government? Is that a possibility? Perhaps it is because when we get down to it and analyze what has been happening lately with the government and the whole area of public policy decision making, there seems to be an awful lot of undue influence by corporate and monied interests in our society today over the direction of the government's legislative initiatives and over serious propositions that would serve the public good.

I have seen it time and time again in the last little while that I have been here in this place, particularly during the time when I was serving as the health critic and had a chance to observe what happened to important policies and initiatives in Health Canada and how the Minister of Health refused to act on important initiatives. I want to provide a few examples because they are very important to this debate.

I want to begin with an area that should touch the hearts of every member in this place and comes very close to home, and that is the matter dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome. I say it touches this place because members in the House voted on a motion that I presented and almost all members supported it. The motion said that Health Canada and the Government of Canada should require labels on all alcohol beverage containers to warn women not to drink while pregnant because of the danger of causing fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects.

It was an important initiative and I was so delighted to receive the support of members from all political parties and to see the work that was begun by the member for Mississauga South who worked so long and hard on the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome was paying off, that we were making headway in this place and making good public policy.

That was two years ago when the House passed this motion almost unanimously. We expected, perhaps naively, that motion would form the basis for government action. Perhaps it would not be overnight. Perhaps it would take a few weeks, a few months, maybe even a year, but who would have dreamed that it would take a whole two years with still no government response or action? How could this happen? What could come in the way of a very progressive initiative that makes the difference in terms of our battle against fetal alcohol syndrome?

No one in this place, certainly not me or anyone in my caucus, left the impression that this measure was the be all and the end all in terms of fetal alcohol syndrome, but that it was one small step, one measure as part of a bigger package, to help us deal with a very serious problem, a problem that costs our society dearly in terms of financial expenses and personal consequences. It costs millions of dollars over the life of every individual suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome for all society. It costs us dearly in human terms and in financial terms, so every bit we can do makes a difference.

The proposal is to have labels on alcohol beverage containers, which, as we know, is done in the United States. It is required for Canadian beer brewers, wine producers and alcohol producers to put those labels warning of fetal alcohol syndrome on bottles we export to the United States, so it would not take too much to do it here in Canada. Yet the government has refused. The Minister of Health has said that she must study the matter before she can decide, even though this matter has been studied to death over the years. The evidence is in and it is clear that, as a measure which is part of a whole package of initiatives focusing on fetal alcohol syndrome, it is important and it matters.

The question for us today in the context of Bill C-15 is, what undue influence happened over the government and the Minister of Health to cause this important initiative to be put on hold and shelved? I think we can say with some certainty that there was influence from the alcohol industry on the government. There was pressure from the beer companies on that minister. How else can one explain something this important being put on the sidelines? I think there is lots of evidence to suggest that.

The member for Mississauga South a number of years ago worked hard to have this matter dealt with before the health committee, and he proposed Bill C-22.

In a book he produced after that period in our parliamentary history entitled Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Real Brain Drain , he said:

There is no doubt that the alcohol industry killed the bill. They reportedly spent over $100,000 on lobby efforts... The Brewers Association announced that if the bill went through, they would withdraw their $10 million annual contribution to prevention programs that they jointly funded with Health Canada.

That sounds like blackmail to me.

Supply
Government Orders

May 27th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Chair, dear colleagues, this is the second time that I have the opportunity to present the estimates for the Department of Justice. I must say that I still find this quite an interesting exercise. Every time, colleagues and members of Parliament have had some constructive input to offer.

I am pleased to present the spending estimates of the Department of Justice Canada to the House.

As I just said, this is the second time I appear before you to deal with the estimates. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight our current priorities and to discuss the latest achievements of the Department of Justice. I would also like to go over some of the challenges we are facing.

First, as we have seen today, one of the priorities of my department is the reform of the cannabis legislation, which I have tabled as the cannabis reform bill.

I want to be clear from the beginning that we are not legalizing marijuana and I have no plans to do so. Marijuana remains a controlled substance and offenders will continue to be punished by law.

What we are changing is the way we prosecute certain offences of possession through the use of alternative penalties.

The bill I introduced earlier today amends the legal provisions with respect to the possession of small amounts of marihuana, which will become a ticketing offence instead of leading to criminal prosecutions.

While introducing these new legal provisions, the Government of Canada will continue to proactively implement its renewed drug strategy to discourage young people from using drugs and to go after traffickers in order to reduce both the demand and supply for illegal drugs.

Through the renewed Canada's Drug Strategy, we will review the legislation to take into consideration the modern viewpoints of Canadians. The strategy seeks to ensure that the provisions concerning possession offences are more consistently enforced and that the penalties fit the seriousness of the crime.

In order to promote health, the use of marihuana must be discouraged and cannabis possession will remain illegal in Canada. However, the new measures reflect the opinion of the majority of Canadians who no longer accept the permanent stigma of a criminal record or a prison sentence that the people found guilty of possessing small amounts of cannabis have to bear.

The debate over modernizing our marijuana laws has been on and off the public agenda for three decades now. The time has come to act. We need strong, enforceable laws that make sense for Canadians and make sense internationally, laws that will send a strong message to our young people, a message saying that marijuana is harmful and will remain illegal.

This reform will address the current lack of consistency in the enforcement of cannabis possession offences across the country and ensure that enforcement resources are focused on where they are most needed by allowing police to enforce the law, but without the complications of going before the courts for minor offences.

The decision to reform the law was not taken lightly. It came as the result of an enormous amount of research, consultation and debate. Cannabis consumption is a complex issue and is first and foremost a health matter. However, one thing is clear, the time has come for us to reform our laws in this area.

The House of Commons Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs recommended that cannabis be decriminalized. The Senate special committee on illegal drugs recommended that the production and sale of cannabis be legalized.

Recent polling indicates that a majority of Canadians believe that convictions for possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use should not result in criminal penalties.

Again I want to be clear that the government has no plans to legalize the possession of this drug but clearly the current laws do not serve the public good.

However, the commercial growing of marijuana is no doubt a serious indictable offence that has serious and negative consequences on society. Commercial growers generate huge profits for criminal organizations and other stakeholders in this trade.

These growers are everywhere in cities and in houses rented in the suburbs, among other places, and often the owners are not aware of these illegal activities.

Marijuana growers resort to water and electricity meter jumping, which means they rob public utilities and pose a serious threat of fire.

Several law enforcement agencies have found very sophisticated traps designed to endanger the lives of competitors, police officers and firefighters. We must obviously protect the lives of women and men who represent our first line of defence.

I believe that Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which was recently referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, will effectively serve as a deterrent. Indeed, it would amend section 247 of the Criminal Code regarding the placing of traps that are likely to cause death. The amendment would provide that, if a trap is used for the purpose of committing another indictable offence, the term of imprisonment would go from five to ten years.

If bodily harm is caused to a person, the term of imprisonment would be 14 years and, if the person dies, the maximum penalty would be life imprisonment, whether the place was used for the purpose of committing an indictable offence or not.

Bill C-32 would also ensure that our laws keep pace with the rapid evolution of the Internet. The amendments in the bill would allow citizens and businesses to take reasonable steps to protect their computer systems and the valuable information that they contain against computer hackers and sly electronic communications that might contain viruses.

The amendments to the Divorce Act contained in Bill C-22 address a top priority of Canadians, ensuring that the best interests of the child remain paramount in decisions made following their parent's divorce or separation. I understand that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights expects to resume hearings on C-22 shortly.

Canadians have already stated clearly that changes to the law are not enough. Improvements must also be made to services, such as mediation and education. Canadians have also demanded a simpler, more efficient court system to accommodate the needs of parents and families struggling with separation and divorce.

In December we responded by proposing the child centre family justice strategy. Together with the provinces, territories and non-government organizations, we have embarked on an ambitious and multi-faceted program of change that includes increased funding for family justice services, expansion of successful initiatives, such as unified family courts, and legislative amendments, such as Bill C-22.

The Department of Justice will make substantial investments in this strategy. In December I announced $163 million over five years to modernize the family justice system in Canada.

Now, another very important issue raised by Bill C-20.

This bill deals with the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. Protecting children is obviously a high priority for Canadians, and the government is listening to them.

Bill C-20, which was introduced recently, provides better protection for children against all forms of exploitation. It reflects the broad consultations and close cooperation with the provinces, the territories, non-governmental organizations and the general public.

The proposed reforms are designed to give children better protection against all forms of exploitation, including sexual abuse and child pornography, and to meet the needs of children and other vulnerable persons, such as victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system, more effectively.

Canada's criminal laws against sexual abuse of children, including child pornography, are among the strictest in the world. Bill C-20 will go even further in strengthening our prohibitions with regard to child pornography. It also proposes creating a new category of prohibited sexual exploitation for those who are between 14 and 18, which will require the courts to examine the nature and the circumstances of the relationship, including the age difference.

Another purpose of Bill C-20 is to make it easier for young victims and witnesses to testify. It proposes to strengthen their ability to provide a clear, complete and accurate description of the events while ensuring that the rights of the accused will be protected and respected.

Another topic that I would like to talk about concerns the protection of Canada's capital markets. I believe that improving the fairness of our system extends well beyond matters of liability and into our capital market. Recent scandals involving corporate malfeasance in the United States have spurred officials in my department to review Canadian laws. I hope to table a bill on this matter in the very near future.

My department will be investing resources and playing a significant role in the integrated enforcement teams that will be investigating and prosecuting the most serious corporate frauds and market illegalities. Justice officials will partner with their peers in finance, industry and the office of the Solicitor General in this coordinated approach.

The other important topic I would like to talk about now is the criminal liability of corporations. Improving fairness in our justice system is indeed an ongoing priority.

The Department of Justice has been working very hard to draft new legislative provisions on corporate criminal liability taking into account the recommendations made by the many commissions and studies on the Westray mine disaster. A series of amendments to the Criminal Code would make business executives more responsible for the safety of their employees.

Another important topic I would like to raise here is access to justice; as we have said, this has been an ongoing priority of my department, which wants to ensure that Canadians, no matter where they live, can use the official language of their choice in all their dealings with federal legislation. This is the whole issue of official languages.

We have made great strides in that respect, working closely with our governmental and non-governmental partners in the provinces and territories, and I am confident we can still improve access to justice in both official languages.

Under the government's action plan on official languages, my department will invest $27 million over the next five years to meet its obligations under the Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act and the Federal Court's decision on the Contraventions Act.

Another $18.5 million will also be invested in a fund in support of access to justice in both official languages. Together, these initiatives represent a $45.5 million investment in the area of access to justice in both official languages.

Legal aid is another significant component of the access to justice. The government is strongly committed to ensuring that economically disadvantaged Canadians have equitable access to criminal legal aid. I am pleased to report significant progress on initiating criminal legal aid renewal.

The recent federal budget announced increases to the criminal legal aid base fund and committed additional funds for innovative programs developed and implemented by the provinces and territories. Federal funding for criminal legal aid will increase by $89 million in the new criminal legal aid agreement. Of this amount, $83 million will go directly to the provinces and territories.

Over the next three years the government will invest $379.2 million in legal aid. These funds will help ensure that economically disadvantaged Canadians have access to justice.

Now let me deal with another important topic, crime prevention. To work effectively, our justice system must be relevant to all Canadians. It must be directly connected to and be an integral and familiar part of every community.

I am convinced that a relevant system must help citizens recommend, develop and implement effective solutions to community problems. Even though such solutions may go beyond the regular limits of case law, often they are powerful engines of social change.

The national crime prevention strategy has proven to be especially successful at improving the relevance of Canada's justice system. This strategy involves providing financial support for innovative local projects that reduce crime and victimization, and target issues of local concern.

For example, in Surrey, British Columbia, a literacy project would enable disadvantaged Canadians to acquire new skills and jobs. In Fort McPherson, a summer camp program would help instill a new sense of pride in young people at risk. In Ontario, a partnership project with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police would help combat auto theft by educating youth about the negative consequences of that act.

These projects are just a few current examples of our collaborative approach to crime prevention, an approach that has succeeded in enlisting an increasing number of Canadians in the fight against crime. These projects also establish vital links between Canadians and their system of justice. I am pleased to say that over the next three years the national crime prevention strategy will invest $225 million to make our communities safer.

In conclusion, while I am pleased with the accomplishments of my department, I recognize that much work remains to be done to create a system that is fair, accessible and relevant to all. We must broaden our collaboration with the provinces, territories, and with individual Canadians to improve our justice system, prevent crime, and reduce the effect of victimization.

Justice
Statements By Members

April 8th, 2003 / 2 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, Lisa Dillman's worst fear came true last week when her lawyer said her ex-husband, John Schneeberger, was re-applying to force his two daughters to visit him in prison. This felon was convicted of drugging and raping two females, one of them his 13 year old stepdaughter, and obstructing justice for seven years by inserting another man's blood vial in his arm in order to thwart DNA tests.

I was there two years ago when Schneeberger forced Lisa and her daughters to visit him at the Bowden Institution. I will never forget the terror and horror I saw in those little girls' eyes. An RCMP officer on duty said to me with tears in his eyes, “I have kids at home. I can't believe our justice system is torturing two little girls like this”.

Yesterday, the minister said that Bill C-22 would prevent this. That is just not the case. I plead with the minister to make the necessary amendments now.

Justice
Oral Question Period

April 7th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should read Bill C-22, the amendments to the Divorce Act. Essentially the starting point of that bill is the question of the best interests of the children. Taking into consideration the best interests of the child, we list for the very first time some criteria that a judge will have to use in order to come to that conclusion. With regard to the Lisa's law case he just referred to, he should look at the bill as well. In the amended bill, we deal with that situation.

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

March 31st, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-23, the sex offender information registration act, and I am pleased to follow the discussion and presentation by the spokesperson for the Bloc.

As the Bloc Quebecois member has said, it is clear that we are going to support this bill in general, but with some reservations. We are going to ask the parliamentary committee to look at certain things in connection with this very important bill.

We, like the Bloc Quebecois, want to see a balance struck between protection of our children and protection of our rights. This will always be our goal, and time must be taken to hear witnesses when this very important matter is being considered.

As I tried to say in French, members of the New Democratic Party, like the spokesperson for the Bloc, wish to offer our general support for the bill and indicate that we believe it is a very important initiative. At the same time, as is our wont on all cases pertaining to constitutional matters and legal provisions, we seek to ensure that the rights and liberties of individuals are protected and upheld and that nothing we do by way of legislation in the House takes away those hard fought freedoms.

It is clear that we are dealing with a long overdue piece of legislation. This matter of a sex offenders registry has been before Parliament and in public policy circles for many months. In fact, I think back to a couple of years ago when this place dealt with this subject by way of a motion from Alliance members, I believe. It was subsequently pursued by provincial ministers of justice on a regular basis.

In fact, I think if it were not for the constant push by ministers of justice at the provincial level the bill in fact would not be here today. It is clearly a culmination of a long process and an outcry from Canadians right across this land for action to deal with a most serious and critical matter in our society today.

No one in this place can ignore the agony that families go through when a child or a loved one is raped or sexually assaulted. No one can ignore the fact that in our society there are pedophiles who are at large and will continue to offend and reoffend if serious actions are not taken.

Bill C-23 is certainly one step in the right direction. It is important because it will help police services investigate crimes of a sexual nature by requiring the registration of certain information relating to sex offenders. It is a tool and a provision that will allow the police to keep track of the whereabouts of those who have offended in terms of rape or sexual assault against children or any vulnerable member in our society. That is very important, because one does not have to follow this issue too far to know the extent to which our children and women in our society today are at risk of sexual assault and exploitation.

The primary objective with the legislation is to ensure the effective protection of Canadians. In this case in terms of Bill C-23, we are concerned about the potential victims of sexual crimes, primarily women and children, who are especially vulnerable.

I will first talk about violence against women. This is a matter that the House must continually come to grips with and I think that through this bill we have such an opportunity. I think we all agree that Canadian women have a right to live without the threat of violence, yet we know that for many women it is a reality. One study shows that 42% of women, and that is in comparison to 10% of men, feel totally unsafe walking in their own neighbourhoods at night. Nearly as many, 37%, are worried about being home alone at night.

We know that much of the violence against women manifests itself through sex related violence. We know that, and we have to continually be vigilant in finding ways to reduce the incidence of sexual violence against women, because we are tired of building monuments to victims.

Let me also talk briefly about sexual violence against children. Understandably, there is a feeling of sickness and rage every time we enter another search for another child's body. This bill actually will help us to channel those justifiable feelings to the positive objective of improving prevention.

There are a few other facts. It is estimated that only 10% of sexual assaults on women are reported to police. In Canada this means that more than half a million assaults occur each year. Another fact: Every minute of every day in Canada a woman or child is being sexually assaulted. Let us not forget in this debate, as in other debates we are having, particularly on Bill C-22, the divorce act, that 98% of sex offenders are men and that 82% of victims surviving reported assaults are women.

Tragically, recent well-publicized incidents confirm the fact that those most often committing assaults are in positions of trust. They are fathers, other relatives, religious officials, doctors, teachers, employers, friends and dates.

There are more facts to be put on the record. There are more examples of the kind of emotional upheaval that families go through when a child, a woman or a vulnerable person experiences sexual assault, but perhaps that is enough for now to highlight the importance of the bill and why we are in general support of Bill C-23.

There are some problems with the bill. We heard the member from the Bloc speak about some of those issues that we have to grapple with. Some of the provincial governments have raised other concerns with the bill. The concerns before us fill the whole spectrum. They range from those who believe the bill is not tough enough to those who believe the bill may infringe on civil liberties, and that is something we must sort out in the next stages of the bill, particularly when it is sent to the standing committee and witnesses are heard and testimony is received. I would suggest that we take seriously all those concerns.

I want to put on the table some of the concerns raised by the provincial minister of justice of the Government of Manitoba, the Hon. Gord Mackintosh, who in fact was central to the push that led to the bill before the House today. It was Gordon Mackintosh, back in September 2001, who actually presented a motion to the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice meeting calling on the government to establish, together with the provinces and territories, a national registry for sexual offenders.

He introduced that motion with the support of many provinces to try to force the Government of Canada to listen and to act. Fortunately today we are in a position where the federal government has listened, has acted and has brought before us a bill that is consistent with the wishes of the provincial and territorial ministers of justice as well as the wishes of many Canadians who are very worried about ensuring that the incidence of child sexual assault and rape of women and children is dealt with on a consistent and effective basis.

The minister from Manitoba, Gordon Mackintosh, has raised some outstanding matters that need to be pursued by the House and by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He raised the issue of retroactivity. That is a matter that has been before us throughout the debate. It is a matter of concern. The position of the Manitoba government is that it makes sense to look at a provision that deals not just with those who offend once this bill is proclaimed, but also gives some consideration to the fact that it ought to apply to those who are now serving sentences for sexual offences.

I think we ought to give that some thought. Our caucus has remained open to the question. I know that there are strong views on both sides and I think we need to really grapple with this whole issue of retroactivity and whether or not we are doing a disservice to Canadians at risk by not applying this provision retroactively to some extent.

The Manitoba government has raised the issue of photographs and whether or not the bill will in fact allow for the use of photos. There was some understanding that in fact the federal government has acknowledged that photographs are important and will be introduced at some time in the future. However, there appears to be no mention of the question of photographs in the legislation before us. I think we ought to deal with that issue here and now; otherwise it is clear that the legislation will have to be reopened and that we will have to deal with this issue all over again once the federal government decides to live up to its commitment to the provinces to include the matter of the use of photographs.

A third issue raised by the provincial governments that I think has to be taken seriously as we pursue this bill is the question of financial support for the new responsibilities that provincial governments will face once this bill is proclaimed. It is clear that there will be additional costs because, as we know from the proposals in the legislation, judges must in fact make written application to ensure that a person convicted of a sexual offence is added to the registry. That takes time.

We know that judges are now overburdened with existing demands and provisions. A new piece of legislation does require the government and all of us to look at the question of what resources are required and whether that is being considered as the bill goes through the various stages. It would be irresponsible on our part to pass legislation that in fact puts all kinds of financial requirements on the table and leaves it to the provinces to sort out. That would be irresponsible and unfair. I think it is important for us to now get commitments from the federal government as we pursue Bill C-23 about how it intends to support, fund and finance the new demands placed on our provincial judicial systems as a result of the implementation of Bill C-23.

I think it is clear that the House acknowledges the importance of having a registry that is mandatory and requires the documentation and identification of those who have offended sexually against children and other vulnerable members of our society. I think that there is this understanding. As a House, we are grappling with some of the intricacies of the bill and with how we can ensure that the balance is upheld between protection of the most vulnerable in our society and the adherence to our charter and our constitutional traditions. I think this is the mandate of the committee and I ask that we all take the process very seriously and ensure that the standing committee is given the time it needs to do this work.

For now let me say that my colleagues and I in the NDP support the broad thrust of the bill. We know that it is long overdue. We know there are some problems, but on the other hand we say thank goodness it is finally here and thank God we have such a proposal before us. Let us ensure that we do not lose sight of the objective at hand and that we do everything we can to make this a fine piece of legislation and a law that will actually work. Not only do we have to ensure that we track sexual offenders and ensure that if they reoffend they are picked up quickly, but through the bill we actually have to ensure that we find a way to prevent sexual assault of our children and vulnerable citizens. We have to do everything we can to make our communities safer and more secure for everyone among us.

Divorce Act
Oral Question Period

March 25th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
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Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that very important question. Essentially he is talking about Bill C-22, the Divorce Act, which has passed second reading in the House.

We put in place a brand new philosophy. We want to ensure that the system is less adversarial. We will change the notion of custody and access moving toward what we call parental responsibility. We want to ensure that we will be using more mediation.

Divorce Act
Goverment Orders

February 25th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-22.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

February 20th, 2003 / 12:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak on Bill C-22, the Divorce Act amendments.

First I would like to say that my colleague from Prince George—Peace River has taken the initiative to ensure that the voices of Canadians and everybody were heard when the bill was being formulated and will be heard as it is going to be formulated when it goes to the committee.

I have listened with interest to my colleague from the Liberal side as well as my colleague from the Progressive Conservative side. Both have articulated a very good point, especially the Liberal member from Sarnia when he said that the bill seems to have been drafted by the lawyers in the justice department without major input from the people of Canada, which would be through the House of Commons. Therefore I thought it was important for me to stand up and speak on the bill.

Why do I think it is important? Let me start by saying that for the last three to four years I have received representations in my office from frustrated people who are in divorce proceedings, whose marriage, for whatever reason, has broken down. They have come to my office and have expressed frustration about the Divorce Act and about the way the courts have acted and have passed judgment.

I had a town hall meeting where I wanted to discuss the issues that were in front of Parliament. I was surprised at the number of grandparents who came, pleading that we do something so that grandparents will have access to the children. At the end of the day, grandparents do have a right to their grandchildren.

In regard to these proceedings, we have a lot of experience. We have seen what happened in the past. We know that on many occasions when divorce proceedings take place it is not harmonious. It is a split that leaves bitter feelings. These feelings tend to be used against the children, who become pawns for revenge purposes, regrettably. As many members will know, even in the last year or so in Calgary we have had cases where parents have taken the lives of small children so they could get revenge against the other partner. What a tragedy, Mr. Speaker.

This calls for Parliament, for the people, to look at this issue, because divorce is on the rise. It is a fact of life. There are single parents out there and we need to listen to them and address this issue, because it is there. It is not going to go away. It is not going to be hidden under the carpet. If we are going to leave it to the unelected officials, to the courts, to create the rules or regulations or laws for this, then we are doing a huge disservice to Canadians.

During election 2000 when I went door knocking, I was stunned and amazed at how many times I met single mothers with children. They had returned home to stay with their parents. In talking to them, I heard their frustration with trying to raise the children by themselves. If statistics are anything to go by, for the majority of children who live in poverty it is because of the single parent. Due to the breakup of marriages, single parenting is what is sending children into poverty.

In the budget the government has said it is going to spend so much money for child poverty. Fair enough. Agreed. It is a good point, but the fact of the matter is that we should go to the root cause one step behind this, to where it is coming from. It is coming from single parenting.

How do we address the issue? It goes back to the divorce cases. We need to look at the divorce case issue and come up with not what the bureaucrats or lawyers are trying to do but with what is really out there, what is really happening, where the cracks are that we need to solve. There are the rights of grandparents and shared parenting.

What if we give direction to the courts to say we want shared parenting because it is the responsibility of both? Why should one parent be put on the other side and carry the burden while the other parent feels he cannot participate and feels neglected in society? There have been recent cases of this in Alberta, where revenge has been taken and the poor children have even lost their lives.

The question here is that it is for the sake of the children. The parents may decide they want to be separate and to go ahead with their own lives, and so be it, they make the decision, but we have to take into account what the children need. They love their children. We all use the same words, interestingly, and we all say “for the sake of children”, but what and how?

When the bill goes back to committee hopefully people will come and offer presentations and will fight to make sure that there is an equitable share for both parents in raising the children. That is good in the long term for society and it is good for us because we are investing in our children, the long term future of this country.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

February 20th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I must thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for the non-partisan position taken on a piece of legislation that is so vital and important to the House and to the many people it affects. The member for Sarnia—Lambton always has a spot over here if he wishes to pursue the government the way he has.

Believe me, I hope beyond hope there are more members on the Liberal backbenches who will look seriously at this legislation, dissect it and see what it is doing or not doing for what I consider to be one of the most serious issues facing us as a society today. There are pieces of legislation that come before us, in fact we have five or six today, that deal with very important issues. In my opinion, this is without question the most important issue that will be dealt with in the House of Commons.

I am very fortunate and very happy that I have never had any personal experience in dealing with divorce. However, if members looked within their own personal lives, they would find someone among their family or friends who has experienced divorce. It is one of the most acrimonious circumstances anyone could possibly face.

Bill C-22 is supposed to put into place legislation that would allow this particular circumstance, divorce, to take place between two people with some protections.

The history lesson by the member for Sarnia—Lambton was wonderful. As was mentioned earlier, there was a special joint committee which issued the wonderful report “For the Sake of the Children”. It had 48 recommendations which, if the House wanted to follow, would put into place legislation that would deal with the singular issue that it attempted to do, and that was for the sake of the children, protection for the children.

Some of the 48 recommendations have been implemented. I will not be as strongly opposed to the legislation as the member for Sarnia—Lambton. Some have been included in the legislation. However, there are approximately 13 recommendations, very important and strong, absolutely stand-alone recommendations that have not been included and because of that, the legislation has faults. The legislation is not the right piece of legislation to go forward.

There are two issues. First, in any kind of divorce proceeding, we recognize that there will be acrimony. Once people have reached that point in a marriage, there will be acrimony. There will be, unfortunately, too many things that will not be negotiable between a husband and a wife. Unfortunately there has to be a mediator. There has to be legislation put into place to mediate that. Unfortunately as well, when people have reached that point in a marriage, it is usually most detrimental to the children of the marriage.

In “For the Sake of the Children” there are two issues. One is shared parenting. This is a simple concept. When two people are involved in a marriage and from that marriage come children, then in my opinion and certainly in the opinion of the committee and the opinion of the majority of Canadians, both parents must and still have a need for the opportunity to develop those children throughout their childhood. They must have access. There must be shared parenting.

The Minister of Justice does not like the term “shared parenting” and he does not like the terms “custody” and “access”. The term he will be putting in is “parenting orders”. A word is only a word. Shared parenting means that each individual parent has the right and the responsibility to raise the children.

The committee also said that as part of shared parenting there should be a parenting plan. What a great idea. A parenting plan would be negotiated and worked out between two adults which would allow the children to have as close to a normal upbringing as they could possibly have. But no, that is not dealt with in this legislation.

Instead, as was mentioned, they go off to the courts to decide what is going to happen with joint custody and what is going to happen with sole custody. For the sake of the children, it is necessary to have a mandatory piece of legislation which states that in divorce proceedings it is imperative that the first thing is to say that the children are going to have shared parenting, that they are going to have equal access to both parents. That is the equality and that is the fairness that should be developed in this act.

The second issue, needless to say, is financial, obviously whether there is going to be spousal support, child support, or a financial contribution from one partner to another. In general terms it should not be a gender thing. There should be fairness. There should in fact be a simple, basic premise which states that one member of the marriage should not be a beneficiary to the detriment of the other. One member of that duo should not receive substantial financial support to the detriment of another and have his or her lifestyle change so dramatically that he or she cannot cope.

I have reams and reams of the information provided to us as members of Parliament which speaks of the tragedies with respect to so much being demanded of one parent by the courts that the individual just could not cope. When that individual could not cope, unfortunately in some cases it resulted in suicide, and this is not fearmongering, this is a reality. This is an issue we have to deal with and it can be dealt with in fairness and equity in a piece of legislation.

I am disappointed that the Minister of Justice would bring forward this bill without more thought being given to it, without the ability to put into place a piece of legislation that is going to allow divorce to happen in a much fairer and more equitable fashion.

The issue here is not to try to stop the divorce. We recognize that in our society today there are those who, in their own judgment, do not wish to be a married couple. That is a reality. The reality is there. What we must do as politicians and legislators is make sure that the rules are put in place to make this happen in the most fair and equitable way possible.

As I said, there are two issues. One of them is shared parenting and making sure that there is equal access to children. I cannot think of anything worse than being the father of children and not being able to have access to those children, for whatever reason but in this particular case divorce. As part of that, there has to be the opportunity for access for the extended family. We can talk about rights, whether that be rights for grandparents, and we also know that now we have extended families that in fact should have access, either to grandchildren or to nieces and nephews. That has to be protected in this act.

The other issue is support. There has to be fairness with respect to support, and from both parents, from both sides of the equation.

We will see this legislation go forward to committee. I do not think the member for Sarnia--Lambton has in fact convinced the members of his party to stop it at this level. I wish he could, and I hope he can, but if he cannot it is going back to committee. The only hope and wish I have is that members of all parties, and this is not partisan nor should it be, simply listen with an open mind as to how the legislation must be changed, not should be or could be but must be, changed for the sake of the children.

That is what it is about. It is for the children who are going to be growing up in a home divided, but that home divided does not necessarily have to be an acrimonious home. It does not necessarily have to be a home that is going to have one winner and one loser in a relationship. In fact, that is the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen to children growing up in a family.

From my party's perspective, we will be at the table at the justice committee. We will be putting forward what we consider to be the necessary amendments to make this legislation so much better. Or perhaps we can start from scratch, by pulling the legislation altogether, and try to put into place what is best for the children.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

February 20th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill in general terms.

Bill C-22 is further evidence of why representative democracy is dead in terms of the Department of Justice. Section 18 of the British North America Act which gives this House the powers of representation of the public is dead. A motion was made recently by the Minister of Justice asking members of this place to waive their privileges, that is, section 18 of the British North America Act, our counterbalance to the enormous powers of the Crown as represented by the cabinet. Now we have a new evolution in that under Bill C-22.

Bill C-22 is a disgrace. It represents only the wishes and the views of perhaps seven lawyers in the Department of Justice. Bill C-22 is representative of nothing in this place. It is representative of nothing among the Canadian public, yet the justice minister brought it to this chamber.

In the 10 minutes allotted to me, I will quickly trace some of the history of this legislation.

In 1968 Canada's first Divorce Act was introduced. It introduced in some sense a no fault provision. In 1984 the act was amended and the then minister of justice in the Trudeau cabinet, Mr. MacGuigan, brought in some amendments to it. He introduced the concept of the best interest of the child, but, and this was a very traditional Liberal value, the best interest of the child included the joint financial obligations of the mother and the father to their children, and also the principle of maximum contact of the children with both parents.

The Divorce Act of 1984, or Bill C-10 as it was called ironically at that time, died on the Order Paper when Parliament dissolved in 1984. In 1985 the then minister of justice, Mr. Crosbie, brought in an act respecting divorce and corollary relief. He revamped and changed Bill C-10 but retained the best interest of the child concept and the concept of joint financial obligations toward joint and equal parenting.

I will flash forward to 1996 to Bill C-41 which introduced a revolutionary concept about child support. It put in place a regime where one parent, the non-custodial parent, would pay support and the custodial parent had no obligations. God bless those people in the other place because they resisted it. The bill passed on the very clear understanding that a joint committee of Parliament would be formed.

In 1997 that joint committee was formed by resolution of this House and the other place. That joint committee met throughout 1998 and made approximately 44 recommendations about fairness, about equality, about balance and most important, about putting two parents back into the life of a child when those parents divorced. I will read two pivotal recommendations of that committee.

Recommendation No. 5 of the joint committee report of December 9, 1998 states:

This Committee recommends that the terms “custody and access” no longer be used in the Divorce Act and instead that the meaning of both terms be incorporated and received in the new term “shared parenting”, which shall be taken to include all the meanings, rights, obligations, and common-law and statutory interpretations embodied previously in the terms “custody and access”.

Recommendation No. 6 states:

This Committee recommends that the Divorce Act be amended to repeal the definition of “custody” and to add a definition of “shared parenting” that reflects the meaning ascribed to that term by this Committee.

That is all rather interesting. At the same time, a massive public shift of opinion occurred.

A Compas poll showed that 89% of Canadians believed the stress of divorce was more severe than a generation ago, and that 70% of men and women said the courts do not pay enough attention to the needs of children.

In that same poll 62% of men and women said that they feel the courts pay too little attention to the needs of fathers and 80% of Canadians believed that the children of divorce must maintain ongoing relationships with their non-custodial parents. Also 65% of Canadians said that they feel it is a priority that the government should protect the rights of children to relationships with their non-custodial parents and that no custodial parent should be allowed to bar that access.

An Angus Reid poll on May 25, 1998 in the Globe and Mail said that 71% of residents of Ontario believe a woman's child support should be withheld if access is denied. Also it said that Ontarians are equally split as to whether or not jail terms are appropriate for access denial.

The end result was that in May 1999 the justice minister responded to the special joint committee. I quote from “Government of Canada Strategy for Reform” the Government of Canada’s response to the report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access:

The Government of Canada is committed to responding to the issues identified by the CommitteeReport. The Special Joint Committee Report’s key themes, concerns and recommendationsprovide a foundation for developing a strategy for reforming the policy and legislative frameworkthat deals with the impact of divorce on Canadian children.

On October 12, 1999 the throne speech said “it will work to reform family law and strengthen supports provided to families”.

With respect to the throne speech of January 30, 2001, at page 8 of the Senate Debates it states:

The government will work with its partners on modernizing the laws for child support, custody and access, to ensure that these work in the best interests of children in cases of family breakdown.

On September 30, 2002 the throne speech said at page 4:

[The government] will also reform family law, putting greater emphasis on the best interests of the child...and ensure that appropriate child and family services are available.

What do we get out of all of that? What does this all mean? It means that in December last year, the justice minister tabled Bill C-22 which reflects nothing. It is not reflective of anything that three committees of Parliament have said ought to be done. It does not reflect anything that Canadians told the committee. It reflects nothing that polls across the country have shown.

A justice minister, who had been the justice minister for three months, arrived and said “I know more. I know better. I will tell you what is in the best interests of children and it is this thing I call Bill C-22”.

The end result is that we are now living in a place where the executive branch has given to the House a bill which reflects only the wishes of the so-called experts in the Department of Justice. We have been given a bill which flies in the face of everything this place stands for in terms of representative democracy. The bill is the status quo or less. The bill does not address children.

The bill brings in a new concept which is turning the Divorce Act into the form of a mini criminal code. It introduces something called domestic violence into the Divorce Act.

Since when did a civil act become a criminal act? Since when did we start passing laws in this place that would criminalize allegations? Since when did we say to half the population, “You have no place in the life of your children because you have divorced and we will allow, not Parliament which has an obligation to protect children, but judges to decide”.

This will continue to foment dissent and great bitterness. Most tragically, we will continue to see a generation of children of divorce who only know one parent, who only know one family and who will be raised under the guise of revolution if we allow the bill to pass. That is why members of this chamber must do what is best for the children of this country, not what is best for a justice minister or his bureaucrats. We must stand and say at second reading, no, we will not accept this.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

February 20th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, an MP's life can be a most interesting one. Some 45 minutes ago, I was in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as was the parliamentary secretary I see here. We were discussing marriage, but marriage between same sex partners. Marriage there, and divorce here. Clearly these topics are of interest.

It is also a sign, however, to us all here in this House that what we do here will affect the personal everyday lives of the men and women of Quebec and of Canada.

When we address matters such as marriage and divorce, we must be very careful. We must reflect, listen, study. Unfortunately, with Bill C-22, the Minister of Justice seems to have brought forth a mouse. He has unfortunately not delivered on his promised revolution.

I would like to begin by reaffirming as strongly as possible the Bloc Quebecois' firm belief in the importance of the respective roles fathers and mothers play in the lives of their children, whether outside marriage, during a marriage, or after marriage breakdown.

Every parent, every father and mother has an important and essential role. This philosophical principle, which underlies every Bloc Quebecois intervention in the debate on Bill C-22, will guide us. This philosophical principle, which underscores the importance of the role of the father and the mother, will be present and is present in all our interventions in this bill.

You would not be surprised if I, as a Quebec sovereignist, said that the option preferred by the Bloc Quebecois is simply to repeal the Divorce Act and transfer it to Quebec.

In 1867, when the British North America Act, which is nothing more than an act passed by the British Parliament, was passed, anything that had to do with family law was left in the hands of the provinces under section 92 of the Constitution. The only exception was marriage and divorce, which, let us not forget, was basically for religious reasons.

Quebec was mostly Catholic and Canada and Ontario mostly Protestant and some feared that one of the provinces was imposing its views on the religious minority there.

Now that Quebec and Canada accept religious diversity and varying points of view, the federal government's appropriation of divorce and marriage, this tiny section of family law and civil law, no longer has its place. There is no longer any reason for this.

In this regard, the Bloc Quebecois is part of a long and illustrious tradition. For many decades, Union Nationale, Liberal and Parti Quebecois governments have all asked that family law be repatriated to Quebec. The Bloc Quebecois made this request again in 1998 when the joint committee on child custody submitted its report and it is a request we are reiterating today. We cannot be accused of inconsistency.

In the unfortunate event that the government rejects this option, changes would still need to be made to Bill C-22 introduced by the Minister of Justice.

I will simply address a few of the main points. When I met with Justice officials to discuss Bill C-22, they told me—unfortunately the briefing was conducted in English—that the words access and custody should be removed to effect what they called a conceptual shift in the approach to children's rights and to try to eliminate any notion of winner and loser in the debate on the custody of children.

Whether the words custody and access are removed or not, the fact remains that the child, boy or girl, will have to spend x number of days with mom and y number of days with dad. So, change wording as we may to call it something else, in actual fact, one parent will have the child for a period of time and the other will have him and her for another period of time.

All this to say that I seriously doubt that, in practice, the conceptual shift sought by the justice minister will be very meaningful.

Another aspect is the interest of the child. The minister's bill maintains the principle of the child's interest in determining custody and making various orders regarding the parents by setting out a number of criteria to take into consideration in determining what is in the interest of the child.

First, the interest of the child is already covered in subsection 16(8) of the Divorce Act, as well as in section 514 of the Quebec Civil Code, with respect to separation from bed and board.

All the minister has done in connection with the best interests of the child has been to codify existing criteria from the jurisprudence. Decisions rendered across Canada were reviewed, and actions determined to have ensured the child's best interests were included in the legislation.

In the system of laws that governs us, jurisprudence is very important. All this to say that codifying jurisprudence hardly qualifies as new law. It does not change the law; it changes absolutely nothing. It only makes a cosmetic change to that part of the act. Once again, it reinforces the idea—and this was the point I was making at the beginning—that the government has brought forth a mouse.

There is another major problem with Bill C-22. The unified family courts. The government wants to make sure there is a unified family court in every province. Again I will remind the House that in 1998, when the joint committee released its report, the Bloc Quebecois opposed this idea and, surprise, surprise, it is still opposed to it now.

The way the federal government sees it, a unified court would bring every aspect of family law under the Quebec Superior Court, whose judges are appointed by the federal government.

In Quebec, courts that have jurisdiction over family law, except, of course, for marriage and divorce, come under the Quebec court, whose judges are appointed by the Quebec government.

We are opposed to the principle of a unified family court as planned by the federal government. If it persists in this direction, we will ask respectfully but firmly that it transfer to Quebec the money set aside to establish a family court in Quebec, so that Quebec may keep its distinct character in the way it manages family law, which, I remind members, is under provincial jurisdiction. Quebec is the only province with a civil code.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose Bill C-22, but it is our sincere hope that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will hold the broadest possible consultations, because whatever we decide in this House will have far reaching consequences for millions of Quebeckers and Canadians.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

February 20th, 2003 / 11:40 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to pose a second question to my colleague. At the outset, obviously the debate is about to end on second reading of the bill. It then will proceed to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I look forward to that process because it will give Canadian Alliance members the opportunity to bring forward meaningful amendments on behalf of the children of Canada to try to correct the inadequacies, and there are many, in the proposed legislation, Bill C-22.

The question I want to pose to my colleague concerns the confusion when a government on behalf of the citizens of the country ratifies a United Nations convention, then turns around and brings in legislation like Bill C-22. I refer my colleague to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which the Canadian government ratified in 1991. Therefore it has been supported by Canadians through their government.

Part of article 9 states that parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interest.

Could my colleague comment on that? It is confusing when a government on behalf of the citizens ratifies something like that and then brings in legislation that does not reinforce the concept of shared parenting and the rights of the child.