House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was child.

Topics

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again I concede to the member that family violence is a situation which in the majority of cases the property course is probably for charges to be laid and for the relationship to stop because no one should be subject to that kind of abuse. I am very familiar with that.

The member asked what about emotion; a friend said they split up because the love went out of their marriage. Yet the member also said as a result of family breakdown there are children who do not have enough food to eat.

I would like to ask the member very directly, what is more important to the member. Is it the equality of emotion in the marriage or the food in the mouth of a child? It cannot be both ways. The member must make a choice.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member for Mississauga South is really lost today. He definitely has a comprehension problem. I am not here to preach. We are here to discuss concrete issues; we are talking about family, about women with children. Sure, feelings are important for couples. They are important because they affect the whole family, particularly children. When a woman is abused in a home, children often are abused too and the family lives in a violent environment day after day.

The hon. member says we will put a stop to this, no problem. These things are not so easy to stop. Do you know a woman who relishes the idea of getting beat up every day? To be sure some choices and decisions will have to be made. I do not understand

why the hon. member almost sounds like he is opposed to this bill from his own government. There is something wrong somewhere.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-41, which addresses some of the issues surrounding divorce and child support payments.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Excuse me. The Chair forgot to do something which was supposed to be done before five o'clock. Will he permit me to read something that has to be put directly?

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka, Justice; the hon. member for St. Boniface, French language communities; the hon. member for Regina-Lumsden, Gasoline pricing.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-41, a bill which addresses some of the issues surrounding divorce and child support payments.

I listened with interest as the member for Mississauga South spoke with some eloquence and certainly directly from the heart about how important the basic family and family values are to him, which I appreciate very much. However, he represents a party that is in the majority in this House and is able to do something about reinforcing family values and indeed they are the building block of society.

There are things that are not covered in this bill such as the way the Income Tax Act discriminates against married couples. The very high tax burden discriminates against couples in that a second job is no longer a choice but a necessity. We think that is a deterrent to keeping families together. Also, of course, there is the failure to recognize the very important role that one of the partners would play in staying home to look after the children.

Therefore, while I acknowledge and appreciate his support of the family, it is a voice in the wilderness and the views are not shared by the majority of the people on that side. He even made reference to the fact that in debate today a member rose and suggested that the divorce rate perhaps should be even higher. What he did not mention is that the comment came from a member of his party and certainly did not come from my party.

I believe it is important to recognize that whenever we address this issue we are dealing with a great personal tragedy. It only becomes necessary to discuss child support when divorce is occurring. A broken marriage is one of the most painful situations in life that people must go through.

Unfortunately, Bill C-41 is only one small step when what is required is a major overhaul of government policy with respect to families. Federal tinkering with this largely provincial area of jurisdiction may satisfy some vocal special interest groups, but the proposed changes will not deal with the root problem of family breakdown.

We have identified some specific problems with this bill which we believe should be addressed before this legislation is given approval. It is clear that all parents want what is best for the children. Even though their marriage is falling apart, the child's best interest remains central to the parents. It is therefore extremely important for us as legislators to understand the emotional impact and do our best to remove unnecessary tension and aggravation from the legal system.

This is one reason why the Reform Party has expressed its support for developing the concept of a unified family court. Rather than having to visit two and even three different courts in the course of divorce proceedings, all family law matters would be dealt with in one court with a greater emphasis on mediation.

We believe that in these difficult situations the law should be a servant to the parties and not a further frustration. Unfortunately, the minister has not even begun to address this important aspect of family law.

A troubling aspect of Bill C-41 is its insistence on rigid payment levels for support. A full year in advance of this bill, the Reform Party recommended the publication of guidelines for support. We said that Statistics Canada could be relied on to provide basic data about the average cost of raising children in the cities, towns and rural areas. Judges and interested parties could then use the data as a benchmark or starting point in their negotiations for support awards.

We believe the federal government should keep out of provincial jurisdiction and continue to allow judges the right to make the final decision about awards based on the long established legal principles of demonstrated need and ability to pay.

The justice minister's Bill C-41 imposes a made in Ottawa formula without giving judges the ability to serve just awards. The formula is inflexible and fails to take into account the differing needs of different families.

Just one example of where the formula falls short is that it fails to account for direct expenditures made by non-custodial parents on their children. These include transportation, food, accommodation and entertainment on access days. The minister's formula and

many bureaucrats fail to recognize these considerations, a judge would not.

Children need both their parents. The jurisdiction for custody, access and support is a provincial jurisdiction. Under Bill C-41, however, the federal government is going to assist the courts in matters of information gathering and enforcement of court orders for support.

Although we endorse this initiative, we believe it is important for the legislation to reflect that assistance in the area of access in custody as well. When parents use the children as tools against each other, the biggest losers are the children. It is vital for our legislation to reflect a concern for the access of a child to the love of both parents, not just the money of both parents.

We have said that we oppose this bill because of its failure to deal with significant aspects of the results of divorce. More disturbing than this is the complete lack of response to the deeper social problems of divorce and family break-up that have caused the need for us to deal with the child support issue. These underlying issues have been aggravated by well meaning but faulty government policies stretching back decades.

Progressive taxes that discourage hard work and high taxes that lower real family income are an impediment to financially stable families. Day care subsidies restrict the choice parents have when it comes to child care. Tax credits that discriminate against stay at home parents, including the expanded working income supplement proposed as part of these measures, are examples of government making choices for parents but not always in the best interests of the child.

The government has affirmed other relations as equivalent to marriage, even granting some of them taxpayer funding in the form of benefits. This new policy has demeaned the special status that marriage should enjoy in society.

The government has opened the borders further to the importation of increasingly graphic and violent obscene materials, materials that demean persons and relationships and strip them of their dignity. Our cultural institutions, many of them taxpayer funded, teach a false stereotype of love and marriage as being purely physical relationships. It is no wonder that so many of our young people have such difficulty in making a success of relationships because relationships require so much more.

Reformers believe in lower, flatter and fairer taxes. We believe in supporting marriage as a special institution and as the best place to raise children. We believe in subsidizing parents, not day care centres, and we believe in a civil society where activities, behaviour and material that undermines strong families are restrained or prohibited.

Leadership in society on this issue is sorely lacking. I cannot remember the last time we heard a member of the federal cabinet get up and extol the virtues of marriage and family and the vital importance of parents in bringing up the next generation. They have spent a lot of time talking about the value of other types of relationships, but not one word about marriage.

During the past year I have had the honour and privilege of attending many 50th wedding anniversaries. The end of the second world war was in 1946 and those brave young Canadians who returned were getting married and starting a new life. Through hard work and perseverance they managed to develop a successful relationship that should be a model for our young people. We can all learn a great deal from the love and commitment these couples demonstrated one to another.

Perhaps for a few there is no possible alterative to divorce, but for many others the worth of marriage has been so devalued by our modern throwaway society that divorce has appeared to become an easy and reasonable option. All too often, however, those most important damaged by this newly casual option are the children.

If we believe in the value of strong families, then we need strong leadership to stand for what we know to be right. Over the past three years I have heard many members of this House talk about child poverty. Today I stand to agree with them. There is a massive problem with child poverty in Canada.

It is not, as some claim, an economic problem. In fact our society is quite wealthy. There is no need for even the lowest income families to do without the basic necessities. The child poverty I am talking about is the emotional and spiritual poverty that a child of divorced parents suffers. With only one parent at a time children of divorce suffer from a love deficit.

This is borne out by the myriad studies which prove conclusively how much harder life is for these youngsters. Children of divorce have an increased likelihood of failing or dropping out of school, using drugs, committing crimes, suffering depression, mental illness and suicide and having interpersonal relationship problems, including a greater likelihood of divorce and family violence themselves.

Child support needs to be about more than just financial payments. It is about meeting all the needs of children including their need for both parents' love and attention.

Reformers are exercising leadership on the child poverty issue by attacking the root of the problem: family breakdown. If the Liberal government and the justice minister think that the Canadian people do not care about this basic problem, that Canadians only want to apply a band-aid solution like Bill C-41 to one of the symptoms of the problem, they had better think again.

Canadians care about families. They care about child poverty. They care about their neighbourhoods and communities. What they do not care for is impersonal big government, its high taxes and the social manipulation and interference it brings.

More programs and more spending are not the solution to this problem. Exercising leadership and making the necessary legislative changes are part of the solution. I ask all members to join me in opposing Bill C-41.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his presentation on this issue.

I have a question. We heard a little earlier today from a member of the governing party bragging about the number of justice bills that the government has brought before the House. In this area of reforming the Divorce Act what we were looking for was some substantial, comprehensive legislation which dealt with a wide range of issues. All we have had is piecemeal legislation which deals with only one aspect. I would like to ask the hon. member to comment on that.

As well, the member for Halifax was suggesting that the divorce rate should be higher than it probably is, if more people would give up on marriages which they should give up on. Then we had the member from Mississauga saying that there should be much more substantial change in this area. Yet those members are all from the governing side.

The government has the power to make the changes that are being recommended and not just to tinker with so many different bills which really do so little. I would like the hon. member to comment on that also.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Vegreville for the question.

What is demonstrated in this bill is a lack of commitment on the part of the government to deal with the real issue of divorce and family breakdown. Like so many bills, it is a halfway measure, trying to walk down the middle of the road and be all things to all people. The tragedy of course is in the failure to deal with the root problem.

We had on the floor today in excess of 100 of our Olympic athletes. Those athletes are living testimonials to commitment and dedication in what they have done to overcome obstacles to make them the very best in the world. The commitment and dedication which was demonstrated on the floor of the House today by those Canadian athletes is what is missing across the aisle in government members. They should show the same commitment and dedication to the basic family unit and the important role it plays in this great country of ours. Sadly it is lacking and I wish we could instil it.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are debating Bill C-41. The title of the act is rather long and boring. It is an act to amend four other acts. The real purpose of the bill is to deal with the enforcement of child support, to ensure that non-custodial parents continue to support their children financially.

The main provisions of the bill are to set guidelines for child support so there is more certainty and uniformity in the manner in which child support awards are handed down. New access to Revenue Canada databases will be granted in order to search for and locate defaulting parents. The bill will allow public service pension benefits to be garnisheed. Finally, the bill provides for the withdrawal of federal licences. Federal licences are defined so as to include passports.

The purpose of the bill is to give some teeth to the legislation and to provide greater certainty that parents who are ordered to support their children financially do so.

Those are the four main points about which we are talking today and I would like to address them. However, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe I have the time to get into those four provisions, so with your permission perhaps I could speak to them tomorrow. This is a sensitive matter. We are dealing with children, families, divorce and all the difficulties which that entails. We need to be very balanced and careful when we talk about these issues. I will certainly attempt to do that tomorrow.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary North will have the floor tomorrow when we return to this matter.

The House resumed, from September 27, 1996, consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, an act for making the system of Canadian ports competitive, efficient and commercially oriented, providing for the establishing of port authorities and the divesting of certain harbours and ports, for the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway and ferry services and other matters related to maritime trade and transport and amending the Pilotage Act and amending and repealing other Acts as a consequence, be referred now to the Standing Committee on Transport.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion by Mr. Anderson regarding Bill C-44.

Call in the members.

(Motion agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Transport.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-53, an act to amend the Prisons and Reformatories Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

October 1st, 1996 / 6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on second reading of Bill C-53, an act to amend the Prisons and Reformatories Act.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House would agree I would propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted

on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House. Liberal members will be voting yea.