House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Divorce Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. member for indicating that.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Bernier Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-41, which, as was mentioned earlier, has been sent back to us by the Upper Chamber, the Senate, where it was amended, after having been passed by the House of Commons a few months ago.

We therefore find ourselves once again in the situation that has arisen on several occasions during this Parliament of having to go back over debates we have already had because senators, more often than not for lack of enough to keep them busy, decide to review a bill and make amendments to it.

In this case, three amendments were proposed by members of the Upper Chamber and I will come back to them during my speech.

I would like to take a few minutes to deplore the state of affairs I have just described. The House of Commons is made up of representatives from throughout Canada, who have been elected by their respective constituents to represent them in this House and to introduce and pass bills meeting the needs and aspirations of the public.

The nature of our parliamentary system is such that another Chamber, the Upper Chamber, or the Senate, whose members are not elected, may, for all sorts of reasons, more often than not partisan, hold up the legislative process by intervening to amend bills, thus delaying their implementation, often with unfortunate and even disastrous consequences for many members of the public.

We must speak out against this meddling by representatives of the Senate who are, I repeat, not elected. They have been appointed by various governments. We know how senators get to the Upper Chamber. In the great majority of cases, they were selected for purely partisan reasons. There are exceptions, of course, and most senators are men and women who have served the Liberal or Conservative parties at some time in the past-

Divorce Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Or both.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Bernier Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

-and which continue to serve one or the other of these parties, or as my colleague from Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup has just pointed out, both, more often than not. These people, who totally lack the legitimacy of having been elected, hinder things at every turn.

I referred to the comment my hon. colleague for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup made earlier, and I will take this opportunity to call attention to his efforts regarding the uselessness, not the usefulness, of the Upper House. My colleague was the spark behind a petition tabled in this House after doing the rounds of Quebec. You will recall that in excess of 30,000 of our fellow citizens called for total abolition of the Senate.

In the years since 1993, every chance it gets, the Bloc Quebecois has initiated this debate, or taken part in debates calling for the abolition of the Upper Chamber. In reference to the very option of the Bloc Quebecois and the reason for its existence, that is Quebec sovereignty, we feel that the Upper Chamber is not the only thing that is superfluous. So is our presence here in the House of Commons

We therefore hope that, as soon as possible, a new country will appear on the North American scene, a country to be called Quebec, which will be able to establish good relationships with its neighbours, not just to the south, but to the east and west as well. Then, we will be able to concentrate on debates focussed on finding solutions, instead of wasting time discussing the uselessness of the Upper Chamber and, more often than not, having to do as we are today, pick up again on something that they have decided to demolish.

Since we are talking about the Senate and its purpose in life, although more often than not, what it does in the legislative sphere is pretty useless, the Senate does have a purpose. As I said, it is a kind of Club Med for former Liberal and Conservative party organizers which allows them to travel all over the world at government and taxpayers' expense.

It also allows organizers with the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party to work full time on organizing and fundraising for their respective parties. In the case of the Conservative Party, if it had not been for the presence of Conservative senators in the other place during the past three years, not much would have happened on the political or organizing side in the party, since here in the House, it has only two members, including the hon. member for

Sherbrooke, whose salary is largely paid by the taxpayers of Sherbrooke so he can act as director general of the Conservative Party.

And more often than not, the hon. member is not in the House, because he is too busy rebuilding a party which in any case will disappear in the next election. And the same applies to a large number of senators whom I will not identify, since everyone knows who I mean.

The fact remains that Bill C-41 is extremely important for all families with children which, for various reasons, have to separate. These children do not only suffer the emotional shock of separation but also suffer economically as a result of a decision made without their consent and often without consulting them. I repeat, they suffer the impact of such decisions, justified though they may be.

Bill C-41 is an attempt to deal with a problem that has been severely criticized by many people across Canada and especially in Quebec. The government wanted to deal with a problem that came before the Supreme Court with the Thibaudeau case, and the court's decision is well known, because as a result, support payments paid by a spouse are still deducted from that person's taxable income and added to the income of the person receiving them on behalf of the children, an important point.

I do not have the statistics before me, but from memory I would say that over 90 per cent of the time women are the ones receiving support for children in their care and the ones obliged to add this support to their income.

Their former husband, who has often faded into the woodwork or is hard to locate, often fails in his responsibility. When he does fulfil his responsibility, he gets a tax deduction, whereas his former wife, who has custody of the children, has an increase in her income and is obliged to pay tax on much of the child support.

This is unfair. Bill C-41 wants to put an end to this. When the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice spoke in the House, he repeated what the representatives of the Liberal government had said, and what had been said of course by the members of the Bloc Quebecois. In Quebec, we have been aware of this situation for a number of years and, as we have in many areas, come up with solutions that are not only original but fulfil the needs and expectations of those concerned. I am speaking obviously of the guidelines that will be given to accommodate the establishment of the support payment.

In Quebec, we have already set a number of criteria. The federal government can do the same. The bill provides that the government may order that provincial criteria apply. This would avoid a double standard in the distribution and calculation of support payments.

My colleague from Lévis mentioned this earlier. In the case of divorce, federal law obviously applies, because divorce is under federal jurisdiction. In the case of separation, the Civil Code will apply as it does to marriage. As we have said on many occasions, the situation is a bit of a paradox, but nevertheless not unlike the constitutional issue. Whereas marriage, or union, comes under Quebec law, divorce or the break-up of the union is under federal jurisdiction.

This is the very thing we have been trying to explain to our colleagues across the way for decades, and we seem to be having a bit of a problem getting the message across.

Coming back to the bill per se, Bill C-41 provides an opportunity to include the criteria established by the provinces. The Bloc Quebecois spoke out publicly against this. It is not that we disagree, on the contrary; we insisted that the criteria established by Quebec or any other province should take precedence over those established by the federal government. We feel there is no need for the kind of paternalistic attitude the federal government displays more often than not in different areas in the name of imposing national standards.

As I indicated at the beginning of my speech, the Senate made three amendments. The first one provides for the establishment of a joint committee of the House and the Senate on child custody and access. The Bloc is opposed to this amendment for a very logical reason. We believe the Senate should not interfere in any way with the preparation or consideration of this bill. There is no need for a committee on child custody and access.

For this provision to make its way into the bill, it has to have been approved by the government through its justice minister. The Bloc Quebecois will make sure to sit on this committee to defend the views of our party of course, but also those of the people of Quebec.

Another Senate amendment would lift the legal obligation to pay for the children's education until they turn 25 and let the courts decide instead. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with this amendment. In Quebec, this issue was settled by jurisprudence following an interpretation of the civil code. For us, it is a matter of fact. We certainly have no objection to the inclusion of this provision in the bill.

Finally, the third amendment made by the Upper House would have both parents provide for the child instead of just the parent paying alimony. Again, the official opposition agrees with this amendment. The problem was raised in committee by Bloc members. Furthermore, in its own guidelines, the Government of Quebec looks at the income of both parents.

That is the position of the Bloc Quebecois on the Senate amendments. I will conclude my remarks by saying a few words about the need, in this kind of debate, to focus on those we are most concerned about, and I am talking about children of course. It was with our children in mind that we wanted to settle this matter.

It is important to point out that the child support we are talking about in discussing the determination of the amount and the need for it to be fair and equitable is the support paid to ensure what I would call the optimal development of the children, and not to support the spouse.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, children have no business paying for the decisions made by their parents, even if these decisions are warranted to ensure the well-being of the children as well as the adults.

In other words, we must make sure every precaution is taken not to penalize the children, who already have to deal with the emotional trauma of separation.

I do hope that, this time, the House will pass this bill, with amendments, so that it can be implemented as soon as possible.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

February 14th, 1997 / 1 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order for clarification.

I want to explain a matter very briefly. Often in this House, whether in question period or in debate, we can totally and unintentionally provide information or give a response that is not entirely accurate.

As I was leaving the House I was reminded by members of the press that today in question period I had referred to incidents in Somalia, to which I have referred many times, as shootings, as killings and as murder, as has been suggested by questions and responses.

I want to apologize to the House and to my colleagues if in any way I mislead anyone by linking the two incidents in Somalia in the sense that I said "that Canadians are fully aware of what took place with respect to the murders by shooting or by torture". The torture death obviously is a totally separate incident from the shootings of the two Somali citizens and that shooting resulted in the death of one of them.

As I recall to the best of my information, on two instances in question period today I spoke of murders, in the plural. Obviously there is one incident that can be described appropriately as a murder. The shooting that resulted in the killing of a Somali citizen is another matter. I did not want under any circumstances to leave that kind of impression with my colleagues or with anyone else who is following this matter.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, a point of order.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If it is to make a comment on what has just been said I will hear the hon. member. However, I do not think that is normally what is expected when somebody gets up and makes a statement such as the one just made.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, if it is permissible I would ask for a further point of clarification from the hon. minister. Is he telling the House that the death of the two civilians, which has been described in some accounts as execution style, were not murders? Is this what he is telling the House?

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

This is debate. It is not a question and answer period. However, in these very serious circumstances if the minister wishes to say something further I will be happy to hear it.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank you and the House very much for your indulgence. I think it is a question that needs to be addressed.

The reason that I came back at the very first opportunity to clarify this is because I do not believe that any of us can draw conclusions with respect to the nature of the incident. What the judicial proceedings have demonstrated is that in one instance there was a death that has been described and was determined as murder.

The other incident which involved a shooting and killing of a Somali citizen is still a question that needs to be resolved. That is why I want to make sure that I was not speaking of murders, in the plural, but making sure that I was as accurate as possible for the benefit of the House and for all of my colleagues.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, a point of order.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

We are not going to turn this into a question and answer period. This can be done better in question period. Is it a separate point of order or more on the same point of order?

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is on the same point of order but it would be for clarification purposes.

In question period he made a comment which he now feels needs to be clarified. He has clarified it and I understand his clarification. However, why can we not have further clarification of what he has now said and submitted to the House because there is a difference.

In one case he knows it was murder. In the other case he is unsure, but yet he has invoked closure on the hearings. Why has he invoked closure on the hearings when he does not have all the answers?

Points Of Order
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Hon. members are trying to develop a new procedure where we have questions and answers after anyone comes in to clarify something they said during question period. I do not think we have anything in our standing orders to cover this.

We will return to the order of business which is before the House.

[English]

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-41, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Canada Shipping Act.