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.


Martin Cauchon  Liberal


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


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.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 1:50 p.m.
See context


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great interest that I read Bill C-22, 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.

As the Bloc Quebecois critic for the status of women, I want to tell this House about the concerns of Canadian and Quebec women regarding this bill.

While we feel that the committee has made some efforts to improve the Divorce Act, we think that the legislator, or the committee, will have to go back to the drawing board. We are asking that committee members hold hearings, so that all groups, that is those representing both men and women, can express their views.

The reason we say all groups is simply to acknowledge the fact that there is currently a strong lobby of men's groups working to ensure that their rights are recognized, because, apparently, some judges are not granting them access and custody rights.

First, I remind the House that Canada does not even have a real family policy, and it does not have a policy promoting women's equality and the well-being of their children within the family.

During the World March of Women, which took place in the year 2000, the Canadian committee for that march made a number of recommendations, namely: to eliminate poverty and violence against women, to ensure equality for women in the workplace, pay equity, employment equity, universal, accessible and affordable daycare services, social assistance programs, a comprehensive civil law legal aid program, comprehensive social programs, specific measures to meet the various needs of women and their children, public and universal health care services and so on. There was also a specific request that had to do with the changes that we wanted to the Divorce Act.

The bill now before us turns the responsibility for one's family into a private affair. However, I, like other women, feel that since children are the future of a society, the responsibility for them falls on all citizens.

Too many studies show that the rise in child poverty is due, for the most part, to higher poverty rates among women. Not everyone is convinced that the child-centred family justice strategy does indeed minimize the negative impact of separation or divorce on children as it claims to do. Take, for example, the current guidelines for child support payments, which stipulate that in cases of joint custody, the support payments be dramatically reduced or even eliminated.

In reality, a great many women today find themselves caring for children alone and without child support payments, despite joint custody agreements. This problem only adds to and exacerbates the already extremely high poverty levels experienced by single mothers, leading to some of the worst situations of social and economic hardship in Canada.

Driven to such poverty, many mothers become much more vulnerable to harassment and threats of violence.

Women are also very concerned about proposals to entrench a model based on shared parenting.

In June 2001, the National Association of Women and the Law submitted a brief to the federal-provincial-territorial family law committee. In it, the association recommended against creating a legal presumption in support of joint custody or shared parenting. Imposing this type of formula on recalcitrant parents guaranteed disastrous results.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, Bill C-22 seeks to make some amendments to the Divorce Act of Canada. I believe we have not had changes to the Divorce Act since 1986.

Members will talk today in the House, in committee and as we go through the various stages of legislation about the best interests of the children and putting their interests first. There will be all forms of description of somehow trying to shift the focus away from couples in dispute and to their children.

Why have parliamentarians and other groups around the country, such as the judicial system, recognized that children are in distress when it comes to divorce situations? That question twigged my interest back in 1997. I penned a monograph, only about 80 pages long, called “Divorce--The Bold Facts”. It struck my interest because I learned that in 1967 there were 11,000 divorces in Canada. Some 30 years later we had gone from 11,000 divorces up to 90,000 divorces, a significant change. Fifty per cent of marriages in 1997 ended up in divorce, which shocked me. What happened in our society that all of a sudden the percentage of marriages ending in divorce would go from 10% to 50%? What are the consequences?

As parliamentarians, we are concerned about issues such as child poverty. We are concerned about the Young Offenders Act and our criminal justice system. Well here are the facts and why I wrote this monograph.

The monograph says that lone parent families represent about 15% of all families in Canada. Lone parents are those who are no longer in a married relationship or have a partner. However they account for 54% of all children living in poverty. Fifteen per cent of the families account for 54% of children living in poverty. Why then, when we talk about child poverty, do we somehow have to talk about giving money here and there? If we really want to address child poverty, clearly we have to address the one issue which is the cause of more than half of it, and that is the breakdown of families.

In addition to that, the Department of Justice reported that 70% of young offenders come from broken families. Do members think that children are affected by the breakdown of the Canadian family? Do members think that maybe there is an opportunity for us to address the criminal justice system as it relates to young offenders?

Children are not born bad. Children are a function of their environment, and the breakdown of the Canadian family is the single largest cause of poverty and youth crime in Canada. That is why we must address the Divorce Act. That is why we must make absolutely sure, in making changes to the Divorce Act this time around, after so many years and after so much study, that we do not have a false start. We cannot afford to let our children down. This is all about children.

Earlier a member spent most of the speech talking about domestic violence. I have a report produced by Statistics Canada in 1999 on behalf of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. It is the most recent information available. It reports that there were 690,000 incidents of violence against a female spouse and 549,000 perpetrated by a woman against a man.

The conclusion of the survey was that we were getting very close to where the incidents of domestic violence were equally perpetrated by men and women. This is shameful. Something is wrong out there and we need to be extremely careful not to be relying on anecdotal evidence of the past about the existence and perpetration of domestic violence or abuse because it does affect children.

We know from the research that has been done in Canada that children who witness abuse are as seriously affected by that abuse as if they had been abused themselves directly. That is how serious it is. That is why as we approach this I think it is absolutely critical that we take into account the full range of impacts on children.

It is not simply that Mommy and Daddy are breaking down and are going their separate ways. The children have to witness that. The parents may hate each other and abuse each other but the children are the ones affected. All of a sudden there are two homes to care for. Mommy's and Daddy's incomes did not change but expenses sure went up because now there is a second residence.

Anyone who enters into a family breakdown relationship had better know real quick that their financial viability will go south. The financial burden on couples when they break down often manufactures poverty. Many families, when they are together, statistically and however we measure family poverty, would say that they are not in poverty. However, once they split up, once they have a second residence, and once they have ongoing legal and court costs and all the other things attendant to an acrimonious breakup, those families in a lot of cases end up living in poverty. It is not economic poverty due to economic circumstances. It is economic poverty due to social circumstances. It is a social poverty; a manufactured poverty.

We have to understand that children always are the victims. When we worked through the joint Commons-Senate committee on custody and access we talked about these issues. We heard witnesses over a two year period. There was no disagreement and recommendations were made in the December 1998 report, “For the Sake of the Children”. It reflected the theme and the principles on which we should approach our Divorce Act.

One of the key issues the committee talked about was the whole concept of custody and access. Custody and access would tend to indicate to parties that there is a winner and a loser. The committee disagreed with that based on broad, expert testimony from across the country over a two year period that said that we should get some things straight. It said that each parent had an important contribution to make to the lives of their children and they should have that opportunity, and that children had the right to love both parents equally, even if the parents hated each other. These are important, base foundation principles that must be taken into serious account as we look at the Divorce Act.

Many members will come forward with horror stories from their constituents. We will hear stories about the concept of parental alienation syndrome. This is a situation where a parent pits a child against the other parent and makes the parent look bad. Usually it is the custodial parent who perpetrates this.

Even though there are court orders and access orders stating that a non-custodial parent can have access at certain periods, we will hear stories that access is actually denied by the custodial parent. The recourse to the parent who has been denied access is to go to the courts. All of sudden we need lawyers again and we need the courts. In the meantime, the family has exhausted all of its resources and liquid assets fighting a battle that basically would allow them to see their children.

I will talk about the fathers out there but first I will explain why I say fathers. The evidence is clear that about 80% of custody orders go to women when they go to the courts. However, it is even worse than that. The lawyers for the fathers who want access advise their clients that the climate is such or their circumstances are such that they do not have a hope. They tell them that since it will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the case only to lose that they might as well not go.

It is not just 80% of custody orders going to the mother. When we take into account all the fathers who just cannot afford to go bankrupt trying to express their love for their children and wish to have access to those children, they are not even in the game and are not included in the statistics. However, when all is said and done, probably closer to 90% of custody is held by women and, therefore, the incidences of parental alienation and the incidences of denial of access are predominantly to the disadvantage of the fathers.

We have fathers' groups set up all across the country that have been crying out for a little bit of equity within the Divorce Act. These fathers want the opportunity to love their children and to play a role in their children's lives.

One of the important aspects of how we deal with parents who decide to split up has to do with a parenting plan. What a lovely concept that parents, before they leave the table, before they go their own ways and before they pick up the pieces of their lives, that they will have a parenting plan that will lay out visitation privileges, education and medical decisions, religious arrangements and anything else to do with the lives of those children. It respects the principle that parents will have the maximum exposure possible.

The question of access or visitation of non-parents, like grandparents, was an issue raised by some members and certainly by witnesses before the committee.

A parenting plan sounds like a good concept. It should be there, not just imposed for those cases where there is a custody dispute or a disputed split up. I believe that a parenting plan should be there for all parties, whether children are involved or whether they have a harmonious relationship or not, and it should be protected by the courts.

I think it is very serious to violate a parenting plan, to deny access, to perpetrate parental alienation, to take flight with a child or to simply not respect the provisions of a parenting plan.

When the committee discussed this, and in some of the testimony that was given, it was said that if parents were not going to play ball, if parents were not going to understand that children needed protection and if parents were not going to respect the provisions of a parenting plan, they needed to understand that they were breaking the law and that it would jeopardize their right to have custody of that child. That is how serious this is.

As we go through the legislative process I hope members will seek to ensure that the changes that we make to the Divorce Act will protect and enshrine the fundamental principles that came out of that very important committee work through the joint Commons-Senate committee on custody and access.

I do not think there is anything more important than children when it comes down to dealing with this issue. I have heard some members express some concern for balance because one size does not fit all. We need to have some dynamism within our legislation to take into account unusual circumstances, such as the case of a mother who has custody of the children. If she has special training but a job is no longer available in her community should she be able to relocate to another community where there is real work? I think there is good argument in that case but what about a case where it is a little bit grey? Obviously there are concerns there.

The bill ought to have some dynamism. It should not be black and white. It should not be rigid.

I have spent a lot of time following the development of the debate on the Divorce Act. I have given a number of speeches to groups, ostensibly fathers' groups, fathers who were fighting to have access to their children, fathers who have lost everything they had trying to get access to their children and could not find justice in Canada.

If we honestly believe that both parents have an important contribution to make to their children and that we should do everything possible to make that happen, those who would break that bond and not respect that principle should understand that it would be against the law to do so and that there would be consequences for denying a parent their legitimate and important right to have access to children.

The bill is at second reading. Rather than getting into too much detail and into each individual clause I want to hear more. I want to hear some of the experts and legal experts comment on the provisions of the bill, the true intent, the effect and to see whether it is happening.

I also hope that the committee will look at the recommendations of the joint Commons-Senate committee. Over 40 recommendations were embraced by members from all parties, including members of the other place. It is important that the committee look at each and every recommendation to understand the genesis of those recommendations and to understand what is appearing now in Bill C-22 that reflects that important work that was done by Parliament.

If any of those recommendations are not there, and I know many are not, parliamentarians on the justice committee and those who will appear should make their case as to why they should or should not be there. I think we have to vet that particular report.

I received a report from Mr. Brian Jenkins who is very active in a fathers' group. Mr. Jenkins is fighting to get a bit of equity in our system. I would like to put into the record a couple of his concerns that I hope the committee will address. He raised the concern about the terms custody and access. He said that the vocabulary changed but that it would not correct the divorce law regime. I hope we will address that.

He also said that the bill did not change the current substantive policy of presumptive sole custody and control that makes fathers mere visitors in children's lives and that it did not address the problems of parental alienation. I think he has a good point. I think the bill should if it does not.

He also said that the bill would repeal subsection 16(10) of the Divorce Act which provides for children to have maximum contact time with each parent, both custodial and non-custodial. I do not have a problem with that. Why would the bill repeal it? I want the committee to ensure that it investigates and examines the true intent.

The bill also does not address the lack of enforcement of custody and access of court orders which result in the parental alienation of children. Why?

I could go on but I know I will have other opportunities. I think members should be aware that this an important issue. It is a children's issue more than it is a parenting issue. Members should also know of the importance demonstrated around the world in other models where counselling after breakdown should and will help. We would like to find out how come these rules do not also apply to the breakdown of common law couples with children. Are these children not as important as the children of married couples?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 1 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak on behalf of the children and on behalf of the many parents and families who go through the great tragedy of separation and divorce and see their families being divided.

I want to look at two or three of the committee recommendations and glance at the UN resolutions before I get into the legislation itself.

The committee recommended that the Divorce Act be amended to include a preamble alluding to the relevant principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I looked to see what those might be and I found article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1991 by Canada, which states:

In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

I am aware that phrase was in the divorce code even before these revisions and it has not helped much. It is good to know there is a stronger focus on that now. We agree with that idea.

Article 9 states:

States parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.

We must keep that in mind.

The committee also recommended that the Divorce Act be amended to repeal the definition of custody and to add the definition of shared parenting that reflects the meaning ascribed to the term by the committee. The Minister of Justice has insisted on ignoring this recommendation and still does not want to discuss the real meaning of shared parenting. The change recommended by the committee indicated more than simply a change in terminology.

I have to ask, have members been there? I do not necessarily mean have they been there personally, but have they been there with more than just a personal issue? Were members there when parents moved from the happiness of their marriage into a time of debate and quarrelling and battle? Were members there to calm and encourage and help parents? Were members there when that was not successful and the parents went to court? Are members aware of the things that happen within the courtroom? Have members been there? I dare say a large number of members have not been there in that capacity.

I have been there in all of those cases. I have seen it in my own family. I have counselled many families who have gone through this. I have sat in the courtroom and heard the verdicts. The Divorce Act is in bad need of repair. We believe the repair being offered today falls short of what is needed.

Who is impacted by the ongoing injustices imposed by the courts in the present adversarial winner takes all approach? Every child and every parent who goes through that situation is impacted and it does not end there. There are thousands of grandparents across Canada who have been cut off from access to their own grandchildren. They cannot see them. Maybe they see them on rare occasions but in a number of cases there is no occasion at all. When that happens the grandparents are severely impacted. I can also speak to the bill from that aspect. I have grandchildren who have suffered through divorce. I know how badly they are impacted.

The impact goes on, not just for the wife and husband who go through the breakup, the separation and divorce. The judgment is so often the final spike in the heart of that couple. It goes on to perhaps another family when the mother or the father establishes a new relationship in a new home with another family perhaps. Other ingredients are added. The impact goes on and on. The innocent party in the new relationship often is put through agony because the new spouse is being driven into the ground or is agonizing over the loss of contact with children from a previous marriage.

It does not end in the courtroom. If only it did end in the courtroom. Even though the parents get divorced, the relationship between them does not end; it changes drastically but it does not end. We must especially remember that parents do not divorce their children. There is a relationship and we need to be extremely careful in how we handle it. There needs to be an ongoing relationship between the children and their mother and father and their grandfathers and grandmothers. That needs strong consideration.

We are talking about the best interests of the child in the legislation and let us leave that as the top principle. I agree with that. But let us also realize that we have a responsibility to the mother and the father to do the best we can to assist them through that traumatic time in their lives and see a proper outcome.

Subclause 1(1) of Bill C-22 states:

The definitions “custody” and “custody order” in subsection 2(1) of the Divorce Act are repealed.

That is wonderful news in itself but as I look at Bill C-22 very carefully, although the wording has changed, I do not see the veil yet removed. I see the same things simply said in other words and in other terms. We are going to see the same thing continue to happen. We could have done a better job of making that clearer. In fact, just today the Minister of Justice in his presentation said that the government could not accept the concept that one parenting arrangement was better than any other.

Well, I suggest and I dare any member to argue with it, that there is one parenting arrangement that is better than any other and that is to have a child with its natural mother and its natural father in a happy relationship. The Canadian Alliance would have been laughed out of this place had we made a statement like that, that there is not a situation that is better than another. There is one.

We can look at the statistics across the land and across North America as a whole and find the awful tragedy that is imposed upon fatherless homes where there is only one parent. I am sure there are also tragic statistics for the family that has only the father in the home. I believe that we are made in such a way that we need the influence of our mothers and our fathers in order for us to develop to our greatest potential.

The minister said that the government could not put shared parenting in because it would lead to confusion. We are already confused. This act as is has led to confusion. Even though it talks about the best interests of the child, we are confused because no one seems to be really concerned about the best interests of the child. The child is shuffled off to one side or the other, whichever way the judge perhaps feels is the expedient thing to do. I can think of cases where this was not in the best interests of the child, but was for the convenience perhaps of the court.

One thing that is put forward in the new bill is parenting orders. Again, even though these new terms do not say custody, they are still veiled and weighted. Let me read subclause 16(1):

A court of competent jurisdiction may make an order relating to the exercise of parental responsibilities in respect of any child of the marriage, on application by

(a) either or both spouses;

Then it goes ahead to mention other people. It says either or both spouses.

I agree that my education, experience and background is a bit different than the norm in this place, but I remember something from when I studied theology. There is a principle when one is taught how to study the Bible that the first mention of something is always the most important thing to consider in considering a matter. Ladies may have a little trouble relating to this because when they go into a store it is never the first article they see that they want to buy, at least not until they have checked the rest of the mall. Men like to go into a store, pick out the shirt on the first rack that fits and buy it. We are attracted many times to the first thing we see.

Subclause (a) says either or both spouses. I think we could have had a little stronger language. Maybe this is a small point, but perhaps it should have said that a judge could write the order to both spouses or to either. I think we should at least imply that the first order of things should be to consider these spouses in an equal manner before the court.

I suggest that one of the reasons there is so much confusion around the term “shared parenting”, and there is not as much confusion as the hon. minister implied, is because there are those who have attempted to ensure that there is confusion and that it is obscured. There are those who have run the idea that shared parenting would dictate that every couple that walked into a divorce court would get fifty-fifty time with the kids and the kids would have to shuttle back and forth. That is not the idea that most would have on shared parenting.

When parents walks through the courtroom door, it is a real tragedy of justice when the judge, with the entry of those people, has already made up his mind on his verdict, as recently told in one case in Saskatchewan. The judge literally slept through the divorce proceedings and at the end made his ruling. That is a travesty of justice. That happened only because he already knew what would do, which was the same thing that he had been doing, and on and on it goes.

Parenting orders is a good change from custody but at the same time we need to understand that the parents need some sort of equality until it is demonstrated that one of the parents in their relationship would bring harm or has brought harm to the child in the past.

The legislation talks about parenting time. It talks about the time they spend with other people. I want to read subclause 15(5). It states, “The court may, in an order under this section, allocate to either spouse or to both spouses”, and there is that wording again “either spouse” or by a wild change maybe to both, “any combination of those individuals, parenting time, responsibilities for making major decisions”. It goes to say that they would be responsible for making other kinds of decisions. I think we are starting to get the point that responsibility for making decisions can be assigned and divided under this.

First, it says that parenting time is something that they can order by way of a schedule. I looked at that and I realized there has never been an adequate way of enforcing, encouraging or handling the time schedule. Yes, some of the court orders read with wonderful terminology. That I cannot deny. It all looks good on paper, but when one parent is given the run around week after week, shuttled to the end of the line, shuttled to the end of the month and then shuttled to another month and not allowed to have decent time spent with their own children, something needs to be in the legislation as to how the breaking of that order can be enforced, because the failure of the paying parent to pay can be enforced and that is done quite readily. There are contact orders and also guidelines under that.

The legislation talks about ensuring that we do it in the best interests of the child. The court shall take into consideration only the best interests of the child. Perhaps we understand that is the highest, but I think we need to mention also the inherent rights of the child and perhaps even of the parents.

One thing that has improved is the putting in of the list of criteria that the judge needs to consider to determine the best interests of the child. However, as we look at this, there is no guidance given or indication that a disqualification in any of these categories has to be proven. It can only be alleged and that is all that is required. Because it does not have to be demonstrated that it would not be helpful, it leaves it very vague.

The legislation talks about including the child's cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage, including aboriginal upbringing and heritage. For one thing, why do we single out one race? Whose heritage? Whose religion and whose culture?

We are leaving so much up to the judge that I am afraid the adversarial system of the past will simply be passed on. I am afraid we will continue to disengage some who will not go to court, or will not pursue the interests of the child, or will not pay or will not be responsible. I would suggest the reason so much of this happens today is not so much because we have deadbeat parents, or deadbeat dads or deadbeat moms, but because the court system, in the way it has interpreted this past legislation, has issued radically unfair and not charter proof rulings. I do not think this legislation will keep that from continuing to happen.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
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Western Arctic Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew LiberalSecretary of State (Children and Youth)

Madam Speaker, I am honoured today to speak to Bill C-22.

I was in the House this morning when the Minister of Justice spoke. I was listening very intently, as many Canadians were, to hear the tone of the presentation of the Minister of Justice. I was so overwhelmingly pleased that in every aspect of the changes of this legislation it was child centred. In every comment that the Minister of Justice made, it always returned to the fact that it was in the best interests of the child.

As the Secretary of State for Children and Youth I am particularly touched by that because I know, from my own personal experience, as well as those of many Canadians and worldwide citizens, that divorce is not something one intends; it is something that happens as a matter of circumstance and other things that occur.

We bring children into this world to perhaps have as good a life as we have had, if not better. We bring them into this world to dream big dreams, achieve great things, and perhaps achieve the unachievable. We bring them into this world to attain their highest goals in search of excellence. We do not bring them into this world and put them in a circumstance of victimization from their very early years on to their teen years when they go out on their own. In a sense, unfortunately, circumstances of divorce have prevailed that upon our children, and our youth. It is very unfortunate.

In listening to the Minister of Justice this morning I am happy about the important steps the government is taking for children of divorce in Bill C-22, an act to amend the Divorce Act and other acts.

What greater assets do we have in this country than our children? Yet we often feel powerless or unprepared to help them when they experience the breakdown of their family. It is clear that in introducing this bill and the child centred family law strategy the government is committed to improving outcomes for children of divorce.

Prior to the Divorce Act reforms, federal, provincial and territorial governments held public consultations to learn more about the views of Canadians on parenting after separation and divorce. Some of these consultations were conducted with youth. I am particularly interested in this as I am the secretary of state for youth. In one of these groups a young participant wondered whether we could make a law that would force parents to be responsible.

While laws may not effectively force parents to act in a certain way, they may help them to see things differently, but primarily they provide protection for children and youth.

This is the essence of Bill C-22: helping parents focus on their responsibilities; ensuring that parenting decisions are based only on what is best for children; providing help and guidance to parents and others who must make these difficult decisions; and encouraging parents, when appropriate, to resolve their differences out of court. In an ideal world we would not have these circumstances, however we live in a great world, but not all circumstances are ideal.

Often children are the ones who suffer the greatest consequences because of what happens. They do not make the decisions; they have decisions made for them that shape their lives.

By moving away from the current terms “custody” and “access” to an approach based on responsibility we are shifting the focus from the parents to the child. In this new system parents would decide how they would each carry out their responsibilities, including the time they spend with the children and the decision making responsibility that they each would have with respect to the children.

The issues families would need to deal with would remain the same. It would not eliminate the acrimony and the hard feelings that occur sometimes when there is the situation of divorce, or the history that those people share, or how other people get involved. It becomes a whole family situation and some of it is not good. The main thing is that children are victimized. In this circumstance all that could be there, but the government and the legislators have put something forward to protect the children.

The bill would continue to provide the court with discretion to make decisions on parenting arrangements that are in the best interests of the child. However the bill would provide greater guidance on how decisions could be made. For example, parenting orders can vary greatly in terms of how responsibilities for the child are distributed between the parents. By outlining the various types of parental responsibilities that may be allocated, the new Divorce Act approach would facilitate the work of parents when they sit down to tailor an arrangement to suit a particular child.

Too many times in the past it has been about the win-lose situation; who got custody of the child or access to the child. It was all around and about the child. It was not for the child. It was about the people around the child or children.

Parents are generally best placed to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Parents can work out arrangements themselves or with the help of a mediator, counsellor or lawyer. Where a judge is needed to make a decision, for example, where parents cannot agree or are in high conflict as well as family violence cases, judges would be able to issue a parenting order allocating parental responsibilities, because this is purely in the interests of the child.

The addition of the best interests criteria to the Divorce Act would play an important part in helping all parties focus on working out arrangements that are the best for the child in his or her unique circumstances. The criteria would help people understand the factors that a court must consider when making a decision on the basis of the best interests of the child. There is currently no list of factors and the court is directed only to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child.

In the new approach there are at least 12 best interest criteria. This list is not exhaustive and no one factor is more important than another. The weight to be given to each factor would depend upon the importance to the best interests of that particular child. These factors are not intended to direct particular outcomes, since this would not be consistent with the child centred approach. Rather they indicate important issues that the court must consider in the circumstances of the particular child.

Parents often need to make the best decisions about their child's care after separation and divorce. Family justice services, such as parent education courses, mediation and court-related services, all help parents focus on their children's needs. Children would benefit when parents would use these services.

This bill would require lawyers to discuss with their clients the mediation and family justice services available in the community. We expect that by requiring lawyers to inform clients about these services early on, this would result in timely and more amicable settlements that in turn would reduce the pain of divorce for children.

I have many cases and examples of people who are in pain, adults who are engaged in divorce or who have been divorced for a number of years. These people have issues of separation anxiety, the pain of going through a divorce, and being separated from ex-spouses as well as their children, but the underpinning of this is not about them. It is about what happens to those most vulnerable and most at risk, the children.

The technical aspects are about how to dissolve a relationship. The fallout is about the children and the parents, but we must provide protection for those children. The best laws are not based upon individual circumstances or instances. There must be a universal application that has the broadest breadth of application that does the best for those who are most at risk. Again, in this case, those are children.

What we must keep in mind is that besides dealing with the legal aspects of divorce, families have many emotional issues to deal with.

To quote another youth who said during the consultations, “Divorce is about law and about feelings; you need to make sure both are in the right place”. No law is going to fix the problems associated with the feelings. For the reforms to work, everyone from judges and lawyers to mothers and fathers must recognize that children's need for love, attention and support should be paramount. The most important thing should be the love the children get, the attention they get and the support they get.

That was very well reflected in the minister's speech. By focusing on parental responsibilities rather than parental rights, Bill C-22 along with other components of the child centred family justice strategy, will bring about improvements to the family law system that will have important benefits for children and their families as well as long term benefits for Canadian society.

Another a youngster said, “Kids should come first. We are the future”.

Given all of these considerations, we have to reflect on some of the provisions in the bill. People will want to know such things as what a parenting order is; what parental responsibilities are; what decision making responsibilities are; what is parenting time; what are the implications of having taken out the terms “custody” and “access” from the Divorce Act; and contact orders. Do people know that contact orders have to do with the provision of contact between the child and a person other than a parent, such as a grandparent, in the form of visits or oral or written or other methods of communication? People need to know this.

When the special joint committee recommended the removal of the terms “custody” and “access” from the Divorce Act some people believed there was the presumption of shared parenting. There was not. The special joint committee did not recommend a presumption of shared parenting. Instead, the committee's recommendation focused on the best interests of the child. That should be clear.

Although the committee has not recommended establishing a legal presumption in favour of either parent or any particular parenting arrangement, the committee did see the value of shared decision making and even substantially equal time sharing where appropriate, but always in the best interests of the child.

Today is another good day for children in Canada. It is a good day because in listening to and reflecting on the remarks of the Minister of Justice, I can see that after a long period of acrimony, confusion and a lot of the fallout from very difficult circumstances, children have a chance of surviving the economic fallout, the emotional fallout, the acrimony, all of those things that happen to children in a divorce. They become the victims of what happens. It is not in all cases, but too often that has happened.

I would like the House to know that I think this bill is a good thing for Canada. It is good for children. It is good for all parties concerned and we should support it.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 12:35 p.m.
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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member touched on a number of points that I think are quite useful for the House's consideration. I have read a book with regard to the issue of divorce. One of the lines that really impressed me was that when a couple divorces, “a small civilization” is destroyed. The author was referring to the family tree in that the separation of parents meant that access to grandparents, uncles, aunts and couples suddenly was taken away from the child. Children have to be put first in this.

What is really happening out there, because custody is so prevalent for the mothers, is that we have a lot of fathers out there who are having difficulty seeing their children. They are subject to what is called parental alienation syndrome, whereby the child is pitted against the father. We have numerous cases where, notwithstanding visitation rights specified by the courts, access is denied to those fathers. Fathers then have to go to court and exhaust all their resources in simply trying to see their children.

I hope that the member will give his comments on what is really happening out there. I wonder if he would also agree that Bill C-22 does not change the current substantive policy on presumptive sole maternity custody, and also that it does not address the lack of enforcement of custody and access court orders and the resulting parental alienation of children, and that possibly it does not address the denial of access of children to grandparents and other extended family members.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 12:10 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, first, I congratulate the member for Winnipeg North Centre. She is consistent and puts her positions forth with passion. However I have a couple of questions.

She talks of the gender analysis, and I agree with that. However she also talks about seeking balance. In cases of divorces there is more than just simply abuse and violence. There are other areas that have to be dealt with which also have to seek that balance. Those areas obviously are financial supports and shared parenting and custody. We are not necessarily in all cases dealing with violence and abuse.

My question is twofold. In dealing with the gender analysis and issues of violence and abuse, is she prepared to keep that same open mind to seek balance with respect to both parties in divorce when dealing with other criteria such as financial support as well as shared parenting and custody? It is imperative that we ensure that we have that balance between the mother and the father in a situation that deals with children and divorce.

The second question is probably more of a rhetorical question. The member said initially in her debate that she was prepared to send this forward to committee. I concur with that but she perhaps gives committee a bit more confidence than perhaps I share by going to committee, trying to develop some better changes to the legislation, then bringing it forward to the House so that all factors can be dealt with. Does she believe that the committee is prepared at this time to have an open mind and listen to amendments that make this better legislation than what is being proposed right now in Bill C-22?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
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Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to indicate to the member for Mississauga South that I am not trying in my presentation during this debate in principle on Bill C-22 to inflame an already emotional issue or polarize matters any more than they are.

In my opening statement I wanted to simply try to ensure that the House was aware of the fact that one cannot look at custody and access matters and legislative changes to the Divorce Act without taking into account the impact on women and without considering the prevalence of violence against women in our society today.

It is clear that we are operating on different premises and assumptions. I want the member to know that I believe he is wrong when he suggests that violence in the home knows no gender, that gender is not a factor in when analyzing domestic abuse. All the statistics show the opposite and those statistics have not changed over the years, certainly from the days when they were reported during the special House-Senate study on the issue.

I do not believe that the member can deny the fact that when we look at the statistics over the years of spousal abuse where convictions occur, well over 90% of the offenders are men and almost 90% of the victims of those offences are female. I already made that point in my remark.

I want to further quote from Jane Ursel who is an expert in this area. She looked at 562 convictions in the same period to which I just referred. She said:

--89% of the accused were male and 76% of the victims were female, with the remainder male and female children who were victimized. In the case of elder abuse, 91% of the accused were male and 81% of the victims were female.

She concluded by saying, “It is a sad statement about our society that the factor that makes a person at risk is vulnerability”.

That must be taken into account in this debate. So many experts already have said that legislation on divorce and provisions on custody and access have an impact on women and could create for a situation where violence in the home is perpetuated, not diminished. We need to look at all the facts. I am not an expert in terms of this whole area but I know one thing. We must be open to the testimony, the facts and we must ensure that our legislative proposals do not have a deleterious impact on women who are already vulnerable and facing domestic violence in the home.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
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Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate at second reading of Bill C-22. This is a very important piece of legislation on amendments to the Divorce Act and other statutes.

As others have already noted in the debate, this is a very critical issue for many in our society today.

This is a policy that affects a large number of families, children, women and parents in general. It is critical that the House of Commons study these issues and develop a bill that will bring solutions to these problems.

As many Canadians have already indicated in the steps leading up to the bill, this is a very important issue that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive and serious way by this chamber. The legislation has been eagerly awaited and some would say it is long overdue.

Today we have the opportunity to discuss the broad principles of Bill C-22. As others have already indicated, we believe the bill is so complex and the issue is so full of emotion and competing views that the bill must be sent to the justice committee as soon as possible. I support the recommendations made by members previously that this bill must be addressed in great detail and that we must be receptive to a great number of witnesses and expert testimony.

It is clear that the goal of these changes to the Divorce Act is to attempt to take into account the concerns and hopes of those who are calling for changes and those who want the status quo to be maintained when it comes to how divorce proceedings are handled.

Clearly the bill is an attempt to bring a balanced approach to custody and access and divorce based on a number of years of consultations and indepth study and research. I do not need to remind members of the rocky path that has preceded this moment with the bill before the House.

It is important for us to remember that the bill is an important phase in a long process that started in 1997 when, in exchange for Senate support for the child support guidelines, the Minister of Justice at the time agreed to create the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access. The hearings at the joint committee were emotional. There were a number of heated presentations throughout the course of the committee hearings across the country. For many the end result was not satisfactory. It left a bad taste in the mouths of many who participated and it reflected some very serious divisions in our society.

Certainly there were very emotional and heated presentations from what has come to be known as the fathers' rights lobby. There were some angry words and hostile reactions in that process to the work of the feminist community, to the work of the status of women organizations which have devoted many hours and years in pursuing a just policy that reflects our goal of gender equality in this very important policy area.

Not surprisingly, given that kind of emotional testimony and heated debate throughout the special committee hearings, the report that was tabled in 1999 entitled “For the Sake of the Children” was met with a great deal of concern and criticism. There is no question about that.

Concerns were raised by individuals and organizations across Canada about the recommendations which included mandatory joint custody and shared decision making, maximum contact, parenting plans and mandatory mediation, coercive sanctions targeted against the non-cooperative parent and criminal sanctions against women who make false allegations. That is a summary of some of the contentious recommendations that were made.

Clearly the issue was not resolved with that process. Most would agree that in the report there was a lack of balance and a lack of evidence of sound research to back up the recommendations that were made. As a result the Minister of Justice promised further consultations on proposed law reform options.

In the spring of 2001 the Department of Justice and the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Family Law Committee released a consultation document entitled “Custody, Access and Child Support in Canada: Putting Children's Interests First”. It was recognized that this was an important step in terms of breaking the impasse. However, that process also generated considerable controversy and concern.

Many of the women's organizations, including the National Association of Women and the Law, felt that the process was not conducive to a serious review of the issues and was not founded on what they would consider to be a fundamental stepping off point, which is a gender based analysis. They decided to boycott those consultations and to show a concern with what they considered to be an undemocratic aspect to the consultations initiated by the government back in the spring of 2001.

The Department of Justice has taken the process a step further. Today we have a bill that seeks to address some of those concerns raised over the past five years but which still raises many unanswered questions.

The New Democratic Party position is that the bill be sent as quickly as possible to committee for indepth consultation with the proviso that there be adequate time to hear from a wide range of witnesses and to receive expert testimony with respect to the provisions in the bill.

At face value Bill C-22 seems worthy of support. By the New Democratic Party's recommendation today to send the bill to committee, we are indicating a measure of support for the provisions. We accept that there is an attempt here to find a balance and to address the outstanding concerns of many organizations in Canada.

The changes being proposed to the Divorce Act seek to remedy the often confrontational situation that exists in divorce. In the bill there is the possibility that children's interests are paramount and that is important. The bill, rather than focusing on which parent will get custody, puts in place a responsibilities framework where the responsibilities of both parents in the case of a divorce will have to be worked out. The bill attempts to strengthen the enforcement of child support guidelines and agreements.

My party also acknowledges that beyond the changes to the Divorce Act, the legislation seeks to expand the unified family court program in order to ensure that there is a specific grant to the judiciary oriented toward family issues and concerns. We understand this will include increased funding and the hiring of at least 62 new family court judges. This is absolutely imperative. There are also provisions in Bill C-22 to increase provincial and territorial family justice services, including mediation, parent education and other court related services.

After a preliminary analysis of the bill, there seems to be an important attempt to find balance and to address outstanding concerns. However I want to make a couple of points and to give further examples of why we believe the bill must be addressed at committee and full hearings held before we give full support to it.

The first point has to do with a very legitimate concern raised by the women's community. Has a gender analysis of this legislation taken place? By all accounts that has never happened. The women's community and status of women organizations in this country have repeatedly called for such an analysis. The government does not seem to be taking those recommendations seriously.

That does not surprise me given what we have been going through in the last few days with respect to the reproductive technologies legislation where the Minister of Health vetoed an amendment from the health committee pertaining to gender parity on the new agency to oversee reproductive technologies. It does not surprise me given that we have just been through a long and arduous process in terms of reforming Canada's immigration and refugee legislation and there was no gender analysis.

The need to have a gender analysis with respect to every legislative proposal, every program and every policy is part of Liberal government policy. It has been stated that this is a fundamental imperative for government. To this day it is hard to discern where that policy comes into play and is actually practised.

Today we call on the government to ensure that a gender based analysis is done and is presented to the justice committee so it can be taken into account during the hearings on Bill C-22. It is a very important issue. We are trying to grapple with the impact on women living in violent situations in the context of this important debate around custody and access. I want to remind members of why this is so important.

The National Association of Women and the Law very clearly stated:

[The association wants]... to ensure that changes to family law be made not only in the best interests of children, but also that they not jeopardize the autonomy and equality interests of women in the family. We believe that government policies must promote women's equality if Canada is to live up to its charter obligations and to its commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action and other international instruments.

That association and many other status of women organizations have written to the Minister of Justice and to many of us in the House to make a similar point. I will quote from a couple of those sources, beginning with NAWL which said:

Making joint custody and shared parenting mandatory, enforcing a rule of “maximum contact” between father and children and imposing a “friendly parent rule” can all be used by abusive or dominating men to bolster their power over ex-wives, forcing them to remain in oppressive relationships.

I will quote from a couple of other submissions made to the Minister of Justice and to all of us. A member of the Kitchener-Waterloo sexual assault support centre said:

I expect that any changes to the federal Divorce Act will acknowledge the prevalence of violence against women and put provisions in place to ensure that child custody and access arrangements protect women and children from exposure to violence and abuse on the part of former partners. These provisions are entirely in keeping with the federal government's national and international commitments to end violence against women.

I would also like to quote from a letter sent to the Minister of Justice by the Association des francophones du nord-ouest de l'Ontario a few weeks ago:

This letter is to ask if you have fulfilled your duty, as a minister, to ensure that a gender-based analysis be done of all aspects of this federal legislation that is likely to have a significant impact on women.

There are many other organizations and expert advisers who I could quote. I want to reference very briefly the Vancouver Custody and Access Support and Advocacy Association, which is a very important organization to take into account. It was the first group in Canada to identify how the cycle of abuse was perpetrated beyond intimate relationships through custody and access mechanisms. That organization has done a very indepth examination of the whole area of custody and access and ought to be taken seriously in the process of careful scrutiny of Bill C-22.

Also, I want to reference the British Columbia ad hoc custody and access coalition which has also made that very important link between divorce law, custody and access arrangements and the way in which it can have a deleterious impact on women already in precarious situations of domestic violence, something that is critical in this day and age.

As we have heard many times before, I want to remind members how serious this issue is. I refer to an expert from my own community in Winnipeg, Dr. Jane Ursel who is with the department of sociology, University of Manitoba and with the Winnipeg Family Violence Court. In 1998 before the special joint committee, she said, “This data has indicated that of course family violence is serious and endemic in our community”. She makes that point in the context of reviewing child and custody and access arrangements and proposed changes or amendments to the divorce law because of the interrelationship between domestic violence and arrangements pertaining to custody and access.

There is no shortage of evidence to help us understand the vulnerability that women face in domestic situations and to come to grips with the significant extent of family violence in our society today.

The information by Jane Ursel at our committee meetings five or six years ago was very important for understanding the links and reinforcing the need to take seriously this very important issue. I want to reference a couple of her statistics.

In a study she did, based on her assignment with the Winnipeg family violence court, she said:

First of all, unfortunately, in the three-year time period that I have the data for you today, there were 5,674 cases of spousal abuse. The court indicates that 92% of the convicted offenders were male and 89% of the victims of those offences were female.

This was said in response to some of the testimony that we heard before that special committee suggesting that when it comes to violence in the home, domestic assaults, really there is no difference in terms of gender and that should not be a factor in these discussions. The fact of the matter is that by and large women are the victims in cases of family violence and men are the perpetrators. We need to be very conscious of that and we need to be prepared to scrutinize this legislation from that point of view.

Our job today is to take the benefit of the advice and knowledge out there in so many different organizations and apply it to the work at hand. We need to get down to a serious indepth analysis of Bill C-22 knowing that our demands and obligations require us to seek balance. We need to do everything we can to ensure that we do not make more serious a grave situation of family violence in our society today.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 11:10 a.m.
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Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the Bloc Quebecois critic for Justice, I have the pleasure of being the first speaker from our party in this debate on Bill C-22. This is a very important bill and, if passed, it could considerably change the legal framework for marriage and its dissolution.

In fact, anticipating this bill, several people have already contacted me, and I have had the opportunity to meet with many citizens from my riding, who shared their hopes and concerns about this bill with me. I am thinking of, among others, Ms. Lafortune, who very eloquently expressed her views.

When we met, this lady pointed out the serious hardship unfortunately experienced directly or indirectly following a divorce by people like a second spouse or the children of the second spouse.

All this to say that the debate that got underway this morning is very important because it will affect the personal, daily life of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

I am calling on my colleagues to ensure that, as we debate this whole issue, we do so bearing in mind these men, women and children who are unfortunately adversely affected by a marriage breakdown and that, in our consideration of the various clauses, we never lose sight of these people. This is not just a matter of coldly dealing with words written on a piece of paper; this is about the lives of individuals.

Bill C-22 will amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and other existing acts.

On December 10, the Minister of Justice unveiled a new legislative initiative known as the Child-centred Family Justice Strategy. The minister says he wants to upgrade and modernize the various existing acts to try to harmonize to some extent relations between spouses who eventually decide to break up. We know that such an ordeal, affecting a huge segment of the population in Quebec and Canada, causes major wranglings, over children in particular.

Divorce is difficult and sometimes tragic. The harsh reality of divorce, which is the break-up of a loving, emotional relationship between two people, is that, too often, it involves children who, also too often, feel as if they are being torn in two. It is essential to remember and, above all, to explain to these children that their parents' decision to separate has nothing to do with them and that they will always be loved and cherished.

As I was saying, the minister's bill aims for relative harmony, sometimes achieved with great difficulty, the ultimate goal being the well-being of children. However, I would say that, despite his efforts, the minister has missed the mark. On behalf of children and in his quest for happiness, the minister has missed an important issue in this debate, which is the harmonization of the various applicable acts regarding divorce.

During my speech, I will endeavour to demonstrate how the minister could have simplified his approach, better promoted the well-being of children, and in a more relevant way, while helping them through something as difficult and as complex as divorce.

The goal of the child-centred family justice strategy is to assist parents who are divorcing or separating and guide their attention to the needs of the children. The Minister of Justice's approach is based on three specific aspects: family justice services, legislative reform and expanding the unified family courts.

I must first clarify and repeat the fact that the Bloc Quebecois, because it opposes Bill C-22, will present a firm and very structured opposition to the minister's initiative. My colleagues and I will clearly show how and in what way the minister is going about this all wrong, and what would be the right way to reach the initial objectives, which should be those of society as a whole.

As is usually the case—and those who listen to us are aware of this—the Bloc Quebecois, despite its opposition to the bill will actively participate in all stages of the legislative process to try to drag a compromise out of the minister and thus make an effective contribution to this overhaul of divorce legislation. As always, our general attitude will be guided by indepth research into the situation, since the Divorce Act involves numerous considerations and affects a great many people.

Furthermore, we hope the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will hold extensive consultations on the matter because the impact of this legislation could become a determining factor in the lives of thousands. I also strongly hope that when the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights holds hearings on the matter, it will not only listen to certain groups, such as lawyers, associations that defend the rights of spouses, children and so on, but also make a concerted effort so that children, ordinary people, the average citizen will also have the opportunity to come and give us their point of view on a bill that affects them so closely.

Not everything in Bill C-22 is new. For instance, the criterion related to the interests of the child is a recognized principle in current divorce legislation and in the Quebec Civil Code. Similarly, the well-known list of criteria in the bill with regard to the interests of the child, is basically a consolidation of existing jurisprudence. It is not new legislation, but simply the consolidation of existing legislation.

From this perspective, we will take advantage of this debate to highlight the elements of the proposed reform that cause us the most concern with respect to some of the practices that are specific to Quebec.

Our political party, true to its primary objective of defending the interests of Quebec, opposes the very principle of the bill because we feel that, in fact, the Divorce Act should be repealed. We think it would be better, more appropriate and more efficient if Quebec had full jurisdiction over matters of divorce. This call for full jurisdiction over family law in its entirety has been Quebec's traditional stand.

In fact, for decades all governments of Quebec, whether the Parti Quebecois, the Union Nationale or the Liberal Party of Quebec, have called for this power to be transferred from the federal to the Quebec government. This, along with marriage, being the only area of federal jurisdiction over family law, its would be both appropriate and advisable for it to be transferred to Quebec and included in civil law.

Before continuing with this debate, I believe it is important to draw attention to the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access and its considerable accomplishments during the 36th Parliament.

When its task was over in December 1998, after months of intense efforts, the committee tabled a thick report which, unfortunately, did not take into account the specific nature of the Quebec reality. Nothing new there; it is too often the case.

The Bloc Quebecois therefore felt obliged to express a dissenting opinion on the contents of this report, based solely on its desire to see legislation on divorce be made the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces.

This position, you will understand, has not changed, and the arguments we made at the time are as relevant today as ever.

I will quote, if I may, an excerpt from the Bloc Quebecois dissenting opinion on the report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access:

—all matters relating to the family, education and social services are clearly within the jurisdiction of the provinces, as are any questions relating to separation from bed and board.

The report goes on to say:

In Quebec, separation from bed and board is covered by articles 493 et seq. of the Civil Code of Québec. On the other hand, divorce is under federal jurisdiction, by virtue of the Constitution. The vast majority of divorces are settled out of court. In most cases, agreements regarding child custody and access are made when a couple separates. Since separation from bed and board is under provincial jurisdiction, it would be logical for legislation on divorce to be as well.

Accordingly, we recommend that the Divorce Act be repealed and that jurisdiction over divorce be transferred to the provinces.

It would also be logical to repeal the Marriage Act and transfer that jurisdiction to the provinces. The celebration of marriage, as well as division of property, the civil effects of marriage and filiation are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces, while the substantive requirements (capacity to contract marriage and impediments to marriage) are under federal jurisdiction. In Quebec, for example, the Government of Quebec has legislated to permit civil marriages. In our view, this is another example of the pointless and outdated division of powers. It would be much simpler for all family law to be under the jurisdiction of a single level of government: the provinces.

As an aside, I can tell you that, for the sake of logic and rigour, this is also the position the Bloc Quebecois will defend when the time comes to debate the whole issue of whether of not homosexuals have the right to marry, which is currently under consideration in committee.

I could go on and on quoting Senator Beaudoin, a renowned expert on the Constitution if there was ever one, about the division of powers at the time when the federation was established, in 1867. The national duality at the time also reflected religious division.

So, the decision of the Fathers of Confederation to confer upon the federal government constitutional authority over divorce was essentially predicated upon a compromise between the Catholics and the Protestants concerning the dissolution of the bond of marriage.

I will now read on:

What was appropriate in 1867 no longer is today. Given that the religious issue no longer has the same significance, our laws ought to reflect reality. Our recommendation would mean that the provinces could have complete jurisdiction over their family law and could legislate in that field as appropriate to their own social context.

Naturally, this includes everything having to do with marriage and divorce.

As Senator Beaudoin stated further in his report entitled “La constitution du Canada, institutions, partage des pouvoirs, droits et libertés”, and I quote:

The question then arises of whether the field of marriage and divorce should not be returned to the provinces, thereby enabling Quebec to have more absolute control over its family law, an important part of its private law, which is different from the private law of the other provinces.

I would point out that this is a quote of comments made by a federalist Conservative senator from Quebec, and not a sovereignist.

This illustration of the issue and the Bloc Quebecois' approach reflects the long term historic claims made by Quebec and its governments.

Allow me to highlight some of the most significant steps taken by the Government of Quebec in this approach.

Take the government of Daniel Johnson, Sr., from 1966 to 1968. Members will recall he was a unionist premier, in other words, from the Union Nationale political party. His government demanded that the constitution be amended to include divorce as an exclusively provincial area of responsibility.

Later, in December 1969, at a first ministers conference, the very federalist premier, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, said that marriage and divorce should come under Quebec's jurisdiction under the constitution, in which case the decision to establish family courts would be up to it.

During the second term of the great René Lévesque's government, in the early 1980s, he made proposals in the area of divorce. The Parti Quebecois government at the time was proposing that divorce become a concurrent jurisdiction, even though Quebec law would override federal legislation. As such, a province could exclude the federal Parliament from divorce if the province wanted to.

Finally, in 1985, the Government of Quebec said that the division of constitutional powers should be reviewed in order to grant Quebec exclusive jurisdiction over marriage and divorce.

This proposal was laid out in a document prepared for the federal government by René Lévesque entitled “Projet d'accord constitutionnel—Propositions du gouvernement du Québec”.

Obviously, Canadian federalism being what it is, the changes Quebec has called for are not likely to come about any time soon. Federalism is increasingly heading toward standardization and uniformity, rather than the other way.

As a result, in view of the fact that for now divorce unfortunately remains under the jurisdiction of the federal government, we will review the minister's proposal and we will endeavour to preserve Quebec's particular and specific character in the reformed legislation.

The immediate impact of this type of government initiative is certainly too important and will affect so many people that we must remain ever vigilant and, understandably, beware of the intentions of the Liberal government.

Bill C-22 proposes radical changes to the Divorce Act, by including a new approach to agreements reached between parents with regard to the children, one that is based on parental responsibilities.

Rather than issuing custody or access orders, the court will issue “parenting orders”, which will establish parenting time blocks, as well as decision-making responsibilities in such matters as health, education and religion.

The court will also issue “contact orders”, establishing the nature of contacts that the child may have with persons other than the spouses.

A detailed study of the proposed clauses in Bill C-22 indicates the nature of these orders. These two types of court orders are based on the notion of the best interests of the child.

The minister took the time to establish a non-exhaustive list of criteria that the court must consider. The enactment also makes amendments to the Divorce Act by anticipating questions related to the nature and scope of such support orders when the spouses reside in different provinces.

That was a brief overview of Bill C-22. As I stated when I began, the proposed legislative measures would amend various other acts presently in force. Of these, I would mention the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act.

This legislation will make family support obligations a priority, include powers of monitoring and research and provide for protection from liability.

In this regard, and I know that many of my hon. colleagues are aware of this problem, it is important to point out that there is an organization in Quebec defending the rights of second spouses. In fact, the Association des secondes épouses et conjointes du Québec represents the interests of women with regard to support orders paid to former spouses. According to this organization, many divorced women are abusing the current system by using support payments for their own purposes instead of making an effort to take control of their lives.

The existing Divorce Act does not set a time limit on support payments when the divorce is granted. These payments are, therefore, a type of lifetime pension which, being a “pension”, is indexed and can be revised.

Of course both parties may avail themselves of this right. However, if, for instance, an ex-husband requests a variation he is not the only one involved. The assets, income, insurance, and pension plans of his new spouse—married or not—all come into play. It is slightly different when an ex-wife requests a variation. Citing a difficulty of some sort, she can take advantage of the arrival of the new spouse to have her pension increased.

It is easy to see the potential disputes inherent in such provisions. I feel it would be wise to address this issue head on in committee, and to make sure that this problem is examined at length when Bill C-22 is studied.

It will be important to meet with the Association des deuxièmes conjointes, the second wives association, and its equivalent for first wives, and listen to what they have to say, to ensure that the committee makes a thorough examination of this problem that affects so many people.

Bill C-22, introduced by the Minister of Justice, also specifies some related and rather technical changes to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act.

However, in amending the Divorce Act, one of the crucial elements of Bill C-22 is the inclusion of a list of specific criteria for parents, jurists, lawyers and judges, so that they will take into account the best interests of the child. The purpose of this list is to reaffirm and implement the basic principle of family law, which is that the interests of the child are paramount.

We would like to remove the terms “custody” and “access” from the legislation. A new model based on parental responsibilities will be developed to eliminate any connotation of winner-loser and any notion of possession that some people associate with these terms. According to the minister, this change will contribute to reducing parents' levels of conflict and stress and supposedly allow them to focus more on their most important obligation, which is to make sure that their children receive all the care they need.

The intention is certainly laudable, but it will not change the perception of parents, especially in such a conflict situation, that there is a winner and a loser in a court-decreed arrangement.

Whether the words access and custody 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. Change form and wording as we may, it does not change the fact that one parent will have the child for a period of time and the other will have him and her of another period of time.

Cooperation between the parents will also be encouraged, but we must recognize that happy, amicable divorces are rare. Unfortunately, it seems somewhat unrealistic to want to raise the parents' awareness of their parenting responsibilities, and particularly of how they intend to carry them out, when a case is before the court and, all too often, the parties are communicating only through their lawyers.

It is well known how painful divorce is. Emotions run high, and this may get in the way of an amicable settlement between spouses.

Parents would be provided with the services of a mediator or lawyer to achieve the department's objectives. However, need I insist that this is an approach that has been favoured for many years in Quebec, Quebec once again showing its leadership in this regard?

Taking a step back and looking at the bill as a whole, we must recognize that the proposed amendments to the Divorce Act are not the revolution they were made out to be by the Minister of Justice. Without being overly pessimistic, one cannot rely on this bill to overhaul current legislation and its enforcement.

Where the interests of the child is concerned, the Bloc Quebecois has taken a clear philosophical position. In their dissenting opinion in the 36th Parliament, my colleagues also asserted their recognition of the principle of the best interests of the child. It read, and I quote:

—a child must not be the victim of conflicts between his or her parents, and the child's interests must not be confused with those of the child's parents or extended family.

The principle of the best interests of the child is not a new idea in law. It strikes me as appropriate in this connection to draw attention to subsection 16(8) of the current Divorce Act, which states the following:

In making an order under this section, the court shall take into consideration only the best interests of the child of the marriage as determined by reference to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child.

This does not strike me as much different or broader than what the minister is proposing today.

As well, the principle of the child's best interests is part of the philosophy of Quebec, and is moreover set out in section 514 of the Quebec civil code. It reads as follows:

The court, in granting separation from bed and board or subsequently, decides as to the custody, maintenance and education of the children, in their interest and in the respect of their rights, taking into account the agreements made between the spouses, where such is the case.

The courts have spoken on numerous occasions on these provisions and have, in connection with them, already established a list of criteria to which they refer when interpreting what constitutes the child's best interests.

The only thing that is new about this list of criteria is that it is now included in the law. What the minister has done is merely to codify existing criteria from the jurisprudence. This cannot be considered new law.

However, I will be pleased to share my views as to whether it is appropriate to enshrine it in the act. I wonder if this change will have the effect of setting criteria that will help determine the best interests of the child. Could this way of doing things have the opposite effect, that is restrict the judge's options? These are important issues that I intend to raise in committee, and I hope that we can get some clear answers.

I will follow very closely the work relating to the various legislative stages of this bill. I am especially looking forward to working in committee to examine and debate every aspect of the bill, and particularly the possible impact of the list of criteria regarding the best interests of the child, when these criteria are considered by the courts.

I mentioned this in my introduction, but I want to repeat it: in my view, this bill does not represent the innovative and revolutionary approach that the Minister of Justice would have had us believe when he introduced this legislation. Once again, the government has very little to show for all the promises it made.

In many ways, it seems that the only thing that has changed is the terms used for principles that are already recognized. The government uses some fine sounding terms which, unfortunately, do not reflect, far from it, the harsh reality experienced each year by thousands of couples or former couples.

Even though the terms custody and access are removed, the fact remains that, in reality, children will have to spend x number of days with their father and y number of days with their mother.

The minister argues that avoidance of anything suggesting winners and losers will help reduce the level of conflict and stress between parents. This is, theoretically, a step forward. In actual fact, however, it does not really do anything to change parents' feelings.

The legislative measures proposed are based on the model of parental responsibility. According to this model, both parents will be responsible for their child's well-being after separation or divorce. It is up to them first and foremost to decide how they will agree to fulfill their obligations to their child.

Should a major impasse occur, as for example when parents do not manage to reach agreement or in cases where there is a high degree of conflict or family violence, the court will in future issue a parenting order setting out the responsibilities of each parent. In my opinion, this reflects the way the courts are already handling the cases submitted to them. Despite the minister's claims, we wonder about the true impact of this change in terminology.

Before I end my remarks, I have a duty to raise one other important aspect of the minister's family justice strategy, namely the unified family courts.

When the new child-centred family justice strategy was announced, the Minister of Justice announced the expansion of the unified family courts. According to him, these courts will improve outcomes for children and families through the following advantages: a single place with jurisdiction over any matter of family law, ready access to a full array of family justice services, specialist judges who are experts in family law, and a user friendly environment with simplified procedures.

I would remind those listening that the Bloc Quebecois spoke out in its dissenting opinion on the December 1998 joint committee report against one recommendation that:

—the federal government continue to work with the provinces and territories to accelerate the establishment of unified family courts, or courts of a similar nature, in all judicial districts across Canada.

It is still clear to the Bloc Quebecois that the Quebec government does not endorse the unified family court. The reason is quite simple, since the approach currently favoured by the federal government is to grant jurisdiction for all matters pertaining to family law to the provincial superior court, for which the judges are appointed by the federal government. Quebec would rather combine all jurisdictions in this area under the Quebec court, which would, naturally, mean amending the Constitution.

In this regard, I would remind all my hon. colleagues that, in terms of the unified family courts, civil law and the administration of justice are the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces. I believe that it would be appropriate, however, since the federal government has announced increased funding for the unified family courts and since Quebec does not wish to set up such courts, for Quebec to receive its fair share of the federal funding to deal with this matter in its own way, according to its character and specificity.

That, then, as an introduction, is the position that the Bloc Quebecois will defend throughout this legislative process. We strongly hope that the government will hear our point of view and understand the scope of our line of reasoning, the first cornerstone of which is the fact that all family law, including marriage and divorce, should be under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, should they so wish. This is the basis of the Bloc Quebecois' philosophical and political action. It is, naturally, on the basis of this philosophy, on this solid basis, that we will base our action in Parliament when the time comes to take other positions on Bill C-22.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed unfortunate that the minister's duties called him away from the chamber so that he is unable to answer the questions that my colleague would like to put.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this very important legislation before us today. The government's Bill C-22 is an attempt to reform the child custody and access provisions of our divorce laws. However, like a baby's first faltering steps, Bill C-22 is a very timid, tentative attempt at reforming the antiquated Divorce Act. After so many years of waiting, the government should have been able to do better. Certainly the children of divorce deserve better.

Of all our Canadian laws, the Divorce Act is perhaps the most important to Canadians because it directly affects our families and their lives. With this in mind, it is especially important that we as parliamentarians embark upon debating this legislation with the utmost seriousness and careful consideration of the impacts it would have on Canadian families and, in particular, Canadian children.

Unfortunately divorce is an all too common occurrence in our society today. For some couples their marriages do not work out and require an annulment to provide a divorce of their relationship as husband and wife. To that end, governments provide a mechanism for people to separate under the laws that govern our nation.

The history of divorce law has constantly changed over time, evolving to meet the needs of society. The earliest form of divorce legislation enacted by the federal government was as recent as 1968. Before that time, married couples could obtain a divorce only under provincial legislation, using the strictest of conditions. Husbands could file for divorce on the grounds of a wife's adultery, yet the wife could file only on exceptional grounds, like incestuous adultery, rape, sodomy or bigamy, to name but a few. In Quebec and Newfoundland, a divorce required a private act of Parliament.

Thankfully, divorce laws provide a more accurate reflection of the realities Canadians face in their lives today. However, they still require improvement.

Although originally divorce legislation was created for the sole purpose of facilitating an end to a marriage, as a matter of consequence it also determines parenting arrangements for children of a relationship. For those families going through a divorce in the court system, children should be protected by the courts and the law. Ideally divorce law should provide a mechanism for a marital separation and deal with issues pertaining to the children of a relationship independently. After a divorce, both spouses still maintain their roles as parents and our laws should reflect that reality.

The Canadian Alliance has been a long time advocate of reforms to our divorce law. Article 27 of the Canadian Alliance declaration of policy states:

We will make the necessary changes to the Divorce Act to ensure that in the event of a marital breakdown, the Divorce Act will allow both parents and all grandparents to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children and grandchildren, unless it is clearly demonstrated not to be in the best interests of the children.

The Divorce Act as it is currently written has a chaotic set of rules dealing with parenting arrangements. The act uses terms such as custody and access to describe how children are dealt with by the courts. Bitter divorce cases over child custody often come down to declaring a winner and a loser. The “better” parent, as determined by a judge, gets custody of the kids while the other parent is only allowed access to them. As a result, the law fosters an adversarial, divisive focus on parental rights versus the best interests of the child.

For kids who have always lived with both parents, a divorce is a bad enough shock for them. The prospect of not being able to see one of their parents can be devastating. The concept of custody and access is completely foreign to children. Six year old children do not understand why they are only allowed to see their mother or father every other weekend. That is because they do not realize that a judge has decided when they can see their parents. However, in our world today too many children are forced to become acquainted with these stipulations.

Furthermore, we should not ignore the valuable role that other family members have in a child's life. Under our existing divorce law, grandparents' and other related family members' contact with the children could be substantially reduced after a separation. There are no provisions in the current Divorce Act to guarantee grandchildren access to their grandparents. In fact, grandparents must seek leave from a court before they may even apply for an access order.

Child custody arrangements are in one area of family law that invokes heated debate. Canadians are sincerely upset with how our legal system fails children. Since the government introduced this legislation on December 10 of last year, my office has received many e-mails and telephone calls on the subject of child custody and access. There is one e-mail in particular that I would like to mention because I feel it provides an accurate depiction of the capabilities of our current divorce laws. This e-mail came from a father describing his personal experience. His e-mail reads:

I'm a father of three children, ages 11, 13 and 15. On November 1, 2002 my wife was granted an ex parte order removing me from my home and our children. I believe I've been treated unfairly. Here is a brief summary of the recent events:

October 23: [I] learned my wife was having an affair with her boss.

October 24: I locked myself in our bedroom and called “911”, after my wife became enraged; kicking on the bedroom door, screaming, yelling, swearing, all within earshot of our children. The police came and found her foot stuck in the door.

October 29: My wife was served with my petition for divorce.

November 1: I received an ex parte order, after my wife lied to the judge convincing him that I was unpredictable and erratic. She also suggested I had become mentally ill. (This is a complete lie!).

December 2: The same judge acknowledged that the ex parte order was in error, however he still ruled in her favour where she now has “sole” custody of our three children and exclusive possession of the matrimonial home.

I'm self-employed, and had been working from an in-home office since 1995. My lawyer tried to convince the judge that I had been the primary caregiver, as my wife worked outside the home.

I believe the justice system favoured my wife because she is the mother. I have been a great father and husband! Can you offer me some help?

This is a very sad case and unfortunately all too representative of many others. Divorces such as this one happen way too often and they have nothing to do with mothers' rights versus fathers' rights. They are symptomatic of a legal system that simply does not care for the needs of children.

Having been through a divorce, I can say that not all divorces need to have such a devastatingly negative impact on children. Negative, yes, there is no question of that: When parents separate there is a negative effect on their children, but it does not have to devastate their lives for years to come. At the time of our separation my ex-wife and I knew that although our marriage had to come to an end, it did not mean our relationship with our children had to as well.

I want to speak for just a few minutes, not as a politician, but as a parent, for parents. About a month from now it will be five years since my separation from my former wife and three and a half years since my divorce. Even though my marriage of 25 years came to an end, my role as a parent did not. That is because it is the one job that never ends, and as parents we sometimes joke about this, but almost always in jest.

Being a parent is a terrific honour. It is something that is impossible to adequately explain to someone who is childless. That is why I fervently hope that all MPs who are also parents or grandparents and even a few who are geat-grandparents, I suspect, will take the time to really study Bill C-22 and look at these proposed changes from the perspective of a parent rather than a legislator to truly consider what is in the best interests of the children. Members must try to imagine the bill as it would apply to their families.

As I said, I want to take a few minutes to explain my own personal circumstances. About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 50th birthday. My children came to a surprise party here in Ottawa. My children now are 24 and 22, and my son is going to be 20 very shortly. They are young adults and I am extremely proud of these three young people.

They came to my birthday party and presented me with what is now one of my most prized possessions. It is upstairs in my office today, on a shelf. It is a pewter mug engraved with “World's Greatest Dad”. It is inscribed as well with “Love from Holly, Heather and Heath”, my three children. It is one of my most prized possessions, because I believe the most important job I have is not that of being a member of Parliament, although that is important, the most important job I have is that of being a parent and hopefully someday a grandparent. They are the roles that I think are most important in life. I have enjoyed the relationship I have built with my three children, at every stage of their lives. I often hear parents complaining a bit, perhaps, that their kids go a little off the rails when they are in their adolescent years, but I can truthfully say that although there were some trying times the love saw us through those tough times.

I have enjoyed the relationship I have been able to build throughout my lifetime and I cannot imagine not having had the opportunity to build that relationship with those three children. In fact, I cannot imagine a worse living hell than having anything bad happen to my kids. Every time we hear of children who are lost, like the seven young children lost in the avalanche a couple of days ago, our hearts go out to those parents and those families that suffer that indescribable grief.

However, I think a close second would be the frustration and anger that would well up in me if I were denied access to my children, for whatever reason. I cannot imagine anything worse than having my kids somewhere on this planet and not being allowed to have contact with them. I was lucky. As I said, my ex-wife was extremely reasonable. We just automatically decided that joint custody under today's laws was the way to go. There was no question about it from the beginning. We both recognized that we were both terrific parents and wanted that relationship to continue for our children. I was lucky. Unfortunately, so many are not.

Every effort should be made to isolate children from the negative impacts of a marital breakdown. Enhancing the roles both parents play in raising children after separation can mitigate some of the harmful influences. Our laws need to acknowledge the best interests of children by allowing them to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents and even with grandparents after a divorce, with the natural exception of circumstances that are clearly not in the best interests of the child.

The best method of facilitating this legislative change is to provide an automatic shared parenting role for both parents. Instead of using the adversarial language of custody and access, the Divorce Act should only use a single shared parenting term to reflect custody arrangements.

I listened to the minister's speech a few moments ago. To be quite blunt, I was appalled with the fact that he said that the use of the term shared parenting in the Divorce Act would have led to confusion. That was his summation. Yet that was the centrepiece of the “For the Sake of the Children” report.

The many married couples who separate on amicable terms today already benefit from shared parenting, as in my own personal example, which I have revealed to the House. They benefit by working cooperatively together on matters affecting their children. Shared parenting does not mean that parents equally split up the time they spend with their children. It means that parents share the rights, the responsibilities and the obligations to their children.

Naturally, given the wide diversity of individual situations, we must also acknowledge instances where children should not have a relationship with a parent. Under very serious circumstances such as domestic violence the courts would not use shared parenting and one parent would be denied access to the child. My colleague from Red Deer has a private member's bill on this very topic. His bill, commonly referred to as Lisa's law, would protect children who have been sexually abused by a parent by not allowing judges to grant forced visitation to that parent.

Shared parenting should not be a foreign concept in our legal system. In 1989 the UN brought forward the convention on the rights of the child signed by 191 countries, including Canada. Within the convention, the United Nations recognized the need for children to have a relationship with both parents.

Of the many articles included in the convention article 12 refers to a child's guaranteed right to free expression in all matters affecting them. Article 3 states:

In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

The most pertinent article I would like to mention is article 9 which states:

Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.

It goes on to read:

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 interests.

The UN convention is clear on the matter of parental access for children. More important, Canada is bound by the convention due to our ratification in 1991. The United Nations is not alone in recognizing the merits of shared parenting. There are several places in the world that have properly guarded the rights of children during a divorce. Countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and many individual states in the United States, have all established shared parenting laws. Some of these laws may vary on the individual details, however the objective remains the same. Both parents retain their shared parental responsibilities for their children, regardless of any changes to their marital relationship.

With other countries implementing a shared parenting strategy, why does Canada not have any shared parenting provisions in its family law? Canadians want the best for their children, yet it is not reflected in our laws.

Canada has refused to take the lead on providing the best for our children, nor has it followed. Instead, our government seems content with the status quo ensuring not to rock the boat by upsetting special interest groups.

The last time Parliament amended the Divorce Act was in 1997 with Bill C-41. During that period many Canadians were genuinely upset that grievances with child custody laws were not being addressed. As with any issue of importance to Canadians members of Parliament and senators heard many demands for the government to take action. After folding to public pressure the government authorized both the Senate and the House of Commons to form a special committee to examine this critical issue.

The Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access had a straightforward objective. It was vested with the mandate to:

...examine and analyze issues relating to custody and access arrangements after separation and divorce, and in particular, to assess the need for a more child-centred approach to family law policies and practices that would emphasize joint parental responsibilities and child-focused parenting arrangements based on children’s needs and best interests;

As the committee prepared to hold its first public meeting in February 1998, all members were aware of the importance and the complexity of the work they were about to embark upon. In total 55 meetings were held across Canada allowing over 520 witnesses to testify before the committee. These presentations provided an insightful look into the many different aspects of divorce and separation, from stories of heart-rending personal experience to social workers who worked with children of divorced parents on a daily basis. Committee members heard testimony regarding all aspects of divorce law.

The end result of the committee's work was a comprehensive report to Parliament laying out 48 recommendations for improvement. The final report entitled “For the Sake of the Children” provided an accurate representation of where the government could take action to help children. Each individual recommendation would make an important improvement. I do not have time to read all of the recommendations, but I will touch on a few.

The first recommendation calls for a preamble to be included in the Divorce Act making reference to pertinent principles of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child. As I mentioned earlier, I specified three articles that should be included in such a preamble.

The second recommendation reads:

This Committee recognizes that parents' relationships with their children do not end upon separation or divorce and therefore recommends that the Divorce Act be amended to add a Preamble containing the principle that divorced parents and their children are entitled to a close and continuous relationship with one another.

That is a great recommendation, but not one which we find in Bill C-22.

Number five calls for the terms “custody” and “access” to 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. This is the very term that the minister has just mentioned that he did not want to use because it would be confusing. This term would then be taken to include all the meanings, rights and obligations, common law and statutory interpretations embodied in the terms “custody” and “access”.

To effectively implement shared parenting we must eliminate any cause of bias between parents in our legal system. Recommendation number eight calls for the common law tender years doctrine to be rejected as a basis for making a parenting decision. The doctrine is used by judges to help them determine the better parent for the child during the early part of its life. Many years ago courts automatically assumed this role could only be fulfilled by a mother, however today, it is not an accurate reflection of our society.

Shared parenting arrangements may not be ideal for every divorced couple, however our laws must encourage parents to work together on providing the best for their kids. The committee's report suggests that all parents seeking a parenting order from a judge should first submit a parenting plan with the court. Those parents who do not submit a plan would have to attend an education program to help them become aware of the post-separation reaction and detrimental impact that divorce has on children and the child's developmental needs at different ages. These parents would learn about the benefits of cooperative parenting after divorce and of mediation, and other forms of dispute resolution mechanisms available to them. By requiring a parenting plan, parents would be forced to at least consider the children by attempting to work out an agreement with each other.

Recommendations 15 and 16 are also very important. They call for amendments to the Divorce Act to require parents and judges to consider the best interests of the child and provides a list of criteria for deliberation. Recommendation 26 says: matters relating to parenting under the Divorce Act, the importance of the presence of both parties at any proceeding be recognized and emphasized, and that reliance on ex parte proceedings be restricted as much as possible. Ex parte orders are directives issued by judges after only having heard one side of the story in a court case. These types of court orders are only supposed to be used under rare and exceptional circumstances, however all too often they are issued based upon false testimony.

The one area in which I find myself in disagreement with the report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access is on the issue of presumption. Again, this is an area on which the minister touched on in his remarks. The report says that the committee did not believe the courts should be constrained by presuming, because in divorce, one size cannot fit all. I believe it is somewhat of a contradiction to state that shared parenting should be the norm, but we should not presume both parents are good parents and therefore quite capable of properly raising their children.

To those opposed to this presumption, I say that our entire justice system is based upon a fundamental basic presumption. We are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is not up to those accused to prove their innocence in court. It is up to the Crown to prove their guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. It therefore puzzles, frustrates and angers me that the court does not apply the same principles consistently to divorcing couples. If both parents were believed to be good parents prior to separation, then why should the courts not presume them to be after divorce?

If we were to begin from the premise that shared parenting is in the best interests of the children, then the natural conclusion is that we must presume that both parents would be worthy of maximum contact with their children unless proven otherwise.

That being said, the report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access is a quite a valuable document with lots of sensible proposals put forward despite the few areas I would like to see more heavily emphasized.

The members of the committee, regardless of political affiliation, and I know, Mr. Speaker, because you sat on that committee yourself, worked collaboratively on writing a persuasive report. Shamefully the government has dragged its heels on implementing these critical changes. It has taken over four years for the government to finally table legislation, but what it has presented before us is a shy and timid representation of what the report called for.

Let me explain by going over the government's reforms to family law. The first change would remove the terms “custody” and “access” from the Divorce Act. At first glance this appears to be a positive change however upon closer examination we find the terms are replaced with parenting order and contact order. Whether this change is merely semantics is anyone's guess. We do know that it is not shared parenting and it would not provide a presumption that children deserve access to both of their parents after a separation. If the government were serious about reforming divorce law it would not simply play around with the wording of the legislation.

The government has removed the maximum contact principle in subsection 16(10) of the existing legislation that would require judges to ensure children receive as much time with each parent as possible. In Bill C-22 there are no clauses that would replace this maximum contact principle.

The one area where the government's bill vaguely mentions this principle is in a new section that would require judges to consider the overall best interests of the child when granting a parenting order. The list of criteria overall is not bad. It loosely implements recommendations 16 and 17 of the committee's report, however, having a judge consider the amount of contact a child has with a parent along with 11 other decisive factors weakens a very important principle. It must be complimented with stronger statements in other sections of the bill.

Overall the criteria which comprises the best interests of children in clause 16.2 of the bill is nearly identical to those recommended in the committee's report. It provides a helpful guide to judges when deciding on parenting arrangements for children after a separation. One specific criterion was not mentioned in the “For the Sake of the Children” report. The government took the liberty of adding “The history of care for the child”, as another decisive factor for the courts to consider.

For all intents and purposes a spousal agreement regarding the care a child receiving preceding a divorce has absolutely nothing to do with what parents would agree to is appropriate care after divorce. Understandably couples make tough decisions when children enter their lives. They must decide who will take care of the child and who will continue to work to provide an income. For most families the higher income earner will continue to work outside of the home or perhaps a parent who has better than most maternity or paternity benefits will stay home with the child.

Parenting arrangements before divorce should have no relevance on the care a child will receive after a separation between parents. By examining Bill C-22 it is apparent that the government has gone through the “For the Sake of the Children” report selectively choosing which recommendations it wishes to legislate. If the government wants to provide Canadians with the real change that they are so desperately seeking, it should have brought forward a bill including all the relevant recommendations. After four years even the government should have been able to do much better.

Since becoming a member of Parliament I have worked very hard to change the Divorce Act to allow children a better opportunity to be with both parents after separation. I have introduced a private member's bill on the subject some five times since 1996. In 2001 my bill overcame many obstacles to finally be debated on the floor of the House of Commons.

Even then the government turned its back on the children of divorce. As I mentioned earlier, it argued that by using a one size fits all approach to parenting after divorce would hurt children in the end. It will use the same old argument, indeed the minister did already this morning, against shared parenting.

It is true that for each divorce case before the courts there are individual circumstances that must be considered, but we must acknowledge the assumption that both parents deserve an equal role in raising their children.

Just before I get to my summary, I want to refer to another letter that I received. I think this letter probably went to all members of Parliament of all parties. I will not have enough time to read the entire letter but I think members will get the drift. The letter is dated July 2, 2000 and it was sent to the Prime Minister. It reads:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

I am the 14-year-old daughter of Darrin White, the father who recently took his life in British Columbia as a result of the frustration and hopelessness caused in dealing with Canada's family justice system. Although the justice system was not 100 percent the cause of his death, based on what I and members of my family have seen, it was the biggest factor. My father took his life mostly in part because of the injustices being perpetrated against him by what many Canadians say is a biased and morally corrupt Canadian family justice system. Our family justice system seems to allow good fathers to be destroyed while it allows vindictive and revengeful mothers to rule over the court.

Prior to my father's death, he told me of the anguish he was going through trying to see his children. He told me of the abuse that his wife subjected him to. She did not want him to have a relationship even with me, his own daughter, because she was jealous. He told me of the frustration in dealing with the courts and the lawyers. He told me how the court did nothing except put further barriers to him seeing his children.

As a young Canadian I can only say that I am utterly ashamed to see how the country I call Canada treats fathers in its courts. It is a disgrace! I know my father was a good man and a good father. He did not deserve to be pushed over the edge as he was. He did not deserve to be kept from seeing his children. He obviously reached a point where he could see that justice was beyond his reach and for reasons that only God will know, decided that taking his life was the only way to end his suffering.

From what I have learned about the family justice system in this country, Canada is not the home of the proud and the free. In my view, Canada has become a safe haven for corrupt lawyers and biased judges who think nothing about the lives of the children and parents they destroy every day in our family courts.

I have learned that Canada's Justice Minister...has been stalling legislation about shared parenting which is intended to prevent the kind of tragedy that has been forced upon my family. I understand that a special committee recommended that the justice department should promote a concept called shared parenting. If shared parenting had been in place before my father took his life and if our system of justice guaranteed the rights of children to see their parents, I have no doubt in my mind that my loving father would be alive today. All he wanted was to see his children, but it seems that our justice system would not give him that.

The letter goes on and on. This is from the 14 year old daughter of a gentleman who felt his only way out was to commit suicide. It was signed by Ashlee Barnett-White, the daughter of Darrin White from Prince George in my riding.

In summary, the Canadian Alliance is opposed to Bill C-22 as it is presently worded for the following reasons.

First, Bill C-22 completely misses the basic fundamental principle laid out in the report “For the Sake of the Children”, that modern Canadian society is best reflected by shared parenting.

Second, Bill C-22 would not ensure that our courts and judges receive the direction that first and foremost it is in the best interests of the children to maintain maximum contact with both parents following divorce.

Third, Bill C-22's passing reference to the relationships between children of divorce and siblings and grandparents in clause 16.2(i) is insufficient to ensure the survival of those vital relationships following divorce.

Fourth, any agreement made between the parents regarding the best parenting arrangement prior to separation and divorce is completely irrelevant following separation and therefore any reference should be removed from clause 16.2(c).

Fifth, Bill C-22 drops the so-called friendly parent rule that at least provided some direction to the courts.

For those and many other inadequacies addressed in the 48 recommendation of the “For the Sake of the Children” report, we will be proposing substantive amendments at committee stage to fix these deficiencies.

I sincerely hope that, unlike so many previous bills on so many issues that I have seen go through the House in the last nine years that I have been an MP, the government will allow those amendments to pass so that not only the Canadian Alliance can support Bill C-22 but all Canadians.

I also have an amendment. I move, seconded by the member for Edmonton North:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-22, 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, be not now read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2003 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Outremont Québec


Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that C-22, 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the Secretary of State for Latin America, Africa and the Francophonie for his support for this important bill.

I am most pleased to rise today to begin debate at second reading of Bill C-22, an act to amend the Divorce Act and other Acts in consequence. As I have already mentioned clearly on numerous occasions, these reforms deal first and foremost with children.

In December I announced that the federal government would be providing $163 million over five years to support the child-centred family justice strategy. This bill deals with two of the three pillars of this strategy: legislative reforms to the Divorce Act and expanding the unified family courts.

Combined with family justice services, which received $63 million from the government, this bill will allow us to fulfill our commitment from the 2002 Speech from the Throne to improve Canada's family justice system.

The breakup of a marriage often leads to tremendous stress and suffering. Every member of the family undergoes an extremely intense emotional experience. Unfortunately, those who are often the most directly affected by the stress of a family breakup are the children.

This child-centred family justice strategy will attenuate the often negative effects of separation and divorce on children by providing parents with new tools to carry out their parental responsibilities in the best interests of the child.

When parents are unable to resolve their problems on their own and must turn to the courts, this strategy will help to put in place a simpler legal system, expand services, and provide access to expanded information programs and services, public legal information programs, and professional training to make it easier to determine what is in the child's best interests.

In this context, Bill C-22 promotes an approach based on the needs of children. It reaffirms that solely the child's interests must be considered when decisions about the child's care and education are made. It drops the terms “child custody” and “access”. These terms reinforce the notion of “winners and losers” in a context and at a time when it is important to minimize conflicts between the parents and promote their cooperation, whenever possible.

Rather, this bill introduces a new approach to parenting arrangements for children. This new approach is based on “parental responsibilities”. It is flexible and allows parents and the courts to establish the best interests of each child, as well as how responsibilities regarding a child's needs and education must be exercised.

Each parenting agreement or parenting order could grant “parenting time”, which is the time during which each parent is responsible for the child. Each parenting order could also grant one parent, or both parents, decision-making responsibilities regarding the child's health care, education, religion and other matters. The court will also be able to include a dispute resolution process in a parenting order for future disputes regarding parenting arrangements, if the process has been agreed to by the persons who are to be bound by that process.

Our approach, however, does not presume that any one parenting arrangement is better than others. We believe that such presumptions tend to focus on parental rights rather than on what is in the best interests of a particular child, which we believe should be the key aspect that we should focus on.

In its report, the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access rejected the use of legal presumptions when it comes to parenting arrangements and stated:

In view of the diversity of families facing divorce in Canada today, it would be presumptuous and detrimental to many to establish a “one size fits all” formula for parenting arrangements after separation and divorce.

The Government of Canada agrees with the special joint committee. Therefore the proposed approach allows for a wide variety of parenting arrangements that can be tailored and should be tailored to each child's needs.

It is important that any new Divorce Act concept not be interpreted as preferring a particular parenting arrangement. The term “shared parenting” has become associated for some people with a presumptive starting point about the appropriate parenting arrangement for children upon divorce. As a result, using the term “shared parenting” in the Divorce Act would have led to confusion.

Bill C-22 also introduces some specific criteria respecting the needs and circumstances of the child, in keeping with the recommendation of the special joint committee. This list of best interests criteria reflects the bill's child centred approach.

The statutory list is intended to help parents make child focused parenting arrangements and to assist family justice system professionals in helping parents through mediation or parenting education courses. Also, legal professionals will be guided by the criteria which provide a foundation for their discussions with parents and any negotiations about parenting decisions.

Finally, the bill directs judges to consider the list of factors when assessing each child's best interests. All relevant factors must be considered including, but not limited to, those specifically mentioned in the bill. The criteria are not prioritized, reflecting the principle that there should be no presumptions. The weight to be given to each individual criteria will depend on the needs and circumstances of the particular child.

Everyone agrees that children need the love and attention of both parents but even such basic principles can become complicated in some situations. The benefit to the child of developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents is indeed an important factor for the court to consider and is included in the list of best interests criteria.

The current maximum contact principle has had the unintended effect of discouraging parents from disclosing the existence of family violence. As a result, and consistent with the recommendation of the special joint committee, the importance of the relationship between a parent and a child has been included in the best interests list, to be weighed and balanced along with other factors that speak to the best interests of the child.

Children also require a safe environment. The difficulties that children experience when their parents separate or divorce can be compounded by the presence of family violence. We all agree that family violence is a serious problem and that all too often children are its silent victims, whether through direct experience or harmful exposure to it. This is why the best interests list identifies violence against members of the family as a factor to be considered.

Furthermore, family violence is defined in a non-exhaustive manner, and the bill clarifies that the civil standard of proof will be used to ensure that all relevant evidence is considered.

While it will always be important, in assessing the best interests of the child, to weigh this factor against other important considerations, in some cases due to the severity, persistence or impact of family violence, this criterion and the need to ensure a child's safety may be given primary consideration in a parenting order.

In light of concerns about the issue of family violence, the current past conduct rules of subsection 16(9) of the Divorce Act would be removed. However it is not that this would change the longstanding rule that conduct should only be considered if it is relevant to the ability of a person to act as a parent to the child. The best interests criteria require the courts to consider the ability of individuals to care for and meet the needs of the child. There is no requirement to consider conduct that is irrelevant to the best interest of the child.

Many important factors are included in the best interests list. Although I cannot comment on all of them today, I would like to stress the importance of considering a child's views and preferences to the extent that these can be reasonably ascertained. As one young person put it during our public consultations, “Don't make decisions for us; make them with us”. Adults have an obligation to create situations that encourage children to talk without fear of recrimination, and children should not be forced to choose one parent over the other.

The bill also introduces a new type of order, a contact order. Contact orders will apply to individuals such as grandparents who wish to maintain a significant relationship with a child and who need a court order to facilitate this. Like parenting orders, contact orders will be governed solely by the child's best interests. As is currently the case, leave from the court will be required to make an application for a contact order to discourage adversarial and unnecessary litigation.

I will now move on to one of the essential components of the family justice system, namely the duties of lawyers. Often lawyers are the ones parents turn to for advice in the event of family breakdown.

In order to facilitate the achievement of the objectives of the strategy, this bill also proposes an expanded role for lawyers. In addition to informing the parents about mediation services, they will also have to provide information on family justice services such as parenting courses. As a result, parents will be more aware of the existence of alternative solutions.

As well, lawyers will be required to explain to their clients their obligation to comply with any court orders under the Divorce Act. We have heard of too many cases of parental non-compliance with orders, whether in connection with financial obligations or their responsibilities as a parent to put their child's interests first.

These new provisions acknowledge the important role which lawyers have played, and continue to play, in recommending cooperation between the parties and respect for the law.

Bill C-22 also establishes a new procedure for making variations to a support order when the parents live in different provinces or territories or one lives outside the country.

It is particularly complicated to use the services of a lawyer in a jurisdiction other than one's own, so the bill facilitates the process for families in this situation by making it possible to make a written application accompanied by evidence to the jurisdiction of the beneficiary. The court with jurisdiction over the area in which the respondent resides will request provision of supporting documents by the respondent.

If additional evidence is required from either party, the court may obtain this in the fairest and most expeditious manner possible, for instance by conference call.

Children also need to be protected from the economic consequences of family breakdown. This means there must be assurance that the financial assistance required for their care is received in full and on time.

Many parents continue to fulfil their parental obligations after separation. Nevertheless, the problem of deliberate non-compliance with parental obligations remains.

In addition to the changes to be made to the Divorce Act, there will also be amendments to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act with a view to enhancing the efficacy of the programs for enforcing support orders.

A major change to the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act is that family support obligations take priority over other judgment debts. This is an unequivocal acknowledgement that the needs of the child are a priority and reinforces our government's child-centred family justice strategy.

Additionally, the effectiveness of federal enforcement legislation is reduced when a child support debtor does not file a tax return. Consequently, federal legislation will be amended to introduce a mechanism to require a child support debtor to file a tax return.

These are the major components of only one of the pillars of the child-centred family justice strategy. The second pillar of our strategy is the expansion of the Unified Family Courts.

As the name suggests, Unified Family Courts unite jurisdiction over all family law matters within one court. Currently, a family undergoing marital breakdown must turn to the Superior Court for a divorce and division of family property. The court that has jurisdiction to grant interim support and custody is either the provincial court or the Superior Court, depending upon whether an application for divorce has been filed. This division of jurisdiction is indeed confusing for families. Under our proposed strategy, one court that specializes in family law issues will deal with all issues related to one family's separation and divorce.

The UFC also offers the benefits of a specialized bench. The judges of the Unified Family Court are experts in family law. These specialist judges fully appreciate the extent to which a decision may affect all the members of a family and are committed to achieving better outcomes through effective use of court processes and family justice services.

The bill would amend the Judges Act to provide resources for 62 additional judges for Unified Family Courts, a commitment that would permit significant expansion of these courts across the country. Various forms of the UFC currently exist in seven Canadian jurisdictions, and interest in this model continues to be strong given the benefits it offers.

One goal of the UFC is to encourage the resolution of issues in a constructive and less adversarial forum to the greatest extent possible. Integral to achieving this goal is the availability of family law services, either attached to the court itself or based within the community. For example, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and conciliation can result in settlements that satisfy all parties and are achieved in a non-adversarial setting.

In conclusion, developing this strategy, as elaborated in our legislation, will take time. There will be a legal framework to support these changes, but they will not come about on their own.

It is sometimes difficult to change the collective mindset. Putting the emphasis on the interests of the child and parental responsibilities—and not on rights—promoting parental cooperation, reducing conflicts and ensuring the security of families will be at the forefront of all our efforts to promote positive outcomes for children who go through breakups.

The federal government cannot do this alone. As a society, we must make an effort to reduce the human, social and economic cost of divorce and separation, and develop a broader and more integrated system of family law that supports families in transition and reduces the vulnerability of children.

Bill C-22 will greatly contribute to meeting the needs of Canadian families. I recommend that the House pass this bill.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

January 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me start with the parliamentary agenda.

We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill, followed by, if there is time, Bill C-20, the child protection bill, as well as Bill C-22, the family law bill.

Tomorrow, we will call third reading of Bill C-3 regarding the Canada pension plan. The next item will be Bill C-6, the bill regarding specific claims for aboriginal people.

On Monday, we would return, if necessary, to Bills C-6, C-20 and C-13. We will continue this business on Tuesday morning, but in any case at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, it is my intention to call Bill C-22, the family law bill.

I will be consulting with a view to returning at some point to debate on the Senate amendments to Bill C-10A, the Criminal Code amendments.

On Wednesday, we will continue the debate on Bills C-13 and C-19 if necessary, at whatever stages they are at then.

I wish to announce that Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Colleagues across the way particularly have asked about what they claim to be a principle that military intervention has a vote. I have a number of them here.

For Korea in 1950, there was no resolution in the House and no vote. For Sinai in 1956, there was no vote. For the Congo in 1960, a recorded vote was asked for but no division was held. For Cyprus in 1964, there was a debate before deployment, the motion was agreed to on division with no recorded vote. For the Middle East in 1973, the motion was agreed to with no division and no recorded vote. For the UNIFIL mission in 1978, there was no motion and no vote. For Iran-Iraq in 1988, the motion was agreed to with no division. For Namibia in 1989, there was no vote. For the Persian Gulf in 1990, it was debated after deployment, with a recorded vote and a division.

There were many cases where there were no votes, no debate, no uniformity.

We have established the coherent system which we enjoy today. We have utilized it as late as last night.

I am also prepared to offer to other parties, should they want it at some point, perhaps as early as next week, yet another evening to debate the situation in Iraq. I know many colleagues on my side of the House would like that. We are quite prepared to offer that.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

January 27th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, while being totally happy about the continuing support we will be getting from the opposition for our legislation, let me indicate to the House the legislative program for the following days.

This afternoon we will continue the consideration of Bill C-20, the child protection legislation. If and when this is completed, we will then turn to Bill C-19, the first nations' fiscal bill in the name of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Tomorrow we will commence report stage of Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies legislation. On Wednesday we will call report stage of Bill C-6, the specific claims bill. On Thursday we will resume consideration of legislation not completed and add to the agenda Bill C-22, the family law bill. On Friday, my present plans are to call Bill C-3 respecting the Canada pension plan.

Consultations have taken place between the parties. I believe that you will find unanimous consent for the following motion that I would now like to move for a take note debate.

I move:

That, Wednesday, January 29, 2003, a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 shall take place concerning the situation in Iraq and, that after 9:00 p.m. on the said day, the Chair shall not receive any dilatory motions or quorum calls.

Business of the HouseThe Royal Assent

December 12th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, my response will not be in prose and verse. I just have not been hit yet with the attack of Jingle Bells , which undoubtedly seems to be striking here and there in the House.

We will continue this afternoon with the prebudget debate.

Tomorrow we shall consider report stage of Bill C-3, the Canada pension plan amendments. If there is any time left, we would then proceed with Bill C-15 respecting lobbyists. I intend to speak to other House leaders about that.

I shall communicate directly with members concerning the order of business, when we return from the adjournment on January 27. This will include any of the aforementioned business not completed, which includes: Bill C-3 and Bill C-15, obviously; Bill C-2, the Yukon bill; Bill C-6, specific claims; Bill C-10, the Criminal Code amendment; Bill C-19, the first nations bill; Bill C-20, protection of children; Bill C-22, the divorce legislation; and Bill C-23 respecting certain offenders.

As members can see, there are lots of items on the legislative agenda.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my best wishes for the holiday season and, of course, a happy new year 2003 to all hon. members, our staff and pages, not to mention the busboys.

Divorce ActRoutine Proceedings

December 10th, 2002 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Outremont Québec


Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-22, 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

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)