An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Feb. 19, 2019

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Divorce Act to, among other things,

(a) replace terminology related to custody and access with terminology related to parenting;

(b) establish a non-exhaustive list of criteria with respect to the best interests of the child;

(c) create duties for parties and legal advisers to encourage the use of family dispute resolution processes;

(d) introduce measures to assist the courts in addressing family violence;

(e) establish a framework for the relocation of a child; and

(f) simplify certain processes, including those related to family support obligations.

The enactment also amends the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act to, among other things,

(a) allow the release of information to help obtain and vary a support provision;

(b) expand the release of information to other provincial family justice government entities;

(c) permit the garnishment of federal moneys to recover certain expenses related to family law; and

(d) extend the binding period of a garnishee summons.

The enactment also amends those two Acts to implement

(a) the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, concluded at The Hague on October 19, 1996; and

(b) the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, concluded at The Hague on November 23, 2007.

The enactment also amends the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act to, among other things,

(a) give priority to family support obligations; and

(b) simplify the processes under the Act.

Finally, this enactment also includes transitional provisions and makes consequential amendments to the Criminal Code.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

Feb. 6, 2019 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-78, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is a connection between Bill C-78 and Bill C-75 with respect to the hybridization of offences to the degree that we are talking about the best interests of the child in Bill C-78. Bill C-75 would be a step in exactly the wrong direction from that standpoint. when we talk about potentially reducing sentences from a maximum of 10 years to two years less a day.

In the case of Bill C-75, the reclassification of those offences would not only not put the best interests of the child first, it would not achieve the government's objective of trying to deal with the backlog in our courts. Indeed, 99.6% of criminal cases in Canada are before provincial courts. The reclassification of offences would simply download more cases onto our already overburdened and overstretched provincial courts.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Willowdale.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-78 and the significant contribution it would make to addressing family violence.

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada has identified family violence as an important public health issue, recognizing that the effects of family violence go well beyond physical injury and can have long-lasting impacts on mental health.

In 2014, 13% of individuals who were separated or divorced and who had been in contact with their former partners within the last five years reported being victims of spousal violence. While we have no solid statistics on the number of family law cases where family violence is a factor, estimates from court file reviews and surveys of lawyers and judges range anywhere from 8% to 25%, yet, the Divorce Act currently makes no mention of family violence or how it is relevant to parenting matters. Bill C-78 would take concrete steps to address this gap.

There are marked differences in the severity and the violence that men and women experience. In 2014, women were twice as likely as men to report being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or knife. In contrast, men were three and a half times more likely to report being kicked, bitten or hit.

We also cannot forget that children can be directly and indirectly affected by family violence and that the exposure to family violence often comes with direct abuse against the child. In 2014, 70% of adults who reported having witnessed parental violence as children also reported being victims of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse. Children who witnessed that violence were also more than twice as likely to experience the most severe forms of physical abuse compared to those who had not witnessed violence.

Children can be negatively and deeply harmed emotionally when they are exposed to family violence, whether it is from seeing the violence take place or bruises on a parent. Emotional and behavioural problems and even post-traumatic stress disorder can be a serious effect.

Despite all we know about family violence, myths about it remain. There are two myths that I would like to highlight today.

The first myth about family violence, particularly intimate partner violence, is that if a survivor has not reported to the police, then the violence did not happen or it was not serious. Statistics Canada tells us that only 19% of survivors report violence to police. Some do not report violence to police out of fear of not being believed and/or that calling the police may escalate the violence. Certain vulnerable communities also have mistrust for the police.

Despite these fears, survivors may choose to start family law proceedings in order to protect their children, whether they reported violence to the police or not. In some cases, starting a family law proceeding can increase the risk of violence. Leading family violence researcher Linda Neilson notes, “Family law cases involving domestic violence are not necessarily less serious or less dangerous than criminal cases. Indeed some are more dangerous.”

The other myth is that intimate partner violence ends after separation. In fact, separation can actually increase the risk of family violence, and it often persists long after the relationship has ended.

In 2014, 41% of those who experienced family violence by an ex-spouse reported that it occurred after the break-up. In just under half of those cases, about 48%, the violence took place at least six months after the separation. Very worrying is the fact that in almost half of those cases where violence occurred after the separation, it increased in severity.

Bill C-78 includes a number of measures to strengthen the family justice system's response to the unfortunate case of family violence.

First, we must realize that when a family is in crisis, it is possible that various aspects of the justice system may be involved, such as the criminal, civil protection or child protection proceedings, in addition to divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, however, the divorce courts are often not aware of other proceedings or orders that may have been made. This lack of information about other proceedings can lead to conflicting orders, such as where a criminal order prohibits contact between a parent and other family members, but a family order provides that same parent with access to a child.

This is why Bill C-78 would amend the Divorce Act so that courts would have evidence of other pending proceedings or orders in effect. This would help improve the administration of justice.

Where parenting is specifically at issue, courts are required to consider only the best interests of the child. New criteria listed in Bill C-78 would require consolidation of any civil or criminal proceedings or order relevant to the well-being of a child, even if no longer in effect. This is to help ensure that the court has all relevant information when deciding on the best interests of the child. It is critical that family violence be taken into account when deciding on parenting arrangements for children.

As we learn more about family violence, in particular intimate partner violence, we have come to understand that not all family violence is the same. Depending on the nature of the violence, it can have very different implications on the parenting of the child and the ability of former spouses to co-parent successfully.

At least four different types of violence have been identified, but given my short time today I will only mention two. The first is separation-instigated violence. It generally involves a small number of incidents around the separation, although these can range from very minor to more serious. While no violence is ever acceptable, this type of violence may, over the long term, be less likely to negatively affect the ability of the parents to work together or care for the child.

In contrast, the second type is coercive and controlling family violence. As the name suggests, this violence involves a pattern of control based on intimidation, emotional abuse and physical violence. Coercive and controlling violence is most often perpetrated by men against women. It generally occurs over a prolonged period, has the highest risk of lethality and is most associated with compromised parenting skills. The perpetrator often attempts to control his former partner long after separation. As a result, in these situations, joint decision-making can be challenging and contact between the parents during the exchange of the child can create opportunities for further abuse.

To address the range of family violence, Bill C-78 includes an evidence-based definition of family violence. It identifies that family violence can include a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. It provides examples of specific behaviours that constitute family violence, such as physical and sexual abuse and psychological violence and harassment, including stalking.

Finally, Bill C-78 specifically highlights family violence as relevant to the best interests of the child when making parenting arrangements. The proposed amendments will direct consideration of any impact of the family violence, but in particular how it might affect the ability of the parents to co-operate with one another, or how it might affect the ability of an abusive parent to care for the child. The bill also provides a list of specific criteria for the court to consider that will determine the severity of the violence, the impact that it has had or may have, and whether and how this should inform the parenting arrangement.

These criteria would help put focus on the particular dynamics of family violence in each individual case. Importantly, both the definition of family violence and the best interests criteria recognize that even when children are not directly subjected to violence, they can be harmed by it. Through Bill C-78, we are taking concrete action to promote children's best interests in situations where they are most vulnerable.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will first thank the hon. member for Surrey Centre for focusing on the question of violence and how this bill would allow us to address that. I, on the other hand, will be taking a more general overview of this legislation, which I am incredibly proud of.

As we know, the first substantial update to Canadian family law in 20 years is occurring. Bill C-78 represents a landmark in strengthening and enshrining the best interests of the child and would make federal family law more responsive to the modern-day needs of Canadian families. Family law, as has been noted by all of the speakers today, is both complex and broad and as a result, there are significant gaps and inefficiencies, which existing laws have not adequately addressed. Bill C-78 seeks to remedy these gaps through a wide-ranging series of common-sense adjustments.

Today I will focus on six key elements of Bill C-78: strengthening the best interests of the child provisions, enshrining primary consideration into family law, important changes to terminology, modernizing the Divorce Act, creating contact orders and setting new relocation guidelines.

Allow me to start with the best interests of the child test. The best interests of the child test has been a fundamental part of family law in Canada and in many other countries for decades. Under the Divorce Act, courts must consider only a child's best interests when making decisions about who may care for or make decisions about a child. The Divorce Act, however, gives surprisingly little guidance regarding this test.

In 1998, the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access called for the Divorce Act to include a list of criteria considered to be in the best interests of the child. Many others have added to this call, including academics, child advocates and the Canadian Bar Association. With Bill C-78, our government is answering their calls and taking important steps to address existing gaps and inefficiencies in the family law system.

The proposed criteria for the best interests of the child would emphasize critical elements of a child's life. They include a child's stage of development, ties to loved ones, cultural identity, and personal views and preferences. However, the list is not closed or exhaustive. If a particular factor in a child's life is especially relevant—for example, if the child has medical needs or participates in competitive sporting events—courts could consider these factors where appropriate and relevant.

Adding definitional certainty to the best interests of the child test in the Divorce Act promotes children's interests. It also promotes another one of the bill's key goals: improving access to justice. In some Canadian jurisdictions, over three-quarters of family law litigants are self-represented. Also, a list of best interests of the child criteria in the Divorce Act would help parents better understand their legal responsibilities. It would assist them to better frame their negotiations on arrangements for their children and more often come to agreements outside the court system. Alternatively, if parents cannot agree on their own, this clarity would help self-represented litigants to better frame their arguments in legal proceedings.

Allow me now to move to the second point, which is primary consideration. The reference to “primary consideration” is crucial to the values embodied in Bill C-78. Emphasizing primary consideration would ensure that courts prioritize a child's physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being. Courts would weigh all other criteria in regard to this primary consideration. Doing so would ensure that the best interests of the child remain paramount in protecting families from the negative outcomes often related to separation and divorce.

I will move to the third point, updates to terminology. Bill C-78 would make important and, frankly, long-overdue changes in family law terminology. “Custody” and “access” are now archaic legal terms.

The term “custody” traces its origins to property law, which for hundreds of years has essentially treated children as possessions. The term “access”, meanwhile, refers to a right to use or pass over property. This is not how we should describe responsibilities for children in 2018. In addition, litigation over “custody” and “access” has created additional labels whereby custodial parents are viewed as winners of parenting disputes and access parents the losers. Bill C-78 would move away from such confrontational language, as Alberta, B.C. and several international jurisdictions have done.

Going to the issue of modernizing the Divorce Act, Bill C-78 would replace orders for custody and access in the Divorce Act with parenting orders. A parenting order addresses parenting time and decision-making responsibility for each parent. Specifically, “parenting time” refers to the time a child spends in a parent's care. This includes all time when a parent is responsible for a child, even when the child is at school. Each parent would have as much parenting time as is consistent with the best interests of the child.

On the other hand, “decision-making responsibility” refers to making important decisions on issues such as health, education, language, religion and significant extracurricular activities. BillC-78 would allow the courts to allocate this responsibility to one or both parents, or, alternatively, to divide elements between the parents.

Furthering the goal of improving access to justice, the bill includes a parenting plan provision, referring to agreements between parents that sets out a road map for the care of the child moving forward. The bill encourages courts to incorporate a parenting plan that is in the child's best interest. This provision recognizes that parents are generally best placed to make decisions about their child.

Moving to the fifth element, Bill C-78 also proposes a contact order, in keeping with the best practices already established by several provincial courts. Contact orders carve out time in a child's schedule with a person other than a parent, such as a grandparent. I would like to clarify that a contact order would not usually be necessary in order for grandparents and other loved ones to spend time with a child. It would only be necessary where, because of conflict, parents do not agree to let grandparents or other loved ones spend time with the child. In such cases, Bill C-78 would allow courts to make contact orders. These orders could help preserve a child's relationship with his or her loved ones, where appropriate. As with parenting orders, courts would make a contact order if it is in the best interest of the child.

Finally, the issue of relocation has challenged parents, lawyers, and courts for many years. Relocation involves moving a child after separation and divorce. It is one of the most litigated family law issues in existence. In a 2016 survey of lawyers and judges, for example, over 98% of respondents indicated that disputes are harder to settle when relocation is involved. Bill C-78 creates relocation guidelines to address this conflict. Parents would now be required to give notice if they want to relocate either themselves or their children. An assessment would be conducted using best interest criteria when considering such a request. These would include factors such as the reasons for relocation, the impacts of relocation on the child, and how reasonable the relocation request is.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Willowdale, who happens to be an old high school classmate, gave us a very comprehensive overview of Bill C-78. He touched on many different facets, so I would ask if he could zoom out a bit and provide us with his insight on how the bill fits in with some of the broader initiatives our government is pursuing. There are two I would ask him about.

We heard about how the bill impacts on child poverty. How does that fit with some of the government's broader objectives of addressing child poverty in Canada? We heard about how the bill would address family violence in a more direct way. How does that work with Bill C-75, which is before the justice committee, which my colleague is a member of, and the provisions that are being put in place in that bill to deal with intimate partner violence in the context of things such as bail conditions? Perhaps he could elaborate on the broader impact of what we are doing as a government.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is anybody here in this House who can deny that Bill C-78 is well overdue and is needed.

I listened in depth to the conversation about separation, families relocating, the court sitting down and evaluating a mechanism to look at both sides, and that body deciding if it is appropriate for the parties to move from one location to another.

I was reading through the bill and I am wondering if there is a mechanism of repeal if the court were to say that one party could not move. Is there an appeal mechanism built into this bill that would allow people to appeal that decision?

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Banff—Airdrie.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-78. I do not come at this from a legal perspective—I am not a lawyer—and I do not come at it from the perspective of actually having experienced this directly. I was raised in a home with six children, a very happy, very busy home, and then when my parents were much older in life and I was a grown woman myself, they faced a difficult time when they came very close to divorcing. I have to say that even then, as an adult and with my own children, it was extremely unnerving and disturbing to me, which just raises the realization of how important it is that we have systems in place to assist children. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to actually be dealing with those circumstances as a young child in my home. Fortunately, things worked out well.

That being said, in regard to Bill C-78, I appreciate the four key objectives that are listed: to promote the best interests of the child; to address family violence; to help reduce child poverty; and to streamline various definitions and processes but, more important, to require legal professionals to encourage clients to use alternative ways to resolve disputes.

The Conservative Party has always had this perspective that we believe that in the event of a marital breakdown, the Divorce Act should grant joint custody and/or shared parenting, unless it is clearly demonstrated not to be in the best interests of the child. Both parents and all grandparents should be allowed to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children and grandchildren, unless it is demonstrated not to be in the best interests of the child. In every case where it is possible, the influence of both parents, and grandparents as well and siblings, is so key to making sure that the family unit is able to survive as best as it can through these difficult circumstances. We understand very well how traumatic divorces are on families.

We are overall pleased with the intentions of Bill C-78, especially the promotion of child welfare and the measures to combat family violence. We have always stood up for and believed in the safety and well-being of children and of families.

However, where this goes off the tracks for me is in the fact that the counterintuitive implementation of Bill C-75 is here as well. I know that Canadians' heads are spinning quite often when trying to determine, if this is a whole-of-government approach to things, how it is on the one hand we can be saying we are so concerned about children and then on the other hand be bringing in Bill C-75, which would reduce sentences for very serious crimes, including abduction of a child under the age of 14, participating in activities of a criminal organization, forced marriages, marriage under the age of 16, and concealing the body of a child. These are very serious crimes and impact children, yet the government seems prepared to bring in something that seems so contrary to me.

I want to quote something from the Lawyer's Daily, written by David Frenkel:

The impetus in the fights between parents does not begin when spouses read the terms “custody” and “access” in the Divorce Act. Therefore, unless there are additional provisions added to the proposed amendments, the family conflicts will likely continue even with the replacement of the terms “custody and access” with “parenting” as introduced by Bill C-78.

I appreciate what is being attempted there with the terminology being changed, but at the same time that is a good point, that simply changing the terminology will not in the end make a huge difference. Mr. Frenkel continues:

[A] “parenting order” will replace the traditionally named “custody and access” order.

That needs to be done, but actually it has already been taking place. He says:

The significant change in wording likely arose to answer the concerns from the courts over the years that awarding one parent the status of “custody” and the other “access” created unnecessary winners and losers.... [A]s early as 1975 Justice Robert Furlong...wrote as follows: “The time is long past when the Courts disposed of the custody of a child as a reward to a well-behaved parent or as a punishment to one who misbehaved. The custody of their children is not a prize to be contended for by parents as an award for their good behaviour.”

He continues:

In 1986, the Manitoba Court of Appeal upheld a decision to refrain from using the words “custody” and “access” because the trial judge thought “those are destructive to a child”.

He also states that perhaps the more important focus of this discussion should be the issue of “control”, as that, unfortunately, quite often is what the fights are about in these circumstances.

He continues:

Litigants, in time, will become sophisticated in understanding the effect of a future “parenting order” and couples that previously fought incessantly over the term custody will now fight over who will have “decision-making responsibility.”

In other words, although that is part of it, how can we come to a point where the extreme difficulties in making these decisions are not fought out in such a confrontational way?

He goes on to say:

Therapy and assessment orders for litigants will not solve all the problems in custody battles, but they may expose the underlying factors contributing to unreasonable positions taken by them. Therefore, in addition to a change in language to the Divorce Act, it may be necessary for a court to have the jurisdiction to order trained professionals to determine and opine whether a parent's desire for custody or a ”parenting” order is based on healthy motives or not. And if such information cannot be readily available when needed, then simply repealing the terms “custody” and “access” may not achieve the intended consequences we all have been waiting for with Bill C-78's introduction.

In other words, efforts need to be made to ensure that the individuals who are involved in these circumstances have the necessary tools at their disposal to assist them in the process more effectively. There is no question that this is probably one of the most trying and difficult circumstances to be in for a couple who at one point married because of their desire to see their life as a long-term commitment and to have children. Yes, sometimes there are very violent circumstances. Other times there is an inability to communicate. However, there needs to be a process in place to assist them.

Further to that, I read an article by Robert Harvie, a family lawyer, mediator and arbitrator with Huckvale LLP, an advisory board member for the national self-represented litigants project, and a past Law Society of Alberta bencher. Harvie comes at this from a very well-rounded perspective. He states:

The unveiling of Bill C-78 received almost uniform praise from the media and legal profession as the “first major amendment of the Divorce Act in 20 years.”

Indeed, it is.

He continues:

My opinion is less effusive. Perhaps it's the cynicism of a lawyer who has been working in family law for 32 years. Having sat as a bencher with the Law Society of Alberta, and in fact, chaired their Access to Justice Committee for two years, I have seen much promise and very little delivery in improving access to justice. As a result, I opened up the 190 pages of Bill C-78 with less optimism than many of my colleagues.

He says it is “similar to the excitement over the maiden voyage of the Titanic”, which piqued my interest. With respect to the Titanic, he talked about all of its amazing additions to improve its amenities and necessities, such as squash racquets courts, baths, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, electric passenger lifts, all these of different services, including more deck chairs, to make the trip better. However, the reality was that they did not have what they truly needed.

He indicates that, at its core, Bill C-78 is devoid of change to the overall resolution process, that lawyers charge too much money, that law societies appear focused on reducing complaints rather than caring for them, that litigation is antiquated and cumbersome, and that we need to fund and support more alternative forms of resolution.

I have a good friend who settled many divorce and custody cases for his law firm out of court and without expensive litigation. However, he lost his job. Why? It was because he did not have enough billables and was not productive enough for the firm. In other words, he did not make enough money for the firm. He was encouraged to work for legal aid, because that was where he belonged.

Our legal system needs to change so that firms invest in litigating these cases through mediation and arbitration. Yes, we can tell people that they should go and do this, that they should make this choice, but they usually first find themselves at a law firm. I would like to see this concern addressed within the legal profession in Canada, where we make this a priority and prepare our lawyers, who are clearly willing to take on this type of roll to serve Canada, and especially to serve children.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / noon
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I confess I find the member's comments quite puzzling. To draw an analogy between this legislation and the Titanic is preposterous, because we had widespread consultations and have since received vociferous support from coast to coast to coast for this legislation. The Conservative government in Alberta is the very government that initiated the concept of changing the terminology from “custody and access” to “contact and parenting” orders.

The member raised Bill C-75 and some of the provisions in it that she finds logically inconsistent with what we are doing in Bill C-78. It is quite the contrary. In Bill C-75, we are doing exactly the same as we are doing in Bill C-78 in two important respects. One, intimate partner violence is at the heart of what we are doing in Bill C-75. We are addressing it and would make it a prerequisite to deal with that as a condition on bail. What we are doing here is making family violence something that a judge would have to consider, including criminal orders or proceedings, in determining the best interests of the child.

The other conceptual component that is exactly the same between the two pieces of legislation is that in each instance we are trying to reduce the very backlog in our court system that my friend opposite laments, our over-reliance on the court system, the over-litigiousness of Canadian society. We would be reducing that with Bill C-75, and exactly what we would be doing here with this provision. Two cases in point are the ADR mechanisms for calculating support.

Could I have the member opposite's comments on how improving ADR mechanisms addresses the very problem she has identified?

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak to Bill C-78, I would like to start with a personal story, one that will probably surprise many in the House and even many back home in my community.

I spent a number of years as a very young man as a single father. I raised by son, Quinn, who is now 22 years old. I was working two jobs while going to school full time and trying to raise him. It was a difficult time for me financially for sure, but we got through and did well. My son often tells me that some of the best memories of his life were from that time, even though I could not afford to put a lot on the table. It was Kraft Dinners, hot dogs and Hamburger Helper at best. We did without a lot of things. We lived in basement suite apartments for a few years while I went to school. However, I was able to raise him, and I think I raised him into a fine young man, one I am very proud of.

At that time, I did have some experience with family law, albeit not related specifically to the Divorce Act, which now speaks to some of the concerns this proposed legislation tries address today. It is for that reason, and from some stories I have heard from others whom I have spoken to during and since that time and during my time as a member of Parliament, that I do find the objectives and goals of the proposed legislation laudable.

Certainly, in some of the things it addresses, the bill tries to ensure that the best interests of the child are always promoted. It reinforces and emphasizes the importance of keeping a child's best interests as the absolute top priority in family law when making decisions about parenting in these cases. That is a critical principle. I also think it is important that more be done to require legal professionals to encourage clients to use alternative ways of resolving disputes, which is always something we should seek to achieve. The proposed legislation certainly has those things among its objectives. Although I do not often have occasion to do this, I do laud the government for its efforts in trying to achieve those goals.

However, I am still not certain that the proposed legislation would achieve the goals it sets out. There are some questions that I and others on this side of the House have that need to be addressed. Therefore, I want the bill to go to committee so we have an opportunity to address those concerns, issues and questions. I am hopeful they can be addressed.

I will point to a few articles about the bill. My colleague who spoke before read from one of them, but there are a few others I have noted that somewhat pan the bill. I will read very brief passages from them.

First is an article entitled “How the new Bill C-78 affects custody and access rulings”. It says that “On its face, this bill is an expression by the federal government that progress was needed in the way that separated families were treated under the law”. I would certainly agree with that. It goes on to say that “However, much of what is being proposed has been already implemented in out-of-court settlements, as well as in decisions made by judges.”

The second article is entitled “What’s in a name? Divorce Act amendment not enough to reduce parental conflict”. I will not read any passages from it, because I think the title speaks for itself.

The third is the article my colleague read from, but I want to read from some different parts of it. It is entitled “Bill C-78 amendments to the Divorce Act: ‘Rearranging the deck chairs’”.

I would like to read a little from that article. First, the author, someone who has vast experience in family law in my province of Alberta, says:

I would go further and suggest most of Bill C-78 is an expression of “good intention” without sufficient substance to accomplish real change.

That is quite a typical statement that could be made about many of the initiatives of the government. Often it tends to focus on symbolism, talking points and these kinds of things, rather than on really accomplishing anything that would achieve the kinds of objectives it often speaks about. I am not going to say that this is necessarily the case. The author of this article is certainly positing that, though.

The author goes on to say:

Also noted is that Bill C-78 is 190 pages long. The current Divorce Act is only 41 pages long. As self-represented litigants now comprise 80 per cent of the parties before many courts, one might reasonably ask how they will navigate through legislation that is over four times longer than the previous version—which was already difficult for a nonlawyer to digest.

So. My take?

Bill C-78 is a huge new ship, with some very nice looking aesthetic additions—but, with too few lifeboats.

And the iceberg is still coming.

Those are comments of the author of that article.

Obviously there may be some things we need to look at that may need to be addressed with this piece of legislation. However, as I have already stated, I believe that the objectives that are trying to be achieved here are laudable. I certainly hope that this bill will actually be found to address those or can be amended or changed in ways that would make sure that it would do just that. It is something that does need to be done. It is important.

I certainly discovered, during my time both as a member of Parliament and, as I mentioned, in my experience with family law, with my son, which ultimately worked out positively, that there were far too many parents, mainly fathers, and grandparents whose children and grandchildren were being deprived of time with them. That needs to be fixed.

That is part of the reason I am so proud to be part of the Conservative Party of Canada, which has the following policy regarding shared parenting. I will read the policy into the record:

The Conservative Party believes that in the event of a marital breakdown, the Divorce Act should grant joint custody and/or shared parenting, unless it is clearly demonstrated not to be in the best interests of the child. Both parents and all grandparents should be allowed to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children and grandchildren, unless it is demonstrated not to be in the best interest of the child.

That is a very important principle and one that I fully support and believe in. It is one we should be seeking to achieve here.

I will just tell a brief personal story. I was a child of divorce as well. My parents divorced when I was about 12 years old. I have two brothers. After my parents divorced, I spent some time living with each of my parents, and actually both of my brothers did the same, at different times.

My parents, as in most divorces, I suppose, certainly did not get along very well. To this day, I would say that they probably do not get along very well. The key point, however, is that they were able to put aside those differences when it came to their children and tried to do what was right to make sure that their children were able to maintain a strong, positive relationship with both parents. Even though, at times, my brothers and I did not live in the same house, and, in fact, lived in cities that were an hour apart, they made sure that we had the opportunity to continue to have a very strong relationship as siblings. I would say today that I have maintained that with my brothers and with both my parents. That was important, but it is not a common enough story.

That is why these changes are so important and why it is important that this bill is done in the right way and is not just about symbolism, that it is actually going to accomplish the objectives.

I certainly hope that after examination in committee, and after any amendments that might be required, it will be possible, through this piece of legislation, for more children and more families to achieve that goal of ensuring that the relationship remains with both parents and with all the children of the relationship.

If that is, in fact, the case following the completion of that examination, I would certainly be happy to support this piece of legislation.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, all of us in the House share a common interest in protecting children, particularly children who are exposed to domestic violence, children born into families, through no fault of their own, who experience things that can have a generational impact. Succeeding generations feel those effects.

We broadly support Bill C-78. If it is able to take into account the effects of domestic violence on children during divorce proceedings, if it can more clearly define the varying degrees of domestic violence to ascertain what the ruling should be in the end in custody and other decisions the court makes, would it not be a step forward in battling what I am sure we all agree is entirely one of the most difficult and reprehensible things that still exist far too much in our society?

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil.

I have been divorced for 27 years and am the proud single mother of two daughters who are now 30 and 29. I know how outdated the Divorce Act is. No changes have been made to it in many years.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-78, which seeks to modernize divorce laws. The Conservative Party is and always will be the party that wants to improve every aspect of our justice system and do what we can to put those who might suffer first, adults and children alike, in an effort to improve their situation.

Bill C-78, which seeks to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act—this one deals with child support—and to make consequential amendments to another act, is very important.

As a member from Quebec, I know that the number of cases of separation and divorce has continued to climb in my province over the past 40 years, and it is essential that our laws be appropriately reformed in order not to make it more difficult for parents, who already must deal with significant disputes that are usually very emotional.

The reforms included in Bill C-78 would replace the terminology related to custody and access with terminology related to parenting, establish a non-exhaustive list of criteria with respect to the best interests of the child, create duties for parties and legal advisers to encourage the use of family dispute resolution processes, introduce measures to assist the courts in addressing family violence, establish a framework for the relocation of a child, and simplify certain processes, including those related to family support obligations.

When looking to improve a bill, it is essential that we have objectives. In this case, we must first and foremost promote the best interests of the child. We must reinforce and focus on the crucial principle of maintaining the best interests of the child as the absolute priority of family law when it comes to parental decisions. Unfortunately, all too often children are used as pawns in separations, causing them to suffer even more, often scarring them for life.

This bill must also help address family violence by requiring the courts to consider parental violence, the seriousness and impact of the violence on the child, and future parenting arrangements. At present these situations are treated separately in cases of separation before the court, which means that the issues are dealt with separately instead of at the same time.

This bill must provide more tools to help restore child support and enforce child support agreements in order to the help reduce child poverty. Currently, when the paying parent does not pay, the parents must once again clog up the justice system and its related services. Parents must return to court to address the violation. In the end, the children do not benefit from the money and courtrooms are overloaded. That is wrong.

If we want this bill to be successful, we must make Canada's family justice system more accessible and efficient. We must simplify the various definitions and processes, offer more flexibility to provincial child support recalculation services, alleviate the courts' workloads by allowing provincial administrative child support services to carry out some tasks for which the courts are currently responsible, and require that legal professionals encourage their clients to use means other than the courts to resolve disputes.

The Conservative Party is working and will always work in the interests of victims and their families, and we believe that, in cases of divorce, the Divorce Act should allow for shared custody or shared parenting responsibilities unless it is clearly demonstrated that this is not in the best interests of the child. Both parents and all grandparents should maintain close, meaningful relationships with their children and grandchildren—unless it is shown that this is not in the bests interests of the child, of course.

All of this will have financial implications. To expand unified family courts, the government is planning to spend $77.2 million over four years beginning in 2019-20, plus another $20 million per year to create 39 new judicial positions in Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Federal family laws have not been updated significantly in 20 years. According to the 2016 census, there were over 2 million children whose parents were separated or divorced, which is a huge number. Between 1991 and 2011, 5 million Canadians separated or divorced, which is also a huge number. Of those 5 million people, 38% had a child with their ex-spouse at the time they separated or divorced. Some 1.16 million children of separated or divorced parents lived in single-parent households, and 1.2 million children lived with a step-parent.

Single-parent families, especially those headed by women, which was my case for a very long time, are more likely to be poor than two-parent families. That is so true. Studies have shown that child support is a key factor in lifting families out of poverty following separation or divorce.

It is hard for single mothers or single fathers—let us not forget about them—to feed their children properly if they are earning $12, $13, $14, or $15 an hour and not getting support payments. We know that young children need a lot of protein. As they grow they eat a lot. Apparently boys eat more than girls do. I have daughters only so I cannot speak to that, but we do have to take that into consideration. We have to focus on single-parent families, but we must put the child first in a bill such as this. The child's well-being is essential. We see more and more people ending up poor following a separation or divorce.

In budget 2018, the Liberals announced that they would work on expanding the unified family court program. They need to keep that promise and avoid playing politics with such sad, heart-wrenching, and pivotal cases that have an impact on a child or children, whether we are talking about separation or divorce.

That is why I support the intention and objectives of the bill to protect the best interests of the child and fight against family violence.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

A lot of numbers have been thrown around. I agree that people who owe payments must make them, but incentives are needed. Personally, I think Bill C-78 is a pretty good bill. However, it does have two points that contradict one another, and I wonder whether my colleague is aware of this.

Bill C-78 is really about children. It puts them first. However, Bill C-75 flies in the face of Bill C-78.

That bill proposes reducing sentences in cases of very serious crimes, such as kidnapping a child under the age of 16 and concealing the body of a child.

When proposing a bill pertaining to divorce, it is important to remember that, in some cases, parents commit serious acts of violence. That is a fact, and it happens everywhere. There was Dr. Turcotte's case in Quebec, for example.

How can we have both Bill C-78, which puts children first, and Bill C-75, which reduces sentences for people who use violence against those same children?

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

That is a fact. My daughter had a baby while in a common-law relationship and not married.

The bill needs to properly reflect the reality of Canadian couples. More and more couples in Quebec are living in common-law relationships, but that is not the case in every province. Some couples in Quebec do get married, but that is far less common than in other provinces.

We need to protect those children. Often they are not as well protected. The purpose of Bill C-78 is to protect children.

In my opinion, if we want to protect children, we also need to protect children born to parents in common-law relationships. They are children, they are Canadians, and we need to protect them.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for sharing her time with me today to speak to this very important topic. I will be taking a different perspective.

I have no legal training or background. I have been happily married for 29 years now to my beautiful wife, Liane. However, having worked in the emergency services as a firefighter in my previous life, I have certainly witnessed a high propensity of divorce situations within the emergency services, and there are a lot of reasons why that happens. However, I saw first-hand the effects of divorce on many of my colleagues and friends, not only in the fire services, but the police services and all emergency services as well.

Bill C-78 is a very timely bill in the sense that it would bring into line and modernize, in fact, codify a lot of case law that has gone on, the many divorce cases that have been dealt with over the course of the last several decades. Therefore, there is a lot of which to be supportive.

Let us look at divorce in our country and see the extent of it. The 2016 census shows that over two million children were living in separated or divorced families. Five million Canadians separated or divorced between 1991 and 2011. Of those, 38% had a child together at the time of their separation or divorce. This affects over one-third of the Canadian population, children of those who are part of a divorce situation. In addition, 1.16 million children of separated or divorced parents were living in a lone parent family. Another 1.02 million children were living in step families.

I will also be taking another perspective. I have had meetings with several of my constituents on the implications and impact of Bill C-78, and of course I am here to represent my constituents. Later on, because I received several letters, I will be reading one letter in particular into the record. The hope is that when the bill does go to committee, there will be reflection on what people across the country would like to see as changes to this legislation.

There is a lot to support in Bill C-78. It is rather robust legislation, 190 pages. When we contrast that to the Divorce Act, at 41 pages, there is a lot to consider and reflect on within the bill. There are some things to support and some things that need to be changed when we get to committee.

The reduction in delays of the justice system would save costs. Another thing I have witnessed over my years in the emergency services is the devastating impact divorce can have on families. There is a cost not just to fathers but to mothers as well, and that impacts the family.

What does Bill C-78 attempt to do? The bill was tabled on May 22. The proposed bill amends the Divorce Act to, among other things, replace terminology related to custody and access with terminology related to parenting. This is a simple modification, but it reflects modern times. It establishes non-exhaustive list criteria with respect to the best interest of the child. All of us in the House, and quite frankly across the country, are interested in the best interest of the child. It creates duties for parties and legal advisers to encourage the use of family dispute resolution processes. As I said before, the cost associated with divorce is debilitating for many. Some parents simply cannot recover from those costs.

There are things to like about the legislation. It would modernize the Divorce Act, but, more important, as we get it to committee, we will get to hear from stakeholders.

As I said earlier, I want to read into the record a letter that I received from Mr. Andrew Corbett, a constituent of mine. He is part of a Simcoe County support group called “Fathers Equal Parenting”. This is a letter that was subsequent to a meeting we had in my constituency office in Barrie—Innisfil and it provides a different perspective, a different context.

Today we are debating Bill C-78, which the government has proposed, but it is also important, I believe, and I think you will agree with me, Mr. Speaker, to find those contrasting views, those things that can help parents across the country. The letter states:

As one of your constituents I am writing to express my concerns about Child Custody legislation and the recent Bill C-78. Bill C-78 fails to give sufficient credence to the views of the vast majority of Canadians who support a Rebuttable Presumption for Equal Shared Parenting when it comes to Child Custody law.

Although there may be some plausible, positive measures in the new government initiative, Bill C-78, there are a number of serious deficits in this proposed reform of child custody legislation. Notwithstanding, I believe that there are tenable solutions to significantly improve Bill C-78.

Andrew further wrote:

Canadians overwhelmingly support Equal Shared Parenting. In recent polls, nearly 80% support Equal Shared Parenting, country-wide. Moreover, many countries have adopted shared parenting, or have endorsed shared parenting, and are proposing legislative changes. Furthermore, social science research and literature has strongly came in favour of shared parenting, concluding that children in these relationships have superior academic, emotional, social and economic futures with drastically lower incidence of substance abuse, crime, and incarceration.

In view of the changes in social norms and family structures in the intervening 33 years since the current Divorce Act was passed, our child custody legal system requires fundamental structural changes. While the government initiative with bill C-78 should be commended for its housekeeping changes, we really need to make lives better for children and their parents, with reform of a more fundamental nature. I ask you to advocate a number of amendments to Bill C-78. I ask that you advocate for legislative change that incorporates accepted social science research findings and the consistently expressed views of the Canadian public. A rebuttable presumption in favour of Equal Shared Parenting is the appropriate course of action in light of the research and the consistent polling data over many years (ie. about 80% in favour). Interests groups, including Bar Associations and other interest groups, will surely oppose. In summary, the following points need to be incorporated into Bill C-78.

Canada needs a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting. This principle should be the starting point for “best interests of the child” deliberations.

Adopt continuity of family relationships as the definitional basis for the “best interests of the child” standard.

Amend proposed relocation clauses to place the onus on the relocating parent for changes in parenting responsibilities and arrangements.

Include arbitration as an explicit component of dispute resolution options.

Include provision for a “Parental Coordinator” to mediate and, if necessary, to break deadlock situations in day-to-day implementation of the Parenting Order.

Andrew goes on to say:

On paper the proposed Bill C-78 seems to support some admirable measures but I ask that you advocate for a less adversarial family justice system with implementation of the following:

Further implementation of the Unified Family Court;

Support for alternative and non-adversarial dispute resolution (e.g. expansion of such programs as “393 Mediate” where free, low cost mediation is provided in courts.);

Increased legal Aid Funding (wider access to justice in the family system is essential);

In conclusion, a Rebuttable Presumption in favour of Equal Shared Parenting will set the stage for equality and serve to reduce conflict stemming from unwarranted senses of entitlement; reduce excess legal expense, thus allocating family finances for the needs of the family and children; and promote the “best interest” of Canadian children to enjoy a decent relationship with both parents. Many like-minded Canadians support these changes. Now please propose these changes.

He thanks me for reading the letter. I will submit this into the record.

I have asked Mr. Corbett to come to committee once this bill passes through the House of Commons so that he can testify and submit his own view on where Bill C-78 needs to be approved. Many people believe that Bill C-78 is a good piece of legislation, but there are some amendments that could provide a better, solid piece of legislation that is in the best interests of Canadian children and their families.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to enter into the debate on Bill C-78, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another act. Quite a title for the bill. For the purposes of this discussion, I will simply refer to the bill as Bill C-78.

In essence, what are we talking about? We are talking about a situation where there is a family breakdown. That is what it is and under no circumstances can we imagine that could ever be a positive thing for anyone, for any of the parties involved. However, sometimes making that hard decision, going down that difficult path may very well be the best thing. Sometimes in those circumstances it may well be the best thing and in the best interests of the child as well.

That said, when people have a disagreement, when they have a breakdown, often people's emotions understandably are very high. Marriage generally happens with people declaring their love for each other. Imagine for a moment when that breaks down, what that means. The anger, the hurt, all of those emotions come flooding back and the sadness that goes with it. It is very difficult in the best of circumstances, but sometimes that is a process that adults have to embark on.

There are members in the House who talked about their own personal experiences. Sadly, for me and for many people, I am one of those statistics as well. I, too, am a single mom with two children. It is not an easy path, but sometimes it is the path that we have to take. With that said, I applaud this piece of legislation. I welcome this piece of legislation. Why? Because it attempts to make the process a little easier, a little better, and most important of all, with the best interests of the child at heart.

That is not to say that Bill C-78 would do all of it and will fix everything and that there are not issues with it. I assume when it gets to committee stage there will be opportunities for witnesses to come before the committee and offer their thoughts. Then amendments, if required, would be tabled and hopefully those changes could be made in a non-partisan way with the best interests of the child at heart.

I would like to focus on a couple of aspects of the bill that are important and worthy of support. I come from the community of Vancouver East, where generally speaking, we are not affluent people. People in my community tend to be lower-income, middle-income and when they have to get a divorce, a lot of the time, particularly women, often do not have the necessary resources to fight that fight, to get to court to have custody battles dealt with. The bill attempts to bring forward a more amicable way, a less onerous way in achieving the same results that one would want to see and that is to ensure that the caring of the child, the spending of time with the child, would be divided between both parents. That is of paramount importance.

The bill proposes that whoever wants to initiate this process would be required to get a certification agreement with the other individual that they have attempted and exhausted all the other avenues in resolution of that dispute before it goes to court. That is to say, if people can get resolution, then they do not have to go to court. That is not only in the best interests of the child, it is also in the best interests of the two adults involved in that situation.

Dispute resolution at all times is a good thing, whether it be in other circumstances or in different arenas. Rather than going to court, fighting a battle, being angry and pessimistic about the litigious procedure, dispute resolution is a way to try and resolve things in a more amicable way. That would be in the best interests of everyone involved.

Of course, from the government side, from the taxpayer side, this would be important as well, because it would actually reduce the costs to the courts and the court system. That, too, is a positive outcome. From that perspective, that element of the bill, which is to move toward an alternative dispute resolution process, is absolutely worthy of support.

Of significant importance as well is the situation where domestic violence is involved. In those instances, the bill would require the court to take that issue into consideration, especially with respect to the interest of the child, which is to say that when it comes to the custody of the child, there might be situations where it is in the best interest of the child to be under the guardianship of one parent. It might be a requirement, but that is for the courts to decide. However, making it explicit that it needs to be dealt with in the best interest of the child is an important component as well.

So often we see these situations where there is a marriage breakdown and the children get caught in the crossfire. I have met family lawyers who have told me that the most heartbreaking and difficult part of their job is to have to see the sadness and tragedy because of the tension and animosity that exist. They say that often it is the child who ends up getting hurt, and the adults may not even be thinking about the fact that they are hurting their children. Sometimes they are so caught up in the situation that they are blinded by it and cannot see it, which is a tragedy.

Therefore, the bill would allow for a provision for the courts to ensure that actions taken would be in the best interests of the child, which is absolutely worthy of support.

The bill would also give a tool to the parties to ensure that child maintenance is calculated and provided accurately. I would assume that in the event of the breakdown of a marriage where children are involved, one would want to ensure that the children are supported and have the best opportunities to succeed, and that their needs are met.

It does not always happen that way, and I would say for sad reasons really. There are cases where the child support and maintenance are not there, even when one partner could afford to do so. I do not know why people do that, but sometimes that is what happens. However, the bill would provide the tools to ensure accurate calculations of maintenance contributions for the child and in the best interests of the child, which is also a positive outcome.

In British Columbia, where I come from, for a very long time, people on income assistance as single parents, usually single moms, would have a really difficult time getting maintenance payments. Trying to get that would just be so awful for them. The income assistance system requires them to report the possible access to maintenance.

For a long time in British Columbia we actually had a situation where it was incumbent on the parent, usually a single mom, to pursue that maintenance payment. Then, when she got it, that maintenance payment was actually clawed back from the income assistance payment. It was as though that money received from the ex-spouse or ex-partner would be contributed towards the support of the children, but in reality at the end of the day it was not because that money was clawed back by the government. I am glad to say that law has now been changed, and that is a positive thing.

It is of paramount importance that in the process, we ensure that the maintenance component is achieved in a fair way, and that those dollars go to support the child or children. This bill aims to do that. It gives the tools to achieve that outcome. That is a laudable goal and something I would absolutely support.

There are some gaps within the bill. Those are the areas that concern me. It has already been brought forward by other members in their debate that this bill would not apply to people who are in a common-law situation, particularly in Quebec.

I wonder how we could ensure that this bill and the intention of this bill, which is to act in the best interests of the child or children in the event of a divorce or marital breakdown, would apply to all children in Canada, including in Quebec.

That is worth looking into. I understand and fully accept that Quebec has a different system than the rest of the provinces and territories. That being said, there is a gap. That gap is worth looking into, to see if there is a way to address that.

The government says the bill provides for reducing child poverty. On the face of it, reducing the cost of these kinds of court proceedings is in the best interests of everyone. When we ensure that accurate and fair maintenance is determined in the case of a marriage breakdown or divorce, that supports families, particularly low-income families who sometimes have a tough time ensuring that fair maintenance is provided. I suppose that contributes to it.

I hope, though, that this is not the only thing we will rely on to reduce child poverty. I am a new MP, a first-time MP in this chamber, but I can look back at the history. Back in the day when Ed Broadbent was an MP, many years ago, he actually proposed a motion in this House. It was unanimously passed, by every single member of this House. It said we needed to end child poverty.

However, to this day, we still do not have a national strategy to get there. Why is that? We have one piece here. I am sure government members will get up and say the government is doing this and that, and it is all fantastic and wonderful. However, it is not really. Those are all little patchwork pieces coming into play. Bill C-78 will contribute to that, but it is also just a patchwork piece.

What if we actually brought forward a national strategy to end child poverty, a comprehensive approach that would look at all the different approaches to achieving that goal? Would that not be in the best interests of a child? We would actually be able to realize the words and the intention of this very chamber, when Ed Broadbent brought forward his motion that received unanimous consent so many years ago.

That would be a positive way forward. I hope we can achieve that. It would be a significant piece toward ending child poverty.

The other thing that would be a significant piece toward ending child poverty would be the provision of affordable housing. Many people have a tough time accessing affordable housing. Where I come from in Vancouver it is almost impossible to get access to safe, secure, affordable housing.

The government will say it has put forward a national affordable housing strategy, which was introduced two years ago. The problem with that is that 90% of that money will not flow until after the next election. It is not as if people who are homeless today can say they will sleep under an alcove and feel really good about it until two years from now when the money flows.

Also, when the money actually does flow, having come from the non-profit sector I know it often takes, at minimum, three to four years to get a project built. That means it is another five, six or seven years before someone actually gets access to housing.

Access to housing would be a significant component to the fight against poverty. Would it not be great if in budget 2019 the government said it would flow the money right now, because the crisis is before us right now?

All of that would contribute to this equation.

I have met some women in my community of Vancouver East who are faced with domestic dispute violence but do not feel they have the option to walk away from the relationship, because they cannot access housing and have no other means of supporting themselves. This is heartbreaking.

Therefore, while the bill aims to provide some support for that, we have to look deeper than that. We need to make sure that women and families also have the option of walking away from a relationship by ensuring they have some resources and support with respect to securing housing. That is an absolutely vital component to the equation.

I have met women who have told me they could not secure affordable housing and had to go back to an abusive relationship. That cannot be the way forward, and it is definitely not in the best interests of a child. Therefore, I would like for us to look at this issue in a more comprehensive way.

I absolutely support this bill. I expect that at committee there will be further discussion about it, and that witnesses will provide testimony and comments with respect to it. If there are amendments that come forward, I hope that all parties will work together to bring forward these amendments in the best interests of the child.

Beyond that, I hope the government will bring forward other components to make a difference in the lives of children, especially those who are struggling today. They should always be in the eyes of parliamentarians when we take action in their best interests.

JusticeGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for her long advocacy particularly on the eradication of child poverty. She is right that it was Ed Broadbent who in 1989 stood just a few seats down from where I am standing here today and moved a motion to eradicate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. It was adopted unanimously by the House.

In fact, the most recent report from Statistics Canada shows that from 1989 to now, child poverty has actually gone up. Rather than being eradicated, the problem has become worse. The Liberals have claimed that they are interested in this issue, yet as my friend has pointed out, they do not actually have a plan to get there. We all know how things change without plans: They simply do not.

I have a very specific question about Bill C-78. As this pertains to divorces in Canada and there are some new amendments, which we appreciate, there is not a lot of language in the legislation around common-law couples. We know that particularly in Quebec and some of the northern territories a large number of couples now live in common-law relationships. They are not seeking to go through any kind of a procedure in a faith community or a civic arrangement, but are married by every intent under the law. This legislation is not, to my reading of it, sufficiently exuberant about describing the situation for common-law couples who then seek to separate, particularly if they have children.

I wonder if my friend can tell us what needs to be done to include common-law couples in this conversation, as that is not only a large percentage but is a growing percentage of the arrangements that many families have in Canada now.