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


Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


John English Liberal Kitchener, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House in both official languages the report of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association on the fifth annual meeting of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, held in Stockholm, Sweden from July 5 to July 9, 1996.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the report of the Canadian delegation to the seventh annual meeting of the Canada-Japan Interparliamentary Group which was held in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa from September 1 to September 5, 1996, as well as the report of the executive committee meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum held in Ottawa from September 6 to September 8, 1996.

The Asia-Pacific region is becoming increasingly important in Canada. Japan is now our second largest trading partner. Asia has become Canada's second most important trading region.

The recently completed seventh annual Canada-Japan meeting focused on our growing and harmonious bilateral relationship. Discussions focused on bilateral and multilateral co-operation in a rapidly changing world. Relations with our other Asia-Pacific neighbours are also changing.

Canada will be hosting the fifth annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in January in Vancouver. The executive committee of the APPF just held a highly successful and productive meeting here in Ottawa and approved the arrangements for the Vancouver meeting. We look forward to hosting this meeting and to kicking off Canada's year of Asia-Pacific.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 1st, 1996 / 10 a.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the second report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Bill C-54, an act to amend the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act. The committee has agreed to report this act without amendment.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 33rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership and associate membership of some committees.

If the House gives its consent, I move that the 33rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present to the House three petitions which focus on Canada's economy, signed by the residents of York North.

The first petition draws the attention of the House to the government's red book commitment to reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of the GDP. The petitioners call upon Parliament to continue to keep its commitment to Canadians and pursue its deficit action so that the government will reach its revised deficit target of 2 per cent of GDP by 1997-98.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition draws to the attention of the House that in the past year alone short term interest rates have declined three percentage points. For the last two and a half years inflation has averaged less than 2 per cent and by 1997-98 the federal deficit will have been

reduced by $25 billion. The petitioners further draw to the attention of the House that since the Liberal government took office, over 600,000 jobs have been created.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to work diligently to continue to maintain a healthy environment for jobs and economic growth.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the final petition draws to the attention of the House the important role that small businesses play in our economy. They have created over 85 per cent of new jobs and account for almost 60 per cent of Canada's economic output.

The petitioners further draw to the attention of the House that the government is improving the climate for small businesses by addressing the need for financing, reducing overlap and duplication, increasing access to the information highway and assisting their ventures into exports.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to continue to create a healthy environment for small businesses, to ensure they have the financing they need and to help them explore and capitalize on new opportunities.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two petitions today pursuant to Standing Order 36.

These petitions implore Parliament to introduce legislation which would prohibit criminals from profiting in any way from the crimes which they have undertaken.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.

The first one concerning taxation of the family comes from Calgary, Alberta. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society.

The petitioners therefore pray and call upon Parliament to pursue initiatives to eliminate tax discrimination against families who choose to provide care in the home to preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition comes from Midland, Ontario and concerns labelling of alcoholic beverages.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that the consumption of alcoholic beverages may cause health problems or impair one's ability. Specifically, fetal alcohol syndrome or other alcohol related birth defects are 100 per cent preventable by avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

The petitioners therefore pray and call upon Parliament to enact legislation to require health warning labels to be placed on the containers of all alcoholic beverages to caution expectant mothers and others of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Divorce ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-41, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Canada Shipping Act be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak in favour of the act to amend the Divorce Act and other acts. Before I get into the details of the amendments I would first like to provide a broader context for the changes.

There is a yearning in Canada today to focus on what we have in common and to return to basic values. Canadians do have values in common. We have not prevailed for 130 years and produced one of the world's most prosperous and successful nations without a foundation of shared principles and beliefs. When we set aside the quarrels about jurisdiction and the forms of the federation, and when we focus on the features that define us as a nation, we will find that what is common to every province and to every region of Canada is our shared values.

We are a society that is compassionate, tolerant and civil. We take pride in social programs that are intended to protect the most vulnerable. We care deeply about our commitment to sharing. These values are reflected in the way we treat our children.

Canadians understand the importance of early intervention of safe and secure childhoods if we are to enable all individuals to

reach their full potential. Canadians also place a strong emphasis on the importance of individual responsibility while governments have a role in helping the most vulnerable. We also believe in people taking responsibility for themselves.

How do these values relate to our strategy for child support? They require laws and policies that produce adequate and consistent child support levels, that respect fathers and mothers who make their payments and ensure that those who are obligated to pay actually do so. Viewed from that perspective, I suggest that the measures we have proposed in our child support strategy very much reflect the fundamental values that unite us.

The starting point is that the nature of the Canadian family is changing. There are more single parent families today than ever. When families divide, there are two households to support and fewer resources to go around and too often the children suffer. Over the past 20 years families headed by an individual parent have doubled in number. There are almost one million such families in Canada. In 1990, 61 per cent of single parent families headed by women lived below the poverty line. This compares to just 10 per cent of two parent families with children.

The steps we are taking to strengthen and improve Canada's child support system will not end child poverty, but we believe these steps will help. These measures derive their value from the shared principles on which they are based.

The principle that children should be first in line. These reforms will put them there and keep them there. Child support is the first and most important obligation for parents.

The principle that a child's standard of living, both before and after divorce, should reflect the means of both parents. These reforms make sure that it does. Children are a shared responsibility and a divorce does not change that.

The principle that people in like circumstances should be treated in a like fashion. These reforms will ensure that they are. Both parents have an obligation to support their children based on their ability to pay.

The strategy we have adopted has four interdependent elements. One, we are introducing child support guidelines to establish appropriate and consistent support levels, and to reduce the degree of conflict between separating parents. Two, we are changing the way child support payments are taxed to make things fairer and simpler. Three, we are enhancing federal and provincial enforcement measures targeting the wilful defaulters to ensure that payments are made in time and in full. Four, we are helping working poor families by doubling the level of the working income supplement of the federal child tax benefit over the next two years. I would like to describe each of these initiatives in more detail.

At the heart of this approach are the guidelines that will be used across Canada by the courts, by lawyers and by parents to establish appropriate levels of support payments for children. At present, courts determine child support levels on a case by case basis. The issue prolongs litigation and adds to the anguish of the parents. Some suggest that the system is based on the principle that every person deserves his or her decade in court. Not all judges take the same approach or have the same philosophy. As a result, levels vary greatly not just across Canada but even within provincial jurisdictions and even from family to family.

The amount that is available to pay for a child's needs should not depend on which province one lives in, to which courtroom the case is assigned or which party has the more persuasive lawyer. The guidelines will establish without the need for trial the levels of child support to be paid according to the income of the person paying. The amounts are calculated by a formula that takes into account average expenditures on children at various income levels. As income levels increase or decrease so will the parents' contributions to the needs of the children, just as they would if the family had remained together.

The guidelines are standard but they are also flexible. No two families are exactly alike. Exceptional expenses for children can be added, such as uninsured medical expenses and child care costs for preschoolers. A court can also change the amounts if undue hardship can be established.

This approach has tremendous strengths. It is simple and it is standard. It ensures that support paying parents with the same level of income pay the same level of child support as other parents. It is also easy to use and in the end it is easy to understand. There will be less reasons for parents to argue about what is and what is not an appropriate level of support. This means less conflict, lower legal bills, reduced legal aid and diminished court costs. The result is that a lot of money which would be spent on lawyers in courts can be kept in the hands of the parents for the benefit of the children.

The second pillar of our child support strategy is a change in the way child support payments are taxed. Currently child support payments are tax deductible for the payer and taxable to the recipient. That rule was put in place 54 years ago. After carefully considering all of the circumstances we have concluded that this approach is unfair and indeed outdated.

To begin with in the present age it is understood that parents do not need an incentive or a reward in the tax system to encourage them to pay support for their children or that a general subsidy by

all taxpayers toward families that are separated and divorced is not appropriate.

In any event the subsidy works best where there is a large income spread between the mother and father which is less and less common. Shifting income patterns have brought their earnings closer together. Where a mother earns the same as or more than the support paying father, the present system actually penalizes her. That is the case in over one-third of all separated couples and that proportion is growing. Even when the incomes are different the subsidy only works if the court takes care in each case to make complex calculations to gross up the amount awarded to take tax into account. This does not always happen in every case. The result is the tax liability eats into the support award and the losers are the children.

Furthermore custodial parents do not want to have to administer the tax system. They are the ones who now have to calculate the amount due and pay it on April 30 of each year whether the support payments arrive late during the year.

More fundamentally, child support is not income for the parent but it is money intended for the children. It therefore should not be taxed in the hands of the recipient.

The reforms will change the system. We are adopting what is known as a no deduction, no inclusion system. That means support paying parents will not be able to deduct their payments from their total income and custodial parents will not be required to include it in theirs. This no deduction, no inclusion approach will not come into effect until May 1, 1997 and it will apply to all new awards made after that date. It will not apply after that date to existing awards unless the parties agree or unless the court directs that the change be made.

We are waiting 14 months before making this change effective for very practical reasons. We want the tax change and the guidelines to become effective at the same time. That way if parties to existing orders want to change their tax treatment the new child support levels can be taken directly from the tables without the need for individual assessment in each case.

We anticipate that the provinces will create complementary guidelines to cover child support levels in cases under provincial jurisdiction so that the systems are uniform. The 14 months will enable them to do that.

Finally, the time will be used in planning for the transition. Ottawa has budgeted $50 million to help the provinces develop simple and effective systems for dealing with the many requests that may be made to varied existing orders once the changes become effective.

In the coming months governments, courts, professionals and other stakeholders will work together so that these cases are dealt with quickly and effectively. The current tax system has been in place for 50 years. I do not think it is unreasonable that we take 14 months to achieve a complete reversal.

Let me address the concerns that have been expressed by some fathers about these changes. First, parents who now have child support orders or agreements will not be forced into a new tax system. Both parents may decide for a number of reasons that their support agreement is working reasonably well and should be left alone.

Second, let me encourage parents to examine the guidelines that we have now published and consider how they may apply to their situations. They are the result of many years of consultations across Canada and they take into account tax levels and average expenses for raising children. The guidelines have been tested not only with family lawyers but with fathers and mothers, both custodial and non-custodial parents.

Third, there may be situations of undue hardship in which the payment in accordance with the guidelines would simply be unrealistic or unworkable. We recognize that cases of hardship do exist and the new process can accommodate those situations.

Finally, we are committed to monitoring these guidelines and if necessary they will be adjusted. Let me restate that in evaluating amounts our eye will remain fixed on the welfare and needs of the children. I think we can all agree on this objective. Of course a fair child support system is more than just setting levels evenly and taxing them fairly. It is also a matter of ensuring that payments are made in full and on time. Enforcement is crucial.

Let me make it clear that a great many parents who make their payments on time and in full deserve our continued respect. They take their responsibilities seriously and they follow through. There are some who cannot pay because of misfortune: they have lost their job, they have fallen ill. They must ask the court to relieve them of their responsibility that they cannot meet. However, there are also too many who are in wilful default.

As of last September almost half of the cases registered with the Ontario family support plan involved child support orders where absolutely no money had been paid. On the remaining half, only one in four was fully paid.

Wilful and chronic default by people who can pay but refuse to pay child support is simply unacceptable in this country. These are not just people who turn their backs on their sons and daughters, they are also walking away from their responsibility as citizens and because they cheat their children all other Canadians are obligated to take up the slack.

The prime responsibility for enforcement of child support orders currently rests with the provinces. A lot has already been done by the provincial agencies but the Canadian government also has a role to play, a role of leadership in co-ordinating, encouraging and complementing the provincial efforts.

The measures we are proposing will support and enhance the strategies of provincial and territorial governments. We want to work with them in a common cause. There is a list of measures that we will now take. Let me mention just a few of them.

Federal legislation will authorize the suspension of federal licences and certificates such as passports in the cases of persistent default. It will allow access by the provinces to the database of Revenue Canada to help trace persistent defaulters. It will invest money and effort in upgrading computer systems to share information among provinces to co-ordinate their efforts.

The fourth pillar in the child support strategy involves a measure that is intended to help working poor families whether they are separated or still living together. The Canadian government contributes to basic income security for children through a child tax benefit.

One component of that benefit is the working income supplement which provides a non-taxable benefit to supplement the employment earnings of families with net incomes below $25,900. At present, the maximum amount that is payable under the working income supplement is $500 per family each year. Over the next two years the Canadian government will double that supplement to $1,000 per family each year.

The revenue derived from ending the deduction on child support payments will be used to fund the increase in the working income supplement. The result will be that over the next five years over $1 billion of additional revenue will be put into the hands of about 700,000 low income families in the labour force. About one-third of them will be lone parent families.

The advantages of this strategy are obvious. The increased working income supplement is tax free and will go right to the bottom line for families that need dollars for their children. This supplement is distributed fairly, benefiting children of separated families and families that remain intact. And the working income supplement is targeted to those most in need.

What will make these reforms work well is that they will work together. Guidelines will ensure consistent awards at appropriate levels with diminished conflict and expense.

A tax rule that reflects the social conditions and values of 1942 will be changed to conform to current needs and trends. Effective tools will enhance enforcement so that good people who make their payments will know that those in wilful default will be pursued. Every dollar of increased revenue that Ottawa derives from the tax change will be ploughed directly back into a system for the benefit of children in low income working families.

I invite the support of members of the House and their involvement in making this strategy succeed. Working together, Canadians can put children first. The government will put children first. It will put responsibility fairly on the shoulders of parents and and make our system of child support one of which we can all be proud.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-41, a bill which addresses various aspects of child support payments. Its objective is a praiseworthy one: to improve the situation of the children of divorced parents.

On top of the emotional and psychological effects of divorce, the vast majority of these children have to deal with another kind of effect, which has an unfortunate impact on their daily lives. As you may have guessed, I am referring to the sometimes drastic drop in their standard of living.

A brief presented two years ago by the now defunct Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women described the situation of mothers with custody, and how despair, emotional exhaustion and other family problems, such as custody arrangements, spousal abuse and child abuse, impact on the negotiation of child support. Sometimes these women accept lower amounts just to see the end of it, just to avoid continual confrontations, and this of course results in lower financial resources for them and their children.

If there is one area in which governments can, and must, act directly, it is the area of children's and parents' living conditions. In introducing last March's budget, the government unveiled its action plan for child support.

This plan had four components: removing child support from the tax system, creating and approving federal guidelines, implementing measures to ensure that support is paid in full and on time, and increasing the Working Income Supplement under the Child Tax Benefit.

This announcement followed on the Minister of Justice's announcement in November 1994 that his guideline project would enable the government to save $1.5 billion yearly in social assistance payments, if 80 per cent of parents in arrears with child support were to start paying. It can be seen, then, that the federal government had two things in mind: improving the children's situation and saving itself considerable amounts of money.

This government intervention is one of a set of actions taken by all levels of government in order to try to solve one of the most endemic of the problems experienced in our society, whether in Canada or in Quebec: the impoverishment of women and children.

Last year, Quebec passed legislation to ensure that, as soon as child support is awarded, a mechanism is put in place by which court orders for child support are automatically recorded by the clerk of the superior court in which the case is heard. Under the system, those not earning a regular salary are required to deposit as security the equivalent of three months' support payments. In the case of wage earners, payments are deducted at source.

These measures are aimed at simplifying the payment of support for children and the custodial parent. Similar measures have been adopted in other Canadian provinces. For instance, a universal and compulsory system for the automatic deduction of support payments also exists in Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. In other words, the provincial governments have already taken certain steps within their own jurisdictions to improve the financial situation of women and children.

The bill tabled by the federal government today is intended to complement action taken by other governments in the fight against poverty. Divorce is obviously a fact of life in Quebec and Canadian society. In Quebec, however, the phenomenon has become more widespread than anywhere else, with nearly 50 per cent of marriages ending in divorce.

In 1990, there were 78,152 divorce judgments in Canada, leading to 48,525 judgments on child custody, while about 44 per cent of judgments on family matters involved an order for support payments. In 1989 alone, 83 per cent of all these judgments were the result of an agreement between the spouses. We all know what the situation is like when such agreements are made, so it is clear how the existence of a grid would have a considerable impact on the negotiating process.

It is also true that in Quebec, the vast majority of those who receive child support payments-98 per cent in 1988 and 77 per cent in 1990-are women. This is to explain why, in my speech, I refer to the custodial parent in the feminine. I hope my colleagues understand I certainly have no intention of downplaying the fact that the remaining 20 per cent of custodial parents are men.

The statistics are very clear: two thirds of divorced women with three children live below the poverty line. When the mother is poor, her children are poor, since, as I just said, 80 per cent of the children live with the mother. This comes as no surprise. We are all familiar with this fact.

I would like to point out that the decision is made with the consent of both spouses. And I would also like to remind this House of the impact of single parenthood on women and children. A link has been established between poverty among women, especially those with children, and marital breakdown. As I mentioned earlier, single parent families headed by women are, as a group, most exposed to poverty in Canada.

According to research done by the staff of the Library of Parliament, authors of studies on child support payments in Canada have found that on average, such payments do not cover even half of the actual expenditures involved and usually the custodial parent has to absorb the difference. And people wonder why women are poor, especially when we know that, on average, their income is only two thirds of the man's income. The wage gap between the sexes is particularly significant here. My point is that women who have to raise their children alone are carrying an unfair share of the burden.

For further insight, here are more figures. As we know, after a separation, the standard of living of women and their children drops by 27 per cent to 37 per cent according to statistics, while the standard of living of men invariably increases between 4 per cent and 30 per cent. But the issue must also be analyzed in light of the fact that women see their standard of living drop by 27 per cent to 37 per cent.

This situation brought the former Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women to write, in March 1994, and to repeat until its untimely abolition, which I deplore, that: "Taking into account the greater responsibilities assumed by the mother receiving child support, the difference in men's and women's ability to pay because of the difference in their earning power and the limits that raising children imposes on the earning power of the mother who assumes custody, the tax policy should first of all take into consideration the situation of the mother".

The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women was not the only one to come to that conclusion. If I may, I would like to quote from an article written in 1994 by the Honourable Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, Supreme Court justice, in the magazine Femmes et Droit . This article was about the myths society and the courts face when dealing with child support.

It showed that, according to a study done by the Department of Justice in 1990, the standard of living of 59 per cent of the women and children in the study dropped, after divorce, below the poverty line, while the percentage was 46 per cent if child support was included in the calculation of their income.

Therefore, when child support is paid, 50 per cent of women still live below the poverty line. It is absolutely terrible. Yet, this is

supposedly an improvement, since the data for 1988 showed that the income of two-thirds of divorced women was under the poverty level. If we exclude the support payments, this proportion came to 74 percent.

Further on, the judge wrote: "The popular belief that men are generally overburdened by unreasonable support payments orders to women who use them to buy themselves luxuries and small incidentals is false, for two reasons. It stems from the false premise that women, in particular those who stayed at home when they lived with their husband, always, or at least easily, become economically independent after divorce. [-]This belief ignores a number of facts, both real and inescapable. Following a divorce, child custody is almost always given to the mother, and this by mutual agreement in 80 per cent of cases."

Furthermore, according to the judge, the belief that the ex-spouses find themselves in similar situations after the divorce does not take into account the every day realities to which the custodial parent is confronted. Yet, the economic difficulties are worsened by the responsibilities inherent to child custody.

I read on: "For the great majority of custodial parents, this responsibility leads to a proportional reduction in economic choices after divorce. Thus, the ex-wife will have more difficulty in overcoming her limited ability to make a living when entering the job market after years of not working at all, or very little. Unlike her husband, she will be restricted in her economic choices because she will have to choose a home close to schools, she will not be able to work late at night because of her family responsibilities and she will have to stay home if a child is sick. She also must choose a safe neighbourhood for children, not too close to a busy street and having green spaces where children have at least a place to play safely. The other parent, on the other hand, does not have these restraints. He is free to live wherever he wishes and to work the hours he wants. He has more disposable income. For these reasons, the real cost of child care is rarely if ever accurately reflected in the amount of money allocated as support payments."

Madam Justice Dubé also says, in her article on the myths society and the courts must face: "Despite the facts surrounding the custody of a child, there is a popular and persistent myth that raising a child is not expensive. In consequence, some think that the amounts sought as support payments are extravagant, if not totally beyond reason. This is not true, of course, since the parent having the custody of the child is most of the time neglecting personal needs in favour of the child. These beliefs also influence those who make support payments. It will be easier for him to make excuses for not paying if he does not believe this money is really needed. Such assumptions and beliefs have really tragic consequences, considering that the number of Canadian children living under the poverty line is ever increasing".

Therefore we will be analyzing Bill C-41, or at least its most important features, in terms of its impact on women and children.

The bill deals with two of the four elements in the federal government's planned child support initiative: the establishment of a framework to develop and apply child support guidelines, and the strengthening of ways to collect child support payments.

To start with, I will mention the aspects of the bill I find positive. First, the establishment of a framework for the use of child support guidelines: the Bloc Quebecois agrees with this concept. However such a framework raises a few questions I will deal with later.

Then, the bill differentiates between child support and spousal support. In my view, this is beneficial as it will help dispel the kind of myths Madam Justice L'Heureux-Dubé mentioned. Moreover, this differentiation will put the child-who should be the main focus of any protection or help measure-at the centre of court decisions.

With regard to proposed provisions to enhance enforcement measures, adding Revenue Canada to the list of federal departments whose data banks can be searched to locate defaulters is a step in the right direction, as is the creation of a scheme for the denial of certain documents, such as passports, driver licences, and the like. Access to federal civil servants' pension benefits and seafarers' wages will be made easier to ensure payment of child support arrears.

Naturally, any measure giving back to children the money required for their support deserves our endorsement. I would also like to mention the broadening of the definition of the word "child" to include young persons 16 to 18 years old and students. I think this measure better depicts the reality of modern families and that it will help many children and young adults to start their life on the right foot.

Finally, again in the best interest of children, I agree that priority should be given to the needs of children when both child support and spousal support are requested. I think children's needs must have preeminence at all times and in all legislation. That is necessary for our collective future.

Those are the elements of the bill that we should support. However, other elements raise questions or prompt less positive reactions. I will mention only one that seems the most important to me. Afterwards, I will propose other amendments as the bill evolves and I am sure my colleagues will refer this morning to other aspects of the bill I will not have time to address.

As far as negative aspects are concerned, the discretionary power is the most unacceptable one in my opinion; it could even turn the

enforcement of guidelines into a nightmare. I will quote clause 4 of the bill, which deals with the discretionary power accorded cabinet. It states clearly, and I quote:

(5) The Governor in Council may, by order, designate a province for the purposes of the definition "applicable guidelines"-

I think there is a problem here and not a minor one.

How can a government encourage provincial governments to develop and adopt their own guidelines and, at the same time, give itself the unfettered discretionary power to decide if the guidelines adopted by a province will replace its own federal guidelines in that province? It is like saying: "I am telling you to pass your own legislation, but I warn you that it is I who will ultimately decide whether or not I will impose my own legislation because I do not like yours". There is a rather ambiguous message there.

This behaviour leads us to wonder about the real intentions of this government. Will it really let the provinces decide for themselves what is good for their people or will it, once again, interfere insidiously and impose its standards and its policies? I wonder.

I invite the government to reflect on the words of its Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who was speaking highly, only yesterday, of the virtues of decentralization and who was comparing centralization to something to be fought at all cost. For once I can tell you I agree with the minister.

To those who could think the issue is trivial, I would say it is nothing of the sort. This issue is crucial because, in practice, parents and children could find themselves very much with two systems of rules that would be applied in the same court of justice, by the same judges, to the same people, according to whether they choose to divorce or to separate. That is crazy.

Thus, if the government decided not to recognize the guidelines adopted by the provinces for cases of separation or for common law spouses no longer living together, federal guidelines would apply in the case of a divorce, because divorce comes under federal jurisdiction. Let us imagine the scenario. There is a whole distinction to make there.

Mr. Justice X, in a divorce cause, awards Mrs. A support payments of $1,000 a month for her children. The same judge, 30 minutes later, in the same hearing room, awards Mrs. B, in a separation cause, a $1,500 support payment for her children. The two women and their children could be neighbours, could be in the same financial situation and would find themselves with totally different judgments because the same grid was not used.

This is totally wrong, and I would invite the government to reflect on this and to take some concrete action. If it says to the provinces: "We give you the choice", it should not come along with its own standards.

I should point out that this scenario is quite plausible precisely because of clause 4 in the bill.

It would give the federal government a fine opportunity to once and for all show off its highly touted flexibility, which exists only in the minds of some of our Liberal colleagues.

We ask that the discretionary power provided for in clause 4 be eliminated and that, as soon as a province meets the criteria set out in the new clause 26.1, its own divorce guidelines apply within its territory, as dictated by common sense and respect.

This issue was considered by a federal-provincial-territorial committee whose report proposed three alternatives to the very concrete problem raised by the distribution of powers, whereby one formula could be used for divorces and another one for private cases. The government opted for a single formula within a single territory, and we totally agree. Now we just have to make sure it does not undo with one hand what it is proposing to do with the other.

I would now like to move on to the guidelines section in the bill. For some years now, lawyers and legal experts have agreed on the lack of uniformity and the arbitrary way support payments are determined.

We know that the decisions relating to child support orders are left to the judges' discretion and vulnerable to all kinds of manipulations by one or both spouses in assessing their ability to pay. There is now a total lack of uniformity in the amounts granted.

According to one study, child support payments are already inadequate when they are set, and the situation gets worse with inflation and as the children grow up and their financial needs increase. In fact, many people working in the judicial system are calling for the standardization of child support payments.

This bill proposes the adoption of a grid, which is a step in the right direction. The federal-provincial-territorial family law committee on child support came to the same conclusion in its report, saying:

"The committee believes that adopting a child support setting formula will help parents, lawyers and judges negotiate and set fair and consistent support payments and bring parents to take responsibility more readily for their children. By eliminating a major source of conflict when families break up, this formula may also foster a positive relationship between family members, and particularly between the child and the non-custodial parent. It may also reduce not only the legal costs to the parents but also the legal aid costs, court costs and costs to execute orders, which are borne by the government".

The Conseil du statut de la femme agrees. In a notification filed merely a month ago as part of the Quebec government consultation process, the council pointed out other benefits a support setting formula may have, including: the value to parents of an objective tool by which agreements better tailored to their needs can more

easily be reached; the sense of security this tool will give women in their negotiations with their former spouses; the use by the court of an objective tool, making the decision making process easier to foresee; and, finally, the educational value of such a tool for non-custodial parents regarding the adequacy of support payments and their use by the custodial parent.

It seems that the majority of stakeholders agree with the recommendations made by the committee and so do we.

Some lawyers have concerns however about how these rules will be used by the courts. In Prince Edward Island, where the guidelines adopted by the government are more generous than those proposed by the federal government, there are complaints about judges regarding the guidelines as a ceiling. In American states where similar guidelines were adopted, judicial discretion has all but disappeared.

But this judicial discretion seems to cut both ways, and its pitfalls were revealed under the deduction-taxation system.

In its presentation to the task force on the tax treatment of child support, in July 1994, the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women wrote about the impact of taxation of child support:

We have contradictory evidence concerning the increase in and the extent of child support payments, and there is very little information to indicate that what is not paid out in taxes is being used for child support. Some family law practitioners say they always allow for the taxes to be paid, but there is a basic difference between emphasizing tax consequences and ensuring that child support payments fully reflect the increase. Other family law practitioners point out that, even after considering all the tax consequences, the amount finally awarded does not reflect the increase because, suddenly, the sky is seen to be the limit. The judge acts instinctively and declares that "in fact, things do not cost that much-or amounts awarded are not usually so high", and he ends up reducing the child support payment.

However, a standard grid of payment levels would solve the problem to a great extent.

Another issue raised by lawyers is the concern that, if the amount of child support increases, more and more fathers will ask for custody of their children, which will mean legal expenses for the mothers. Finally, some judges fear that the number of deadbeat fathers will rise.

In short, even if the principle of a single grid of payment levels appears to be a possible solution, we will have to be watchful and closely monitor its use by the courts.

This view is shared by the chair of the family law division of the Canadian Bar Association, who believes that, in order to be effective, the guidelines must be flexible enough to take into account variations in the cost of living from province to province and from city to city, as well as the specific needs of certain children.

A lawyer who has his own private practice summarized this view quite well in an article published in the Law Times . The lawyer concluded that the benefits were greater than the drawbacks. The main benefit, according to the lawyer, was consistency. Consistency means that the outcome is predictable and, when we have that, there is no need to go before the court. The lawyer noted that, in the United States, lawyers practising in states where there are guidelines find that fewer couples ask for temporary measures, which saves them thousands of dollars while also reducing the workload of the courts.

Therefore, we support the principle of guidelines that would apply to the majority of cases. However, we have some concerns about the draft version of the grid of payment levels released in June.

Based on the information available to us, the federal grid is based on the notion of equality. This means that someone with an income of X dollars will pay Y dollars, regardless of the income of the custodial parent. Therefore, the parent liable for financial support will know what contribution will be sought by simply looking at the line corresponding to his income on the grid, regardless of the income of the parent who will get the payment, since it does not come into play. Moreover, the federal and provincial taxes are taken into account in this grid, but all government transfers specific to a province are excluded.

Quebec is about to introduce this fall a bill that includes guidelines of its own. Last August, a parliamentary committee met for three days to hear witnesses' comments on the grid the provincial government is suggesting to determine the support payments. More studies are being made to make the proposal under consideration even better.

The Quebec grid was drawn up by taking into account the rights and responsibilities of parents under Quebec civil law. First of all, both parents' revenues are added up in order to set the contribution level, and then, the percentage to be paid by each parent is figured out according to the needs of the child. The Quebec grid is also based on the whole Quebec system, including taxation and government transfers.

Obviously, the basis of payment determination is fundamentally different, and an in-depth study would improve it in order to maximise the positive impact on the financial situation of children.

Since the Quebec policy is based on a much more extensive set of data and takes into account all family and social policies in the province, this is all the more reason for the federal government to recognize the guidelines provinces have worked out for their population. Let us hope that, this time, the federal government will listen to and respect the will of the provinces.

Before I conclude these remarks, I would like to raise a problem that is fairly common in border areas. The problem involves former spouses living in different provinces who might be tempted, in order to save money, to move into the province whose rules are most advantageous to them.

The proposed regulations provide, in section 3(4) a ), that the grid to be applied would be that of the paying parent's usual place of residence.

I call on the justice minister to review this provision and amend it so that the criterion is the child's place of residence, as requested by Quebec. We feel that direction would be more beneficial to a vast majority of children.

I see that my time is almost up; I will therefore conclude by stressing that the official opposition supports the principles set out in Bill C-41, but that it has strong reservations about the appropriateness of the discretionary power the government is reserving for itself and about certain enforcement provisions.

Meanwhile, we reiterate our invitation to the government to show some flexibility for once and to leave to provinces an important role in an area, the family, that, in the final analysis, is within their jurisdiction, except for divorce.

We also call on the justice minister to introduce immediately legislation to implement the two other parts of the reform, so that the citizens know exactly in what direction the government is leading them and, most of all, at what cost to them and to the state.

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11 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank you for recognizing me today in this debate. It is an honour for me to speak first. I have been asked by my party to lead off on this second reading debate.

We recognize with Bill C-41 that the government is addressing a much needed part of our society in that there are support payments which are in serious arrears. In British Columbia, my home province, there are serious arrears and persistent arrears in some cases. We must deal with the issue and this bill is welcome in that sense.

There are a lot of divorces in which the non-custodial parent is working very hard, is making the support payments and is trying to keep in touch with his previous family. I say "his" because nine times out of ten the non-custodial parent is usually male in our society.

I feel that the bill addresses a very important concern; however, I have several reservations regarding it.

In the 1996 budget the government addressed a strategy to change the Canadian child support system, including the introduction of guidelines to establish child support awards in divorce cases. Legislation implementing key components of the strategy was tabled in the House of Commons on May 30, 1996. Both the guidelines and the new tax rules for child support are scheduled to come into effect on May 1, 1997.

Bill C-41 is a bill which will amend the Divorce Act and other acts in order to establish a federal system of aid for the payment of child support or spousal maintenance.

The bill will alter four statutes in order to do these four things. First, it will establish federal guidelines for child support. As I stated before, that is needed.

Second, Revenue Canada data bases will be open for searches in the case of payment default. This may cause all sorts of problems arising from the questions of privacy and confidentiality. These are some considerations we have to look at.

Third is the denial of passports and certain licences to individuals whose support payments are in arrears. In doing so, in denying those passports or licences, there will be a garnishee notice. The intent of this bill, as I understand it, is that the notice of intent to garnishee will no longer be there. That is a major concern. Why? We recognize that sometimes if a person receives a notice of intent, they then can be long gone if their intent is to never pay the support payments.

However, suppose the person is working out of the country, suppose they are off on the oil rigs somewhere in Iran and that notice of garnishee does not get to them within the 30 days. Suppose there is an affidavit that does not have correct information on it. We know that happens often in the legal system. Then they are at an extreme disadvantage. That is another problem.

The fourth is that it would provide for the garnishment and attachment of federal public service pensions and the wages of individuals working at sea.

The acts involved in Bill C-41 besides the Divorce Act are the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Canada Shipping Act.

Speakers for the government on this bill have already indicated that it does establish a grid of payment levels for child support as well as creating a number of enforcement mechanisms which can be brought into place should default occur. That is all it does.

It does not deal with the deductibility of support payments from income tax. It does not establish a system of required mediation. It does not improve access issues for non-custodial parents or dare I say for grandparents, and it does not address the issue of redress for the parent who pays child support but is denied access by the custodial parent without just cause.

These are only some of the matters that are important issues in family law today that this bill neglects to address. If Bill C-41 does not deal with the most controversial aspects of child support announced in the 1996 federal budget, namely income tax payment and deductions, and it does not deal with access to children or any of the other issues relevant to family law reform, why has this government called this Bill C-41 a comprehensive strategy to improve the child support system?

Comprehensive means all encompassing. This bill is a piecemeal approach at best for amending the Divorce Act. When I say comprehensive, I am referring to a working draft of federal child support guidelines issued in June 1996 by the Department of Justice where it states in the 1996 budget that the government announced a comprehensive strategy to improve the Canadian child support system, including the introduction of guidelines, et cetera. I have a problem with that because I do not see this as being comprehensive.

Canadians need a comprehensive approach. The focus of such comprehensive reform would be changes that benefit the children of divorce. We are talking here about children. As I have spoken about before in this House, when I talk about grandparent rights or any rights in the family, it is the children I am always concerned about.

A comprehensive approach would include compulsory mediation as a first step in the divorce process rather than going straight to court. A comprehensive approach would include access provisions that are enforceable. It would also include the elements of easier access for grandchildren to their grandparents. As well, the bill should include the tax payments and deductions announced in the budget.

I find the Liberal government's rationale odd when a reason given to me by the minister for his failure to support my grandparents bill in committee was that he would be doing a comprehensive family law review of the Divorce Act. Hence at some later date the grandchild-grandparent relationship would be dealt with, unfortunately though, far too late for many of our grandparents.

Yet this minister is in favour of a piecemeal approach to child support. Is Bill C-41 a comprehensive reform? No, of course it is not. It is a typical Liberal knee-jerk reaction to part of the problem. As always, when someone deals only with part of the problem they deal with the easy part first, the part that will not get them into any trouble. This is the Liberal philosophy. Play it safe, do not stick your neck out. There must be an election around the corner.

Playing it safe and delivering only half a loaf will not work in the case of family reform. There are pressing issues and they should be addressed together in one bill.

Dealing specifically with Bill C-41, we have some major concerns. We do not believe the bill takes an even handed approach to the issue of child support.

We are here to represent all Canadians, both men and women. This bill is decidedly biased against the male parent. There is very definitely a lack of equality for both parents. We all know that the much larger group paying child support are men. This bill does nothing to assure them of access rights.

There is nothing to address the issues of mediation which are so necessary if couples are going to live apart but still maintain the best interests of their children uppermost in their minds. I understand there is provision on the books at the present time that asks divorce lawyers to attempt mediation prior to going into the divorce court. I am told it is a half hearted measure at best and few attempt it seriously.

That is why I was interested to read of the Edmonton pilot project which requires people to take a six hour course before they can start action over child access or custody. The free two night seminar gives general information on topics such as the impact of divorce on children, how to reduce a conflict and ways to negotiate settlements without going to court.

Alberta justice minister Brian Evans said the program is intended to help children and to save the courts time and money: "If you have an agreement right off the bat and the parties are amicable and the children are well taken care of, there is no intention of forcing this upon people. There is some flexibility. The focus of the program is on minimizing the impact of divorce on children and avoiding future problems with the law. If they are damaged psychologically and emotionally there is a very good chance they are going to get into our criminal justice system".

The article goes on to say Alberta is the second province after Saskatchewan to introduce such a program. Manitoba is considering a similar move.

There is no similar program in B.C. according to Diane Bell of the family law section of the Canadian Bar Association in B.C: "It would be nice if it was available. If this free was around I think lawyers would use it".

The Edmonton program is a year long pilot project that could be expanded to the rest of the province. The departments of justice and social services are implementing it. Mr. Gronow, a justice official, said that 1,200 couples in the Edmonton area will go through the course each year because they cannot settle disputes over child custody or access. The parent who wants to take this issue to court will have to prove he or she has taken the course.

I have to pat the people in Edmonton on the back because I think what they are addressing is the real issue. First, no child support payment system is going to work if people are not willing to go

along with it. It is realistic because it deals with the actual facts. If we look at the fact that realistically we are going to address the needs of the child and the ability of the father to pay and that both parents who are getting divorced are involved in that mediation, then the reality is they are going to come up with something that is workable. I think that is what Edmonton has addressed and rightly so.

What the article is telling us is that there is a need for such programs. Divorce is a major happening in our country and we had better deal with it in a positive manner. I believe we cannot over emphasize our commitment to children. To invest in a child is to invest in the country.

Bill C-41 gives authority to the governor in council, the cabinet, to set the payment grid for child support and for spousal support but does not clearly indicate that judges may vary the grid if warranted by the circumstances. I think it would be all too easy for a judge in this case to just go with the grid because it will probably result in fewer appeals.

Therefore everything meaningful and important in this bill will be implemented by the order in council, and so parliamentarians will not have the opportunity to review or to comment on the child support payment grid.

Reform has difficulties with this mechanism. We always have difficulty when this government tries to bypass Parliament in an attempt to legislation through the use of regulation. This grid should be referred to a committee of this House for study before it has legal affect.

Given my recent experiences with the House of Commons justice committee I doubt whether that would be the appropriate forum. However, some committee of this House, hopefully one on which members are sympathetic to the problem of family break-up, should review these guidelines.

Clause 2 of the bill which amends section 15 of the Divorce Act recognizes that a judge in both child and spousal award situations may look at agreements made between the parties, ability to pay and matters which would be of benefit to the children. First the judge is to take into consideration the guidelines, which is the grid established under this bill.

I think the drafters here have it backwards. The judge should look first at agreements reached between the parties and only when the parties cannot agree look at the grid. As well the judge should look at the ability to pay. If we are looking seriously at mediation before divorce, as Alberta is, then the parents have already worked out an agreement which will work for them.

There will be no need to put extra stress on a couple who are already in a stressful situation. We have plenty of evidence of large awards of support and maintenance which bear no relation to the spouses ability to pay. No matter the consequences, we run into problems of the payment.

The Financial Post took a realistic look at this problem. In the article ``Getting tough with deadbeat dads won't solve the problem'', the writer states:

Deadbeat dads stand only slightly below tobacco companies in the modern compendium of villainy. Governments across North America compete to devise the toughest schemes to extract child support money from these men. Give the prize for harshness to Tory Ontario. Beginning this January 1, Ontario fathers who fail to pay court imposed child support obligation will lose their drivers' licenses, will see their credit ratings stripped away, and will soon hear the pounding of the debt collector's fist on their front door.

So, can Ontario's single mothers soon look forward to a big bump in their incomes? Hardly.

Even those men lucky enough to have full time employment are averaging only about $40,000 a year, according to Statistics Canada. But a father who moves away from his children must still pay taxes. He must still eat and put some sort of roof over his head. It's still against the law for him to appear in public naked and he must somehow get to work.

A single man earning $40,000 faces income taxes of more than $15,000 in Ontario, even after the first Harris tax cut. Grant him a frugal $1,500 per year for food, and another $6,000 a year for a cheap apartment. Budget $1,500 to finance, insure and operate a car, and $1,000 for shoes and clothes. Toss in $2,000 more for laundry, electricity, toothpaste, a telephone to call the kids he is supporting, the occasional haircut and a few other meagre incidentals.

In other words, provided that this man is willing to devote every discretionary dollar to their lives, and provided too that he never remarries and never fathers any more children, we might be able to squeeze as much as $10,000 a year of child support out of him. If we fail to make him live like a monk, if we permit him to form a new family, then the money available will rapidly tumble to a thousand or two a year. And that's not going to do very much good is it?

Here's the truth that the whole deadbeat dad discussion evades. The reason women and children usually suffer economically after the break of a family is not that some man is selfishly or punitively withholding money from them, although of course some men do. The reason women and children suffer is that the typical wage earner does not earn enough to support two households. Neither for that matter does the comparatively affluent wage earner, one of the ten per cent of Canadian workers who grosses above $50,000 a year-".

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11:15 a.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

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11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I wish to ask for the co-operation of the House that we might all be able to hear each other's interventions. When the time comes for questions or comments, I will certainly facilitate those to the extent I am able to.

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11:15 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker:

No matter how onerous the child support decrees against these men may be, no matter how diligently governments enforce these decrees, for reasons of basic economics and arithmetic, divorce and unwed motherhood will inevitably mean

economic catastrophe for the people involved. If anything, tougher child support rules are likely to exacerbate the catastrophe especially among the poor.

It is not that I did not hear the comments at the side, however rudely said. What it does say is that the members opposite are trying to point out, and perhaps rightly so, that usually the mothers have a very difficult time. Yes they do. But that does not mean that we should put our heads in the sand and pretend their is economic prosperity out there. There is not.

I do not want to see families falling apart even further than they do after divorce. A divorce does not mean a family has to fall apart. People who use common sense can encourage the father, which is usually the non-custodial parent, to continue visiting and to let his children know he still loves them and cares for them. But we cannot hammer them into the ground and then say come on, be a good family person. You have to use your head. For many years those paying the support and the parents who are receiving the support have had a lot of problems. I am personally well aware of it. But that does not mean that I stop thinking or stop facing reality.

In these economic times the Liberal government should certainly look at the 10 per cent unemployment level. We cannot punish people. We have to offer encouragement. That is what we must do when we are making laws.

If we have moved to no fault divorce, which I believe we have, at least let us be consistent in awarding child support maintenance and not use this to punish the non-custodial spouse. There is no big bad guy out there and no one on a white charger either.

We also have concerns with clauses of the bill which allow the government to suspend licences and passports in order to achieve payment of support arrears. I recognize that in these instances of persistent arrears we should be careful. By suspending a licence or a passport we may be putting someone's ability to earn a livelihood in jeopardy. It does not help to make it so difficult that someone may end up out of a job. Then they cannot make any payments or help anybody, least of all their children.

If the ability to earn a living is jeopardized then there will be no money at all to pay child support. It is a lose-lose situation. We must also keep in mind the revocation of a passport may place such a person in jeopardy if he or she travels or works outside of Canada. This international law aspect of the revocation of a passport should be explored.

I hope these clauses will be examined closely in committee. We will be considering amendments which lengthen the period of notice under clause 22 of the bill which amends section 67(4) of the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act.

What also distresses me about this bill is the fact that it does not address the issue of access, especially the access of grandparents to grandchildren.

Finally the media is starting to pick up on that major issue in our society, giving Canadian children access to their families, which also includes grandparents.

We are told to wait for a comprehensive review of the Divorce Act. I put it to the Minister of Justice today that a number of grandparents do not have much time left.

Let us agree on one thing. There are no good guys, no bad guys in divorce. The term no fault divorce recognizes that. How do we establish fairness and equal responsibility and access rights that recognize that parents divorce and children do not? I am talking in general terms here because we are all aware that there are parents who should never have been parents. Some are irresponsible and not supportive. But the average parent, divorced or not, cares about his or her children, loves them, wants them with them and wants to help them. This is a major reason why mediation before divorce and before child custody and access is decided is necessary.

What am I really saying? It is the children who are the real victims of divorce. They need a loving, caring family. As a teacher for over 30 years, I can tell the House that all children are affected by divorce. However, divorce does happen and will continue to happen. So what can we do as a country? We all must remember that the family is our most basic unit in society.

Unfortunately in today's world over 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce. Unfortunately in the case of divorce, which is what this bill deals with, it is most often the case that children are the last to be considered. This in spite of the fact that the courts and our laws use the phrase "in the best interests of the child". In fact, in most cases it really comes down to the best interests of the custodial parent.

We know from heavy documentation in the United States, which keeps records of trends in divorce, that generally the practice was in the best interests of the custodial parent. The child and the rest of the immediate family are seldom considered.

The House knows that I have been concerned about our Canadian grandchildren and I have spoken of the crisis after divorce when many grandchildren no longer see or visit with their grandparents. Perhaps I see families in a different light than other members of the House. It seems to me that just because a divorce takes place does not mean that a child or children of that marriage no longer have a father or a mother. A divorce should not make those children any less deserving of maintaining family ties. It would be more difficult, perhaps, but also more necessary.

If we want a strong, healthy society then we must be concerned with all families, divorced or not. We must ensure that children are encouraged to maintain access to their whole family. Children need to know they are loved by both parents, regardless of the divorce and by both sets of grandparents. Child support or a lack of it is a major problem but I feel the government by treating it as a one sided issue is not going to help the issue but rather exasperate it.

I want to say at this time that I will be making some amendments because obviously there are some current concerns which I have already raised pertaining to this and I hope those amendments will be taken seriously by the government.

In closing I would like to point out an American book, Ladies' Home Journal. A business woman, Rebecca Morrick, was a parent who suffered from lack of support payments. They did not come to her on time and so she started her own collection agency. She said: "I understand the anger and frustration of the women who come to me. I know what it is like when a support cheque doesn't come or a child's birthday is ignored. I know how it feels to hunt for pocket change just to buy a gallon of milk. Believe me, I've been there".

Then she talks about her work and how successful she has been in finding, as she calls them, deadbeat fathers. That is not a very nice term but it does probably describe the situation. She said: "It takes me about six months to start collecting money from deadbeat dads and I do most of my leg work by computer. In the end a client can make out quite well. Even if the support award is relatively small, the ex can be made to pay his or her spouse the compound interest that would be accrued over the years of non-payment. Not surprisingly, finding fathers on the run is my speciality. In a case I am closing now, my largest one ever, I tracked down a deadbeat dad who owed more than $200,000. He had been ordered to pay my client $300 a month to support their daughter back in 1979 but he skipped town without paying a cent.

"His wife Moranda hadn't tried very hard to find him, thinking that he would never earn enough to make the payments anyway. Years later, however, Moranda learned that her ex had become a successful songwriter for a country music star. We found him in Nashville, had him served by the court and we are in the process of seizing his royalty cheques, some of which amount to more than $30,000".

She is talking about those that she has had that are successful. What she is saying is there are very serious issues of non-support. She sees them all the time and tries to rectify the situation with a certain amount of success. She mentions too that the bureaucracy often gets in the way and that happens in Canada too. It gets in the way too often and sometimes our workers in the social field are overworked and cannot address all the concerns.

What I want to point out is that here is a woman who has gone through the situation, who works with it every day, who sees the worst scenarios, but is she biased like the member opposite? Does she only push one side of the question, like the member opposite? Or does she deal, and this is what-

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11:25 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I just wonder if the hon. member could clarify when she says "biased like the member opposite" to which of the members opposite she is referring. The member for Scarborough-Rouge River-

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11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I would submit to the House that respectfully the member is engaging in debate and does not have a point of order. I will resume debate with the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam.

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11:25 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals do like to be heard.

This is very pertinent to the last part. I want to point out, after the interruption, that this again is a woman who deals with this every day of her life, the worst scenarios in lack of child support.

This is what she said: "When I first went into the business I tried to be cool and objective, a real hard-boiled detective, but it just wasn't my style. As a result I often find myself getting emotionally involved in my cases and giving my clients personal advice. My favourite cases are those in which my work helps to reunite a family. Some fathers are actually relieved when I find them. They miss their children and are eager for a fresh start.

"Take the case of Joe and Sally. Joe, tired of being turned away every time he wanted to visit their children, stopped paying child support and Sally refused to let him visit until he started sending the cheques again. To end this bitter standoff I drew up a modification to the child support decree stipulating that the payments and visits were to resume immediately. Sally, still distrustful of Joe, was reluctant to sign the agreement but I warned her I would drop her case if she didn't. Finally she gave in. Both the cheques and the visits have been helping ever since.

"Helping women get the support they deserve is immensely satisfying. However, helping fathers like Joe make amends to their families makes me feel that my profession is really worthwhile. Fatherhood can and should be more than just a monthly cheque not just a wallet. My work has taught me that a child whose daddy disappears is never quite the same". As a teacher for over 30 years, I can second that.

Now that I am coming to the end of my speech, I must again say that no one understands any more than I do, having personal

experience, the very serious issue with which we are dealing. If we do not start caring about everybody, if we do not start putting children first and trying to help families, then we are going to see more and more separation, divorce and lack of support payments.

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11:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The House is presently operating under Standing Order 74 which entitles the first three speakers to a maximum of 40 minutes and are not subject to questions or comments. The next five hours of debate will include 20-minute interventions subject to 10 minutes of questions or comments.

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11:30 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I commence my remarks I want to pay tribute to the member for Mission-Coquitlam and her advocacy for grandparents. I may not agree with the legislation she has put forward, but I certainly agree with the spirit and intent of her advocacy.

I also want to take a line from her comments just now when she said, in conclusion, that if we do not care about everybody and particularly children we are going to be in trouble. That is refreshing and, I know from that member, a true statement of her feelings. It is also refreshing to hear it from the Reform benches.

However, the best way to put this is that there is place for everything legislatively and everything in its place. While I understand the member's frustration, given her advocacy on the question of access to grandparents in a post-divorce world, this bill does not deal with access. Access is something separate which may have to be dealt with at another time. This bill deals specifically with corollary relief and the situation faced by, for the most part, mothers attempting to deal with their financial lives in a post-divorce situation.

Sometimes to explain why amendments are taken in the manner in which they are taken and why the government decides to act in the way in which it decides to act, particularly in these circumstances, it becomes necessary to talk about the real world.

While I applaud the hon. member, I think there is a touch of naivety in the comments. This is not, particularly when we talk about post-divorce families, the best of all possible worlds. Indeed, for those of us who have long experience in the realm of family law, the post-divorce world is survivable for those people who have gone through it only if the legislation is strong enough to ensure behaviour that allows survival.

This is not a world to be looked at with rose coloured glasses. Post-divorce for a number of years and sometimes many years can be described best as a page out of hell for the people who are involved in it.

I would like to correct a mistake in statistics that I am sure the hon. member did not mean to make. The divorce rate in Canada is not 50 per cent, thank God. The divorce rate fluctuates somewhere between 3 and 3.9 in 10. This is not terrific but it is not as bad as 50 per cent. Maybe it should be at 50 per cent given some of the things that happen in marriages that still stay together. Nevertheless, just in the interest of accuracy, the divorce rate is somewhere between 3 or 3.9 out of 10.