Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak on Bill C-22, the Divorce Act amendments.
First I would like to say that my colleague from Prince George—Peace River has taken the initiative to ensure that the voices of Canadians and everybody were heard when the bill was being formulated and will be heard as it is going to be formulated when it goes to the committee.
I have listened with interest to my colleague from the Liberal side as well as my colleague from the Progressive Conservative side. Both have articulated a very good point, especially the Liberal member from Sarnia when he said that the bill seems to have been drafted by the lawyers in the justice department without major input from the people of Canada, which would be through the House of Commons. Therefore I thought it was important for me to stand up and speak on the bill.
Why do I think it is important? Let me start by saying that for the last three to four years I have received representations in my office from frustrated people who are in divorce proceedings, whose marriage, for whatever reason, has broken down. They have come to my office and have expressed frustration about the Divorce Act and about the way the courts have acted and have passed judgment.
I had a town hall meeting where I wanted to discuss the issues that were in front of Parliament. I was surprised at the number of grandparents who came, pleading that we do something so that grandparents will have access to the children. At the end of the day, grandparents do have a right to their grandchildren.
In regard to these proceedings, we have a lot of experience. We have seen what happened in the past. We know that on many occasions when divorce proceedings take place it is not harmonious. It is a split that leaves bitter feelings. These feelings tend to be used against the children, who become pawns for revenge purposes, regrettably. As many members will know, even in the last year or so in Calgary we have had cases where parents have taken the lives of small children so they could get revenge against the other partner. What a tragedy, Mr. Speaker.
This calls for Parliament, for the people, to look at this issue, because divorce is on the rise. It is a fact of life. There are single parents out there and we need to listen to them and address this issue, because it is there. It is not going to go away. It is not going to be hidden under the carpet. If we are going to leave it to the unelected officials, to the courts, to create the rules or regulations or laws for this, then we are doing a huge disservice to Canadians.
During election 2000 when I went door knocking, I was stunned and amazed at how many times I met single mothers with children. They had returned home to stay with their parents. In talking to them, I heard their frustration with trying to raise the children by themselves. If statistics are anything to go by, for the majority of children who live in poverty it is because of the single parent. Due to the breakup of marriages, single parenting is what is sending children into poverty.
In the budget the government has said it is going to spend so much money for child poverty. Fair enough. Agreed. It is a good point, but the fact of the matter is that we should go to the root cause one step behind this, to where it is coming from. It is coming from single parenting.
How do we address the issue? It goes back to the divorce cases. We need to look at the divorce case issue and come up with not what the bureaucrats or lawyers are trying to do but with what is really out there, what is really happening, where the cracks are that we need to solve. There are the rights of grandparents and shared parenting.
What if we give direction to the courts to say we want shared parenting because it is the responsibility of both? Why should one parent be put on the other side and carry the burden while the other parent feels he cannot participate and feels neglected in society? There have been recent cases of this in Alberta, where revenge has been taken and the poor children have even lost their lives.
The question here is that it is for the sake of the children. The parents may decide they want to be separate and to go ahead with their own lives, and so be it, they make the decision, but we have to take into account what the children need. They love their children. We all use the same words, interestingly, and we all say “for the sake of children”, but what and how?
When the bill goes back to committee hopefully people will come and offer presentations and will fight to make sure that there is an equitable share for both parents in raising the children. That is good in the long term for society and it is good for us because we are investing in our children, the long term future of this country.