Mr. Speaker, as you know, an MP's life can be a most interesting one. Some 45 minutes ago, I was in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as was the parliamentary secretary I see here. We were discussing marriage, but marriage between same sex partners. Marriage there, and divorce here. Clearly these topics are of interest.
It is also a sign, however, to us all here in this House that what we do here will affect the personal everyday lives of the men and women of Quebec and of Canada.
When we address matters such as marriage and divorce, we must be very careful. We must reflect, listen, study. Unfortunately, with Bill C-22, the Minister of Justice seems to have brought forth a mouse. He has unfortunately not delivered on his promised revolution.
I would like to begin by reaffirming as strongly as possible the Bloc Quebecois' firm belief in the importance of the respective roles fathers and mothers play in the lives of their children, whether outside marriage, during a marriage, or after marriage breakdown.
Every parent, every father and mother has an important and essential role. This philosophical principle, which underlies every Bloc Quebecois intervention in the debate on Bill C-22, will guide us. This philosophical principle, which underscores the importance of the role of the father and the mother, will be present and is present in all our interventions in this bill.
You would not be surprised if I, as a Quebec sovereignist, said that the option preferred by the Bloc Quebecois is simply to repeal the Divorce Act and transfer it to Quebec.
In 1867, when the British North America Act, which is nothing more than an act passed by the British Parliament, was passed, anything that had to do with family law was left in the hands of the provinces under section 92 of the Constitution. The only exception was marriage and divorce, which, let us not forget, was basically for religious reasons.
Quebec was mostly Catholic and Canada and Ontario mostly Protestant and some feared that one of the provinces was imposing its views on the religious minority there.
Now that Quebec and Canada accept religious diversity and varying points of view, the federal government's appropriation of divorce and marriage, this tiny section of family law and civil law, no longer has its place. There is no longer any reason for this.
In this regard, the Bloc Quebecois is part of a long and illustrious tradition. For many decades, Union Nationale, Liberal and Parti Quebecois governments have all asked that family law be repatriated to Quebec. The Bloc Quebecois made this request again in 1998 when the joint committee on child custody submitted its report and it is a request we are reiterating today. We cannot be accused of inconsistency.
In the unfortunate event that the government rejects this option, changes would still need to be made to Bill C-22 introduced by the Minister of Justice.
I will simply address a few of the main points. When I met with Justice officials to discuss Bill C-22, they told me—unfortunately the briefing was conducted in English—that the words access and custody should be removed to effect what they called a conceptual shift in the approach to children's rights and to try to eliminate any notion of winner and loser in the debate on the custody of children.
Whether the words custody and access are removed or not, the fact remains that the child, boy or girl, will have to spend x number of days with mom and y number of days with dad. So, change wording as we may to call it something else, in actual fact, one parent will have the child for a period of time and the other will have him and her for another period of time.
All this to say that I seriously doubt that, in practice, the conceptual shift sought by the justice minister will be very meaningful.
Another aspect is the interest of the child. The minister's bill maintains the principle of the child's interest in determining custody and making various orders regarding the parents by setting out a number of criteria to take into consideration in determining what is in the interest of the child.
First, the interest of the child is already covered in subsection 16(8) of the Divorce Act, as well as in section 514 of the Quebec Civil Code, with respect to separation from bed and board.
All the minister has done in connection with the best interests of the child has been to codify existing criteria from the jurisprudence. Decisions rendered across Canada were reviewed, and actions determined to have ensured the child's best interests were included in the legislation.
In the system of laws that governs us, jurisprudence is very important. All this to say that codifying jurisprudence hardly qualifies as new law. It does not change the law; it changes absolutely nothing. It only makes a cosmetic change to that part of the act. Once again, it reinforces the idea—and this was the point I was making at the beginning—that the government has brought forth a mouse.
There is another major problem with Bill C-22. The unified family courts. The government wants to make sure there is a unified family court in every province. Again I will remind the House that in 1998, when the joint committee released its report, the Bloc Quebecois opposed this idea and, surprise, surprise, it is still opposed to it now.
The way the federal government sees it, a unified court would bring every aspect of family law under the Quebec Superior Court, whose judges are appointed by the federal government.
In Quebec, courts that have jurisdiction over family law, except, of course, for marriage and divorce, come under the Quebec court, whose judges are appointed by the Quebec government.
We are opposed to the principle of a unified family court as planned by the federal government. If it persists in this direction, we will ask respectfully but firmly that it transfer to Quebec the money set aside to establish a family court in Quebec, so that Quebec may keep its distinct character in the way it manages family law, which, I remind members, is under provincial jurisdiction. Quebec is the only province with a civil code.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose Bill C-22, but it is our sincere hope that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will hold the broadest possible consultations, because whatever we decide in this House will have far reaching consequences for millions of Quebeckers and Canadians.