Madam Speaker, it is with great interest that I read Bill C-22, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and to amend other acts in consequence.
As the Bloc Quebecois critic for the status of women, I want to tell this House about the concerns of Canadian and Quebec women regarding this bill.
While we feel that the committee has made some efforts to improve the Divorce Act, we think that the legislator, or the committee, will have to go back to the drawing board. We are asking that committee members hold hearings, so that all groups, that is those representing both men and women, can express their views.
The reason we say all groups is simply to acknowledge the fact that there is currently a strong lobby of men's groups working to ensure that their rights are recognized, because, apparently, some judges are not granting them access and custody rights.
First, I remind the House that Canada does not even have a real family policy, and it does not have a policy promoting women's equality and the well-being of their children within the family.
During the World March of Women, which took place in the year 2000, the Canadian committee for that march made a number of recommendations, namely: to eliminate poverty and violence against women, to ensure equality for women in the workplace, pay equity, employment equity, universal, accessible and affordable daycare services, social assistance programs, a comprehensive civil law legal aid program, comprehensive social programs, specific measures to meet the various needs of women and their children, public and universal health care services and so on. There was also a specific request that had to do with the changes that we wanted to the Divorce Act.
The bill now before us turns the responsibility for one's family into a private affair. However, I, like other women, feel that since children are the future of a society, the responsibility for them falls on all citizens.
Too many studies show that the rise in child poverty is due, for the most part, to higher poverty rates among women. Not everyone is convinced that the child-centred family justice strategy does indeed minimize the negative impact of separation or divorce on children as it claims to do. Take, for example, the current guidelines for child support payments, which stipulate that in cases of joint custody, the support payments be dramatically reduced or even eliminated.
In reality, a great many women today find themselves caring for children alone and without child support payments, despite joint custody agreements. This problem only adds to and exacerbates the already extremely high poverty levels experienced by single mothers, leading to some of the worst situations of social and economic hardship in Canada.
Driven to such poverty, many mothers become much more vulnerable to harassment and threats of violence.
Women are also very concerned about proposals to entrench a model based on shared parenting.
In June 2001, the National Association of Women and the Law submitted a brief to the federal-provincial-territorial family law committee. In it, the association recommended against creating a legal presumption in support of joint custody or shared parenting. Imposing this type of formula on recalcitrant parents guaranteed disastrous results.