House of Commons Hansard #332 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find—

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am sorry. The member asked for the unanimous consent of the House.

Does the member have the unanimous consent of the House?

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

members

No.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons I would like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving week in their ridings.

I would like to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons what business will be brought forward for the rest of this week and for the week following the week in our ridings.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue second reading of Bill C-78, the family justice act. Tomorrow we will begin debate at third reading of Bill C-79, the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership implementation act.

Next week, members will be working with Canadians in their ridings. When we return, we will begin debate on Senate amendments to Bill C-65, the harassment prevention act. Priority will then be given to the following bills: Bill C-77 on the Victims Bill of Rights and Bill C-82, the multilateral instrument in respect of tax conventions act.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my colleagues and their families a happy Thanksgiving.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-78, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-78, which aims to strengthen our family justice system by amending three federal laws, the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act.

As colleagues in this chamber have noted, the reforms proposed in Bill C-78 would represent the first substantive reforms to our federal family laws in over 20 years. We can all agree that these changes are long overdue.

Separation and divorce affect millions of Canadians. We all know that marriage breakdown can be hard on families, especially children.

Our government is committed to ensuring, to the greatest possible extent, that federal family laws protect families from the negative consequences that too often arise in situations of separation and divorce. As I have followed the debate on Bill C-78, I have been pleased to hear the expressions of support from all sides of the House for the key objectives of this legislation, namely promoting the best interests of the child, addressing family violence, helping to reduce child poverty and making Canada's family justice system more accessible and efficient.

It appears that when this bill comes to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, there will be a very collegial approach to making sure that we improve it in the best possible way and actually work together to improve our family law system.

As the Minister of Justice has emphasized, Bill C-78 is really about putting children first. The proposed changes to the Divorce Act reaffirm that the best interest of the child is the only consideration in relation to parenting arrangements, and the bill proposes several changes to further support this fundamental principle.

The changes include a non-exhaustive list of criteria that judges must consider when determining what is in the child's best interest.

Bill C-78 also introduces a primary consideration to the best interests of the child test, which would require courts to consider elements crucial to a child's life, including physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being above all other considerations. Among other factors, the best interests of the child criteria would require courts to consider a child's views and preferences, giving due weight to the child's age and maturity.

This is consistent with Canada's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is important for children to have the right to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives and to express their own opinions, depending on their age and maturity.

We have all seen in our own lives areas where there have been disputes over child custody. Too often, the voice of the child has been ignored. Now, under our proposed law, as soon as this bill is adopted, the voice of the child predominates.

Bill C-78 would also require judges to consider a child's linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage, and the child's upbringing. That includes indigenous heritage, which is something currently absent from the Divorce Act but obviously necessary to take into account when making decisions about a child.

For example, should a child come from both the English- and French-speaking communities, it is essential that the child learn both languages and the culture of both communities. The same is true when one of the parents comes from an indigenous community. To strip the child of their heritage would be an unfortunate mistake, and now the law would ensure that it is taken into account.

Given that the best interest of the child is the only consideration in making decisions on parenting arrangements for a child, Bill C-78 would not create parenting presumptions in the Divorce Act. The bill would include a modified maximum parenting time principle, requiring courts to ensure the child has as much time with each spouse as is in the child's best interests.

Time with parents fosters a child's social, emotional and cognitive development, and sufficient time with each parent is necessary to establish and maintain these relationships. However, it is important to note that this provision stipulates that the child should have as much time with each parent as is consistent with the best interests of the child. Thus, courts would ultimately determine what allocation of time would work best for the child.

In addition to the amendments pertaining specifically to the best interests of the child test, Bill C-78 proposes several other reforms that promote the best interests of the child. A key example is the proposed change to parenting language.

The terms “custody” and “access” will be replaced by terminology that can help reduce conflict between parents. Bill C-78 also provides for the creation of parenting orders and contact orders, by means of which the courts will give clear instructions to parents about the care of their children.

In addition, in recognition of the fact that there are often other people who play a critical role in a child's life, the bill would make contact orders available to non-spouses, such as grandparents. In most cases, parents facilitate contact between their children and other special people in their lives during one parent's parenting time. These orders would be available as an option in situations where the parties do not agree to allow this to happen. Of course, contact orders would also be based solely on the best interests of the child. However, as we have all seen, and as we have all heard from our constituents, there are tragic incidents where after a divorce, grandparents are not allowed to visit children. Great-aunts, great-uncles and other people who are close are suddenly stripped away from the contact they have had their entire lives. This bill would now ensure that those people would also have a right to say that they want to have contact with a minor child.

Turning now to the second objective of Bill C-78, which is addressing family violence, the government recognizes that family violence is traumatic for children who are exposed to it as direct victims or as witnesses. Increasingly, research is providing important insights into the lifelong effects of childhood trauma, and it is critically important that family violence be appropriately taken into account when decisions about parenting arrangements are being made.

To provide guidance to parents, courts and family justice professionals, Bill C-78 proposes a statutory definition of family violence based on social science research. It would explicitly include family violence as a factor to be considered in determining the best interests of a child, and it would include an additional set of factors to guide courts in considering the impact of family violence.

Finally, Bill C-78 would require courts to inquire about any other civil protection, child protection or criminal proceedings or orders that involve the parties to avoid conflicts between family and criminal court orders.

The third objective of Bill C-78 is to help reduce poverty. It has been demonstrated that the sooner a fair and accurate amount of child support is established after parents separate and payments are made, the better the outcomes are for the child. While most parents meet their obligations when it comes both to the establishment and payment of child support, many parents do not provide the complete and accurate income information required by the law to establish support. There are more than one billion dollars in unpaid child support payments in Canada, and this bill would provide additional tools to provinces and territories to ensure that those debts are paid.

This has serious consequences for families who use the family justice system. More than one million Canadian children of separated or divorced parents live in single-parent families. Those families are more likely to be living in poverty. The risk of poverty following a separation or divorce can be reduced when the parents and the children receive the financial support they are owed.

Bill C-78 would bring much-needed changes to limit the consequences of income-related disputes on the family justice system, parents, and most importantly, children. Amendments to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act would permit the release of income information to courts and provincial child support services to help determine fair and accurate support amounts and to help them enforce these support orders.

In addition, the amendments to the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act will allow for faster garnishment of wages where possible, so that families can receive the money garnished more quickly.

As my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London said in her speech about when she was working as a constituency officer for a former member of Parliament, one of the themes that is the most frustrating for MPs and their staff is when people come in who are the custodial parents and are asking for support. They have to go through hoops to try to find a way to administratively get to the right amount of custodial payments, because the other parent is not cooperating or is lying about his or her income, etc. Now, at least, we can do this in an administrative way and not have to run to court every single time.

Finally, Bill C-78 includes a number of measures intended to streamline processes to help make family justice more accessible and affordable for Canadians, while encouraging family dispute resolution.

To assist Canadian families in resolving international disputes, Bill C-78 would make the necessary changes to the Divorce Act and the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act in order to implement two international conventions: the Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance and the Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children.

We have all heard of horrible cases of parents taking children abroad and the Canadian custodial parents spending years trying to get the children back. We need to do everything possible to work with international forces to make sure that we allow those parents to get their kids back to Canada.

I also want to take a moment to talk about something very important to me, to my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier and to many other members in the House, namely access to justice—and to divorce courts in particular—in Canada's two official languages.

Whether people are English-speaking Quebeckers or French speakers outside Quebec, we want to make sure that access to divorce and access to our courts is available in both languages.

We heard from representatives of the Fédération des associations de juristes d'expression française de common law as well as English-speaking legal experts from Quebec. In committee, we are going to consider amendments to the bill in order to ensure that Canadians have access to divorce courts in both of Canada's official languages.

To ensure that French and English have official language status in divorce proceedings, we must ensure that the judge or judicial officer who hears the case understands the language in question properly. Witnesses also need to be able to express themselves in their preferred language, and the final decision must be provided in both official languages when testimony is given in both languages. French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec have the right to access justice in their own language.

The English-speaking community of Quebec has a right to justice in its own language. That is something, among other things, I know we will be considering at committee.

In conclusion, we all know how difficult separation and divorce can be for families. I have heard some of my colleagues talk about their own experiences. In retrospect, there are always things that could have been done better. I know the pain some of my friends have suffered going through divorce.

When the law instructs that we need to focus on putting the best interests of the child first, that helps everyone in the picture.

I appreciate the bill. It addresses family violence, it would help reduce poverty and it would make the family justice system more accessible. I believe that Bill C-78, as put forward by our Minister of Justice and Attorney General, represents significant change that would better support Canadian families.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member. I recognize that with his legal background, he probably has great insight into this.

One of the things I am curious about has to do with the 40% when it comes to sharing. I have personally sat down with constituents in the past as we have tried to block in a schedule to calculate how that is done. What is the framework going to be, and how flexible is that going to be?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated what my colleague had to say and her speaking of her own personal experiences. It was incredibly touching, and I think her husband Mike is very lucky.

With respect to the question, having not practised family law, I also have only dealt with the situation as a member of Parliament. I know that there will be flexibility built in, but I know it is one of the things we will be looking at at committee, and the minister will be there to instruct us about that question.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech. Before Bill C-78 is sent to committee, I would like to know what he thinks about adding criteria to better define the interests of the child in the case of separation.

The NDP believes that we need to look at the big picture when determining the interests of the child. We want to come up with a list of criteria, but it should not be exhaustive. Since we are all only human, we understand that other variables may come into play. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about making a shorter list and providing a little more flexibility in the case of separation.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Jonquière for her excellent question.

That is something we always need to ask ourselves when making amendments to the Criminal Code. Do we need to provide very specific definitions? Should we provide a non-exhaustive list? Should we leave the concept more open? I believe that the list set out in the proposed bill is very good, but it is always important to examine those things in committee. Since we are working very closely with the member for Victoria and the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot who, if I understand correctly, will be representing the NDP in committee, we will certainly hear from NDP representatives.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that the committee will examine the proposed bill. I hope that will be done soon. I am pleased to see that there is probably an opportunity to improve this bill, which is already very well designed.

When this bill was introduced, I held a round table in Ottawa—Vanier. Many members of the community and experts said that it was time that this legislation focused on children. By asking questions, we saw that we could improve the bill. Today, my hon. colleague mentioned that the bill falls short when it comes to official languages, so it seems that there is some room for improvement.

Could my hon. colleague explain what will happen as the bill moves on to the next stage?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. It was a pleasure working with her, especially on minority language rights. We will of course hear from witnesses when this bill is studied in committee. We will pay close attention to those witnesses from linguistic minority communities.

Our committee will discuss this with the minister, the parliamentary secretaries and all of the parties represented in committee to see whether we can effectively make improvements to ensure that linguistic minorities in this country can access divorce courts in both official languages. The equality of both official languages across the country is a priority for our minister. She is doing an excellent job, when it comes to appointing bilingual judges. We will see if there is anything we can do.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have been looking through this bill, and it really seems to me that the government really has the child at the centre of the changes it would be making. One of the things I was wondering, which is a bit of a tangent, is whether the member has ever heard of something called the “life ladder”. It is said that if people followed the life ladder by graduating from school, then finding a job and then getting married and having children, they would be 97% likely to never live in poverty.

Does the member know anything about the life ladder, and does he have any comments on it?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to work with my friend across the way. Sometimes we have a bit of a different view on some social and justice issues, but on this we are finding common ground. This is one of these excellent bills where we are finding common ground, because we all care about the best interests of the child. Yes, I am aware that there are studies that show that if life follows a certain path, there is less chance of having child poverty. We are not a government that is able to, or wants to, dictate to people how to live their lives and in what sequence to live their lives. However, I am certainly aware of the literature the member is speaking of.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I compliment the member for Mount Royal for his work as chair of the justice committee. He raised something that has not come up to a great extent in the debate thus far, which is the issue of the provision about parenting and presumptions. One or two points were raised earlier today by members of the opposition about their concern that equal parenting was no longer a presumption.

I know that the member for Mount Royal does a lot of research before he prepares for any speech or any committee hearing. I wanted to ask him about the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, which noted in its 1998 report, called “For the sake of the children”, that a presumption in favour of a particular parenting arrangement would not likely be in the best interest of a particular child.

As the member knows, this bill looks squarely at the best interests of the child and not at parents. It looks at the best interest of the child and treating it on a case-by-case basis. Could he provide his view and perspective on how that assists addressing children and their plight in the context of divorce?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary and tell him how much of a pleasure it is working with him as our new parliamentary secretary.

I completely agree with the way the bill approaches the question of maximum parenting time. The presumption that would be created by equal parenting causes problems. While in most cases it is certainly advisable that parents both have maximum time, there are certain circumstances, family violence being one, where that would not be at all advisable.

To include the equal parenting time as a cornerstone of the bill would make it more difficult to look at the best interests of the child in each and every unique case, which is why I completely agree with how the bill has framed this.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is not often we get to ask questions twice of the same speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to ask another question.

One of the things that I have heard repeatedly on this topic is that it is easier to get a divorce in Canada than it is to cancel a cellphone contract. I was wondering if the member opposite had any comments on that.

It is interesting that the last question he answered was about children being divided up between the parents. I would say that probably the best-case scenario would be if the parents never got divorced in the first place. I wonder if the member agrees with me on that.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, certainly I am not one to tell a couple whether or not they should get divorced. I think that would be very intrusive.

What I can say is I have tried to cancel a cellphone contract in Canada and I found it to be very difficult. I can assure the member that for all of my friends who unfortunately divorced, their divorces were far more difficult than cancelling a cellphone contract.

I think we would all love for everybody to live in peace and harmony their entire lives, and for everyone to be blissful, but I just do not think that is realistic.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-78. The bill would amend three different acts and modernizes divorce proceedings. There is much in the bill that I am very pleased to see, however, as with any bill, there is room for improvement. I hope that my hon. colleagues across the way will be willing to hear and implement helpful suggestions in the same spirit of co-operation that the bill recommends for divorce proceedings.

Before I go any further, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Edmonton Griesbach.

Much has changed in the legal realm over the past 30 years, including a growing understanding of the impact that our current legal framework for divorce has on children and their parents. That understanding has led courts toward a less adversarial and more co-operative framework for divorce proceedings.

Bill C-78 amends the statute to bring it in line with the prevailing legal thoughts as delineated by our courts. I want to expand on that. Marriage is a societal institution on which our society is built. A key aspect of marriage is the creation of a stable structure in which children can grow and learn. When a marriage dissolves for whatever reason it is important that the welfare of the child be placed in the highest priority. I am pleased to see that Bill C-78 has placed an emphasis on children.

Bill C-78 makes strides toward the recognition of the rights and considerations of children. An example of this change in focus can be found in the adjustments of the language used throughout the process. Bill C-78 does away with the dichotomy of winning custody versus visitation. The current language creates an adversarial situation wherein one parent is defined as the winner of the proceedings, making the other parent the loser of those same proceedings.

Bill C-78 adjusts the focus from a winner-and-loser mentality wherein the child is a prize to be fought for to that of parenting wherein the child is to be protected and cared for. This may seem like an inconsequential change, but the evidence of the past 30 years shows that this is not the case. This is not to say that we can fully understand or predict precisely how these changes will play out in the emotionally fraught experience of a divorce.

Nevertheless, this is a positive step toward the protection of children. While clearly changing terminology is only one step along the path, the change of language denotes an underlying change in the framework of a divorce proceeding.

This is further advanced by the emphasis placed on the use and encouragement of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to avoid costly and damaging litigation. Litigation over children is costly, hurtful and often very damaging for children.

I mentioned before that divorces are emotionally fraught proceedings. Nowhere is this more evidenced than in litigation over children. Often parents, faced with the prospect of losing the adversarial contest delineated in the current statute, resort to litigation.

Rarely is this in the best interests of the child. ln fact, I am sure that many of us can point to examples within our own spheres of friendship and family wherein children have become pawns in the litigation process by parents who unwittingly acted against their own children's best interests.

Furthermore, as a Conservative, I am uncomfortable with the thought of a court deciding the best interests of a child between two opposed parents. While it may at times be necessary, I believe we can all agree that it ought to be a last resort rather than a first option. I believe it is far better if the parents work together to come to an arrangement that properly addresses the concerns, rights and responsibilities of each parent while protecting the rights and considerations of the child or children.

For this reason, I applaud Bill C-78 for the move away from exposing children to litigation and instead directing the proceedings to alternative dispute mechanisms. These mechanisms may include counsellors, mediators, mental health experts and parenting experts.

The dispute resolution mechanisms require parents to work together for the good of their children and head off potential adversity by placing the welfare of the child as the goal rather than winning custody of that child. This results in the parents being in a position of working together rather than on opposing sides. However, I also have a concern that Bill C-78 perhaps does not address this to the degree that it could.

As I mentioned earlier, I appreciate the focus that this act places on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, as they create a co-operative framework rather than an adversarial one. However, I believe it should be clear to everyone that divorces are often, despite best efforts, adversarial and emotionally charged. One or both parents could and often do choose to proceed directly to litigation in order to win. As positive a step as the revised language in the introduction of the dispute mechanism is, it is not enough to address this issue.

I believe the government considered this issue while drafting Bill C-78, as it put in place the requirement for legal professionals to encourage clients to use the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Nevertheless, I would argue that this amounts to slightly more than a “requirement to inform”. While it is sure to make a difference, there will be many cases where one or both parents write off resolution mechanisms immediately without a second thought.

Would my colleagues on the other side consider the possibility of including arbitration as a clearly defined provision within the dispute resolution options? Having this in place would allow the courts to have more leeway in requiring that the divorcing parties go through a resolution process before resorting to litigation. At the least, I would encourage the justice committee to consider this issue to ensure that the processes put in place would indeed be as effective as intended.

Another concern I have is with the lack of a default position wherein both parents share equal parental responsibility. Critics of this bill point to results of research within the social sciences, which suggests equal shared parenting as the best outcome for children in a divorce proceeding. Of course, this may not always be ideal, which is why it would certainly have to be rebuttable. However, as a default position, it would require disproving in order to be changed. Given what we know from the social sciences, I believe that adding an assumption of equal shared parenting is worth serious consideration at the committee stage of this bill and worthy of some discussion.

I would like to pause for a moment here to reiterate that my criticisms of this bill, if my concerns can even be called that, come from a place of goodwill.

As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, and as so many others have stated, this bill is the first major amendment to the Divorce Act in 30 years, and indeed only the second amendment in 50 years. I believe it is very important that we get this right, as it will likely be the divorce framework for many years to come.

There are many other points that I could address about this bill. Unfortunately, I know that I am out of time. Instead, what I will say is that I am pleased to support this bill through to committee, where I hope it is closely reviewed and ardently debated, and where I hope to see my concerns addressed.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I want to add something to the debate and then present a question to the member opposite.

What we know from the statistics is that this bill highlights some of the things that were mentioned by my friend opposite. She highlighted the issue of making court a last resort. One of the reasons why that is important is because court is costly. We know that the entire system is costly. We know that there are defaults on payments and a lot of payments in arrears. There is more than $1 billion worth of payments in arrears. That disproportionately affects women.

What I would ask my friend opposite is this. There are specific measures in this bill that make for an access-to-justice argument about how we can ensure justice for families by ensuring they would not have to go to court. They would no longer have to go to court, as they could pursue an administrative procedure for recalculating an income support payment. Also, there are incentives put in place to ensure that if legal assistance is necessary, those lawyers would need to provide them with ADR alternatives. Are those the types of measures that my friend opposite believes will help address the court backlogs, the court costs and also the costs that are being borne disproportionately by women in the legal system?

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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, as many other colleagues have said already today, I am not a lawyer and I certainly appreciate the work that has been done by the members of the justice committee to date and by the Minister of Justice in presenting the bill. I know that one of the stated intentions of the bill is to help reduce child poverty by providing more tools to establish and enforce child support, so I hope this is a main point of discussion during the committee's debate on the bill.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has pointed out many positive aspects of the legislation, but she has also suggested that she has some concerns, and she briefly mentioned them. I wonder if my colleague would like to return to that part of her speech on those concerns and expand on them.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my remarks, I know there is significant research within the social sciences that suggests that equal shared parenting is the best outcome for children involved in a divorce. I think that we would all agree that parents having equal access to their children would be in their best interest.

However, I also said that I fully recognized that this may not always be in the best interest of the child or children. That was why I suggested it would have to be rebuttable. This is one of the concerns I raised and I raised it to highlight an issue that I feel the justice committee could look at more closely during its deliberations.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Further on that point, Mr. Speaker, it is critical to understand that this legislation would be entrenching specific provisions in law for the first time: a definition of family violence that is expansive, that includes the impact it can have on children even in observing family violence. Insofar as it relates to the position being articulated on the opposite side of the House about an equal parenting provision, it is family violence that is so critical in understanding why a best interest of the child analysis should not have an equal parenting presumption.

In the evidence we have seen, which has informed the development of the bill, what has been resoundingly approved of from members of the bar, stakeholders and parents from coast to coast to coast is that looking at each case in its uniqueness is the critical approach. It can account for family violence in a way that hitherto was not possible. That is why the presumption has changed and moved away from equal parenting.

How does the member opposite reconcile those two? A rebuttal of presumption is not enough. We have to put family violence and the best interest of the children square and frontal in our analysis here. That is what the legislation would do.