Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to speak to Bill C-78. I am not approaching this as a lawyer, as many of the others have done today. I am approaching this as a woman who has been divorced as well as a woman who has worked in a constituency office, dealing with people who have come from divorce and with different government departments.
I am going to begin with some of my experiences as a constituency assistant and how the Canada child benefit divvies out the money. The Canada Revenue Agency, under the leadership of the Conservative government, did an excellent job when it came to shared custody and shared parenting. That has become a nuance for many new families. If I was asked 20 years ago, when I look at that, shared parenting was not really an option. Now many families are looking at this. When the Canada Revenue Agency gave people the opportunity to divide their benefits, it became very beneficial for many of those families.
The only question I will have for the government with respect to this, what does 40% mean? A lot of times when we look at those numbers, it can be very difficult. We have to recognize that when someone has custody of his or her child, is that child in school? Is that parent picking the child up from school? Is the child sleeping in that parent's home? So many factors have to be looked at. I want to ensure that when we talk about the 40% for parenting, that it is looked at with a microscope.
As a person who has had a divorce, I understands what it is like to raise children who have come from that situation. It has been very difficult. If we talk about child support, I am pleased to see in the bill that child support does not have to go in front of a judge or to a court and that it can be done at an administrative level. For many families, this is a huge barrier, whether it is having to pay the legal fees or having to go through the entire process. Making it easier for families is very important.
We have to understand that there are barriers to that as well. My colleagues have raised question on how we addressed some of those, such as when people are being paid under the table. Many parents, both fathers and mothers, across the country do not pay their child support. They and are trying to rip off their children. At the end of the day, the children are the ones who are most affected. Anything we can do to ensure we always put the best interests of our children forward is very important.
Let us talk about the psychology and the emotional issues that occur around a divorce. I fully support what is in the bill on child welfare. Children have to come first during a divorce. When I look at myself, I think of divorce as 20-20 hindsight. If I could have done things differently, I would have. However, at that time, the emotions, the anger, wanting revenge, all of those horrible things people feel during separation and divorce occur. We have to recognize that it is such an emotional issue. I apologize to all of the lawyers in the room, but sometimes it gets worse when people go to lawyers and they put themselves $20,000 behind the eight ball because of it.
Brian Galbraith, a lawyer in Barrie, wrote this on his website:
Depression can often follow separation and divorce. According to the National Population Health Survey, the two-year period after a divorce has high rate of serious psychological problems for the couple. This is not a surprising effect given the anxieties about children and the drastic life and income changes people experience during this time.
In an issue of Psychology Today, it states:
Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before....The dependent child's short term reaction to divorce can be an anxious one.
The government talks about child welfare, mediation and about the opportunities to have a lawyer assist children. If we to look at this, we have to ensure we have those resources for them.
When I went through my divorce 18 years ago, the opportunities for low-income women, as I was at that time, were not available. An appointment for my son to sit down and talk about it was not available to him. It took eight months.