House of Commons Hansard #374 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was child.

Topics

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today with two petitions.

The first deals with a critical issue for Canada, for our criminal justice system and for social justice. The petitioners call on the government to cease incarceration of those who are imprisoned and dealing with mental health issues, particularly addiction and drug abuse. The petitioners cite the system in Portugal, which has brought victims back into society to be useful members of the society at much lower cost than prisons.

Poverty ReductionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

The second petition, Mr. Speaker, again from residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands, calls on the government and the House of Commons to adopt a national poverty elimination strategy, ensuring a healthy and prosperous society for all.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table five petitions today. The first is in support of Bill S-240, a bill regarding the illicit trafficking of human organs. The bill is currently before the foreign affairs committee. Petitioners ask the government and members of Parliament to support its speedy passage so that we can get it done before the next election.

Trans Mountain PipelinePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in support of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Petitioners recognize the importance of the energy sector and are calling for all members of Parliament to do what they can to see that pipeline constructed.

Canada Summer JobsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is to oppose discrimination on the basis of conscience, which was part of the effort of the government through the Canada summer jobs program. Petitioners note that section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms identifies, among other things, freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of belief as fundamental freedoms. It opposes the government's values test attestation.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fourth petition calls on the government to support the Hindu and Sikh minority in Afghanistan who have faced severe persecution. It calls on the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to use the powers granted him to create a special program to help persecuted minorities be sponsored directly to come to Canada. This is something that has not happened yet, and many people are still calling for it. It asks the Minister of Foreign Affairs to raise the persecution faced by this community with her Afghan counterparts.

Asylum Seekers in ThailandPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fifth petition is about the challenges being faced by the Pakistani Christian community in Thailand. It notes the crackdown against Pakistani asylum seekers who are there and calls on Canada to take up the matter urgently with the Government of Thailand and urge the protection and humane treatment of Pakistani asylum seekers there. Petitioners say these asylum seekers must be provided the opportunity to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR and for resettlement without being arrested, detained or deported.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers also be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has indicated to the chair that she does not wish to proceed with her motion. Therefore, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

David Lametti Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

David Lametti Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

(Motion agreed to)

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

David Lametti

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is with humility that I rise for the first time as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

I want to thank the right hon. Prime Minister for the trust he has placed in me. I also thank the people of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun for their continued support. I would also like to thank the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for their guidance. I also want to thank their teams.

I would also like to salute the work of my predecessor. It was a historic appointment, and it was matched by a historic quantity of substantive legislation. I want to thank her as we move forward.

I would also like to thank the chair and the members of the committee, as well as the witnesses who expressed their support and provided insights and recommendations on Bill C-78. I would also like to acknowledge the recent expression of support for Bill C-78 on the part of the federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety.

Finally, I could not go on without mentioning the constant support of my very able parliamentary secretary, the member for Parkdale—High Park.

The needs of families going through a separation or divorce have changed significantly over the past decades. Federal family laws are now outdated and do not meet their needs. That is why we are proud to present the first major changes to these laws in more than 20 years.

The bill will modernize federal family laws and improve the family justice system, in particular by encouraging the use of alternative dispute resolution methods, and ensuring that the best interests of the child are at the heart of any decisions affecting them.

The best interests of the child is a fundamental principle in family law that must be reinforced to ensure that the support and the protection of our children are always paramount. Bill C-78 entrenches in law the best interests of the child as the only consideration when making decisions about parenting arrangements.

Along these lines, the bill introduces a primary consideration, according to which a child's physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being will be considered above all else. Courts will have to weigh each best interest criterion in light of this primary consideration.

Proposed changes also recognize the importance of a child's voice in family justice proceedings. Bill C-78 puts forward concrete measures to promote the best interests of the child in situations in which children are most vulnerable. The bill introduces criteria to determine the best interests of the child, as well as important considerations and exceptions when there has been family violence.

With thanks to witnesses heard by the committee, the bill has been amended so that in some cases of family violence, applications to modify a parenting arrangement or to relocate can be made without notice to other parties, which will provide further protection to children and families fleeing these situations.

A number of witnesses addressed the issue of a presumption of equal shared parenting under the Divorce Act. While some witnesses were in favour of a presumption, most were strongly opposed to it. Creating such a presumption would have gone against our commitment to ensure that each child's best interests would always be put first. Given that each child and each family's circumstances are unique, courts need flexibility to tailor parenting orders to the needs of each particular child.

We recognize, however, the important role that both parents can play in a child's life. Bill C-78 reflects social science evidence that it is generally important for children to have a relationship with both parents after divorce. Thus, the bill requires courts to apply the “maximum parenting time” principle that a child should have as much time with each parent as is consistent with the child's best interests.

Witnesses raised concerns that this principle may create a misunderstanding that equal time with each parent should be the starting point when establishing a parenting order. To address these concerns, the bill was amended to further clarify that this principle is always subject to the best interests of the child.

Another important aspect that has been the subject of considerable discussion over the past few years is recognition of linguistic rights in the Divorce Act.

After hearing from witnesses on the matter, including the Fédération des associations de juristes d’expression française de common law and the Canadian Bar Association, we amended the bill to allow parties to use either official language in any proceedings under the Divorce Act.

Parties will have exactly the same linguistic rights as those provided for under Part XVII of the Criminal Code in criminal matters. In other words, anyone can testify and submit evidence in the official language of their choice. Parties will also be able to be heard by a judge who speaks their language and can obtain any ruling or order in the official language of their choice.

This important change will improve access to the family justice system and help enhance the vitality of official language minority communities.

I want to thank my caucus colleagues for their important work on this matter, especially the hon. member for Mount Royal and the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Our government has been growing the middle class and helping those working hard to join it. Bill C-78 furthers this work by making important contributions to help address child poverty.

Family breakdown often places significant financial strain on families. For some families, divorce may lead to poverty. Lone-parent families, most often led by women, are at a particularly high risk of experiencing financial hardship. This bill will improve federal support enforcement tools, such as the release of income information, to ensure that fair and accurate support amounts can be calculated.

Bill C-78 sets out obligations for parents who divorce in order to protect the children, promote their best interests and foster the amicable settlement of family disputes.

Parents will now be required to exercise their decision-making responsibilities in a manner that is compatible with the interests of the child and will protect children from conflict. These obligations should already have been accepted by divorced parents. However, making this an explicit rule will remind parties of their obligations under the Divorce Act.

To foster Canadians' access to justice, the Department of Justice will prepare various documents to inform the public of the changes proposed by the bill and guide families through the divorce process.

This leads me to mention another important objective, that is, making the family justice system more accessible and efficient.

In closing, Bill C-78 shows our commitment to enhancing the family justice system. This bill seeks to protect families, especially the children, from the adverse effects that can be caused by a divorce by focusing on dispute resolution and the interests of the child.

Once again, I would like to thank all those who contributed to the committee process.

I encourage my colleagues on all sides of the House to join me in supporting this very progressive bill.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I first want to congratulate the hon. minister on his recent appointment. As the vice-chair of the justice committee and justice critic for the official opposition, I look forward to working constructively with the minister.

I think there is a fair bit of consensus on many aspects of this bill. I have a question for the minister on the issue of relocation, in particular, the notice provisions.

Right now under the bill, a parent seeking to relocate must provide 60 days' notice. The non-relocating parent would only have 30 days to respond. That is problematic for people in remote and northern communities. It is also problematic perhaps for those who are vulnerable, who may not be familiar with the legal process or who might not be able to afford retaining a lawyer. Finally, it is inconsistent with an objective of this legislation, which is to remove matters out of the court process to the greatest extent possible. In the case of relocation, the only option a non-relocating parent would have would be to file an application in court.

I was wondering if the minister could address those concerns.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

David Lametti

Mr. Speaker, I would first thank the hon. member for his complimentary comments. I share the same sentiment with respect to being willing to work with him and other members of the committee, as well as members on all sides of the House.

In the bill, we tried to balance the needs of the best interests of the child and the ability of parents to move where it is necessary. We also tried to balance the ability of the parent who is not moving to remain in contact with the child. We want to ensure there is a fair ability, as well as an efficient and smooth process, for all sides to have their opinions heard as a result of the potential relocation.

We are trying to achieve a certain number of balances in the bill. We think we have it. We know, when this was discussed at committee, members shared different opinions. However, we think we have the right balance.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate our new Minister of Justice.

When his predecessor presented the bill to our committee, she told us it would reduce child poverty. However, during the committee study, one question remained unanswered, namely, what happens if a parent cannot afford to pay child support? In particular, I am thinking of the representatives of the Barreau du Québec, who told us about the enforcement problems Quebec is having.

In his speech, the minister touched on how this bill can address poverty. What does he think we could do in situations where a parent cannot meet their child support obligations?

As reported this week, nearly half of Canadians are $200 away from not being able to pay their bills. Many Canadians cannot afford child support.

What can we do for families left in dire financial straits after a divorce?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

David Lametti

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her comments.

We did what we could with this bill. It is not always easy to determine the income of one of the parties and to ensure that the other parent pays child support. That is why we put in place what we believe to be the best system possible for ensuring that such transfers are efficient and transparent.

Obviously, we cannot do everything in one divorce bill; we will need to legislate in other areas to improve the lot of Canadians living in poverty. For example, we instituted the Canada child benefit, which helps children in such situations.

We are always willing to consider other ways of combatting poverty.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak today and to also add my congratulations to the Minister of Justice. I want to underscore and emphasize my thanks, as well, to the prodigious work of his predecessor, with whom I worked on so many bills in her time as minister of justice.

My question is very specific. Like a number of the commentators, I think it is universally accepted that this is important reform in the area of family law. As noted by Elba Bendo, the director of law reform at West Coast LEAF, which is a women's feminist legal organization, while the bill would make significant improvements, training is required for those throughout the justice system who work with issues particularly related to the gender imbalance for women who may fear violence in the family context as they go through this process, because if the courts get it wrong, if the family law workers get it wrong, the consequences of getting it wrong can be fatal.

I wonder if additional funding is being contemplated. A lot of this is provincial, but in the federal context, is more training being considered in how to assess cases where family violence may be at play?