House of Commons Hansard #379 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was kingshants.

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Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

David Lametti

Madam Speaker, I once again thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I want to point out that members have had ample time to debate this bill in the House of Commons at first and second reading, and a lot of work was done in committee. Members had ample opportunity to participate in this process, either here in the House or in committee. They had ample time to consult their constituents and to read experts' opinions on the subject.

They had the opportunity to participate in debates and in the development of the bill. We are at a point where we need to move forward.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I find it interesting, just entering into the conversation now, that the hon. minister stands up and talks about how there has been ample time to consult our constituents.

With that, I would like to bring up a constituent, somebody for whom I have been tirelessly advocating. She is Shelley Beyak, whose children, Liam and Mia Tarabichi, were kidnapped by their father, Shelley's ex-husband. The Prime Minister refuses to intervene in this case.

How does the hon. minister, who is new on this file, rationalize the comments today about speeding up a piece of legislation when he and his Prime Minister are failing to act to bring home Liam and Mia Tarabichi, a situation this bill actually touches on? As well, another piece of legislation, Bill C-75, actually lessens the charge for abduction of children under 14 and would again fall to this situation.

How does the minister rationalize his actions on this file while levying time allocation on this important piece of legislation?

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

David Lametti

Madam Speaker, one of the very important elements of this bill is to provide help to families in situations of family violence, and particularly to help protect the children and help the spouse or married partner who is perhaps the victim of that family violence.

There are important measures contained in this bill to help move that situation forward progressively and protectively. That is of primordial interest, and one of the reasons this bill is of such importance.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the minister. He just said that members have had ample time to discuss and debate this bill. That is all well and good.

It may be enough for a former university law professor, but mere mortals need time to come to grips with the content of what many people would consider to be a complex and complicated bill.

That being the case, how can he claim that we have had “ample time”? Those were his exact words. How can he say that?

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

David Lametti

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I said that because we have had nearly eight hours of debate in the House, on top of the work done in committee and the speeches made before the committee. During this process, MPs have had a chance to consult their constituents. The government feels we have had enough time to understand the details of the bill.

As I just mentioned, there is a consensus on the bill. That became clear during the debates in the House. We agree about moving forward.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the minister a substantive question on the bill itself.

One of the things the bill does is codify the factors relating to the best interests of the child, factors that the courts have regularly recognized over the last number of years. However, one factor that is missing is the recognition of the benefit to children of shared parenting. That is not say that shared parenting is desirable in all circumstances—it clearly is not—but more often than not, it is.

At committee there were a number of witnesses who brought forward compelling evidence to demonstrate that this in fact is the case. Moreover, when Parliament last comprehensively reviewed the issue of custody and access, as it did through the special joint committee of 1998, codifying the factors was one of the recommendations. This the government has done, but it was recommended to include in those factors the benefit of a shared parenting relationship.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

David Lametti

Madam Speaker, indeed the bill places the best interests of the child first, and one of the criteria is maximal contact time with each parent. This was felt to be a better criterion than an equal parenting presumption, which has been tried and has failed in a number of other jurisdictions. The best evidence from experts was that we have chosen the better way to go forward.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, Agriculture and Agri-Food; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Veterans Affairs; the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable, Intergovernmental Affairs.

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Bill C-78—Time Allocation MotionDivorce ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

Before the Clerk announced the results of the vote:

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Independent

Darshan Singh Kang Independent Calgary Skyview, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would have voted in favour, but I was overlooked. I will vote yes.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member and the omission has been corrected.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Independent

Raj Grewal Independent Brampton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for consent to change my vote to yes.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Brampton East has asked for unanimous consent to change his vote to yes. Is there consent?

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #989

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion adopted.

I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, Government Orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

Third ReadingDivorce ActGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.

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

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Mount Royal.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-78. I will use most of my time to address the important amendments the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights have made to this important bill. I was proud to work with the committee to bring forward these changes, which reflect witness testimony and would significantly improve access to the Canadian family justice system.

Changes to federal family laws are long overdue. The changes we are bringing forward are substantial. They would better address the challenging issues that families may face, such as family violence and disputes over relocation. They would improve access to the Canadian family justice system. Bill C-78 already went a long way toward achieving these goals and the work of the justice committee took the bill even further.

I am fortunate to represent a riding like Parkdale—High Park in this chamber, where the constituents are informed and engaged, and I am privileged to bring their concerns to this chamber every day. My constituents in Parkdale—High Park have spoken to me repeatedly about the importance of reconciling the need for a strong and fair justice system with their desire to be compassionate and understanding toward the plight of single parents and vulnerable children. This bill is precisely that middle ground.

I want to thank the many witnesses who submitted briefs or shared their thoughts on this bill in person. The committee listened closely to all the different points of view raised by members of the public and family justice system professionals in response to Bill C-78.

Committee members gathered important information from over 50 witnesses. The committee also received over 50 briefs representing a broad range of opinions and points of view. It reviewed the recommendations carefully, and many of them resulted in amendments to Bill C-78.

Relocation, particularly moving with a child after separation or divorce, is one of the most highly litigated areas of family law. There is next to no guidance on this issue in the current Divorce Act.

Bill C-78 would introduce a relocation framework to ensure that children come first and to encourage out-of-court dispute resolution. Some witnesses brought forward suggestions to improve access to justice in relocation, which is particularly relevant for northern remote communities and unrepresented litigants.

The Canadian Bar Association and the Family Law Association of Nunavut wisely recommended the use of a simplified form rather than court applications to facilitate access to justice and reduce the need to get the courts involved.

The committee addressed this concern and developed an innovative solution promoting conflict resolution and access to justice. Specifically, it passed an amendment to give non-relocating parents the option of indicating their opposition to a proposed relocation through a form set out in the regulations. This will save the responding parent time and money.

The committee also amended the bill to require that parties seeking to relocate use a form to provide notice. Requiring that notice be provided through a form will promote clarity by prompting parents to provide all necessary information in a consistent manner.

We anticipate that these measures will relieve the administrative burden on the non-relocating parent, while still helping to ensure that courts only hear cases in which there is a genuine disagreement between the parties.

I believe that all members of the House support efforts in the bill to improve protections for children and families who have experienced family violence. For the very first time in federal law, Bill C-78 includes a broad, evidence-based definition of family violence and guidance for courts making parenting orders in the context of family violence.

Bill C-78 also stipulates that courts will be required to take family violence into account when determining the shared parenting arrangement that will be in the best interest of the child.

Witnesses raised concerns that, when people fleeing violence want to relocate, it can be dangerous for them to inform the other parties of their intention to apply for an exemption concerning the notice requirements.

In response to this particular concern, Bill C-78 was amended to explicitly provide that parties may apply to a court to waive or change relocation notice requirements without notice to other parties. Courts could then decide whether or how other parties should receive notice, without risking the safety of family members. People who have experienced family violence and face ongoing risk must be able to relocate without compromising their safety. However, notice is a fundamental principle of the legal system, so courts will exercise this power only where necessary.

Now I want to turn to the important issue of poverty reduction. I said I would focus this speech on the work of the justice committee, but I must take a minute to raise another issue of importance to me and I believe to many Canadians. That is the feminization of poverty and how the bill would help address it.

Children and families going through a separation or divorce are more vulnerable to poverty, especially those living in single-parent families, which are often led by mothers.

Unfortunately, although parents are required to provide accurate and up-to-date information on their income when the child support amounts are established, many parents do not comply. In 96% of cases where child support payments are in arrears, women are the ones owed money.

Obtaining fair child support amounts is key to reducing the risk of child poverty. Children do better when a fair and accurate amount of support is set and paid for them promptly after separation or divorce.

Bill C-78 would provide for various measures to ensure that child support obligations are met, which would address the pressing need of eliminating poverty in families going through a separation or divorce. The bill would allow for information on a parent's income to be shared with the court and provincial services.

With respect to official languages, the family justice system must adapt to the changing needs of Canadian families. This includes the needs of Canadians living outside Quebec whose first language is French, as well as those living in Quebec who have English as their first official language.

Consequently, the committee adopted an important amendment. Bill C-78 will now explicitly recognize litigants' right to use the official language of their choice in divorce proceedings before the lower courts. The parties will be able to give evidence, make submissions and apply for an order in the language of their choice. They can also be heard by a judge who speaks their official language.

This important change in the family justice system will provide the parties with the same language guarantees currently provided by the criminal justice system. This will help English-language and French-language minority communities flourish in Canada. It is very important to point this out, in light of the current Ontario government's threats against its francophone community.

I would like to recognize the tireless efforts of my colleagues, specifically the member for Mount Royal and the member for Ottawa—Vanier, to ensure that this becomes a reality.

In conclusion, I would like to once again recognize the work of the entire Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and of course the invaluable contributions of family law experts and stakeholders from across Canada. They have made an impressive bill even stronger and more responsive to the needs of all Canadian families.

The residents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park have said that one of the many ways to modernize the justice system in Canada is by addressing the shortfalls of our family justice system, and this bill is a comprehensive step toward realizing that important goal.

Third ReadingDivorce ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question of the parliamentary secretary respecting the issue of relocation. He represents a riding in the centre of Toronto and I represent a riding in suburban Edmonton. We represent ridings where lawyers are readily accessible, but that is not the case in northern and remote communities.

There was a concern raised at committee about the 60-day notice period to notify the non-relocating parent of the relocation with a 30-day response time. It was noted that in many parts of Canada this time period would be very difficult, if not impossible. I was wondering if the parliamentary secretary could comment on that, and explain why the government rejected a Conservative amendment to increase the notice period from 60 days to 90 days with a 60-day response time.