Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-218 and I commend my colleague opposite for bringing forth the idea that we need policies to promote healthy families and, hopefully, happy families.
Bill C-218 is not the way to go about saving a marriage. Marriage counselling imposed by law rather than by the conscious decision of a mature couple will not work. It will increase the cost of divorce because it is fair to assume that the government will not allocate counselling resources.
It is also important to think about the cultural implications of counselling which may not fit with the way first nations people deal with their family problems. Also, in remote areas counselling is not available. It is not easy to get any kind of formal counselling in the city of Dawson. It is certainly not available in Old Crow. There are informal support networks, but there would not be counselling available to those people should they be in the process of divorcing.
The other aspect is that nobody takes divorce lightly. They do not approach it on a whim. There have usually been years of struggle before a couple will separate and go through the process of divorcing. Many couples separate and never go through a formal divorce process.
There are many causes behind marriage breakdown. The economic and social policies of governments are major factors. I would certainly agree with my other hon. colleague that financial stresses are incredibly damaging to families. If we want to address that issue we would need to approach it from the aspect of our high unemployment rate and try to make a difference there.
Cuts to the Canadian social safety net and the massive restructuring of our economy have created unemployment and lower living standards. Uncertainty, fear, declining incomes and increasing disparities have been created which affect negatively the well-being and psychological stability of our family unit.
The good thing about this debate is that it recognizes the family unit and the place it has within our economy and our society. It is essential that we recognize the unpaid work of mothers and the unpaid work of fathers. All the men I know who get up at 5 and 6 o'clock in the morning to run hockey and soccer programs are the people who work very hard to keep families strong.
We need a multifaceted approach if we want to protect our children. We have to make sure that maintenance money goes where the child is. Whether that child is with a grandmother, an aunt, a great aunt or someone else in the family, maintenance payments should follow the child. They are for the benefit of the child. Positive parenting programs should be put in place in time to keep families together and to help people deal with the stress of raising children.
I was home for 15 years but it was at a time when our culture changed. Grandmothers, aunts and uncles were not around to help me with raising four children. It was very stressful to do on my own. In my mother's generation a whole neighbourhood of women helped each other to look after their children. That does not exist, which makes parenting very stressful. Full time parents need breaks. We need to recognize that and address it in policies dealing with families.
There would be less marriage breakdowns if the government developed a more balanced policy to economic growth, employment and development. It should not base everything on the concept that the open market will look after families, because it will not. That is not the market's concern. It is the concern of governments and of cultures. We need a fair distribution of wealth, better access to education and training, and better perspectives for the family as a whole.