Oh Canada, this wasn’t the post I wanted to write.
I had planned to write to write a ‘Hooray Canada’ post for Bill C-78. Bill C-78 deals with a number of areas of the Federal Divorce Act, Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act. Bill C-78 received Royal Assent in June 2019 and was to come into effect July 1, 2020.
It’s been delayed due to COVID-19. Parts of it will come in to effect in March 2021. Parts of it won’t come in to effect until 2-3 years from now.
I care about Bill C-78 because half of the planning work that I do is with families who are separating. It’s a difficult, confusing, hurtful time, financially and emotionally. There has been damage, and there will be damage as people work towards agreements. When families don’t have supportive advice, or a system that protects, additional damage is done. Damage that didn’t need to happen and shouldn’t have come from a system of professionals and governments.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) website states 4 key objectives for Bill C-78:
promote the best interests of the child
address family violence
help to reduce child poverty
make Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient
Canada is not a party to either the 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children or the 2007 Hague Child Support Convention because of our existing Divorce Act and associated legislations. Bill C-78 would have moved us closer; we still need at least one province or territory to change their laws to move us into a position of internationally acceptable protection. Canada’s exclusion from the Conventions make it more difficult for parents to resolve some issues when one parent lives in another country.
Other countries coming out of lockdown have seen a spike in separation rates. Increases in domestic violence. We’ve already seen economic damage. Some of that damage will continue to grow into economic devastation. We have an increased need, and an out-dated, damaging system.
DOJ says we can’t move on the legislation in the midst of uncertainty. What if we turned that around? What if we said that the uncertainty makes Bill C-78 more important?
What if we said we are grateful that we had 184 working days out of an expected 259 to plan for the changes and were committed to following through, even if circumstances are difficult?
What if we said that we need to build trust in our systems? Systems that have done so much damage to so many people, and the way to do that was to follow through with the right decision? The family court system isn’t as good as it could be. Canada’s inability to sign the Hague Conventions above told us that. Bill C-78 was a start of turning towards protection and support.
What if we said that families are an important social unit and our systems need to provide protection and support while a family falls apart and re-forms into something new? Any time there is rapid change there is also risk. What if we said we don’t believe our systems should add risk, they should decrease risk and protect.
What if we said that violence within families hurts all of the members- the target client, the aggressor and the child witnesses? What if we said that our courts won’t ignore violence and the effects of violence when making decisions?
What if we believed that systems were a reflection of us? That they aren’t separate, and we can’t abdicate responsibility for process or outcome.
Since you’ve read this far, could you do one more thing?
If you work anywhere in the family law system, could you advise and counsel based on the legislation that’s coming, not on precedent?
Could you contact your MP and MPP (we need at least one province to change legislation too) and tell them that Bill C-78 is going to help us move forward into a better country?
Could you remind your friends and family whose relationships may be falling apart that there are many ways to get out of a tough situation, and encourage them to use ways that reinforce their best traits, not their worst ones?
We’ve pushed off reforming Family Law in Canada for a long time. We agreed to changes in June 2019. The need for change is now greater. I’m not asking for large, radical change. We could just do what was agreed on June 21, 2019. Small change matters.