Liberal Party of Canada
81 Metcalfe Street, Suite 400
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6M8
November 16, 2000
Fathers Are Capable Too
205-3044 Bloor Street West
Dear Mr. :
Enclosed, please find the Liberal Party’s response to your questionnaire. In addition to the response to your questionnaire, you might also wish to consult the Liberal Party of Canada web site at http://liberal.ca to review our platform, Opportunity For All: The Liberal Plan For the Future of Canada. This document provides details on Liberal goals and priorities — objectives which reflect the values and needs of Canadians at the beginning of a promising new century.
On behalf of our leader, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, thank you for writing to identify the major concerns of your membership. Your interest in the policies of the Liberal Party as they relate to these issues is appreciated.
Liberal Party of Canada
A Liberal Response to
Fathers are Capable Too
Reply to Election 2000 Survey
Children have been a priority for the Liberal government since taking office in 1993, and a new Liberal government will be committed to focusing on the best interests of children in circumstances of separation and divorce, particularly with regard to child support and custody and access.
The Liberal government has been working with provinces and territories to create a seamless family law system in Canada including a child-centred strategy for custody and access reform, the Child Support Initiative and unified family courts.
In May 1999, the government tabled its response to the report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access. The government’s response set out a strategy for reforming custody and access laws under the federal Divorce Act, including;
- Shift focus of the family law system away from parental rights to parental responsibilities;
- Replace terms like “custody” and “access” with new, clearly defined language that promotes the best Interest of children and meaningful family relationships for children after divorce;
- Develop a flexible approach to custody and access issues that is less adversarial and more effective in responding to the needs of children and families; and;
- Develop a specific framework for managing disputes between parents that recognizes and responds to different levels of conflict.
Family law is an area of shared constitutional jurisdiction. While the federal government is responsible for cases of divorce, the provinces are responsible for, the determination of custody and access in situations where the parents are separated or were never married. Given the complexity of the issues and the need for consistency in federal, provincial and territorial laws, it is important to take the time to do it right. That is why the Liberal government have set an outside time frame of May 2002 to complete work on custody arid access reform. Consultations on options for reforms will be carried out shortly
For many parents, court-based and community services provided by the provinces are the most important to help them in solving issues. The federal government helps to fund these services and is working with the provinces and territories to ensure these essential services are in place when parents and children need them.
In the 2000 Budget, the Liberal government allocated $29 million to extend for two years the financial assistance it provides to the provinces and territories for child-centred, family-law related initiatives and innovative court-based support programs.
Measures to reform the family law system will also enable the government to build on recent, successful collaborative efforts, most notably, the Child Support Initiative and unified family courts.
The Child Support Initiative, first announced in the 1996 federal budget, was designed to benefit children by helping parents, lawyers and judges establish fair, predictable and consistent child support amounts, and to assist the provinces and territories in the enforcement of child support orders. This initiative has succeeded in large part because of the collaboration between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Since the Federal Child Support Guidelines came into effect on May 1, 1997, eleven jurisdictions have either introduced their own guidelines or adopted or slightly modified the federal guidelines for application in provincial-territorial family law matters. The 081 demonstrates the benefits of joint planning and co-operation among governments, a set out in the Social Union Framework Agreement.
More recently, the Government of Canada provided additional funding for unified family courts. These courts are an innovative way of structuring judicial and related services that allows the Government of Canada to partner with the provinces and territories on behalf of families.
On the issue of false allegations of domestic violence, any unwarranted allegation of abuse must be strongly condemned Making a false statement under oath or by affidavit is perjury, already an indictable offence under the Criminal Code. Other Code provisions deal with public mischief and obstruction of justice. But that does not mean there is no room for improvement As recommended by the Special Joint Committee, the government is examining these provisions to see whether they are adequate to deal with the issue of false allegations.
That said, while it is important to prevent false allegations, a Liberal government does not intend to restrict or limit the reporting of legitimate concerns about a child’s safety. Unfortunately, physical and sexual abuse of children does occur and it is critical that those with legitimate concerns about a child’s safety be able to speak up without fear or needless restrictions.