In this and future editions of It’s Time For Justice to be published during 2013, 2014, and 2015, I will put forward my own ideas and I will ask for ideas from people inside and outside the legal world. With respect, I urge politicians and journalists to adopt two roles here, even though we do not normally think of politicians and journalists as being “family law stakeholders.” Politicians and journalists who want to make Canada a better place in which to live are key to successfully improving access.
First are ideas. Part of the job of politicians is to think of improvements in how Canada is governed. I’m nudging you towards thinking of better family law governance. Everyone in Canada is affected directly or indirectly by family law. Part of the job of journalists is to also think up ways that life in Canada can be improved. Good journalists go interview people and do their own analyses, and run stories that lead to positive change. The news pages, the feature pages, and the comment pages, whether print, broadcast or web pages, are all involved.
Second, Canada needs these ideas translated into new or revamped laws. For a lot of my ideas from It’s Time For Justice to come into play, laws must be changed, and that’s where politicians come in.
I urge politicians to come into this discussion not as “whipped members” with a yea or nay as ordered by a party leader and forced by a party whip. Instead, please act as the elected representative, federal or provincial, of the men and women, and the children, of your ridings and of the entire country. Just because 9-year-olds can’t vote doesn’t mean the local MP, MPP or MLA does not represent them when laws about their parents’ split and their futures are being improved, or stalled.
Federal and provincial members are all involved. The Divorce Act is federal, but it applies only to married couples. Division of property for married couples, however, is governed by provincial law. If you did not get married and are counted as common law, then child custody, child access, child support and spousal support are all provincial. Earlier this year, British Columbia made major changes in its laws affecting common law couples, to very mixed public reaction. The law is often not popular, and can be very complicated.
Decades ago, the federal parliament was full of lawyers, and it would be safe to assume there was a high overall level of understanding of the legal system, including family law. Today, the number of lawyers has dropped to 43 out of 308 MPs, meaning 85% of federal MPs are not lawyers. Many of the 85% will need help understanding legal issues and the benefits of changes. And they won’t spot the unanticipated consequences arising from a lack of legal care and precision.
It’s Time For Justice is written to build understanding among individual politicians. I work hard at explaining family law issues to Canadians, via interviews with print, radio, television, and internet journalists. I write my own print and video blogs, as do many of the firm’s other lawyers, and post them at www.separation.ca. I write for the Huffington Post’s Divorce section, and for legal industry professional magazines. This project has its own web site, at www.itstimeforjustice.ca.
I’ve learned Canada has some journalists who understand legal issues very well. Some journalists are also lawyers. But many Canadian journalists, just like many politicians and probably most Canadians, do not have an accurate view of family law in our country. Often, they think family law in Canada is more similar to US laws than it actually is.
Our federal Divorce Act covers all of Canada; Americans have state-by-state laws. But division of family property in Canada is provincial. We don’t have alimony and community property, but we do have same-sex marriage and divorce. And we have no-fault divorce, so adultery only rarely becomes a factor in a Canadian divorce.