July 20, 2001
The Minister is in chargeLetter to the Editor from A. Anne McLellan
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Ottawa
This is in response to the letter by Senator Cools and Roger Gallaway, MP (July 16), and your July 19 editorial (Who's In Charge?). Comments on recent consultations on child custody and access require clarification.
The Government of Canada recognizes the important contribution of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access in advancing a national dialogue on the issue of divorce, custody and access. In fact, the release of the December, 1998, committee report, For the Sake of the Children, provided the federal government with many of the policy options that were considered in the recent public consultations.
As the committee itself recognized, issues surrounding divorce, custody and access fall within overlapping constitutional jurisdiction. The public consultation process was initiated jointly by federal, provincial and territorial governments to co-ordinate their law reform efforts so that confusion and uncertainty can be avoided for parents, children and courts.
Given the importance the government places on the work of the committee, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Gallaway and Senator Cools suggest that these federal-provincial-territorial consultations were not necessary or would not be beneficial.
Senator Cools and Mr. Gallaway have suggested that the role played by Department of Justice officials in conducting these consultations is inappropriately political. I would like to make it clear that these officials are acting under my direction and are supporting me in carrying out my mandate to reform family law. This is an appropriate and essential role for officials.
The views expressed in custody and access consultations will be reflected in a summary report that will be prepared by an independent firm hired to facilitate these sessions and will be made public. On or before May 1, 2002, I will table a report in Parliament on family law reform and a review of the Federal Child Support Guidelines.
Changes to the law in this area will be brought before Parliament in the form of legislation, which will be debated and voted on in the House of Commons and Senate and studied by House and Senate committees. As is the case with every bill, Members of Parliament and Senators will have the opportunity to scrutinize the legislation, call witnesses and make recommendations. Consideration of every bill placed before Parliament is done in public.
As Minister of Justice, I am committed to promoting positive outcomes for children and their families following a separation or divorce. This is also the commitment reflected in the shared efforts of federal, provincial and territorial governments working together to ensure that the well-being of children comes first. Our common goal is to create an effective family law system across Canada that will promote a child-centered approach by focusing on children's needs and best interests.
A. Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Ottawa.
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