Ottawa Citizen
Friday 27 July 2001

Justice minister is in charge of her officials

A. Anne McLellan
The Ottawa Citizen

Re: Civil service has no business creating public policy, July 21.

The letter by Senator Anne Cools and MP Roger Gallaway on child custody and access requires 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 and 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.

Many of the committee's key recommendations called upon the federal government to work together with the provinces and territories toward changing family law in this area. In response, the public consultation process was initiated jointly by federal, provincial and territorial governments to coordinate their law reform efforts so that confusion and uncertainty can be avoided for parents, children and courts.

Given the importance the government of Canada places on the work of the committee, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Gallaway and Ms. Cools suggested that these consultations were not necessary or would not be beneficial.

They have suggested that the role being 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.

Along with the consultation process, all parliamentarians received a copy of the consultation paper and were invited to submit their views. Those who sought additional information beyond what was provided to them were given this by my office.

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 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.

A. Anne McLellan, Ottawa,
Minister of Justice, Attorney General of Canada

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.