Globe and Mail

Provinces want funds for divorce services

Justice ministers to use new countrywide consultations to show need for resources

Monday, September 10, 2001
By DANIEL LEBLANC
The Globe and Mail

OTTAWA -- Using the results of new cross-country consultations on divorce issues, the provinces will unite this week to push for increased federal funding of services offered to disintegrating couples.

There is a "thirst" for information among divorcing couples and a general consensus among provinces that better services need to be offered to people in these difficult circumstances, a provincial official said.

"People want to be able to make decisions," said Betty Ann Pottruff of the Saskatchewan government.

Ottawa and the provinces consulted Canadians earlier this year about the need to reform the Divorce Act, which is a federal law, as well as the need to offer better provincial services to couples in need. These would include more public-education programs, better child-counselling services and more mediation resources.

The results of the consultations will be discussed at a meeting of federal and provincial justice ministers starting tomorrow in Nova Scotia. The consultations also looked at whether the Divorce Act should clearly define what is meant by the notion of a child's "best interest," a guiding principle in settling divorce cases.

In addition, the consultations asked respondents about the need to change some of the terminology involved in divorces cases, such as "custody" of and "access" to the children.

A parliamentary committee has recommended using the words "shared parenting" to define the relationship between divorced parents and their children.

People who have seen the report said that, as expected, there are sharp divisions on these issues in the population. Men's groups and women's groups in the country have often clashed during discussions on changes to the divorce rules.

On the issue of services, Ms. Pottruff said many, if not all, of the provinces will stick together.

"There is a lot of commonality about what's needed."

She said the federal and provincial governments currently have a cost-sharing program but the provinces are always looking for more money.

The federal government is expected to be supportive of the general concept of offering better services, but not to make any specific financial commitment.

"It's an area we're interested in," a federal justice official said.

Copyright 2001 Globe Interactive, a division of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.