A Degraded Justice: Ontario’s Bill 117 A License to Perjury Submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Social Policy
circumstances without even notifying him or allowing him to be present? In the guise of protection from domestic violence, the Alberta court routinely issues orders without notice which can change custody, access, property and maintenance provisions of all previous orders made by the court. These ex parte orders are available to women only. Are we ready to believe that this complete usurpation of human rights and due process can cause some people to snap into unpredictable insanity?
No one condones such horrors, for they traumatize the entire community and cause personal damage that few people ever fully recover from. I can’t help wondering, however, if Lisa Anderson would have been alive today had the court made its decisions in an honest way, giving both parties an opportunity to make their cases and defend themselves. Instead, they slithered behind the back of a person who had a long history of legal conduct before the court for many years. We will never know if a calm recognition of the rights of both parties would have prevented this horror show, but I am convinced that the ex parte order summarily eliminating Mrs. Anderson’s legal duty to pay Mr. Anderson $800 in child support contributed to her death. No man has ever succeeded in eliminating such a duty without due process to a mother. What a sick irony to think that “protection” policies themselves may be contributing to the environment needed for these painful divorce explosions to happen in the first place.
While the gender neutral language of Bill 117 is laudable, and at least considers the possibility that men can sometimes be victims of violence, I respectfully suggest that Bill 117 Orders will be rarely issued to men. Bill 117 also contemplates the elimination of outstanding custody and access orders, as well as property rights, by paragraph 10(1), which grants power to judges to “vary, amend or rescind any of those orders” under the Act under which it is made…”. Such Ontario Acts include and are named in Bill 117 as The Children’s Law Reform Act and The Family Law Reform Act. In Paragraph 10(2), judges are given power under Bill 117 to vary, amend or rescind court orders made under The Divorce Act.
What Ontario is contemplating here, is creating a fast and easy process by which a woman can obtain all custody, access and property arising from a relationship, simply by saying that she is an abuse victim, even where no corroborating evidence substantiates her claim. Does this Committee really believe that provisions like these will not ever be abused by some women? No time limits are contemplated by these two paragraphs, nor are there any returnable dates built in. Following the confirmation hearings as prescribed in paragraph 5(2) or (6), which must take place within 30 days of service, a judge will be empowered to make these custody, access and property orders without further assessment of the allegations being made.
We are all aware that, where allegations are made in the context of divorce, a costly and lengthy process of assessment, as frequently provided by third party experts, is usually required to determine credibility of the parties and determine the best interests of children. Bill 117, however, proposes to make these decisions within 30 to 40 days, which does not leave time for any kind of assessment. It is also the case that Orders made under proposed Bill 117 may only be appealed to the Divisional Court, usurping the family courts of Ontario. These decisions are usually made after several months of investigation, yet Bill 117 by- passes all in its rush to judgement. I recommend that emergency orders under Bill 117 be reviewable by any family court of jurisdiction, as it is frequently the case that assessments