October 3, 1996

REF

Charlie Penson

Reform

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I listened to the minister with interest, especially in her response to the comments to the member for Calgary Centre.

What I heard the minister say was that the non-custodial parent had a duty to make payments but that the payments were not put in the hands of the custodial parent but in the hands of the children. That simply is not true. The custodial parent administers the payments that are made to those children.

The minister also said earlier in her speech that the non-custodial parent has a duty to make sure there was an enforcement of child support payments. I agree with that, but I would like to ask if she thinks there is also a duty, on behalf of the custodial parent, to spend that money on the children. We all know of cases where the money is not necessarily spent on those children. Is there not a duty for the custodial parent as well?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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LIB

Hedy Fry

Liberal

Ms. Fry

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question. Maybe I did not make my point clearly enough. I did not say that the money for child support was not money put in the hands of the non-custodial parent. It was not directed to the custodial parent. It was directed to the child. Of course if the child is a minor then the custodial parent has a duty to use the money in the best interest of the child. This is different from spousal support which is not what we are talking about here. Spousal support is income in the hands of the custodial spouse and is tax deductible and should be. We are talking about two very different things here.

The hon. member asks whether it is the duty of the custodial parent to take the money for child support and spent it on the child. Yes, it is the duty.

Whatever stories or anecdotes we hear from the hon. member opposite to try to support his position that most custodial parents take that money and fritter it away on something for themselves is absolute nonsense. Most children of divorced parents are living a very low income status. The custodial parents are trying very hard to use that money in the best interest of the child. Often these children are not clothed or fed properly because the money is given back in taxes to the government. We are saying that is no longer

appropriate. Money should go directly to the child and not to the Government of Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues to debate Bill C-41. One of my hon. friends said that it is a mistake that this legislation is before us. We just had a long speech from the Minister of State for the Status of Women and not once did I hear her say she cared for and supported families, that she wanted to nurture families, that families were the fundamental building blocks of our society and that if we were to focus on nurturing, supporting, protecting and building the families, a lot of the problems we have would not occur.

Instead, we find that the government wants to probe, analyse, tax, regulate and push around families, as if they are something like a vehicle that everybody jumps into and they can just control the vehicle.

The point is that the government has it wrong. This whole concept that families can be probed, analysed, regulated and taxed and the money can be passed through the government's pocket, that they take from one and give to another and pay the bureaucrats in between. Surely we should be talking about protecting, nurturing, building and strengthening families. We should ensure that families play the real role in our society. No one can raise kids better than families. That is why the bill is a mistake.

The Minister of State for the Status of Women talked about how important it is that we are going to regulate the system, how important it is that we are going to collect all this taxation, how important it is that we are going to have a new program and how important it is that we are going to give the money back to the kids. The government has missed the point. Where is the support?

We have known for years that the Income Tax Act penalizes families. We know that the Income Tax Act has given a greater benefit to families that break up rather than to the families which stay together. That is a terrible indictment for a government which is in charge of helping our society. It seems to be quite happy with the concept of regulating. If the family breaks up the government will give it another program. If the family breaks up the government will collect taxes in a different way and channel them back through the bureaucracy.

We on this side of the House have always said that the dollars which are left in the hands of the families will be better administered than if those dollars are handed back to the families through a program. The government has missed the point entirely.

I had an accounting business before I got into this game. I met many families which had broken up. The statistics published by Statistics Canada confirm what I saw personally. There is hurt and damage. Self-confidence is destroyed. Job stability is threatened. The family breaks apart and one-half moves to a different location. Sometimes the family is destroyed. There is little doubt that in many cases the standard of living goes down. That is unfortunate. We have to help these people.

We do not help them by bringing in legislation which contains a bunch of rules and regulations. On page 22 of the bill, at clause 77, after the government has poked and probed and administered and regulated and pushed around all these families, Her Majesty, in right of Canada, disclaims all responsibility for discharging the obligations under the act. While the government figures that it can get involved in the day to day administration of families, in the running of families, and so on and so forth, if it screws up, do not blame the government.

The Minister of State for the Status of Women mentioned the hearings which were held across Canada where women could say this and women could say that. I did not hear anything about men being invited to participate. That being so, we have to take a look at the failure of the Liberal policies over the years.

Back in the sixties the government introduced the great concept of universality for pensioners. It said: "Do not worry. We are here. We are going to look after everybody. Everybody is going to get the same old age security. Everybody is going to get a pension". The first thousand dollars of pension money that a senior would get would be tax free. That rule has been in place for many years. That universality is gone. In 2001 it will be gone. Pensioners will not get old age security because in the year 2001 there will be no old age security. It will be gone. The first thousand dollars of income tax deduction which pensioners have relied on for many years will be gone. The age deduction for seniors in the year 2001 will be gone. The guaranteed income supplement for the poor in the year 2001 will be gone. Universality is going out the window with it and in comes another seniors benefit program. We are going to massage, regulate, poke, administer and push around all these seniors though all the paperwork they will have to file. Their universality program for seniors failed. So they just walked away.

Now the Prime Minister stands in the House and says: "Health care. We go for universality, one of the five principles; universality of health care in this country. That it is important to Canadians".

Remember, the federal government says that universality across the country is provincially administered. I have a letter on my desk from someone who lives in Edmonton. This person happens to be a Canadian missionary who lives here and travels the world spreading the good word, doing good work with the poor and the underprivileged. She also works in countries in Africa where the standard of living is abysmally low. She returns to Canada for

some months to visit with her family and then returns to foreign countries. She is a Canadian citizen and she has no health care.

She comes and goes as resident of Canada, a Canadian citizen, paying Canadian taxes. Under the universal health care program promoted by the Prime Minister and the Liberal government she has nothing, absolutely nothing. The universality of health care is eroding.

The government said: "We blew it with pensions, health care is crumbling. What about kids? Let us move on to kids". Bill C-41 is now the social engineering for kids. We heard the minister of state for the status of women say that all kids are going to be equal. We are going to ensure that all kids are equal. There is no such thing as equal opportunity anymore, but there are going to be equal results. Therefore we know that when there are equal results it means poverty for all. There will be no opportunity to rise above and be the best possible because as soon as a person says he is going to work hard a be a great Canadian, do the best he can to have a good standard of living-zap, taxation.

These are the types of things, this social engineer, the government is trying to do and must be stopped.

There is no mention in the bill about mediation. I am married, I have a wife and two kids and sometimes we have our disagreements so we have to mediate and resolve our differences. Families that break up are those that have differences they cannot resolve by themselves. Mediation has proven to work. It works to help families stay together. It works in every other environment. Employers and employees mediate.

General Motors and its union last night mediated to the point where they disagreed and said they agree to disagree. But they will get together one day soon and the workers will get back to work through mediation. Families that have problems need mediation.

But Bill C-41 says no, we are going to regulate this broken marriage, we are going to regulate the kids and we are going to collect the taxes from one and give to the other because we know how it is done. We know that one shoe fits all, one rule fits all and there is no such thing as families being themselves. The government is going to get right into administering the families and right into the bedrooms.

Remember Mr. Trudeau said the government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Here is an interesting side note. Last week Statistics Canada phoned a couple in my riding. The questions asked by its representatives do not belong in this House. Questions about the personal intimate things that go on in the bedrooms of the nation are being asked by Stats Canada: "Can you tell me all the things that go on in there?"

And when they finished with the questionnaire, the Stats Canada representative asked for my constituent's Alberta health care number so they could go back to the record and know who gave certain answers to the questions: "Now I can relate these questions about bedroom activities with their health status".

This government is getting far too intrusive. It is time for it to recognize the sanctity of the family, to promote the family, to help the family. When families need it, they should get mediation.

The government introduced a grid to make everything fair, so everyone would get the same. We have judges who make $130,000 a year and we give them the right to determine if somebody will be locked up for 25 years or longer or if he will walk free. We give them the total and absolute freedom to make decisions on many things.

They decide on the validity of multi-billion dollar contracts. They decide who gets what. They have total and absolute power over everything, but we do not give them the discretion to take a look at the family standing before them to decide what is best.

These people are educated. They are the best trained in the country. They are compassionate people. They have the interests of the family in mind. But this government says that while judges have authority on everything else, it will not trust them with deciding how much should be paid in child support.

It is a disgusting disgrace that this government wants to impose that type of an affront on the judiciary of this country which is perfectly capable of making these decisions itself. Because every family is unique, judges should be given the opportunity to decide what is important.

Think of the commission salesman. Think of the seasonal employee whose income goes up and down. But he will get a court order that every month he must come up with this cash. When the family was together its fortunes rose and fell according to his income. As a seasonal employee, in the good months the cash would flow in and the family could enjoy a little luxury, but it had to tighten the reins when the money was not so readily available.

It is the same with the commission salesman. If he has a good month, he will get a big paycheque; if he has a bad month, his income will go down. And the family goes along with it.

Not anymore. The non-custodial parent is going to see these fluctuations through on their own, and according to this grid the family will be protected from the vagaries and fluctuations of the non-custodial parent's income. That person will be hounded practically down the road for his last dollar if he does not live up to his agreement. Is that helping families?

This government has not thought about these kind of people. It has not built that into the system.

With regard to violation of privacy, we have a longstanding tradition in this country that says our income tax files are private, but not anymore. Through social engineering, Bill C-41 allows people to have access to Revenue Canada.

On page 16, section 19, it says section 15 of the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act is replaced by the following: "Information banks that may be searched under this part are the information banks designated by regulations from among the information banks controlled by the Department of National Health and Welfare, the Department of National Revenue, Canada Employment and Immigration Commission".

If there is a deadbeat non-custodial parent out there you can guarantee he is not going to file a tax return anymore. You are not going to get your money and the family is not going to get the money and we now have two losers instead of one because this government's heavy handedness says there is nothing that we want to protect from intrusion. Privacy means nothing when it comes to the government. The information banks we always thought were private are no longer private. Therefore you can guarantee that we will not see any income tax return or any taxes collected from someone who wishes to evade the whole system.

It is very unfortunate that this government will not support families. The member for Mission-Coquitlam has talked long about grandparents rights; visiting rights for grandparents who when a family breaks up, if they are the parents of the non-custodial parent, cannot see their grandchildren. The love and the nurturing that grandparents want to bestow on the children are denied sometimes, and this government does not care.

Surely that is what it is all about, the love and nurturing of families, not the regulation, the taxation, the poking, the pushing, the managing and manipulating this government is going to do.

Let me leave it there. It would please me if the government would withdraw this bill and bring in something positive that would help families.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
Permalink
LIB

Bob Nault

Liberal

Mr. Robert D. Nault (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I truly enjoy rising when a member of the third party is done because it is easy to ask questions of his intervention in the House. I have a few questions. I will make them quick because I would like to get up on my feet again to ask another series of questions if I get the chance.

I listened very carefully to the member's speech as to where the Reform Party stands. In all that rambling I heard in the last 20

minutes he never once told us what the Reform would do as it relates to individuals who, as the member put it, are not capable of reconciling whether it be through mediation or one process or another.

The member was unclear but he was suggesting in his remarks that an individual who happens to be divorced, in most cases a mother who has one, two or three children, is not a family. Can the member explain to me why he seems to think the only definition of a family is someone that has two parents and a number of children, whether he agrees with the reality of the situation that in Canada it is a pretty close even split that there are many families that have only one parent either because they decide to through divorce and cannot reconcile or a parent passes away and they carry on as a single parent.

I would like those two questions answers. The one that is the most important is the definition. The other one, and I am not surprised, is what is Reform suggesting in that it does not like this bill? That is acceptable I suppose to us on this side. That means it must be a pretty good one. What would Reform do to replace it?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. Williams

Madam Speaker, I am rather surprised that the member would ask where the Reform Party stands, when it is the government that has brought forward this bill. I thought it was this bill that we were debating but I am pleased to answer the member's question.

We stand for families. Government should help nurture and encourage families rather than regulate and tax them. Remember, as I said, the Income Tax Act has always discriminated against a family that has stayed together and a family that splits apart. That is discriminated against. Yet we know that families are the building blocks of our society and we discriminate against them.

The second point is families that have children usually start off with a couple of parents, as far as I am aware. They come together and unfortunately through problems they do not stay together. They are people, they are Canadians and we have to respect their right to live, work and try to be the best that they can be.

My experience is that when a family falls apart, everyone suffers. The non-custodial parent suffers and the custodial parent suffers and it is what we call a broken family. There are children involved and usually they are innocent of the causes of the broken family, but they are definitely, according to the research we have, the group that suffers the most.

That is why I said we believe in mediation first because mediation works within families who stay together. Mediation works in other environments but there is not the slightest hint of

one nickel of time, effort or any other commitment by this government toward mediation to keep that family together.

We say get the grid out of there because a judge who makes $130,000 and passes judgment can surely decide what is best for that family when it is sitting or standing in front of him. As in the couple of examples I gave, a grid will destroy individuals, not help them.

I am totally opposed to the income tax change because people will stop filing tax returns. The government will lose. The government will not collect the money. There will be no opportunity for parents to get back together. It will drive a wedge between them and will force them even further apart.

As I also mentioned, grandparents are a part of families too. My hon. colleague from Mission-Coquitlam has tried hard to get this government to recognize grandparents who want to love and nurture their grandchildren. They are not even recognized by this government as playing any role whatsoever. They can play a major role in helping children.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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LIB

Bob Nault

Liberal

Mr. Nault

Madam Speaker, for the record, the member was not willing to verify whether he or his party agree that a single parent with children is a family. He skirted around it and said they were good Canadians and the whole bit but he would not say whether he thought they were truly a family like every other family which happens to be in Canada.

I want to ask the member about this whole issue of intrusiveness in the family and the whole issue of the Income Tax Act.

I will refer to what has been taking place in the provincial legislature in Ontario in the last few days. Members on the other side like to talk about their great friend the Mike Harris government and how close it relates to the Reform Party. That government just introduced a child support payment bill. I want to bring to the member's attention a couple of areas in the bill and ask him if he agrees or disagrees with what the Ontario government is doing. It is important if in fact he believes that our bill is so intrusive.

In the new bill that was presented to the legislature this is what the Ontario government is proposing to do. Parents who default on payments under the government's family support plan could have their driver's licences suspended and their names could be reported to credit bureaus.

Also included is obtaining financial statements of defaulters and making support orders against third parties who shelter the defaulter's assets; seizing 50 per cent of any funds in a joint bank account with the delinquent parent's new partner; and seizing lottery winnings of more than $1,000. Keep in mind that 77 per cent in default owe more than $1 billion in the province of Ontario. In fact, 97 per cent of those defaulters are fathers of that family the member talks about.

I want the member to answer one question. Does he think this is too intrusive? It sounds similar to what we are proposing to do when he talked especially about obtaining financial statements. I would like to know whether he agrees or disagrees with the Ontario government's move in relation to trying to deal with what is called in this article, deadbeat parents.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. Williams

Madam Speaker, let us remember that this government is setting up this whole regulatory process before mediation. There is no mention of mediation. There is no mention of positive help for a family. All it is concerned about is picking up and regulating the broken pieces.

Yes, there are situations where people try to avoid their responsibilities. The Reform Party is concerned about those as much as anyone else. These are the unfortunate types of things that have to be dealt with as a last resort but this government is dealing with them as a first resort. That is the point I want to get across. The government's first resort is: let us regulate, let us browbeat, let us help ourselves, let us seize, let us take away, let us tax. There is no help, no sympathy, no recognition of these people as individuals. If we could help them get back together, all this regulation would then be irrelevant, except in a small number of situations.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Resuming debate. I would like to remind the hon. members in this House that we are now in the 10-minute speech period with no questions or comments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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REF

Dave Chatters

Reform

Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join in this debate, although most everything has probably been said. When I listened to the comments coming from across the floor, certainly everything there is being said again because it simply does not seem to get through.

I just listened to the member for Kenora-Rainy River for some reason try to trap my colleague from St. Albert into some kind of remark about families including single parent families. Of course no one on this side of the House would deny that single parents with children are families. Certainly I will not apologize and I do not think anyone should apologize for supporting the traditional two parent family with children. That is the ideal.

If we were to talk to single parents anywhere in this country, be they men or women, they would choose to be in a relationship with two parents and with children. That is what everyone in this country strives for. We in this party make no apologies for supporting the traditional family and opposing the government in its recognition of all manner of alternative arrangements it would propose to refer to as families.

There have been huge problems around the whole issue of divorce, family break-up, child support and child custody. There is a need in this country for the government to address those issues.

The minister of state said earlier that they had travelled across the country listening to Canadians on the issue before the bill was drafted. Unfortunately what I see in this bill, if they truly went out and listened to Canadians, is not what Canadians were telling them. It certainly addresses one issue that probably one segment of Canadians would have them address, but it does not address the whole issue in a comprehensive way.

In some instances the failure of non-custodial parents to pay child support is a major problem and needed to be addressed in a pretty substantive way. This bill establishes four different areas of federal guidelines for support. There is the grid we have heard so much about. I will talk more about each area a little later.

There is also the opening of the Revenue Canada databases for search in cases of payment default; the denying of passports and licences to individuals who are persistently in arrears; and a provision for the garnishment of wages from public servants and seamen. On the last one, I find it interesting that the government would single out individuals working at sea. I do not know where that one comes from. Why do individuals at sea warrant specific attention any more than individuals working anywhere else? Maybe it has something to do with the longstanding reputation of sailors around the world. However, it seems strange that it is in there.

This issue is a major problem and I applaud the government for at least attempting to address part of it.

I listened to the minister talk at some length about child poverty, the favourite Liberal buzzword. It always disturbs me when I hear parliamentarians refer to the absolute necessity of solving child poverty in this country. It is unrealistic. We do not solve child poverty without solving family poverty.

If addressing the default in support payments is an attempt to address the problem of family poverty, it should strike fear into the hearts of non-custodial parents everywhere. If they are expected to solve the problem of single mothers with children living in poverty, then a huge responsibility is being put on them. I do not believe that is fair.

One of the problems all of us in Canada are quite familiar with is that 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce. Most of us have either been touched by the reality of divorce or have personally experienced it. As a member of parliament, I have certainly heard many divorced mothers and fathers discuss the problems surrounding this issue. There are a lot of real issues that need to be addressed. I wish the government had used a broader brush when it dealt with this matter and had dealt with some of the other issues besides support payments.

While at first glance the bill certainly looks broad and all encompassing, when one examines it, the bill is lacking. One of the issues we heard discussed earlier which has not been addressed in the bill but should have been is the whole issue of tax deductibility of child support payments as announced in the last budget. The fact that the government took half a billion dollars out of the hands of single mothers and custodial parents and put it into the government coffers saying that it was much more able to provide benefits to children by taking that away from parents and providing the benefits through government programs is assuming an awful lot on the part of government. One of the other issues that I hear about when I talk to divorced fathers who do not have custody of their children is the problem of access. Because of the adversarial court system, it is not the children going to court against the parents, it is one parent going to court against the other parent. One parent loses and one parent wins. That is the nature of court settlements. Often what is good for the child is not taken into account. In many instances custody is not dealt with fairly and access has not been addressed. It is unfortunate that the issue of access was not addressed by this bill.

This is a piecemeal bill, not unlike many other initiatives which the government has brought forward over the last three years. The Liberal government addresses the issues that the Canadian public wants it to address, but it only deals with the issues that are easy to deal with and avoids the more controversial ones. That is unfortunate.

The hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River asked what we would do in this situation. It has been stated before, but I will repeat it. We would approach the whole problem in a more comprehensive manner and would deal with the issue as a whole. We would focus on the issue of family support payments and enforcement of those support payments. That part of the bill is good. However, we would begin with a compulsory mediation process.

Those of us, like myself, who have been married for 30 years and have raised a family, know what it takes to make a marriage work. A willingness to mediate disputes is one of the things which keeps marriages together. When a marriage is falling apart, a system of compulsory mediation would go a long way in getting the marriage back on track. If it failed, at least it would make the split less painful for the children.

We would also include access provisions for both parents, unless that was not in the best interests of the children. Of course there are cases when a parent should not have access, but those truly are the

exception. We would also include access provisions for the extended family, which would include grandparents.

We would also deal with the way the tax system treats families and give all the benefits and encouragement that we possibly could to traditional family units under the tax system. It is quite clear that we would take a much broader approach to this whole issue.

I would like to address briefly the grid issue. It would be nice if everyone's life was as structured as the grid would have it. We could lay out the grid and someone making this much would pay this much money. That would be great, but unfortunately that is not the way life is. Different families with the same family income certainly do not have the same standard of living, nor do they enjoy the same benefits. Everyone has different circumstances and everyone manages their lives differently. It is unfortunate the government is trying to make everyone fit into these square holes. There needs to be more flexibility by the courts in addressing different circumstances. It is very unfortunate that the bill is so rigid-

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The member's time has lapsed, even with some additional time. I understand we are at the stage of debate where 10 minutes are the maximum allowable.

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

Some hon. members

Question.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

No.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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?

An hon. member

On division.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Divorce Act
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October 3, 1996