Summary of Activities for the Child-centred Family Justice Fund 2003-2009

Introduction

The Child-centred Family Justice Strategy was announced by the Minister of Justice on December 10, 2002 and began in April 2003. The purpose of the Strategy was to help parents focus on the needs of their children following separation and divorce. At its inception, the Strategy consisted of three independent pillars: family law reform, expansion of Unified Family Courts, and support for family justice services through the Child-centred Family Justice Fund These pillars, whether acting as independent components or as a whole, were intended to help develop and maintain a child-centred family justice system where:

  • the decisions made by separated and divorced parents and the courts would be tailored to the individual needs of children;
  • the family justice system would facilitate the timely resolution of family law matters; and
  • there would be increased compliance with parenting arrangements and child support obligations.

The first two pillars did not proceed as planned. Although a Bill (former Bill‑C22) was tabled in December 2002 to reform family law and allow for the expansion of Unified Family Courts, it died on the Order Paper with the prorogation of Parliament in November 2003. However, the family justice services pillar enjoyed a successful progression from the beginning.

A summative evaluation of the Child-centered Family Justice Strategy was undertaken in 2007. In general, the Strategy was successful in supporting a move towards collaborative and less adversarial family law processes. There was an expansion of family justice services offered by the provinces/territories over the course of the Strategy: from 2003‑2004 to 2006‑2007, 71 provincial/territorial family justice services were expanded, 32 new ones were introduced and 176 were maintained.

Overall, services such as mediation and parent education were recognized as useful and important tools in helping parents to recognize the needs of their children and minimize the negative impact of separation and divorce on the children.

Background

The provision of family justice services to Canadians is a provincial and territorial responsibility. The Government of Canada does not provide services directly, but is committed to helping the provinces and territories to develop, implement and maintain these services. This was accomplished through the Child-centered family Justice Fund (CCFJF). The Fund consisted of a transfer payment program totalling $80 million over five fiscal years (from 2003‑2004 to 2007‑2008) that were allocated to the provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations. Budget 2008 committed another $16 million for one additional year, until March 31, 2009.

The Fund was organized and distributed on an annual basis according to three component of Family Justice Initiative ($15MF), Pilot Projects ($.5 M) and Public Legal Education and Information ($.5M).

Historically, the federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions have enjoyed a collaborative relationship in the area of family justice that began with the establishment of the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Family Law Committee in the late 1970s. This committee provided the federal, provincial and territorial governments a forum to discuss and act upon common policy and program issues and problems facing the family justice system.

This initial collaboration led to the development and implementation in the early 1980s of provincial and territorial Maintenance Enforcement Programs, along with federal enforcement legislation to assist the new Maintenance Enforcement Programs in their efforts to enforce support obligations. In 1991 and 1992, to further assist the provinces and territories, the Department of Justice Canada participated in the federal, interdepartmental “Brighter Futures Initiative”. Funding provided through this initiative allowed the Maintenance Enforcement Programs to continue to improve their operational, administrative and enforcement capacities.

Introducing the element of funding to help the provinces and territories provide an important service within the family justice system proved to be a formative step in building broader family justice partnership strategies for the future. This was seen in the Child Support Initiative from 1996 to 2001. In addition to legislative reforms, the Child Support Initiative included further funding to the provinces and territories for family justice services to implement the Federal Child Support Guidelines and the new and enhanced support-enforcement measures, as well as funding for other family justice services related to children.

The success of the federal, provincial and territorial collaboration during the Child Support Initiative certainly contributed greatly to the establishment of a larger, more encompassing Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials—Family Justice, which replaced the Family Law Committee. It also contributed a great deal to the development and implementation of the Child-centred Family Law Strategy and the Child-centred Family Justice Fund, which were also based on the strong partnership with the provincial and territorial jurisdictions in Canada.


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