The Strategy was announced on December 10, 2002 by the former Minister of Justice and began in April of 2003. The purpose of the Strategy is to help parents focus on the needs of their children following separation and divorce and is composed of three pillars—support for family justice services (through the Child-centred Family Justice Fund), legislative reform and expansion of Unified Family Courts. These pillars, acting as independent components or as a whole, will help develop and maintain a child-centred family justice system where:
- the decisions made by separated and divorced parents and the courts will be tailored to the individual needs of children;
- the family justice system will facilitate the timely resolution of family law matters; and,
- there will be increased compliance with parenting arrangements and child support obligations.
While the Government of Canada does not provide family justice services to Canadians directly because this is a provincial/territorial responsibility, it is committed to assisting the provinces and territories to develop, implement and maintain these services. The Government of Canada committed $68 million in contribution funding over the Strategy's five years (2003/4 to 2007/8) to the provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations for family justice services.
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 1970's. 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 1980's of the provincial/territorial Maintenance Enforcement Programs (MEPs), along with federal enforcement legislation to assist the new MEPs in their efforts to enforce support obligations. In 1991/1992, to further assist the provinces and territories, Justice Canada participated in the federal interdepartmental "Brighter Futures Initiative", providing funding for the MEPs to allow them to continue to improve their operational, administrative and enforcement capacities. This proved to be a formative step in building broader family justice partnership strategies for the future, as it introduced the element of funding to assist the provinces and territories in providing an important service within the family justice system.
This was seen in the Child Support Initiative (1996 to 2001) which included legislative reforms and 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 other supported family justice services related to children.
The success of the FPT collaboration during the Child Support Initiative certainly contributed greatly to the establishment of larger, more encompassing Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials—Family Justice that replaced the Family Law Committee. It also contributed a great deal to the development and implementation of the current Child-centred Family Justice Strategy and the Child-centred Family Justice Fund which again is based on our strong partnership with the provincial and territorial jurisdictions in Canada.
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