Luke’s Place Legal Director, Pamela Cross, published an opinion piece in The Toronto Star about the passing of Bill 207: An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act, the Courts of Justice Act, the Family Law Act and other Acts respecting various family law matters.
Last week’s passage of Bill 207, which significantly changes how post-separation parenting decisions will be made, is a step in the right direction for survivors of family violence. In particular, they will benefit from the extensive and inclusive definition of family violence, which will now appear directly in the best interests of the child test.
The new definition in the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA) uses the language of coercive and controlling behaviour and includes sexual, psychological and financial abuse as well as threats of or actual harm to animals among the behaviours considered to be family violence. It also makes explicit that conduct need not constitute a criminal offence for it to be considered in a family law proceeding.
The article continues,
However, those of us who work with survivors of family violence are concerned that some of the changes may be problematic for women subjected to ongoing coercive controlling abuse.
Vagueness is a gift to an abuser, and the language about decision-making is an example of just that. The lack of clarity about how parents are to make decisions about their children creates an opportunity for an abusive partner to manipulate the legislation’s intent so as to intimidate and control the child’s other parent by interfering in their decision-making.