The CBA opposes Bill C-560 that puts parents’ rights above the best interests of children

  • March 24, 2014

Ottawa — The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) opposes Bill C-560, a private member’s bill, as it would shift the way custody is determined under the Divorce Act to parents’ rights – away from what is in the best interests of children. The bill, introduced by MP Maurice Vellacott, will be debated at second reading on March 25. 

While the Bill refers to equal parenting, it would actually not advance equality. Rather, it would change the primary focus in custody and access matters from what is best for children to equal parental rights.

“Parenting is not about adults claiming rights,” says Patricia Hebert of Edmonton, Vice-Chair of the CBA’s National Family Law Section.  “It is about the desire and ability to put children’s interests first.”

“The bill is based on the faulty assumption that equal parenting time will work for all families, regardless of abilities, circumstances, needs, history, challenges or attitudes of all those involved,” adds Patricia Hebert.  “In reality, the proposed change is clearly about promoting parents’ views of equality at the expense of the interests of children, who are affected by their parents’ separation.”

The CBA agrees that shared parenting is a good outcome for many families.  Where equal time and responsibility can be shown to be in the best interests of children, judges can and do make that order under the current law. The CBA supports legal reform and resources that will help parents effectively share parenting, in whatever ways meet their own children’s needs best.  One size does not fit all.

The CBA objects to the proposed legislation which says equal parenting time and responsibility must be ordered in every case.  This would require judges to justify any other outcome by ruling that the best interests of the child would be “substantially enhanced” by a non-equal regime.  This clearly makes children’s interests a very low priority, which is contradictory to the stated goals of Canadian family laws as well as Canada’s obligations under the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The CBA has consistently supported the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration for parents and for judges in determining custody arrangements, including a resolution in 2003 and a submission on a similar bill in 2010.

The CBA is dedicated to support for the rule of law, and improvement in the law, and the administration of justice. Members include some 37,500 lawyers, law teachers, and law students from across Canada.

For more information, please contact Hannah Bernstein at