Quebec’s Bill 2 without surrogate mothers: opposition blames Jolin-Barrette

The family law reform to be adopted next week by the National Assembly will be truncated, smaller than expected, and the opposition was unanimous on Thursday in blaming Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette for this situation.

The day before, Jolin-Barrette announced that he would have to cut out entire sections of his vast family law reform package, Bill 2, for fear that it would die on the order paper on June 10, the day the legislative sessions ends.

Excluded on Wednesday: the parts of the bill dealing with the rules of filiation and those intended to provide a legal framework for agreements between intentional parents and surrogate mothers, known as surrogate motherhood.

As a precaution, given that there were only a few days of work available, the minister preferred to split his legislation, setting aside several articles, to ensure that the portions of the reform already studied and endorsed by the opposition could be adopted before the deadline , thus avoiding seeing months of work fall by the wayside.

“He has only himself to blame,” said PQ MNA Véronique Hivon, in a telephone interview, “especially since the Minister of Justice is also the government House Leader, and therefore the one who manages the schedule for the study of bills and defines legislative priorities.”

The sections that will be passed next week are those dealing with sexual identity, gender issues and recognition of non-binary people.

Opposition parties expressed relief on Thursday that at least these chapters of the reform will escape the guillotine.

“I’m relieved that the minister has come to our senses and to reason,” Hivon said.

“It’s a problem of prioritization,” said Alexandre Leduc, of Québec solidaire, in a press scrum. He believes that Minister Jolin-Barrette, who must also manage the very demanding file of the French language, ‘”has too much on his plate de el.”

“He was presented as the one-man band. Obviously, it didn’t work out so well. There are repercussions and the family law semi-failure is one of them,” he said.

The fact that the minister undertook to proceed at the same time with two major reforms, “two huge pieces of legislation”, said Leduc, that of Bill 101 and Bill 96, which has just been adopted, and that of family law, with Bill 2, which had more than 360 articles, has worried the opposition from the start.

Spokespersons from all three parties believe that he has given priority to language reform, putting the family law reform at risk.

“He chose to deal with Bill 96 before the family law reform bill. If he had done things the other way around, we might have made more progress on family law. It was his priority, it was his choice,” said Liberal House Leader Andre Fortin in a press scrum.

All agree that the minister delayed too long before tabling his bill on Oct. 21 and then proceeding to clause-by-clause consideration in mid-May.

“It was written in the sky that we wouldn’t make it,” said Hivon, “because the load was so heavy, the issues complex and the number of weeks of work limited. But until Wednesday night, Jolin-Barrette always maintained that Elected officials had all the time they needed to complete their study of the bill before adjourning.

Broad reforms can often take weeks or even months of analysis in parliamentary committee.

Hivon hopes that the government will do a post-mortem on “how badly it respects the institutions.”

The next government, which will be elected on Oct. 3, will have to go through the whole process again on the issues that have been set aside, and the opposition parties hope that this will be an opportunity for real consultation on such sensitive social issues .

The planned family law reform was also to include a review of the rules of conjugality, including the issue of the rights and obligations of common-law partners as compared to married couples.

Bill 2, which will amend the Civil Code, aims to update family law, which has been frozen in time since the early 1980s.

The Minister of Justice had no choice but to legislate on the specific issue of gender, having to comply with the Superior Court judgment, handed down by Justice Gregory Moore on Jan. 28, 2021, rendering null and void several articles of the Civil Code deemed discriminatory. It will, therefore, not have to request a new extension to comply.

According to this decision, Quebec must eliminate all forms of discrimination related to gender designation in documents issued by the Directeur de l’état civil. No one should be forced to identify themselves as male or female.

It is also necessary to add the possibility of writing the mention of parent, instead of father or mother, when writing the birth certificate of a child.

In addition to gender issues and the regulation of surrogate reproduction, Bill 2 addresses a range of other issues, including the number of first names on official documents, the rules of filiation, including the presumption of paternity for common-law partners, information disclosed to adopted children, the rights of children growing up in abusive homes, issues of parental authority in cases of abuse and termination of parental authority, and the right of children born to surrogate mothers to know their origins.

— This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 2, 2022.

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