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The Council on the Status of Women urges Quebec to review its marital law reform

Photo: Olivier Zuida Le Devoir Bill 56 will have the effect, if adopted as is, of establishing a new regime, distinct from marriage and civil union, for de facto spouses who will have a child from July 2025.

Even if it “presents progress”, the planned reform of marital law does not go far enough to protect women in common-law couples, deplores the Council on the Status of Women (CSF) in a memorandum that urges Quebec “not to miss [its] opportunity.”

Tabled on Wednesday as part of the special consultations on Bill 56 “on the reform of family law and establishing the parental union regime”, the twenty-page document issues a warning to the Minister of Justice , Simon Jolin-Barrette: if it does not change, his legislative proposal will maintain a two-tier system serving people united civilly or by marriage more than de facto spouses.

“The CSF deplores that the rights and obligations recognized for people in common-law relationships are less than those which prevail for married people,” he writes.

Comments that echo those of women's rights groups consulted by Le Devoira month ago. The latter denounced, among other things, the choice to exclude RRSPs and pension funds from the common assets that future couples in parental union will form. “It is certain that this will lead to certain injustices,” said the president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, Sylvie St-Amand.

In her memoir, the CSF “is particularly concerned” about this situation. He recalls “that both the overall income and the retirement and investment income of women aged 65 and over are lower than those of men”. According to Statistics Canada data cited in the document, women had an average retirement income of $16,500 in 2023, compared to $22,800 for men.

“It is clear that women are still big economic losers when a union breaks up,” said the president of the CSF, Me Louise Cordeau, visiting the parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

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In the event of a breakdown, the CSF therefore recommends applying to people in a parental union the same rights and obligations regarding the sharing of family assets as to married people. In addition to RRSPs and retirement plans, this would include second homes and their furniture.

Maintenance obligation

Minister Jolin-Barrette's Bill 56 does not subject people in parental union to the support obligations of married people, a decision which was also the subject of criticism last month.

In its brief, the CSF also deplores the choice of the minister, in a context where the maintenance obligation “is aimed in particular at people — more often women — who, at during their union, withdrew — partially or entirely — from the labor market to take care of a child or a parent losing their independence.”

As he did following the publication of the case Eric c. Lola, it recommends that Quebec allow people from a couple in a parental union to request alimony after a breakup.

In addition, the council proposes that the rights and obligations of persons forming a common-law couple apply, “whether or not they have a common child.”

Minister's Bill 56 Jolin-Barrette will have the effect, if adopted as is, of instituting a new regime, distinct from marriage and civil union, for de facto spouses who will have a child from July 2025.< /p>

In committee, Wednesday, the elected representative of the Coalition Avenir Québec raised the risk that the CSF's proposal would have the consequence of “marrying everyone.” It is for this reason, at the time of tabling the bill, that he opted for two distinct regimes.

“Married people cannot withdraw from family patrimony, which is a matter of public order, while de facto spouses could withdraw from sharing patrimony,” replied Louise Cordeau to the Minister of Justice.

Special consultations surrounding Bill 56 continue this week and next week in the National Assembly. The detailed study will follow, during which parliamentarians will be able to make modifications.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116