Submissions on Bill 27: the Money Judgment Enforcement Act
West Coast LEAF and Rise Women’s Legal Centre reviewed Bill 27, the Money Judgment Enforcement Act for its potential impacts on survivors of family violence and family law litigants.
We are urging the Attorney General to consider these observations:
- Impacts on access to justice: We reviewed Bill 27 with special attention to access to justice, which means taking into account the reality that many people in BC will be navigating legal processes without the assistance of a lawyer. As a result of cuts to Legal Aid BC in the early 2000s, there is no longer legal aid coverage for poverty law matters, and extremely limited coverage for family law litigants, including survivors of family violence. The proposed Bill 27 is complex and will likely be difficult for self-represented litigants who don’t have legal training to navigate.
- Impacts on survivors of family violence: We have concerns about the safety of survivors of family violence and their ability to enforce judgements in cases where they remain at risk or have asymmetrical access to information about family property and assets.
- Impacts on financial status and economic security: To access Bill 27, a fee must be paid, or “satisfactory arrangement” must be met, presenting a significant barrier to recipients of child and spousal support. This bill is attempting to aid those individuals who are often without financial resources and do not have the ability to pay even modest court fees. If left as is, Bill 27 would also create restrictions on the time limit for someone to seek unpaid child support or spousal support, where there were none before—an important exemption so that conflicting policies aren’t put into place.
- Conflicts with other existing legislation: Refusal to pay child or spousal support is a tactic often used by payors to continue their financial abuse and control of the recipient. It is important that recipients of support payments have mechanisms to enforce such orders or agreements. Currently, recipients can file an order with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) to enforce an order or an agreement that contains provisions for support payments. As it currently stands, Bill 27 conflicts with the legislation that governs FMEP and there are no provisions to indicate which legislation would prevail when a conflict arises.
While there are positive changes being proposed in Bill-27, our review has found some areas where the Money Judgment Enforcement Act may conflict with existing family law provisions and create yet more barriers to access to justice and economic security. Some of these conflicts have the potential to unintentionally prejudice recipients of support, disproportionately people of marginalized genders and children. Some provisions may also have consequences for survivors of family violence and hinder their ability to flee financial abuse.
Read the full joint submissions (PDF, 175 KB).