Political Commentary and Opinion
This is nothing but government terrorism at it's best, with governments who feel they can steal private property, any time they like, as this has nothing to do with making people pay up fines with their new draconian laws, that only serve to harm fathers in a police state mentaility, that has come forth in Canada.
Matt Gurney: Dysfunctional Ontario bureaucracy sets up fathers to fail
Matt Gurney November 9, 2010 – 12:43 pm email@example.com
Ontario’s plan to begin impounding the cars of fathers who fall behind in their child support payments next month has a familiar ring to it. I’ve heard of a very similar story before. The man’s name is Jeff Dolan, and his case should ring alarm bells for any Ontario politician considering linking driving privileges to child support.
Dalton McGuinty: Men? Why should I care about men?
(Aaron Lynett / National Post)
Jeff’s story is as depressing as it is worrisome. His wife left him soon after he lost his job when the construction industry in his native Minnesota bottomed out. He moved from job to job, trying to earn enough to meet his child support obligations and pay for needed medical treatment, but with no jobs available, he fell behind in his payments while volunteering at a sexual violence clinic and looking for stable work. He finally landed a good job, one that would allow him to make his payments and also included medical benefits.
But then the courts caught up with him and, since he’d fallen behind in his payments, stripped him of his license. A valid driver’s license was a condition of his new job, which he then lost. He then fell further behind, and was jailed. The courts told him he could get out once he had a job. He couldn’t get a job until he restored his ability to drive … and he couldn’t do that from jail.
Jeff was eventually released after completing a 30-day sentence and is reportedly working, keeping his head above water while still battling the courts. But his story offers a cautionary tale — men doing their best to meet all their obligations can very quickly be rendered destitute, then imprisoned, if their circumstances change in the slightest.
The problem is particularly acute in Ontario, warns Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees. “The Family Responsibility Office (responsible for administering support payments) is a disaster,” Klees told me. “On a weekly basis my constituency office deals with fathers who have lost a job or have taken ill and can’t keep up on their payments. When they reach out of the Family Responsibility Office, they’re kept on hold for two hours, only to be dealt with by a staffer who has no knowledge or experience of their case and is just seeing the file for the first time.”
Klees points out that even setting aside the FRO’s dysfunction, only the courts are capable of issuing an order to the FRO amending the conditions of a father’s support payment obligations, and that can easily take six months, assuming the father can afford the lawyer. The FRO, meanwhile, is tasked with responding automatically to non-payment with escalating punitive measures.
So if a father loses his job, even if he immediately applies to the court for an amendment, by the time it can be processed, and even should he receive a favourable judgment, the FRO might have already suspended his license, impounded his car or even imprisoned him.There are two entirely different bureaucracies at work, and the one tasked with punitive measures is far more efficient than the only place that fathers can appeal for help.
“We don’t have a justice system in Ontario, we have a legal system,” Klees said. “And the government is more interested in looking like it’s doing something than actually addressing the issue, so it’s going to add some more regulations onto an already complex situation. The Minister of Transportation needed to make an announcement this week, and this is what they chose. Does it have to do with road safety? Of course not.”
Jeff Dolan’s sad story took place in a distant state, thousands of miles away. But we seem to be importing the worst of that system.
For fathers in Ontario today, facing rising costs of living and a weak economy, an inflexible bureaucracy that can destroy their lives faster than they can appeal it is the last thing they need to worry about. Too bad that sticking up for fathers doing their best is the one family issue Premier Dad has decided to wash his hands of.
Ontario parents who fail to pay support can lose car
Kewallace National Post
New Ontario legislation that allows police to impound vehicles belonging to parents who fall behind in family support payments is a form of “persecution” that will do nothing to ensure parents continue to pay, fathers' rights groups say.
Starting December 1, people caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration beyond the legal limit, as well as those driving without a mandatory in-car breath monitoring device, will have their vehicles suspended for seven days.
But in a new twist, the same punishment will apply for people caught driving with a suspended licence for failing to pay family support. Such a remedy is a punitive measure that goes beyond the transportation ministry’s jurisdiction and does not take into account legimate reasons for missed support payments, says Lloyd Gorling, founder of Ex-fathers, an advocacy group for divorced dads based in Peterborough, Ont.
“How are you going to make support payments if you can’t get to work? If you can’t make support payments, does the government really think you’re going to be taking a taxi everday to work?” Mr. Gorling said.
“There seems to be an idea that these parents don’t care, or are hiding and they have all this money. It’s the exact opposite. For the most part, people who can pay, whether they agree or not, make the payments.”
Under current rules, the provincial Family Responsibility Office, which keeps track of all court-ordered child and spousal support, has the power to ask the Ministry of Transportation to suspend the licences of parents who continually miss their payments. The province says 3,965 suspensions were handed out by the Family Responsibility Office between April 2009 and March 2010.
Now anyone caught driving with a suspended licence under this circumstance will not be able to use their car for a week.
“It really is a matter of impressing upon the public how critical it is that family support be paid,” Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said in an interview with the National Post.
She stressed the licence suspensions apply only to parents who have a record of “chronic, agregious non-payment.”
“If you’ve had your driver’s licence suspended, you’re not paying family support, you’re driving with your suspended licence, well, you know what? We’re going to take your car.”
But Progressive Conservative transport critic Frank Klees argues many people may not realize their licences have been suspended until they get pulled over, partly because the Ministry of Transportation informs people of suspensions by mail, and because of what he calls “administration problems” at the Family Responsibility Office.
He says he hears weekly from constituents with complaints about payments being misplaced or processed incorrectly by the Office, opening the possibility of some parents being branded unfairly as non-payers.
“The problem here is that there will be innocent people who will be caught in this regulation who will potentially lose their jobs because they are unable to get to the very job that they need to make the payments,” Mr. Klees said. “If we didn’t already have evidence that this agency really has a system that is unreliable, to overlay it now with this kind of action that can negatively impact someone’s life ... it’s unconscionable.”
Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association also questioned just how the impounding of a car belonging to someone who hasn’t made family support payment is closely related to road safety.
“There might also be issues with the costs of impounding a vehicle for someone whose licence has been suspended for issues of late payment,” she said.
Compounding the problem is the fact that it can be prohibitively expensive for parents unable to make payments to hire a lawyer to argue for lower payments, says Danny Guspie, executive director of Toronto Fathers Resources.
“If you lose your job, you’ve got a choice: hire a lawyer or pay the support,” he said. “In most cases, you couldn’t even hire the lawyer if you could pay the support. So how are you supposed to exercise your rights in Ontario, let along Canada?”
The coming changes to Ontario’s road rules are the latest in a long string of moves by the Ontario Liberals to crack down on bad driving. In August, the government came under criticism for poorly publicizing a new law that prohibits drivers under 21 years of age from driving with any alcohol in their systems.