I would like to begin this week by congratulating all those who ran for public office in the recent local government elections.
Putting your name forward requires courage and I know that many candidates along with volunteer supporters worked tirelessly for the past several weeks.
In communities throughout the Okanagan we have many new faces elected and I look forward to meeting our new representatives.
I would also like to take a moment to thank those incumbents who were not successful in the election for the years of service they provided to the local community and region.
This week in Victoria the Legislature is again in session with many new bills being introduced including the proposed new B.C. Family Law Act.
As some of you may be aware, the previous Family Relations Act was introduced more than 30 years ago, in 1978.
Regrettably, since that time divorce and separation have become far more common.
A marriage break down is often a very emotional time and sometimes an adversarial process that can even lead to domestic violence.
Sadly this process can ends up in costly litigation and the best interests of the child can be overlooked.
For the past five years and more so over the past 12 months, stakeholders have been actively involved in drafting a new law that is more reflective of our times.
The new family law legislation will clarify parent’s responsibilities, address family violence and support families in resolving disputes out of court.
More importantly the safety and best interests of the child will now come first when families are going through separation and divorce.
It is important to encourage parents to work together in ways supportive of their children’s future with the courts as a last resort.
The Family Law Act creates tools to increase child safety such as the creation of a new protection order that will give the police and courts more clarity when dealing with family violence situations.
For example breaching a protection order would become a criminal offence.
British Columbia will also become the first province in Canada to add relocation provisions for parents who wish to move with their child after separation.
New property division rules will be extended to unmarried spouses who have lived together for at least two years.
This is consistent with the approach that already applies for spousal and child support rights, as well as in other areas of law such as income tax and wills and estates.
If passed, the new legislation is expected to take slightly over a year to implement as the legal community will need time to familiarize with the proposed changes.
While it saddens me to devote much of this weeks report to the subject of divorce and separation, it is important that our laws recognize the importance of putting the interests of our children first and foremost.
For more information on the new B.C. Family Law Act please visit the www.gov.bc.ca/ag. website.
Before I close this week I would like to recognize outgoing Keremeos and Princeton mayors Walter Despot and Randy McLean respectively.
Being a small town mayor in rural British Columbia is no easy task and the considerable efforts consistently put in over the years by these gentleman is truly deserving of recognition.
Bill Barisoff is the MLA for Penticton.