Supreme Court ruling confirms discrimination
Published Friday, January 25, 2013 12:56PM EST
The Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Eric and Lola case confirms the status quo in Quebec.
Couples can opt out of the rights and responsibilities of getting married, and that will not affect child support payments.
Lola's lawyer, Guy Pratte, said most people are not aware of their lack of rights in Quebec and suggests people either get married, or prepare some other type of cohabitation contract.
"The court has, in a very slim majority, decided that the measure was not unreasonable even though it was discriminatory. Eveyone in Quebec should take note of that," said Pratte.
He said Lola devoted her life to raising children and felt entitled, as divorced people do, to a share of assets.
Family lawyer Sylvie Schirm said the ruling was surprising, especially for Quebecers who are used to having rights safeguarded by the law.
She said the judgement, and the whole court ordeal, serves as a wakeup call to Quebecers.
"If you're not married, you're not protected by the law in many aspects," said Schirm.
Quebec unique in Canada
Quebec is the only province that does not have spousal support for common law couples.
"All those other provinces took the time and energy to make legislation, and they brought in law to protect common-law spouses," said Schirm.
When the provisions regarding common-law spouses in Qubeec were rewritten in the 1980s, politicians did not include any protection for common-law spouses.
The situation is very different now, with the latest statistics showing 38 percent of Quebec couples are common-law -- more than any other province, and according to some reports more than anywhere else in the world.
The question is, is that a conscious decision to reject marriage, or people living in ignorance and assuming they have the same rights as everywhere else in the country?
"In Quebec, we're used to having the law behind us," said Schirm.
She expects people will now push legislators to make changes to Quebec's Civil Code.
Until then, Pratte and Schirm suggest common-law couples draw up contracts to divide assets in the event their relationship ends.
Get a "cohabitation agreement. It's not that expensive. A lawyer can do it, a notary can do it. You can even do it at your kitchen table," Schirm said.