Quebec family law reform: Bill 12 passes unanimously
Olivier Racicot holds up a Quebec flag at a rally in Montreal Saturday, June 6, 2009. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
QUEBEC CITY -- On Wednesday, elected members of the National Assembly unanimously adopted Bill 12, part of the family law reform aimed at protecting children born of rape.
After the vote, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said the new law would "better protect Quebec families" by responding more adequately to their needs.
Under the law, a mother who is a victim of rape will now be able to refuse her rapist a paternity test.
A sex offender may be required to pay child support for a child born of rape. And the child may inherit from the offender after his or her death.
In addition, the burden of proof for forfeiting parental authority will now rest with the offending parent when a judgment recognizes that they have committed a sexual offence against a child.
When he tabled his bill last February, the minister said he was inspired by the case of Océane, reported by La Presse in August 2022.
The young woman, who had a child due to rape, could not refuse her assailant the chance to claim paternity of the child.
The Ministry of Justice estimates that over 170 children are born of rape each year in Quebec.
"We all agree that this situation is despicable. The message we want to send to Océane today is that thanks to her, the laws will change," said Jolin-Barrette.
"A mother who has lived through such a traumatic event should not have to live with the fear that, one day, her abuser will seek rights over her child," he added.
Bill 12 also institutes a process to regulate surrogate pregnancy to protect the rights of children and mothers. Previous agreements had no legal force.
The government's approach is based on certain fundamental principles:
- The woman carrying the child retains full autonomy over her body;
- She can terminate the surrogacy agreement unilaterally at any time;
- Payment is prohibited, but reimbursement of certain expenses is admissible;
- Intentional parents who change their minds along the way cannot abandon the child.
Both the intended parents and the woman planning to carry the child must attend an information session beforehand. A notarized agreement, the content of which is defined by law, will be mandatory.
The final section of the bill states that children born of reproductive donation or surrogate pregnancy can access information about their origins.
In certain circumstances, the child will have the right to know the name and profile of the third party, as well as information enabling them to contact the third party, unless the third party refuses contact.
A register will be created to enable children born of assisted reproduction to access their origins.
"Bill 12, an important part of our family law reform, was passed unanimously. (...) Throughout the process, it was the interests of children that guided our decisions," said Jolin-Barrette.
CONTINUATION OF BILL 2
Last year, the Minister passed Bill 2, which dealt mainly with the issue of gender identity and the recognition of non-binary people.
He ran out of time and withdrew an entire section on the regulation of surrogate motherhood, i.e., contracts between intentional parents and surrogate mothers.
Bill 12 took over the surrogacy component and added others, notably on children born of rape.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 31, 2023.