Yukon Party disregards common law couples and homosexuals

Mary had been with her partner for more than 10 years. Recently, the pair split. Although the couple had never been formally married and…

Mary had been with her partner for more than 10 years.

Recently, the pair split.

Although the couple had never been formally married and hadn’t signed any pre-nuptial agreement, Mary (not her real name) assumed they were common-law.

She was wrong.

In the Yukon, legislation recognizing the rights of common-law couples doesn’t exist.

When it came time to divide their property, Mary looked into what protection she had under the Family Property and Support Act.

She was out of luck.

The act defines “spouse” as “either a man and a woman who are married to each other, or who are married to each other by a form of marriage that is voidable and has not been voided by a judgment or nullity.”

 Most people assume common-law is recognized when dividing up family property, said NDP leader Todd Hardy on Thursday.

“But it’s not.

“And in a break-up, one or the other is going to benefit from it not being there.”

Historically, it’s women who are most affected, he added.

The courts usually rule in favour of the man as breadwinner when it comes to property redistribution.

For Mary, it could wind up being quite ugly, said Hardy.

And there’s more than one hole in this legislation, he added.

The act clearly defines “spouse” as a man and a woman.

Gay and lesbian marriage is completely outside the law.

In a divorce, homosexual couples face the same issues as heterosexual couples, said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff.

“And there is no protection for them either.”

It’s upsetting on two counts, said Yukon Gay and Lesbian Alliance president Stephen Dunbar-Edge.

“As a gay person it certainly doesn’t impress me too much that the government doesn’t recognize the fact that one law will affect another,” he said from his office on Thursday.

“How difficult is it to change legislation that already has precedence in other places?”

It’s not difficult at all, said Hardy.

There’s been an amendment to the Family Property and Support Act kicking around since 1998.

The amendment redefines “spouse,” changing the wording from “a man and a woman,” to “persons.”

It also solves the common-law dilemma, adding, “cohabitation as a couple for at least 12 continuous months,” to the act’s definition of marriage.

Already passed by the legislature, the amendment is ready to go.

“All it would take is an Order in Council,” said Hardy.

“They could change the act tomorrow.”

“This is in the process of now being reviewed,” said Justice Minister Marion Horne, struggling in legislature on Thursday (see related story on page 5).

This government isn’t doing its legislative work, said Hardy.

“Legislation is not being brought up to what the current laws are federally.”

As a taxpayer, Dunbar-Edge is concerned legislation is not being kept current.

“This means legal action could happen because someone is put out by this government’s lack of action,” he said.

“By being reactive, instead of proactive, they could cost the taxpayers a lot of money.”

This government just hasn’t kept up with the times, added Dunbar-Edge, citing the territory’s out-of-date children’s act.

Mary is in for a long ride, said Hardy.

“It’s this kind of thing that causes a lot of added hardship in separation.

“People will be forced to hire lawyers and end up in court.

“But the act is supposed to mitigate some of this stuff and put in place a code of conduct.”

“These things not only cause undue hardship to the citizens, they end up costing the government more money in the long run,” added Dunbar-Edge.

Horne refused to comment on the issue.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read