Dr. Dawg

This month's Dizzying Spin Award©

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This time it’s not a government but an individual (assisted by an over-eager NaPo hed writer) who deserves recognition for placing more english on an issue than the laws of physics should permit.

“A bizarre case could force Canadians to be married against their will,” shrieks the hed.


Well, uh, no. The case in question involves the rights of common-law spouses (in Quebec called “de facto spouses”). The decidedly non-bizarre issue at trial is whether, upon separation, they should have the same rights as they enjoy in every other part of Canada.

Buried in the article, in fact, is the following kernel: “Quebec is the only province in Canada where spousal support payments are not recognized by law for de facto spouses.”

Precisely. That’s not really very exciting, though, is it? It hardly makes the blood boil. But, Hey presto! There is a story there! Boil away!

Across the Rest of Canada, countless common-law couples continue to live their preferences without the heavy hand of the law forcing them into compulsory marriages. There is no enforced ring-wearing, no ceremony at shotgun-point, no marriage certificate hand-delivered by a sombre state envoy.

But after a year of living together, the partners automatically acquire support rights upon separation. Not in Quebec, however—at least thus far.

The case at issue involves very large sums of money (the man is a billionaire) but the principle is easy to understand, or should be. And the principle is really all that counts.

Let me declare my own interest here. A long-time friend of mine in an American jurisdiction where such rights aren’t automatic either was put out of her house at the age of fifty by a spouse who had developed an interest in another woman. With no resources, she was given $100,000. She struggled for a while to make a living as an artist, and finally, virtually penniless, took her own life.

But back to the case at hand. To repeat, there’s nothing odd about it; no forced matrimony is waiting in the wings; we have here only a court action that would, if successful, put Quebec common-law spouses on the same footing as those everywhere else in Canada.

The writer, one Lili Boisvert, first published her piece in Slate magazine, whose US audience would be largely unaware of the context. She is described there as “a Canadian journalist,” and she clearly possesses rare gifts in that area. Why isn’t she working for the PMO?

[H/t Ben Oliphant]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on June 5, 2012 11:15 AM.

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