Ontario Child Support Enforcement Kicks Dads while They’re Down
Barbara Kay’s tear jerking story about a long-haul trucker’s brush with the Ontario’s Family Responsibility Office (FRO) and subsequent suicide has been mysteriously removed from the National Post. Thankfully, you can still read it on the author’s site.
Here’s a brief summary.
On Aug. 13, 2010, Paul Donovan, age 50, rolled into the path of an oncoming train and was killed instantly. Although we’ll never know what was going through his head when he decided to commit suicide it’s certain that heavy handed treatment from the FRO led to his downward spiral.
Paul Donovan temporarily lost his job due to hard times in the trucking industry. He had been paying child support regularly since 1996, but the setback made him unable to pay two support payments.
Once he gained employment the FRO suspended his commercial license. A payment of $1,500 was demanded to reinstate it, but since he was unable to do his job Paul couldn’t come up with the cash. With bills pilling up, he was stuck in a catch-22 situation.
Eventually the FRO took him to court, petitioning for $10,000 or 188 days in jail. He told his common-law partner Brenda Higgins that he would rather die than serve such a ridiculous sentence.
Here’s my take on this.
There are two types of “deadbeat dads”: those that won’t pay child support and those that cannot. Ontario’s laws lob these two groups into the same basket, as they are treated with equal contempt.
It’s contrary to common sense that a man that is unable to pay should be penalized by taking even more money from him. Why waste valuable resources trying to extract blood from a stone? That is if we assume that the preferred goal is to get him back on his feet so he can make payments to his ex-wife and children, which these laws seek to protect. When you hinder the livelihood of a provider, everyone suffers.
What makes Paul Donovan’s case so exemplary is that it tells the story of a man whose existence is tied to his ability to drive. Without question truckers happen to be hit exceptionally hard by laws that suspend driver’s licenses for non-payment of child support. However, this is hardly an issue that affects a tiny minority. Canadians rely on their ability to drive to work as in many circumstances the alternatives aren’t practical. By taking away a man’s driving license the FRO is in many cases taking away his job by proxy.
I can’t wrap it up better than Barbara Kay so I’ll leave you with this passage: