New Policy Document: Principles of Family Law



December 9, 2022

ARPA Canada has just released a new document, looking at the foundational principles behind God’s design for the family, and providing recommendations for how Canadian governments should apply those principles to the law. There are many issues within family law that could be discussed, but this document looks at the big questions underlying many of the specific issues. These principles apply broadly to both federal and provincial governments in Canada, although family law differs significantly between jurisdictions.

Canadian Family Law

Canadian governments have signed on to international documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” This language has been included in multiple Canadian laws. Yet, Canadian governments increasingly fail to understand what the family really is, basing it on abstract arguments about ‘love’ or simply on an individual’s desire to make a family what they want it to be.

Family law addresses questions of marriage and parenting, including who can marry whom, how many individuals can enter a marriage, and parental duties and rights. Canada’s provincial and federal governments have made monumental changes to the law in this area in recent years.

Three Areas of Focus

The first major change to family law came in 1968 when Parliament enacted the Divorce Act to permit divorce in various circumstances. This Act was later revised in 1985, making divorce even easier to obtain, and allowing no-fault divorce. Marriage in Canada has become increasingly contractual, rather than a committed lifelong relationship. Today, nearly one-quarter of Canadian couples live in common-law relationships instead of committed marriages.

More recently, parenting has become contractual as well, based on various agreements where adults choose whether to be the parent of a child prior to the child’s conception, rather than based on objective biological reality. In the past, legal parentage was defined on the basis of biology or adoption. Today, in some jurisdictions, like Ontario, up to four adults can be a child’s legal parents outside of biology or adoption. Technological advancements through IVF and surrogacy have made this increasingly possible.

In connection with these changes, the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ are increasingly being replaced with gender-neutral terminology. This fails to recognize the distinctiveness of both a mother and father and their importance in their children’s lives.

These changes stem from an ideological commitment to deny that the family is, at its most basic, a natural institution, rooted in creation and human nature, and not merely a product of human invention. Rather, this ideology wishes to transcend biology and assert that families are products of human will and design – your family is what you want it to be and comes into existence the way you choose.

A Foundational Response

The most basic foundation for the family is explained in scripture. The natural family is an institution that dates back to the creation of mankind in Genesis 1. The institution of the family precedes the institution of the state, giving the family a primary role in society. The natural family structure (father, mother, and biological children) follows God’s good design for the family. This structure is also best for children, families, and society.

Canadian governments should care deeply about preserving and promoting the natural family. Not only are intact natural families best for individual spouses and children, but thriving families have vast societal benefits. The family is not merely a private affair but is the ‘fundamental group unit of society.’ Wherever possible, law and public policy should seek to ensure that a child can be raised by his or her biological mother and father, with the alternative being adoption. Instead of prioritizing what is best for children and families, Canadian governments have instead prioritized the desires of adults who want relationships of convenience and who want to receive children outside of God’s design for the family.

ARPA Canada’s principles and recommendations focus on how Canadian jurisdictions can promote the well-being of children, families, and society as a whole by supporting the natural family and recognizing the value of married, biological mothers and fathers.

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