Following the 1985 publication of Lenore Weitzman’s The Divorce Revolution, an alliance of conservatives and feminists in Canada, as in the US, helped pass punitive “deadbeat dad” laws aimed at bolstering the legal position of mothers and sparing costs of welfare to the public fisc. A generation later, writes Christie Blatchford in the National Post, it has become evident that these laws
…disproportionately punish poor men from the margins. What’s more, they’ve resulted in new “debtors’ prisons.”
As [Nipissing Prof. Paul] Millar wrote in The Prosecution of Child-Support debt in Alberta, “child and spousal support … are private debts for which incarceration is a consequence of non-payment.”
…[Besides pursuing incarceration, provincial child-support] agencies can also suspend driver’s licences, impose fines, seize passports, and the debtors have little procedural protections. As Millar concluded, “… the standard of proof is lower than for civil process, yet the penalties are more severe than those for some criminal offences.
“I call this regime inverted justice, since the protections are all for the advantage and convenience of the state, rather than of the individual.”