OTTAWA -- How bad is the problem of unpaid child support and spousal support in Canada? A new survey from Statistics Canada has revealed that the total amount owed in the country now totals more than $2.5 billion.
The report, which the organization released on Tuesday, says that the national amount of unpaid support has increased since 2004 by approximately $50 million a year. Canada has about 400,000 support cases, around two-thirds of which are behind in payment.
The percentage of cases in which ex-partners pay support faithfully varies across the country, however. The highest percentage is in Quebec, where people comply with support orders 79% of the time, while the Northwest Territories' percentage is the lowest, at only 54%. British Columbia and Alberta rank at 65%, and Ontario's percentage is 63%.
Statistics Canada based the survey on one month's data from Maintenance Enforcement Programs in ten provinces and territories across the country. These programs monitor and enforce payments of child support and spousal support. (Manitoba, Newfoundland, and Nunavut have not established Maintenance Enforcement Programs to date.)
"When support doesn't get paid, it makes a bad situation an awful lot worse," Tim Simboli, the executive director of Family Services Ottawa, told the Victoria Times Colonist after the survey results went public. He added that the denied recipients "are deciding whether to spend the money on clothes, food, or [to] pay the hydro bill. For a lot of families, that's a real shock."
In Ontario alone, 42% of the support cases with money owing date back at least a decade, as per the Family Responsibility Office at the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. However, more than $652 million in support was collected in 2008, an increase of $20 million from the year before. The Office presently has a total of 186,000 Ontario support cases.
"Some [people] go to extraordinary lengths to actively hide assets and confound FRO's attempts to enforce the court orders," Sandy Mangat, a spokesperson for the Family Responsibility Office, told the Times Colonist.
In the midst of a major recession, the situation doesn't seem likely to get much better in the near future.
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