Canada v. Finland – And it’s Not About Hockey
A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision had an international aspect: It considered whether a support order from a court in Finland should preclude the authority by a Canadian court – in this case, in Ontario – to make the same kind of support order locally.
Despite the title of this Blog, there is no actual antagonism between Finland and Canada – to the contrary. In fact, under mutual international commitments, both countries are among a large number around the world, all formally dedicated to cooperating with each other. They all have legislation and treaties in place to ensure that child and spousal support orders made in participating jurisdictions are reciprocally enforced.
In Ontario, this ideal is entrenched in the provincial Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, 2002 (the “ISO Act”). In situations where one parent lives in Ontario and the other lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction like Finland, it allows for support orders to be made and mutually enforced. As the Court of Appeal explained:
A principal purpose of the ISO Act is to facilitate the enforcement of the support obligations of persons resident in one jurisdiction whose dependants (spousal or child) are resident in another jurisdiction.
In other words, Ontario court can enforce a valid order made in Finland. The question was whether it still had the authority to make a support order of its own, when one was already in place in that other country.
This brings us to the ruling Krause v. Bougrine. The parents had married in Finland and divorced there a year later. The mother stayed in that country with their two children, while the father moved to Canada a few years later. A court in Finland granted the mother custody, and ordered the husband to pay child support. After some initial payments, he stopped paying for about 10 years.
From there, the proceedings get a bit convoluted. To cover all bases, the mother also obtained a temporary order from an Ontario court that ordered the father to pay. So this meant there were now two separate support orders in place: One in Finland. And one in Canada.
The mother then asked Finnish justice authorities to write to the Ontario Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to have the arrears under the child support order enforced. They were duly sent to the Ontario Family court, and registered.
But the father had that registration set aside by a different Ontario Court, by giving false information. (He convinced that judge that he had moved to Morocco, was never given notice of the court order from Finland, and had no reasonable opportunity to participate. None of this was true).
Cue the International Support Orders Unit (ISO Unit) – which is part of the FRO – and administers the ISO Act here in Ontario. It learned that the father was still living and working in Ontario. It launched proceedings here, under provisions of the ISO Act that essentially allowed the mother’s pursuit of her rights under the still-valid Finnish support order to be imported and continued under Ontario legislation. This would remedy the father’s egregious and dishonest conduct, and avoid the mother having to start a new child support application.
More legal wranglings ensued. Ultimately, the asked that the whole matter should be placed back in the hands of the Finnish court system, rather than dealt with in Ontario.
This brought the matter the Court of Appeal for resolution. The issue boiled down to one key legal question: Whether, even in the face of the Finnish support order, the Ontario Family court still had authority to make another support order.
The Ontario Court of Appeal found that it did, under the ISO Act. The Court explained:
[T]he ISO Act specifically empowers an Ontario court to hear a new support application that takes into account the unenforceable foreign order as well as other information the court considers necessary and to make a new support order. …
The core scheme of the ISO Act is to establish a fair and workable system for providing support for children and spouses who have a parent or former partner living in a different jurisdiction.
The Court was bolstered in this conclusion since the regime of international reciprocity between countries, for the purposes of enforcing support orders, is premised on “cooperation between knowledgeable governments and their agencies that administer the governing laws, treaties and intergovernmental agreements”.
The Appeal Court restored the original Ontario order, which paved the way for it being enforced for the mother’s benefit through the FRO again. (She shoots … and she scores!)
For the full text of the decision, see:
Krause v. Bougrine (also cited as Ontario (Family Responsibility Office, Director) v. Bougrine), 2022 ONCA 161