2009 Karen Selick
An edited version of this article first appeared in the February 4, 2009 issue of the National Post.
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A Gold Digger Without a Leg to Stand On
The man is reportedly a billionaire. The woman is seeking a $50 million lump sum, plus $56,000 monthly. She already receives $35,000 monthly in child support, plus the use of a $2.4 million house and several servants.
The rhetoric of the woman and her lawyers is astonishingly arrogant. They speak and act as if the man on other side of this case didn’t even exist—as if they were fighting a grievance against the federal and provincial governments, rather than against a sentient human being.
“I never thought I would have to go before a judge to ask for my money or my rights,” said the woman. My money? My rights? She makes it sound as though the money is simply hanging out there on a tree somewhere and it’s just plain perverse that the Quebec government won’t pluck it and hand it to her.
In reality, the money she’s after is
somebody else’s, and
always was. She wanted its owner to marry her, but he refused. Marriage was “not my cup of tea,” he
testified at the trial. He had seen
friends get divorced and he didn’t want to be forced to divide his
they had. He deliberately avoided
acquiring the legal status that would allow this. He
relied on the law of
The woman is seeking to change the law retroactively—in effect, to use the courts to mug the guy and take the money he never consented to give her. If her claim is allowed, he won’t get to re-live his life over again and prevent the incursion. If there are any rights that cry out to be respected in this case, they are the rights of citizens to certainty in the law—the right not to be waylaid in a sneak attack.
“The law is unconstitutional because it’s
argue the woman’s lawyers. But the anti-discrimination section of
She claims she thought cohabiting was just the same as being married. Tough luck. Her mistake. At some point during her ten years of jet-setting, could she not have found ten minutes to ask a lawyer, “Is there some reason why my boyfriend is refusing to put a ring on my finger?”
Her lawyers argue that millions of other Quebecers are similarly mistaken. But ignorance of the law has never been a reason to give one person’s property to someone else. The law doesn’t allow an unwitting buyer of stolen property to keep it. It gets returned to its lawful owner. Meanwhile, after this highly publicized case, there shouldn’t be many Quebecers who remain ignorant on this point.
The woman’s lawyers suggest that the court draw a new line: couples who have cohabited for three years (or one year if they have children) would get the same rights as consensually married couples. But this doesn’t end discrimination. It merely discriminates against a different group: namely, those who have cohabited only 2 years and 364 days (or 364 days with kids). Why should a single additional day of cohabitation confer such enormous financial consequences? When will this group bring its constitutional challenge?
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February 8, 2009