Written Cindy E. Harnett / Times Colonist December 1, 2013 09:57 AM
Tjally Heino, who has incurable cancer, with her children, Emily Rose, 15, and seven-year-old Aryeh. The struggling single mom is in the fight of her life to collect the more than $350,000 owed to her in child support. Photograph by: BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist
A Victoria single mother with incurable cancer is running out of time to collect more than $350,000 owed to her children in support.
Tjally Heino, 42, wants to take her children — Emily, 15, who is an A-plus student, and Aryeh, 7, the charmer in the family — on vacation. More importantly, she wants to secure a future for them. Instead, she lives in poverty.
Enforcement programs in B.C. and Ontario, where the children’s father, John Timothy Jackson, is believed to be living, have failed to acquire the court-ordered payments of $354,167 owed the children as of Oct. 31, 2013.
B.C. child and youth advocate Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond said B.C.’s enforcement program needs to pull out all the stops.
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“As a fellow resident of our town and as a representative for children and youth, I just can’t think of a more important thing to get behind,” Turpel-Lafond said. “We need to support women who are struggling. Because her health situation is precarious, she needs some confidence that [the child support in arrears] will be collected so her children will have the support they need.”
B.C.’s children’s watchdog does not have authority over the maintenance program, but does advocate for children in poverty. “The Family Maintenance Enforcement office pride themselves on good customer service, and they need to get out there and serve,” she said.
Heino receives $1,051 a month in assistance — $100 short of the rent for her two-bedroom basement apartment. Heino’s parents, in their 70s, top up her income assistance and pay for the family’s groceries and living costs and the children’s expenses.
Tjaltje Heino says her daughter, sick from her chemotherapy, sometimes has to bring her son with her when she lines up for her welfare cheque.
“What does he think of society now? The system in B.C. has failed them and the system in Ontario has failed them. The interprovincial agreement is a laugh.”
B.C. has an inter-jurisdictional agreement to enforce support orders with Canada’s provinces and territories, all U.S. states and 17 other countries.
B.C.’s Family Maintenance Enforcement Program is responsible for monitoring Heino’s file, but because Jackson is believed to be in Ontario, that province is responsible for collecting the money.
“This is one of those unique areas where she needs support and they need to move mountains for her, and if enforcement in Ontario hasn’t been active enough, put the pressure on Ontario to do more,” Turpel-Lafond said.
Chris Beresford, director of maintenance enforcement, said arrears above $350,000 are unusual — less than one per cent.
“This case, from B.C., has had a lot of attention,” Beresford said. But there is a limit to what B.C. can do if the payor lives in Ontario, he said.
Charlotte Wilkinson, spokeswoman for the Family Responsibility Office in Ontario, said some payors go to great lengths to hide their assets.
“We are working on this file and we will continue to work on it diligently to get the money to the families that deserve it,” Wilkinson said. “That’s our priority.”
Rick Sanderson, who has been helping Heino, said his calls prompted the B.C. program to request Ontario cancel the payor’s passport. That should have happened in 2011 when Heino enrolled in the program, he said.
“Both governments should be doing much more,” Sanderson said. “Time is of the essence. We need to get the ball rolling in Ontario.”