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B.C. woman sues adult kids for parental support: Should she get it?

A 73-year-old British Columbia woman is suing her adult children for $750 a month in parental support, using a little-known filial duty law dating back to the Depression era to stake her claim before the courts.

Shirley Anderson already gets $1,500 a month from the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, but now she wants $750 from each of her four kids.

The children argue they owe their mom zilch, since she abandoned them when they were teenagers: "I just do not believe you should have to pay when you're left behind at 15 years old. It's not right," one of her sons Ken, 47, told reporters.

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"We're getting older and we've got to retire soon. We've got two kids that we've got to put through post-secondary school, and having to pay her just takes it away from my kids. It's just not right," he said.

Ms. Anderson has complained that her family takes trips to Hawaii as she lives in poverty. She first sued her children 12 years ago and was then awarded $10 a month from each child. Now suffering from lupus and arthritis, Ms. Anderson wants more money for her medications.

And her brood may be on the hook: Enacted in 1922, a time pre-dating pensions and old age security, British Columbia's rarely used Family Relations Act states: "A child is liable to maintain and support a parent having regard to the other responsibilities and liabilities and the reasonable needs of the child."

Filial duty laws exist in every province except Alberta; these require adult children who have the means to support dependent parents, those who may be in need because of illness, age or financial adversity.

In China, legislators have proposed that children be forced to visit their parents "often" and pay their medical expenses, this to help the country's overburdened health care system.

In Singapore, hundreds of parents have sued their children thanks to the passage in 1995 of the Maintenance of Parents Act, which lets parents over the age of 60 sue their children for monthly allowances or a lump-sum payment.

Should children be legally forced to support their elderly parents, or do you think Canada's filial duty laws should be abolished?

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Zosia More

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