Canadian Journal of Family Law

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This paper empirically investigates how lawmakers navigate family law's contested terrain. Using Alberta's newest child welfare law, the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (2004) as a case, I explain the discursive strategies used to pass this unique law through a socio-political context dominated by political rationalities with partially divergent ideas of "family." Analysis reveals two dominant discursive strategies. The first creates a discursive framework that expels welfarist rationalities and centers tensional neoliberal and neoconservative logics. The second navigates the tensions between neoliberal and neoconservative images of family by constituting the content of families as autonomous and responsible while leaving the form of families indeterminate. Together these strategies were flexible enough to ensure the law's passage through a divided legislature, while at the same time increasing interpersonal responsibility. I demonstrate that the only conclusion one can make about "family" in this context is that it is a calculation of responsibility that excludes the state. I problematize the techniques and concepts used to present this law and suggest reforms to make the construction of family law a more meaningfully inclusive process.