in the May 6, 1999 issue of the National Post announced that shared
parenting and equal justice for divorced or separated parents are to become a principle
imbedded in Canadian laws. Whether what Justice Canada proposes now will actually be
put into law remains to be seen. Nevertheless, according to all appearances it seems
right now that common sense will prevail in Canadian courts in issues affecting families
after divorce, if the proposed changes become implemented.
Let's hope for the best and
let's also keep a sharp eye on the pending developments.
Although the article provides hopes that go beyond the expectations of many
non-custodial parents and family activists, it contains a few statements that require to
be expanded a little. Chris Cobb, the author of the article, said:
[See my note 1 WHS]
"If shared parenting becomes part of Canadian law, it will put the onus on
courts to make orders regarding children more specific and enable police to enforce those
"Parents who agree on a shared-parenting plan without legal intervention would
not be affected. About 80% of divorcing couples (almost 80,000 a year) fall into this
category. [See my note 2 WHS]
The report said this would also equalize a system that punishes parents
usually fathers who default on support payments but not parents who routinely deny
legal access to the children." [See my note 3 WHS]
1.) The police forces do currently have the power to enforce child access orders, but
they exercise it extremely rarely and in those few cases when they do, it is only when
specifically ordered by the Court. They generally excuse themselves from becoming
involved in access enforcement by claiming that access disputes are a civil matter.
However, they are wrong in that. It is a criminal offence under
current Canadian law to interfere with the implementation of a court order. That
includes the interference by mothers with court-ordered access rights for fathers.
2.) It wouldn't surprise me if the 80% figure quoted in Chris Cobb's article originated
from Canada's Justice Department. Justice Canada mentioned it in its presentations
to the Joint Senate/House of Commons Committee on Child Custody and access, and also used
it when interacting with the media while the hearings of the Joint Senate/House of Commons
Committee were being held.
The figure, technically plausible (although to my knowledge its source
was never identified in a manner that would make it possible to verify it) is a myth, at
best a misrepresentation of facts. Only its originators know their intent in
presenting it. When the 80% figure was first mentioned by Justice Canada, it was used to claim
that the problems caused by the absence of workable shared-parenting arrangements affected
only a small minority of divorced couples, couples who had acrimonious divorces (thereby
implying that couples who don't appear in court don't have acrimonious divorces).
When Justice Canada first stated its 80% figure it was implied that
couples in acrimonious divorces have custody battles only because they can't agree.
The figure was used to present the myth that custody battles are the result of human
failings by a few, that there are not many of them, and that dissatisfaction with custody
arrangements is not the result of pervasive and outrageous anti-father bias by the Canadian courts.
The 80% figure, ostensibly reflecting the number of couples who
"agree", comprises mostly situations in which the fathers don't formally object
to the decision by the divorce court that assigns to them the role of being walking
wallets and turns them into remote figures in their children's lives. These fathers
are being given minimum visitation rights that often at best permit them to see their
children for a few hours every second week. These fathers don't formally object to
the court decisions denying them reasonable access to their children because they
know that fathers are virtually without
exception not treated fairly and equitably by the courts, and that for those
fathers to act
contrary to that knowledge would mean an enormous financial burden in fighting an opponent
with virtually unlimited funding and extensive support from many sectors of the
bureaucracy. For example, virtually without exception, Legal Aid will help only
Although there is a small portion of couples who cooperate well enough
to truly put the interests of their children over their own, many are couples whose
family's assets were drained by the legal system to the point of exhaustion. Because
it is almost always men who are being held responsible to pay for the consequences of
divorce, many of them are living in poverty or on the brink of bankruptcy. Any court
battle, let alone a prolonged one over access rights (they often require as many or more
than 30 court appearances), will push them over the brink into bankruptcy, or worse, into
suicide resulting from the despair of being unable to obtain the justice for themselves
and the children they falsely thought could be obtained in the courts as a consequence of
judicial objectivity. However, most divorced or separated fathers have only minimal
visitation rights, and just because they don't show up in the courts doesn't mean that
their hearts don't ache for their children whom the justice system cruelly robbed of the
right to their fathers.
3.) Sanford Braver, in his book Divorced Dads
Shattering the Myths, debunked many of the myths that have become generally
accepted as "the truth" about divorced fathers. He reports that fathers
who are being granted joint legal custody and whose ex-wives grant them agreeable custody
privileges have a compliance rate of 93% in making payment of
child support amounts
ordered by the courts, saying: "Here,
is a remedy that is virtually cost-free
to society that appears to make fathers want to pay, voluntarily."
(original emphasis) Joint legal custody is in that respect far more effective
than the coercive child support enforcement programs that are being implemented at the
cost billions of dollars and have no noticeable effect on compliance rates. [Divorced
Dads, p. 197]
It took a little over 2 ½ years of enormous efforts by many people to bring us to the
realistic expectations that the article in the National Post informs us
about. It was in December of 1996 when the draft of Bill C-41, containing new
support guidelines and other restrictive, onerous rules for non-custodial Canadian
parents, electrified Fathers Rights activists and non-custodial parents and caused them
to become united across Canada in an extensive effort to fight for fair and equitable
justice in the application of the law for parents and children of divorce.
Bill C-41 passed in Parliament, due to the absolute majority of the
Liberal Party. However, it didn't become law until it was redrawn somewhat to grant
a few concession that the Senate Committee on Sociology, Science and Technology had
demanded before it would give its consent to the onerous bill. The opposition to the
bill in the Senate Committee was lead by Senators Duncan Jessiman (Progressive
Conservative, now retired [now deceased]) and Anne Cools (Liberal, thank God still very active).
Bill C-41 then became law, just in time before the federal
elections. However, Bill C-41 by itself wasn't much good in furthering the aims of
the Liberal Party. The bill had been intended to garner an additional $500
million (some put the figure as high as $1 billion) per year in tax revenue, with the
promise of paying $250 million dollars per year in child tax credits to all single mothers
in poverty, with that promise playing a major role in the election strategy of the Liberal
Party. After all, who would dare to oppose attempts to relieve the plight of mothers
and children in poverty, even if that relief would come at the expense of non-custodial
parents (mostly fathers) and their children. The scheme required changes to the
Income Tax Act, to remove the right of non-custodial parents to claim
payments as a deduction from their taxable income.
Literally in the last few hours of the last week of the 1997 session of
Parliament those changes were pushed through Parliament; with lightning speed and in
record time, without debate, in a series of crafty moves employing considerable stealth
and deception all made perfectly legal on account of the Liberal Party's absolute
majority in Parliament, but nevertheless a somewhat touchy situation on account of the
looming federal elections that were to take place then within little more than a month.
The gamble worked. The media never gave any attention to this
rather minor tax-grab out of so many that the Liberal Party had burdened Canadians with
during its latest term.
Bill C-41 ostensibly reflected the results of a 6-year study by a
federal/provincial/territorial task force that was intended to investigate child custody,
child access and child support.
Sadly, Bill C-41 only addressed the easily-measured aspect of
Child Support! The
lobbying by non-custodial parents and their supporters resulted from the omission in Bill
C-41 of the other two-thirds of the mandate of the task force: child custody
and child access. One of the
concessions made in getting the Senate to give consent to Bill C-41 was a commitment by
Alan Rock, then Justice Minister, to allow the establishment of a Joint Senate/House of
Commons Committee for the investigation of child custody and access. That motion had
overwhelming support by numerous letters, phone calls, faxes and e-mail messages from
Let there be no mistake, in this one instant the Canadian Senate earned
its pay for many years by acting in the best interest of our children. That should
be more than enough to defeat the arguments that call for the abolition of the Canadian
Senate, but let's hope that the Senate acts more often as courageously as that. It
will prolong our hopes that democracy in Canada may yet rise from its death bed.
For a different view of the issues, have a look at an article about this that was published
May 7, 1999 in The Globe & Mail. It appears to indicate, straight
from the horse's mouth, that Justice Canada intends to follow the routine that is often
followed by our Government when addressing any issues of concern to Canadians: Study the
subject to death. It has always worked in the past.
Years go by. Report after report is issued by one commission
after another, until finally the problem goes away when the public eventually loses
interest. Besides, by using this strategy it is always possible to procrastinate
until the problem is inherited by the successor to the current party in power if the
studies can be stretched out to extend into the next session of Parliament.
However, the problems resulting from the issues of parenting after
divorce won't go away this time. They are growing ever larger, year after
year. Any Government that ignores these problems in this fashion will be actively
contributing to the decline of Canada into social, judicial and fiscal chaos.
Visit the web site of F.A.C.T. for a comprehensive collection of newspaper articles
concerning this issue.
Bruderheim, Canada, May 8, 1999
Update May 10, 1999
Brian Jenkins from F.A.C.T. stated the following:
The Department of Justice reply is out now. The FACT home page has links on it to the
press release and the very brief "backgrounder", and some brief comments at:
As you can see, the release leaves a lot to be desired.
The direct links are: