Alberta Report, January 11, 1999, page 33
(Side Bar to "Look who doesn't want a divorce" on page 30 of the same issue)
The demonization of Senator Cools
By Candis McLean
Canada's divorce laws satisfy no one. But when the joint Commons-Senate committee
chaired by Senator Anne Cools [Sen. Cools was a committee member, not the
Chairman. The committee was chaired by Sen. Landon Pearson. However,
the committee was set up through the insistence of Senater Anne C. Cools and
Senator Duncan Jessiman. That was as a result of the review process of Bill
C-41 -- the bill that addressed changes pertaining to the Canadian Divorce Act but
only child maintenance and not custody and access -- in the Standing Senate Committee
on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. WHS] tabled a set of proposed
amendments on December 9, the result was a firestorm of vitriol aimed primarily at Senator
Cools. The attacks were "vicious and nasty," says the senator. But
ever more interesting, she says, was the implied "moral superiority of the female gender" which formed the basis for a feminist assault
on the committee's central recommendation, namely that the words "custody" and
replaced with the concept of "shared parenting."
In an attempt to reduce the adversarial aspects of divorce, the
committee recommended that courts no longer grant sole custody to one parent. But it
stopped short of recommending that joint custody be a forced solution for every divorce
case, leaving the courts to make the final decision on who gets the children.
Enraged by shared parenting's implied message that men play a vital
parenting role, feminist journalists aimed their ire at the committee chairman, describing
what were calm exchanges during committee hearings as "rough-and-tumble"
attacks on feminist witnesses. For example, according to the Parliamentary
transcript, Sen. Cools asked Eileen Morrow and Ruth Hislop, lobbyists for the Ontario
Association of Interval and Transition Houses, how many women had stayed at their shelters
during the previous year. "We didn't do a survey last year because we lost our
provincial funding." Ms. Morrow replied. "Okay," said Sen.
Cools, "the previous year, the last year." When Ms. Morrow still I did not
reply, Sen. Cools said, "Okay, during the last year or when you have data, how many
women stayed at your shelter?"
Sen. Cools rephrased the question seven times. But with no
answer forthcoming, she turned to divorce and wife abuse statistics, where she again asked
for numbers. The lobbyists did not have those statistics, either. Suddenly
committee member Sen. Erminie Cohen began to cry. "I feel we're pitting women
against women," she said. "These women should not be attacked. They're
doing their job and we have no right to make this division.'
On April 18, Michele Landsberg commented on the incident in the
Toronto Star with breathtaking disregard for the facts. "According to
witnesses." she wrote, "when representatives of women's services and shelters
began their allotted five minutes of testimony, Senator Anne Cools smiled sarcastically,
rolled her eyes, and then got up to stroll the room and work the crowd, chatting and
joking with the rows of father's rights activists. When Beth Bennet of the Assaulted
Women's Help Line began to testify about women recently murdered by their violent
ex-partners, these men erupted in noisy laughter, jeers and shouts ...In fact, the men's
aggressive and abusive behavior at the committee hearings bears out just how threatening
"That was all a lie," reports Torontonian Dori Gospodoric,
who represented Second Spouses of Canada throughout the hearings. "When that
came out in the media I w s horrified. I had absolutely no idea what they were
talking about. The atmosphere was like a court, very orderly. I could hear a
sigh once from the men, but then the gavel came down and everyone was silent as a
"The mainstream press who attended never saw any of the stuff the
female columnists were writing about," adds Liberal MP Roger Gallaway, co-chairman of
the committee. "Anne likes a position that certain feminists don't agree with,
and rather than debate they want to shoot the messenger."
Two weeks after the Landsberg article appeared, Penni Mitchell published a
column in the Winnipeg Free Press which stated, "According to both news reports and
verbatim transcripts of the hearings on the Internet, Senator Cools has brow-beaten female
presenters who refused to concur that mothers are behind a wave of false abuse
charges." In December, the same Ms. Mitchell wrote that, "Non-custodial
fathers were given precedence on the list of presenters at the hearing" and some
presenters "were threatened by Ms. Cool's with lie detector tests."
None of Ms. Mitchell's accusations was true. "It's
disgusting," says Mr. Gallaway, "They're just manure spreaders. But if
people read enough of these articles, they start to think there's something to them."
"It's time for us to begin to understand that human beings are
flawed, that both sexes are capable of being equally loving and hateful," concludes
Sen. Cools. "But, the matter of misreporting is distressing. I'm quite
prepared to be criticized and defend and debate, but the truth is not up for debate.
Something has to be true. That's my standard."
[My Note: The article contained a picture of Sen. Cools sitting in, so it
appears, in the senate chamber. --WHS]
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