Equal Parenting In Canada
Posted by: "Paul Clements" firstname.lastname@example.org
Fri Sep 24, 2010 8:21 am (PDT)
The following is a commentary written by Barbara Kay, syndicated columnist from Canada.
She makes a good case for equal parenting, quoting from several national and regional studies.
With thanks to Jeremy Swanson for the forward.
Give fathers their rights back
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Barbara Kay ( <email@example.com
In the name of changing social mores and social justice, Ottawa's 1998
Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access recommended equal
parenting as the default custody presumption (in the absence of abuse) after
separation. The report then fell into a political black hole. Today, a tip
of a ladder reaches up from that hole, and clanging footsteps can be heard
on the rungs.
At least three recent developments in the field of family law are hopeful
signs that social justice and common sense may finally prevail in
post-separation custody issues.
We have British Columbia's first review of family law in B.C. since the
Family Relations Act came into force more than thirty years ago. Their July
"White Paper on Family Relations Act Reform" (accepting submissions until
contains progressive draft legislation and policy proposals: It
recommends stepping away from courts and the adversarial model in order to
"adopt a conflict prevention approach to family law disputes" and urges
making "children's best interests the only consideration in parenting
Next up is the Green Party's unequivocal adoption of a policy of equal
parenting at their August convention. By my reckoning that means every
single federal party is on board with the idea that both parents have the
right to maintain a strong, loving bond with their children, established
through credible sociological research as necessitating 40% of the time with
children beyond infancy.
Then there is last week's release of the Law Commission of Ontario in-depth
report on the family law system. The report deplores a system that can
bankrupt litigants and routinely ignores the wishes and interests of
children: "Children want to be heard but they feel they have no voice and no
power in relation to adults, including their parents, lawyers, counsellors
Is there anyone who believes that our family court system doesn't need
reform? Perhaps some aging radical feminists who are content with the fact
that fathers are offered shared or sole residential custody in only about 6%
of court-contested cases. And of course the myriad of professionals --
lawyers above all -- who benefit financially in dragging out litigation,
mostly unrelated to children's best interests, and who perpetuate a
dehumanizing and heartbreaking -- but lucrative --winner-take-all style of
But disinterested people categorically want reform. A National Post poll
indicated that 91% of its readership supported equal custody as an
alternative to sole custody determination, and a recent poll by the federal
government has 80% of the public, from every political persuasion,
supporting equal parenting.
The people for whom this issue matters most -- people whose lives have been
negatively impacted by the current iniquitous system -- are united and
organized. The Equal Parenting Coalition (EPC) is now an international
social movement focused on averting the tragedies that result for children
when a parent is legally disenfranchised from his or her children's lives.
I say "his or her," but in reality, the iniquities of the system
overwhelmingly target fathers. What are most fathers asking for? According
to the EPC, the clearly stated primary goal would appear to be equal
physical parenting. Advocacy in the equal parenting movement has moved well
beyond fathers' rights groups, and is now a broad-based coalition of both
mothers and fathers. More and more women realize that excluding fathers from
their children's lives is unethical and psychologically counter-productive
for everyone involved. Fathers want more input than just offering
suggestions that their ex-wives can ignore. They want to truly share in
parenting, including all its responsibilities
Indeed, the current president of the Canadian Equal Parenting Council is a
woman. Kris Titus took up the EP cause when she saw how much her children
suffered from the absence of their father after their divorce. She became an
activist in the family law reform movement when she actually had to fight
with a judge to change his award of sole custody to shared parenting, a move
that benefited everyone in her family.
For many years Canadian justice ministers from both governing federal
parties seem to have been more concerned with protecting the interests of
the divorce industry, which takes up 40% of Canadian courts' time, rather
than serving the needs of children. According to a 2003 study by actuary
Brian Jenkins, "What do the children want?", 86% of children in North
America have no voice in custody arrangements.
Decades ago women told men they had to take more responsibility for active
parenting. They listened. Fathers have earned the moral right to equality of
involvement in their children's lives in post-separation agreements as a
matter of social justice. It is now up to our legislatures and judiciary to
assume responsibility for establishing an equal-parenting presumption in
"All that is necessary for evil to succeed, is for good men to do nothing." Sir Edmund Burk