December 13, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Hard on the heels of MP Maurice Vellacott’s introduction of private bill C-560 in the Canadian Parliament comes this from our old and good friend Paulette MacDonald (London Free Press, 12/10/13).
It’s her letter to Santa Claus this year in which she asks for one simple thing – passage of Vellacott’s bill. I’ve written about C-560 before, but MacDonald adds some key arguments I didn’t make. For example,
While I am extremely proud to be Canadian; I’m ashamed of our governments Family Law System, one that is profoundly broken and has been for decades - A System that was put in place to help families when they are most vulnerable and according to Ontario Chief Justice Warren Winkler “family law is in a state of crisis. We see a system in disarray – one that is beyond tinkering and that needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up using new concepts and fresh ideas. In short, we see a need for fundamental change.”
That was in 2011 when Justice Winkler was advocating for; free court based, mandatory mediation for family law litigants and in 2010 we had the release of the Law Commission of Ontario in-depth report on the family law system and the report deplores a system that can bankrupt litigants and routinely ignores the wishes and interests of children.
To my mind, when the chief justice of one of Canada’s largest provinces uses words like “crisis” and “disarray” to describe a system of family law that “is beyond tinkering,” you’d think someone would pay attention. This man is no disgruntled litigant; he’s a judge who daily sees the havoc wrought by family courts; he’s a judge who, over the years, has seen reform ideas come and go as the situation for parents and children only gets worse. He’s also a person who’s read the reports and the studies, including the 1998 report “For the Sake of the Children.”
In 1998, Ottawa’s Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access put forth, several dozen recommendations for change in our Divorce Act that would indeed be in the Best Interest of the Child in a special report, titled "For the Sake of the Children” and fifteen years later our government does nothing to protect our innocent children of divorce or separation - shameful.
And of course one of those recommendations was a presumption of shared parenting. That’s right, the Canadian government has known to a certainty for 15 years that shared parenting should be the default outcome in custody cases absent proven unfitness by one or both of the parents.
Then there’s the fact that, when surveyed, almost 80% of Canadians opt for shared parenting in study after study, year after year.
In short, the government knows what’s best for kids, knows that Canadians support shared parenting and knows from the horse’s mouth that the country’s family law system is broken beyond fixing. And yet it lifts not a finger to address any of those problems.
MacDonald informs us that it’s actually worse than that.
We need your help to implement the Conservative Party’s own Policy Declaration in section K, under the title Social Policy #69, “The Conservative Party believes that in the event of a marital breakdown, the Divorce Act should grant joint custody, unless it is clearly demonstrated not to be in the best interests of the child. Both parents and all grandparents should be allowed to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children and grandchildren, unless it is demonstrated not to be in the best interest of the child.”
So, the Canadian government not only knows the many benefits of shared parenting and that there’s a desperate need to fix the system, one of its major political parties, i.e. the party currently in power, has its own unambiguous statement of social policy favoring joint custody.
What has the Conservative Party done to further that policy? Not one thing.
It’s that sort of intransigence on the part of the government in the face of the compelling need of both children and parents for shared parenting that’s forced MacDonald to stop writing her member of Parliament in favor of writing to Santa Claus.
So here’s my hope for my friend Paulette MacDonald. Paulette, I hope Santa fills your stocking.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.