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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

March 28, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

It’s getting hot and heavy on the shared parenting front in Canada. Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott’s bill, C-560, has moved to a second reading in Parliament which has prompted intensive commentary by the news media, mostly the National Post. It should come as no surprise that many of the comments traffic in the same false claims we see everywhere shared parenting bills appear to have a chance of success. I’m going to do at least a couple of posts on the goings on, but before doing so, I’d like to do this short preliminary piece.

In the run-up to the vote on C-560, the Canadian market research firm, Vision Critical conducted a survey of 1,500 Canadians and their attitudes on shared parenting, with specific reference to C-560. Here’s the question VC asked:

As you may or may not be aware, a bill is being debated in Parliament that would affect rulings about child custody for divorcing parents. This bill would require courts to rule in favour of equal shared parenting except in cases involving proven neglect or abuse. In other words, this bill would make it clearer that in cases where there is no proven neglect or abuse, both parents would have shared custody of the children. So then, aside from cases of abuse or neglect, do you strongly support, somewhat support or oppose federal and provincial legislation to create a presumption of equal parenting in child custody cases?

The results were published on March 17, just eight days before the bill’s second reading. According to the VC survey, 72% of Canadians support equal shared parenting of children, 10% oppose it and 18% neither support nor oppose it.

That’s about what we’ve come to expect. Previous polls by other organizations produced essentially the same results in 2001 and 2009. And, as in those previous surveys, support in the VC survey for shared parenting cuts across lines of gender, age, income bracket and geographical location. Shared parenting is supported by 69% of women and 75% of men. Some 71% of those between the ages of 18 and 54, with 74% of those over 54 favoring shared parenting. About 67% of those earning under $50,000 a year support shared parenting, and 74% of those with incomes over $100,000 do. Support for shared parenting crosses lines of political affiliation too. About 76% of Conservatives, 72% of liberals and 71% of Greens support equally shared parenting post-divorce.

Imagine for a moment if someone seeking elected office were to garner 72% of the vote. We’d say that he/she won in a landslide. The press would say the new office-holder had a “mandate” to govern, that those who oppose his/her programs are opposing the “will of the people.” At the very least, the person would be said to be in a “honeymoon period” with the voters, during which, pretty much anything he/she wanted to do would be presumptively OK.

You’d think it would be the same with shared parenting or indeed any issue or person with such massive popular support. It’s hard to argue with any change to the status quo that’s been so widely supported for so long by such a variety of people. The fact is, there aren’t many issues about which Canadians are in such widespread agreement. When so many from so many different backgrounds concur on something, it truly is not appropriate for the legislature to go against their wishes. There’s a reason why members of the Canadian Parliament are called the elected representatives of the people. They’re supposed to represent them.

Now of course, just what the will of the people is precisely is not always an easy call to make. Many issues are fraught with disagreement, so it’s hard to pin down just what “the people” think. In those situations, there probably is no will of the people; they don’t agree.

In other cases, people may not be educated sufficiently on a matter that’s complex or difficult, so even if there’s widespread agreement on the issue, there may be reasons why an MP might vote contrary to his/her constituents’ wishes.

But shared parenting is not such an issue. In the first place, the will of the people is abundantly clear. There’s no serious doubt by now that Canadians support equal parenting following divorce or separation, assuming both parents to be fit to care for their children. Too many polls have too consistently demonstrated that support for there to be any real doubt.

Second, parenting is not such an arcane or difficult issue to understand that most adults don’t grasp the concepts perfectly well. The great majority of adults are parents and they certainly understand the matter as well as the members of Parliament.

And finally, they’re right. The social science on shared parenting is by now overwhelming; children need both parents in their lives. That’s true whether the parents are married, cohabitating, separated or divorced. With rare exceptions, shared parenting serves the best interests of children. I doubt the majority of Canadians have read the social science on the matter, but the simple fact is that their instincts, their beliefs about what’s best for kids are congruent with the science on family structure and children’s well-being.

Given all that, Parliament must pass C-560 and send it to Prime Minister Harper for his signature. To do otherwise would be to give a one-finger salute to the people of Canada.

As things stand now, some 90% of Canadian children lose their fathers following divorce. Everyone suffers as a result. Children suffer terribly when, all of a sudden, Dad is no longer part of their lives. Fathers experience the loss of a child to divorce like the loss of an arm or a leg. Mothers, suddenly faced with doing 100% of the parenting, find themselves unable to earn a decent living or find a moment’s peace. Shared parenting would solve all of those problems and Canadian society would be the happier, the richer for it.

For the first time in years, the shared parenting ball is in Parliament’s court.

h2>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.

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#sharedparenting, #MauriceVellacott, #C-560, #Parliament, #divorce, #childcustody, #VisionCritical

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