In the weeks preceding this past Fathers’ Day, there were so many different interpretations of who is a dad, some may have found it difficult to distinguish just what is a father these days. Oprah featured a single dad with nine children, and the National Post didn’t do much for the idea of fathers as role models when it ran an article on the importance of sperm in child development.
Divorce Act amendments Now a small group of legislators from different sides of the House of Commons in Ottawa have gotten together in an attempt to address some of the real issues. Bill C-422, to amend the Divorce Act in favor of a presumption of equal parenting, has been tabled by Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, with the support of Laval-les Îles Liberal Raymonde Folco and Lévis-Bellechasse Conservative Steven Blaney.
At least one purpose of the proposed amendment would be to counter an overall bias many people feel currently exists in divorce and child custody law which generally favours women. “I had already met with a group that was trying to get a private member’s bill on this,” Folco said in an interview with TLN.
‘No hesitation’: Folco
“They thought I would be interested because of some of the other things I’d done in Parliament. So I said I would be very happy to second it. This is the kind of bill where I felt no hesitation at all. If he hadn’t tabled it, I would have. This law if passed would make it mandatory for two parents who are divorcing to discuss with either a mediator or a judge how they would divide the time with the children.
“Equal parenting means that 50 per cent of the time a child would be with one parent and 50 per cent with the other,” she continued. “That’s so that the two parents can come together for the good of the child. If one of the parents felt that during the week it was impossible for him or her to have the child and they would rather have him or her on the weekend, that would be something to be discussed between the two parents with a mediator. But the basic line is a 50-50 proposition, and this is to help the child grow up with the help of both parents.”
The Canadian Equal Parenting Council, a coalition of 40 member organizations and worldwide affiliates pushing for the recognition of presumptive equal parenting as being in the best interest of the child, is pleased with the proposed amendment. “We have had the real pleasure of working on this legislation with Mr. Vellacott who truly has the same interests as our coalition ― protecting the best interests of children after divorce,” said Kris Titus, co-president of the CEPC. The CEPC says it agrees with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s position on the issue and has called on all parties and their leaders to stand by their commitments to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Canada in 1992, and to follow recommendations made in the For the Sake of the Children Parliamentary report of 1998.
Fathers 4 Justice
Regarding the move to shared parenting legislative changes, Ignatieff wrote in his 2002 book The Rights Revolution, “These are sensible and overdue suggestions.” Fathers 4 Justice Canada, a controversial group that has attracted a fair bit of media attention in recent years with tactics such as scaling tall structures like bridges where they hang banners, fully supports the proposed changes.
"Men in Canada need to quite literally start protecting themselves from the flawed family law system,” the group said in a statement reacting to Bill C-422. “Right now the focus is on litigation not restoration. Money talks and Dads are forced to walk away because they cannot afford to fight for their children any longer. We need to start asking why they should even have to. Dads are just not seen as important."