Bill C-41 Response


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"Amend C-41 To Include
National Divorce Education"


Six weeks ago, the report: " The Truth about Bill C-41" was released to the Minister and the Senate committee reviewing Bill C-41 for comment, along with suggestions for a National Divorce Education program.

The Senate Committee examining C-41, has extended no invitation to Fathers Resources International to testify next week nor has it given an indication it will require the Minister to answer if C-41 was formulated directly or indirectly on "The Divorce Revolution". Associated Press reported in May 96' that "The Divorce Revolution" as the most quoted set of statistics of all time, on any subject ever had been thoroughly discredited.

The central theme of " The Truth about Bill C-41" examined if Minister Rock"unintentionally misled Parliament" with the discredited research "The Divorce Revolution" while ignoring "Growing up in Canada" (Catalogue # 89-550-MPE, no. 1), a recently acclaimed StatsCan reported which shows how children are damaged by the impact of fatherlessness in single-mother homes, yet thrive with shared parenting.

Danny Guspie, Executive Director of Fathers' Resources International states: "The Minister agreed to work with fathers across Canada on a national divorce education program. We look forward to forging a partnership with all concerned parties that wish to strengthen C-41. The common goal is to meet the needs of divorced children, encouraging divorced parents to wage peace through divorce education."

Sean Cummings, Director - Fatherhood ... imagine that! Dartmouth, Nova Scotia adds: " Well done! We're pleased that you have presented your material to Mr. Rock. We met the Minister March when he was unveiling the changes (under C-41). Essentially one father summed it up when he asked , "when can I start parenting my children again?" Minister Rock responded: "Do you know how much consensus there is in Ottawa to deal with what you're talking about? NONE, NONE!" I responded: "If there is no consensus then you must create it!"

Taking this to be an opportunity, Mr. Cummings shared this information with colleagues such as Mr Guspie on the Internet. Mr Guspie explains: "We created a consensus of reasonable voices amongst fathers, ready to work in partnership with the Minister and other concerned parents across Canada to ensure divorced parents wage peace through divorce education. The journey has not been without difficult moments though."

Mr. Cummings illustrates these difficulties, which he encountered at a local MP's office: " Our organization regards the findings of the Federal Provincial Territorial Family Law Committee to be flawed in a number of areas which make up the framework for Bill C-41. This is due to a lack of broad-based consultation. For example, representatives of our group met with Liberal MP, Mary Clancy . We offered her Ross Finnie's (Vanier Institute of the Family) discussion paper "Just Divorce" which criticized the committee's findings, and she REFUSED to receive it."

Nonetheless, fathers across Canada continued networking, using the Internet. Mr. Guspie explains how this came about: "In Toronto, we recruited several groups to participate in an international event known as The Purple Hearts campaign - Divorced Dads focused on healing children. 50 cities worldwide organized the event via e-mail. This inspired our current efforts."

Henri Lafrance - The Masculine Association of Entraide for the Family (A.M.E.F.- Quebec) adds: "A.M.E.F. strongly supports this excellent work! We share the same goals: Defending children's rights (under the Divorce Act) to have access to both parents; Illustrating the discrimination fathers routinely face in Quebec's courts and society as caregivers; Helping divorced fathers understand their circumstances. " Mr. Guspie illustrates how wide spread the support is: "The support for "The truth behind Bill C-41", a position pare I authored for Fathers' Resources International has been incredible from the moment it was released to colleagues coast to coast. There is positive momentum for it"

Daniel Savard - Father/Activist, Brossard, Quebec agrees: "I support and agree with the views in the position paper "The Truth Behind Bill C-41". I believe that the misuse of statistics are the roots on which gender wars are built. "

As does Glenn Chretion - Fathercraft Publishing in Ottawa: "I support this position paper and am willing to help in any way I can. Good work in confronting Minister Rock."

As does Rocco Zito - Canadian Council for Co-Parenting - Ottawa: "The Canadian Council for Co-Parenting strongly supports this position paper. We're truly impressed with the presentation to the Justice Minister of the paper and Christmas gift (of divorce education materials). Fathers' Resources International is to be commended for opening a dialogue and diplomatically presenting the views of many caring and loving fathers, many whose children have unnecessarily been fathering..." Paul S. Dunn - Father/Activist - Ajax, Ont. explains why Canadian fathers are concerned with C-41 in its present form: " Our concern with this proposed bill is that it may be based on discredited research, specifically Lenore Weitzman's Divorce Revolution. Minister Rock should be recalled to testify before the committee whether Bill C-41 is based in any way, shape or form, directly or indirectly, on this flawed and discredited research. If it is, then simple logic would demand that the bill be defeated or amended to address the TRUE situation as it is in Canada. As a Canadian taxpayer and voter, I'm asking the Senate Committee to re-think their position and do the right and just thing which is to hear from fathers and to determine from Minister Rock the research upon which this bill is based."

David Osterman, Freedom For Kids, Toronto concurs citing the lack of Mens Studies at Universities as huge problem : " There is little research on the motivations of non-custodial parents, who are overwhelmingly fathers. Being male, they are not studied in tax-supported Universities' "Women Studies" programs. Being male, they are sometimes portrayed stereotypically as "abusive" and "violent", which is not the case for the majority of divorcing fathers. Men are asked to be involved and caring fathers, a role they enjoy and support, yet, upon divorce, they are pushed into merely a financial role reminiscent of the 1950's. Isn't it time to end sexist notions of the family, and permit men to have equal opportunity to parent their children?"

Mr. Guspie, custodial parent of his eleven year old daughter Elyenne elaborates about what divorced children often faces today. He speaks from direct experience, being an adult child of divorce: "Today, up to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Many divorced children grow up wounded, never having an opportunity to heal. I've been there as a child, so I know exactly how bad it can be when parents are not taught how to make peace. There is a whole generation of adult children of divorce who are speaking out, telling us its time to acknowledge that kids suffer greatly under our divorce laws because they seek to blame rather than heal.There is no thought given to divorce education as a solution whatsoever. It is time to change that."

Richard Hewitt - Father/Activist - London, Ontario expresses his agreement with Mr. Guspie and the view that children need a more humane approach to resolving divorce difficulties that do not further victimize the children.: "My prayers are with you and this project. You've exposed to public scrutiny Allan Rock and his advisors narrow and unrealistic focus on the issues of child support. Moreover you have also brought the issue of parental alienation to the forefront. Hundreds of thousands of children are suffering and will suffer throughout their lives from never knowing both parents love for them. Enough of children being used for control and feeding the Judicial and legal system that is divorced from reality. The reality is that the victims are children both emotionally and financially. If we did not allow this victimization, child poverty in Canada could be eliminated."

Terry Postey - Weekend Dads - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan adds his support to the nationwide effort at bringing about true divorce reform in Canada that focuses on the needs of children first and foremost: Our group is also concerned about this bill and is willing to help out in anyway we can to support this cause. I have shared this paper with my colleagues and they wish to express our thanks for all the effort you have put into this for fathers. We are concerned that on May 1, 1997 there is likely to be a flood of requests to vary child support. How are the courts going to handle the overload? Until the issue of access and shared parenting are addressed, our group believe the courts will be broken in a custody battleground as who ever is awarded custody also gets the money. Our group believes shared parenting should be the norm and it be up to the parent to tell the court why they wouldn't be able to parent the children less than 50% of the time."

Walter H. Schneider , Canadian Director -- Men's Freedom Network - Bruderheim, Alberta sees a very bleak Canada in our future if C-41 passes without amendment. Expressing the view that family is core to a strong healthy society, he shares that: "Bill C-41 is a reprehensible piece of legislation. The traditional nuclear family needs strengthening if it is to survive in our society. Bill C-41 is doing the opposite. The purpose of the family is to create the next generation of responsible citizens. That is the reason for protecting it. It would be foolish for any government to forget that purpose. There is no substitute for the degree of beneficial influence that a functioning family has on the productive and responsible development of children. C-41 as it stands will contribute to the on-going demise of the concept of the nuclear family in Canada. That is because it will provide powerful incentives for married women with children to walk out of their marriages and file for divorce. Already more than 75% of non-jointly filed divorces are applied for by women. We can expect to see that proportion increase if Bill C-41 becomes law."

Marina Forbister, President - Equitable Child Maintenance and Access Society Calgary, Alberta (EMACS -Calgary) is interested in what Fathers Resources International has suggested with the report "The truth behind Bill C-41." as are her colleagues in the (EMACS-Edmonton) chapter.

Barrie Mill of (EMACS-Edmonton) explains why: " I have sought the help of my MLA, MPs, newspeople, etc. but without relief. I have bourne this importunity with as much dignity as I could muster, believing that the undue financial burden to which I have been subjected will end. Now, along comes Bill C-41. This legislation will further adversely affect all non-custodial parents and their children. About 50% of all Canadian marriages end in divorce, which means that probably at least one of my children's marriages will end in divorce, which means that either of my sons or my daughter is likely to find themselves in the same horrific situation that I do. This is unacceptable."

ECMAS has been very involved in explaining C-41 to the Senate Committee and what improvements are needed. Mr Mill explains: " This legislation is inadequate, is unjust for many reasons. For example, the legislation was supposed to be revenue neutral. It will increase tax revenues by 250 to 350 million dollars per year. This means that there will be less money available to divorced families for support of the children. Additionally, the Justice Department bureaucracy is given the power to interpret & create regulations without parliamentary review & debate. There is no right to appeal which is completely contrary to the due process of law. Finally, custody and access issues are not addressed. There is a need for presumptive joint custody. There is nothing in Bill C-41 to ensure maximum access of the children to both parents (which is a right of the child)."

"ECMAS feels that justice and equality would be better served if the following principles were legislated as opposed to those proposed in Bill C-41: Both parents should be held responsible for providing the necessities of life for their children and that the children have adequate and significant access to the parent/child relationship for both parents. These principles should be promoted by legislating presumptive joint custody. There should be shared and equal access for the children to both parents and this principle be promoted by accounting for and awarding child care and access costs for both homes. Fair and equitable child support guidelines need to be created based on economic studies using the actual costs of raising a child. Child support awards must account for all assets which are available for support of the children, including the income and assets of both parents. Denial of access must be considered a serious problem and there must be enforceable consequences for access denial."

Peter Ostrowski - Freedom For Kids, Vancouver BC strongly objects to C-41: "I am the divorced father of four children who currently live with their mother in Victoria, BC. I was offered an overseas position over Christmas for two years. I turned it down as I had no means to access my children from abroad, I was uncertain as to whether my passport would be withdrawn while overseas and I had no resources to wage litigation from a distance." "The impact of Bill C-41 on Peter Ostrowski illustrates everything that is wrong with family law in Canada today" says Mr. Guspie. "The sad fact is what Mr Ostrowski will suffer is not an extreme case. In my private practice as a paralegal counselor to divorced fathers, I see this as an everyday occurrence."
Peter Ostrowski continues: " I am considering as a result of Bill C41 moving only to Victoria,B.C, where, if I am to be unemployed, at least I will be able to see my children. I am a white male, 46 and face age discrimination. I have the ability to start a business or a manufacturing operation but cannot obtain credit as any debt I have is subordinated to support ; as well, any assets I have are subject to seizure without appeal or notice (this has happened to me now four times). In addition, once an job interviewer knows I have an intransigent ex-spouse, the interview is over. I have applied to 62 jobs in the last year. Bill C41 does nothing to improve my desirability as an employee or credit risk and considerable worsens my position."

He adds poignantly from his personal experiences: "I have learned the hard way that family law is strongly biased against fathers and there is a mythology in the press of the "deadbeat dad". One of the Supreme Court Justices in BC told me I was a nuisance when I applied for access to my children. Of over 100 divorced fathers I have talked to in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria none have ever said they did not want to support their children. I have, however, seen many cases where their ex-spouses spent support without accountability."

Mr. Ostrowski offers this analysis: "The Federal Government has always served a role to represent excluded minorities as a balance against provincial legislation (in this case from The Family Law Reform Act in Ontario and the Family Relations Act in BC which are outright biased against fathers). In promoting Bill C41 the Federal Government has seemingly relinquished this role and taken on a reactionary political agenda. Fathers were significantly excluded from the consultation process for Bill-C41 as well as grandparents; there is no evidence in the preamble and annotations to the Bill that any father concerns were included. Without balanced consideration from the Federal government, fathers will essentially be unrepresented by either level of government and have nowhere to turn. The situation is a modern one where the government of an advanced industrial nation is actually acting against an excluded minority of its own citizens."

Father's For Equality - David Campbell, Vancouver Island agrees, adding that: " Fathers For Equality which has about 120 fathers in our group. We have several philosophical points and technical points of concern with the proposed legislation. For example: Mandatory mediation should be required as a first step for all divorce proceedings and actions during that mediation should be part of the documented record along with the recommended recommendations of the mediator; We believe their should be an assumption of Equal Parenting and hence no financial obligation to either spouse , unless their is a criminal activity by one of the spouses; Taking passports and drivers licenses away will not be in the best interests of children or future fathers, especially when the ability to provide changes after the dissolution of marriage. It may be contrary to the Charter of Rights."

Harv Maser, President, Victoria Men's Centre expressed: "...thanks for all your work to date. We've got a tiger by the tail here! After much considerations of the merit and substance of the draft copy of Bill C-41 previously distributed, and our concerns over the future of Canadian families, representatives of Father's For Equality, Father's Rights Action Group, Island Men's Network have formulated the following points, which we believe, in concept and principle, should supplant or supplement the essence of Bill C-41."

Mr. Maser suggest the following ideas, which the BC groups hold commonly amongst themselves:"Enshrine the presumption of pro-equal alternating shared parenting, which includes joint custody, care and control, and guardianship; Implement a mandatory mediation program to enhance a non adversarial divorce solution, and largely reduce the loading on the court system; Resolution of child custody, including awarding of sole custody, should only revert to the courts, when proven relevant criminal actions to the child, is evident by one or both parents; Remove all financial obligation by either of the parents to the other, by the concept of complete shared care and control of the children; Failing equal parenting, both parents costs of child raising and the income of both parents should be proportionally and equally considered in the financial settlement; and Remove any increased and unaffordable financial burden to fathers through new legal statutes. The current proposed plan is not financially neutral."

Mr Maser concludes with these insights from his experiences in family court: Adversarial process of the courts induces ongoing damage to all parties, parents, children, and extended families. A mandatory mediation program will enhance a non-adversarial divorce solution, and largely reduce the loading on the court system. Imbalance of power, such as one parent having sole custody, invalidates successful mediation, and often requires enforced access. Within our suggested pro-equal alternating shared parenting, supported by mandatory mediation, financial obligation and human care and love for children will be filled by both parents and extended families. We will also be in harmony with the Charter of Rights."

Jonathon van der Goes - Father/Activist - Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC expressed his support for the report "The truth behind C-41": I urge you to do what you can to get this report read by the public and heard in Parliament. As a father of three children and a man who has gone through a separation and divorce proceeding I would like to be able to come in front of any group and testify in person. I can not do this, as I live on Vancouver Island and have only made it to Ottawa once in my life. I therefore have to rely on others to make presentations for me. From what I read of Fathers Resources International , they speak for me, and for thousands or millions of men who have gone through a horrible, punishing, degrading system"

"I recently read an article from The Toronto Sun, that for the first time in twenty years a woman has been jailed for denying access to a father. While I do not like the idea of jailing anyone, I think of the tens thousands of men who have gone to jail for non payment, and no one seems to care." Mr. van der Goes continues: "About a month ago , about 85 men (and several women) demonstrated in front of the B.C. Legislature building to protest the imprisonment of one man, Jukka Lauro, who was going to serve his third term of imprisonment for non support, and yet the only reason he did not make his payments is that he would have to work out of town to make the money, and thus deprive his child of contact with him. While he is in jail he is still required to pay money, even though he has no possible source of income. When he comes out, he is that much deeper in debt. Then, to add to the irony, when he comes out he also takes care of his daughter for several days each week. There is no possible way that he can live and survive under this present system, and my reading of Bill c-41 is that it is only going to make it worse. I personally burned my wallet in protest in front of the legislature."

Mr. van der Goes echoes a sentiment that many fathers share today in Canada - that the legal system does not treat fathers fairly: "I had not realized that in 1990's Canada we were still operating in a Dickensonian age of debtors prisons. From my own experience I would like to testify how I was dealt with by the legal system when I went through separation from my wife. I speak now with so many men who have discovered that the legal system does not stand for them, and I urge you to do whatever you can to listen to Fathers' Resources International, as it will help men like me have a voice."

Mr. Guspie shares what he has learned as an adult child of divorce is that parents must learn to re-focus their efforts from blaming to healing when divorce occurs: " Children suffer most. in Divorce. Adult parents have the skills to cope. Children do not. It is our job as parents to protect our children from the pain of divorce. The best way is by our example. We must focus on healing children rather than blaming each parent. Children of Divorce still need to learn how to solve problems - a prime developmental need of all children. Blaming does not teach this skill - being focused on healing does."

"Children have a prime developmental need to learn how to solve problems. they learn this skill from their parents. If parents do not solve their problems, then children learn, how not to solve their problems. Our society cannot afford the social costs of abdicating responsibility any longer, especially with respect to divorced children."

"Divorce is part of a national trend that has destroyed at least half the middle class, and created an irreconcilable onslaught of social problems to go with it. For example, in the United States, during the past thirty years, more children have been destroyed in a courtroom, more women have been put in poverty, and at higher risk of safety, than during all the wars in this century. The chances are better than 50% that a child will grow up without a father for at least part of his or her childhood, at a very high risk of growing up on the edges of society."

"According to the US Bureau of Census 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes, 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. For children who exhibit behavorial disorders 85% of them come from fatherless homes, according to the Center for Disease Control. One of the most alarming statistics comes from the Fulton County jail & Texas Department of Corrections, that states that 85% of all youths sitting in prison grew up in a fatherless home."

Danny Guspie, a divorced father with custody and paralegal/divorce educator and author of "The truth behind Bill C-41" teaches fathers these starting facts at a group he founded known as Toronto Fathers Resources. He suggests that courts and government can solve these problems if they actively seek out and encourage the healed parent(s) efforts to reduce conflict, learn new communication, negotiation and mediation skills and strategies:
"Children want Mom and Dad not to fight over them. Courts can speak for these kids if they genuinely look at the efforts of parents to make peace. Parents who actively work on acquiring skills that make peace and healing possible for children represents the best chance to meet the best interests of the children."

Mr. Guspie further explains the conclusions he has reached as an adult child of divorce about the impact of healing on divorced children: "Why is education and healing so very necessary? Because it is those efforts that teach the child how to solve difficult problems.These views are helpful to healing children of divorce. Hopefully, our action this week will raise awareness, causing the beginning of a paradigm shift in how divorce need not be someone's fault."

He draws from within his personal journey with divorce speaking for children who have yet to be able to articulate the impact of divorce on themselves, concluding:"Being an "adult child of divorce" myself, I can say with conviction that it is only 20 years later that I am able to articulate the damage that can happen when divorced parents never make peace. Our children deserve so much better from us - it is time to end the blaming and to begin the healing."



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Updated on:30/06/00 09:39 PM

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