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Calgary Herald - Saturday, February 22, 2003

Dad’s charter points blocked. Appeal court denies weapon in CHR battle

SEAN MYERS

The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed a motion Friday by a Calgary father to raise Charter of Rights and Freedoms arguments in his case against the Calgary Health Region.

In his appeal, Gus Sleiman is trying to argue the CHR discriminated against him because of his marital status as a non-custodial parent when it denied him access to the records of a visit his son made to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in 1994.

“If they want to shut the door today on my argument, I’ll open it again tomorrow,” said Sleiman.

“The appeal will continue. Even if I have to start all over again, I will.”

In Friday’s motion, Sleiman tried to win the right to present new arguments based on the Charter of Rights, including gender discrimination.

As part of Sleiman’s motion, the Men’s Educational Support Association, a non-profit organization of which Sleiman is president, tried to attain intervener status to bring forward arguments based on the social context of non-custodial parents’ rights.

Both parts of the motion were dismissed.

“The appeal is going to go forward on the initial issues alone,” said Blair Carbert, the lawyer representing the CHR. “The court found it is not appropriate to bring in new issues.”

Sleiman moved to Calgary from Toronto with his wife 10 years ago to start a restaurant. In 1997, he divorced his wife, who then took their son to Ottawa.

In 1999, during a visit with his family doctor, Sleiman discovered his son had been taken to the Alberta Children’s Hospital as a nine-month-old infant in 1994 before his divorce proceedings had begun.

When he went to the hospital on Aug. 10, 1999, to try to get copies of the records, he was told that as a matter of policy the CHR does not hand out patient records to non-custodial parents.

Sleiman had been granted only limited supervised access to his son by an Ontario court that took over jurisdiction from Alberta.

He went to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission to argue discrimination based on marital status.

The commission initially found “merit” in the complaint in December 1999 but later dismissed it, stating in a document that the commission did not have jurisdiction over custody matters.

The dismissal was upheld by the chief commissioner in an appeal in July 2000. Sleiman took the matter to the Court of Queen’s Bench, which dismissed it in July 2002. Then Sleiman launched the current appeal.

myers@theherald.southam.ca

© Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald