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The Calgary Herald - April 30, 1998
Father's rights debated at hearing
By Helen Dolik
Canadians need more hard facts on what really
happens in child-custody cases, not just anecdotal evidence from
men who feel they have been treated unfairly by the courts, a
retired Calgary judge says. Herb Allard, the former senior
family and youth court judge in Calgary, made the comments
Wednesday after addressing a special parliamentary committee on
child custody and access at the Calgary Airport Hotel.
Noticing the predominantly male audience in
the hearing room, Allard said: "In my life experience in the
court, I never saw so many men except those who were under
compulsion. "They don't show up when their children are hurting
as often as they should, or as often as mothers," he said,
adding that no one is keeping track of how many men have sought
sole or joint custody and didn't get it. "We should count."
But Gus Sleiman, president of the Men's
Educational Support Association in Calgary, said the courts are
biased against fathers. Men give up, he said, because the
financial and emotional resources of fathers fighting for access
to their children are often exhausted, and they know the end
result is that they will lose inside the courtroom. "I want the
justice system to change its direction and start treating
fathers as fathers, not as a paying father," said Sleiman.
More than 20 individuals and groups presented
a variety of views to the joint Senate-House of Commons
committee, which is conducting cross-country hearings. It will
present a report in November.
Joe Hornick, executive director of the
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family said," We
have to be very careful because we lack good empirical research
in this area."
The committee is composed of Senators and
MP's from all political parties. Its mandate is to access the
need for a more child-centered approach to family law policies
that would emphasize joint parental responsibilities.
Liberal Senator Anne Cools, a committee
member, said, "It is the duty of the law to support equality and
to support the fact that despite the dissolution of that
marriage, both of those parents should be good parents."
There's an enormous social transformation
happening in Canada and it's time to look at divorce and its
consequences, Cools argued, noting that thousands of fathers are
now insisting that they will not be shut out of their children's
About 8,000 divorces are granted each year in Alberta.
Copyright Calgary Herald