News Articles on MESA Archive (return to list)
The National Post - February 9, 1999
Ontario pulls 'anti-male' booklets
By Chris Cobb
GROUPS CLAIMING VICTORY
Men's groups are claiming victory following a
decision by the Ontario government to pull two booklets they
claimed were biased against men, even though a government
spokesman said yesterday that the decision was not based on
perceived gender bias. The booklets - "Your Day in Court", and
"Crimes Courts and Consequences" - were available at the Ontario
government bookstore in Toronto, at provincial courtrooms and
other government outlets across the province. They contain
advice for women who are abused by their male partners. Men's
groups complained no equivalent advice is offered to males in
situations of marital breakdown.
Provincial Attorney-General Charles Harnick
ordered the booklets pulled off government shelves late last
month after objections from men's groups, led by the
Calgary-based Men's Educational Support Association. The
electronic version of the booklets were also removed from the
ministry's Web site.
In a letter to MESA president Gus Sleiman,
dated Jan. 20, Mr. Harnick's assistant Sheila McDermott wrote on
behalf of the minister: "Thank you for the concerns you raise
regarding gender reference in these two booklets. I sincerely
appreciate your drawing the oversight to our Ministry's
attention... we will immediately instruct the Ontario
Publications Bookstore to remove these booklets from their
inventory. In addition, we will also ensure your correspondence
is referenced accordingly to avoid error, should the Ministry
consider publishing the two booklets in the future."
Yesterday, several hours after being asked
for comment on the withdrawal of the booklets, attorney-general
spokesman Brendan Crawley backed away from the letter to
Mr.Sleiman. He said the government had removed the booklets
because they were out of date.
"Too much is being read into the letter," he
said. "We made no judgment on gender bias."
Mr. Sleiman, currently involved in his own
child custody case in Ontario, found the booklets at the
provincial court in Ottawa last August. He immediately fired off
a letter of complaint to Mr. Harnick and, several weeks later,
to the Ontario Ombudsman.
I was shocked that gender discrimination had
reached so far into government," said Mr. Sleiman, whose
organization helps men with custody and other problems after
marriage breakdown. " The attorney - general of Ontario has done
the honourable thing but I hope it's just the first step to
wiping out the bias that exists against men throughout the court
The offending booklets give advice to women
abused by their male partners but no information helpful to men.
Under the heading "What Happens if He Beats
Me," one booklet says: "Assaulting a wife or female partner is
against the law. A man who assaults his partner can be arrested,
charged and jailed. Call the police. Tell them everything. If
they believe an assault has taken place, they can lay
charges...Women's shelters can help: Call 411 for the Wife
Assault Helpline. They'll put you in touch with women's shelters
where you can stay safely, with your children..."
The booklets continues: "You can get a
restraining order: The court can issue an order which will make
it an offence for which a man can be jailed if he harasses,
intimidates, molests or annoys his spouse or partner."
Danny Guspie, director of the National Shared
Parenting Association, said Monday the booklets contain
one-sided information dictated by women's shelters.
"They make it sound like men beat women but
nothing ever happens to men," said Mr. Guspie. "It's part of a
systematic bias against men: There is no equivalent literature
for men, there is no funding for men's groups and no place for
men to go in Canada if they need help after their marriage
Mr. Guspie said his group has tried to place
information for men in Toronto courtrooms but has been barred
from doing so.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to deny that
women often need help," added Mr.Guspie, "but to suggest that
men don't have problems in these circumstances is also
We have taken to placing information outside
courthouses because we have been denied access to the inside."
In the Jan. 20 letter to MESA president
Sleiman, Harnick's office said 1,500 copies of the booklets
would be removed from government inventory immediately and they
were no longer being printed.