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President's Remarks to the Joint Senate/House Parliamentary Committee
on Child Custody and Access

April 29, 1998
Mr. Chairman 
The Honourable members,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 

INTRODUCTION

The following is submitted on behalf of the MEN'S EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT ASSOCIATION (MESA) and their families. Our mission is preserving the integrity of fatherhood for the sake of the children. MESA believes that the interests of the children are best served by having both parents participating fully in their lives, even after separation and divorce. MESA deals with issues of domestic violence, we believe that FAMILY VIOLENCE IS A HUMAN ISSUE AND NOT A GENDER ISSUE.

MESA supports the MOBILITY OF RE-UNIFICATION AND NOT THE MOBILITY OF ISOLATION.

I am honored by your invitation to give testimony and offer what may be a new dawn for the proposed legislative changes to the Divorce Act R.S.C. 1985. This change may take place against the unacceptable high incidents of National and International parental abductions and parental alienation of children. The current custody measures are inherently unjust and favor one parent against the other. In Canadian divorce proceedings, case law tends to support the conclusion, that in the absence of directions to the contrary, an order granting "sole custody" to one parent signifies that the custodial parent shall exercise all the powers of the legal guardian of the child. The non-custodial parent with access privileges is a passive bystander who is deprived of the rights and responsibilities that previously vested in that parent, thus the non custodial parent is excluded from the decision-making process in matters relating to the child's welfare, growth and development. The mishandling of divorce and custody matters fosters a powerful and destructive climate of anger, pain and frustration, this often leads to the abduction and alienation of children. The wide spread gender bias of our courts, empower women to take any action they feel compelled to take, without the fear of consequences, women armed with this biased empowerment are the predominant abductors of the children, often removing them to distant provinces or foreign countries. Women abduct and alienate children as a privilege, men do so only in desperation and depravation. Men are less likely to recover their children from parental abductors, women in reverse get all kinds of support and enjoy a comfortable lead in recovering their abducted children. Government removed gender bias against women only to replace it and make it gender bias against men... The existing system, culminate in the refusal of men to support their children from whom they are unjustifiably separated, and their access ex-communicated. 

The "primary care-taker" code phrase used by judges in their decision-making is a one-sided unbalanced and inappropriate judicial-social policy that may be attributed to the eroding and undermining of our families. Statistics show an increase in divorce rates, crime, suicide, teenage pregnancies, and a large number of children growing up with absent emotional balance. The absence of common sense and the shocking insensitivity of the judges in handling divorce and custody matters compel a systematic dismantling of fatherhood by spouses. The bias of the courts is expressed by their irrational over-identification of children with their mothers, excluding the children dependence and need of their fathers. Fathers across the country are joined by the cries of their children for a mutual re-capturing of justice, for what kind of a government is it, that allows its own agencies and its own judiciary to discriminate against one or more class of its citizens, deplete and sink its own society? About two thousand years ago, I heard one say: "Let the children come to me..." Yesterday in court, I heard a judge say: "Take the children away..." It's very rewarding for me to see fathers seeing their children. My fight goes on in the court room, but now I bring my fight to the committee room. Court rooms are not courts of justice, but courts of law. I want to see more justice, therefore I have to change the law.

When this committee ultimately report and recommend its findings for a more balanced law, I think it is imperative that it takes into consideration the "Natural law" and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The new law must end speculations and interpretations by judges and replace it with logic and mutual parenting CO-operation. If this government is willing to end the injustices against the children and men, if it is willing to reduce the emotional and financial costs of divorce created by litigation and relitigation it must act immediately to implement the 'EQUAL SHARED PARENTING CONCEPT, CHILDREN NEED BOTH PARENTS.'

RECOMMENDATIONS:

-EQUAL SHARED PARENTING;
Definition:
Equal shared parenting is the concept that following separation or divorce, mothers and fathers should retain a strong positive role in their children's lives with the children actually spending substantial amounts of time living with each parent. In "SHARED PARENTING" each parent regardless of where the child is physically located or with whom the child is residing at a particular point in time is the "residential parent".

-CHILD'S RIGHT IN SHARED PARENTING;
A child who is not an official party to a lawsuit has a right to shared parenting. Inherent in the express public policy, its recognized, that the child's right to equal access, opportunity and the right to be guided and nurtured by both parents. This right is not diminished when the parents divorce. 
- SHARED PARENTING ensures that parents have a right and responsibility to parent their children. 
- Parents after separation start out on an equal level working towards their children's best interest thereby removing the incentives to fight. 
- SHARED PARENTING encourages parents to work out the future care of their children themselves. 
-MESA believes that parents have a right and responsibility to parent their children with the exception when one of the parents is convicted of child abuse, that parent would not be considered for equal shared parenting.
-EQUAL SHARED PARENTING protects children from the adversarial system that is now in effect, this system:
a, Pits one parent against the other.
b, One parent is made the bad parent.
c, Promotes false allegations against the other parent.
d, Necessitates the staggering amounts of money paid by parents to lawyers, which is better spent on the children.
The emphasis must be put on what is right for the child and not the feeling towards the other parent. In order to redirect the parents attention to their children, it is important to remove the incentives to fight over "custody".
 

-AGE:
Children need both parents regardless of their age. 
-MOVING:
A parent who wishes to move, must relinquish all the rights to the other parent, when moving out of the province or out of the country. 
-PLAN:
Once each parent understands that they will work out a plan to be presented to the court, divorce rate may actually be brought down. Only the parents love for their children must prevail. Each parent must submit a proposed plan. If both parents agree, they can submit a joint shared parenting plan. 
-EDUCATION:
(a) It is recommended that parents complete a compulsory "PARENTING AFTER SEPARATION" course before any court action is taken. This model is currently running in the Province of Alberta.
Some Governments are building new family courts, others are enacting new family violence bills. It is the duty of a Government to assist parents in finding solutions, rather than to open more court houses. 
(b) It is recommended that the Government open a "FAMILY CENTER" in every place where a court exists. The objective of the center will be to help educate and assist parents in reaching out for mutual common grounds to care for their children. The "FAMILY CENTER" will be the first place a parent should seek before any court action can be taken. 
-MEDIATION:
Mediation must become mandatory after completing the "PARENTING AFTER SEPARATION" course. However for mediation to work and be effective all incentives to fight in court over children must be removed. 
-FALSE ALLEGATIONS:
False allegations of abuse within divorce proceedings take place in the form of affidavits sworn before lawyers who present themselves as officers of the court. Lawyers will have a duty to verify the information brought forward by their client to be accurate and supported with evidence or face stiff penalties; such as: The revoking of their license to practice.
A person swearing a false allegation affidavit must be prosecuted under the criminal code. 
-DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
Please refer to our booklet titled "HUSBAND BATTERY." 

-STATUS OF MEN: 
Equality must be the dominating factor of Government policy. A commission on the status of men, has to be established to protect men who are a minority in this country.

-GRANDPARENTS:
Grandparents should be afforded access to their grandchildren.

-THE CANADIAN JUDICIAL COUNCIL:
Fathers filing complaints against Judges with the Canadian Judicial Council are sent a letter of JUDICIAL CONDOLENCES.
An inquiry into the complaints filed by fathers must be conducted to determine the extent of discrimination against fathers and action must be taken to prevent any further discrimination from occurring. 

-MOBILITY:
MESA supports the MOBILITY OF RE-UNIFICATION AND NOT THE MOBILITY OF ISOLATION. 
DIVORCE ACT R.S.C. 1985.
Proposed Amendments:
2.(1) Definition.
"Child of marriage" means a child of two spouses or former spouses who, at the material time,
(a) is under the age of sixteen years, or 
(b) is sixteen years of age or over and under their charge but unable, by reason of illness, disability or other cause, to withdraw from their charge or to obtain the necessaries of life;
Recommended: Remove the words, (or other cause) or define them. 

"Custody" includes care, upbringing and any other incident of custody.
Recommended: Amend by replacing the word "Custody" by the term "Shared Parenting."
"Custody" must be abolished from all sections of the Divorce Act.

"Custody order" means an order made under subsection 16(1);
Recommended: Amend by replacing "custody order" by the term "Shared Parenting" order.

"Divorce proceeding" means a proceeding in a court in which either or both spouses seek a divorce alone or together with a support order or a custody order or both such orders;
Recommended: Replace the words (a custody order) by the term "Shared parenting" order. 

Recommended amendment:
"Access" access includes the right to reach, visit and any other incident of access. 

16(1) Order for custody.-- A court of competent jurisdiction may, on application by either or both spouses or by any other person, make an order respecting the custody of or the access to, or the custody of and access to, any or all children of the marriage.
Recommended: Amend to:
16(1) Order for shared parenting- A court of competent jurisdiction may, on application by either or both spouses, make an order respecting shared parenting, to any or all children of the marriage.