“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
What do we expect from our family?
It is our families who teach us to treat others with respect, to say “I’m sorry” if we have hurt someone or lied about them. Our families encourage and protect us when we need comfort and guidance, because they care about us and love us. Our families teach us good manners and what’s expected. It is our families who teach us the maxims that will help us get through life, such as how important it is that, “If you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing…”
Whatever the makeup of individual families, it is still the job of the family as a whole, and the adults in particular, to teach and guide the children with results that will have a beneficial effect on their lives and, through them, on future generations.
The grandparents and extended family members play an important role in the family dynamic and in nurturing our children towards a happy and successful future. When this is ignored, the family unit as a whole, but mostly the children, suffer and, studies indicate, often have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.
Looking back, it’s intriguing that Canadian Grandparents Rights Bill C-232 was introduced in the House of Commons in 1994. The United Nations declared 1994 as The Year of the Family, and Grandparent’s Day was inaugurated. The introduction of Bill C 232 (the Grandparent’s Bill), and the United Nations’ declaration for 1994, plus Grandparent’s Day, set the stage for government legislation and a closer focus on relationship breakdown and the impact on children.
Although it appears that grandparents are accepted as a major part of the Canadian family— the Canadian court system seems to minimize the importance of grandparents and other relatives in the family, to the extent, even, of ignoring their existence in parts of Canada.
Grandparents make a difference
When MP Julian Reed moved a first reading of Bill C 291 respecting a national year of the grandparent, he spoke so well to the importance of grandparents, family, and the need for new legislation: “Grandparents can really make a difference and add strength. I realize that to speak on a subject like this probably arouses emotions in all of us, which we are not used to experiencing in a place like this. But they are important emotions.
“It is very important to get the message across that we support the completeness of the family and the bringing together of all the generations, and making sure they are all together. With the stresses we have on family life today, I can think of very few more important things in strengthening the family, than to make sure that grandparents and great-grandparents and maybe some of the extended family, like great-uncles and aunts, are very much revered, honored and accepted as part of the family unit. We must be aware that when we make laws in this House, those laws must reflect that respect and desire to keep the family strong and together.”
This is not how it works out, however, and much can be done as we redefine what makes up the Canadian family—and needs to be done, for the sake of the children. The CGRA has worked behind the scenes to effect change in many ways – forming groups and publishing information to help guide families seeking assistance or in distress – working to influence legislation at provincial and federal levels (with limited success), but more remains to be done.
Hansard p. 2798 Divorce Act Bill C-232 March 25, 1994; Hansard p. 12093 Grandparent Year Act Bill C-291 May 2,1995; Hansard p. 5350 Grandparent Day Act Bill C-259 June 1994