Viewpoint—Stories in the Grandparents’ Quilt

THE QUILT TOURS CANADA

In cities, towns, and communities across Canada throughout the 1990s and the early 2000’s, many welcomed the appearance of the Grandparent’s Quilt and latched onto it almost as a life support. It would allow individuals with no other avenue open to them to begin to share their grief, pain, and suffering with other Canadians.

They contributed a patchwork of stories to inspire and add to our determination to move forward in our work to advance legislation and create a climate of awareness of the issues facing non-custodial parents and their children, as well as grandparents, after relationship breakdown. While we are not able to tell them all, we can include some of the stories we have in our possession.

The following was first published in the Daily News. Lynn Bentz is a Director with CGRA, and lives in Kamloops.

GRANDPARENTS’ PLIGHT SHARED ACROSS CANADA

Jim and Joan Smith are the proud grandparents of 16 children. But the happy family hit on hard times in 1997, when the Smiths were forbidden to see three of those grandchildren for a period of seven months. “There was an ugly divorce in the family and we weren’t allowed to see our grandchildren,” said Joan. “It was devastating.”

‘The kids couldn’t help but think the worst,” added Jim. “They thought Grandma and Grandpa didn’t love them anymore.”

Since 1987 and the introduction of no-fault divorce, situations like the Smiths’ are becoming more common, and the children are losing contact with their extended families, said Lynn Bentz, a Director of the Canadian Grandparents Rights Association. “During separation and divorce, at a time when children need stability and support, they are being disconnected from the people who love them the most,” Bentz said.

The Smiths and Bentz are both contributing to The Hearts and Hands Quilt, a project started in Ontario by Betty Corrnelius, the founder of The Association to Reunite Grandparents and Families in Ontario.

“The quilt has travelled across Canada, province to province, city to city, “ said Bentz “It’s gone from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s now circulating in B.C.”

Canadian grandparents have added patches to the quilt, each representing the story of a broken family. It is now two metres wide by five metres long, consisting of 35-cm square patches. The quilt now has more than 90 patches and is expected to have more than 110 before it leaves Kamloops.

Lynn Bentz
Lynn Bentz

Once the quilt has finished touring BC communities it will be given to Nancy Wooldridge, CGRA’s Founder and President.

Wooldridge will then present it to Justice Minister Anne McLellan on Sept. 9, coinciding with the U.S. Grandparents Day.

The CGRA aims to send a message with the presentation. “This is giving a strong message that something is wrong with custody laws and the way they’re written.” said Bentz. “I hope this hangs in the Hall of Honour as a symbol of the broken family and the justice system.”

Changes to legislation would result in equal parenting and that’s the ultimate goal, said Bentz. The Smiths agree. “Equal parenting is what we want and that’s what children want. They want 50/50,” said Joan.   “They want a mother and a father, whether they are together or separated. When a child wants to see a parent they shouldn’t be told no,” she added.

Bentz feels grandparents are an essential part of children’s lives. “We’re their history and heritage. We love them unconditionally and that’s what’s important,” she said. “Without grandparents, children are losing their support systems.”
Above article by Erin Mills, Daily News Intern Reporter/7-31-01

CGRA’S SUCCESS–BC 1998

Nancy Woodridge started the Canadian Grandparents Rights Association in 1984 and spent theBill 25 following years of her life working to assist grandparents and their families in maintaining or re-establishing family ties and family stability where the family had been disrupted, especially those ties between grandchildren and grandparents.

She was at the forefront of efforts to allow grandparents to maintain relationships with their grandchildren and to seek legislative change to achieve this goal. She donated literally thousands of hours of her time each year to assist grandparents in her community and throughout B.C. and Canada.

Nancy Wooldridge
Nancy Wooldridge

She was instrumental in lobbying to have the B.C. Family Relations Act amended in 1998 to recognize that grandparents are to be considered when custody and access issues arise in family disputes. Nancy also appeared before parliamentary committees in Ottawa in an effort to have a similar amendment incorporated into the Divorce Act.

After the Grandparent’s Quilt had travelled through many small towns and cities, from the Maritimes in the east to Canada’s west coast, and once it had finished the tour of B.C. communities, it was given to Nancy Wooldridge to be presented to Justice Minister Anne McLellan on Sept. 9. This coincided with the US Grandparents Day. Of course, CGRA sent a message with the presentation. “The Federal Government needs to look seriously at the current Divorce Act and its custody and access orders. Equal or shared parenting should become the norm. Children need equal access to both parents.”

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