For the sake of the children—Parliament’s decision thwarted (cont’d)

Finally, everything had been completed. The public had done its job, and
Parliament had answered with the Report For The Sake of the Children in overwhelming agreement with the citizens of Canada. Now the Minister of Justice had to complete the last section and “cause a new divorce act to be introduced in the Senate or in the House of Commons to implement, without delay, those recommendations of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access.”

The following is from the Senate Debates speeches by Senator Anne Cools:

“That the Senate affirms that on May 10, 1999, six months after the Committees to both Houses of Parliament, more than two years after the passage of Bill C-41 in February 1997, the Minister of Justice, Anne McLellan, gave her ministerial response to the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations in her paper entitled Government of Canada’s Response to the Report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access: Strategy for Reform: having fully accepted that the divorce law regime currently in force is wanting and needing correction.”

She then proposed a three-year delay, to May 1, 2002, for her legislative action to correct the obviously wanting divorce law regime.

“That the Senate asserts that the recommendations of a committee of Parliament, the highest court of the Land, the Grand Inquest of the Nation, is the highest recommendation of the land, and that such advice and counsel of Parliament is the most complete, representative, constitutional, and the most efficient form of advice a government can heed; and that the Senate asserts that the responsible Minister and the Ministry owe a moral, a political, and a constitutional duty to Parliament to accept and follow the advice of Parliament.

“That the Senate asserts that the Parliament of Canada, by its own study, examination, and conclusions, is now seized of the knowledge, that the divorce law regime currently in force in Canada is defective, insufficient, and even harmful, to the needs of children of divorce, their parents, and their families; and that the Senate being seized of this knowledge of the inadequate state of the divorce law regime, has a moral imperative and a bounden parliamentary duty to correct the situation forthwith, because possessing the knowledge of the children’s plight and ongoing damage to them, Parliament’s continued inaction and neglect is unconscionable. “

The Honourable Anne C. Cools from Debates of the Senate
1st Session 36th Parliament Volume 137 Numbers 104 and 146


In my opinion, a Member of Parliament, once elected and having taken the oath of office, who holds a ministerial position, has a parliamentary duty to respect and uphold the decision of Parliament, and the overwhelming opinion and support of Canadians for these necessary changes to the Divorce Act.


Since May 10, 1999 , the decision not to act on the will of Parliament, who after its own study and examination and conclusions that the divorce law regime currently in force in Canada is defective, insufficient, and even harmful to the children of divorce, their parents, and their families, and therefore drew up 48 recommendations printed in the Report, For the Sake of the Children, has had tragic consequences. If the Canadian Government’s decision had been acted upon and announced to the public that such needed legislation was in the works, even started, or acted upon with upcoming legislation, the Canadian public, non- custodial fathers, and waiting grandparents would all have been excited and waiting for the upcoming amendments to correct this dysfunctional Act. Most important the newspapers would have been full of the news.

Instead, because Parliaments’ will and the 48 recommendations were not even started or acted upon, our courts continued to proceed in the same manner, giving sole custody to one parent with the old status quo, harming non-custodial parents, and hurting grandparents This decision has shown a complete disregard for the rights of the child to have access to his/her family.

Canada accepted the Convention of the Child in 1991, and we gave our report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 1994. How many young fathers have lost hope and even died, due to the inadequate response to understand and to help these special families in the courtroom?

As early as Dec. 4, 1984 in her maiden speech to the Senate on her intentions for putting forth recommendations for change to the Divorce Act, Senator Cools spoke of divorce, and the government’s desire to bring a bill:

“I intend to work towards ensuring that the new legislation will include, or at least an attempt will be made to have it include the new concept of shared parenting, joint custody, so that one spouse is not isolated from parenting at the wish and whim of the other. I hope the new legislation will reduce the deleterious effects on children of these marital disputes.” Senator Cools Dec. 1984

The pollster, Dr. Conrad Winn is quoted as stating that:
“I can’t find an adjective to describe the intensity of public dismay over family issues and the unfulfilled rights of fathers and children … I’m surprised because these issues have been on the agenda for a very long time. The most astonishing thing is the absolute consessus among men and women about how the rights and obligations of fathers are being ignored.”

The News-Compass poll conducted in October and reported in The Ottawa Citizen’s front page article, November 23, 1998, headlined, “Public backs fathers’ rights: “Astonishing’

Majority wants change to laws on access to children, Compass poll shows.

“These polls show very clearly that Canadian public opinion is in tune with the finest of this Joint Committee’s recommendations, which are the recommendations for shared parenting. Canadians care and care passionately, about the children of divorce.”

Comment: Over the last 20 years I have read articles blaming Canada’s legal community which profits considerably from the current system. Stories suggest it is opposed to the recommendations put forward by the Special Committee in the Report: For the Sake of the Children. Yet we hear the popularity of equal or shared parenting among Canadians is around 80%. That this approval comes from men and women, that the Supreme Court supports the need for meaningful reforms, and that Justice Thomas Cromwell called for a complete overhaul of the family law system in 2013.

The Canadian Grandparents Rights Association has been calling for changes since 1986, due to the abusive adversarial system which honours no one, but promotes conflict between parents and harms children. Mediation is needed. Communication between the parents is needed with children participating, so decisions involve them. Yes, this means there may be no lawyers present, only a third party mediator. The ball seems to be in the legal community’s court. (no pun intended)

Reflections from an MP:
“If we are going to be able to work in the direction of creating a feeling of roots and self-worth, then the grandparents have a very, very important place in that. Children have to have a feeling of ownership, that they are part of something. Children have to be able to develop a feeling of self-worth.” M.P. Jim Abbott


For the sake of the children—Parliament’s decision thwarted!

Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

Norman Vincent Peale


When the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access released their Report,
For the Sake of the Children, recognizing the need for and making 48 recommendations
to change the Divorce Act, thousands of excited grandparents, parents, and children across Canada waited with anticipation for the new legislation.

The first of 48 recommendations:
1. This Committee recommends that the Divorce Act be amended to include a Preamble alluding to the relevant Principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was opened for signature by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 1989. Canada signed on 28 May 1990. After the requisite 30 nations had ratified the Convention, it came into force on 2 September 1990. Canada ratified it in December 1991 and submitted its initial report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 1994. This Convention, which is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, sets minimum legal and moral standards for the protection of children’s human rights, including civil rights and freedoms, rights related to the provision of optimal conditions for growth and development (health care, education, economic security, recreation), and the right to protection from abuse, exploitation, neglect and unnecessary harm. The Convention expressly recognizes the special role of the family in the nurture of the child.

The key provisions of the Convention relating to the subject matter of this study include article 3, which states that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration; article 9, which includes the right of the child to contact with both parents if separated from one of them; and article 12, which provides that children have the right to express their views freely in matters affecting them.

2. This Committee recognizes that parents’ relationships with their children do not end upon separation or divorce and therefore recommends that the Divorce Act be amended to add a Preamble containing the principle that divorced parents and their children are entitled to a close and continuous relationship with one another.

Comment: Isn’t it interesting, that after one year of open meetings with Canadians on Custody and Access, the conclusion decided upon by the Special Committee paraphrased the words of Justice Minister Mark MacGuigan, 1984.

“A child should have maximum access to both parents. Whatever the parent’s reasons for divorce, the child has an interest in maintaining a normal relationship with each parent … any animosity the parents may feel for each other should not be allowed to interfere with this interest… the court should consider the best interests of the child, particularly the child’s interest in having maximum access to both parents.”

The recommendations spoke of many issues and subsequent changes. Perhaps the most important was shared parenting becoming the cornerstone for the proposed new Divorce Act. When both parents are equally involved in all decisions, the children will be well.

As well, including grandparents and the extended family members allows for minimum change and more encouragement for the children. The terms custody and access will no longer be used. The court will have the power to appoint help for the children, and children will be more involved in family decisions. The federal government will work more closely with provinces and territories within the courts and justice system. The recommended changes are positive and will allow Canadian families to move forward.

The Canadian public was ready for the announcement for change. The journalists and newspapers were waiting for the announcement, and the Members of the House of Commons and the Senate were waiting for the announcement.

The Parliament of Canada had made their decision; the Special Committee had accepted that the current divorce law regime needed correction; the Canadian public agreed with the Committee’s findings. And the Minister of Justice?