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

In her maiden speech on Dec. 4, 1984, Senator Anne C. Cools stated: “I intend to work towards ensuring that the new legislation will include, or at least that 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.”

Since then over her many years as a Senator, the Hon. Anne C, Cools has continued to speak
for children of divorce and their families in her Senate debates. In fact in 1996 and 1997 on
Bill C-41 amending the Divorce Act to implement the federal child support guidelines, she states: “ I asserted that the children of divorce deserve the financial. emotional, and psychological support of both parents. I have asserted repeatedly that children of divorce deserve the love and support of both their parents, both mother and father, and that it is the duty of Parliament to vindicate the need of the children of divorce for both their parents.”

And again: “ Honourable Senators, my point of view is well supported by the public. This was ably demonstrated by the very recent Southam News-Compas poll conducted in October and reported in The Ottawa Citizen’s front page article, November 23, 1998, headlined, ”Public backs father’s rights: Astonishing majority wants change to laws on access to children, Compas Poll Shows.

“That same poll told us that, of the respondents, 70 per cent of Canadians believe the children of divorce receive too little attention and 62 per cent said that fathers receive too little attention.
Eighty per cent of those surveyed felt it was very important for children of divorced parents to maintain an ongoing relationship with the non-custodial parent. When one looked at younger Canadians, those 30 years and under, that number rose to 86 per cent. That poll very clearly told us that there is a growing commitment among younger Canadians to parenting and family life.

“These poll results show very clearly the Canadian public opinion is in tune with the finest of this Committee’s recommendations, which are the recommendations for shared parenting.

“Honourable Senators, I have travelled the width and breadth of this country on these issues. I have spoken to thousands of Canadians in person and to millions in media interviews. They, the public, have spoken to me; their support is enormous and, I would add, very humbling. The public mind of this land and the public heart have spoken. In fact, the public will of this land has overtaken the committee’s report. The report of the committee has been overtaken by the developments in the public mind and the public realm. The public of this land wants the Minister of Justice, Anne McLellan, to act speedily, without delay, to bring a new Divorce Act to reflect contemporary Canadian values of fairness, balance, and equality for children, parents,

and families in divorce. Canadians want our government to adopt aggressive policies and values on family and family life. Change is necessary.”

Senator Cools went on to say: “That the Senate affirms that on May 10, 1999, six months after the Committee’s Report 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 the Committee’s major recommendations, and having 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.

“MAY 1, 2002 is beyond this government’s term of office, and beyond this Minister’s watch.”

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.

Jim Abbot (Former MP)