Viewpoint—Democracy Denied

“We have no right to happiness, only an obligation to do our duty.”

C.S. Lewis



Parliament responded to the Justice Minister’s three-year delay and her obvious denial that the current divorce law regime was in urgent need of change.

The Honourable Anne Cools challenged the Minister’s decision with the truth: “ 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.

“Honourable Senators, I have studied the incalculable pain and suffering of thousands of children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other family members. Disturbed by the disinclination of Parliament and the courts to vindicate the emotional needs of children for both parents, for both mothers and fathers, I have been shocked by this collective recklessness with children’s lives. For years I have been inspired and deluged by thousands of letters and requests as burdened and anguished Canadian families appealed for my help, all questioning how governments of their beloved country can allow these injustices to continue.

“I have studied this issue, its injustice, and its consequences for the children of divorce and their families. I have studied the legal documents of hundreds of fathers falsely accused during divorce and custody proceedings by mothers of sexually abusing their children. This phenomenon is a heart of darkness. Such false accusations are soul-destroying to those afflicted fathers and families.

“On such false allegations, I welcome Professor Nicholas Bala’s and John Schuman’s recently released study “Allegations of Sexual Abuse When Parents Have Separated.” I feel vindicated.
I note that in their study they cite many cases and judgements that I have brought to the attention of the Senate and that I have quoted, including the cases of Reverend Dorian Baxter v.

The Children’s Aid Society of Durham Region, Barbosa v. Dadd, The Law Society of Upper Canada v. Carole Curtis , Metzner v. Metzner, Plesh v. Plesh and others. These false accusations are a strategy to obtain sole custody and to defeat the other parent legally, emotionally, and financially. It is a potent and destructive use of legal process by one parent to dispossess the other parent of a parental relationship with their children.” (Debated June 8, 1999)

“Honourable Senators, the other issues include parental alienation, grandparent alienation, and access denial.

“On custody, children, and the courts’ disinclination to enforce its orders, Lord Hartley Shawcross, in his famous 1959 work, “Contempt of Court,” wrote, on page 35:

“The Court of Appeal pointed out in Gordon v, Gordon the unsatisfactory state of the law In which the unfortunate infant might not gain the protection intended by the court, owing to a lack of effective action to enforce the order of the court.

“I repeat, these unfortunate children are denied the court’s protection.

‘It is scandalous that parents, mostly fathers, must spend inordinate — hundreds of thousands of dollars – to maintain contact with their children. I repeat, the disinclination of Parliament and the courts to vindicate the needs of children of divorce is an injustice.”However, the Senate upholds the needs of the children of divorce and urges the minister to act.”

“However, the Senate upholds the needs of the children of divorce and urges the minister to act.”

“The Minister will have asked for five years to correct a regime that the Senate has clearly
told her was defective and harmful to children of divorce. We told her then that the divorce law regime was defective. A Joint Parliamentary Committee has told her. The public has told her. Further, May 1, 2002, is beyond this government’s term of office, and beyond this Minister’s watch.”


“Newspaper editorials have been unanimous in their condemnation of the Minister’s proposed delay. Their editorial headlines are instructive, and some read as follows:

  • The headline in the May 12 issue of The Globe and Mail read, “Who is acting for the children? The Justice Minister is curiously reluctant to amend the Divorce Act.”
  • The headline in the May 12 issue of The Gazette of Montreal read, “The courage to act.”
  • The headline in the May 12 issue of The Toronto Star was, “Disappointing delay.”
  • The headline in The Vancouver Sun of the same date was, “Legislative dodging hurts the children of divorce.”
  • The May 13 edition of the National Post read, “Fathers under fire.”