Viewpoint-types of elder abuse

Elder abuse can include:

Acts of violence, such as hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, choking, or burning. The inappropriate use of medicines or physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind also are examples of physical abuse.

Forced sexual contact or sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent. It includes unwanted touching and all kinds of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy, forced nudity, and sexually explicit photography.

Emotional or psychological abuse, such as name-calling, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. Treating an older person like a baby, giving an older person the “silent treatment,” and isolating him or her from family, friends, or regular activities are examples of emotional or psychological abuse.

Neglect such as failing to provide an older person with food, clothing, personal shelter, or other essentials, such as medical care or medicines. Neglect can also include failing to pay nursing home or assisted-living facility costs for an older person if you have a legal responsibility to do so.

Abandonment or desertion of an older person by a person who has the physical or legal responsibility for providing care.

Illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or assets. This includes forging an older person’s signature, stealing money, or possessions, or tricking an older person into signing documents that transfer funds, property, or assets.

RISK FACTORS for elder abuse:
Abuse of elders is a complex problem with many contributing factors. Risk factors include:

Domestic violence carried over into the elder years. A substantial number of elder abuse cases are abuse by a spouse.

Personal problems of caregivers. People who abuse older adults (particularly the adult children) are often dependent on the older person for financial help and other support. This is often due to personal problems such as mental illness, or other dysfunctional personality traits. The risk of elder abuse seems highest when these adult children live with the older person.

Social isolation. Caregivers and family members who live with an older person have the opportunity to abuse and often attempt to isolate the older person from others to prevent the abuse from being discovered.

 

SIGNS OF ELDER ABUSE: Signs and symptoms of elder abuse vary widely depending on the type of abuse.

Signs an older person is the victim of acts of violence may include:

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, rope marks, cuts, punctures, or untreated injuries in stages of healing.
  • Broken bones including the skull.
  • Sprains, dislocations, or internal injuries,
  • Broken eyeglasses or dentures.
  • Signs of being restrained.
  • Laboratory reports of overdose or underuse of medicines. Reports from the older adult of being physically hurt.
  • An older person’s sudden change in behaviour.
  • A caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an older person alone.
  • Signs of possible sexual abuse-include bruises around the body etc. and reports from the older person of being sexually assaulted.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse is possible if the older person appears emotionally upset or agitated; acts withdrawn or is non-communicative, non-responsive, or paranoid, or if he or she reports being verbally or emotionally mistreated.
  • Abandonment includes the desertion of an older person at the hospital, nursing facility, shopping centre, or other public location.

 

Abuse also includes financial exploitation. Signs of this include sudden changes in a bank account or banking practice, such as unexplained withdrawals of large amounts of money, payments for unnecessary services, evidence of the older person’s signature being forged, and reports from the older person of financial exploitation.

HELP FOR ELDER ABUSE;

IF YOU ARE WORRIED THAT SOMEONE YOU KNOW MIGHT BE A VICTIM OF ELDER ABUSE, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT WHAT TO LOOK FOR, WHAT THE RISKS ARE, AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP.

TO REPORT ELDER ABUSE OR TO GET HELP, CONTACT YOUR PROVINCIAL HEALTH AUTHORITY. EACH PROVINCE HAS RESOURCES TO HELP.

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Viewpoint—Elder abuse in Canada

The beginning—a recap

The CGRA, established in 1986, helped families in distress following a separation or divorce, its purpose being to promote, support, and assist grandparents and their families in maintaining or re-establishing family ties and family stability. The CGRA was especially concerned with those ties between grandchildren and grandparents.

The family court system seemed to forget about the word family in its court decisions—despite its own functionality and name(!)— and frequently decided the children only needed one caregiving parent, although former Minister of Justice Mark MacGuigan coined the phrase “best interests of the child” in 1984 and stated: “A child must have maximum access to both parents.” Despite this, they made most of their decisions for sole custody, with the custodial parent most likely to be the mother. The non-custodial parent was usually the father, and this meant that the paternal grandparents often lost touch with their grandchildren.

Grandparent’s groups formed across Canada, the grandparent’s quilt was started by an Ontario grandmother with grandparents expressing their grief on the quilt squares. The grandparent’s quilt came to represent that very dark period in Canadian history of divorce and custody of children of divorce when children often lost access to one side of their parental lineage. Not only were grandparents and fathers the major losers in these decisions, so were the children.

When grandparents struggle to see their grandchildren without success, life becomes stressful and existing illnesses often hasten death. This has come to be seen as a form of elder abuse—we expect grandparents to be treated as fully participating family members and when this doesn’t occur—because of separation/divorce and less than civil resulting relations between the couple—grandparents and the children in question suffer, as well as the dad, who was usually the one left out. It has long been the CGRA’s purpose to battle this form of abuse and to effect change.

BC’s COUNCIL TO REDUCE ELDER ABUSE

BC’s Council to Reduce Elder Abuse notes that today’s older citizen’s experience serious abuse in many areas: emotionally, physically, and financially – at the hands of strangers, friends, acquaintances,  caregivers, and family members.

For this reason, I’m including information in Viewpoint on elder abuse of various kinds—as this affects many grandparents and their rights. Daphne

 

There are three separate categories of elder abuse:

Domestic elder abuse: usually takes place in the older adult’s home, or in the home of the caregiver. The abuser is often a relative, close friend, or paid companion.

Institutional abuse: refers to abuse that takes place in a residential home (nursing home), foster home, or assisted-living facility. The abuser has a financial or contractual obligation to care for the older adult.

Self-neglect is the behavior of an older adult that threatens his or her health or safety. Self-neglect Is present when an older adult refuses or fails to provide himself or herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, and safety precautions.

To be continued—

Note—if you experience (or know of anyone who may be) any form of elder abuse, Health Link BC is as close as your phone or web, day or night, every day of the year)

 

Viewpoint—Our children are like a garden

OUR CHILDREN ARE LIKE A GARDEN
Thank you to Lynn B. for permission to reprint this personal viewpoint.

When the new plants first sprout out of the ground, they don’t appear to require much tending. To grow, the little plants need plenty of water and sunshine. The soil in which they grow needs to be tilled, hoed, raked, and weeded.

In the beginning, mom and dad work the garden together, hoeing and raking.

Soon mom objects to the manner in which dad is raking. The work looks easy, and she feels that she could do a better job. She doesn’t need dad.

Her friends advise her that a publicly funded legal-aid lawyer is available to help her remove dad from the garden.

She and tax-funded lawyer go before a publicly funded judge who tells dad that he can only rake in the garden every second weekend (if he’s lucky).

This is made possible, because the publicly-funded Family Maintenance Enforcement Program will ensure that dad continues to pay for the garden plot even though he is not permitted to enter. So dad is now standing outside the barred gates of the garden.

Gramma and Grandpa have a certain amount of wisdom which comes with years of living. They know that gardening gets more difficult and that the little plants will require more diligent loving care as they grow. Gramma and Grampa also attempt to enter the garden to help water, weed and hoe.

Alas, publicly-funded Ministries of Women’s Equality, and also tax-funded women’s groups put political pressure on the tax-funded judge, and now the front gates of the garden are slammed shut on gramma and grampa as well.

By this time, the aunts, uncles,, and cousins have seen what has happened to dad, gramma and grampa, so they don’t even try to enter the locked gates …

As the plants grow larger – so do their roots expand and their needs increase.

Mom is now free to do all the gardening herself. But there is not enough hours in the day to rake, hoe, water, and weed, to till and fertilize. It’s exhausting, and she calls for help.

The long line of public-trough advisors stream in. They enter the garden through the back gate as the front gate remains firmly locked to keep out the pesky, loving, free, support that is standing there looking on with broken hearts. By this time the tender plants are experiencing serious root damage.

 

The high-price advisory gardeners spend the best part of their day hoeing and raking, but at  4 o’clock they leave for home shaking their heads at the sad situation.

The plants grow… but they are frail and shallow-rooted. A strong wind will blow them over.

Billions annually will be spent on social damage control.

Author: Lynn B. 1999

 

Reflections from an MP:
“Grandparents provide a link to our past, to our roots and
to our heritage. During everyday conversation they share the trials and joys experienced during their lives. They pass on knowledge of the ways, whys and and wherefores of previous generations and give meaning to the changes that have evolved over time.”  Margaret  Bridgman

Viewpoint—Bill C 22

This is a contemporary submission presented by Lynn Bentz, CGRA

“Please accept my submission regarding Bill C 22. My concerns are as follows:
“BILL C 22 DOES NOTHING TO CHANGE THE ESSENCE OF SOLE CUSTODY. SOLE CUSTODY IS DETRIMENTAL TO CHILDREN OF DIVORCE. Renaming a few terms will do nothing to provide meaningful support to Canada’s lost children of separation and divorce.

“Study after study, (Sanford Braver; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998; US Dept.of Health, March 26, 1999; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol 58 April 1990; The Family in America, 1988; Sara McLanahan and Gary Sadefur-Growing Up With a Single Parent 1994; Applied Social Psychology Annual Growing up in a Divorced Family, 1987; Adolescent Suicide, John Wodarski and Pamela Harris, Social Work 1987), to name only a few, have shown that children are far better off when both parents are in their lives, yet the Canadian justice system continues to hold single parenthood in highest esteem, no matter how this parenthood is attained.

“BILL  C 22 LACKS THE WRITTEN WORDS TO MAKE EFFECTUAL CHANGES that will be of benefit to the children.  It lacks the written words to:

  • EMPOWER JUDGES to ensure that children receive equal and unimpeded access to both parents and grandparents after divorce. It appears that mothers will continue to be granted residential custody/responsibility 85 percent of the time.
  • EMPOWER JUDGES to punish false allegations, access denial, and parental alienation which is currently rampant in family court and INSTRUMENTAL in separating parent from child.
  • EMPOWER CHILDREN to make their wishes known.“BRINGING MORE JUDGES AND LAWYERS AND OTHER PAID EMPLOYEES INTO THE FRAY will do nothing to help children of divorce. It will only fatten the wallets of the extraneous. unimportant, so-called stakeholder.

    “I SUGGEST THAT BILL C 22 NEEDS TO BE REVISED TO:

  • Create enforceable court orders so children may know both parents equally (i.e., : presumptive equal parenting after separation and divorce).  Children of divorce should benefit from the same basic rights as children living in two-parent families.
  • Punish false allegations already liberally used to gain sole custody, as a deterrent to wasting court time and taxpayer dollars.
  • Give children the right to a meaningful, loving, supportive, stable relationship with their grandparents and extended families.
  • Equalize the financial burdens of the parents, as it is now, the removed parent is forced to pay more than their fair share.
  • Give financial support to the children. Bill C 22, as it is presently written, will continue to funnel more of that money into the divorce machine/industry.
  • Support the changes proposed in the For the Sake of the Children document.
  • Recognize the overwhelming results of public polls that strongly support equal Parenting.
  • Recognize the overwhelming position of opposition members of Parliament (and also Liberal members) who strongly support equal parenting.
  • Recognize the support of the media for equal parenting.
    “GRAVE DAMAGE has been done to Canadian families of divorce.  There has been no leadership forthcoming through the courts or through Parliament. Instead, Canadian families of divorce have been left to flounder at the feet of small pockets of special interest groups, which is costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year.“PICTURE A FORTRESS, in which lives the mother and children.  Then picture a deep moat—dug, prepared, and filled by members of the family court system. Now see the father standing alone, outside, on the far side of the moat. He is expected to look on in mute silence, providing the tribute which keeps the moat and fortress functioning. This is what Canadian justice has created.

    “A good father is made to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fire for his child, which he willingly does, and then made to pay $ 45,000.00 for the exercise. This is what Canadian justice does to dads over and over again.

    “As a Canadian citizen, a paternal grandmother, and a member of several funded support groups, I have respectfully presented my concerns regarding the best interests of the children.”

    Sincerely, Lynn Bentz,  CGRA

Viewpoint—Grandchildren of divorce

“When the media becomes more about ratings and power, we no longer have the news.”   Edward R. Murrow

 

Our Grandchildren Need Equal Parenting

(1999—by Lynn Bentz, CGRA Director, Kamloops)

“With so much media attention and public money spent on Nisga deals and ferry overruns, I can’t help but wonder why the government continues to ignore the scandalous trampling of human rights in this province today. The huge population of citizens known as the Non- Custodial Parent. This situation is more far-reaching, more critical, more cost consuming to the province. It gets no press, it is extremely harmful to the human spirit of those involved, and nothing is being done to change it.

“Custody and Access laws in British Columbia and indeed in all North America are in dire
need of revision. As couples separate for whatever reason, children’s needs are not being considered. While our justice system sits on their thumbs, children are suffering greatly from the irreparable loss of contact with the non-custodial parent (generally fathers but not always).

“Our system is such that it creates one winner and one loser. Both the parents love their children dearly, but only one parent wins. If the custodial parent decides they do not want interference and only financial support from the non-custodial parent they need only fire off some false allegations of physical or sexual abuse and the non-custodial parent is history. There are so many agencies in place to make that happen it can make your head spin. It is hurting a lot of good and decent people.

“God bless the parents who separate but put the needs of their children first. Unfortunately, when parents are not able to agree, there are many people who are making a good living
off of this discord. Social workers, psychologists, lawyers, etc. All consider themselves “experts” and all apply opinions and conclusions based on their own individual biases to matters in which they have no personal connection. This process is not in the best interests of the children.

“This travesty is happening nationwide on a frightening scale. Any of you who think you are the only ones (so you don’t fight it or talk about it) think again. Accusations such as these are becoming the “weapon of choice.” If you are a responsible and caring parent, it is a human rights issue. All of you non-custodial parents and grandparents who are suffering the loss of your children and grandchildren, join, or form a group. Together we must make the system change.”

 

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Viewpoint—Democracy Denied

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

C.S. Lewis

 

PARLIAMENTARY RESPONSE

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.”

THE MEDIA RESPONSE:

“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.”

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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)

 

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?

Viewpoint—For the sake of the children cont’d

All 48 recommendations were welcomed by family groups all over Canada.
Shared parenting was to be the cornerstone of the new Divorce Act. (I wonder
how many of our Parliamentarians are aware that we had a very active shared parenting neighborhood in residential Ottawa during the early 90’s and is still active today.)

The following excerpts are from the People’s Report: For the Sake of the Children. Witnesses came from fathers’ groups, lawyers, therapists, mediators, grandparents, and many others who understood the necessity of children having real access to both parents. The exception, of course, is where there is proof of abuse.

“Some men’s groups and fathers asked that the Committee consider recommending a presumption in favour of shared parenting or joint custody. They argued that such a presumption was the only way to ensure that both parents negotiated or participated
in mediation in good faith and with the children’s best interests as the main focus.
Without a presumption of joint custody, these witnesses argued, mothers would not participate in mediation, and the perceived gender bias in the courts would perpetuate the predominance of mothers as the custodial parents.

“The Committee heard testimony from psychologists and social workers who stated that children benefit from maintaining a relationship with both parents after divorce. These clinical impressions were supported by many research studies showing that children’s emotional development is enhanced if both parents are involved after divorce. Parents denied a significant role in the life of a child might withdraw gradually, to the detriment of the child. By ensuring that each parent has a major child care and decision-making role, as the new regime proposed by this Committee would do, shared parenting can maximize the involvement of two parents in the child’s life.

“The advantages of shared parenting are that there’s a win-win situation. The children will continue to be with both parents and have loving and nurturing parents. When there’s a divorce, the children have more need for both members of the family. They have a need for more influence and more affection and love from both parents. If they have just one parent, the insecurity makes them feel stressed … What I would like to share with you today is that there should be a continuance, a presumption of shared parenting. When sole custody is awarded and the children’s father is relegated to that of the uncle dad or the Disneyland dad, the children lose … Kids don’t suffer from too much parenting. They need as much love and affection from both parents as absolutely possible.”

And the actual words from the Summary of Recommendations:
3. 2. The Committee recommends that it is in the best interests of children that: those whose parents divorce have the opportunity to express their views to a skilled professional, whose duty it would be to make those views known to any judge, assessor, or mediator making or facilitating a shared parenting determination.

And Recommendation 16: The Committee recommends that decision makers, including parents and judges, consider a list of criteria in determining the best interests of the child, and that list shall include: 16. 7, The importance of relationships between the child and the child’s siblings, GRANDPARENTS and other extended family members:

The Report For the Sake of the Children was read December 1998, and it brought joy and happiness to thousands of parents, especially fathers, and grandparents. Finally, the government of the day was going to help families. Grandparents were finally recognized as being part of family. Action and change was to be the order of the day.

The Volunteers of CGRA had been working for over 14 years (from 1984) to hear the words that the federal government recognized grandparents as family members.

Reflections from an M.P.:
Grandparents do play an integral role in this process of healing. Grandparents give a real sense of security and continuity. They provide a sense of being wanted and loved. A grandparent’s love is unconditional.

Beryl Gaffney (Former MP)

Viewpoint—For the sake of the children

 

“It is better to believe than to disbelieve; in doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.”
Albert Einstein

By the 1980’s, those who were in the system and in the divorce courts were aware that a divorce settlement had nothing to do with fairness or justice.

In spite of the “gender neutral language of the Divorce Act, its actual implementation in the areas of child custody and child support have continued to be marked by an entrenched systemic gender bias that mother knows best, father pays best.” ( QC Bruce Haines)

For over 30 years, the norm has been that one parent has been fighting for regular access to his/her children. Thousands of grandparents have signed petitions that asked Parliament to grant them standing in the court simply to ask for access to their grandchildren at such a difficult time. Grandparents understood that a divorce could possibly be very upsetting for children who thought they might be to blame for mom and dad getting a divorce and could provide needed love and reassurance at this uncertain time.

The non-custodial parent sometimes was subject to unethical practice in divorce proceedings. Due process of law, which in criminal law is considered a necessity, was not always followed in the divorce proceedings. This meant that the non-custodial parent’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms appear to have been denied.

Divorce proceedings do not belong in an adversarial process, where certain court decisions can do irreparable harm to the family and mean children can lose a parent forever. Why has it taken so long for the courts to acknowledge that divorce requires third-party mediation or an alternative dispute resolution mechanism when developing child access?

The past 30 years have been marred by the fact that many non-custodial parents, usually fathers, were penalized in the courts financially, and drained emotionally, with a resultant loss of self-respect. They may suffer depression and other issues and wonder where to turn next or even whether to go on. They’ve lost access to their children; the future is empty.

For a long time, non-custodial parents asked for the Divorce Act to be changed, for the government to look closely at access and custody, to open the door and hear from the victims. Grandparents have been lobbying their MP’s to change the Divorce Act and to recognize grandparents as necessary members of the family.

Committee established in 1997

When the government of the day in Dec. 1997 set up the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, which consisted of 23 Senators and Members of the House of Commons, this was a very positive step. This Committee was appointed to examine and analyze issues relating to custody and access arrangements after separation and divorce. In particular, its role was to assess the need for a more child-centered approach to family law policies and practices that would emphasis joint parental responsibilities and child-focused parenting arrangements, based on the “needs and best interests” of children.

Report delivered in 1998

After 12 months of open meetings across Canada, the Joint Committee in 1998 presented its report, For the Sake of the Children, which included 48 recommendations to amend the Divorce Act. The people of Canada had spoken directly to their elected representatives, and those members of the House of Commons and the Senate had acted on their testimony, listened, made decisions, and published a Report not only declaring those decisions but explaining each recommendation for Canadians to read. These Canadians actually took part in a direct democratic process. The public hearing process had reflected the nature of the subject matter. Custody and access following divorce was a very important and highly emotional issue; the number of people who had attended the hearings in every centre confirmed this.

This should not have come as a surprise to the Committee members. Thousands of petition names over the previous 10 years, and the presentation of private members’ bills to address grandparents’ and non-custodial parent’s rights should have sent alarm bells through the House of Commons. Custody and access abuse over those years had been the cause of serious distress in many Canadian families. At last, it appeared that the government cared and was about to make legislation. Although they could not erase past tragedies, they could change the future.

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