Response to Questions from
Fathers Are Capable Too (FACT)
Parenting Association

1. Canadians have expressed concerns with the post-divorce situation of children. In Compas and Angus-Reid polls, in the report of the Special Joint Senate-Commons Committee on Custody and Access, and even recently in the Department of Justice’s own internal focus-group study, conducted by Sage Research (Family Law Issues Related to Custody and Access Focus Groups, dated March 31st, 2000) an overwhelming number of Canadians believe that changes are required to the current practices to ensure that both parents are involved in their children’s lives after divorce or separation. They believe that only proven instability or unreliability should be a consideration for not doing so. An estimated 100,000 additional children each year become entangle in divorce or separation.

What does your party believe needs to be done for the children of divorce / separation and, if you believe that changes are required, how and when do you plan to proceed?

We will encourage counselling in any uncontested divorce where there are children involved. We will follow the unanimous recommendations of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access to ensure that shared parenting is the norm in the aftermath of divorce.

2. Domestic violence accusations—rarely prosecuted, let alone proven—have long been a tool in Canadian family law and criminal courts to block the interaction of non-custodial parents with their children. Studies show that most violence is mutual, and what is not is effectively split equally between men and women. Irrespective of violence between parents, the separation of children from either parent has been shown to be severely damaging to children. Certainly, the long-term negative impact of this type of enforced separation on children has been shown, through HRDC-sponsored studies, to result in serious psychological problems in up to 80% of these children.

How would your party deal with the court system and protecting children from the current handling of these accusations and the imbalance of power of a woman’s accusations? If you believe changes are required, how and when do you plan to proceed?

The Report forcefully comments upon the obvious historical failure of the federal government to contemplate in family law the pervasive and insidious problem of "false accusations of criminal conduct", the "unreliability of sworn affidavits" that lawyers have deposed from their clients, and the pathetic record of the Courts to defend the Orders they make about child-care arrangements and parent-child contact. Canadian Alliance MPs wanted clear recommendations for action on these points but were unable to persuade the Committee. The Committee would not approve recommendations for improvements to the Criminal Code concerning deliberate false accusations of abuse or neglect, and the need for "prosecutors" to more frequently act to enforce Criminal Code sections 131 & 132-misleading justice, 135-contradictory evidence, 137-fabricating evidence, 138-affidavits, 139-obstructing justice, in family law matters.

3. It is estimated that 50% of children who are now reaching their child-bearing years are not living with at least one of their biological parents. It is further estimated that about 25% of all children now reaching their child-bearing years have not had contact with both of their parents over 5 – 10 years. As a result, these children have been shown to have little idea how to run a family, how to parent, or how to maintain a relationship. Due to the current situations affecting divorce and separation, it is anticipated that in the next generation of children, more than 50% will be in this situation.

Is this a problem? If changes are required, what does your party intend to do and when do you plan to proceed?

Canadian Alliance members of the committee supported the themes of the Report as far as they go, but have profound disappointment that some proposed recommendations were not ultimately supported by the government members, and to varying degrees by the other Parties. Our MPs were an integral part of the Report process from the beginning, and the Report hopefully will heighten a national concern for the intrinsic value of the family. We support the concept of "shared parenting" as a right and obligation. There are shortcomings that the Committee failed to address in the final version of the Report, due to the ideological intransigence of some Committee members, regardless of the public testimony.

We also recognize the seriousness and extent of the national problem of family breakdown in Canada. The consequences of dissolving families bring injury to children and parents, and hurt the quality of Canadian society. The prevalence of divorce and unstable families is a national problem that has not been sufficiently recognized by the present government. Consequently, a more dynamic political leadership is required at both the federal and provincial level to reduce the social forces that mitigate against stable family life, and secondarily, to improve the set of rules under which families may dissolve. Moreover, the needs of children require a bold approach in family-law reform.

We recognize that the existence of the Committee was not initiated by the government, but was only created as a compromise in exchange for Senate passage of amendments to the law governing child maintenance payments. It is recognized that under the federal Divorce Act, parents themselves may divorce, but they do not divorce their children. Also, the balance of parental rights and obligations has not been sufficiently defined in the current Divorce Act. Consequently, in view of the serious political vacuum surrounding the national family-law problem, the Committee Report recommends a change to the historical nature of divorce law.

It is recognized that parental rights and obligations continue after family dissolution. However, it is clear that in too many cases, the legal system poorly serves the interests of children. In view of the outcry in Canada of many sad stories, a new approach that legally emphasizes children's needs over short-term parental wants, has been recommended. Studies and social convention point to the ideal, that children thrive best in a conventional stable two-parent family where there is a loving father and mother. If families dissolve, then a legal climate that facilitates the ongoing involvement of children with both parents in a full and meaningful way, should be the preferred outcome of parenting plans.

4. The fertility rate in Canada is (and has been since the 1980s) about 1.59 live births per woman. This is significantly lower than the replacement ratio needed to keep the population steady (2.1 live births per woman) or of our neighbours (the US is at about 2.05 live births). The current Canadian population is therefore shrinking at a rate of about 25% per generation as Canadians choose to have fewer children.

Is this a problem? If changes are required, what does your party intend to do and when do you plan to proceed?

We recognize that Canada—like many western societies—faces a major demographic challenge. We will appoint a nonpartisan commission on Retirement Security and Generational Fairness to consult with Canadians and recommend policies to cope with approaching demographic change.