People concerned with women's and children's rights would do well to warn their MP of a private Bill designed by advocates of what they call a « presumptive equal parenting » upon divorce.
Bill C-422, fashioned by Conservative MPs Maurice Vellacott and Steven Blaney - with the support of Liberal MP Raymonde Folco, is a new version of Motion M-483, which died on the agenda during a previous session.
It is aimed at what the proponents are calling an "overall bias" favouring women in divorce and child custody law. (No mention is made of the available statistics as to whom actually does the parenting before separation and whom commits to doing it after it.) This private bill is really about enthroning male entitlement, ending child support and imposing paternal authority.
Ignoring the reality of domestic violence - the main reason for divorce today - and criteria such as parental skills and demonstrated commitment, features NOT equally shared in most divorcing couples*, this law "would make it mandatory for two parents who are divorcing to discuss with either a mediator or a judge how they would divide the time with the children," said Folco to a Laval newspaper, adding that "equal parenting means that 50 per cent of the time a child would be with one parent and 50 per cent with the other."
The lobby behind this one-size-fits-all fathers' rights bill is the "Canadian Equal Parenting Council," and includes the obnoxious Fathers for Justice organization of Batmen and Spidermen-garbed media darlings.
"Men in Canada need to quite literally start protecting themselves from the flawed family law system," an anonymous spokesman from Fathers for Justice said in a statement supportive of Bill C-422.
The Canadian Equal Parenting Council claims support from Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, quoting a 2002 book where he called unspecified shared parenting legislative changes « sensible and overdue suggestions ».
As for the Bloc Québécois, F4J accuses it of favouring women. It rants, on its website: « It's time for Mr. Duceppe to step away from the dark side and stand behind equal parenting... »
Source : « Private bill for ‘equal parenting' goes on Parliament's order ». Martin C. Barry, The Laval News, July 15, 2009.
Feminist critiques of « presumptive equal parenting » - such as that penned by Gatineau sociologist Denyse Côté in "La garde partagée: l'équité en question" (Éditions du remue-ménage, 2000, 202 p.) - can be found on various web sites, such as The Liz Library. This material amply documents that not all equal-custody claims are justified or respectful of the children's best interests. Most family court judges are aware of this, but the anti-feminist lobby goes on trying to force their hands, via conservative politicians.
For instance, The Ontario Women's Justice Network offers a detailed analysis of a good 2001 Supreme Court decision in the custody case between Kimberly Van de Perre and Theodore and Valerie Edwards, here.
Please remain aware of this issue, and don't let the patriarchalists pull the wool over your MP's eyes.
* In The Canadian Family in Crisis (2003), John Frederick Conway wrote : « ...the anti-feminist men's movement has won some victories but they have not been total... it failed to win the imposition of compulsory joint custody... joint custody must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and situations of marriage breakdown that include domestic violence, addictions to drugs and/or alcohol, and psychological abuse ought not to involve joint custody, co-parenting provisions. » This caveat gets short shrift in C-422.