May 12, 1999

The National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) is pleased that the Minister of Justice has recognized the complexity of changing the custody and access provisions in the Divorce Act and has called for a prolonged period of consultation and in depth study of the issues. NAWL spokesperson, Carol Curtis commented, "These matters are complex, and the consequence of changes to the Divorce law are profound. Policy-making in the area of custody and access law must be evidence-based, following a careful analysis of existing data, not merely the anecdotal summaries of "town-hall" meetings. There is a very large, constantly growing and sophisticated body of literature regarding custody and access, which until now has been entirely ignored. There are also knowledge gaps where research must be commissioned to inform reasoned changes to the Divorce Act."

NAWL and other women's organizations had asked the Minister to move cautiously fearing that recommendations before the Minister did not reflect the reality for separating Canadian families. In fact the vast majority of Canadian families are able to resolve custody and access disputes by agreement. NAWL also feared that some recommendations would jeopardize the safety of women and children because the report did not adequately address issues of violence.

The National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), is a national, non-profit, feminist organization active in legal research, law reform and public education. The membership comprises lawyers, academics, students and professionals from a variety of fields. NAWL and its local caucuses have lobbied on such matters as human rights, family law, tax law, pornography, reproductive choice, the sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code and equality provisions under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. NAWL has a particular interest in the laws pertaining to the custody of and access to children, as the overwhelming number of custodial parents, whether legal or de facto, are women.

For further information, please contact NAWL at 613-241-7570