Ottawa Citizen
Friday 20 November 1998

Hedy Fry accused of Divorce Act sabotage

Secretary of state for women should quit over 'attack' on committee, fellow Liberals say

Chris Cobb
The Ottawa Citizen

Two Liberal members of a parliamentary committee studying changes to the Divorce Act are accusing a federal cabinet minister of trying to sabotage their final report.

Committee co-chairs MP Roger Gallaway and Senator Anne Cools say Secretary of State for Women Hedy Fry has committed a serious breach of cabinet rules. Ms. Cools says Ms. Fry should resign. Ms. Cools and Mr. Gallaway are scheduled to hold a news conference today.

Last week Ms. Fry wrote a newspaper article criticizing the joint Senate-Commons Committee on Child Custody and Access. She has also allowed the official Status of Women government Internet site to link to sites of feminist groups attempting to derail the committee's recommendations. 

"This is a bald ministerial attack on a parliamentary committee," Ms. Cools told the Senate yesterday. "Such an attack on a committee of parliament by a minister is an egregious act unworthy of any minister of the Crown. It appears Hedy Fry doesn't like the conclusions she fears the committee will adopt and is taking steps to force a different set of conclusions. Is she speaking for cabinet or isn't she?"

Ms. Cools attacked Ms. Fry for contravening a well-established principle that ministers never interfere with the work of parliamentary committees.

Ms. Fry, they say, is also treading on the territory of Justice Minister Anne McLellan, who is responsible for the Divorce Act.

The all-party committee has been dubbed the "Politically Incorrect Committee" because it heard from several pro-father groups during three months of emotional, often controversial, hearings across the country. 

After the hearings, Mr. Gallaway said the Divorce Act desperately needs amending because it systematically treats non-custodial parents -- mostly fathers -- unfairly and puts the wants of separated and divorcing parents above the needs of their children.

Copyright 1998 Ottawa Citizen