Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday 23 June 1999

Raising a banner for fathers

Dave Brown
The Ottawa Citizen

Fathers' Day for Joe Rade was spent mainly alone, writing slogans for placards he hopes will be carried in a Parliament Hill demonstration Sunday, and may have some effect in ending parental wars that see moms and dads financially bleeding on legal battlefields.

Sample placard: "Kids need fathers, not visitors."

The Stittsville man has been a regular writer of letters to the editor in this newspaper, challenging opinions and statistics that harden the battle lines between men and women in the post-marital breakdown parenting process. One of the major problems faced by men, he acknowledges, is that they are not nearly as good at supporting each other, as are women.

There is a series of custody and access recommendations from a joint House of Commons -Senate committee in the works. If implemented, they would provide less of a battlefield and more of a level playing field in the child-as-pawn aspect of marriage break-up.

A stonemason who specializes in heritage restorations, Mr. Rade says he is one of thousands of fathers denied the right to parent, despite no record of abuse and a good record of trying to meet court orders.

"When a mother denies access, the father's alternative is to go back to his lawyer and go back to court. That costs, but doesn't help." When a man pushes for access through the courts he is too often considered obsessive, says Mr. Rade, and in the opinions of courts, that isn't in a child's best interests.

He says attitudes are changing and the man-as-monster myth is being pushed back as more people, particularly female relatives and the joint Commons-Senate committee, support the belief that fathers have important roles to play in the lives of their children, even after divorce.

Women rally in force to support women's issues. Mr. Rade is hoping men, and their supporters, will rally to show support for a loosening of the power grip in child custody, which is held mainly by mothers.

He says he has been promised support by grandparents, who also are frequently cut out of the lives of their grandchildren after a divorce.

He also hopes a show of support could speed implementation of the committee recommendations, which Justice Minister Anne McLellan has set aside for study for three years.

Mr. Rade thinks he speaks on behalf of all estranged fathers when he says: "We can't wait three years to see our kids."

His demonstration starts with the handing out of signs in the parking lot at Lebreton Flats at 10 a.m. Sunday, and moves to Parliament Hill for a rally to run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Copyright 1999 Ottawa Citizen