Ottawa Sun

Sunday, May 10, 1998

Abuse charges often false, CAS says

Study shows kids used as ploy in custody fights

By Robert Fife, Parliamentary Bureau
Ottawa Sun

New evidence shows most allegations of child abuse in custody battles are false, says the chairman of parliamentary committee studying the issue.Liberal MP Roger Gallaway says far too many false charges are being levelled by parents to gain custody of their children and deny access to their former spouse.The Children's Aid Society presented statistics to a Commons-Senate committee on custody that showed two out of three child abuse complaints were false, he said. "This is a shocking revelation which confirms evidence from a broad cross-section of innocent parents," Gallaway told the Sunday Sun. For example, Gallaway said the Ottawa-Carleton Children's Aid Society conceded of the 1,500 complaints they received, 900 involved custody and access. Of the 900, a staggering 600 were false, unfounded or unsubstantiated.

Gallaway said the statistics put the lie to claims by lawyers and special interest groups that false allegations-mainly by women- are not a serious problem in custody cases. He urged the provinces to impose financial penalties on parents who make "blatantly false" allegations to the Children's Aid Society. The federal government must also change the Divorce Act to stop these kinds of allegations from being considered in child custody cases, he said.

"We have to remove these allegations from the whole equation from custody and access because this colors the way judges decide," he said. Gallaway said it's also important to shorten the time it takes the CAS to investigate child abuse allegations so parents aren't kept away from their children for long periods. "A number of men are saying: 'Look, I've been investigated for a year. I'm told it will take a short time.' But the process actually takes between 10 to 15 months before it's over," he said. Gallaway said the CAS wasn't able to provide the committee with statistics on how often the agency handles repeat allegations. It's untrue men are always violent culprits in failed marriages, said Gallaway, pointing to a study by Dr. Reena Sumner of the University of Manitoba that found both sexes are equally responsible for violence in marriage breakdowns. "There are men who are violent but the evidence is now coming that there are women who are violent too," he said. The joint Commons-Senate committee is holding hearings across the country and is expected to table a report on custody law reforms by Nov. 30.

Copyright © 1998, Canoe Limited Partnership.