Regina Leader-Post

Saturday, September 25, 1999

"Group Complains About PLEA Booklet"

By Andrea Weibe
Regina Leader Post/Saskatoon Star Phoenix

A Saskatchewan parenting group has filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in response to educational booklets which it says discriminate against men.

The National Shared Parenting Association's Saskatchewan division - headed by Regina president Joni Andrychuk - has asked the commission to examine literature put out by the Public Legal Education Association (PLEA).

"We are asking the Justice Department to take it off the shelves," said Andrychuk of a booklet titled " Guide to the Law for Battered Women.

But a spokesman for the Justice Department said PLEA is solely responsible for the publication, and the department would have no role in dealing with the complaint.

The complaint alleges PLEA's booklet on spousal abuse discriminates against men by creating a false impression that men are more abusive and violent than women.

Complaints to the Human Rights Commission are assessed to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to believe discrimination has occurred. If the complaint moves on to be formalized, the commission attempts to resolve it through a mediated settlement or through a full investigation.

"Our biggest concern with it," said Andrychuk, "is it gives inaccurate statistics that have no basis, that basically report that 25 per cent of men are abusers. "They do that in a backwards way by saying that 25 per cent of women are abused."

People then generalize abusive behavior to all men, which encourages discrimination, said Andrychuk. But a number of studies show women are just as abusive as men, she said.

"We want people to understand that statistics prove that women are just as violent as men in spousal and common-law relationships - the cause just as much harm, Andrychuk said.

"We do think abuse is just awful - all forms of abuse."

In its complaint to the Human Rights Commission, the parenting association disputes PLEA's claim that one in four Canadian women are abused by their male partners. The association cites studies from the University of Manitoba, Statistics Canada's 1339 Violence Against Women Survey and a U.S. Department of Justice survey that indicate women are equally as abusive toward their spouses as men.

The public's misperceptions about abuse - encouraged by PLEA's incorrect statistics - work against men in policy decisions, divorces and child custody battles, said Andrychuk.

She said it makes it easy for women to use allegations of abuse as weapons in biter divorce proceedings.

"If these things keep getting said and we don't look at both sides of the equation, then men keep losing in all aspects of life, including custody."

PLEA's co-directors, based in Saskatoon, were out of the province and could not be reached to comment on the complaint.

The 1999 version of the Guide to the Law for Battered Women has been reprinted under the title Spousal Abuse. The booklet stipulates in its introduction that "the law applies equally regardless of sex. Both women and men can be the victims of spousal assault."

The victim throughout the booklet is depicted as female for two reasons - "It reflects the fact that almost 90 per cent of spousal assault victims are female (Source: Statistics Canada), and the consistent use of one gender is easier to read."