Prince George Citizen

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Court blamed for city man's death

by BERNICE TRICK, Citizen staff
Prince George Citizen

Darrin Bruce White was ordered last month by B.C. Supreme Court to pay $2,071 a month to support his ex-wife and three children. As well, the 34-year-old Prince George man was paying $439 a month to support an older child from a previous marriage, which, in total, forced him to pay $2,510 a month.

But his monthly income was only $950 in disability stress pay, after taxes.

Darrin White killed himself last week and Prince George Parent Child Advocacy Coalition advocate Peter Ostrowski is calling for a public inquiry into his death.

During the first court settlement, "the judge threw the book at him," said Ostrowski. "The judge ignored his health problems, current income, the fact he was supporting an older child, and Darrin's plea that he wanted to be there for his kids, saying, 'they need their Dad.'

"The bottom line is Darrin was ordered out into the street," said Ostrowski, who was among PCAC members trying to help him through the turmoil.

"He was left with a negative income and nowhere to live," said Ostrowski, who met with Darrin several times.

Darrin's father, Les, who arrived from Brandon, Man., this week, told The Citizen he's allowing the media and PCAC to use his son's name "because that's what Darrin would want."

He would not comment further.

Ostrowski claims a "a grotesque policy failure of governments is causing parents to kill themselves."

"Suicide is happening across Canada, but is being ignored by the B.C. premier and the federal Minister of Justice," said Ostrowski, who often supports fathers appearing in court.

"Ex-spouses are coming out of the woodwork to ask for more money since new child-support guidelines were put into effect in 1997 by Allan Rock, who was (federal) justice minister at the time," Ostrowski said.

He said the federal plan was to put the financial portion into effect and then look at areas such as joint parenting and issues like distance access.

"It's still under study by the federal judicial ministry," Ostrowski said. "Federal Minister Anne McClelland told us in January there are problems getting provinces to agree on a plan of action. There was no such difficulty in 1997 with implementing financial reform in the Divorce Act.

"The problem is there's no recourse for parents trying to defend themselves -- no complaint officer, no review board and other government agencies, like ombudsmen, do not deal with family-law matters.

"The only recourse is to go up against the family-law industry and be prepared to take the consequences," said Ostrowski, who said he learned the process through his personal experience during the past seven years.