Prince George Citizen

Saturday, March 25, 2000

Senator Wants Changes

by BERNICE TRICK, Citizen staff
Prince George Citizen

Although Canadian Senator Anne Cools doesn't know the personal background of Darrin White of Prince George, she said he is a symbol of all that is wrong with divorce and child support laws in Canada.

"His heartbreak and suffering had no voice,no representative," said Cools, a Liberal senator.

Senator Cools accuses Justice Minister Anne McLellan of "stalling" on reforms recommended more than a year ago by an all-party joint Senate and Commons committee on child custody and access.

"Parenting is a mutual responsibility and what's called access and custody in the Divorce Act should be changed to ' shared parenting,'" Cools said Friday from Ottawa. "My correspondence file shows a number of suicides.

"This is a terrible injustice which isn't being addressed."

Among the 48 revisions recommended in the report of the 30-year-old Divorce Act is the belief that mothers and fathers should have equal rights in the raising of their children, regardless of marital break down.

She said a poll shows the majority of Canadians believe that fathers and children are "getting short shift" when it comes to the Divorce Act.

Cools said she's compiling a file on the White case.

"I intend to do something," said Cools who has proposed several private bills on family law reform, and was a member of the joint committee.

Farah Mohammed, a spokesperson for McLellan, told the Vancouver Sun the minister has been examining the committee's recommendations, and the Family Support Guidelines brought in three years ago allow judges to use their discretion when determining child support orders.