Alberta Report

Monday, April 24, 2000

"A fatal escape clause"

Politicians Cower As The Supreme Court Overrides The Natural Family Order


Statistics Canada reports that, with a rate of 19.6 per 100,000, men were almost four times more likely than women to commit suicide in 1997.

No one can say exactly why people kill themselves, however.

Nevertheless, Todd Eckert, president of the Prince George-based Parent and Child Advocacy Coalition, is sure he knows why Darrin White took his own life after he disappeared March 12: he was driven to it by a justice system that discriminate against men at times of marital breakup. "I hate using the gender issue," he says, " but it's a reality".

Typically, he says, courts award custody of children to women and then force men to pay child and spousal support. Most men are willing to live up to their responsibilities but many are unable to, especially if they have set up house with another women.

In White's case, he was already making child-support payment on a14-year-old daughter from a previous relationship when, on March 1, a B.C. Supreme Court master (a junior judge) ordered him to pay $1,000.00 a month in alimony to his estranged wife , Madeleine White, who had custody of their three children. But Darrin was on stress leave and earning only $950 a month in net income at the time.

Parliament's Special Joint Committee on Custody and Access has proposed changes to the Divorce Act to make the system fairer, but the Liberal government does not want to act on the issue until after the next election.

Canadian Alliance MP Paul Forseth has now tabled a 2,000-name petition demanding immediate action. Said the MP, "Canadians have to ask themselves how many other accident, work-time loses and family tragedies could have been prevented if the justice minister [Anne McLellan] had heeded pleas from... countless concerned Canadians to act."