Calgary Sun

Sunday, April 9, 2000

Parents shackled and blamed

Government insists all parents are evil and children must be protected

Calgary Sun

The Ontario government's plan to make parents pay for the wilful damage their kids do to someone else's property would be a great idea if Canada were a country that actually let parents be parents.

If this were a country that enacted laws that assumed that 99.9% of parents out there love their children desperately and want only what's the best for them, then I would support Ontario's bill to make parents responsible.

But on the contrary, the government assumes all parents are inherently evil and children must be protected from them.

This week Alberta Justice Minister Dave Hancock said he is studying implementing a similar law based on Manitoba's Parental Responsibility Act.

In light of the fact that children are by law the responsibility of their parents or legal guardians until the age of 18, such a law makes perfect sense.

But in Canada, the federal government continually moves down the path of shackling the parents and then, after the parents are incapable of action, blaming them. That is what the western world is coming to -- and fast.

As the first anniversary of the massacre in Littleton, Colo. approaches on April 20, it's likely that some people will revisit blaming the biggest victims in the tragedy -- the parents of the killers.

On the one hand, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said it's important for the authorities to find out what the parents of the killers in Littleton, Colo., "knew and should have known" about their respective son's activities and plans and "taken appropriate steps."

By that, Reno meant potentially charging the parents with criminal negligence in connection with the shootings.

Yet, on the other hand, we have a U.S. government, not to mention a Canadian government, which enthusiastically signed the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child, a well-meaning but diabolically dangerous document which essentially bans parents from invading their kid's privacy, from physically restraining (grounding) or punishing their children, from trying to control what the child reads or watches, or from interfering with the child's rights of association -- even if who they want to "associate with" are Hitler worshippers.

For quite some time, the Alberta government refused to sign the U.N. document -- which some legal experts say is a binding legal contract.

For that, Alberta was viewed by Ottawa and the other nine provinces as knuckle draggers who don't believe in children's rights.

So last year, Premier Ralph Klein wrongly gave in to pressure from the prime minister and signed the document.

Everyone, including enlightened individuals like Reno, Bill Clinton and Jean Chretien, rightly wonders how the parents of mass murderers Eric Harris, 17, and Dylan Klebold, 18, did not know their children were building bombs in Harris' garage prior to the tragedy -- which left 12 students and one teacher dead before Harris and Klebold turned their guns on themselves.

Maybe they were simply believers in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

After all, not only did neighbours in the posh neighbourhood report there was quite a racket coming out of Harris' garage, but police revealed they found weapon parts and other materials clearly visible in one of the youth's bedrooms.

Well, if Reno and Clinton and Chretien actually subscribe to or believe in the documents they sign, the parents wouldn't have had the right to find out what their kids were up to.

That, you see, would have been invading the little darlings' right to privacy.

Could I be misinterpreting the document? You decide.

This is exactly what Article 16 of the U.N. Declaration says: "1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence ..."

If Chretien and his cronies actually believe this ridiculous document, then they are contradicting it time and again with proposed laws which, if all are passed, will weave such a muddled web that all citizens are bound to be caught in it.

For instance, studies show that about 70% of all Canadian parents have or do spank their children.

What is Ottawa's response? There are bills before the House of Commons which, if passed, would make it a criminal offence for parents to physically punish their children -- which includes restraining them (also known as grounding) them.

On the flip side of that, however, perhaps in an effort to ensure all parents are eventually jailed or punished, federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan is contemplating a law which would make parents responsible for crimes committed by their children too. Heaven forbid we would actually hold people responsible for their own actions.

So, on the one hand, parents won't be allowed a widely used form of discipline in an effort to raise responsible kids; and on the other -- after all parenting tools are taken away from us -- we will be held responsible for our irresponsible offspring. Talk about a Catch-22.

Just in case you think you might be able to get away with grounding your kid or preventing them from attending the next Hitler youth meeting, Health Minister Allan Rock is planning to set up a "child czar" who will represent the rights of children and inform children of their rights.

Kids are constantly being taught their rights.

Too bad nobody remembers to remind them about their responsibilities.

Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, can be reached at 403-250-4129 or by e-mail at Her columns appear Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
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