Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, April 15, 2000

'Children, families are still suffering,' say advocates of Divorce Act changes

MPs launch ribbon campaign to push the issue

The Ottawa Citizen

Two prominent federal Liberals will launch a national ribbon campaign today to heighten awareness of the "irreparable harm" suffered by children of broken families and to push for changes to the Divorce Act.

The multicoloured ribbon, designed to resemble a small child, will also be sent to every federal MP on May 10 to made the first anniversary of the government accepting dozens of recommendations on the Divorce Act. The ribbons protest that no changes have been made.

"We are doing this to remind people that the law hasn't changed and children and families are still suffering," said Liberal backbench MP Roger Gallaway, who will launch the campaign today with Senator Anne Cools.

Mr. Gallaway co-chaired the joint Senate-House of Commons committee on custody and access whose report, "For the Sake of the Children," contained the changes accepted by federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan. Ms. McLellan angered Mr. Gallaway and other members of the committee when she said it could take up to three years and numerous studies and reports before any changes might be implemented.

"This issue has been reported to death," said Mr. Gallaway. "We need legislation not more reports."

The cornerstone of the committee's report was a new concept "shared parenting" that would give both parents an equal say in the raising of their children. It also recommended tougher penalties for custodial parents -- mainly mothers -- who routinely defy access orders by obstructing meetings between children and their non-custodial parent.

The ribbon is pink, blue and yellow. It will be distributed Mr. Gallaway says, by various organizations who are fighting for changes to the decades-old Divorce Act.

The suicide last month of father-of-four Darrin White in Prince George, BC. renewed calls for changes to the system that critics say is biased against men. Mr. White, 34, hanged himself after a family-court judge ordered him out of the family home and imposed alimony and support payments that exceeded his monthly income.

Second wives -- women who marry divorced men with children -- have also become more vocal. Many complain that they are being financially and emotionally ruined by unreasonable and changeable demands imposed on them by family courts.

Ms. Cools is the country's most outspoken critic of what she says is systematic bias against Fathers. She tabled a private member's bill in the Senate last week aimed at eliminating a 1997 change to the Divorce Act that makes adult children of college and university age the financial responsibility of the parent paying custody [sic support].

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen