Vancouver Province

Saturday 1 April 2000

Funeral held for man being called a martyr in men's rights crusade

BRANDON, Man. (CP) - A man being called a martyr for the men's rights movement was buried Friday before a crowd of 200 that included political activists as well as friends and family.

Meanwhile, 15 lobby groups in communities from Saint John, N.B., to Victoria held memorial rallies to coincide with the funeral.

Darrin White of Prince George, B.C., committed suicide after being ordered to make family support payments that were more than double his take-home income.

At the time of his death, White was also facing charges of assaulting his ex-wife and harassing the people she was staying with.

Anne Cools, a Liberal senator from Ontario who is an outspoken advocate of shared child custody after divorce, joined about 200 mourners at the service, held in Brandon where White grew up.

"What we're dealing with here is an extreme example of fatherlessness," said an emotional Cools, who was a key member of a joint Senate-House committee that made recommendations in 1998 on custody and access.

"We shouldn't need tragedy. I have put the evidence before the government that something is needing correction."

Kris Anderson of Winnipeg took a day off work in Winnipeg to bring two of his daughters to White's funeral.

"I know what this chap went through," said Anderson, who complained he has had his vehicle registration cancelled because he was behind in support payments.

"That could have been me in this casket."

Leo Fernandes, the Roman Catholic priest officiating at the funeral, said White's decision to kill himself was likely motivated by his assumption people would be better off if he was dead.

The priest encouraged White's friends to carry on his fight, "even if it means to challenge the scales of justice in our country."

The 34-year-old was ordered March 1 by the Supreme Court of British Columbia to pay $2,071 a month to his ex-wife and three children. At the time, he was on stress leave because of depression over the breakup of his marriage and his after-tax pay was $950 a month.

In its ruling, the B.C. court said it did not believe White's claims he was paying child support for a daughter from a previous union, and suggested he could return to his job as a locomotive engineer within weeks.

White's ex-wife Madeleine White, also a locomotive engineer, was awarded custody of the children and was given the matrimonial house. White had restricted visitation rights.

While groups such as Men's Equalization were attending the funeral in Brandon, about 20 people gathered outside the courthouse in Prince George.

Sarwan Johal said he attended because he's been paying child support for 18 years for a daughter in Abbotsford, B.C., that he hasn't been allowed to see since 1982.

"She's 21, and I'm still paying because she's in university," he said. "There's no justice in this system. Dads are just slaves in their own homes."

Terri Deller, a lawyer who helps head the Brandon Women's Centre, said it's a tragedy whenever family breakdown leads to a death, but pointed out it's often the women or children who are killed.

(Winnipeg Free Press-Prince George Citizen)

© The Canadian Press, 2000