Edmonton Journal

Monday 19 June 2000

Brochures ruled discriminatory

Alberta Human Rights Commission rules counselling service's literature portrayed men as sole practitioners of family violence

Jim Farrell, Journal Staff Writer
The Edmonton Journal

A crusader for equal treatment of men and women will announce today what he calls a major victory against the negative stereotyping of men.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has ruled that family violence brochures circulated by Edmonton's Family Centre discriminates against men, Ferrel Christensen said Sunday.

In 1998, Christensen complained to the commission that the brochures portrayed men as the sole practitioners of abuse within the family.

"In January, a human rights commission investigator's decision came down saying our complaint was justified," said Christensen, a retired University of Alberta philosophy professor and spokesperson for the Movement for the Establishment of Real Gender Equality. "A few weeks ago, the centre said it wouldn't push this higher."

In effect, the Family Centre conceded the point, Christensen said -- it won't lodge an appeal before the full panel of the Human Rights Commission and has withdrawn the brochures.

Family Centre officials could not be reached for comment.

At a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today at City Hall, Christensen plans to announce the future targets of his organization's campaign against negative male stereotyping.

"We will be sending out an announcement to six or eight other agencies, pointing out the bias in their literature and asking that it be changed," he said.

Christensen will be joined by Canadian Alliance MP Deb Grey, Liberal MP Roger Gallaway and Jon Lord, a Calgary city councillor and Progressive Conservative nominee for the next provincial election. Gallaway has gained nationwide fame in recent years for criticizing what he says is anti-male bias in federal legislation. In 1998, Gallaway was chair of the joint Senate-Commons committee on child custody and access, which recommended that both parents have equal custody rights of children following a divorce.

He accused Justice Minister Anne McLellan of blocking the work of his committee when McLellan said the matter needs more study and changes to current legislation might require three years or more.

"Roger has sure carried the can on the matter of child access, and we need to look at some equity," Grey said.

Academic studies demonstrate men and women are responsible for family violence in almost equal proportions, Christensen said. Those statistics have been overshadowed by studies which examine only violence against women. As a result, the "politically correct" view has pervaded Canadian society that family violence is a male vice, Christensen said.

Other statistical studies are equally questionable, Gallaway said.

"The problem is that people are always referring to conviction rates which are probably 19 to 1 in favour of women.

"But the fact is, men don't report family violence, so conviction rates are not indicative of what is happening in society -- only what happens in court."

Statistical studies of violence are distorted even further by a broadening of the concept of "abuse," Gallaway said.

He said the National Action Committee on the Status of Women often cites a Statistics Canada study which said 52 per cent of women are subjected to abuse, including physical, emotional and even monetary abuse in its definition.

"What NAC failed to reveal was that in same sampling, women said they initiated the same type of behaviour toward their spouses," Gallaway said. "I'm not sure anymore what abuse is."