January 10, 2001
Teen lays down law on what's best for himBy LICIA CORBELLA -- Calgary Sun
Clayton Giles is tired of being treated like a piece of property.
The 14-year-old Calgary boy also vows that he will never again allow judges or others to use him as a weapon for punishment or even a prize.
Instead, despite his tender years, Clayton is demanding that he and all children be treated like humans -- rather than chattel.
But Clayton is also a realist. He believes that the Court of Queen's Bench justices who have presided over his parents' acrimonious divorce and his custody for the past 10 years have never considered what was best for him.
He is willing to risk his health, and maybe even his life, to see this systemic injustice towards children -- and he believes fathers, too -- changed.
Today marks the 10th day of Clayton's hunger strike for justice. He says he is starting to feel dizzy at times and he gets cold easily, but he will not give up.
In a letter he drafted to Associate Chief Justice Allen Sulatycky (who did not preside over his parents' case) and which he was handing out to interested bystanders yesterday, Clayton says several demands must be met before he agrees to stop his hunger strike.
He wants an apology from the court for the abuse he suffered at the hands of two justices in particular who kept him away from his father for three years by court order.
He is demanding one of these justices be removed as his case manager. And, most of all, he wants the court to "make decisions that are in the best interests of the child and not in the best interests of the parent who can pay the most money to a lawyer."
"I'm a nobody to the courts, basically," says Clayton, who is much more articulate and poised than most children his age.
"The courts have never asked me what I wanted. For years I was denied access to my father, even though two psychologists' reports, as well as expert verbal testimony showed that removing my father from my life would be very detrimental to me. Despite that, that's what a judge did to me."
As a result, Clayton says his marks at school suffered, he contemplated suicide frequently and was deemed a trouble-maker at school. His dad, Eric, often refused to abide by court rulings which ordered him to have no contact with his son and daughter.
Eric, 54, defied those orders, saying that displaying his love for his children was more important than following unjust rulings that were harming his children.
He would walk by his son's school and say hello through the chain-link fence.
He was jailed on seven different occasions for his troubles.
Clayton remains outraged at the indifference of the court to his and his father's pain and the years of love they have lost -- and can never regain. On Jan. 1, the same day that Clayton started his hunger strike, he started a web page as well.
The website at www.legalkids.homestead.com has already had more than 1,300 hits and he has received calls of support from people as far away as Melbourne, Australia.
One year ago today marks the anniversary of when Clayton decided to take his well-being into his own hands and away from the courts. He left his mother's home, moved in with his dad and vows that nothing will change his living arrangements. Since then he has been doing very well at school and says he is very happy. He was supposed to testify Dec. 19, 2000, but his mom's lawyer had the date adjourned.
"My mother still has full custody, but I don't care what the courts say anymore. I'm going to do what's best for me," he says fiercely.
"My father has always been a wonderful parent and I have always been very close to him. I will not attend any hearings in front of those judges. It's my life."
Indeed it is. And he's willing to throw it away for justice.
Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, can be reached at 403-250-4129 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Her columns appear Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.