Edmonton Sun

January 10, 2001

Dad or death, says teen

'I am not going to be ignored anymore,' says youth who stopped eating New Year's Day

By KEVIN MARTIN -- Sun Media

Clayton Giles, 14, who says he has been on a hunger strike for the past 10 days, stands outside court in Calgary to protest the handling of his custody case. -- SUN Media
CALGARY -- A Calgary teenager is on a hunger strike in a bid to force the courts to let him choose which parent to live with.

Clayton Giles, 14, was on the steps of Calgary's Court of Queen's Bench yesterday demonstrating against what he claims has been unfair treatment by the justice system.

And Giles said he will continue a hunger strike, which he began 10 days ago, until he gets satisfaction.

In a letter to Associate Chief Justice Allen Sulatycky, Giles said he would rather die than let the system continue to separate him from his father.

"By going on a hunger strike I want you to realize that I will die before I will let you take away any more of my childhood," Giles wrote.

The teenager's mom, Marnie Harrison, has sole custody, but he wants to live with his dad, Eric, 54.

Denied that, Clayton claims his marks at school suffered, he contemplated suicide frequently and was deemed a troublemaker at school.

His father often refused to abide by court rulings which ordered him to have no contact with his son at all. He was jailed seven different times for incidents such as walking by his son's school to say hello through the chain-link fence.

And yesterday Giles told The Sun he has been living with his father for the past year and wants to be allowed to stay.

"I'm just out here because I figure it's the only way they will pay attention," Giles said. "I'm not going to be ignored anymore."

An application by his father launched last March 6 to have the custody order reversed has been repeatedly adjourned by his mother's lawyer, he said.

He began his hunger strike Jan. 1 and said he has been living on water ever since. He said he is starting to feel dizzy at times and he gets cold easily.

He wants his hunger strike to raise awareness about how he was "victimized" and has demanded the chief justice be removed from the case.

"I would like 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," he wrote in his letter.

"I (also) want an apology from the courts for all they've done to me."

Eric Giles said the hunger strike was his son's idea, fuelled by his frustration with the system.

"The whole situation scares me - I don't like my son on a hunger strike, but it's his choice."

Neither Harrison nor her lawyer, Robert Boyden, could be reached for comment.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.