Vancouver Province

Last Updated: Thursday 24 May 2001

Dad 'feels like dirt'

Father has no right to give own sons his surname: Court

Andy Ivens, The Province

Arlen Redekop, The Province / Darrell Trociuk has lost a court battle to name his triplet sons.

(Mary) Southin

A Delta man who lost a fight to have his three sons bear his last name says a three-year court battle has left him feeling "like dirt."

In a 2-1 decision issued yesterday, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a portion of the Vital Statistics Act that gives a mother sole power to name her children.

"I think all Canadians should feel outraged," Darrell Trociuk said yesterday.

Although he won joint guardianship, a judge ruled two years ago his former girlfriend, R.E., should have sole custody. Trociuk gets six hours a week with his five-year-old triplets at their mother's home on Vancouver Island.

"I know a sperm donor who gets more access [to his offspring]," said Trociuk.

He was by R.E.'s side through a difficult pregnancy compounded by her debilitating illness. The boys were born prematurely, weighing less than three pounds.

Trociuk, now 36, and R.E., 42, had a relationship for more than year. But as soon as Andrew, Ryan and Daniel were healthy enough to leave hospital, Trociuk says everything changed.

For three months, he thought she would agree to give the boys a hyphenated last name.

Then he learned she had registered the boys under her own last name five days after they born.

R.E. left the Lower Mainland without telling him where she was taking the boys.

When he found her living on Vancouver Island, he said, she told him "to go to hell."

"She said if I didn't like it, she'd say I was being violent and stalking her."

Still, Trociuk has made regular child-support payments of $209 a month, proportionate to his small income as a landscaper.

"They are the most valued thing in my life," Trociuk said of his boys.

Two years ago a B.C. Supreme Court judge appointed lawyer Glen Bell to represent the boys.

"The father has always treated the mother with respect, if not affection, indicating that he is conscious of the importance to the children of a respectful relationship between their parents," Bell's report said.

He suggested that "joint last names are consistent with that relationship and will symbolize it in the minds of the children."

Trociuk is angry the majority took one side in what appears to be a battle of the sexes.

"If a dad took the kids and told the mother to go to hell, the public would go crazy. But they do this to a dad, and nobody barks?" he observed.

"I'm not saying every dad should have the right [to give his children his last name]. I'm saying the mom should have a reason" to stop him.

R.E. swore an affidavit accusing Trociuk of being violent while he was at her bedside in B.C. Women's Hospital. He used Freedom of Information legislation to obtain log books of nurses and security guards at the hospital to prove his innocence.

"She was proven to be a liar many times in court, but she still got sole custody and this is what I got."

Trociuk's parents are in failing health. One of his three sisters has never seen her nephews, another has seen them once and the third sister has seen them twice.

"This has happened not just to me, but to a whole side of the family," he said.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Jo-Ann Prowse said it is unfair to place Trociuk in the same category as fathers who have "raped, assaulted [or] otherwise abused or abandoned the mother."

Justice Prowse said the law unfairly allows R.E. to deny Trociuk "rights commonly associated with parenthood. "This is a denial of rights which would likely not be be tolerated by society if the roles were reversed and it was the mother who was unilaterally excluded from the registration and naming process."


Excerpts from the judges' reasons for judgment:

Madam Justice Mary Southin, for the majority:

"The legislature no longer considers that marriage ... is a social institution of paramount or, ... any importance. ... The appellant is in no worse legal position than any other father."

"... The legislature has left no 'gap' in this question of a child's name and surname. It has decreed that fathers have no rights."

Madam Justice Mary Newbury, concurring:

"I acknowledge that the comprehensive plan adopted by the legislature ... will not work perfectly in every case. ... But there is good reason to believe [giving fathers an absolute right to be included in the registration] would cause far more harm than good and would be unreasonable in most cases where the problem arises."

Madam Justice Jo-Ann Prowse, in dissent:

"The implications of this decision extend to all fathers and their children."

"Thus, for example, fathers who are willing to participate in their children's lives by providing financial and emotional support are excluded from the registration and naming process to the same extent as fathers who were little more than 'sperm donors,' or who impregnated the mother as a result of a sexual assault or incest or in the course of an abusive relationship."

"In many cases, the birth and naming of a child are the occasion of great ceremony involving the gathering together of family and friends. ... In many other cases, the naming of a child is a matter of family pride and honour associated with passing on, not only the family name or names, but also the family heritage from one generation to the next."

The law "withholds a benefit from fathers in a manner which has the effect of signalling to them and to society as a whole that fathers are less capable or less worthy of recognition or value than mothers, and that they are regarded as being equally deserving of concern, respect and consideration."