Edmonton Journal

Thursday 26 July 2001

Divorce Act consultation worthwhile

Feminists missed out on delightful process

Letter to the Editor by Louise Malenfant
The Edmonton Journal

There seems to be a general misunderstanding about the recently completed public consultations on Canada's Divorce Act that were launched by Justice Minister Anne McLellan. ("Justice Ministry guilty of public posturing," Letters, July 23.)

While I agree with MP Roger Gallaway and Senator Anne Cools that the 1998 public hearings on custody and access were the best and most complete representation of the changes ordinary Canadians want to see in our divorce courts, the recent consultations were not an entirely useless endeavor.

In the first place, they were not "public hearings," where witnesses presented their stories for the consideration of government officials.

On the contrary, the consultations strived to bring together all the disparate voices of the many stakeholders in this debate and have us talk to each other about the five different types of legal frameworks that might be possible solutions to the current problems of divorce.

In Alberta, I attended as a voice for father's rights, speaking and listening with courtesy to the opinions of feminists, women's- shelter workers, child-welfare representatives, lawyers and sex- abuse treatment providers, all of us in the same room, and all of us enjoying the opportunity to find common ground and arrive at solutions to divorce disasters.

In the end, many of us were startled to note that these disparate voices could arrive at the conclusion that some form of shared parenting was the best way of ensuring the well-being of Canada's children.

While certain powerful feminist lobbies in Ontario refused to participate in this delightful and revealing process, they only demonstrated that extremists are incapable of listening, and should not be given the power to dictate the future divorce policy of this country.

In short, the recent consultations were not an attempt to usurp the parliamentary process, and in my view, were an effort to bring together the stakeholders to see where common ground could be found. I was pleasantly surprised, and honoured, to be part of this process.

Louise Malenfant,
Family Advocate,
Parents helping Parents,

2001 CanWest Interactive