August 11, 2001
Child-access group wants judge firedBy Robert Koopmans
Daily News Reporter
Kamloops Daily News
An Ontario group wants a Kamloops judge who jailed a man indefinitely for failing to pay child support fired.
And the group promises to support a wide range of protest options, including picketing of the judge’s house.
Bill Flores, president of The Children’s Voice, said his group filed a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council Thursday against BC Supreme Court Justice Robert Hunter.
The Children’s Voice claims a membership of about 300 people. Most are men, Flores said, although there are women in the group as well. The group’s Website states it “advocates for a child’s right to have equal access to both parents after a separation or divorce.”
In his letter to the judicial council Flores condemned Hunter for jailing Jeffrey James Unruh indefinitely.
Unruh was found in contempt of court Aug. 1, for failing to abide by a 1996 court order requiring him to pay $1,500 a month in child support for his five children. The 42 year old Dawson Creek man owes his ex-wife more than $150,000.
Unruh steadfastly refuses to pay the court-ordered family support payments, claiming the maintenance order conflicts with God’s will and his Christian beliefs. As well, he believes the justice system’s adversarial approach to family law destroys families.
Flores called the judge’s actions “a gross infraction” of Unruh’s rights. “The indefinite jailing of a person is unheard of,” Flores said. “He’s being treated worse than most criminals.”
Flores said his group wants the judicial council to seek the removal of Hunter as judge of the B.C. Supreme Court. The Canadian Judicial Council is comprised of Canada’s chief and associate justices of provincial high courts. The committee examines complaints and can make recommendations to Parliament calling for a judge’s removal.
“Failure to act swiftly will be publicly denounced as further moral corruption, and a campaign to expose this criminal judge will be supported,” Flores’s letter to the council warns.
“This may include the picketing of this judge’s residence, signs of disrespect for the courts such as sitting down, and not acknowledging (the court’s) jurisdiction.”
Flores said he’s been in contact with B.C. men’s groups via the Internet and has learned some of Unruh’s supporters are already engaged in protest. Three of Unruh’s supporters failed to rise for the judge Monday, when Unruh appeared briefly in court.
He said many people are angry about what they see as unfairness in the family law system and are ready to take a stand.
“We’ll be seeing more and more of this straight-out defiance of the courts,” Flores said.
Lloyd MacKenzie is a retired judge and the B.C. Supreme and Appeals courts information officer.
He said it’s difficult to know how the courts will react if confronted with defiance by Unruh’s supporters.
While failing to stand when a courtroom is called to order can be considered a contempt of court, Mackenzie said judges will rarely make an issue of such a “trivial display.”
Other actions, however, may be viewed differently.
Picketing a judge’s house, for example, could be considered a criminal act if the picketers act aggressively or cause fear, he said.
Meanwhile, the president of Parents of Broken Families in Kamloops said the Ontario group’s public support for Junruh shows the case is bigger than B.C. “It looks like (Unruh) has support from everywhere,” Mickey MacMillan said. “It sounds like they are as angry about this as we are.”
MacMillan didn’t want to comment on the group’s call for protest, saying only he will contact Flores and find out more.
Unruh is expected back in court Monday, when he will again be asked if he wants to take steps to deal with contempt.
If he refuses as he did this past Monday, he will be sent back to jail for another seven days.