Vancouver Province

September 19, 2001 Pg. A22

"NEED TO UPDATE DIVORCE ACT APPARENT TO CHILDREN"

The Province

Clayton Giles’ gallant effort in Ottawa this week was all but lost in the tide of terrorist news.

But that didn’t defuse the Calgary teen’s determination to pressure the federal government into drafting revisions to the aging Divorce Act to put parental custody access on a more equal footing.

Like many others in Canada, including members of a Senate-Commons committee, Giles believes the court-interpreted laws deny fathers an equal say in the raising of their children.

While Giles is one of the one in six Canadian kids who are children of divorce, the 14-year-old has managed to skirt the bleak statistics; 91 per cent of kids who commit suicide are from divorced homes, they comprise 78 per cent of young offenders, 65 per cent of teen pregnancies, 90 per cent of runaways and 71 per cent of school dropouts.

It’s not that he’s impatient for change. Giles is merely asking for custody and access reform which a parliamentary committee recommended – and which Justice Minister Anne McLellan promised – more than two years ago.

The committee, chaired by Liberal MP Roger Gallaway, has advised the government that if parents were guaranteed shared parenting rights it would lessen the bitterness and the bankruptcies by non-custodial parents.

It might not result in a 50-50 living arrangement in each and every case, but it would give both parents the legal right to have equal say over their child’s upbringing.

Indeed, the Liberal government promised to adopt it and dozens of other amendments to the cat. But it’s been all talk and no action.

Giles, who launched a 19-day hunger strike to protest a 1995 court ruling that granted custody to his mom, figures he’s been patient long enough.

This week, he cycled across Canada armed with thousands of backers on a petition to present to Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Divorce is always hard, he said, “but when children are used as pawns by warring parents and adversarial lawyers, the children are destroyed that much faster.”

McLellan was expected to change the federal legislation in three child-related areas: custody, access and support payments. Remember, McLellan. You promised.

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© Copyright 2001 The Province