Ottawa Citizen
Friday, May 03, 2002

Divorce-law protesters struggling to get message across

Dave Brown
The Ottawa Citizen

An editorial in yesterday's Calgary Herald referred to current divorce law in Canada as "legislated gender bigotry" and called on Justice Minister Martin Cauchon to stop stalling and change the 32-year-old legislation.

Further stalling, said the Herald, is "a victory for the radical feminist lobby and a stunning defeat for children and families."

At the same time, the Herald shows it may be part of the problem. Politicians react to numbers and nothing is going to change until Mr. Cauchon sees a crowd at his door. Every year on Mother's Day an attempt to rally such a crowd is thwarted by media apathy.

For several weeks now the Internet has been pouring requests into newsrooms, asking all to call public attention to a rally on Parliament Hill planned for May 12 -- Mother's Day. The rally has been held every year for half a dozen years. If you drove by one you probably thought a tour bus had handed out signs to its passengers. That's about as big as it gets.

Since the press releases from a variety of groups supporting shared parenting started flowing, I've been monitoring newspapers across Canada. So far, I've found no mention of the rally, and that includes this newspaper and the Herald.

Only a visual display of support in the form of a gathered mass of supporters can counter the powerful lobbying being done by publicly funded radical feminist groups.

Not even the Canadian Bar Association, with its 36,000 members, seems able to make a dent in the wall put up by the backroom supporters of the status quo.

In July last year the CBA officially added its name to the demand for change.

One of the reasons for the lack of media support is likely the appearance of too many press releases from too many sources.

Although dozens of groups, including grandparents, have the same views, they can't seem to get together to turn their many voices into an audible scream. The media doesn't pay attention until it hears a scream.

The current 32-year-old Divorce Act is built around the aspect of "custody." That implies ownership of children, almost always by the mother. Proponents of change are calling for removal of concepts such as custody and access, and replacing them with a commitment to shared parenting.

If the individual case didn't involve neglect or abuse, parents would have equal rights and responsibilities in continued parenting. Children would have equal access to both parents.

Mom's the Word

Karen Kuwayti of Boston, formerly of Ottawa, is facing her first Mother's Day without her mother. Dahlia Kuwayti died in January. The Alta Vista resident was a mom first, and a wife and business owner and writer of letters. She was 61. Cancer.

It's the concept of writing that Ms. Kuwayti wants to pass along. Whether a mother or a child, she recommends we all take the time to put some of our thoughts into words.

A letter from her mother written years ago when Karen was a student at McGill has become a tangible piece of her mother that she can hold onto. She read it at her mother's funeral.

It's a classic example of positive parenting and the importance of installing independence and pride.

Some excerpts: "I am looking at your smiling face in the picture on my desk and am very proud. ... It shows me the real Karen who is charming, confident, elegant and a winner! ... Your values are being tested all the time. You are now free to do anything you want to do. No limits. Nobody to answer to except yourself and it is scary! ... It is very important that you be yourself. Never succumb to the peer pressure.

"You will have pain and fear and disappointments, but they are part of growing up. At the end of the school year you will find new strength, new depth and dimension in you that will please and thrill you. ... You have proved (yourself) to me and to the rest of those who know you."

Dahlia Kuwayti gave her daughter the gift of confidence in a way she can hold onto -- in her hand.

She also gave humour. Her closing line:

"Do you think I make a good preacher?"

Dave Brown is the Citizen's senior editor. Send e-mail to dbrown@thecitizen.southam.ca Read previous columns by Dave Brown at www.ottawacitizen.com

© Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen