Ottawa Citizen
Monday, May 13, 2002

MP says Liberals made a liar of him

Roger Gallaway says he was 'betrayed' by justice minister's backtracking

David Vienneau
The Ottawa Citizen

A Liberal MPs is accusing his own government of turning him into a liar.

Roger Gallaway says he has, with the government's approval, been telling Canadians for years that there would be changes to Canada's divorce and child custody laws. He says when Justice Minister Martin Cauchon recently said not to expect major changes, he felt betrayed.

"I was misleading these people, buying time and being less than open with them," he writes in a letter to MP Marlene Catterall, the chief government whip. "Being in such a fix is troubling and disturbing to me personally."

Mr. Gallaway co-chaired a special joint Senate-Commons committee on reform of the Divorce Act that in 1998 endorsed joint parenting. He writes that in May 1999, then justice minister Anne McLellan said reforms would be forthcoming, a promise reiterated in the January 2001 throne speech.

"If I am to make logical and intellectual sense of my role as a member of Parliament and if members are to have some function in policy creation and the legislative process, there must be evidence of it," Mr. Gallaway writes.

"Simply rejecting a committee's considerable volume of work after 3 1/2 years is an affront to members of Parliament, the institution itself and Canadians who look to MPs as responding to their considerable and real needs."

Ms. Catterall refused to discuss Mr. Gallaway's concerns, except to say, "That is a misinterpretation of what is happening. I will discuss that with Roger."

The Canadian Bar Association, various groups representing fathers, grandparents and children of divorce, and some parenting organizations have been seeking changes they believe would make the system easier on kids and less confrontational.

Mr. Gallaway said in an interview that he still receives about 200 calls a month from people inquiring about when the changes will take place. He has repeatedly told them to be patient.

Mr. Gallaway's letter is yet another indication of the angst that exists on the Liberal backbenches. Many MPs feel a sense of powerlessness, that their opinions and positions are ignored.

Last week when now Health Minister McLellan tabled a new reproductive technologies law, MPs from all parties, including the Liberals, were angry that recommendations on stem cell research made by the Commons health committee were ignored by the government.

© Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen