Edmonton Journal

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Judge sorry for 'abhorrent' comment

Gordon Kent, Mike Sadava and Conal Mullan
The Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON -- A provincial court judge apologized yesterday for declaring he believes it "abhorrent" that couples who have children get divorced.

On Tuesday, Judge Al Chrumka lectured a separated couple, telling them, "as adults we have a responsibility to give (children) the very best that we can."

He went on to say that that parents should stay together for the benefit of their children, even "if that means we have to suffer as parents because we don't like each other any more."

In a news release issued by Assistant Chief Judge Peter Caffaro yesterday, Judge Chrumka apologized for the comments. Judge Chrumka "regrets that his words may have offended some members of the public. This was not his intention. His overriding concern was for the children involved," the release said.

Judge Chrumka made the comments during a sentencing hearing for a 25-year-old woman who left her two young sons -- aged two months and one year -- alone in a parked car for a half-hour on July 19. The temperature reached 24 degrees that day. The children were rescued when a police officer broke a window in the car. They were both taken to hospital with heat stroke.

Prior to the sentencing, the woman's estranged husband mentioned the couple's parenting problems, which prompted Judge Chrumka to tell the man he should have been in place to help the children.

"That parties who decide to have children together should split for any reason is abhorrent to me," he said.

The parents have joint custody, but are still going through family court to resolve access.

While several social agencies were surprised by the comments Gerald Gall, a law professor at the University of Alberta, said the judge's remarks weren't "so outrageous that it would require discipline."

The woman was sentenced to nine months' probation for causing a child to be in need of protective services, a charge under the Child Welfare Act. The act doesn't allow the parents to be named, to protect the children.

© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen