Orono mom on hunger strike

Quit eating Sunday to bring attention to her cause
Feb 26, 2003

Jennifer Stone, Staff Writer

Kris Titus: Took her protest over a divorce and custody bill to Ottawa.

ORONO - An Orono mother has vowed not to eat pending passage of a divorce and custody bill she says doesn't do enough to protect the rights of fathers.

Voting on the bill, which amends the Divorce Act and several other pieces of legislation related to child custody, is expected later this week. But until then, Kris Titus, 29, says she won't be eating. She admits her efforts are unlikely to bring down the bill.

"I wasn't trying to sway the vote of the Parliamentarians. If they're not going to listen to what kids want, they're not going to pay attention to me," she said Tuesday, more than 50 hours into her hunger strike.

The bill, she says, doesn't do nearly enough to promote the idea of equal and shared parenting, a subject close to her heart.

Ms. Titus, who has two children and two stepchildren, quit eating Sunday morning, and spent nine hours Monday on Parliament Hill with a placard to draw attention to her concerns.

The Orono mom says she has three major concerns with the bill. First, she says, "The language is not strong enough. It does not give judges the presumption of equal shared parenting." As well, while the bill calls for enforcement of support orders, it doesn't call for similar enforcement of access-to-children orders. The bill also doesn't call for enough proof when there's an allegation of abuse against one of the parents, says Ms. Titus.

Durham MP Alex Shepherd agrees the proposed bill is not perfect.

"There's never going to be a perfect solution," he says. However, "I think the foundations of the bill are that we start on one basic premise and that is the wellbeing of children."

The bill "doesn't exclude one parent to the betterment of the other," he notes, adding he plans to vote in favour of the legislation.

"Is it perfect? I don't think anything in that situation will ever be perfect," he says.

Ms. Titus says she's acting on her own, though she's been in contact with other Canadian parents in similar situations. Last week, she organized with other citizens to have a snow sculpture, depicting a father and son, unveiled at Winterlude in Ottawa. The sculpture was then transported to the front steps of the Supreme Court.

Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Titus said she was still feeling the effects of spending nine frigid hours outside in Ottawa, and was "a little bit weak, a little bit tired." She had planned to stay outside in Ottawa longer, but the cold forced her back to Orono.

"I couldn't fight it off," she says. "It's amazing how quickly your body kicks in."

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