Friday, February 21, 2003

Custody decisions leave activists cold

By TOBI COHEN, Ottawa Sun

 Activists delivered an ice-cold message to the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday that gender bias favouring women in custody matters is unfair and not to be tolerated.

Arriving in two pickup trucks, the handful of activists pulled up to the building carrying snow sculptures of a father and son they'd built during Winterlude festivities.

A frazzled security guard looked on as the men erected them on the lawn and paraded placards that read "kids need both parents" and "fathers and sons have no rights."

With the father and son's backs turned toward one another and heads hung low, the sculptures are meant to symbolize the sorrow fathers and children experience after being separated by divorce, activist Guy Lavigne said.


"We want (Justice Minister Martin) Cauchon to take into account survey after survey that the citizens of Canada want some kind of mandatory shared equal parenting (law)," Lavigne said.

According to Statistics Canada, he said, 80% of the 18,000 custody cases between 1998 and 2000 were resolved in favour of the mother. There is also a direct correlation between custody battles and male suicide, he added.

Activists also took the opportunity to slam Bill C-22 -- an amendment to the Divorce Act -- which they say doesn't adequately address the needs of children of broken homes.

"I think it's very vague, very undefined," said Betty-Anne Daviss, one of a minority of women vocal about this cause.

Critics feel the act fails to address the use of false accusations of abuse during custody hearings, the denial of access of children to grandparents and other family members and the inequity of child support arrangements, among other things.

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