May 29, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Once again, the Canadian House of Commons has defeated a shared parenting bill, this time by a vote of 80 Ayes and 174 Nays. Maurice Vellacott’s bill, C-560, would have established a presumption of equal parenting in cases in which both parents were fit to care for their children.
It’s been 16 years since a parliamentary committee submitted a report that found equal parenting to be the best post-divorce arrangement for kids and urged Parliament to enact legislation presuming shared parenting. Since then, at least three surveys of Canadians’ opinions on parenting following divorce or separation have registered huge majorities (between 68% and 75%) favoring equal parenting. And since then, social science has only become clearer on the benefits of shared parenting and the detriments of the current system. And since then, surveys of the children of divorce show enormous majorities favoring shared care and continuing meaningful relationships with both their parents. And finally, since then, Maurice Vellacott has filed several shared parenting bills, much like C-560, all of which have gone down to defeat.
What we have here and elsewhere is a case of political elites contravening the will of the people. Worse, they’re acting against the best interests of children, fathers, mothers and society generally to do the bidding of narrow, but well-heeled special interests.
First among those are family lawyers who thrive on parental conflict and know all too well that shared parenting dramatically reduces exactly that. After all, without the lawyers’ favored winner-take-all child sweepstakes, neither parent has to fear losing his/her children. That significantly reduces the perceived need to “go to the mattresses” in custody fights. Lower conflict, fewer motions to file, shorter duration of cases, etc. mean lower fees to lawyers and hey, they’ve got to make those yacht payments somehow.
Along with the lawyers come a host of professional hangers-on, who, without the conflict between parents would have fewer custody evaluations to perform, fewer tests to administer, fewer homes to visit and rate.
Finally, there are the radical feminists for whom any improvement in the lot of fathers is a form of torture. Canadian feminist organizations like the National Association of Women Lawyers have long opposed even the slightest improvement in fathers’ rights and on the usual, factually-insupportable grounds. That’s true despite the fact that greater parenting time for fathers would mean greater time for mothers to work, earn, save and advance in their careers, all things feminists claim to support. But what’s a little hypocrisy as long as it helps ensure children don’t get to see their fathers?
The time has come for the equal parenting movement to stop asking and start demanding. For too long we’ve gone hat in hand to legislative bodies. For too long we’ve assumed that being right, being on the side of fairness, justice and children’s welfare would be sufficient to carry the day. In all but the rarest of cases, that approach hasn’t worked.
Therefore, it is now time to go on the political offensive. That means raising money to defeat wrong-voting incumbents and support those who support shared parenting. In most such cases, we don’t even have to win to have an impact. Most incumbents fear real, focused opposition, and a few dollars and a lot of volunteer time can at the very least scare the pants off of any office-holder.
The simple fact is that politicians understand our issues perfectly well. What they also understand is that they have nothing to fear from us. They know full well that they’re free to vote for or against our bills secure in the knowledge that whatever they do, it won’t come back to haunt them come next election day.
That has to change, and it is up to us to change it.