December 18, 2002
'Mother gets all' in new Divorce Act: Critics attack reforms: Bill de-emphasizes 'maximum-contact' custody principle
OTTAWA - An unpublicized change in the federal government's proposed custody reforms would abolish the Divorce Act's long-standing requirement that children of divorce should generally have maximum contact with both parents after the divorce.
The proposed amendment was denounced by the Canadian Alliance party and some Liberals as a serious setback to children's rights to preserve strong bonds with both parents after divorce.
"It's a terrible thing and it is consistent with the whole flavour of Mr. Cauchon's proposal," charged Liberal Senator Anne Cools, an outspoken advocate for fathers' rights. "It's an attempt to shift back to the earlier position ...
of 'mother gets all.' "
"It's a regressive step that is going to mean greater inequity in the rulings of courts rather than more equality," echoed Jay Hill, the Canadian Alliance's critic on divorce. "It's going to perpetuate the gender bias that already exists in the court system; that's my great fear."
Ontario Liberal MP Roger Gallaway, who co-chaired the joint Senate-Commons special committee on child custody and access, said he is spearheading a fight within the Liberal caucus to defeat Bill C-22 when it comes up for debate at second reading. "The strategy is going to be to oppose the whole thing," he said. "There will be considerable opposition to this bill in our caucus."
Ms. Cools said she is confident dissenting Liberals will be able to push Mr. Cauchon to remold his bill "to produce a fair and balanced regime. A lot of senators have already told me that they are very disappointed with this effort," she said.