This page sponsored by HEART 
(Human Equality Action and Resource Team) 

Equal Parents of Canada (EPOC) 

Brief to the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access 

31 March, 1998 


1. The Rights of the Child 
1.1. Access to Parents 
1.2. Parental Love 
1.3. Family 
1.4. A Secure Home 
1.5. Extended Family 
1.6. Social Bonds 

2. Adult Responsibility 

3. Anti-Father Prejudice 
3.1. Rates of Custody Awards 
3.2. Lack of Access Enforcement  
3.3. Harm to the Child 
3.4. Harm to Society 
3.5. Parental Qualities of the Father 
3.6. Children and Fathers are Disadvantaged 
3.7. Domestic Violence, Deadbeat Dads, and Other Propaganda 
3.7.1. Bias on Domestic Violence 
3.7.2. The Search for the Deadbeat Dad 
3.7.3. The Aura of Depravity 
3.8. The Father as Social Activist 
3.9. Government Agencies 
3.10. Policy 
3.11. Education 
3.11.1. Undergraduate Men's Studies Programs in Canada 
3.11.2. Undergraduate Women's Studies Programs in Canada 
3.11.3. Graduate Programs and Research Institutes in Men's Studies 
3.11.4. Graduate Programs and Research Institutes in Women's Studies 
3.12. Funding 

4. Morbid Attachment to the Adversary System 
4.1. Win/Lose Interests of the Litigants 
4.2. Harm to the Child 
4.3. Interests of the Child Elude Judicial Notice 
4.3.1. Friendly Parent Obligations 
4.3.2. "Mobility Rights" 
4.4. Failure to Consider Alternatives 

5. Initiatives to Replace the Adversary System 
5.1. Children's Rights & Interests 
5.1.1. Avoidance of Conflict 
5.1.2. The Right to Changing Interests 
5.1.3. Parental Duty to Lead 
5.2. Shared Parenting 
5.3. Mediation 
5.4. Long-Term Support & Flexibility 
5.5. Changes Needed Within the Courts 
5.5.1. Stop Presuming Mother Custody 
5.5.2. Presumption of Shared Parenting 
5.5.3. The Elimination of Bias 
5.5.4. The Primacy of the Child's Best Interests 
5.5.5. Fairness in Procedure 
5.5.6. Cameras in Court 
5.5.7. Resist Parental Alienation 
5.6. Government Policy Towards Men and Marriage 

6. Initiatives to Remedy Anti-Father Prejudice 
6.1. Status of Men Canada 
6.2. Policy 
6.3. Funding 
6.4. Law 
6.5. Education (Men's Studies Departments) 



This brief can only point to neglected people and ideas, and hope that both will receive the attention they deserve. 

The occasion for this brief is momentous. Canada has engaged in an enormous and courageous social experiment in this century, greatly expanding the participation of women in business and politics. In this process, we have been especially attentive to women's voices, and properly so, but the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access is the first occasion upon which men, particularly in their role as fathers, have had any substantive hearing in the family matters over which women have wielded, and continue to wield, a traditional dominance. This development is not solely the result of government initiatives. 

Fathers are being heard, in very significant measure, because they have become ready to recognize their common interests in their children, and the need for fathers' intervention in the political process. 

Some fathers expect a revolution in the treatment of fathers and the fatherhood role, and a profound re-examination of government's treatment of men. Some expect to be ignored. Some expect to be trampled. Whatever happens, fathers will not return to their former silence.  {Return to Contents} 

1. The Rights of the Child 

The most basic right of the child in the process of separation and divorce is to continue complete relationships with both parents, extended family, and the community. No person or court can justly rescind or curtail this right, except in the most extreme and exceptional circumstances. Every person or agency has a positive obligation to promote and preserve the child's familial and social attachments, for as long as the child wants them. 

There is a vagueness in the law, concerning the degree to which children are entitled to rights, but children clearly do not have the same rights as adults, and they are only gradually recognized, by virtue of age and mental competence, to be persons. 

In Canadian society, children are raised to believe that they are people (persons under the law), and that they have the same rights as other people. Most of us remember being children, and having issues of our rights arise during contacts with our family, friends, and society. In practice, we acknowledged that we lacked the competence to fully exercise our rights, but most of us found numerous occasions to assert our rights as our abilities developed. 

Almost all Canadians would probably agree that the child's understanding of children's rights is essentially correct. All people have equal rights, limited only by their own competence to exercise them, and that idea covers children, as well as people of diminished competence. 

Our understanding of what it means to have a right, who is entitled to rights, and limits on rights is evolving. It is probably fair to say that, in 1900, neither women nor children had rights to the same extent as men. Most Canadians take great pride in the fact that our society has improved its practice on human rights by removing limits based on race, religious or political belief, sex, age, or other charactistics of the person. 

The decision to curtail a right should not be taken lightly. Where a person is competent to exercise a right, the government is generally not entitled to impose its judgements about that person's interests. With mercifully few exceptions, children are born competent to exercise their right to both parents. 

When government intervention is required in family matters, the government has an obligation to go to great lengths to preserve the child's parental bonds, and to do no harm to those bonds, but the government's duty does not stop there. Government has a duty to intervene positively in society as a whole to protect and promote the child's rights. This duty is enhanced by the vulnerability of children, and based on our commonly-held fundamental belief that the welfare of children must be put ahead of all other values in society. 

In 1900, women and children exercised their rights in society largely through the representation of men in their families. Society has changed since those times, we now place the individual ahead of the family, and women now represent themselves. But the rising tide of respect for the individual did not raise all boats. Children were the chattels of their fathers at the last turn of the century, but, unless something changes very drastically in the next two years, they will be the chattels of their mothers at the next. 

This last argument should not be taken as a call for further government intervention in individual lives, or for further fragmentation of the family. Law and policy can support the family without intruding into families. The argument was intended to preface the opinion that the Canadian dialogue on human rights in this century has been focussed on a vast question (the role and rights of women in society) and has neglected other questions, namely the rights of the family, and the rights of the child from the child's perspective.  {Return to Contents} 

1.1. Access to Parents 

It is strange that it should be necessary to explain that the child has a right to enjoy the emotional and developmental benefits of exposure to both parents, but there is no federal or provincial law in Canada that effectively guarantees this right. This is an obvious defect in Canadian law. 

In an intact family, the child has an obvious right to the care and attention of both parents, and government agencies recognize that separating the child from either parent is a very extreme step. The behaviour of Canadian courts makes it perfectly clear that they do not recognize this right of the child after family dissolution. Why does the child lose this right when the marriage breaks up? 

In the case of family dissolution, there is generally no fault with either parent, as a parent, and no need to deprive the child. The onus is on government agencies to show that there is an overwhelming reason for harming or severing a child's bond to a parent, and that reason must come primarily in terms of the child's interests. In most cases, we do not believe that any such demonstration is possible, and we certainly find that no government has ever made a clear public case for it's common practice of cutting off the child's emotional tie to a parent, usually the father.  {Return to Contents} 

1.2. Parental Love 

No government can guarantee the quality of any personal relationship, but the child has a right to enjoy the unique relationships within the family without harmful intrusion by the government.  {Return to Contents} 

1.3. Family 

From the child's perspective, the family does not end with the divorce. The child still has a mother, a father, a heritage derived from both parents, siblings, and a reasonable expectation that the family will supply the necessities and comforts of life. 

Even after separation and divorce, a child has the continued right to enjoy the benefits of family, without harmful intrusion by the government.  {Return to Contents} 

1.4. A Secure Home 

The quality of a child's environment is largely determined by the resources available to the parents. Whatever the child's surroundings may be, he or she almost always develops meaningful attachments to them. Such attachments may become far more important during the process of separation and divorce. A child has the right to enjoy the security of home and familiar surroundings without harmful intrusion by the government.  {Return to Contents} 

1.5. Extended Family 

Many children go through periods in their lives in which they depend very profoundly upon relationships with extended family. A child has the right to enjoy the benefits of relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, without harmful intrusion by the government.  {Return to Contents} 

1.6. Social Bonds 

Children develop their own, personal relationships with other people, and with organizations (school, church, clubs), in their community. A child has the right to enjoy the benefits of such relationships, without harmful intrusion by the government.  {Return to Contents} 

2. Adult Responsibility 

All of the adults in the process of separation and divorce have a primary duty to bear responsibility for themselves, and to adapt their behaviour reasonably to the needs of the children, after which adult rights and privileges may be weighed. 

The behavior of the parents determines the extent to which children actually enjoy their rights. However tragic and painful the marriage breakdown may be to the parents, the fact remains that parents have a primary duty to preserve the welfare of their children. 

Raising children is not such an onerous burden that parents must totally sacrifice all present and future self-interest, and children must eventually become responsible for themselves, but children are a responsibility voluntarily taken. One cannot shirk parental duty and claim parental rights at the same time. 

Parental duty involves making choices in one's work and life that may not appear personally fulfilling. Parental duty requires that one make distinctions between the child's interests and parental self-interest, and place the children first. The capacity to make and apply such distinctions is a good parental trait, the incapacity or unwillingness to make such distinctions is a bad parental trait. 

The importance of parental duty increases with separation and divorce, because the children are more prone to developing psychological, social, and academic problems. 

To some, this description of parental duty is too demanding, but parents are ordinarily able to find the resources of character needed to meet the standard of parental duty, and society must demand and rely on it, for the good of children.  {Return to Contents} 

3. Anti-Father Prejudice 

The courts consistently disregard the interests of children by favoring the maternal bond over the paternal bond, and this bias is not justified by any evidence or credible cause for preference.  {Return to Contents} 

3.1. Rates of Custody Awards 

Rates of custody awards to fathers or mothers is a question complicated by a number of factors, such as: 

  • Availability of statistics is one problem: such statistics are not readily available. 
  • Interpretation is another problem: for example, joint custody awards are ordinarily written in a way that makes them essentially identical to sole custody, but an overly-prosaic researcher might fail to take that factor into account. 
  • Reversals of custody are another factor: children often "wait out" their own childhood, and force a reversal of custody in the teenage years. How do we weigh this custody award, when the greater part of childhood is gone and the period of custody ahead is brief? 
Glossing over all difficulties, we tend to say that about 85-90% is the approximate rate at which mothers are awarded exclusive care and control of children for the first instance. 

There is no scientific basis for this judicial bias. 

The rates are important, because our system customarily creates situations in which one parent cannot practically fulfill his potential as an agent for the healthy development of the child. At worst, in the cool, but emotionally wrenching language of one major researcher, "there is evidence in our findings, that lacking legal rights to share in decisions about major aspects of ther children's lives, ...many noncustodial parents withdrew from their children in grief and frustration. Their withdrawal was experienced by the children as a rejection and was detrimental in its impact." [Wallerstein, p. 310{Return to Contents} 

3.2. Lack of Access Enforcement 

There is a surprising lack of research data on access denial. One witness testifying before this committee vaguely recalled a study that placed the rate at 2-5% of divorced families with children(?). 

Fathers groups across the country report a very different picture. Nearly all members have experienced access denial. Many find that police will not take incident reports, and certainly will not intervene in any way to help the father exercise court-ordered access. 

Courts will not penalize access denial, except in extremely rare cases. Some fathers report bizarre and intimidating extremes of judicial behavior, such as reducing the father's access, or imposing a one-dollar fine for 40 incidents of access denial (and no compensation for father's thousands of dollars in legal fees). 

Fathers in this situation generally find that they are treated as the source of the problem. Most conclude that the punitive behaviour of the court is intended to force the father to obey the mother without complaint. 

The rights and interests of children do not appear to have any weight in the judicial view of access denial. Generally, court orders grant rights of access to fathers, but do not award children any such rights. Despite a considerable body of scientific evidence to the contrary, judges presume that access denial affects first the father (the least valuable member of the family), second the mother (who essentially embodies the family and all its interests), and only peripherally the child (who is an extension of the mother). To repeat, this assessment of the impact on children runs directly contrary to the verdict of the research. {Return to Contents} 

3.3. Harm to the Child 

Father deprivation is a very serious problem to children. This point should be obvious, once we set aside the unfounded notion that mother is the more real or fundamental parent. The truth is, the dynamics of the child's attachment to parents is not really as well-understood as most people might expect. What is much more clear is the reality of harms to children who are father-deprived. 

This subject is very well summarized by Dr. David Popenoe, in an article that is available on the World Wide Web, both in its original version [Popenoe, 1], and in digest form [Popenoe, 2]. This article is highly recommended. (Interestingly, the Reader's Digest (Canada) version was slightly altered to place blame on fathers, in a way that the original did not.) 

Children who lose their fathers are at remarkably increased risk of "teenage pregnancy; deteriorating educational achievement; depression, substance abuse, and alienation" [Popenoe, 1], and there is no simple explanation in terms of economic hardship. It seems that what fathers do is more important than what they pay. Early research in this area tended to focus on harm to male children, but more recent studies have shown that girls also show a recognizeable pattern of damage. {Return to Contents} 

3.4. Harm to Society 

Most boys and girls will cope admirably with the problems of fatherlessness, but almost all will be injured. 

In the popular press, crime is the most visible social evil that has been associated with fatherlessness. 

"The world over, young and unattached males have always been a cause for social concern. They can be a danger to themselves and to society. Young unattached men tend to be more aggressive, violent, promiscuous, and prone to substance abuse; they are also more likely to die prematurely through disease, accidents, or self-neglect. They make up the majority of deviants, delinquents, criminals, killers, drug users, vice lords, and miscreants of every kind." [Popenoe, 1

There is a danger that this concern with crime may lead to further vilification of men, which may serve to entrench father-loss even more deeply in our already wounded society. It is important to realize that crime is committed mainly by boys and young men who have been abused, and that father-deprivation is the form of abuse that so far appears to be the single most important factor. 

Crime is only one extreme result to society of the fatherlessness problem, and probably not the most expensive one. Teenage pregnancy, educational underachievement, and psychological problems all have effects on people other than the children who are directly affected. Others in society will be affected by national economic and social problems, lost productivity, and competition for social program resources. 

Fatherless children require more help to thrive. The truth is, we do not know how to compensate for the loss of a father, and it may not be possible. It may be that remediation is the best that we can hope for. We need to learn. More fundamentally, we need to prevent fatherlessness as a matter of urgent national priority. 

Fatherlessness is an alarming social pathology, and it is made more alarming and poignant by the realization that it is a cycle. Boys and girls who experience the breakup of their families are at greatly increased risk of divorce in their adult lives. {Return to Contents} 

3.5. Parental Qualities of the Father 

The overwhelming weight of research shows that two-parent families are best for children, and that there are serious problems for children in single-parent families. There is a poverty of research into the differences in outcomes for children living with single mothers or single fathers, but the small available sources suggest that men are likely to be equally good parents. 

Differences as parents between men and women are probably exaggerated. Only a few decades ago, parental mortality produced about as many single-parent families as are now produced by divorce [Popenoe, 1]. Parental mortality only recently ceased to be the normal mode of parent loss, and only within a minority of the world's cultures. Thus, from our deepest ancestral roots, fathers have evolved in a world that required them to be capable parents. 

In western European cultures, psychological and social theories of the past several decades have emphasized the mother, and failed to examine the father in child development, but research of roughly the past decade has revealed a surprising complexity and importance in the father's approach to parenting. 

"...fathers--men--bring an array of unique and irreplaceable qualities that women do not ordinarily bring." [Popenoe, 1] These include protector, and male role model. Daughters learn from their fathers how to relate to men and learn that they are worthy of love. 

" almost all of their interactions with children, fathers do things a little differently from mothers. What fathers do ... is by all indications important in its own right. 

"... an often-overlooked dimension of fathering is play. ...the fathers' style of play seems to have unusual significance. It is likely to be both physically stimulating and exciting. With older children it involves more physical games and teamwork that require the competitive testing of physical and mental skills. It frequently resembles an apprenticeship or teaching relationship: Come on, let me show you how. 

"...mothers' play tends to take place more at the child's level. Mothers provide the child with the opportunity to direct the play, to be in charge, to proceed at the child's own pace. Kids, at least in the early years, seem to prefer to play with daddy. In one study of 2 1/2-year-olds who were given a choice, more than two-thirds chose to play with their fathers. 

".... Children, a committee assembled by the Board on Children and Families of the National Research Council concluded, 'learn critical lessons about how to recognize and deal with highly charged emotions in the context of playing with their fathers. Fathers, in effect, give children practice in regulating their own emotions and recognizing others' emotional clues.' 

"A study of convicted murderers in Texas found that 90 percent of them either didn't play as children or played abnormally. 

".... It's sometimes said that fathers express more concern for the child's long-term development, while mothers focus on the child's immediate well-being. It is clear that children have dual needs that must be met. .... One without the other is a denuded and impaired humanity, an incomplete realization of human potential. 

".... It is ironic that in our public discussion of fathering, it's seldom acknowledged that fathers have a distinctive role to play. Indeed, it's far more often said that fathers should be more like mothers (and that men generally should be more like women--less aggressive, less competitive). While such things may be said with the best of intentions, the effects are perverse. After all, if fathering is no different from mothering, males can easily be replaced in the home by women. It might even seem better. Already viewed as a burden and obstacle to self-fulfillment, fatherhood thus comes to seem superfluous and unnecessary as well." [Popenoe, 1

These indispensible attributes of fathering are persistently disregarded in feminist gender analysis of parenting. {Return to Contents} 

3.6. Children and Fathers are Disadvantaged 

As disadvantaged groups, children and fathers may hope that Canada will adopt its usual approach, and attempt to ameliorate their conditions. 

Children are politically disadvantaged in Canada today. Harms to children from father-deprivation, and benefits to children from fathers' parenting are excluded in feminist gender analysis, and the feminist analysis is the only one that receives funding and political support. 

As a practical example, in the adversary family courts system, rates of custody awards should be very nearly 50% to mother, and 50% to father. This is not a matter of equity for the fathers, it is necessary because father is equally likely to be the better parent in general, and the 50/50 outcome would be an indication of a relatively favorable outcome for children. If 85-90% of children are awarded to mother, 35-40% of children are clearly being awarded to the less beneficial parent. This is a detriment to children, driven by mothers' greater political power. 

Access denial, and the often-associated efforts to manipulate children into blame and hatred toward the father, are also clearly harmful to children, and of overwhelming disinterest to the family courts, which persistently refuse to take action. The courts' systematic neglect of the child's interest in access is another derivative of the feminist gender analysis, which holds that the child has no rights or interests that can be separated from the rights and interests of the mother. Given that children are, in fact, people with separable interests, the courts are clearly showing a bias that is detrimental to children and favorable to mothers, a transfer of rights and interests from one person to another. 

In analyzing harms to children, the matter of social equity for fathers may have been largely set aside, but it is harmful to society to set aside fathers and men as valueless or detrimental to society, and to pretend that this group suffers no disadvantage. It is wrong, on its face, to engage in repressive and discriminatory practices towards any group in society. 

The rates of custody awards, seen from the perspective of equity to men, are an obvious condemnation of the family courts. By their practices, the courts are saying that women are ten times better parents than men, an assertion that has never been shown by any evidence. The pleading that the courts make decisions on individual cases, rather than on groups, is useless, because it cannot absolve the court of using a discriminatory, gender-based analysis. It is wrong to target individuals for punitive treatment (loss of parental rights and opportunities) because they are classified as men, or fathers. 

A similar analysis applies to the courts' treatment of access denial: while we may have a more urgent interest in the political and social disadvantages to children, the disadvantages to fathers and men are also in violation of fundamental Canadian principles of equity, and cannot be tolerated. 

When a Canadian father goes to a lawyer, and says that he has been served with the initial court documents to start the process of separation and divorce, that lawyer will be obliged to tell that man that he has a very poor chance of winning custody of his young children, unless the mother has engaged in gross, and well-documented, abuse of the children. 

Most lawyers will also advise that the battle, itself, will be harmful to the children, so that the father had better be sure that his own qualities as a parent are so superior that the strain to the children will be offset. 

This lawyers' advice still applies if the mother is equally busy in her professional life, and no more involved in her parental duties than the father. Canadian family courts do not choose in favor of the better parent; they choose against the obviously inferior mother, when they must. 

Depending upon the resources of the parties, the total cost of litigation is likely to wipe out the man's savings, and the courts are alarmingly likely to make him pay for the woman's legal costs. Lawyers often say something like: "You'll be putting my kids through university, but I don't know about yours." 

With these probabilities before him, the best of fathers may decline to join in the destructive and uncertain battle. He may negotiate for joint custody, or accept the standard sole custody to the mother, but the practical differences are hard to find. In making this choice, he is accepting the demeaning bias of the court without resistance, mainly for the good of his children, and because he cannot bear the thought of unnecessary distress for anyone in the sad process. 

Once the decision to capitulate is made, the father will discover that his value to his children is severely limited. Any attempt to actually exercise joint custody rights (if he has them) will swiftly result in conversion to sole custody, if mother is displeased, on grounds that the parents cannot cooperate. Access denial goes unpunished, and attempts to get enforcement of court-ordered access often result in punishment to the father. The children are obviously hurt by the loss of physical and emotional contact with father, but nobody can do anything about it. 

The fact that the father gave up his rights, or failed to recognize that he might be doing unexpected harm to his children's rights and interests, does not release the government from its ethical responsibility: he surrendered his rights, and his children's rights, under duress created by government. 

It is a national disgrace that we have not done more to ensure that no ordinary good parent, and no children, should become members of disadvantaged groups through the direct intervention of the Canadian government. We owe it to ourselves to create better alternatives. {Return to Contents} 

3.7. Domestic Violence, Deadbeat Dads, and Other Propaganda 

There is an aura of violence, selfishness, and depravity around men that places them at a severe social and political disadvantage. In matters of custody and access, the courts are choosing good people (women) over bad people (men). This judgement is even accepted (despite some discomfort) by most men. As the Reverend Jesse Jackson said, even he, when he is walking along a darkened street, is relieved to discover that the sounds of footsteps approaching behind him are from a white man. Bigotry works, and it takes work to resist. 

Neither the demonic view of men, nor the angelic view of women, is new. Our culture is dominated by Judeo-Christian philosophy, and Christian ideas about men in their natural state are profoundly critical and distrustful. Raised in such a milieu, most political conservatives are ideologically well-prepared to follow the lead of feminists and socialists on the idea that men are not to be trusted, that they need "reeducation" at a minimum. 

The study of historical roots of prejudice from a male perspective may be a worthwhile effort for future scholars, but we also need to explain the intensification of rejection for male thoughts, feelings, and values that is so evident in recent living memory. 

Most Canadian father- and family-friendly groups would agree that the anti-male policy and propaganda of the last three decades have grown in their scope and hostility because the feminist establishment found those tools effective in their quest for economic, social, and political power. 

The pursuit of political power by a societal group is a legitimate effort in this country, but there are limits to what tools can be used. Propaganda war against a class of people is not an equitable or acceptable tool in the Canadian tradition, but it works if it is not resisted. Feminist gender analysis, funded by government, and supportive of new policies, more "public education", and more analysis, has led to the creation of a privileged feminist political class, nourishing, and drawing power from, the fears of some Canadian women. The bitter irony is that Canadian women live in the most favorable political and social climate in the world. 

John Fekete (Distinguished Research Professor of Cultural Studies and English Literature at Trent University) has done the most penetrating study of feminist "biopolitics" to date. His book, Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising is highly recommended reading. He writes: 

"I was impressed by the following statement in Changing the Landscape: Achieving Equality - Ending Violence (hereafter CL), the Final Report of the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women (hereafter CanPan): 'The tentative responses of the international community to the systematic rapes of women in Bosnia-Hercegovina were constant reminders to us that tolerance of violence against women knows no geographic boudaries [sic]' (xiv). Here is an extreme example of biopolitics. Obsessively self-dramatizing, fixated in gender-thinking, and bristling with hostility, the CanPan opportunistically pirates the terrible ordeal of an entire people to service its political agenda. 

".... The CanPan report evokes the image of the cartoon feminist, on the bridge of the Titanic, shouting out her narcissistic SOS: 'Help, help, innocent women are going to drown!' What matters to the cartoon is what is missing in the picture. Aren't there others on this doomed boat? .... This is the price of extreme adversarial thinking. Its insight is also its blindness, which indicts itself finally for its inhumane callousness in spite of its limited caring. 

".... In the vision of the CanPan's co-chairs, Canadian women are in bondage, bound by inequality and violence and gagged by fear, trapped in 'lives few in the world would choose to lead' (xiv, italics added)." [Fekete, pp23-24] 

Feminism is only an ideology with some legitimate claims. It is not the only truth, and it can become the enemy of the truth, if its agents are willing to suppress and revile other, equally legitimate, voices. These errors are not just played out on some high philosophical plane; they cause direct and personal injury to men and children and to the majority of women who love them. {Return to Contents} 

3.7.1. Bias on Domestic Violence 

The most important point about domestic violence and about violence in Canada, is that we are not actually a violent society. [Fekete, pp62-69] Focus on violence, and the promotion of fear, may have advantages in some social arenas, but violence does not figure prominently in the direct experience of the great majority of Canadians. 

Despite the low relevance of violence to most people, and because a popular, and often misguided, fear of violence influences law and social policy, some observations are in order. 

There is a rough equality in the perpetration of family violence by men and women. [Sewell] Despite underfunding [Mathews, Chapter 4: Implications], and deliberate suppression of evidence on feminine violence [Sewell], there is sufficient research evidence to outline a picture of domestic violence in which the violence of women deserves an investment of social and political effort comparable to that devoted to male violence. 

"The language we use in the current discourse on violence and abuse masks, minimizes, or renders invisible certain realities for male victims. Terms such as 'family violence' have become co-terminus with 'violence toward women', particularly on the part of husbands, fathers, or other adult male figures. Male teens, boys, male seniors, male victims of sibling-on-sibling violence, and female abusers disappear in this term. 

"Canada lags far behind other western democracies in the study of male victims and their male and female abusers. In fact, among the large and growing number of research studies on male victims only a small number are Canadian. Social policy development, public education, treatment programs and research funding, and the evolution of a more inclusive discourse on interpersonal violence that reflects the male experience are all long overdue." [Mathews, Introduction] 

A resulting mechanism of injury to children is this: the government supports no father's shelters! When a Canadian father urgently needs to take himself and his children out of the presence of a violent mother, he has literally and precisely no publicly-funded place to go. It would be interesting to hear of an exception, but the fact remains that the government certainly shows no real official concern for these children or their fathers. 

Canadian society certainly is not guilty of under-reaction to violence against women. 

"ITEM. A man entered a classroom at the University of Montreal and killed female students. The incident made headlines throughout the world as an example of woman-hating. The Canadian government spent millions reeducating men in their attitudes toward women. At about the same time, a Chicago woman (Laurie Dann) shot five elementary school boys, poisoned food at two fraternities, burned down the Young Men's Jewish Council, burned two other boys in their basement,13 shot her own son, and justified her murder of an 8-year-old boy by claiming he was a rapist. Not a single headline or article summary pointed out that every person killed or wounded by the Chicago woman was a boy.14 No government spent millions reeducating women on their attitudes toward men." [Farrell, 216] 
At this point, some readers will be protesting, "You can't judge women by her! She was obviously crazy!" Exactly. So was Marc Lépine. 

Society's reaction to violence probably causes more human suffering than the violence, itself. One particularly distressing fact it that the falsely-gendered view of domestic violence, and an exaggerated emphasis on male violence in general, is taught in schools. While many children are canny enough to reject false information eventually, we are subjecting our little boys to baseless guilt, and our little girls to baseless fear. 

There is real domestic violence. We have, so far, failed to see it in its actual two-gendered complexity. It deserves urgent attention. The public debate is shot through with shoddy scholarship and disinformation. Concern for domestic violence does not justify the systemic bias against fathers in matters of custody and access. {Return to Contents} 

3.7.2. The Search for the Deadbeat Dad 

If deadbeat dads don't exist, we will have to invent them. It is politically useful to have a scapegoat if: 

  • the public is prepared to accept the scapegoating, 
  • a social problem is intractable, 
  • a social problem is created or exacerbated by government social experimentation, 
  • bureaucracies established to deal with the problem demonstrate outrageous incompetence (perhaps due to design flaws beyond bureaucrats' control), 
  • and/or, a creative new category, you can use legislation to grab an additional tax of $500,000 per year from the scapegoats (and, incidentally, from the children). 
Fathers attempt to defend themselves from the deadbeat dad accusation, only at the cost of being accused of greed and insensitivity to children's needs. Mothers, the people who receive child support money into their control, are above such accusations. 

The actual rate of intentional default on child support is very low, but governments show a deplorable tendency to present inflated statistics on the problem. For example, the Ontario Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which is also known as "Family Support Plan", FSP, SCOE, and "Support and Custody Enforcement Program", is fond of repeating that Ontario fathers are $1 billion in arrears. 

The multiplicity of names, and the dropping of custody enforcement, are indices of a bureaucracy in self-destructive turmoil. The Ontario press has repeatedly revisited the endless series of disasters in the plan (mostly payments made but not forwarded to the mothers), and government statements repeatedly mention the $1 billion in an apparent effort to redirect the heat of scrutiny. 

Of course, the question is far more complicated than any single number can reveal, as witnessed by the following exchange between Mrs. Marion Boyd (MPP, London Centre, ND) and Mr. Ken Goodman (legal counsel, Ministry of the Attorney General), which occurred during hearings of Ontario's Standing Committee on Administration of Justice, on Tuesday, 3 December 1996: 

"Mrs Boyd: Then where does the $450 million to $500 million the minister says he wants to be able to -- he said today he didn't want to be able to write it off, but he has said in the House that closing these cases means that this amount of money would no longer be owing. Can you explain to us what that is?" 

"Mr Goodman: That does not relate to the definition of support orders being property division, the $451 million or whatever figure that is, with respect to uncollectible. I think a portion of that would relate to cases where the payor has died and we have no effective enforcement measures to deal with that. A number of cases may be situations where the courts have ordered a suspension of all enforcement. We have situations where we continue to show arrears on the system, where support will continue to accrue, but we have no ability to take any steps because there are court orders preventing us from taking action on those cases." [OSCAJ/44, italics added] 

This exchange begins to open the question of why the court-ordered support is not paid, and to disclose the tip of the complex answer. Mr. Goodman offers two clarifications: the payor has died, or the court has ordered a suspension of enforcement (presumably for good reason in such a father-unfriendly environment). Neither calls for the use of the term "deadbeat", and neither involves a failure of duty on the part of a father. Father-friendly groups might add that there are many other reasons why good fathers might accrue arrears. 

Mrs. Boyd is not a notably father-friendly politician, and she took her questions in another direction, but the door was open for an instant. Ironically, given her record, it was also Mrs. Boyd who raised a second very interesting question on that day. She asked how much the Family Support Plan paid out monthly to recipients, actually chiding the PC government for its failure to produce the information earlier. 

On the following day, Mr. David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel PC) gave Mrs. Boyd the government's rather incomplete answer. As it happens, his figures allow us to estimate very roughly the amount of support that fathers have paid through the plan since its inception in July, 1987. [OSCAJ/45, with estimation methods] It is a shame that Attorney General Harnick did not offer complete, accurate, and verifiable information on such a crucial question. 

The amount paid would be between $5 billion and $4 billion. Like the $1 billion that the Ontario Attorney General is fond of mentioning, these upper and lower bounds cover complex underlying patterns, but they do offer a framework of perspective. Amounts ordered but not paid would be roughly between 17% and 21% of what was ordered, about half of which has legitimate explanations. The government of Ontario regularly uses rhetoric that would suggest a far more alarming picture, and a groundlessly ugly view of men. 

Ontario is not unique in this respect. Father-friendly groups in the other provinces of Canada also report gender-biased analysis and rhetoric from their governments. Men across Canada are just beginning to exchange their stories. 

The federal government, also contributes to ugly stereotypes, and fathers' groups tend to be very suspicious of the government's motives. Perhaps one example will illustrate the grounds for this suspicion in the context of the deadbeat propaganda campaign. 

In September, 1995, there appeared a story in the Toronto Star, quoting the Chief of the Family Law Research Unit, Department of Justice. The quote ran: "The true deadbeat dads are few and far between. There are some, definitely. I've seen estimates that about 10 per cent are wilful defaulters. The rest just don't have the resources to go back and get their court order varied." [Vienneau

The Department of Justice was quick to repudiate the statement, but it was a quote given to the Star's Ottawa Bureau Chief, David Vienneau, a very experienced reporter, who stood by his story. 

The government continued to leave unchallenged the false impression that about 70% of fathers refuse to pay court-ordered support. Justice Minister Allan Rock followed up with C-41, proudly touted as the most punitive support enforcement legislation in Canadian history. Men's groups tend to see this kind of obsessive focus on enforcement as politically-motivated. 

Upperclass and professional women with custody are the financial beneficiaries of C-41, all others, and their children, suffer losses or no real change: some fathers' groups submitted briefs and testimony warning the government to this effect. The government, via C-41, took an estimated additional $500 million, annually, in taxes from separated and divorced families, leading to a net loss of funds available for these families to spend on children. Some cynical analysts concluded that the government's motives were 

  1. a windfall for an influential class of political supporter, and 
  2. a tax boost for the government. 
Studies of the effects of C-41 are underway, but some fathers fear that government research and analysis will demonstrate continued bias. 

There is a real problem of child poverty in Canada, and it is focussed in single-parent, mother-only homes. Virtually everyone agrees that fathers should pay their fair share of the costs of raising children. Beyond these statements, consensus falls apart. 

In the feminist gender analysis, it is axiomatic that questions of custody and access are entirely separate from questions of child support. One may wonder whether that would continue to be so, if women only received 50% of custody, and paid support levels similar to those paid by men. The more poignant problem with the axiom of entire separation is that it denies to children the most effective remedy for their poverty problem (father custody and father access), before the discussion of solutions gets started. 

In the real world, there is a strong connection between fathers' opportunities to be effective and involved parents, and their will and ability to pay support. Children in fathers' custody are less likely to live in poverty, and children in mothers' custody are more likely to be financially comfortable in the families where fathering is valued and promoted. 

Generally, fathers do not want to be excluded from their children's lives. That is an understatement. Societal and governmental callousness towards men's feelings has masked the epidemic of depression among fathers who are driven out, and this depression leads to numerous problems in men's lives, which tend to make them less able to pay support. There has been almost no research into this problem, probably because of the bias against men. This neglect would be a serious wrong in itself, but it also leads to a failure to fully explore solutions that could benefit Canada's children. 

When we exclude reasonable and just solutions, we create intractable social problems. The image of the deadbeat dad should not be the image of men that governments use to drive custody and access policy and law. {Return to Contents} 

3.7.3. The Aura of Depravity 

It sometimes seems that negative judgements about men are the essence of social enlightenment. Fathers and men have, so far, reacted to these accusations by attempting to get better, and we have succeeded. We are better people, better fathers, as a result of our efforts. 

All that having been said, there are some of us who sense that the atmosphere of censure has become poisonous. Allegations against men in general regarding "sexual assault", exclusion from business, exclusion from some social arenas, etc., are perceived as one-sided and hurtful to a class of people (Canadian men) that have actually acquitted themselves responsibly and generously. 

All of the allegations are disputable, but government only supports one side in the argument, and shows a reluctance to listen to the other or fund its research and analysis. Many of us wonder why we have "sides" at all, given that most men and women in Canada act as a united people. 

Acting on a growing perception of harm to our children, Canadian men are forced to defend their own history, ideas, and intentions, and we rely on the support of the majority of women to help us do it. For anyone with an open mind, it becomes more and more clear that children need their fathers, and must not be denied. {Return to Contents} 

3.8. The Father as Social Activist 

Fathers and men have excellent credentials as social activists with a very favorable attitude toward women. One obvious example is the fact that men voted to give women the vote. Less obvious, we now have a long history of law and social action favorable to women's aspirations, and these initiatives would have been difficult or impossible without the majority support of men. {Return to Contents} 

3.9. Government Agencies 

Due to lack of time, a complete list of ministry-level women's agencies for the federal government and the provinces has not been gathered, but we know of Status of Women Canada, the Ministry of Women's Equality in British Columbia, the Ontario Women's Directorate, and in Quebec, the Secrétariat à la condition féminine and the Conseil du statut de la femme

There are no comparable agencies for men or fathers in Canada. {Return to Contents} 

3.10. Policy 

Fathers' groups that communicate with governments often find that there are women's issues officers within departments. It seems that there exist no similar representatives of men's views. 

Even agencies that don't have specific officers for the purpose of feminist gender advocacy often appear to apply feminist gender analysis to their work, and consult the women's issues agencies on policy and legislation that affect women's interests. 

At any level, women's issues advocates within government may contact cooperating feminist non-governmental organizations to exchange timely information about developments in social policy and legislation, all within the mission of the agencies involved. 

All of this gives women's issue advocates, both in government and out, an enormous advantage in public debate. 

Men and fathers are given no such benefits, and that helps to explain why governments in Canada do so little to protect the child's right to a father. {Return to Contents} 

3.11. Education 

It has already been mentioned that the anti-man and anti-father view is taught in primary and secondary schools, with unknown consequences for little boys and little girls. Education inculcates values. 

What has not yet been mentioned is the fact that education is, itself, an arena for feminist social domination, with many similarities to government. As an example we compare the number of men's studies programs in Canadian post-secondary education to the number of women's studies programs. {Return to Contents} 

3.11.1. Undergraduate Men's Studies Programs in Canada 


3.11.2. Undergraduate Women's Studies Programs in Canada 


1) University of ALBERTA, Women's Studies Major or Minor 

2) ATHABASCA University, Women's Studies Department 

3) University of CALGARY, Major and Minor Programs in Women's Studies 

4) University of LETHBRIDGE, Women's Studies Program through the Individualized Multidisciplinary Major Program or General Studies in Social Sciences with Stream in Women's Studies 

British Columbia: 
5) University of BRITISH COLUMBIA, Centre for Research in Women's Studies and Gender Relations 

6) University of NORTHERN BRITISH COLUMBIA, Women's Studies Department 

7) SIMON FRASER University, Women's Studies Program 

8) University of VICTORIA, Women's Studies 

9) BRANDON University, Manitoba, BA Minor in Women's Studies 

10) University of MANITOBA, Minor Program in Women's Studies 

11) University of WINNIPEG, Women's Studies Program 

New Brunswick 
12) University of NEW BRUNSWICK, Fredericton, Women's Studies Program 
13) MEMORIAL University, Programs in Women's Studies 
Nova Scotia 
14) ACADIA University, BA Options in Women's Studies 

15) DALHOUSIE University, Women's Studies Program through the Multidisciplinary Centre 

16) MOUNT SAINT VINCENT University, Women's Studies Program 

17) ST. MARY'S University, Women's Studies Program 

18) BROCK University, BA Co-Major and Minor Programs in Women's Studies 

19) CARLETON University, Women's Studies Program 

20) CARLETON University, Pauline Jewett Institute of Women's Studies 

21) University of GUELPH, Interdisciplinary Program in Women's Studies 

22) LAKEHEAD University, Women's Studies Program 

23) LAURENTIAN University of Sudbury, Women's Studies 

24) MCMASTER University, Programs in Women's Studies 

25) NIPISSING University, Women's Studies Programs 

26) University of OTTAWA, BA Concentration in Women's Studies 

27) QUEEN'S University, Women's Studies Program 

28) University of TORONTO, Women's Studies Program 

29) TRENT University, Women's Studies 

30) WATERLOO University, Women's Studies Program 

31) University of WESTERN, Women's Studies Program 

32) WILFRID LAURIER University, Women's Studies Program 

33) University of WINDSOR, Women's Studies Certificate and Bachelor of Arts 

34) YORK University, Women's Studies 

Prince Edward Island 
35) University of PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, Women's Studies Minor through the Faculty of Arts 
36) BISHOP'S University, Interdisciplinary Women's Studies Diploma or Minor 

37) CONCORDIA University, Women's Studies Program at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute 

38) MCGILL University, Women's Studies Program at the McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women Universite de MONTREAL, courses in Women's Studies 

39) Universite du QUEBEC a MONTREAL, Women's Studies Concentration 

40) Universite de SHERBROOKE, Women's Studies BA 

41) University of REGINA, BA Specialization in Women's Studies through an Individualized Major Program 

42) University of SASKATCHEWAN, Women's and Gender Studies Department {Return to Contents} 

3.11.3. Graduate Programs and Research Institutes in Men's Studies 


3.11.4. Graduate Programs and Research Institutes in Women's Studies 

1) University of ALBERTA, Research Institute for Women's Writing 

2) University of CALGARY, Programme in Women's Studies through Sociology 

3) CARLETON University, interdisciplinary MA through Canadian Studies 

4) DALHOUSIE University, Joint Masters Programme in Women's Studies (with Mount Saint Vincent and St. Mary's University), 

5) LAKEHEAD University, Collaborative Program in Women's Studies (coming soon), 

6) Universite LAVAL, MA in Women's Studies 

7) MEMORIAL University, Master's of Women's Studies 

8) MOUNT SAINT VINCENT University, Joint Masters Programme in Women's Studies (with Dalhousie and St. Mary's University), 

9) University of NORTHERN BRITISH COLUMBIA, MA in Gender Studies 

10) OISE, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, MA, Med, PhD and EdD in Women's Studies 

11) University of OTTAWA, Graduate Collaborative Programme in Women's Studies 

12) Universite du QUEBEC a MONTREAL, Masters Concentration in Women's Studies 

13) SIMON FRASER University, MA in Women's Studies 

14) ST. MARY'S University, Joint Masters Programme in Women's Studies (with Dalhousie and St. Mary's University) 

15) University of TORONTO, Graduate Collaborative Programme in Women's Studies 

16) YORK University, Handbook for the Graduate Programme in Women's Studies 

17) YORK University, Institute for Feminist Legal Studies, Osgoode Law School {Return to Contents} 

3.12. Funding 

Due to the complexity of government tools for advancing women's interests, it is extremely difficult to estimate the level of government funding for the feminist point of view. Funding comes in numerous forms for: 

  • direct operations and publications of government agencies 
  • research funding 
  • funding to advocacy groups 
  • charities (tax breaks and tolerance of political activity) 
  • women's studies departments 
  • women's employment and business initiatives 
  • and others. 
ITEM: According to the March 9, 1998 Hansard (House of Commons), budgets for promoting the status of women now stand at $8.2 million for all of Canada, for over 400 women's groups. The figure is lower than in previous years. 

ITEM: The Policy Research Fund at Status of Women Canada (only one out of several budget items) has an annual budget of $1.25 million. [PRF

ITEM: Ontario Women's Directorate annual operating budget for 44 staff is $19,400,000. [OWDBUD

The two studies commissioned by Status of Women Canada for presentation to this Committee on Custody and Access probably cost several times more than the combined yearly budgets of all the nonprofit father's rights groups in Canada. 

It is much easier to estimate the amount of government funding given to fathers' and men's issues: it closely approximates $0. 

The simple failure to fund fathers' views, ideas, and values at equitable levels has a silencing effect, and does much to harm the chances of children and fathers to enjoy the parent-child relationship that they need and deserve. 

At the individual level, fathers have often found that they, and their issues, are the lowest priority according to legal aid society policies. The result is that fathers cannot afford to apply for necessary reductions in support when they suffer loss of income (thus increasing the deadbeat stigma), and children cannot be protected from loss of the father in matters of custody and access. {Return to Contents} 

4. Morbid Attachment to the Adversary System 

There has been a morbid attachment to the adversary system, which may have reasonable applications in civil and criminal law, but which also has very detrimental effects when applied to the process of separation and divorce. Psychological and social effects of the legal system may be placed second or disregarded in other areas of law, but they are rightfully the essential material of family law. {Return to Contents} 

4.1. Win/Lose Interests of the Litigants 

The courts focus on the interests of the litigants, generally the parents only, and create win-lose situations which exacerbate the grievances between the parents and cause direct psychological injury to the children. 

Most parents conscientously perform their duty towards their children's rights and interests, but Canadian justice often tends to obscure the issues, and forces parents into competition for control, and assertion of their own rights and privileges. Many parents place victory in this struggle for power ahead of all other considerations, in the belief that the achievement of power and control over the other parent is the only way to ensure that a parent will be able to fulfill parental responsibilities. {Return to Contents} 

4.2. Harm to the Child 

In the adversary system, the child's needs and desires become evidence supporting or undermining a parent's struggle to win control. Sooner or later (most often sooner) the child becomes sharply aware that his or her feelings are the parents' weapons against each other, and that realization crushes the child's ability to trust, and capacity for intimacy, with one or both parents. It is the parents' responsibility to avoid this disaster; it is the government's responsibility to help them (or, at least, to cease hindering them). {Return to Contents} 

4.3. Interests of the Child Elude Judicial Notice 

The interests of the child are encoded by the judicial process into powers and privileges of the parent. Due to this process, the direct interests of the child often fail to reach judicial notice. This problem is expressed in numerous ways, but two examples, Friendly Parent Obligations and "Mobility Rights", may help to illustrate the problem. {Return to Contents} 

4.3.1. Friendly Parent Obligations 

Courts may address "friendly parent" considerations when giving their reasons for judgement, but they do practically nothing to enforce access orders or punish false allegations. 

It appears that the courts do not really value the interests and rights of children that underpin the friendly parent rule. Instead, courts identify the child as an appendage of the mother; any unpleasantness that happens to her, happens also to the child. The court fails to identify the child's personal right to have a father, or the child's inability to defend himself or herself from the physical or emotional loss of a parent. {Return to Contents} 

4.3.2. "Mobility Rights" 

In Gordon v. Goertz, the Supreme Court of Canada set forth some essentially simple ideas: 

  • the child has rights and interests separable from the rights and interests of the mother, 
  • those interests include attachments to father, home, place, extended family, friends, and social structures, 
  • mother has no overwhelming right to move the child away from home (thus curtailing the child's rights and interests), and 
  • the question of custody must be reopened if mother decides to move. 
Parents' rights are limited by parental duty. Neither the custodial parent nor the access parent can generally relocate without failing in a duty to young children, especially. It is also unreasonable to suppose that either parent can be stopped from leaving, but neither can have the automatic right to leave with the children. Children are not chattels, and the child's rights must be considered separately, and at the highest priority. 

Of course, circumstances may necessitate that one or both parents move. What courts have not considered to date, and another neglected issue of childrens's rights and interests, is the possibility that the necessity of the access parent relocating may also be a proper cause for reopening the question of custody, in the event that the move would have a salient effect on the child. 

Divorce and separation are not the only circumstances in which parents may have their mobility curtailed by parental duty. 

For example, there are many parents of special-needs children who move, or stay in a place, because of the overriding need of the child for services that may not be available everywhere. 

Fathers' groups generally rejoiced at the reasoning in Gordon v. Goertz, but fathers still suffer under the bias of the courts when the custody issues are reopened. Even the child Samantha Goertz was not given due relief under the Goertz decision, because the court felt that she had been too long in Australia by the time the appeal had been heard. 

The Gordon v. Goertz principles are the law of the land at the moment, they are just, and they place the child first, but they limit the mother's power, and some feminist gender analysis therefore demands that they be overturned. Any such analysis must proceed from the perspective of the mother, and neglect the perspective and interests of the child. {Return to Contents} 

4.4. Failure to Consider Alternatives 

Society and governments have failed to give any serious consideration to systems other than the adversary system in connection with the family. The obvious harm of putting parents into a desperate conflict should have driven us into seeking other approaches long before now. 

Most fathers groups agree that social regulation of the family should not be treated by the judicial system at all, except in very rare and exceptional circumstances. {Return to Contents} 

5. Initiatives to Replace the Adversary System 

Father-friendly groups would generally support several specific initiatives to remove the separating family from the adversary system and the law courts. {Return to Contents} 

5.1. Children's Rights & Interests 

This brief starts with a discussion of children's rights. This section is a discussion of law and policy guidelines that government agencies should apply in support of those rights. {Return to Contents} 

5.1.1. Avoidance of Conflict 

Every child is a unique individual, and some will stand far outside one norm or another, but it is normal for the child, particularly the young child, to wish to be spared involvement in the conflict between his or her parents. 

There is no way to avoid the fact that children in separated and divorced families have a decision to make, a decision that children in intact families do not face. The obligation of the parents (and every other adult involved, including the courts) is to make that decision as harmless to the child as possible. {Return to Contents} 

5.1.2. The Right to Changing Interests 

The child has a right to change and develop. Therefore, the child's interests must be expected to change. Changes in the schedule and style of parental contact must be determined according to the changing needs of the child, and parents may not unreasonably resist such changes. {Return to Contents} 

5.1.3. Parental Duty to Lead 

Parents have a duty to lead their own families. The objective of any process of allocating rights and responsibilities within the family is to keep the outsiders' interventions minimal and temporary. Parents may be helped to a new family system in which they virtually never have any personal contact, or they may be in regular contact -- that is a matter for the parents, during the separation process, to decide. Social supports should intervene only to facilitate the development of the new family system, and, as needed, to adjust the system as time goes on. {Return to Contents} 

5.2. Shared Parenting 

The very strong bias of society and its institutions should be in favor of shared parenting. Shared parenting is an equitable, and roughly equal, division of time, rights, and responsibilities between the parents. It is adapted to particular families, and it changes, at need, over time. {Return to Contents} 

5.3. Mediation 

Mediation is the primary tool of social intervention for establishing shared parenting. The results of mediation should have the effect of a lower court ruling. 

Intensive study into methods of mediation is a matter of urgent priority. Mechanisms for direct community involvement in the mediation process should be explored, and mediators may be moved into the role of facilitator and recorder if such processes prove successful. Mediators may also need access to arbitrators, in areas (such as financial matters or access disputes) where a decision might endanger the mediator's standing with one of the parties. No doubt, research will reveal many other important nuances. 

Mediation, itself, needs remediation. Mediators have been indoctrinated into the system of father-denigrating bias, and will need to go through education and sensitivity training to prepare them for an egalitarian, and truly child-centered, approach. Mediators may be drawn from clergy and community leadership. 

Regulation of mediators, in a system that relies so heavily on mediators, will be an important duty of the government. Public review, and not peer review, is to be desired. Mediation must be open, and well-documented, preferably through the use of electronic recording. {Return to Contents} 

5.4. Long-Term Support & Flexibility 

Return to the mediator should not be a traumatic experience. Children's needs change. Parents' needs change. The shared parenting support system should be prepared for flexible and adaptive parenting arrangements. It may be that research will reveal follow-up methods that are simpler and less expensive than the initial mediation process. {Return to Contents} 

5.5. Changes Needed Within the Courts 

The family courts will not completely disappear, although reduction of the courts to a tiny vestige of their current size and complexity would be an indicator of improving health in society. Courts will be needed to deal with the cases that cannot be solved through mediation. {Return to Contents} 

5.5.1. Stop Presuming Mother Custody 

Some will resist the idea of presumptions, even such beneficial presumptions as equal parenting, in the law. Such resistence appears disingenuous, given the neglect of childrens' needs, and the active anti-male bias of the current court system. The courts now make an unfair and harmful presumption -- they must begin to make a fair and helpful one. 

The danger presented by the adversary system of family courts is that the most egalitarian mediation system can be systematically sabotaged, if bias continues to hold out an incentive for mothers to litigate, rather than mediate. 

Why should a woman mediate in good faith, when she knows that she has an unfair advantage in the family courts? {Return to Contents} 

5.5.2. Presumption of Shared Parenting 

The presumption of shared parenting takes away the incentive to litigate. 

It takes either the voluntary physical or emotional departure of a parent (which is rare), or the expulsion of that parent by force, to remove a parent from the child's experience of the family. Canadian courts are all too willing to cause and enforce the physical or emotional expulsion of a parent, usually the father, from the child's family. 

Certainly, it is difficult for parents to deal with the emotional issues of separation and divorce, but that is not a good reason for the courts to make it impossible. We must adopt the attitude that it is normal for divorced parents to preserve every possible benefit of family for the child, and to put enormous effort toward that goal. People are capable of this kind of effort, especially if society demands and supports it. {Return to Contents} 

5.5.3. The Elimination of Bias 

Anti-male bias is another incentive for mother to litigate. The presumption of innocence and honesty on the part of the mother, and the presumption of guilt on the part of the father, may lead mother into a satisfying but destructive drama. The details of court rulings must not preserve bias. 

The courts, lawyers, and assessors must all become more open to public review, accountability, and remediation of their systemic biases. All will protest that their independence must be preserved, but the principle of independence is currently abused, to the detriment of Canadian children. {Return to Contents} 

5.5.4. The Primacy of the Child's Best Interests 

Children have rights and interests as separate people, and the courts must realize that the child is not an appendage of the mother (or of the father). The child has an interest in preservation of relationships with both parents in all but the most exceptional cases. Judges, lawyers, and assessors must behave accordingly. {Return to Contents} 

5.5.5. Fairness in Procedure 

Abuse of ex parte orders, false allegations, attenuation of interim orders, abuse of status quo, and abuse of summary judgements of costs (for purposes of denying fathers, and some mothers, access to justice) are all routinely practiced in the family courts. These generally apply against father, and pressure mother with another incentive to litigate. {Return to Contents} 

5.5.6. Cameras in Court 

Public access to the court process is an important part of the Canadian tradition. Offensive, insensitive, and biased behavior does arise in family court from time to time. Closing of the courts to public scrutiny is not in the interest of the child, and should never be used to cover misbehavior on the part of the court. 

Video cameras grow more inexpensive, capable, and reliable every day. Redundant cameras and microphones at multiple angles in the court are perfectly feasible. Although many in the existing court system will find it advantageous to keep cameras out, the public has an overriding interest in access, for nothing more than the cost of materials, to the unedited electronic record. Safeguards as to the use of the electronic record should parallel those that apply to transcripts at present. {Return to Contents} 

5.5.7. Resist Parental Alienation 

Too often, the courts currently act out the judgement of Solomon, but with the values perversely inverted. Two parents present themselves, claiming legitimate and exclusive parenthood of the child, and the judge is prepared to award the child to the parent who is willing to split the child in half, psychologically, by drawing the child into the conflict. Judges seem willing to excuse this behavior, particularly on the part of mothers, and base judgement on other factors. 

The bias of feminist-educated assessors tends the same way. {Return to Contents} 

5.6. Government Policy Towards Men and Marriage 

Simply put, the government must adopt the view that fatherhood is as important to children as motherhood. Having neglected the matter for so long, government must engage in a period of fatherhood study and policy development. 

Marriage and the intact family are the best for children, and divorce is not the panacea that some social engineers want it to be. Favorable governmental attitudes toward marriage and family will influence public awareness, and favorable policy will benefit children. Government should study such policies, especially in consultation with representatives of so-far neglected perspectives. {Return to Contents} 

6. Initiatives to Remedy Anti-Father Prejudice 

By now it must be clear that anti-father bias affects custody and access, and harms children. A general improvement in the government's treatment of men and fathers is long overdue. {Return to Contents} 

6.1. Status of Men Canada 

The idea of setting up Status of Men Canada is not just tit-for-tat. Men have perspectives that, weighed equitably against women's perspectives, will produce a better society. All levels of government should pursue equity in the promotion of men's and women's perspectives. {Return to Contents} 

6.2. Policy 

After thirty years increase of false and misguided anti-male propaganda, it is actually difficult for some people to entertain the most fundamental policy guideline that will help to improve the lot of everyone harmed by man-hating bias. That guideline is: Treat fathers with respect. 

One start would be preparation and publication of materials explaining the benefits of respecting fatherhood and family. 

Explicit allocation of money to policy development is needed, and Status of Men Canada is the sort of agency that might be able to provide consistent leadership in this process. {Return to Contents} 

6.3. Funding 

"...we have to restore some equity in the allocation of resources spent on research and public education in the area of child abuse and interpersonal violence. Single-gender studies focusing on women's concerns predominate. While this has been an important and worthwhile investment of our resources, a single-gender focus on public education and advocacy is impeding the development a more inclusive and comprehensive picture of interpersonal violence in Canada." [Mathews, Chapter 4: Implications] 

The same must be said about the other issues raised in this brief. 

Both moderate and radical feminist gender analysis have had years to mature in Canada, and infrastructure exists to apply funding effectively for these ideas. Father-friendly and family-friendly analysis will need time to develop infrastructure, and this is another area in which federal and provincial agencies like Status of Men Canada may serve. {Return to Contents} 

6.4. Law 

Equity in the law, as it bears on men's issues, has been neglected. Consultation with the unheard voices is urgently needed to guide the development of law with regard to custody and access, and with regard to numerous related questions. In the very near term, a special commission on fathers' perspectives regarding family law should be created, and tasked with producing emergency recommendations for changes to the law. 

Long-term public consultation with children and fathers, as well as grandparents and other extended family, should be funded as an ongoing process. Since both fathers and mothers share interests in family, their issues advocacy agencies within government should share funding for this ongoing consultation. {Return to Contents} 

6.5. Education (Men's Studies Departments) 

Father-friendly, and man-friendly education should receive equitable funding. The development of these programs should be a major priority of Status of Men Canada, and its provincial equivalents. {Return to Contents} 


The author regrets that references in this brief are not in a standard format. Each reference should hold sufficient information to permit a reasonably able researcher to find the exact citation in its context. For example, the search capabilities of a browser, or of a search engine (for example, Altavista "advanced search") should facilitate very rapid access to specific passages in pages on the World Wide Web. {Return to Contents} 
[Farrell] The Myth of Male Power, by Warren Farrell, Ph.D. Berkley Books, New York, 1993.
[Fekete] Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising, by John Fekete. Robert Davies Publishing (Montreal-Toronto), 1994.
[Mathews] The Invisible Boy: Revisioning The Victimization of Male Children & Teens, by Frederick Mathews, Ph.D., C.Psych., Community Psychologist, Central Toronto Youth Services. The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Health Canada. March 1996.
[OSCAJ/44] Standing Committee on Administration of Justice, hearings on the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, Bill 82 Tuesday, 3 December 1996.
[OSCAJ/45] Standing Committee on Administration of Justice, hearings on the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, Bill 82 Wednesday, 4 December 1996. 
Mr. Tilson said: "I will outline in one-week intervals what has been disbursed to recipients in the month of November: from November 1 to November 7, $11,916,368; from November 8 to November 14, $6,924,871; from November 15 to November 21, $8,286,260; from November 22 to November 28, $6,088,143; November 29 was $5,727,831. That's a total for the month of November of $38,943,473, and that includes the moneys that were paid to Comsoc." 
In order to make an estimate of rough orders, we use a model of payments that is greatly oversimplified (and it would be much better if the province had made the information readily available). 
Estimating total paid: 
  1. Plan started in July, 1987, therefore 128 months elapsed. 
  2. Estimate $39 million per month as the upper bound, $30 million as the lower. 
  3. Paid: $39M * 128 = $4992M (upper).

  4. $30M * 128 = $3840M (lower). 
  5. Ordered: $4992M + $1000M = $5992M (upper).

  6. $3840M + $1000M = $4840M (lower). 
  7. Percentages: $1000M / $5992M = 16.69%.

  8. $1000M / $4840M = 20.66%.
[OWDBUD] ONTARIO GOVERNMENT BUSINESS PLANS - 1997-98, Ontario Women's Directorate
[PRF] Status of Women Canada (SWC), News Releases, Secretary of State (Status of Women) names six women to lead Policy Research Fund, March 20, 1997.
[Popenoe, 1] UTNE -- "Life Without Father" Disappearing dads are destroying our future. By David Popenoe. The Wilson Quarterly. - size 29K - 29-Jan-98.
[Popenoe, 2] "Life Without Father" -- The Liberator. What a man contributes to child rearing may surprise you, Life Without Father. # 24-12. By David Popenoe Reader's Digest (Canada) November, '97. With commentary by Walter Schneider. - size 19K - 12-Dec-97.)
Also includes "NEWS CLIPS": 
"SPOUSE ABUSE A TWO-WAY STREET", USA Today June 29, 1994, By Warren Farrell, Ph.D. 
"When Women Abuse Men: It's Far More Widespread Than People Think", Excerpt from Special supplement to The Washington Post, December 28, 1993, By Armin A. Brott 
"WOMEN AND MEN EQUALLY AT FAULT FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE", the Albany Times Union. By Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski of Los Angeles. She is a clinical psychologist and he also holds a doctorate in the behavioral sciences.
[Vienneau] Quoted from Carolina Giliberti, Chief, Family Law Research Unit, Department of Justice. Toronto Star, September 6, 1995, by David Vienneau, Ottawa Bureau Chief.
[Wallerstein] Surviving the Breakup, by Judith S. Wallerstein and Joan Berlin Kelly, BasicBooks, 1980.
 {Return to Contents}