Vellacott applauds Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s affirmation of the best interests
of children in cases of family breakdown
August 18, 2009
OTTAWA – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) applauded Justice Minister Rob Nicholson
for his affirmation of the best interests of children at the annual meeting of the Canadian Bar
Association, being held this week in Dublin, Ireland.
Minister Nicholson was responding to a question about Vellacott’s Private Member’s Bill (C-422),
which would amend the Divorce Act to implement equal shared parenting. According to news reports,
the Minister said: "I believe, and I think most people who have been involved in family law
or studied this, that the best interests of the child are always paramount ... and should be."
“This is exactly the spirit behind my Private Member’s Bill, C-422,” said Vellacott.
“I am very encouraged by the Minister’s comments.”
Bill C-422 would bring Canadian legislation in line with what the best research says about
the best interests of children. With limited exceptions, children generally demonstrate superior
outcomes when both parents – mom AND dad – are actively involved in their children's lives, even
if the parents divorce or separate. That is why Bill C-422 would direct courts to make equal shared
parenting the presumptive arrangement in the best interests of the child, except in proven cases
of abuse or neglect.
One of the most recent published studies in this field is by Prof. Edward Kruk, M.S.W., Ph.D.,
(email@example.com; 604-822-2383), of the University of British Columbia. In the Executive Summary
to his report he notes: “Research is clear that children fare best in post-separation relationships
in which they maintain meaningful routine parental relationships with both of their parents beyond the
constraints of a “visiting” or “access” relationship, in which they are shielded from destructive parental
conflict, and in which they are protected, to the highest degree possible, from a marked decline in
their standard of living. Contrary to current practice and dominant socio-legal discourse in Canada,
when parents disagree over the living arrangements of their children after separation, new evidence suggests
that [the best] conditions [for children] are best achieved by means of a legal shared parental responsibility
presumption, defined as children spending at least 40 per cent of their time with each parent, rebuttable only
when a child is in need of protection from a parent.”
Bill C-422 would provide greater clarity to the law by finally defining “best interests of the child”
in Canada’s Divorce Act. In her analysis of Bill C-422, Pamela Cross of the National Association of “Women
and the Law, also emphasized the importance of providing legislative substance to this language.
“The absence of any spelled-out criteria in applying the best interests of the child test” poses “significant
challenges and barriers,” she wrote, “to women with children.”
Bill C-422 is a non-partisan effort, reflecting the spirit of comments made by Liberal leader Michael
Ignatieff, who has said: “These groups demanded that the ‘custody and access’ regime created by the Divorce
Act of 1985 be replaced with a ‘shared parent’ regime in which both parents are given equal rights to bring
up their children. These are sensible and overdue suggestions, and the fact they are being made shows that
men and women are struggling to correct the rights revolution, so that equality works for everyone.”
“Furthermore,” noted Vellacott, “Canadians overwhelmingly support
equal shared parenting according to
polls and all political parties agreed 10 years ago in the “For the Sake of the Children” report that
Shared Parenting was the way to go. Additionally, all indications point to growing non-partisan consensus
in this parliament that it’s time to address commitments made by all parties a decade ago.”
“A recent poll I commissioned,” added Vellacott, “conducted by
Nanos Research, shows that 78% of
Canadians support equal shared parenting, with a high of 86% support in the province of Quebec.
Slightly more women than men support equal shared parenting. Among supporters of major political parties,
about 78% of Conservatives support equal shared parenting; 75.8% of the NDP; 80.6% of Liberals supported
equal shared parenting; and 83% of Bloc supporters endorsed equal shared parenting.”
Bill C-422 reflects extensive input from the Canadian extended divorce community, whose members well
understand the realities of family law through trial by fire. In many ways, it is they who are the experts.
Members of Parliament should accord them the long overdue status as primary stakeholders in this complex issue.
Working with the Canadian Equal Parenting Council, a coalition of 40 organizations, Vellacott
has developed legislation that not only defines decision criteria for the best interest of the child,
but also faces up to the contentious issues of child abuse and inter-partner violence. It represents a
solid down payment for long overdue reform in family law.
Maurice Vellacott, MP
Unit 3-844 51st Street East
Saskatoon, SK S7K 5C7
Tel. 306-975-4725, Toll Free 888-844-8886
Vellacott calls for Canadian Bar Association to play constructive role in equal parenting debate
August 20, 2009
OTTAWA – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) today called for the Canadian Bar
Association to play a constructive role in the unfolding debate on equal parenting following divorce,
in response to negative tones raised at the annual meeting of the CBA being held in Dublin, Ireland.
Echoing Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s statement at the conference that best interests of the child
must indeed be paramount in family law, Vellacott pointed out that “the central problem being addressed
in my Private Member’s Bill is quite simply that ‘best interests of the child’ are not defined in
the Divorce Act.”
“It’s like having a car without an engine and a steering wheel, in which the only way to move the
car is with lawyers pushing and judges supposedly steering, all of which is done at great expense
to divorcing parents and taxpayers,”
he continued. “It’s simply not fair to Judges, taxpayers, parents,
and least of all the children of divorce,” he added.
“The unsubstantiated views voiced by a few CBA members at the conference are not
Vellacott noted in reference to calls made by Meg Shaw reportedly on behalf of CBA to reject Bill C-422.
“It’s time for a reality check. First, Canadians overwhelmingly support shared equal parenting
according to polls. Secondly, social scientists have long confirmed that this arrangement is generally
the optimal outcome for children as well as parents. Third, children themselves prefer continuity of
relationship with both parents and associated family. Fourth, all political parties agreed 10 years ago
in the “For the Sake of the Children” report that shared equal parenting was the way to go. Fifth,
all indications point to growing non-partisan consensus in this parliament that it’s time to address
commitments made by all parties a decade ago.”
“Let me state for the record that Bill C-422 reflects extensive input from the Canadian extended divorce
community, whose members well understand the realities of family law through trial by fire. In many ways,
it is they who are the experts, and I also call upon all Members of Parliament to accord them the long
overdue status as primary stakeholders in this complex issue,” Vellacott emphasized.
Vellacott noted, “Working with the Canadian Equal Parenting Council, a coalition of 40 organizations,
we have developed legislation that not only defines decision criteria for the best interest of the child,
but also faces up to the contentious issues of child abuse and inter-partner violence. It represents
a solid down payment for long overdue reform in family law.”
Vellacott concluded, “I now call upon Mr. Kevin Carroll, the incoming president of
the CBA, to join
us in constructively refining the legislation. This is not only for the sake of the children, but
ultimately for the sake of all Canadians.”
For more comment, call Maurice Vellacott at (613) 992-1966; (613) 297-2249; or contact Prof.
Edward Kruk, M.S.W., Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org; 604-822-2383,
lawyer Karen Selick at
email@example.com; 888-877-2154 (fax) or Toronto family law lawyer,
Gene C. Colman at 416-635-9264.