Thursday, May 06, 1999
OTTAWA - The federal cabinet has approved controversial proposals to reform Canada's divorce law, a move that could give divorcing mothers and fathers the legal right to an equal role in raising their children.
Anne McLellan, the Justice Minister, plans to begin a process on Monday aimed at changing three areas of the law affecting children: custody, access, and support payments.
Ms. McLellan will be officially responding to recommendations by the joint Senate-Commons committee -- dubbed the Politically Incorrect Committee in some quarters -- that reported to Parliament in December after months of emotionally charged, often tearful hearings across Canada.
The cornerstone of the committee's recommendations is shared parenting, a new legal concept that would give mothers and fathers equal parenting rights after divorce.
Liberal Senator Landon Pearson and Liberal MP Roger Gallaway, the committee co-chairs, said the report's 48 recommendations are designed to reduce the impact of separation and divorce on children.
The Pearson-Gallaway committee held months of hearings during which fathers, grandparents, and second wives appealed for equality in a system they said allows custodial parents -- usually mothers -- to defy access orders and effectively lock fathers and other relatives out of the lives of children.
The report, For the Sake of the Children, said the terms custody and access should be eliminated from law and replaced with "shared parenting." It said judges should be bound to grant shared-parenting rights unless there is clear evidence of abuse of one parent by another or of children by a parent.
Shared parenting would give mothers and fathers the rights of custodial parents and, said the committee's report, help eliminate many of the custody battles that leave deep emotional scars and routinely cost divorcing parents tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Last updated - 12 May 1999