I am writing to you to ask for your position on a private member’s bill, C-560 which I expect to reach second reading in the House of Commons in March, 2014. This bill aims to reform the federal divorce act to implement recommendations of the Special Senate-Commons Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access (1998) which expressed the will of Parliament.
GRAND Society is a non-profit association of both grandmothers and grandfathers which provides support to grandparents who are denied access to their grandchildren, usually because of family court sole custody decisions or other conflicts which show no fault or unfitness of the grandparents. Formed in 1982, we also have an association to support grandparents raising their grandchildren.
The Bill I mentioned aims to reform the Divorce Act to include a presumption of “Equal Parenting”, that is, so that both parents keep rights and responsibilities for their children unless and until a court has determined, with clear evidence, that a parent is unfit. While it does not specifically deal with grandparents, it could substantially reduce grandparent access denial in those common cases of sole custody awards where one parent is reduced to an “access parent” subject to the caprice of the “custodial parent.” Thus, GRAND Society supports the changes in this bill.
As a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother, I have seen social science research which shows that having both parents in the lives of children reduces a wide array of children’s educational, health and social disadvantages.
As a native Canadian, I have seen the effects of removal of children from native parents to the residential schools, perhaps with some good intentions, but with disastrous outcomes. In removing children from parents, grandparents lose the opportunity to pass on parenting skills, contribute financially, (e.g. to post-secondary education) and pass on culture, language and emotional stability. The current family court system similarly removes a parent, most often the father, with disastrous effects on the family, on children, and on society. Bill C560 points to a better way, based on keeping both parents, treating both with equality and respect, empowering parental decision-making and conflict resolution incentives which work in other jurisdictions. Please let me know if you can also support these necessary reforms.
My best wishes to you and we thank you for your time and attention to these important matters.
I look forward to your response.
Joan Brooks, President, GRAND Society