Canadian Justice Minister’s Office Responds to Fathers & Families Supporter over Comments on Shared Parenting

Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson
In my recent blog post Canada’s Justice Minister Criticizes Equal Parenting after Divorce, I discussed the article Kids’ interests No.1 priority in divorce, justice minister says (Canwest News Service, 8/17/09) in which Canada’s Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appeared to weigh in against shared parenting. I wrote:

[Nicholson] falsely juxtapositions children vs. fathers, when in reality in most cases the interests of children are protected and served by equal parenting and maximizing father-involvement after divorce. What courts and the law must do–and what they currently so often fail to do–is to protect children’s right to have a relationship with both parents after divorce or separation. Are there exceptions? Of course. If dad (or mom) is a drug addict or a raging alcoholic, if dad (or mom) is mentally ill, physically abusive, or generally violent, then the other parent should get sole custody. And yes, there are times when the demands of dad’s (or mom’s) job make equal parenting unworkable. But these are exceptions–in general, kids do best when they spend roughly equal amounts of time with each parent, and when their right to a relationship with both parents is protected. One also wonders who it is who’s supposed to determine what is in a child’s best interests? Most fathers are perfectly capable of judging whether equal parenting is in their children’s best interests.

Longtime Fathers & Families supporter Bret Downe, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Scene magazine in Canada, saw my post and decided to ask Nicholson’s Press Secretary Pamela Stephens about Nicholson’s views on shared parenting. While Stephens’ reply commits to little about shared parenting, she does carefully distance Nicholson from the apparent anti-shared parenting position depicted in the article, claiming that “comments made by the Minister were taken out of context and editorialized in the report by Mr. O’Neill [of Canwest News Service.]” Stephens’ full statement reads:

The comments made by the Minister were taken out of context and editorialized in the report by Mr. O’Neill on August 18th. Mr. Velacott’s private member’s bill on the issue of equal parenting, Bill C-422, is being reviewed, but the Government has not taken a position at this time. Children require love, attention, a safe environment, and financial support. Most children want and need contact with both their parents, even after a divorce. For this reason, our Government supports a child-centred policy that encourages parents to exercise child-rearing responsibilities in a way that will promote their children’s best interests. We believe that strong families are the foundation of our society and that the best interests of the child are paramount. Our Government is committed to promoting positive outcomes for the entire family during separation or divorce. Thank you, Pamela Stephens Press Secretary / Attachée de presse Office of the Minister of Justice / Cabinet du ministre de la Justice and Attorney General of Canada / et procureur général du Canada Tel/tél (613) 992-4621 Fax/tél (613) 990-7255

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