The following is an abstract of the Forward section of this landmark study and report calling for reforms to the Liberal Government of Canada (1997) enactment of a new Divorce Act and Child Support Guidelines. Despite this most competent study and report, calling for significant reforms including putting the children at the focus of a marriage separation process, the Liberal Government Cabinet leaders dismissed it.
Of special significance to any adult male living in Canada, please see the following sections of Chapter 1 of the report: Section C - The Impact of Divorce on Children, and, Section E - Gender Bias in Courts, and, Section F - Unethical Practices by Family Lawyers (and Flaws in System).
Abstract from the Report: (Forward)
In December 1997, the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access undertook a challenging task; to examine the issues relating to custody and access arrangements after separation and divorce with a special emphasis on the “needs and best interests” of children. We were aware from the beginning that Canadians were deeply concerned about these issues but we rapidly discovered that the scope of the problem was greater than any of us had imagined. Fortunately, the 23 Senators and Members of the House of Commons who served on the Committee were able to bring substantial and varied expertise and knowledge to the table. As co-chairs, we appreciated the dedication and endurance of our colleagues throughout this whole process. Other colleagues came to listen to the witnesses, sometimes to offer opinions and advice, occasionally to replace one of us as required. All members combined the demanding schedule of this Committee with their other responsibilities in the Senate and the House of Commons, including other committees.
Over the twelve months of our study, the committee held 55 meetings and heard from over 520 witnesses. We endeavoured to hear as many people as possible both in Ottawa and in the many cities across Canada we visited during the course of our public hearings. The public hearing process reflected the nature of the subject matter. This is a most important and highly emotional issue; the number of people who attended our hearings in every centre confirmed this. They brought a level of discernible tension that was evident at every meeting. Daily, Committee members listened attentively to a broad continuum of opinions and views. Similarly, pointed questions were directed to those who were witnesses. Pointed questions are a regular feature of the parliamentary process, the cross examination which occurs in every court. The report is the product of the contribution of all witnesses and reflects the broad range of testimony presented to us.
We would like to thank all those who came before us: the legal, mental health, child development, child protection, academic and other experts who brought forward so many suggestions for changes and improvements to the systems and laws that affect the children of divorce; the groups representing the many facets of the issue; and especially the individuals who shared their stories with us so that we could better understand the problem. It was this latter testimony that added the human dimension to our difficult topic.
The Committee also received hundreds of letters and detailed briefs from concerned people and professionals interested in various aspects of our study. All of their comments and recommendations have been taken into consideration.
In its meetings to draft a report, the Committee reflected for long hours on the recommendations it would propose to Parliament. Each member brought his or her own predisposition toward the understanding of the legal, social, and other issues revolving around parenting after separation and divorce. While we were not always in total agreement, there was a constant attempt to move toward consensus on many significant issues and to share and listen to the views presented around the table.
We hope that “For the Sake of the Children” will assist the public to develop a better understanding of a very complex subject that touches the lives of so many Canadians, and it will be seen as a significant step in the process of finding solutions to the problems raised. Most of all, the Committee hopes its recommendations will contribute to the creation of a culture that prevents conflict rather than promotes it.
HON. LANDON PEARSON ROGER GALLAWAY, Joint Chairs
[Please note: In the event of removal of the report from the government's website and other websites by unprincipled people in their hopes of squashing the rights of others to know and to have this report available, one may find an abstract of the full report here.]