News release

Atlantic Women Councils Respond to Report

Atlantic Canada advisory councils on the status of women say the shared parenting concept central to the federal child custody and access report released yesterday is unworkable.

"Most divorces and custody arrangements are worked out amicably; only about five per cent of divorce cases result in drawn-out custody battles," explained Patricia Doyle-Bedwell, chair of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. "The report recommends shared parenting plans in these cases. How is that possible in a high-conflict relationship?"

Ms. Doyle-Bedwell was joined by representatives of the advisory councils on the status of women of the other three Atlantic provinces at a news conference this morning.

They said the committee dismissed the prevalence of domestic violence in women's lives and in so many custody disputes.

The advisory councils also expressed concern about the committee's call for clear evidence when accusations of abuse are made.

"Many allegations are reasonably founded and free of malice but may lack evidence that meets the criminal law standard," said Heidi Rankin of the Prince Edward Island advisory council. "Can we afford to wait for that before acting to protect our children or ourselves?"

The advisory councils said the committee was "biased from the beginning against women and against women as their children's primary caregiver." They cited the tone of questioning, the dismissal of established research and the rude behaviour of committee members during women's presentations.

"It's no wonder that so few women who've experienced high-conflict custody and access battles actually presented their stories to the committee," said Patricia Gallagher-Jette of the New Brunswick Advisory Council.

Joyce Hancock, president of the advisory council in Newfoundland and Labrador, expressed relief that criminalization of access denial and refusal to exercise access was not recommended as had been rumoured in the past few weeks. "It's a small blessing, thank goodness."

NOTE: The following is intended for use by broadcast media.

The four Atlantic advisory councils on the status of women say the federal child custody and access report released yesterday (December 9th) falls short on several key issues.

They say the recommendation that child custody be shared, even in high-conflict relationships, is unworkable.

The councils also expressed concern that the report dismissed the prevalence of domestic violence in women's lives and called for clear evidence when accusations of abuse are made.

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Contact:

Chris Hansen
Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women 902-424-4190 or 902-499-5459 E-mail:
ngr                   Dec. 10, 1998                11:00 p.m.