Guest Post By Glenn Cheriton, President of the Canadian Equal Parenting Council
Fathers’ Rights are controversial in Canada: they don’t exist according to some, they are the biggest threat to society to others, yet to others they are an essential demand.
There are legal aspects to fathers’ rights, to parenting rights and to family rights, but I would like to focus on the political aspects, or rephrasing fathers’ rights as political rights.
Gene Colman does an excellent review of fathers’ rights as legal rights and his suggestions for strategy in focussing on children’s rights, family rights, and equal shared parenting as a social solution is an approach I support.
That said, that strategy will not counter the anti-esp crowd’s claims, stereotypes and lies based on their anti-fathers’ rights misrepresentations. The anti-esp establishment of vested interests and ideologues needs an enemy to distract from the harm they are going to children and to parents: fathers are their convenient whipping boy. These are political issues and fights; the public will assume fathers are guilty of the nefarious anti-esp accusations unless these lies are countered. Political accusations are assumed to be true unless countered. History tells us that ignoring bigotted government attacks on scapegoats leads to victimization, adding new groups as targets, and often to genocide.
We have an effective and growing movement in support of equal shared parenting with strong social science support, solid arguments, success stories from other jurisdictions, analysis from important authorities supporting our tenets of the importance of dual parenting, conflict resolution, non-adversarial processes, and non-sexist standards.
What we don’t have is an effective political, quick reaction group to call out the sexism and bias of the anti-dad crowd, show the irrationality of the unfounded claims of the anti-fathers’ rights bigots, and demonstrate the unsustainability of political campaigning against “fathers’ rights” as a way of getting women to vote for failing policies and politicians needing enemies..
Domestic abuse and violence services (DV) is a good example of politicization of rights in order to scare or appeal to women, while denying men and fathers the same services and rights. The research, publications, funding, services and media portrayal in domestic violence has been biased to falsely claim women as the only victims and fathers as the sole perpetrators. These sexist DV myths have been a major weapon of the anti-esp crowd to undermine and delay needed family law reform efforts. Major family law reforms are unlikely without an effective political strategy against the gender apartheid approach to DV.
The gendered rights rhetoric of Canada’s governments claiming “women’s rights are human rights” and legislative removal of “mother” and “father” (replacing with “parent”) are organized initiatives to remove rights from fathers. When a BC father fought the BC, then the federal government up to the Supreme Court successfully to get his name on his child’s birth certificate, federal and provincial governments changed laws so that only the mother– in Ontario her status is “birth parent” –getting to decide who gets put on the birth certificate. The intent was to subject fathers’ rights to be recognized as a parent to the decision of the mothers. Then Justice Minister Martin Cauchon clearly stated the aim of government anti-father campaigns when he stated, “fathers have no rights to their children, only responsibilities.”
When you have no rights, only responsibilities, you are a slave.
While “reading out” fathers rights and men’s rights from legislation and practice, governments and their funded gender apartheid warriors have invented and “read in” an apparently endless series of “women’s rights” — the right to a male-free environment, cities designed for women only, women’s freedom from criticism or discomfort, and mothers’ rights to move on without having to deal with an ex. A government-funded professor at the University of Ottawa claimed to have found the right for mothers for two votes in elections, one for themselves and one for their children. Of course no such votes would be available for fathers.
Each year for the last 22 years, I have laid a wreath on Remembrance Day from the “Fathers of Canada”, to draw attention to the government’s false presentation suggesting that soldiers and veterans have only one parent: the mother. Ironically, there may have been 10,000 fathers who died in Canada’s wars, but there is no record of any mother. These are political rights and political battles, necessary to counter the anti-rights movements.
In 2014 a federal Cabinet Minister, Kerri-Lynne Findlay, essentially blackmailed Prime Minister Stephen Harper into ordering a vote against an equal shared parenting bill by threatening to resign, less than one year from a national election. She threatened to claim the bill showed the Conservatives to be anti-woman, and that the equal parenting presumption in the bill was “the greatest threat to Canada”. Greater, presumably, than terrorism, pandemics, or depression. The lesson is that fathers’ rights will be sacrificed even by sympathetic politicians such as Harper, if they are convinced that extremists will lay waste to their political coalition rather than allow reasonable fixes to problems. These extremists accept no compromise, no end to their campaign to exterminate fathers’ rights, by extension men’s rights and aim to change the meaning of the words “rights”, “equality”, “parent” and numerous others.
The aim of the gender extremists is to eliminate “the patriarchy”, as their theories claim all problems stem from that system. For all practical purposes, their campaign does not distinguish between patriarchy and fathers. Once fathers’ rights and fathers’ parenting are removed, the next target would be women’s choice to include fathers in the lives of their children. Healthy relationships between men and women are further casualties of the ideological gender warfare, stereotypes and prejudices.
The key strength of the ESP movement is that of men and women working together for the sake of children. It is true that women often can advocate stronger and more assertively for fathers’ rights. It is true that men often can project “the most reasonable person in the room” stance, for example by asking equally for rights for mothers as for fathers. There is no greater threat to the nefarious agenda of the gender extremists than men and women working together on equal shared parenting. That is why that collaborative approach must be at the heart of our political advocacy.