National Post Lead Editorial
Right decision, wrong reason
Print edition A17 (online by subscription only), December 23, 2004
Irwin Cotler, the Justice Minister, announced on Tuesday that the federal government will hold off on reforming child custody laws. We can't say that's too much of a disappointment. If enacted, the expected changes would mostly have served to tilt the anti-father bias of Canada's family courts even further in favour of women.
First proposed by Mr. Colter' s predecessor, Martin Cauchon, the now-dormant bill would have scrapped existing provisions compelling the courts to grant "maximum contact" to both parents and severed the last remaining connections between payment of child support and access by fathers to their kids. Worse, it would have given judges the power to withhold all access to fathers with past histories of violent behaviour while permitting wives to raise allegations of abuse at divorce proceedings even if they had made no previous complaints of violence -- a recipe for false accusations in bids to win total custody.
The Cauchon law was also a direct slap in the face to the joint Parliamentary committee that recommended "shared parenting" -- i.e., granting both parents equal custody and responsibility for children at the end of the marriage -- after years of study. Despite the Senate-Commons committee having held extensive hearings on the subject, Justice department bureaucrats held another set tailored to suit their own views before submitting recommendations to the justice minister (then Anne McLellan) that were diametrically opposed to those of the committee.
But while the decision to put off the legislation doesn' t trouble us, the reasons behind it are more unsettling. By all appearances, the postponement of the child custody changes has nothing to do with Mr. Colter recognizing their flaws; rather they simply appear to have slipped down his priority list -- notably below Divorce Act changes to allow for gay divorce, which the Justice Minister is keen to have ready by the time same-sex marriage legislation comes before the House next month.
As bad as the proposed child custody amendments were, they were presumably a sincere attempt to make children' s lives better after the break-up of their parents. That the Liberals consider this less deserving of their attention than gay marriage and divorce is a little curious.
Far more of this country's children (roughly 35,000 annually) are affected by divorce than there are gays hurt by their inability to marry. Children of divorce are more likely to suffer behavioural problems, drop out of school, experiment with drugs, commit violence against a partner or spouse and run afoul of the law. Not surprisingly, they are also more likely to divorce from their own spouses later. But divorce is a modern fact of life, so improving the laws governing custody and access by non-custodial parents in order to lessen its adverse consequences ought to be among the government' s top priorities.
Rather than simply reviving Mr. Cauchon' s deplorable legislation when it suits him, Mr. Colter should turn his attention to crafting a new custody law more in keeping with the parliamentary committee' s common sense proposals. We hope that this will be one of the Justice Minister' s priorities in 2005
Ontario's Family Responsibility Office has many problems
Quote from Ontario Government Ombudsman -"an equal opportunity error-prone program,."'
Support recipients not getting their money.
Men who've been meeting their court-ordered obligations have trouble getting the FRO to stop taking payments when it's supposed to. Read More ..
March 25, 2000
Divorced fathers get a bad rap for not supporting their children. The truth is, many can't. And, tragically, some are driven to desperate measures, including suicide.
In his suicide note, Jim, the father of four children, protests that "not all fathers are deadbeats." Jim hanged himself because he couldn't see any alternative. Even now, his children are unaware of the circumstances of their father's death. Meeno Meijer, National Post George Roulier is fighting to regain money wrongfully taken from his wages by the Ontario child-support collection agency. Chris Bolin, National Post Alan Heinz, a Toronto firefighter, has gone bankrupt fighting for the return of his daughter, 3, from Germany. No one will help him, but German authorities are trying to collect child support from him.
Whenever fathers and divorce are discussed, one image dominates: the 'deadbeat dad,' the schmuck who'd rather drive a sports car than support his kids. Because I write about family matters, I'm regularly inundated with phone calls, faxes, letters and e-mail from divorced men. It's not news that divorced individuals have little good to say about their ex-spouses. What I'm interested in is whether the system assists people during this difficult time in their lives, or compounds their misery. From the aircraft engineer in British Columbia, to the postal worker on the prairies, to the fire fighter in Toronto, divorced fathers' stories are of a piece: Though society stereotypes these men relentlessly, most divorced dads pay their child support. Among those who don't, a small percentage wilfully refuse to (the villains you always hear about).
What you haven't been told is that the other men in arrears are too impoverished to pay, have been ordered to pay unreasonable amounts, have been paying for unreasonable lengths of time, or are the victims of bureaucratic foul-ups. Read More ..
Edmonton and Calgary Sun
Feb 5, 2005
EDMONTON -- An Edmonton judge has decided a divorced dad has to make child support payments, even though the child isn't his. Justin Sumner had an on-again-off-again relationship with the woman he eventually married, Dawn Sumner.
She already had a child from a previous relationship with a man named Rob Duncan, and as she and Justin broke up and reunited, Dawn was sexually involved with both men.
When she found she was pregnant, she called Justin, who recognized there was a possibility that Duncan was the father, but later concluded he was the dad. Read More ..
Andrew T. Renouf committed suicide on or about October 17, 1995 because he had 100% of his wages taken by the Family Responsibility Office, a child support collection agency of the Government of Ontario, Canada.
He asked for assistance for food and shelter from the welfare office and was refused because he had a job, even though all of his wages were taken by the Family Responsibility Office.
Andy was a loving father that hadn't seen his daughter in 4 years.
A memorial service was held in October, 1998, for Andy in front of the Family Responsibility Office at 1201 Wilson Avenue, West Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is in the Ministry of Transportation grounds in the Keele St. & Hwy 401 area. All members of the Ontario Legislature were invited by personal letter faxed to their offices. Not one turned up. The Director of the Family Responsibility Office and his entire staff were invited to the brief service. The Director refused and wouldn't let the staff attend the service although it was scheduled for lunch time. There was a peaceful demonstration by followed by a very touching service by The Reverend Alan Stewart. The text of the service will soon be able to be read below.
The service made the TV evening news.
It was Andy's last wish that his story be told to all. YOU CAN READ HIS SUICIDE NOTE
Auditor General of Ontario
80% of Telephone calls don't get answered
Payers and recipients do not have direct access to their assigned enforcement services officer
"There is only limited access to enforcement staff because many calls to the Office do not get through or are terminated before they can be answered."
"The Office is reviewing and working on only about 20% to 25% of its total cases in any given year."
"At the end of our audit in April 2010, there were approximately 91,000 bring-forward notes outstanding, each of which is supposed to trigger specific action on a case within one month. The status of almost one-third of the outstanding bring-forward notes was "open," indicating either that the notes had been read but not acted upon, or that they had not been read at all, meaning that the underlying nature and urgency of the issues that led to these notes in the first place was not known. In addition, many of the notes were between one and two years old."
"For ongoing cases, the Office took almost four months from the time the case went into arrears before taking its first enforcement action. For newly registered cases that went straight into arrears, the delay was seven months from the time the court order was issued."
The Ottawa Citizen
January 14, 2012
TORONTO - Ontario's controversial Family Responsibility Office has been overbilling 1,700 parents, mostly fathers, for as long as 13 years, the province admitted Friday.
The 1,700 parents were overbilled by an average $75 each month, after the agency wrongly applied a cost of living adjustment that was eliminated in 1997.
Those who were overpaid will not be forced to give the money back.
Instead, taxpayers will foot the $5.3 million bill for the agency's mistake.
"This error's been found and it's being corrected," said Liberal cabinet minister John Milloy. "We're going to be reaching out to those individuals (who were overbilled) and talking to them about their situation, formally alerting them."
The Family Responsibility Office, or FRO, is responsible for ensuring court-ordered child support payments are made. Read More .. than 97 per cent of all payers overseen by the office are male.
Milloy said the agency discovered the problem at some point in 2011. No one will be fired for the mistakes, he added.
"I see this as something very serious," he said in an interview. "I'm not trying to minimize it, but â€¦ there's been lots of action taken to reform FRO, to update computer systems, to update customer relations and it's on a much firmer footing."
The billing mistake is only the latest controversy to engulf FRO. Read More ..
"Canada's national newspaper for professional women"
On June 9, 2005 the McGuinty government announced the passage of Bill 155, legislation that promised to increase enforcement, improve fairness and enhance efficiency at the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
However, the legislation did not address the problem of accountability and, as things now stand, the FRO is a threat to every Canadian affected by a government regulated support and custody arrangement system. Think of George Orwell's 1984 and you'll have a good picture of how issues are handled at the FRO.
They have legal power to extort money from Canadians, but are not responsible or accountable for their actions.
Last year an FRO staff member decided not to wait for a court date to review the financial status of an out-of-work truck driver and took it upon themselves to suspend his license because he was, understandably, behind on his payments, having lost his job earlier in the year. Although he was looking for work, the FRO cut off the only way he knew of to earn a living. His suicide note explained how he'd lost all hope. Is this what we want FRO to be doing? Read More ..