hard for men to be without their children on Father’s Day
Times Colonist staff
stood in the cold rain on the lawn of the legislature with about 20 other
single fathers - at a vigil organized by the Victoria Mens Centre and
Fathers for Equality.
hurts to be without my children on Father’s Day,” said Benoit. “But it
hurts more to go through the process of trying to be with my children.”
many fathers, Benoit was dismayed when Justice Minister Anne McLellan decided
to postpone by three years amendments to Canada’s child custody laws that
give divorcing mothers and fathers equal rights.
joint parliamentary committee report called for shared parenting rights
of separation and divorce. The report contained recommendations on how to deal
with custody and access issues and the need to tackle the issue of perjury in
in May, McLellan delayed legislation by launching a new round of public
consultation on the issue.
lot of men can’t wait three years. They’ve lost their children already,”
said Benoit, who works as a councillor for disabled adults.
glanced round at the protesters. “There are no winners here. My ability to
be a father has been completely eliminated.”
left his marriage in November 1995 because
of what he calls differing philosophical perspectives on parenting and
felt a great deal of the responsibility for the breakdown of the marriage and
the pain and torment that I saw the children going through,” he said. “The
separation was very painful and started a very
unhealthy process which included a lot of conflict over custody.”
wanted to share custody of his children with his wife. She wanted sole
custody. He said in her anger over him leaving the marriage, she went to a
transition house and took the children with her.
said there had been no history of physical abuse, although he admits he and
his wife were saying hurtful things to each other.
have no criminal record. I have no history of aggression. I’m basically a
father who wants to be with his children.”
tried to maintain contact with his three children, now aged 11, eight and six
through a worker at the transition house.
“But my children were literally cut off
from me. The transition house response was ‘We are here to support children
and families, not fathers.” That theme has been replayed many times
as Benoit tried to develop a close and meaningful relationship with his
charges that every time he got close to his children, his former partner
responded with accusations of sexual abuse.
charge was levelled against his roommate, another against him. Both men were
cleared after a ministry investigation. But on each occasion, Benoit was
immediately cut off from the children.
court orders and one trial later, he is no closer to knowing his children.
finally gave up when he went to school one day to pick up his children and his
ex-wife wouldn’t talk to him. Two of his children hid behind her and refused
to talk to him privately about what was going on.
decided this process was totally ineffective. It was hurting me and hurting my
wrote to her and said when you’re ready to co-parent, contact me. The
children are free to call me any time. I love them very much and I wish you
peace in your life.”
of the rally released purple balloons into the air to represent the love
children have for their fathers.