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It’s hard for men to be without their children on Father’s Day


By Louise Dickson

Times Colonist staff


MORAY BENOIT spent Father’s Day without his children, protesting the government’s failure to move forward on equal parent­ing rights in cases of separation and divorce.

He stood in the cold rain on the lawn of the legislature with about 20 other people - mostly single fathers - at a vigil organized by the Victoria Mens Centre and Fathers for Equality.

“It 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.”

Like 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.

A joint parliamentary committee report called for shared parenting rights in cases 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 custodial hearings.

However in May, McLellan delayed legislation by launching a new round of public consultation on the issue.

“A lot of men can’t wait three years. They’ve lost their children already,” said Benoit, who works as a councillor for disabled adults.

He glanced round at the protesters. “There are no winners here. My ability to be a father has been completely eliminated.”

Benoit left his marriage in November 1995 because of what he calls differing philosophical perspectives on parenting and spirituality. "I 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.”

Benoit 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.

Benoit said there had been no history of physical abuse, although he admits he and his wife were saying hurtful things to each other.

“I have no criminal record. I have no history of aggression. I’m basically a father who wants to be with his chil­dren.”

Benoit 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 children.

He charges that every time he got close to his children, his former partner responded with accusations of sexual abuse.

One 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.

Twelve court orders and one trial later, he is no closer to knowing his children.

Benoit 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.

“I decided this process was totally ineffective. It was hurting me and hurting my former partner.

"I 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.”

Qrganizers of the rally released purple balloons into the air to represent the love children have for their fathers.



Updated on:30/06/00 09:39 PM

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