Friday, April 10, 2009

Family law on slippery slope in Quebec

Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, April 10, 2009

The Quebec dad whose 12-year-old daughter successfully sued him last June for grounding her has just lost his appeal. The appeals judge agreed with the lower court judge that forcing her to miss a Grade 6 graduation trip as punishment for allegedly posting trashy photos of herself on the Internet and chatting on blocked websites, was too harsh.

Set aside for a minute the amazing impropriety of the Canadian justice system interfering in run-of-the-mill parental discipline. This is not, after all, a case of abuse. No law was broken. It is not abusive to teach your child that bad behaviour has consequences. It's good parenting--and there isn't enough of it happening these days. That's because too many professional caring-types abound, ready to meddle if some petulant pubescent child feels she's been hard done by.

But do you remember being 12 and in Grade 6? First of all, in those days, there weren't "graduations" held every few years. You graduated once--from Grade 12--and that was it. Because you only graduated once, it actually meant something. But remember how at 12, you thought your parents were practically godlike and if you committed some infraction of the rules and they meted out a corresponding punishment for it, your first thought was not "I'll sue!" Rather, it was "I've been bad," and you felt ashamed. The rebelliousness of the coming teen years wasn't even on the radar screen at age 12.

Lucie Fortin, a Legal Aid lawyer who represented the girl and therefore should be held completely responsible for destroying the parent-child relationship between father and daughter, said: "The child asked the court to intervene because (the trip)was very important to her." "The child" should have been laughed out of the courtroom, if not out of Fortin's office before that. All these adults should have been united in telling her that since she disobeyed her father's admonitions about her Internet activity, she had to pay the consequences. The consequences hurt? Well, too bad. Remember that for the next time. Case closed. Child learns a valuable lesson. Life goes on. Lawyers and judges stop undermining parental authority and go back to dealing with real criminals--like the pedophiles who probably salivated over this kid's "inappropriate pictures" online. Try to protect your child from the seamy side of the Internet and you not only get sued for it, but two courts rule you were in the wrong?

Beaudoin says her client, who had split from the girl's mother, has hardly any relationship with his daughter anymore: "She went from a child who wanted to live with her father, and after all this has been done, they're not speaking anymore. We have a lot of work to re-establish a link between those two." One can thank the litigious Lucie Fortin for helping to create that destructive situation, which was then compounded by the judges who ruled against the father.

For those who wonder how this girl qualified for Legal Aid in the first place, it's all set out by Quebec's Commission des services juridiques, whose website states that " the criteria for civil suits and other suits are: the potential threat, for the applicant or his family, to physical or psychological safety, to means of subsistence or to basic needs and a serious threat to either's freedom." You can see where being grounded for brattiness constituted a threat to the girl's psychological safety--her sense of entitlement was in major jeopardy there. More specifically, missing the Grade 6 trip posed a serious threat to her freedom. She can't do what she wants and go where she pleases at age 12? This must be remedied right away.

Beaudoin says the dad may take his case to the Supreme Court. Let's hope that if he does, those eminent justices issue a ruling that strikes a blow for parental rights, respect and authority, which are so sadly in disarray in this society.

Barring that, the best outcome to be hoped for is a scenario presented by fast-forwarding 10 or 15 years. The girl, now in her mid-20s, phones her dad and says: "Thanks, Dad. I realize now what you were trying to do and that you did it because you cared about me."

Is that too much to hope for? Or by that time will caring enough about one's children to discipline them be an offence under the Criminal Code?

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