Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fathers' group asks for legislation review - North West Territories

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Cara Loverock
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A review of territorial legislation that one MLA called "unfair" is being considered by Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington.

The Dads North Association asked Bevington for a review of both the NWT's Child and Family Services Act and the Divorce Act when they met with the NDP politician on April 2.

"I think there is a need for a review of the Divorce Act," Bevington said of the federal legislation, which he said relates to the question of equal parenting.

He said in the coming weeks he'll also talk with some MLAs concerning the Child and Family Services Act.

"I'm certainly looking forward (to) meeting with the MLAs and talking with them about directions they want to take, because (the child and family services act) is territorial legislation," said Bevington.

Great Slave MLA Glen Abernethy recently called for a review of the territorial act in a letter to Health Minister Sandy Lee dated March 13. He cited a specific case of a Yellowknife family that has had two children removed and given treatment that he called "patently unfair." According to Abernethy, the GNWT Department of Health and Social Services is in charge of reviewing the act.

"There's no doubt that some of the cases that we see are heartbreaking for all the individuals involved," said Bevington, speaking in general terms.

He said the important issue regarding the Child and Family Services Act is ensuring the rights and safety of the child are maintained.

"It's not an easy issue," Bevington added.

He said he would be researching the federal Divorce Act by looking at previous reviews that have been done "to see if whether all of the ideas there were instituted ... so we're going to do some research on that."

Bevington said another possibility discussed at the meeting was "the concept of a Northern ombudsperson that has the ability to interact with the government over specific cases."

Mark Bogan, president of the Dads North Association, said he thought the meeting went well, but time will tell if any changes come about.

"They are serious concerns. We've asked the NDP to take action for a while now," said Bogan. "I'm sure (Bevington) will open up a channel with the GNWT."

Bogan said some changes will be proposed, but it's a matter of what those changes are.

Bevington "said he wanted to bring us all back to the table and tell us what he's proposed to do," said Bogan of a follow-up meeting in the coming weeks with the MP.

He said Wendy Bisaro, MLA for Frame Lake, was also at the meeting.

"I think she's receptive to what we have to say," he said.

Bisaro did not return calls for comment by press time.

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