A bill introduced in Ontario's provincial Parliament would give grandparents there increased legal access to their grandchildren, even in the event of their own child's death or divorce.
Niagara Falls legislator Kim Craitor, who introduced the legislation in late April, said, "When it comes to grandchildren, emotion clouds judgment as to what is in the best interests of the children... Spite, hatred, revenge, and anger can be an awful thing, but no child should be used as a weapon." Similar laws have already been passed in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, as well as in the Yukon Territory. Ontario's lawmakers, however, have rejected Craitor's proposal twice before. If they approve it this time, it could become law by the end of the summer.
The bill would require courts to consider the relationship of children to their grandparents as part of divorcing couples' custody cases, or if a parent dies and the grandchildren are moved away by the surviving spouse. The legislation would also guarantee grandparents court-ordered visitation rights.
Craitor said he was inspired to propose the bill by the experience of a couple from Niagara-on-the-Lake who had helped take care of their grandchild for two years, but were denied access to the child altogether after their daughter died and their son-in-law remarried.
“I agreed with them when they wrote me [that] 'nobody should have the right to deny the children the love they deserve,'” Craitor said. “We often forget that we must speak for the grandchildren, and that's what my bill does.”
Craitor added that his research showed that more than 75,000 Ontario grandparents had been denied the right to visit one or more of their grandchildren, and that about 112,500 grandchildren didn't get to see their grandparents.
Fellow legislator Joyce Savoline, supporting the bill, said, “I cannot imagine being refused access to Olivia, my granddaughter, my own flesh and blood, and I hope that I never have to go through that. Grandparents bring so much to a child's life.”
The proposal appeared to enjoy bipartisan support in the legislature but a look at the comments section on Canadian Television's website found heated debate over its merits from parents and grandparents.
Visitors opposing the bill wrote:
* “Let's make this simple, if the child is mine, it is my right to determine who can see my child and when. This is unacceptable to me. While I don't have these issues in my home, I do not care to have the government tell me that some one else has 'rights' to my child.”
* “I strongly disagree with this bill. Parents should decide not the government. It should not be a right that GP's automatically are allowed visitation. Some of them just aren't good role models and I do believe the parents should decide this.”
* “Yet another example of individual rights being eroded by 'group' rights — completely idiotic and only good for lawyers.”
Supporters of the bill were equally passionate:
* "It’s obvious by the comments I'm reading most people have lost the meaning of the words 'Grandparents.' Parents are the head of a family and in that respect should have some rights as far as the offspring are concerned. In the light of what society has evolved to, it might be a wise decision to listen to what Grandparents have to say.”
* “Grandparents can be a 'positive' influence on a lot of children of divorce caught into a 'negative' web of spite and hatred emanating from parents at war with one another.”
* “I am a grandparent of three grandchildren whom I am not allowed to see. I was not an alcoholic or abusive parent. My child just refuses to allow me access unless I support them financially. I, in no way, wish to supplant them as parents. I just want a relationship with my grandchildren. Each grandparent/parent relationship is different and I think the courts would take each one under careful consideration before the rights of the parent were denied.”
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.