Canada Debates Grandparents' Rights

A bill to increase legal access to grandchildren bears watching

By Rich Thomaselli

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.”

Comments

I have been in my grandsons life since the day he was born in December of 2013. Now because of his parents split up I am only allowed to see him when my son gets access.

This child knows me like his own parents
I hope that they change this law I want to be able to be in his life.
He should know how I feel and that I will fight to be with him

samm.mills1969@gmail.com on 2014-06-24 13:45:46

I have a comment for dblade92 who commented here July 18 2013- Is there any way to contact this gentleman ? I hope he is still reading this thread- It is UNCANNY how similar his life is to mine. I am currently fighting for very similar reasons to keep my bipolar mother out of my kids life. I even moved and she - as threatened via email- hired a private investigator to track me down. I think your case is very very strong - if I were you I would not worry, especially if you have a lot of proof about the drug use and the exploding drug lab. Keep ALL your paperwork and proof and emails. Find a very good lawyer. If your MIL sues you and loses, she will probably have to pay both HER lawyer and YOURS. So its in your best interests to hire someone who knows what they are doing. There are a # of ways to ensure you have hired a good quality lawyer. Please feel free to contact me via ginalinginalin@hotmail.com if you can, Id love to help if you are ok with that. People in our situation need to stick together, as these kind of stories are usually hard to believe, for people who aren't walking in our shoes. Fortunately the law is on our side- grandparents have NO legal rights in Canada. They are NOT guaranteed visits. Good luck and good health

ginalinginalin on 2014-02-10 10:16:01

our grandson has lived with us since he was 1 second old born in our home we have raised him with no help from either parent now cas wants to put him in the fathers care he was in rehab for almost a year and mom has her own issues they each have visits and they are taking him from us when is the law coming to Ontario we as grandparents need rights also if not more rights then some parents

smiley051264@hotmail.com on 2013-08-22 14:51:10

My wife and I have been married for 15 years, and have two children together. We purchased a home together a year after we were married and have lived here since. My youngest was born here.

5-10 years ago, my wife made the decision to cut her mother out of our lives. This was due to a number of issues, including her mother's use of drugs and alcohol, verbal and mental abuse, associating with known drug users (her boyfriend was killed when a drug lab in the building they shared with their drug dealer exploded), on going lies, deceit, broken promises, mental health issues... the list goes on.

This was not a decision made lightly... We attempted to have a relationship with her, up to allowing them to live with us for 6 months after they had been evicted from their apartment (prior to them moving out, increased drug use and the drug lab). They have a healthy relationship with my parents, and other members of my wife's family, most of whom have also limited contact with her for the same or similar reasons.

Every 3-4 years an attempt has been made by her mother to ingratiate herself back into my wife's life. Within 2-3 calls or emails (typically about a week's time) the relationship breaks down again. The reason is always because we do not feel comfortable with her seeing our children (now 13 and 14) until we are confident that they are safe.

She has now appeared again, this time indicating that she has spoken to a lawyer and is filing for visitation.

Does anyone know how we protect our children from a woman that has placed my wife, children and family repeatedly in danger?

How real is this threat?

dblade92 on 2013-07-18 18:05:37