Fathers’ rights activists in Canada today, Jeremy Swanson was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1952, and educated in Catholic schools and colleges. While engaged in a civilian capacity in the commercial workforce, in 1972 Jeremy was conscripted for National Service into the South African Army where he served with honour during the border war. He was trained in radio communications, ant-aircraft warfare, mechanized infantry warfare, counter-insurgency warfare and served as a crewman in an armored car until being posted to the reserves in early 1987 – the same year he emigrated to Canada with his Canadian-born (now ex) wife and daughter. Two other children, a boy and another girl were born in Canada and Jeremy became a full Canadian Citizen in 1990.
After several years working in the commercial sector in Ottawa, Jeremy joined the staff of the Canadian War Museum in 1992 (also serving at its parent organization, the Museum of Civilization) and stayed there for the next decade as Public Programmes Officer. Jeremy won many awards (including a nomination for the Order of Canada) for his high profile commemorative work on behalf of Canadian veterans and resultantly became well known in media, social and diplomatic circles. Then in 2002 he was plunged into the Kafkaesque torment of the Canadian divorce and family law meat-grinder. He is currently officially retired but writes, monitors and records court proceedings as they relate to men and fathers and retains the executive leadership of the national fathers’ rights group, FathersCan.
Were you disappointed to hear that yet again MP Maurice Vellacott was unable to pass a private member’s bill to amend the Divorce Act to include a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting?
I was very disappointed. I did my best to canvass all MPs in the house and contacted each one by email with a note explaining why they should be voting for the bill along with other related issues. I received replies by email and by direct mail which helped me believe that most MPs were going to support it. The only email I got back that was negative on the issue was from the NDP and they sent the same form letter reply to all of the many hundreds of people who embarked on the campaign to get the politicians to understand the issues. So I was not expecting the loss.
I have been a strong proponent of equal parenting since I last saw my own three children in 2003. I did not know anything about the horrors for men and their children in the event of divorce – not when it first happened. I suspect, even today, most men and fathers think as I did then. There is a general misconception out there among the public that “divorce is 50/50”. It most certainly is not. Not if you are a man and a father. But one only finds that out when one is right in the middle of it. By the time realization sets in, it’s too late. Within three years it has been recorded that more than 80% of Fathers disengage from contact with their children and I now fully understand why. It is for this reason that I dedicate my life now to informing people of the reality in this oxymoronic thing called ‘family law.’
In three years I went from being a 24 hour-a-day committed, productive and loving father to the social gutter. It wiped me out and it has wiped out and will continue to wipe out many thousands more of us. Mr. Vellacott knows this as do many fellow activists and our respective families. I still struggle to believe it ever happened to me but it did. And it happens to good fathers and their children every day, amounting to thousands annually.
Polling of public support on this issue always shows that a healthy majority of the public would be in favour of such a change. How do you account for the great divide between what the public wants versus the way politicians vote on the issue?
It is all about the media and the dissemination of the truth and information. The media pretty much refuses to touch the subject – fearing a feminist backlash and accusations of being anti-women. So since the media does not tell the story accurately, the public do not communicate with the politicians and so the great divide continues. A more robust, dedicated and honest media will bring the changes that are needed. Indeed it’s probably the only way it will come.
Much of the resistance to equal parenting is based on the premise that men are dangerous to their former spouses and children. Statistics Canada figures demonstrate that men and women commit violence against each other in near equal numbers. Why is this fact overlooked by politicians and what can be done to change that?
I have never once, in my decade-long fight met a violent father. I have seen them accused alright but this is a standard ploy in court to achieve an advantage for the mother. The feminist left has a stake in portraying men and fathers as dangerous and it is at that point that judges in the court system are allowed to ‘err on the side of caution’ in judgment. In pursuing a just-in-case outcome so that judges cannot be held responsible if the father turns out violent and does something damaging to the mother and the children, fathers face a situation where the system is set up to make them fail. So it is that a myth is created to force the judgment. In reality, in the vast majority of cases, the father and husband has not been violent at all but all that is needed is the accusation. Not even proof or evidence is required. Just the accusation. A strong, well-funded and organized feminist organization – including members within the ranks of the federal justice department – ensures the perpetuation of the lie. The media do not pick up on it and so the myth just repeats and confounds – right up to parliament and back into society. The status quo has remained thus for close to 30 years. There is no funding for men’s and fathers’ groups and thus no counter to the situation is available beyond the ranks of volunteer activists and their supporters.
You regularly monitor the news for tragic stories about women who commit murder-suicides, taking the lives of their own children. And as a fathers’ rights activist, you’re also aware of the tragically high number of men post-divorce who take their own lives. How is it that in the face of these facts, the myth persists that men are always perpetrators of violence and injustice, but never victims? Why doesn’t the truth ever manage to get out?
Again, I point to the media and a general but clearly obvious reluctance to take on the controversial subject matter which is sure to lead to confrontation and negative response. Other activists, before my time and today, have tried to concentrate on the truth only to be rejected. Some years ago in discussing this very question with a Federal MP he informed me of something called ‘the Kook Factor’ which is applied by media, politicians, police, and even family members alike when the subject is brought up. They have heard that men kill themselves in larger numbers than women and are prepared to accept that premise in itself but as soon as the idea is linked to father/family issues the theory is somehow suddenly worthless and discounted. I do know that I have seen ‘the kook factor’ at work as it has been applied to me and other activists I have accompanied to meetings. It seems to be a veil of disbelief and scepticism that appears to come down like shades over the eyes of the listener and it becomes a block. Research on the male suicide phenomenon is often done in other countries and is passed on through the actions of activists like myself but we are simply disbelieved. There have been research papers produced by professionals on the subject but they are simply ignored.
Other statistics that should persuade legislators, court authorities and child advocates to support equal parenting are the often negative outcomes for children from fatherless homes and yet again, either we refuse to talk about those numbers or we simply ignore them or make excuses. Why won’t the public accept what these numbers tell us?
These statistics on the social implications for children in fatherless homes are often produced in the United States and indeed everything currently in circulation concerns fatherless children in America. The reports are used by Canadian activists and distributed as examples of what happens without equal parenting but in fact there has never been a complete, dedicated research project conducted in Canada on the negative social effects on children of divorced parents. Activists are often asked about this and are forced to admit that the research has been down out of country, albeit on a parallel society, but this seems to affect credibility. The answer of course is for a men and fathers’ group to finance a study itself but this will require adequate funding which is currently not afforded us. No federal or provincial funding is generated from any source for men’s issues.
The simplistic view of fathers’ rights activists is that they hate women. Having worked with fathers’ rights activists in the past, I’m often struck by the large number of them who don’t hate women and in fact maintain a somewhat chivalrous attitude towards them regardless of what they’ve personally experienced at the hands of some women in their lives. Why is it so difficult to fairly advocate for men and fathers, whether you are male or female, without being accused of being a misogynist?
Sadly that accusation is very often thrown at us. The reality is that we all love and respect women and I have never come across a fathers’ rights activist who hates women. Not once. Certainly we are disappointed with our previous partners and we hurt for the children. But through it all we still respect women and the natural – inbred and learned – protection issue for women by men more often than not comes into play. We are largely men from the old school of behaviour and mannerism and in discussions we often agree we would all throw ourselves at or between attackers of women or come instantly to the aid of women in trouble anywhere for any reason. We just will not abide anything that might harm or disadvantage a woman. Of course the other side would love to paint that reality differently. The accusations and negative imagery come at us often and sometimes it works and we get discouraged. Your personal observations are much closer to reality. Misogyny is a situation desired by the radical feminist left but it is simply not evident. What we hate the most is being wrongly portrayed. This happens a lot in the media and it does affect our morale. But it is a simplistic view and is inaccurate in the extreme.
There are plenty of women who support this cause and yet the feminists continue to paint this as a gender issue. The group ‘Leading Women for Shared Parenting’ which includes women from around the world, was formed to try to address this misconception. Do you think a group like this could help change that misperception and win support from nervous politicians?
Of course they continue to paint this as a gender issue. Gender issues are politically correct and receive millions of dollars from governments eager to show that they are gender sensitive. Within the feminist movement itself the ‘gender issue’ is translated as ‘an issue that affects women in an adverse manner and requires government and judicial intervention and dollars.’ As long as feminists and their minions can continue to claim it is a gender issue, any government or judicial intervention – and with that, any dollars – will automatically flow to the already well-stocked feminist coffers. They will claim that since it is a gender issue it is best handled by already existing groups and ministries set up to handle gender issues and there is no need to set up yet more groups or ministries and spend more money on them. Of course the double cry of ‘gender issue’ and ‘no further spending’ – both patently false – is music to the ears of politicians of all stripes who can then go out and tell the public that they are not only addressing the issue but saving taxpayer money too. This effectively denies any possibility that any voice, male or female, which desires to advocate or put forward a view other than that of the politically correct feminist view will ever have any opportunity to do so.
Note that there is a Minister for the Status of Women Canada but no ministry even remotely similar to that for men’s issues. If you were to ask anyone in government, the media, academia, the civil service, or the judiciary where to find out about government programs, funding or action with respect to ‘gender issues’ you will be directed to The Status of Women Canada only. By painting the ‘Equal Shared Parenting’ issue as a ‘gender’ issue the feminist lobby is guaranteeing the longevity of The Status of Women Canada and all the government supported feminist lobby groups and is guaranteeing their continued funding with unlimited taxpayer dollars. We call them “guilt dollars.” And let us not forget former Minister Hedy Fry who was the Secretary of State for Status of Women in the former federal Liberal government. She stated unequivocally that she would be glad to fund men’s programs, so long as the program had a clearly demonstrated benefit to women. Note from the record what she said: “We will help men only if it benefits women.” As for the groups mentioned above, while we are delighted to accept new allies in the fight, I can’t see these new allies having a tangible impact other than a boost to morale so long as they have to fight against the enormous taxpayer-funded finance war chests wielded by the other side. The effectiveness will change assuredly with the advent of funding for men and fathers’ groups which has always been lacking, thus preventing any kind of equity from evolving as it should under the Charter and the Constitution.
Source: ~Paula Pragmatic
Source: ~Paula Pragmatic