First, I am fairly happy Dad. Iâ€™ve never been beaten and battered by the Family Law System like the hundreds if not thousands of disenfranchised fathers with whom Iâ€™ve had contact or directly worked, but I know it happens. Iâ€™ve been in court and witnessed such pummelingâ€™s more times than I can possibly recall.
That said, investigative reporter Bilbo Poynter recently wrote the troubled Dad article, Fathers on Edge, a tragic custody case draws attention of groups convinced family courts are biased.
Poynter, Executive Director at Canadian Center for Investigative Reporting, cites several horrific child custody cases in which fathers lost their children, went to prison, attempted to murder a judge, and committed suicide by self-immolation â€“ he torched himself. Implications abound, largely by omission and perhaps a bias by the reporter that something other than the Family Law System caused their violence. Poynter points toward a handful of comments posted on a few websites in the â€śmanosphereâ€ťas indicative of the anger and hatred of displaced fathers.
The tragic and horrific examples chosen by Poynter are not representative of Fatherâ€™s or Menâ€™s Rights groups, they are anomalies. Â All civil rights movements have them. The feminists had Andrea Dworkin, Robin Morgan, Valari Solanas, and a litany of others. Â Heroes to some, scorned by others, itâ€™s all relative to oneâ€™s perspective and history. Either way, Poynter might have noted the historical similarities if for nothing more than clarity.
Counter points are offered from Professor of Law, Susan Boyd and Associate Criminologist Molly Dragiewicz, who is quoted as saying, “People will view these groups (fathers rights, clarification mine) as fringe groups that don’t require serious attention, when in fact they’re using the abusive and intimidating behaviours they used in their relationshipsâ€ť– clichĂ©d Women Industry psychobabble and propaganda.
For you doubters, Ms. Dragiewiczâ€™s holds two college degrees in Women Studies.Â And, Ms. Boyd, holds the endowed research Chair in Feminist Legal Studies, and is Director of the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies at University of British Columbia. Both are from the school of blame it on men, the same school that invented women designed for men only re education shame, blame, and guilt programs, legally sanctioned on men using abusive forms of intimidation and retribution delivered by and through the Family Law System. Poynter didnâ€™t report that part; or, most telling, he didnâ€™t report that both Boyd and Drgiewicz are trained Women Industry operatives.
Interestingly, Poynter doesnâ€™t report attempting to contact credentialed heavy-hitter contributors to the Fatherâ€™s and Menâ€™s Rights movements. A cub investigative reporter for a school newspaper, let alone an executive director of an investigative reporting organization, could easily find the likes of Steven Baskerville, Warren Farrell, or even Canadians Donald Dutton and National Post Columnist Barbara Kay. They are not hard to find and could have offered more insights leaving perhaps a more balanced report.
To his credit, Poynter interviewed NCFM Canadian Liaison Earl Silverman who struggles to operate the only shelter for abused men in Canada, which in and of itself should tell anyone with an IQ over 2 that men and their children are disparately treated by the Family Law System.
Additionally, Poynter seems to use â€śFatherâ€™s Rightsâ€ť and â€śMenâ€™s Rightsâ€ť interchangeably, apparently taking no time to learn the distinction. Menâ€™s Rights Advocates are generally concerned with Fatherâ€™s Rights as a subset since they extend to all men and children. The Menâ€™s Rights Movement is also concerned with issues like circumcision, selective service, human trafficking, menâ€™s health, man bashing, and a host of other issues not generally found in the Fatherâ€™s Rights camps.
Iâ€™m always disappointed when my life stumbles me into people like Poynter. I naively expect better. I wonder where they went to college and whether they immersed themselves in Women Studies like the women above. Poynter is Executive Director at Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting, which at the very least screams that he should above all others know how to report things objectively and with clarity. Alas, in this article, the facts he uncovered are somehow construed to leave the reader not with the basis for objective thought, but seemingly to view men in distress poorly, especially distraught fathers, even dead ones, if not all men.
The fact that Poynter did not tell readers that Susan Boyd and Molly Dragiewicz were credentialed Women Industry operatives is discrediting, regardless of other strengths and shortcomings. Poynterâ€™s history of work is impressive, though this article appears lacking and, intentionally or otherwise leaves a reader with wrong impressions of distraught fathers deprived of their family, children, finances, and freedom. Without further investigation, it seems Poynter doesnâ€™t understand the subject he is writing about.
MONTREAL – The comments made by the fathers and other men that populate the chat rooms of Antimisandry.com are angry. Misandry is the hatred of men by women and there are dozens of websites like this one in what sometimes gets called the “manosphere,” dedicated to the idea that men’s civil rights – often fathers’ rights – are under attack by feminists and the courts.
The topics of discussion on these sites vary; anything from the latest news reports of women killing or abusing their children, to women who complain about sexual harassment in the workplace (such as the recent class-action lawsuit filed by former and current female RCMP members) and how false rape accusations are an “industry.” One recent message thread discusses how the Elizabeth Fry Society, an organization that offers services to female offenders in the correctional system, receives funding from the federal government; the writer wrongly assumes that the male equivalent John Howard Society does not. Feminists and ex-spouses are referred to as “bitches,” and the men who support them are routinely disparaged.
Lately, some of these chat rooms have turned their attention to the deaths of Jocelyn Marcoux, 47 – who had been locked in a bitter custody battle with his partner – and his two children, Lindsey, 13, and Karen, 11. The three bodies were found in the burnt-out shell of a garage behind the family home in Warwick, 150 kilometres from Montreal, on July 10, in what police suspect was a double homicide and suicide. Autopsy results have not been released and officials are waiting on the coroner’s final report.
Since the deaths, angry reaction on the message boards has not been directed at Marcoux for the most part, but at the family courts.
“Funny, how the system constantly backs men into a corner. And then acts shocked when one loses his grip on reality and good judgment,” writes Raven01 in one message thread. “Had this man felt he had even a reasonable chance of being dealt with honestly and fairly in a family court what are the chances he would have even considered this irrational act?”
“This guy was smart enough to see that his status as a sperm donor and financier to his ex to be was to be terminated with extreme prejudice in the feminit (sic) Family Court,” writes Shaazam elsewhere in the thread.
There are posts that point out that what happened in Warwick was a tragedy, but the consensus seems to be that the blame here lies with the “corrupt” family court judges.
The long-held complaint of fathers’ rights groups is that the family courts are weighted against fathers in favour of mothers, but family law in Canada encourages shared custody arrangements between parents wherever possible, according to Susan Boyd, a law professor at University of British Columbia. Boyd acknowledges that the majority of sole custody awards do tend to go to mothers, but says the courts also seem to be awarding shared custody more often than in the past.
Still, fathers’ rights groups should be taken seriously. “People will view these groups as fringe groups that don’t require serious attention, when in fact they’re using the abusive and intimidating behaviours they used in their relationships. This should be a concern that this person is capable of certainly intimidation, harassment and threats, if not actual acts of violence,” says Molly Dragiewicz, a criminologist at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology who studies the father’s rights movement.
The comments about the Warwick tragedy on other men’s rights sites are angry, too. “R.I.P. to this once beautiful loving family. I am sure some feminazis are chuckling how this is a victory to them, how this man was pushed to the limits to do something like this,” reads a post from Admin1 on the mensrighthelp.com forum.
“This didn’t need to happen,” adds Admin1 a little later on, “we are starting to see more and more of this from fathers.” The discussion then turns to how women still kill their children more than men do; though the discussion participants admit to each other that the statistics to prove this just aren’t there, there’s certainty this information is being suppressed.
A study done by researchers at the Royal Ottawa Hospital of 11 years of data into paternal filicide – fathers who kill their children – found that between 1990 and 2001, 77 children in Quebec were killed by their fathers. Forty-six (60 per cent) of the homicides were followed by the suicide or attempted suicide of the father. The researchers also conclude that more fathers than mothers commit filicide in Quebec.
The response to the Marcoux case by men’s rights advocates isn’t limited to online message boards. “A desperate father will chose to die with his children than live without his children,” writes Earl Silverman in an email to The Gazette. Silverman runs an Alberta-based website for abused men. “Admittedly it is a dark decision but when you look into male psychology it becomes understandable.”
In an email to Quebec Health and Social Services Minister Yves Bolduc, forwarded to The Gazette, Silverman likens the deaths of Marcoux and his children to several unnamed cases in Alberta, “I discovered that indeed there was the common experience of a biased judicial system against fathers but what was remarkable was the need of the father to be with his children even in death; these fathers would rather die with their children than live life without them! “
While there is no evidence to link Marcoux directly to fathers’ rights groups in Quebec, there is little doubt as to why he acted the way he did: “For fathers, it’s official: If you don’t take justice into your own hands, you’ll never have justice,” he ominously wrote in a statement posted on his Facebook page the night before the fire. Marcoux goes on to blame the Quebec Superior Court for what he felt was the imminent loss of custody of his children at a hearing scheduled the following day (Marcoux had primary custody).
It was the idea that he would lose custody of his children that seemed to lay at the heart of Marcoux’s sense of outrage, as is the case for many of the activist dads. Possibly adding to this is the fact that up-to-date and accurate numbers in custody cases are hard to come by, say academics who track trends in family law. Joint custody was awarded in 47 per cent of the 31,754 cases that went before a judge in Canada in 2004, according to Statistics Canada. Mothers were awarded custody in 45 per cent of the cases, dads in 8 per cent.
The numbers don’t reflect all separating parents, just the ones that end up in court, notes Boyd. “So it’s hard to generalize about what happens in contested cases.”
Fathers’ rights made the headlines in Quebec in 2005 when members of the Fathers 4 Justice group scaled the Jacques Cartier Bridge, snarling traffic for several hours. Fathers 4 Justice is perhaps best known for its members’ penchant for donning superhero costumes, and carrying placards bearing emotional messages to their children, in protests around the globe.
“It kind of tugs at people’s heartstrings, in part because mothers continue to do most of the child-caring, even though things have changed quite a bit over the past 20 years – so when you see fathers talk about wanting to parent their children, it’s a little bit exceptional,” says Dragiewicz.
According to Dragiewicz, groups like Fathers 4 Justice tend to gain momentum at times when family law issues are in the news, but tend to lose steam as individual members have their personal family issues and custody cases inevitably resolved through the courts, leaving only the most diehard members to carry on the crusade against ex-spouses and family court judges.
The themes in Marcoux’s statement seem to parrot the language of fathers’ rights militants, so it doesn’t surprise Dragiewicz that Marcoux’s tragic case would garner attention from the men’s rights websites.
“The fathers’ rights groups do have some websites where they valorize men who kill family members – their exwives, or current wives – and they treat them as martyrs,” says Dragiewicz.
Those include fathers like Tom Ball, 58, who lit himself on fire outside a courthouse in New Hampshire in 2011 as horrified onlookers stood by. Ball was a leader of the Fatherhood Coalition, and had been embroiled for years in a bitter custody dispute with his exwife that included a domestic abuse complaint against Ball for hitting his daughter. At the time of his death, Ball was facing imprisonment for nonpayment of child support. After his horrific suicide, Ball’s final statement was published in the Keene Sentinel newspaper and in eulogies on fathers’ rights websites dedicated to his memory. “He died for your children,” reads the headline on one site that includes pictures of the scorch marks on the sidewalk where Ball died.
Darren Mack is another father whose extreme acts have been lionized in some darker corners of the manosphere. In 2006, Mack, an active member of a fathers’ rights group in Nevada, stabbed his ex-wife to death then attempted to shoot the judge in his family court case. He was sentenced to 40 years for his crimes. Speaking about the loss of custodial rights in the Mack case, a writer on the anti-feminist AngryHarry website would comment, “Surely men are entitled to protect themselves from a crime that is – according to most people – far worse than rape?”
“Most people dismiss these groups as a handful of crackpots,” says Dragiewicz.
But “Carol” is one person who takes fathers’ rights groups seriously.
A successful lawyer in southern Ontario who does not want her real name used, Carol remembers when her ex-husband got involved with a local Fathers 4 Justice group after she sought sole custody of their then young children in 1995, “and months of hell ensued.”
“I would be followed. One time I had all four of my children – who were all under nine – in a van at the grocery store and I opened the door to my van to find camera bulbs flashing. There were two men in a car on either side of us taking photographs, screaming, ‘The children weren’t buckled in!’ ” says Carol.
“They would park behind me in parking garages and tell me I was being followed, and what long hours I was working. They would tell the kids I was an unfit mother.”
According to Carol, local fathers’ rights activists stated they were making an example of her because she was a professional. They would write letters to the local paper and show up at her family court hearings and supervised visits with her children. “It was terrifying,” says Carol.
Carol’s ex-husband would plead guilty to criminal harassment and break-and-enter charges stemming from the custody battle. He would leave the province shortly after. Carol says she believes the local group dissolved a few years after that.
“Our group categorically refutes any violence of any kind,” writes Andy Srougi in an emailed reply to The Gazette, when asked about the Marcoux case. Srougi is a high-profile member of Fathers 4 Justice in Quebec, and was part of the Jacques Cartier Bridge protest back in 2005.
In 2007, Srougi was declared a “vexatious litigant” – defined as someone who is not acting in good faith in bringing forward legal actions – by Quebec Superior Court due to the high volume of complaints he brought against members of the Quebec Bar Association. The father’s rights activist now has to seek the court’s permission before he can file complaints against members of the bar.
Srougi claims that Fathers 4 Justice Quebec members have discussed the Marcoux tragedy. “Without our group, there would be many more such tragedies. We are the only group that calms these fathers down. We have had to intervene many times to prevent tragedies,” writes Srougi.
Which tragedies are those? Srougi doesn’t say.
There are a handful of father’s rights groups in Canada. Here are five:
FATHERS 4 JUSTICE QUEBEC:Â F4J Quebec is one of the only groups left under the F4J banner in Canada.Â F4J is a loose affiliation of father’s rights activist groups in North America and Europe and the name has sometimes been used as a catch-all for all activist father’s rights organizations.Â F4J Quebec says in its mission statement: To “defend and promote the traditional family remains at the heart of our commitment. Humanity still relies heavily on this axis of the family “father, mother, children” certainly the most universal tradition of the planet.”Â F4J is best known in Quebec for its “superhero” protest atop the Jacques Cartier Bridge in 2005. Members of the group were found guilty of public mischief.
CANLAW:Â A long-running website run by Kirby Inwood in London, Ont., CanLaw purports to provide legal resources and lawyer referrals on a number of topics, but is associated with the men’s movement. Both the Law Society of Upper Canada and of British Columbia posted warnings in 2008 about the site after receiving complaints from women who sought legal referrals from CanLaw. One woman seeking a referral in a custody hearing received this reply from CanLaw, according to the Law Society of B.C.: “You are a deadbeat. You are also a lunatic. I hope you and your family die. Now go to hell.” Another reply read: “Women like you are monsters who take and take and take.”
NODADS:Â The NODADS (or Not All Dads Are Deadbeats) website claims the group is currently setting up chapters across Canada. Their goals include: “Advocating for and supporting those individuals harmed/mistreated by our Family Court System” and “True gender equality.” Children’s Aid cases and child support issues feature prominently in their material.
CANADA COURT WATCH:Â CCW – which also goes by Family Justice Review Committee and the National Association for Public and Private Accountability – is an Ontario-based group that purports to put an end to the “needless injustices being perpetrated against many innocent children and families by institutions such as our family court system and branches of the Children’s Aid Society.”Â CCW’s main organizer is Vernon Beck, a long-time father’s rights activist who describes himself as an investigative journalist and children’s advocate, and has intervened in various family court proceedings and Children’s Aid cases. A judge in a custody case in 2006 ordered the personal details of the parties not be published because of the attentions of the group, pointing out comments on the CCW site called for the judge to be “tarred and feathered.” The organization has championed the causes of some women, mostly involved in situations with Children’s Aid.
FATHERS ARE CAPABLE TOO:Â F.A.C.T. was founded by Vernon Beck and regularly meets in the Toronto area.Â F.A.C.T. claims to be the largest “non-custodial parents’ and children’s rights organizations in Canada dealing with custody and access” and states its mission is to “provide education and support programs in parenting for children, their families and the total community.” Many of the posts are concerned with father’s rights and the role of fathers specifically.
Bilbo Poynter is the co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting. His reports have been aired on CBC National Radio News, CBC.ca, As It Happens, and have appeared in The Gazette, the Global Post, and the Guardian.
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