Saturday, March 31, 2018

Blog Closed

Effective immediately (March 31, 2018) I will no longer be monitoring this blog although it shall remain "up" online as a resource.

Thank-you and Good Luck

Monday, April 4, 2016

PAAD 2016

I understand that a new Gender-Equality group in Edmonton called CAFE (Canadian Association For Equality) is planning an event for Parental Alienation Awareness Day (PAAD) on Sunday April 24 (which officially is Mon April 25)

Contact: Arnold Ferri

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Old TED Talk (from 2006) about Parental Alienation still true

Dr. Harman is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Colorado State University and is the Program Coordinator for the Applied Social & Health Psychology Program. 

She is an accomplished and awarded teacher, and has published many peer-reviewed articles and textbooks on intimate relationships, such as The Science of Relationships: Answers to your Questions about Dating, Marriage and Family. 

Parental alienation is a devastating problem affecting millions of families around the world. Unfortunately, much like how we addressed domestic violence several decades ago, we treat parental alienation as a domestic issue rather than as a problem that affects communities, school systems, police and court systems, mental health and financial institutions, and legislative bodies. I will discuss how our social and cultural systems sanction and even promote parental alienation at the expense of our children, and what can be done about it. 

This TED Talk was recorded in 2006.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

How Alberta Family Courts Function

Provincial or Queens Bench Courts

I came across this online article from 2010 that - for the starry-eyed and inexperienced - gives a pretty good overview of what to expect in Family Court (should you find yourself there - self-represented or not).  I have excerpted the final paragraph below.


There is a lot of talk among bloggers about how Human Rights Tribunals are "kangaroo courts", and that what goes on there would never be allowed to happen in "real courts." I have news for them. So-called "real courts" are in fact kangaroo courts; human rights tribunals are just gong shows. And the worst of the "real courts" are family courts.
However that does not mean you are screwed to self-represent in Court just be very careful what you wish for - and whatever you do - do not expect any quarter to be given you if you hope to be lead through the process by a kindly judge.  You will just end up being road-kill.

Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS)

Another case does show that Courts are available to properly prepared litigants to correct other, lower "tribunals" as in this recent situation I reviewed in the Alberta Law Blog in a terrible mix-up at the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS).  Here a tenant found himself not called into a Hearing by mistake of the RTDRS - yet was not afforded any way to remedy the error.  It took a legal challenge to gain some degree of common-sense over a trival mistake that could have been dealt with fairly quickly if the RTDRS had exhibited some degree of initiative or introspection on the matter - but clearly felt no need.

The real concern was why they were so cavalier in their treatment of a tenant.

Remedy for Contempt of Court

This is a difficult topic for Judges and they generally do not like to exercise it - which is a pity as many SRL's expect that when faced with a recalcitrant ex-spouse they can go to Court and get some help in enforcing compliance with a Court Order that has been egregiously and repeatedly breached.

Mostly we find no such luck in Family Court.

However, if you are interested in learning more about the nature and extent of Contempt of Court remedies - here is an extensive discussion about them.

In this 2001 Study of Mandatory DV Arrest Policies by the Canada Department of Justice an exchange between a Judge and Witness over providing testimony was instructive of how weak the Judiciary actually can be - even when faced with a pressing need.

THE COURT: Answer the question, please, Ms. Moore.
Witness: I refuse to talk about it, I said.
THE COURT: Well, I’m directing you to answer the question , Ms. Moore. You’ve taken the stand, you’ve been sworn.
Witness: Well, I already told him before I came in here I wasn’t going to testify.
Crown: Your Honour, Perhaps your Honour could direct the – or advise the witness as to her susceptibility to contempt charges if she refuses to answer a question that is a proper question.
THE COURT: Ms. Moore, you’ve taken the stand, you’ve allowed yourself to be sworn; you’ve sworn to tell the truth.
THE COURT: Well, Ms. Moore, I’m really not anxious nor am I particularly desirous of citing you for contempt; but something has – at least the Crown is alleging that something has occurred, something that’s serious and something that the court should be looking at. The matter is before the court. And if people aren’t going to testify, it destroys the whole system of justice that we have. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

National Self-Represented Litigants Resource Blog

University of Windsor Law Professor Julie Macfarlane began a project a couple of years ago to research the steadily increasing phenomenom of individuals self-repesenting themselves in Court - Family Court in particular.   The first step was to conduct a survey of users - Judges, Lawyers and - of course - Individual Litigants (aka SRL's or Self-Representation Litigants) in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia (whose Provincial Judicary funded her).   That result was presented to various participants at numerous Legal Conferences in 2014 (and since) - drawing a generally positive response from all parties.   Individual SRLs accross the country were pleased that SOMEONE other than more Lawyers were being asked their opinions on the challenges facing the Courts.

The result was an on-going committment to the project - including interactions with Provincial Judiciary, Lawyers and Self-Represnted litigants on major topics and issues - including a regular blog!

In that regard I would like to recommend 2 recent posts.

Beyond the Justice Camp Debacle - which discusses the very public scourging of a Federal Judge - Justice Robin Camp of the Alberta Queens Bench over his comportment in a Rape Trial presented in a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) by a cadre of Law Professors from the University of Calgary (AB) and Dalhousie (NS).    Apart from any comment on the complaint, it was encouraging that RepresentingYourselfCanada (SYC) pointed-out that there are BIGGER questions being raised by this complaint - specifically, is the current process for criticising Judges improving the publics confidence in our judicial system?

From the perspective of a SRL I would surmise NO - and indeed SYC notes that out of almost 500 complaints recieved from 2011-2014:
  • Just 2 of 176 complaints investigated from 2011 – 2014 were upheld (about 1%)[2]
  • The current complaints system at the Canadian Judicial Council is without credibility. The CJC acts as a club to protect judges from complaints, not as an investigative body.
  • Public confidence in the judiciary is chronically damaged as a result.
Dr. Macfarlane makes 3 recommendations:
  1. The CJC needs public representatives who participate in the oversight of judicial conduct.
  2. The CJC needs a transparent and user-friendly process that takes every complaint seriously.
  3. The CJC needs to commit to real accountability, which aims to enhance trust between the public and the judiciary, not to damage it yet further.

Another very topical issue addressed in the blog is about a trend that has apparently become recognized by SRL's in Ontario - potential abuse of Summary Judgement Procedure (SJP) by Lawyers facing SRL's. Here was how the situation presented itself.
In April 2015, our attention was brought to a decision by Chief Justice Richards in Hope v Pylypow (2015 SKCA 26)[1], which I blogged about[2]. Chief Justice Richards was highly critical of an earlier Chambers decision to strike the pleadings of a SRL couple finding “no cause of action” – and further critical of the conflation the Chambers judge seemed to make between a finding of “no cause” and “vexatiousness”.
We began to wonder – was an application for summary judgment emerging as an intentional strategy used by represented parties against SRLs, labeling them as vexatious and appealing to the concerns of judicial officers about SRLs “jamming up” the courts?
And if this was becoming a strategy, how successful was it?
Dr. Macfarlane's conclusion is troubling. 
The results suggest that SJPs are increasingly being used successfully against SRLs. And given the results we see even when we remove cases formally or informally referencing “vexatiousness” or “process abuse”, this suggests that many cases are being struck because of technical errors that are unintentional and could be addressed if SRLs had more assistance.
We note that Alberta's Associate Chief Justice - Justice John D. Rooke - has made a name for himself in legal circles over the past few years regarding "vexatious litigants" during his well followed "Meads vs Meads" 2012 decision.  The decision is among the most widely requested/searched on the CANLII Online Legal database.

Hence assuming that Judges and Lawyers in Alberta would be more mindful of what constitues a truely vexatious claim - it would seem unlikely that this ploy would be sucessfully deployed in an Alberta Court.    However exloiting a SRL by invoking a SJP may be more common and effective without "leaving a mark" on the unsuspecting victim.

Please subscribe to Prof. Macfarlanes blog.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ryan Thomas Speaks - a PA Story

I came across this personal account of a man who was Alienated as a boy - and has/is (somewhat) recovered.  Go to his channel if you want to see more of these very inspiring videos.

[I met a 52yo man this summer who told me almost the same story.  He reconnected with his Dad before he past away from Cancer.  He now keeps a safe emotional distance away from his mom/sisters as he felt that they never recovered from the experience and were happy to perpetuate for their own gain.  He realized his loss.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ontario FRO is subject to Ombudsman Office Review - unlike Alberta

Upon searching for an article about an Ontario Dad who was challenging the practice of FRO (Family Responsibility Office - equivalent of Alberta's MEP) to intercept Child Support payments when a creditor has been on welfare - until the "Crown Arrears" are extinguished - I found alot of material about various oversight of FRO actions.

This is interesting as - similar to other problem areas within Government like Child & Family Services - the tradition of having a Minister act as overseer seems to have failed in Alberta during the 42yr run of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.  The Ombudsman takes on that role - where politicians have failed.

1) Ontario Ombudsman can investigate complaints about FRO

In this July 28, 2015 CBC article Andre Marin puts FRO on notice for it's poor performance over 2015/14 - no doubt exacerbated by the damaging CBC slam-job against "Deadbeat Parents" (corrected from "Deadbeat Dads" only after vociferous complaint.) in Oct 2014.  It is notable that the Ontario Ombudsman Office actually tallys complaint and their status - and follows-up to see decide if they can move the issue on.

In Alberta neither of these options exist. If there is a problem you have to prove it can be escalated - normally to the very person who created the problem in the first place.  This may be improved a bit by the new "Case Management" system recently put in place at MEP - but that remains to be seen.

Here are some of the most recent complaints against FRO and how they were resolved by the Ombudsman's Office (various dates selected from July 28, 2015 - June 23, 2014).

It is also interesting to see that FRO is #2 on the Top 10 Departments complained about to the Ombudsman'sa Office.

Furthermore, here are the Top 5 Reasons for Complaints.

2) April 2010 Report by Ontario Auditor General on FRO.
  • 80% of Telephone calls don't get answered
  • Payers and recipients do not have direct access to their assigned enforcement services officer
  • There is only limited access to enforcement staff because many calls to the Office do not get through or are terminated before they can be answered.
  • The Office is reviewing and working on only about 20% to 25% of its total cases in any given year.
"At the end of our audit in April 2010, there were approximately 91,000 bring-forward notes outstanding (FRO has 190,000 Cases), each of which is supposed to trigger specific action on a case within one month. The status of almost one-third of the outstanding bring-forward notes was “open,” indicating either that the notes had been read but not acted upon, or that they had not been read at all, meaning that the underlying nature and urgency of the issues that led to these notes in the first place was not known. In addition, many of the notes were between one and two years old."

"For ongoing cases, the Office took almost four months from the time the case went into arrears before taking its first enforcement action. For newly registered cases that went straight into arrears, the delay was seven months from the time the court order was issued."

3) MEP is a small department within Alberta Justice

All Alberta Ministry's release their "Annual Reports" on June 30 - the last step after finalizing the year-end on March 31 and after Budget Plans have been prepared, approved and released (usefully by April).   Here are all the Financials Reports for Alberta Justice.

MEP is a large part of Justice Services Group which only comprises $38 million Expense allocation of the $1.25 billion budget allocation for Alberta Justice.  Off-setting MEP Direct Expenses of $22 million are approximately $6 million per year in fees generated from Arrears and Late payments. The MEP Trust Account was about $11 million on March 31 and acts as a "holding tank" for payments "in transit" as received from Debtors/Payors and before forwarded on to Creditors/Recipients. It should probably bear a rough relationship to the Gross Value of payments that flow through MEP each year - likely only a week or so.

Also a brief comment on MEP Operational Developments and Future Plans.  The legislative changes to including Recalc Program (RC) clauses - plus setting a base rate of Alberta Minimum Wage for a 44hr Work Week became effective March 2, 2015.

Detailed descriptions of initiatives are on p28 but in general major objectives are:
Ongoing initiatives to increase regularity of payment include the following:
 • Continuation of initiatives to streamline processes, allowing staff to focus more attention on bringing files into compliance.
• Improving internal communications to increase consistency in handling files and applying enforcement actions across the Program.
 Re-allocating internal resources to reduce call wait times and provide clients prompt, proactive service. 
• Continuing to work closely with our reciprocating partners across Canada and elsewhere, to identify best practices, harmonize policies where appropriate, and streamline processes when clients move from one jurisdiction to another
Among each department are "Performance Benchmarks" that give some measurable, tangible target. For MEP it is the Compliance Rate of Debtors meeting their required monthly payments - in this case 72% a slight drop from last year due to the Oil Price impact on Rig Workers - and below the target of 73% (p11).

Alberta's MEP has recently finished a top-to-bottom Business Process Re-engineering program to weed-out unproductive/un-clear processes and integrate with updated software procedures - so how that will work is anyone's guess.  But it is noteworthy that outside "clients" were not included in anyway - typical of the know-it-all bureaucrats at Alberta Justice.  But this has always been the case.

As a small budget entry that mostly employs low-status, non-lawyers in a percieved "data-entry/call-center" environment - MEP gets little official attention within Alberta Justice.  Yet in Ontario its equivalent - FRO - is the second largest generator of complaints and I bet that is the same thing here in Alberta.

4) A discussion of the usefulness of setting targets for Compliance is conducted here - in this article from the London School of Economics - that points out how a very large component of Arrears are  "non-collectable" bringing into question exactly what the true purpose of a collection enterprise like MEP is.  In truth Arrears are not the focus for MEP - it is to maintain Compliance with current Court-ordered Support Obligations.

5) Finally, here is a Canadian Lawyers views on why Arrears are a figment of most peoples imagination.

PDF1 - CBC Article about Andre Marin

PDF2 - Ontario Ombudsman Investigations - Sept 2015

PDF3 - Ontario Auditor General April 2010 Report of FRO

Monday, August 31, 2015

AB Case Law - PA acknowledged and action supported

I apologize for the delay but I just discovered this comment on the UofAlberta Law Blog about an Alberta Parental Alienation case - Letourneau vs Letourneau 2014 ABCA 156 - from May 2014. 

In this case Justice Sanderman was the Case Management Judge (Letourneau v Letourneau, 2014 ABQB 5) and he ordered that a 14yr old daughter who had been alienated from her Dad be allowed normal weekend access (Sat + overnight + Sun) as well as 10 days for summer holiday according to the Dad's Holiday schedule UN-INTERRUPTED by the Mom so they can attempt to recover their relationship - which was absent.

Mom appealed the Court Order and it was denied!

Among the important points were I believe:
  • Justice Sanderman took over Case Management in March 2010 and signed the Divorce Judgement and Corollary Relief Order in April 2012.
  • Since the beginning the only problematic area has been the lack of a relationship between the Dad and his 2 daughters (unfortunately at the start the eldest who was 15 has now aged out of the courts jurisdiction).
  • When Case Management was established a Practice Note 7 Intervention Team was put in place.
  • Mom was not in favour of this and convinced Dad to abandon this in favour of them working something out.  They could not come to an agreement and decided to try mediation which failed and then arbitration which failed. 
  • In retrospect it seems to have been folly to believe that allowing Mom any control over anything would just frustrate the whole exercise.
  • In a report by the Practice Note 7 Intervention Team they said "this was the worst case of parental alienation that any of the team members had witnessed."
  • The mother by design or not has turned the girls against their Dad.
  • They all act fearful of him despite spending virtually no time with him.
  • Dad was a Principal with Edmonton Catholic Schools when he retired in June 30, 2013 at age 56.  He has never had any incident while a teacher or principal to merit concern over his suitability as a parent.
  • Standard of Review: The Appeal judges note that a Court Order is highly factual and considerable deference is paid to them - especially where a Case Management Judge has been highly involved with a case for over 3 years. 
  • The standard for Appeal of such an order allows for appellate intervention only where the judge below erred in law or made a material error in his or her appreciation of the facts: Van de Perre v Edwards, 2001 SCC 60 (CanLII) at para 13, [2001] 2 SCR 1014 [Van de Perre]. 
  • Mom argued that "the Best Interests of the Child" had not been considered - especially the "wishes" of the child and her fear of her Dad - but the Appellate Judges disagreed. It seemed clear that the "child's wishes" were more accurately a vicarious expression of the controlling parent’s wishes which should not be taken into account in crafting an access order in the child’s best interests. Refer to Tonowski v Tonowski, 2002 ABQB 1018 (CanLII) at para 18 for further direction. 
  • Mom also argued that it seemed to be the Judges opinion that Parental Alienation existed but Dad disagreed and a member of the intervention team (Barbara Sheptycki) orally reported at a case management meeting in December 2012 that the parental alienation had worsened. Hence the Appellate Judges agreed that all evidence supported Justice Sanderman's conclusion that no progress had been made on his finding of Parental Alienation and as such see no basis for an intervention.
  • Two other objections raised by Mom were: 1) That the child should have had her own representation so her voice could have been heard and 2) Mom was surprised when the Judge ordered overnight access. Both were denied as there was ample evidence referred to in transcripts that both issues were "live" and under discussion at various points in past 2 years transcripts of Case Management and Intervention Team conferences. 
  • Appeal was dismissed with Costs to the Dad to be offset against his Monthly Support obligations.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Without knowing it - an Alienation story

I saw this short article in Psych Today at the library recently (not available online) and thought it a touching account of PA "from the past" (1960's?) well before the term was coined.  It is also notable that it is included in a collection of articles called "Blended" about the challenges and issues involved with Blended families - something anyone who has been divorced/re-coupled/step-parenting can relate to.
"Keep your father a secret" was the code I lived by fearing that the truth would make me an outcast. 
I wanted to be the fatherless daughter my mother desired.   But what if your beloved mother hates the man you came from? 
After my mother died I received a chilly email from my sister informing me that our mother had decided not to divide her estate equally, but instead leave the bulk of it to my sister and brother. 
"You have a father" was the explanation. 
                  Excerpts from "The Proof" by Gigi Rosenberg 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Issues in PA for Family Court Professionals - June 2014

I enclose this presentation made in June 2014 by the New York Chapter of the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts (AFCC) in New York.

It included these worthwhile segments:
  • The Spectrum of Parental Alienation and Estrangement: Challenges for Mental Health Professionals, Attorneys and Courts by Bernice H. Schaul Ph.D
  • Parental Alienation: Why Courts should Intervene by Amy J.L.Baker
  • Ethical Issues Confronting the Attorney for the Child by Harriet Weinberger
  • Strategy's in Representing each Party in Parental Alienation or Estrangement Cases by Susan Bender
  • Relief Available from the Court and a Review of Significant Court Decisions by Hon. Jacqueline Silbermann (Retired)
  • The Child's Attorney and the Alienated Child - Approaches to resolving the Ethical Dilemma of Diminished Capacity by Jamie Rosen
  • DSM-5 - What you need to know about whats New and Old by Lawrence Jay Braunstein
Most of these topics are directed at Court Professionals - Lawyers, Court Experts and Judges - and provides insights and advice on the current state of knowledge about Parental Alienation and Estrangement, how Officers of the Court can address Ethical challenges of representing their cases and why Action is necessary. 

LINK (217 page PDF)