In the name of the father
In 2001, Jeremy Swanson left on a trip as a typical hockey dad. He returned home a broken man.
BY JEFFREY MORRIS
Friday, February 24, 2006
The wind-chill is minus-27 and Jeremy Swanson zips up his thin jacket. It won’t keep
him warm enough to handle February in Ottawa, but it will be warm enough for
him to walk from where he is in the Byward Market to the Ottawa Y, where he now
“I know this jacket is nothing special, but it’s special to me,” says Swanson.
“I bought it at the Ottawa airport when I got back to Canada. It was the last
major piece of clothing I bought. I had just enough room on my credit card to
buy it, and it got me through my first night back here.”
On that first night back in Canada, and on many following his return, Swanson
stayed up all night weeping. His life was ruined, and it would only get worse.
Before that day in 2001, Jeremy Swanson had the type of life many would
envy. He was a highly successful employee at the Canadian War Museum,
where 10 years ago he was employee of the year. He dedicated his life to helping
preserve Canadian history, and in 1995 he received word that he had been nominated
to receive the Order of Canada. He had a nice home near Hunt Club Road.
He had three children he was close to and a relatively normal family life.
Or so he thought. Swanson left on a trip to South Africa, where he was
born, and things seemed normal. He said the trip was at the behest of his wife and
that he should visit his mother. He was longing for his family and the trip was
suggested, as he said, to get it out of his system. But then he got the email.
It was the kind of blindsiding e-mail that many men get, but nobody ever thinks it would happen
to them. He was informed that his wife was leaving him, and after returning to Ottawa he would
eventually be served divorce papers. Since that moment, Jeremy Swanson’s life has been hell.
Swanson was not just a husband and father going through a divorce.
This was a man who fell victim to the wrath of a Canadian judicial system that can destroy the
life of a father and leave him with nothing but a shredded soul.
Now, Swanson works tirelessly as an advocate for fathers’ rights. He will be talking about his
struggle as a father on 580 CFRA radio Friday night as a guest on the Nick at Night program
with host Nick Vandergragt.
“How would you feel if you woke up one day and you lost your family, your
home, your career and your life and you were left with nothing?” he said. “If you
are a dad, this could happen to you. I lost everything, and I haven’t seen my kids in
While many, if not most, fathers face tough divorce situations in a court system
that seems stacked against them, few could ever imagine what Swanson has been
Some belongings of Swanson’s were tossed into his car. He was told that should he attempt
to enter the house or create a disturbance on the property, his wife had been advised to notify the police.
His ultimate downfall was his hobby. A military history buff, Swanson had a military
firearm collection. He kept his collection in a government- regulation safe in
the basement, doublelocked. “My wife used this collection and the impending
gun registry to portray me as a dangerous man,” Swanson said. “She had the keys to
the safe. She called the police, and I was at the mercy of Bevan’s Bozos.”
Swanson said that his wife had opened the safe and spread the antique guns
on the floor and placed a large camping knife under the bed.
“My firearms - the only four I ever owned - were in the safe which Mrs.
Swanson opened illegally. All were properly locked and stored according to regulations.
Yet if one had to believe the police it was a ‘mini-arsenal of 17 guns’.
Were BB’s and plastic replicas added in for effect?
Even a replica 18th century musket with a galvanized barrel was described as an
assualt rifle. The references were used over and over again in the divorce court
scenarios to paint me negatively.”
Remarkably, Swanson did not even know about the police raid on his home until
six months after it happened.
It came up by chance in a conversation with his son, whom he is no longer
allowed to see.
“All she had to do was tell the police that she was ‘afraid’, and I went from
being a hockey dad to a potential murderer,” Swanson said.
“The police confiscated everything. They even thought a bag of empty shell
casings was a bag of live ammunition, and they called in the bomb squad because
of a fake hand grenade on my desk with a sign on it that said ‘for service pull this ring’.
I hadn’t even been home for four months and she was the only one with keys to the safe,
but somehow I was dangerous.”
Swanson said that his wife’s lawyer referred to him as having 17 guns. He actually owned
four guns, legally, but said that among those weapons counted against him were his son’s
BB gun and several other ineffective ones, which the police confiscated, and a plastic and
aluminum toy Luger which he said police identified as a real gun.
Another “weapon” that was confiscated by police was his folding camping shovel from
Canadian Tire. Swanson said his wife played the system like a finely-tuned violin.
There had never been any violence or abuse in their relationship.
But she succeeded in playing the fear card and then let the system do the rest.
Swanson said his wife painted a picture of him as a dangerous man to psychologists.
“These psychologists made statements that influenced action by the police and even
suggested I might do a murder-suicide,” said Swanson.
“I was never their patient and had never been examined by them at any stage.
How were they qualified to make such damning and influential statements?”
University of Ottawa Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Anne Galipeau would examine Swanson,
and concluded that “at no time did I personally see any evidence that he was a
danger to himself or others.”
Even though he was never charged, Swanson says police still consider him
a “Category 4” threat because of his firearm collection.
That category, he says, includes bank robbers and those guilty of assault.
He is not allowed to see his children unless he and his children all undergo
psychiatric treatment. He won’t go through with it.
“I want them to have as normal a life as possible, and I don’t want to put them
through that,” he said. “I miss them. I miss them every day. I send them letters and e-mails
and gifts, but I never hear anything back. I just learned in court that my daughter is now at Carleton.”
He feels bitter toward the Ottawa Police, and in particular Chief Bevan.
Though he pleaded with Bevan to hear him out and detailed his story
to the Chief, all he got was an e-mail saying that Bevan would “review his involvement with us”
and later correspondence informing him that his case was now in the hands of the courts.
Bevan is not alone in Swanson’s direct line of frustration.
“I was personal friends with Dalton McGuinty,” said Swanson.
“We sat together in church. I turned to him to help me, but he won’t even answer my e-mails.”
The legal fees in Swanson’s firearms case cost $16,000 and he says he is in debt and out hundreds
of thousands of dollars. His frustration was about to get even worse.
“At one point, I had $1,400 left,” said Swanson. “I needed to defend myself and appeal, and
I spent the entire $1,400 to obtain the transcript of the divorce case and custody trial to study.
Transcripts are expensive –sometimes they can cost up to $3,000.”
Swanson paid for and ordered the transcripts, and he waited. Month after month had gone by, and
“When I phoned them to check on the transcripts of my trial they had no record of
me ever paying for them,” he said. “I had my receipts. The court clerks had pocketed the money.
That was the last of my money, and I can’t get the transcripts for the appeal.
The Ottawa police are now investigating the theft of my money by the court clerks,
but my appeal is now impossible to mount in time as a result.”
Asituation like Jeremy Swanson’s would destroy most men. Swanson is not one to
give up, and he has teamed up with fathers’ rights activist Guy Lavigne of
Fathers for Justice (www.Fathers--4--Justice.ca) to try and protect the rights of fathers.
Lavigne is one of the lucky few men in Eastern Ontario to “win” true equal custody in a divorce case.
“This could happen to you.” A defeated father’s last words
According to Lavigne, too many fathers get a so-called joint custody, but in reality,
the children’s primary residence will be with the mother and the father will get
only a couple of extra days more than the usual every second weekend access to
his children. He says most of the court-ordered jointcustodies are in fact a welldisguised
sole custody for the mothers.
“There are men in Canada going through what Jeremy has gone through every day
in Canada,” said Lavigne.
“The courts are weighted against fathers.” Both he and Swanson say they are sensitive to coming
across as “kooks”, but they are very convincing when they say that something like
this could happen to any father in Canada on any given day.
“The biggest battle we are fighting is suicide,” said Lavigne. “There are about
five fathers per day in Canada killing themselves. Stats Canada loves to talk
about the 10 per cent of men who commit suicide due to gambling problems, but they
never address father’s rights issues, which are driving men to ending their lives.
The silence regarding those 90 per cent of the suicides is deafening.”
Lavigne and Swanson both list off names of fathers who have killed themselves,
and one of the most tragic stories is one involving Andre Renouf of Markham.
After a brutal divorce, his wages were garnisheed to the point where he earned
less than a dollar per week working. It was enough to buy a rope. Renouf hung
“If I work, my earnings would all be garnisheed. I refuse to pay for my own
Swanson said that most people listen to him and wonder what “the other side
of the story” is. Like in all divorce cases, there is another side to this story.
However, it’s one we may never find out. His wife has never spoken publicly or to
the media about the case.
“It would be so much easier if I was dangerous, or if I was a cocaine user or a gambling addict,” said Swanson.
“But I’m not. I was just a regular guy. “This can happen to anyone, and I get about 200 emails
a day and I hear from a lot of men who are going through something like this.”
Lavigne said that Swanson’s case is one of the worst he has ever seen, but
added that the public never hears about the bad cases.
“Not a lot of people like to talk about father’s rights to begin with, but you never
hear about the really bad cases because the men usually kill themselves,” said
Lavigne. “It’s an epidemic in Canada, but it’s one that nobody will acknowledge.”
Swanson sighs and is apprehensive when he says that the situation he went
through reminds him of Nazi Germany. “Nobody likes to hear that comparison,
but that’s what my Canada has turned into,” he said. “Ask people what they
think of Canada, then ask a group of divorced fathers who have lost in the courts.
They will tell you Canada is the closest thing on earth to Nazi Germany.”
There is at least one organization that agrees with him. PAFE, based in
France, is a human rights group that runs an underground railroad to get
fathers who have been victimized by the system out of the country.
“They (PAFE) say we are under the threat of the Nazi Regime of Canada,” said Swanson.
“They offer an opportunity for exile, and they will set you up with a job and a new life.
They do this for us, and men we know are going over there.”
Lavigne said he and others like Swanson face a huge challenge in bringing
awareness to the situation of divorced fathers in Canada.
“Ninety-two per cent of men do not win in appeal courts,” said Lavigne. “I
don’t know why it’s so weighted against men. Maybe judges are afraid of
Lavigne and Swanson will be joined on CFRA Friday night by a close ally,
Kris Titus of Durham, a woman on the Board of Directors for Fathers-4-
Justice Canada. Lavigne said that the number of women involved in fighting
for father’s rights has given tremendous credibility to their cause. It’s not a manversus-
woman thing, he says. Rather, it’s about parenting, it’s about family and most importantly, it’s about children.
Jeremy Swanson, meanwhile, will continue to do what he is doing. He will fight for his life back, and he will fight for fathers around the country.
“When I see a guy with his wife and his kids, he may not realize it, but we are fighting for him,”
Swanson said. “That’s the average guy, and those are the guys getting blindsided
by the system when they are served papers. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to
On October 17th, 1995,
Andre Renouf decided that life was not worth living. He took his last few cents and
purchased enough rope to hang himself. He wrote the following suicide note the
day before he took his own life:
7470 Ninth Line,
Markham, Ont. L6B 1A8
To Whom It May Concern
Last Friday (13-October)
my bank account was garnisheed. I was left with a total of $00.43 in the bank.
At this time I have rent and bills to pay which would come to somewhere
approaching $1500.00 to $1800.00.
Since my last pay was also direct deposited on Friday I now have no way of supporting myself. I have no
money for food or for gas for my car to enable me to work. My employer also tells me that they will only
pay me by direct deposit. I therefore no longer have a job, since the money would not reach me.
I have tried talking to the Family Support people at 1916 Dundas St. E. Their
answer was: ”we have a court order,” repeated several times.
I have tried talking to the welfare people in Markham.
Since I earned over $520.00 last month I am not eligible for assistance. I have had no contact
with my daughter in approx. 4 years. I do not even know if she is alive and well. I
have tried to keep her informed of my current telephone number but she has
never bothered to call.I have no family and no friends, very little food, no
viable job and very poor future prospects. I have therefore decided that there
is no further point in continuing my life. It is my intention to drive to a secluded
area, near my home, feed the car exhaust into the car, take some sleeping pills
and use the remaining gas in the car to end my life. I would have preferred to
die with more dignity. It is my last will and testament that this letter be published
for all to see and read.
OMC Note: Joint Custody orders are made in Ottawa Family Court but are not a frequent occurrence. Generally,
many sole custody orders incorporate many of the principles of joint custody however, the problem in family court is
that there is NOT a presumption of equal parenting which can also be described as an equal residence order where
the children spend around 50% of the their time with each parent.