“We know this isn’t going to save our relationships with our kids,” said Dennis Van Decker, one of the many cross-country crusaders spreading the message for Fathers for Justice (F4J). “We’re doing this for the greater good.”
Van Decker was out on The Square last week, distributing flyers, bracelets and providing information about the group, as well as looking for new members for the parental rights organization.
However, the rights advocate may have been better recognized as the caped crusader himself, Batman. Van Decker is one of Fathers for Justice’s every day superheros.
“The reason we dress like this is because parents are like super heroes to their kids,” he said.
Fathers for Justice has a number of these every day heroes like Van Decker, who are currently driving coast to coast, fighting for truth, justice and equality, according to their promotional material. Each of them are mustering up support for Bill M-483.
The Private Member’s bill, introduced in Parliament by Saskatoon-Wanuskewin MP Maurice Vellacott, would see changes made to the Federal Divorce Act that would grant equal rights for both parents in the case of divorce. It also seeks to quell the adversarial nature of divorce court proceedings, and the destructive effects they have on the whole family, not only the parent who is denied custody. Showing her support was Van Decker’s second wife, Anne-Marie Finn, dressed as Batgirl.
“It’s mainly men,” he said about who bears the burden. “But it affects my wife and my mother... She doesn’t get to see her granddaughter.”
The changes to the Divorce Act, said Van Decker, are what Fathers for Justice have been after for a long time.
However, it wasn’t his personal story he wanted to share. Rather, he said getting into personal cases diffuses from the group’s message for equality, painting a picture of just “another angry father.”
“It’s not just fathers,” he reiterated, motioning to the courthouse. “Even in a community the size of Goderich, there could be hundreds of (custody) cases going on and thousands of people affected.”
Armed with a utility belt full of statistics, he said that while the average divorce costs $25,000, the only people who really gain from this are family lawyers.
“Take the money spent on lawyers and put it into mediators,” he said. “The hostility driven into people by family law makes people fight.”
There is a systemic bias, he said, where 85 per cent of Canadian custodial cases end with the child going with their mother, while 10 per cent are joint custody but the child lives with the mother.
Only five per cent of custody cases end with the father receiving custody of the child.
In an effort to make the system equal, Fathers for Justice has been trying to gather as much national media attention as possible, staging demonstrations across Canada.
In early August, Van Decker (dressed as Mr. Incredible) was taken into police custody after Fathers for Justice staged a sit-in on the roof of Jack Layton’s Toronto riding office.
Two weeks ago, an F4J member dressed as Spiderman climbed a crane in Toronto and in Saskatchewan, Batman and Robin were seen climbing the Legislature building - all in an effort to raise awareness and support for Bill M-483.
“Once the bill is passed, then our job will be done,” he said.
Politicians on both the Liberal and Conservative parties have already shown support for the bill, but with an election potentially coming, Van Decker said the group is set to adapt to the changes.
As it stands, F4J’s plan is to go from British Columbia to Newfoundland and congregate in Ottawa on October 7 - the earliest date Vellacott would read the bill before Parliament.