Our Legal Resource Centre First Month Report

The Canadian Association for Equality and the Centre for Men has been involved in the creation of a men’s legal resource centre. The legal resource centre takes place Monday evenings between 6:30 to 8:30 is hosted by a lawyer and is a free service. Currently, this is a work in progress with the aim for expansion.

The need for the clinic stemmed from our initial mandate to address gender inequality. In our first month we have had a tremendous response with many participants in attendance some coming in from as far as Niagara Falls, St. Catherine’s and Milton.

A significant number of the participants are fathers who find themselves overwhelmed in the family courts fighting an endless battle for access to their children, custody, parental alienation and child support issues. In addition, many of the fathers relayed stories of being falsely accused of domestic violence and at times being criminally charged.

Many of the father’s spoke about their dire financial circumstances that are caused by the increased legal costs, child support payments and aggressive wage garnishment tactics of Ontario’s Family Responsibility Office rendering them unable to meet their day to day expenses. Some suggesting it would be easier for them to quit their job and receive social assistance. In many circumstances these issues have led to problems in the workplace, mental health issues and even substance abuse.

Over and over we hear from participants as they discuss the lack of resources and support network available to them. The group dynamic of the legal resource centre allows participating fathers and men to exchange stories. This provides comfort to others but more importantly the reassurance that they are not alone.

It is obvious from the first month of operation that the Canadian Association for Equality’s legal resource centre is a long awaited and necessary service. It is also apparent from the discussions with the participants that a clear pattern exists in that the family and criminal justice systems discriminate against fathers solely on the basis of their gender.