Ontario Court of Appeal: play time is over

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The Article

It’s a good thing that I’m not a lawyer. If I was, I might very well be sitting in a jail cell right now.

The reason is simple. If I was a lawyer, I might have found myself representing one of the intervening parties in the case that led to the recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that a child can have three parents – one father and two mothers. Had I been there I would certainly have been charged with Contempt of Court, and for good reason, because when it comes to this Court and this Ruling, I would have been unable to express anything other than contempt. One reaps what one sews after all.

Much has been made about whether the Judgment was good or bad. I submit that the answer to this question depends upon whether one thinks it’s good or bad to be stupid. Admittedly, this is not a very sophisticated analysis, but then there are occasions when the truth can be obscured by too much hairsplitting. We all know the cliché – ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’. This was one such occasion.

There are those who were morally outraged by the decision. I’m not one of them. Don’t get me wrong – I’m as offended as anyone else. It’s just that in this case, as in so many others, traditional morality and common sense go hand in hand. It’s not my sense of morality that’s offended then, but my intelligence.

There once was a time when almost everyone in western society believed that the earth was flat. Not only was this the accepted orthodoxy, in some communities, asserting that the world was anything but flat was actually against the law, an offense punishable by fine, imprisonment, torture, and in some places, even death. Be that as it may, no law or act of coercion could alter the objective and incontrovertible truth is that the earth is round

So it is with parentage.

Activist judges can rewrite existing laws regarding who is or is not a parent and politicians can pass new laws for the same purpose, but in the end, none of this matters. The objective and incontrovertible truth is that every single child that is born to this world has one mother and one father – period. This is not a moral argument, it’s a scientific fact.

This case was supposedly about who would have the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child in the event that his biological mother, with whom he lives, dies. Although his father is still ‘involved’ in his life, the young boy is being raised by his mother and her lesbian partner. It was this partner who petitioned the Court to be recognized as one of the child’s parents, arguing that unless she was ‘awarded’ that status, she would be unable to make such decisions in the worse case scenario.

Hogwash.

If the worse case scenario were to occur, and if there was a dispute between the child’s father and the mother’s partner – both scenarios very unlikely – all she would have to do is petition the Court to appoint her the child’s legal guardian – something Courts do every day in this country in the best interest of children, and something she was obviously prepared to do anyhow. It’s hard to imagine that any Court would deny such a petition inasmuch as she would have been acting in loco parentis all the time the mother would have been alive, with the explicit approval of the father.

Clearly then, the aim of this case was not to protect the ‘rights’ of the petitioner, nor was it to protect the best interests of the child, neither of which were threatened in any way. The real goal was to endow a same-sex partner with the symbolic status of ‘parent’ – meaningless in a practical sense, but of enormous significance culturally.

One can hardly be surprised that the Court of Appeal in Ontario took advantage of so great an opportunity to indulge its proclivity to engage in social engineering. This is, after all, the same McMurtry-led Court that gave Canadians same-sex marriage in 2003. The final, and little known indignity of that fiasco came when Chief Justice McMurtry himself, in an act of brazen judicial indiscretion, attended a party hosted by the litigants his Court had just ruled in favour of celebrating the decision – but I digress.

What really gets under my skin about this case, however, is not the activism of the Court, nor the subterfuge employed to justify it. No, what really annoys me is the pitifully ingnorant talk of parental ‘rights’.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing and reading about parental rights. When it comes to children, parents don’t have rights, they have responsibilities.

Parents have a fundamental obligation to care for and nurture the human being that they, and only they, bring into this world, and to raise that child to be a responsible and productive member of the larger human community. To the extent that parents do have rights, they are limited to the right not to have the state interfere in the fulfillment of those obligations except under extraordinary circumstances.

The only truly fundamental right at stake in the parent/child relationship – and it is a basic human right – is that of the child to be cared for and raised by his or her parents – those two adults who brought him or her into the world. This right, until recent times assumed, is never acknowledged, let alone defended in our society.

None of this is to say that I think that adoption, or other alternative child-rearing arrangements are wrong. Quite the contrary – the very fact that our society respects and honours such practices is eloquent testimony to the deep roots of compassion and responsibility our traditional culture teaches.

What I object to, is young children, the most vulnerable members of our society, being treated as mere chattel – property to be bought, sold or traded to fill the emotional needs of narcissistic adults, and then cruelly discarded when those emotional needs change, or the child becomes too much of a burden to their ‘parents’ single-minded pursuit of ‘self-actualization’ or whatever pseudonym psychologists use today to preserve the self-esteem of selfish adults.

What might I have told the Judges in reaction to this decision if I had had the chance then?

“I’m glad you had fun playing dress-up, but it’s time to put the pretty robes away now children – play time is over.”

As I say – it’s a good thing that I’m not a lawyer.

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