TORONTO, January 2, 2007 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) has expressed concerns about the decision released today by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the “Three Parent Case,” in which two lesbian mothers and the biological father are accorded equal rights and obligations as parents of a five-year old boy.
The Court of Appeal’s decision, written by Mr. Justice Marc Rosenberg, on behalf of Justices Roy McMurtry and Jean-Marc Labrosse, recognized as a fact that the child in question was being raised consensually by the three individuals involved. The court was asked to give status as a legal “parent” to the lesbian partner of the biological mother, in addition to the biological father of the child.
The judgment agreed with the lower court ruling that the Ontario Children’s Law Reform Act cannot be read to recognize more than two persons as parents by birth or adoption. It also refused to accept appeal arguments of Charter of Rights violations, since these were not brought forward in the lower court case. However, the Court of Appeal overturned the lower court finding and recognized the third parent through the court’s “parens patriae” jurisdiction, which traditionally allowed courts to act when the child’s safety was at risk, or when, existing legislation did not address the situation before the court.
The League participated in this case (AA vs. BB and CC) as an intervenor as part of the Alliance for Marriage and Family.
“It is clear that courts will be asked to fill in many areas that are not directly addressed in traditional understandings of family, as a result of changes to the definition of marriage, and parent, in Canadian law. Canadian courts have recognized lesbian parents on birth certificates to the exclusion of any father in the past year. The Court of Appeal has now expanded the number of recognized parents to three in this case. Future cases can be expected to ask to expand that number,” said League President Phil Horgan. “In this case, the obvious question is that if a child can have three parents, who is to say three is the limit ?”
In the absence of better legislative guidelines, questions will have to be raised and rulings asserted over parentage of children born in circumstances of divorce and remarriage, children born in the midst of a succession of common law partners, and births arising from assisted reproduction, where it is possible for genetic parents and birth parents to be different people.
Has society assessed whether children are better served by multiple parenting arrangements? Are courts prepared for new proceedings of mediating disputes as between multiple parent options, when those arrangements break down? How will the best interests of children be assessed in light of the multiple combinations which may be available in the future?
The court has given its approval to the multiple parenting option of this case. It is an open question as to whether such future multiple parenting options will receive similar scrutiny, other than in the circumstances of the break-up of the parental relationships involved.
The Court of Appeal has effectively invited further such applications for adjudication, rather than a broad-based legislative study. Of course, when such a study was undertaken in France, a rather different result was obtained. (The government commission involved recommended against same sex marriage and adoption last year citing these very difficulties.)
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; email@example.com