A Tale of Two Nurses
Chapter 1: The Period
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short it was so far like the present period.
There was a Prime Minister with a large jaw and a Madame Chief Justice with a fair face. It was the year of Our Lord two thousand. In Canada there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting.
Fathers in London’s gaols fought battles with their turnkeys, and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in among them, loaded with rounds of shot and ball. The divorce judge, ever busy and ever worse than useless, was in constant requisition, now stringing up long rows of miscellaneous deadbeat dads, now arbitrarily hanging a homemaker on Saturday who had been detained on Tuesday without a warrant. There were stories heard from people living with mental health problems and illnesses, their families, and the many dedicated people who worked with them across the country that moved all, angered all, and inspired all.
Schools had a statutory duty to report child abuse and claimed to be in the best position to do so but having absolutely no resources to identify child abuse, eventually declared that it was difficult to tell when this duty to report exactly existed. Teachers’ professional associations filled their complaints departments with union leaders to obstruct abuse investigations. Nine out of thirteen provinces and territories routinely took a half decade to complete investigations and serious results were always withheld from parents. Teachers were better protected than children.
Churches reported child abuse first to their insurance companies but never to police. By the time these ancient sanctuaries finally apologized for their harshness and child abuse, they appeared to be dwindling and closing.
Bar associations claimed the broad nature of the Legal Profession Act decreed the purpose of law societies was to “uphold and protect the public interest in the practice of law,” but not only failed to achieve it’s far-reaching obligations of overseeing the qualifications and conduct of it’s members, but also missed a higher goal of improving the administration of justice and keeping up with broader societal trends. In fact, bar associations in most provinces actively argued against almost all new child protection laws, except proposals that finally suggested tiny statutes of limitations on reporting child abuse be made unlimited because it was known children took decades to report their abuse. Judges and lawyers were arrested for everything from assault and rape to sexting photos and tax evasion.
All these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon the dear old year two thousand. In the midst of it all, two young nurses were raising children. Nursing was the most trusted profession in the land. Both had earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from fine Canadian universities back in the eighties.
The Constitution of Canada had just been repatriated and every school, labour union, and law court in the land declared itself a feminist institution. At school, both young nursing students were required by law to study the theory of feminism. It was the opinion of the decision-makers that female professions were the best to indoctrinate including nurses, teachers, and lawyers, especially since the ranks of female lawyers had suddenly swelled to half. This went on until universities decided feminist theory was obsolete. The government created a Legal Equality Action Fund to pay lawyers to run strategic and unending litigation for the benefit of women, until this was declared harmful. Any unfortunate males who wandered into these female professions were still required to study feminist theory although they were told by their professors that men could never be feminists because they could never understand what it was like to be a woman. Some nurses tried to start a new theory, claiming feminism required all patients to be treated equally.
Both nurses worked in big-city hospitals in Canada’s west coast temperate rain forest. One was a cardiac nurse and the government, needing critical care workers, paid for most of a Bachelor of Technology in Nursing, except the practicum, to reduce the nurse’s mobility. The other nurse was a teaching and learning expert in community health. Both nurses were married and raising two babies. Both families struggled with their own health concerns.
Chapter 2: The Fugitive
One ill spouse ran away with their babies. The first child abduction alert system to seek community help would not be created until 2002 in Alberta and would not be enhanced to use modern social media systems until 2016 in Ontario. The British Columbia Ministry of Children and Families threatened to apprehend the children if the nurse did not take their run-away ill spouse to court within ten days. This threat felt like an assault. The Ministry had a statutory duty to apprehend their children itself. The failure to report this duty was a non-disclosure which unduly enriched the Ministry and failed to protect the children.
The court found these facts to be an emergency and ordered the children home to their beds. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police knew where the kidnap den was and left the children in this stressful flight for ten more days. The nurse stopped nursing and paid a female process server one hundred dollars to serve the emergency court order on the absconding parent. Attempting to avoid service, the fugitive parent tucked a baby under each arm, like two footballs, and ran away again in to the dark rainy city. The Provincial Court of British Columbia and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police still did nothing, despite the process servers sworn affidavit of service to the court. The nurse telephoned the kidnap hideout and read a bedtime story to their children every night. The fugitive parent approached the Supreme Court of British Columbia from hiding for an order to cancel the Provincial Court hearing, making the fugitive the Supreme court applicant and demanding child support. Instead of shunting this out-of-control parent back to face the child protection hearing, the Supreme Court claimed some bizarre rule that said any party can cancel a child protection hearing as long as prepared to pay for it, and offered legal aid to pay for it. This nonsense law would be removed from legal books only a decade later, but not soon enough to save these children. The ill parent, struggling with two badly injured hips and knees from a work injury, was initially declared unfit but granted a year to rehabilitate. The nurse was ordered to pay child support from the very beginning, even though parenting the vast majority of the time and single-handedly whenever the ill parent was hospitalized. Warned by the court that the ill parent was trying to seize custody, even though unfit, the nurse struggled to parent and co-parent. The Supreme Court forgot it had a duty to report an unfit parent seeking sole custody.
The nurse-parent at first raised the babies as a single parent but always faced a court that felt it’s first job was to make more business for itself. The run-away parent was encouraged to fight in court for years, although never applying for divorce. Three years later the rehab parent was granted equal parenting time and a divorce decreed, even though neither parent had applied for divorce. At the turn of the century the divorce statute was an application-based law. The conversion of a child protection hearing created by the non-disclosing Minister of Children and Families and the non-disclosing Provincial Court to an arbitrary and unlawful divorce hearing created by no one was the Supreme Court of British Columbia acting beyond the scope of the law for the purpose of undue enrichment, and worse, failing to find the best interest of children.
Like the Provincial Court, the Supreme Court of British Columbia also failed to report to the nurse both that it had a statutory duty to report this child abuse emergency to the director of child protection and to finally hold or continue the public child protection hearing the Provincial Court was arbitrarily and unlawfully ignoring. This first parent-nurse was declared the loser of this unlawful hearing and ordered to pay both lawyers, including paying the legal aid lawyer as if she were a private lawyer. This legal aid lawyer knew the rehab parent was living with a person the court had already declared to be dangerous, but misspoke herself and misled the court to win her client even more parenting time. This legal aid lawyer also forgot the statutory duty to report known child abuse. She was eventually disbarred and her files handed over to the British Columbia Law Society.
This first nurse-parent was told by a high court judge that nurses were the worst parents in Canada because they were always tired and never home. Even though both spouses were shift workers, the Honourable Justice arbitrarily focused on only the nurse-parent. His Honourable Lordship considered nurses schedules to be harsh. Nursing leaders at the time considered the childcare schedule created by the Supreme Court of British Columbia to be harsh, but unlike the court, tried to, and eventually fully accommodated this schedule. The parent-nurse resigned after a half dozen years of self-made shift trades, even though a dozen years later the entire province would create a British Columbia Responsive Shift Scheduling Working Group, but again not soon enough to save these children. The former nurse lost the privilege to drive for approximately a decade supposedly in response to being unable to pay the former child support. This punishment was longer than the longest ban placed on drunk drivers who killed children. Fourteen years into the future, courts would order that child support could be reduced and paid directly to older teens. But for now, the court ordered that if there ever was a small nursing pension paid to the former nurse that the former fugitive would receive half.
Chapter 3: Rehab
The second ill spouse was severely injured in a car accident at an exit ramp from the Trans-Canada Highway where it runs through the lush green Fraser River Valley, leading to one of the five largest cities in British Columbia. Having some degree of paralysis, this rehab parent was given no accommodation or chance to rehabilitate, but instantly found too ill to ever parent again. The second parent nurse was declared the instant winner of all parenting time, relying on Canada’s Divorce Act. The ill spouse was granted a telephone call to their babies every Sunday and lived for these short minutes of parenting time. The parent-nurse scooped their children, went nursing in Northern Alberta, yelling angrily at their children during each Sunday telephone call to limit even this brief contact. The second ill spouse knew the first nurse-parent had experience fighting in court for years, trying to enforce parenting time and asked for help to enforce Sunday contact.
While these two alienated parents were able to provide each other with support and encouragement, neither was ever able to enforce parenting time ordered by the courts, despite their children’s entire childhoods spent seeking help from the Canadian legal system. It was a time when family courts were unqualified for their purpose, caring more about money than children. These two parents did a far, far better thing, than they had ever done. They were fit, willing parents, standing up to a corrupt and unfit legal system that claimed to have a crystal ball that foretold which children to apprehend without any credible evidence. According to court records of this time, almost all children of divorce were apprehended without benefit of medical or legal counsel – just a judge and two stressed parents. Both these nursing families were failed by their family doctors, the police, the school board, the courts, and what was called the health system at the time.
The first parent-nurse investigated the local school board for being involved in this child abuse. The Kindergarten teacher said she felt more comfortable with female parents than males. The Grade 8 teacher told their oldest child not to live with the nurse. The Grade 12 teacher tried to prevent the nurse from attending high school graduation, suggesting maybe a restraining order existed. At first the school board refused to co-operate with the investigation, claiming there was no abuse, then disclosed 200 pages of notes, withholding the rest, claiming third parties were involved. No one ever learned what kind of abuse third parties perpetrate. Like the other agents of Canada, the school board forgot it had a duty to report child abuse, although the judge gave a reminder. The nurse finally learned that Canadian school boards have no authority to enforce restraining orders against third parties, although this was two years after being honoured with the Parent Volunteer Award at the graduation ceremony.
The stress of losing one parent for no reason except to create a divorce industry was a child mental health problem. The downsizing of Riverview Mental Hospital in Coquitlam continued through the nineties until it was closed in 2002 and things got far worse for any families facing mental health concerns. A decade and a half later every Kindergarten and Grade one and two teacher across the country would be discussing child mental health on electronic media, there would be Kids Help Phones, Gay-Straight Alliances, Anti-Bully campaigns, and provincial governments would create mental health strategies and commissions. The Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Psychological Association would publish extensive and helpful notes on how Borderline, Narcissistic, and Anti-Social Personality Disorders contributed to parental alienation.
Notes and Questions
by Kevin Pedersen
Both the nurses in this modern fable were fathers and obviously responsible and fighting to be deeply involved parents. Both the rehab parents were mothers and obviously responsible and fighting to be deeply involved parents. The main features of these tragedies were highly stressed children surrounded by parents in decades of high conflict.
These accounts raise so many questions: Why were parents fighting for their own children against anyone, except maybe the Director of Child Protection? Were only some unfit mothers allowed to rehabilitate? Were some parents too disabled to be accommodated and allowed to rehabilitate? Did a broken back or paralysis prevent parenting? Did deafness, blindness or wheelchair use prevent parenting in an era of government ordered and funded accessibility? Did a severe, chronic mental illness always prevent parenting like a physical illness? Did incarceration always prevent parenting? Why did Canada pay to train parents to be nurses and soldiers, if decision-makers believed they were creating the worst parents in the land? What did Canada mean by rehabilitation and accommodation?
And of course the class action question: why weren’t ALL unfit parents accommodated and allowed to rehabilitate, including any parents with harsh nursing schedules? Wouldn’t rehabilitated parents truly be in children’s best interest rather than arbitrarily apprehending children unlawfully from one parent in each separated family? Some suggested the Magna Carta of 1125 was the greatest constitutional document of all time – a great charter of freedom that set a limit on this type of Draconian arbitrariness.
Others asked if the advancement of nurses needed to happen at the expense of other shift workers? Or if the advancement of male parents needed to happen at the expense of female parents? Those who had once been feminists asked if the advancement of women needed to happen at the expense of men? Dangerous lawyers, who had always sought to destroy their opposing parties, pondered if it was true that Canada had always accommodated since the time of Samuel Champlain, while hanging shingles with the word Mediator. Attorneys General tried to divert reasonable parents out of court. Reforms happened at a snails pace.
Some parents might see parts of themselves in these stories, because these are common tales in family court. I want to encourage and remind ALL parents, both the targets of these group attacks and systemic discrimination, who may have been told they didn’t try hard enough to stop the decades of alienation and even bullies who endlessly seek alliances to alienate their own children, that there is a difference between feeling shame and beating ourselves up and feeling hope, and being positive.
Target parents will probably never get an apology from those who have committed generations of child abuse. But today in British Columbia any parent who threatens to drive over people or to use a vehicle to kidnap a child will instantly lose both their driver’s licence and all of their parenting time for thirty to sixty days. Police agencies operate school programs with names like Cops For Kids Safety. Community Services agencies operate parent programs with names like Re-Connect With Your Kids. Judges can order parent-child reunification programs for targets and send alienating parents into Victim Impact Programs to be taught empathy and accountability. An inability to learn either would be a guide to the level of alienation.
We can also make living amends by thinking of our families in terms like, “what am I doing today to make sure these things never happen again to children?” Try to find some nice way to commemorate Parental Alienation Awareness Day, even if it’s just a relaxing walk in the park or to the corner and back.
Today is April 24, 2016 – only one more day till International Parental Alienation Awareness Day and Bubbles of Love Day. The purpose of this writing is to increase awareness of the broader questions and wider issues surrounding parental alienation.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.