A recent case from Nova Scotia’s Family Court looked at whether a father’s “unorthodox” views on race and white supremacy should prevent him from having unsupervised access to his child.

A Father’s Unorthodox Views On Race

The mother and father in the relationship had a six-year-old son at the time of the hearing. They had no custody agreement in place when the father filed an application pursuant to the Maintenance and Custody Act, which is now called the Parenting and Support Act (the Act), seeking parenting time with the child. The father had been maintaining regular contact with the child prior to the application being submitted in March 2016. The mother filed a response to the application in October of the same year opposing the application. In addition to objecting to parenting time for the father, she also sought child support.

An interim order had allowed the father to have supervised access with the child at a community services location. The delays in getting to the final hearing led the court to become concerned with the length of time supervised visits were mandated. As a result the court determined visits should take place in the community, though still under supervision.

The father’s application sought weekly, unsupervised time with the child with a gradual expansion to overnight time. The mother sought sole custody and to deny parenting time with the father. The court was to determine those two issues, as well as whether supervised parenting time should be imposed if unsupervised time is not appropriate.

The father did not apply for custody (or shared custody) of the child. The court granted custody to the mother. In turning to custody, the court first looked towards section 18(8) of the Act, which recognizes the “maximum contact principle.” The principle states children should have as much contact with both parents as is in the child’s best interests. The court stressed the seriousness of denying parenting time.

The mother’s objections to parenting time focused on the father’s criminal record as well as his views on race. The court noted the burden of proof of proving harm to the child if the father were to have parenting time him falls on the mother.

The father’s criminal record included violent offences in the past as well as more recent property-related offences. He had also previously served time in a federal prison since the birth of their child.  Regarding issues of race, the father testified, “while he is not a white supremacist, he is an ‘Asian supremist’ (sic) and he confirmed he has ‘…unorthodox views on white European pride.’”

In addressing the mother’s concerns about how the father’s views could negatively impact the child, the father said he would not discuss those topics with the child, noting the child wouldn’t be interested in it and he would not want to expose the child to the ridicule such views can attract.

Determining the best interests of the child

The Supreme Court has addressed the considerations to be taken into account when determining whether it is in a child’s best interests to deny parenting time to a parent. They include, but are not limited to

(a) the child’s physical, emotional, social and educational needs, including the child’s need for stability and safety, taking into account the child’s age and stage of development;

(b) each parent’s or guardian’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other parent or guardian;

(c) the history of care for the child, having regard to the child’s physical, emotional, social and educational needs;

(d) the plans proposed for the child’s care and upbringing, having regard to the child’s physical, emotional, social and educational needs;

(e) the child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage;

(f) the child’s views and preferences, if the court considers it necessary and appropriate to ascertain them given the child’s age and stage of development and if the views and preferences can reasonably be ascertained;

(g) the nature, strength and stability of the relationship between the child and each parent or guardian;

(h) the nature, strength and stability of the relationship between the child and each sibling, grandparent and other significant person in the child’s life;

(i) the ability of each parent, guardian or other person in respect of whom the order would apply to communicate and co-operate on issues affecting the child; and

(j) the impact of any family violence, abuse or intimidation, regardless of whether the child has been directly exposed, including any impact on

(i) the ability of the person causing the family violence, abuse or intimidation to care for and meet the needs of the child, and

(ii) the appropriateness of an arrangement that would require co-operation on issues affecting the child, including whether requiring such co-operation would threaten the safety or security of the child or of any other person.

Applying the principles to the situation

The court then went on to state that the mother failed to provide any information about how the child would be harmed by the father’s beliefs, instead focusing on his beliefs (which were not shared in the decision). The court said “In the past, the (mother) facilitated the (father’s) contact with the child, including during the period of his incarceration and subsequent release, despite his beliefs and views. The (mother’s) concerns about contact between the (father) and the child seemingly came after a breakdown in the parties’ relationship, which the (mother) asserts was due, in part, to aggressive and/or violent behaviour toward her by the (father) (which he denied in cross-examination). Those concerns can be resolved without the extreme remedy of entirely severing the parent-child connection, as there is no evidence the Applicant has been inappropriate in such a manner with or toward the child. A parenting schedule that avoids contact between the parents can properly address any such concerns that could exist.

The court went on to state it would be confusing for the child to suddenly lose all contact with the father. In regards to his beliefs, the court said “The (father’s) personal views are relevant to the extent they inform or attend to the question of the child’s best interests; it is not for the Court to eliminate all possibility of the child forging a relationship with the (father) only because the (father) holds aberrant views and beliefs.

The court then turned to whether parenting time should be supervised. The court determined the views of the father were not a compromise to the child’s best interests and as a result, supervised contact between the two is not necessary.

Divorces and separation can be difficult when children are involved. Balancing the interests of you and your children can be tough. The team of family lawyers at Bodren Family Law can help you through these times. We help our clients determine what is best for their children by drawing on our in-depth knowledge of family law. Please call us at 905-576-6090 or contact us below to schedule a consultation. We’d be happy to discuss our flat fee payment options with you.