Groups want Quebec government to prohibit ‘parental alienation’ term in court

“Functions to hide abuse,” said Suzanne Zaccour, from the National Association of Women and the Law, when speaking about why the use of the term ‘parental alienation' in Quebec courts should be prohibited. Gareth Madoc-Jones reports.

A group of organizations concerned with women’s rights in Quebec are asking the Legault government to offer more protections for women who are victims of intimate partner violence. 

The Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, Juripop and the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) are demanding the CAQ put forth legislation that prohibits the use of the term ‘parental alienation,’ especially when it comes to determining who will have custody of children when parents separate. 

“We are calling for a complete ban on the use of parental alienation accusations in family court and by youth protection,” said Suzanne Zaccour, director of legal affairs at NAWL at a press conference in Montreal. “Let’s be clear, parental alienation is a sexist narrative with no scientific validity, and which functions to hide abuse, re-victimize victims, and silence mothers and children. It simply has no business in our law.” 

The term parental alienation describes a situation where one parent says negative things about the other parent to a child in order to distance them from this parent. 

“It’s primarily used by fathers and by also youth protection services against mothers saying that the mother is alienating because the child doesn’t want to see the father or because the mother is saying I don’t want the father to have contact with the child because there’s a history of domestic violence or there’s danger. So the data shows that it’s primarily used against women and mothers,” added Zaccour.

These organizations say this term is often used by men in court to take attention away from the domestic violence they inflicted against the mother in order to gain custody of a child or children.

CityNews spoke to two women who wished to remain anonymous, but have opposing views on the use of parental alienation.

“My child was taken away from me for no reason at all, other than on the basis of this concept that has no scientific value,” said one woman present at the press conference who identifies as a victim of the use of parent alienation against her in court. “I lost custody of my daughter a few months ago. And I’m a great mom. I’m a teacher. I have a master in education. I’m a teacher. I spent my life taking care of children.”

 “What they’re saying today is that some women are wrongly accused of being alienating, which exists, but some women are accused, wrongly accused in court of so many different things, right? Of being abusive, of neglecting their kids. That’s what happens in court,” explained another woman, also at the press conference, who identifies as someone who is a victim of parental alienation. ” But it doesn’t mean that we should cancel terms like abuse or neglect because some women are wrongly accused of that.”

As well, the three organizations would like to require more domestic violence training for those working in the legal system and more initiatives to respect the voices of children in the justice system.

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