Top Five Family Issues of 2016

Cardus Family Program Director Andrea Mrozek's summary of the top five issues surrounding families in Canada this past year.

A summary of five key issues from the past year

5. Second verse, same as the first! Bill S-206 rises again

The one thing you can’t say about Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette is that she lacks commitment. She’s presented legislation attempting to criminalize parental use of spanking as a disciplinary tool eight times by our count and amazingly has continued this into retirement. How does a retired Senator push forward on legislation, you ask? By getting her colleague, Senator Murray Sinclair, to take up the issue on her behalf. Hence Bill S-206 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children against standard child-rearing violence)” lives on, and had its first reading on December 8, 2016. For a Bill originating in the Senate, the first reading is the first stage in the process, meaning discussion at committee is yet to come, most likely early in the new year. Still, now is the time to brush up on the research, something we are doing at Cardus Family. Robert Larzalere, PhD, finds recent research showing children are harmed by spanking to be shoddy. In January 2017, we’ll explain why this is the case in some detail.

4. Marriage is better than chemotherapy for cancer outcomes

Health benefits to marriage? It’s true. And in all the stresses and strains of any marriage, it’s good to know the institution proffers many benefits.

An amazing quantity of solid, peer-reviewed science shows that marriage is good for your health. Susan Martinuk reviewed the research in a Cardus Family publication released in September 2016 saying, “The cancer survival statistics definitely jumped out at me. They were absolutely dramatic. One study, which was a very large study of 735,000 people, found that married cancer patients live 20 per cent longer. They also looked at people who had one of the 10 most common cancers in the United States and found that for five of those cancers, the survival effect attributed to marriage was stronger than the survival effect attributed to chemotherapy.”

This is important news, especially as marriage rates are on the decline. Unmarried people outnumbered married people in Canada in the 2006 census for the first time. Among many possible outcomes, healthcare professionals need to pay attention to family status in treatment plans, providing more support where single people are concerned.

3. Family benefits for families, not institutions

The federal budget was released in March 2016 with a significant focus on family finances. In the budget, money was set aside for parents, not institutions. This has ramifications for the ongoing debate over child care and whether spending should go to parents or daycare centres/schools. When Cardus and Nanos Research asked Canadian parents in the Canada Family Life Project about their preferences for child care policy, 62% of respondents called for policy measures that involve helping parents directly, rather than giving money to centres, spaces, or schools. Only 15.3% of those surveyed wanted subsidies for child-care centres to improve quality and/or create more spaces. Families spend money better than institutions—something families and Cardus Family have long known. We’re glad government agrees.

2. Gender unicorns and pronoun debates

If there’s a fitting mascot for people who believe there are 50 genders, it’s the unicorn. A mascot as imaginary as the theories they teach, the gender unicorn is a tool to teach students about gender in Alberta, an idea presented along with inviting drag queens to teach makeup application. All of this could seem funny, except that creating confusion in children over something as basic as this is no laughing matter, as any parent of a child with gender dysphoria will tell you. Enter Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto psychology professor who has become famous for refusing to kowtow to what he is calling political correctness. Starting in September 2016 and continuing since, Professor Peterson makes an earnest and impassioned case for why he won’t use made up pronouns from the public podium of his YouTube Channel.

Professor Peterson is concerned not only with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and what powers they might have to prosecute a failure to use an individual’s pronoun of choice, but also over Bill C-16, the federal legislation that adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. So much of this extremism is being foisted on average Canadians without their consent or knowledge. Those who are aware are fearful of expressing themselves given the possibility of a punitive backlash. In this climate, Peterson is a hero, staking ground fearlessly and holding his own. Someone to watch in 2017, to be sure.

1. Ontario’s Bill 28—making families into a group project

Any student today, forced to do too many group projects as a matter of routine, will tell you the problem: Someone does all the work while the others slack off.

Ontario law has just made parenting into a group project. What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, don’t answer that. Suffice to say, the number one family issue in 2016 has to be Ontario’s passing of Bill 28, the “All Families Are Equal Act.” (“But Some Families Are More Equal Than Others”—as some of us are fond of adding.) This legislation is a response to same-sex marriage and new reproductive technologies, which introduce a third and sometimes fourth party into baby making through the use of sperm donors, egg donors and surrogates. Families using these methods used to get a court to affirm the adoption of their children after the fact. Today, the new law stipulates pre-conception agreements must be signed between any four people before a child is conceived. The intent to parent is now the new legal premise for parenthood in Ontario. Besides the move to four parents, Bill 28 studiously removes all references to gender, including the terms mother and father. The term woman or mother isn’t even used when describing a child emerging from the birth canal.

Needless to say, reading the near uniformly congratulatory testimonies at committee for the Bill was a sanctifying exercise—an opportunity to practice patience. Yet Lo and Behold, there were bright lights even there. One Joe Clark lambasted Bill 28, accusing the government of ignoring biology and attempting to socially re-engineer the province. And Mr. Clark happens to be gay, making the epithet of “homophobic” harder to hurl.

There are so many problems with Bill 28 that it would be impossible to itemize them here. One that stands out to me personally is the constant reference to children in utero and children even before they are conceived. In a country with no abortion law whatsoever it’s a little bit odd to consider these copious references to the value of children before they are even conceived, let alone born. Intent, as it turns out, is a poor premise for parenthood, as it allows for some children to be welcomed (when they are intended) and for others to be written out of existence via abortion. How much longer can this cognitive dissonance hold?