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The following is an article which appeared in the Calgary Herald. After reading it, I thought that the meaning was that this was pretty much a done deal. I wrote a letter of support to Iris Evans, Alberta's Minister of Children's Services. Soon, I received a disappointing letter back from Ms. Evans saying that this was a concept. So, although very exciting, unfortunately the plan is far from law.



NATIONAL POST - Reprinted From Calgary Herald Wednesday, April 30, 2003

"Kids get rights to lawyers" Alberta offers support in custody battles

By Emma Poole

The province will provide lawyers to children involved in contentious parental-access and custody battles, says Children's Services Minister Iris Evans.

The mandate, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, is a result of last year's murder-suicide involving two-year-old Calgarian Cole Harder and his father, Grant.

Just days after Cole was shot by his dad during a court-ordered visitation, Evans vowed to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for children embroiled in domestic violence.

"We've taken a very broad look at some of those areas of supervised access and tried to anticipate what we could effectively provide so that there's some advocacy for the children in the courts," Evans told the Herald on Tuesday.

"I think that would be something that would be a huge deterrent, both for the courts and for someone who was trying to access the child for the intent to do harm, thereby punishing the other partner," she said.

Grant Harder was awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting Cole's mother, Naomi Manuel, when he killed their only child on Dec. 1 while in a pickup truck near Camrose, about 90 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

The pair had been battling over Cole's custody for six months.

The couple had been together for four years and used a third party to facilitate weekend visitations.

Evans, who has held meetings with provincial Justice Minister Dave Hancock and federal Health Minister Anne McLellan, said she's looking for a "groundswell of support" for the legislation.

She said she consulted with McLellan because of the impact domestic violence has on the health-care system.

"Let's look at the Cole Harder situation -- the mother was the strong protector, but it's only recently that courts are beginning to look more critically at what the child's representation is," said Evans.

Cole Harder's uncle, Shawn Janke, said the proposal is a step in the right direction, although more needs to be done to protect kids.

"During any split up, the children are used as pawns and psychological tools. We have learned that in the ultimate way," said Janke. "I'm just glad something is being done."

Child advocate and family lawyer Max Blitt, a member of the 1998 federal Senate subcommittee on child custody access, lauded the move.

"I think it's a super initiative. You then don't leave the guesswork. You eliminate that," said Blitt. "I'm just wondering if it goes far enough."

Blitt questioned the cost, saying the government will have to dig deep to ensure the plan is carried out properly.

"What's the price of a child's life?" he said.

Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald