Grandparents' battle for Bill finally over
by Sandy Lindsay

December 9, 2016

From Queen's Park

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After 18 years and seven bills later, the battle is over.  NDP Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha's private member's Bill 34 is now law.

MPP Mike Mantha

Since 1997, six bill attempts were made to change the Children’s Law Reform Act, to allow grandparents access to their grandchildren. On Dec. 8th Bill 34 received approval from the Lieutenant Governor-General.

While, the amended Children’s Law Reform Act, does not go as far as a similar law in Quebec, Ontario joins other provinces in recognizing the value of the grandchild-grandparent relationship, which gives grandparents a voice in petitioning the courts and presenting evidence for access or custody, where they have a case and it is in the best interest of the child. The court will continue to determine if this access is in the best interest of the child.

Grandparents in Ontario can ask for access where there was an existing relationship OR ask for custody in such cases where both parents have passed away or are totally incapable of taking care of the children. 

It is not believed, at this time, if Bill 34 will help grandparents that had no existing relationship with a child. Clearly, no parent ever wants to take their child to court.

Betty Cornelius, who is passionate about the issue, went on to found CANGRANDS Kinship National Support, that provides information and support to the thousands of kinship children being raised by grandparents and other family members.  The group has grown into two internet support groups and 25 chapters across Canada.  "We sincerely hope that this amendment to the Children’s Law Reform Act will encourage people to have open and honest dialogue aimed at rebuilding their relationship and encourage the parties to make amends for boundaries that may have been crossed."

 Grandparents are encouraged to try mediation first, with the intervention of family, friends or religious leaders because litigation can cost $20,000 to $50,000 unless they represent themselves and there is no guarantee of success.

CANGRANDS is joining with other Ontario grandparent groups and are continuing efforts with the Ontario Government (Minsters of Health and Senior Affairs), Elder Mediators of Ontario, Elder Abuse Ontario and family support groups (Vanier Family Institute) to provide grandparents and their families with opportunities and avenues to resolve differences and rebuild families through a free mediation process.

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Cornelius also started a project called Hands & Hearts quilt, which is a quilt that has travel across Canada to promote both denied grandparents and those raising grandchildren. View Hearts & Hands Quilt

She spoke at the First International Kinship Conference, held in New York in 2007, and in March 2008 at the AARP in Washington DC, as well as at the United Nations Youth round table in Ottawa. In 2011, she was nominated for 'Everyday Heroes' for Chatelaine magazine and was one of the top ten finalists for Grandparent of the Year for GRAND magazine. In June 2013, Cornelius won the Distinguished Alumni Award from Grant MacEwan University and, in 2012 and 2013, was nominated for the Wal-Mart Mom of the Year.

In 1980, her mother was murdered, so she also speaks on issues affecting 'Victims of Violence". In addition to her work for kinship families,  Cornelius works part time as a Mental Health Support worker and has fostered 32 children over the past 30 years and has long advocated for the rights of grandparents.

"As grandparents we must accept that time with our grandchildren is not a right. It is an earned blessing and a privilege."

For information, go to www.cangrands.com  or
email: grandma@cangrands.com

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