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Co-parenting council needs integration

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Community, Culture and Sport (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

As I stated previously, I applaud Patricia Gordon-Pamplin for her institution of a Co-Parenting Council and appreciate her seeking to clarify the role of the council as seen in the daily of August 8, which stated that the council will be responsible for carrying out oversight functions and not direct mediation of disputes.

However, instead of the minister taking the opportunity the second time around to amend an obvious error by having five women — albeit highly credentialled — on the Co-parenting Council and no males, she seems to simply clarify that the role of these five women will be one of oversight. Notwithstanding, and with all due respect, I continue to challenge the minister that, even in the role of oversight, it is apparent to me that an important component has once again been negated — having at least one male figure in that role.

The mere fact that this council has only females at the helm lessens the importance of the male perspective, knowledge and experience. I cannot reiterate enough that males with just as many credentials and experiences exist, and could bring, if given the opportunity, valuable insight to the function of oversight.

As we recall, the minister in the daily of August 1 made several erroneous statements in announcing an all-female Co-parenting Council. First she says: “We are not discounting the worth of men in the process — the starting point is really where we need to get it right.” She goes on to say that “women have a certain sensitivity”, then she further says that “it would appear that the prerequisite to be a member of the council is to be a female”.

Well, newsflash minister, the very words in these statements discount men right off the bat. You have essentially discounted the worth of males by not including them. In addition, your unfounded assumption that having an all-female council would “get it right from the start” wrongfully suggests that males would not have what it takes to get it right from the onset.

You further state that women bring a certain sensitivity to the role, which subtly presumes that males would not bring a similar sensitivity and/or caring to such a position. And, yes, minister, it does appear that the “prerequisite” to sit on this council is for one to be female because you have not seen fit to use even one of our many talented and experienced males whose backgrounds would rival the females in the areas of psychology, law, mediation and/or social work. And certainly again, this is not to suggest that the women chosen are not suited or credentialled. But I do suggest, having a background in social work myself, that males with those credentials do also exist!

Further, in the second article of August 8, Ms Gordon-Pamplin sought to clarify and justify her reasoning for choosing the five women and no men, and she states that the legislation provides for two of the five to be private mediators. Well, minister, if this is the case and persons can be appointed to the role of oversight on this committee who work as private mediators, then the legislation needs to be amended. Why? Because who “polices the police?” In other words, how can a private mediator be on a committee that has oversight over other mediators? Surely, that is a conflict of interest.

The legislation must be amended to change that with immediacy. Is it that difficult to grasp, that a council of this nature, comprising males and females, would certainly ensure that (using your words) “you get it right from the start”?

Males and females on the council would deliver the necessary balance that such an important council requires. As a father of four children, three of which are male, I am of the persuasion that no one can bring the perspective and experience of a male but a male. And, certainly, no one could relate best to a father facing the natural challenges of co-parenting but another father or male whose knowledge brings an invaluable asset to the discussion.

Last and certainly not least, I do not seek to go back and forth on this issue, as that would lessen the impact of my statements. However, in the times that we find ourselves, where males are feeling disenfranchised or marginalised by the “system or society at large”, we must seek every opportunity to not only acknowledge, but to validate those who are and can make valuable contributions to the society in which we live. We must give our young or even adult males those role models that they can identify with or emulate.

So I implore the minister, rather than waiting for these experienced and knowledgeable males to make themselves known to her with their “résumé in hand” for future consideration, it is imperative, that a male is sought and placed on this oversight committee from the very beginning. Because, as the minister herself stated, “we must get it right from the start”.

• Michael Weeks is the Shadow Minister of Community, Culture and Sports and the MP for Pembroke East Central (Constituency 16)