Return-Path: <bouvier@willowglen.ca>

Reply-To: <bouvier@willowglen.ca>

From: "Robert G.J. Bouvier" <bouvier@willowglen.ca>

To: "Ferrel Christensen" <ferrel.christensen@ualberta.ca>

Subject: Divorce-help group complains to Ontario Press Council about the National Post

Date: Tue, 1 May 2001 10:16:37 -0600

 

NEWS RELEASE

Edmonton, May 1, 2001

 

Divorce-help group complains to Ontario Press Council about the National Post [Next]

 

The Equitable Child Maintenance and Access Society of Edmonton, Alberta,

hereby publicly demands a full and sincere retraction from The National Post

for its misrepresentations against us. Because of their seriousness, we are

also launching a complaint to the Ontario Press Council.

 

In two articles (Friday March 30, "Dispute erupts at rights group for

fathers"; Tuesday April 17, "Scandal taints fathers' rights group"), our

organization has been maligned with false claims and insinuations by

reporter Donna Laframboise. As a small volunteer group, we have few

resources to defend ourselves against a national newspaper - all we can do

is provide the truth.

 

One major truth is that, contrary to those articles, the traumatic events in

our group (notably the resignation of the Calgary Board) did not occur on

their own. Instead, they resulted from the reporter herself manipulating us

with the threat of a public smear. Other misrepresented facts:

 

The support group run by ECMAS has been grotesquely misrepresented

as a front to funnel business to paralegal [Tim] Adams. Hundreds can attest

that that group has no commercial purpose, but gives the best information we

can to help each person.

 

Originally, the reporter told ECMAS she was going to expose active

member Dr. Ferrel Christensen over a shocking belief she indicated was in an

11-year-old academic book by him. That turned out to be false. Furthermore,

the actual contents of the book have no relevance to our work, and no ideas

from it had ever been aired within the group. Warned of legal action by him,

she printed a statement that he does not hold that belief. But the

distortions she did publish are still vicious, and hence Dr. Christensen is

suing to defend his good name.

 

The origin of this attack on ECMAS was a bitter personal dispute

between Dr. Christensen and Louise Malenfant, a long-time friend and

collaborator of Ms. Laframboise. This friend was harassing ECMAS members to

take her side against him, threatening to take that dispute to the media,

well before she discovered the book or complained about Mr. Adams' past. Ms.

Laframboise obscured these facts, presenting Ms. Malenfant's motivation

merely as public spiritedness. She also suppressed other crucial details of

her friend's personal involvement.

 

We reject as unjustified and cruel the idea that because of past unrelated

mistakes, [Tim] Adams should be forever regarded as unworthy to assist people

going through the trials of divorce. He has paid his debt to society, and

has given hundreds of hours without charge to aid people who otherwise would

have had no source of help at all.

 

Other instances of outrageous conduct by Ms. Laframboise are laid out in our

submission to the Ontario Press Council. In particular, they reveal how the

reporter was herself involved in creating the news, then hiding her

involvement. These serious violations of journalistic ethics should not be

permitted and the National Post should publicly admit their

misrepresentations.

 

--Bob Bouvier, President of ECMAS (780) 468-6328 [home], 465-1530

[office]

 

SUBMISSION TO THE ONTARIO PRESS COUNCIL

 

National Post columnist and reporter Donna Laframboise has now published two

articles vilifying the Equitable Child Maintenance and Access Society. To do

so, she has collaborated with Louise Malenfant, who recently joined ECMAS.

The Board members of ECMAS have struggled over how to deal with this vicious

attack. We are only a volunteer group, with no outside resources. Many of

us have ongoing court cases, most have full-time jobs, most are active

parents or grandparents, and we do not have time to engage in an endless

battle in the press or elsewhere. Still, to defend our good name, we feel we

must make this one public statement and register a complaint with those

concerned about ethics in journalism.

 

Both articles published by The Post have not only distorted the facts

terribly, they have suppressed information that we believe reveals they both

had ulterior motives. Ms. Malenfant has carried the distortions to

newspapers and radio in Alberta as well. Let us first present some general

corrections.

 

To begin, we are not a "father's rights" group, we are a "family rights"

group, with many women members who are some of our strongest contributors.

ECMAS is also not simply a lobby group - our main work is to help families

affected by the tragedy of divorce. Around 400 people have attended our

weekly support-group meetings in Edmonton over the last two years. More

than 1000 people have called the Men's Help Line that we co-sponsor. Our

Maintenance Committee has handled approximately 100 calls and has helped

many people through working with maintenance enforcement officials.

ECMAS-Edmonton has also made submissions to the Unified Family Court Task

Force, the Senate-House Committee on Child Custody and Access, and the

Alberta Government on the recent access and maintenance enforcement laws

here.

 

Next, the articles' claim that ECMAS is "self-destructing" is twice wrong.

First, the organization is not being destroyed. The regular members in

Edmonton who have worked so hard together in the past have stood together in

the face of this unjust attack. If anything, it has made us more united and

determined than we were before.

 

Second, what harm has been done was emphatically not self-inflicted. It was

brought on from the outside by Ms. Laframboise and Ms. Malenfant. The latter

was able to cause only minor problems within ECMAS, until she got Ms.

Laframboise threatening to attack us in print. Please note that before these

troubles began, Ms. Malenfant told many people here that she and Ms.

Laframboise were good friends who communicated often. The reporter's

threats, eventually carried out, have put us through terrible grief over the

past six weeks. But the upheaval was not an autonomous event, as the

articles claimed; it was brought about by the reporter herself.

 

Background regarding the ECMAS Support Group

To understand how we have been misrepresented over the weekly support group

we run, it is necessary to know what is happening in the divorce-court

system in Alberta. Large numbers of people now going through divorce and

separation simply cannot afford the tens of thousands of dollars that

contested cases often cost when lawyers are involved. This includes very

many who make too much from low-paying jobs to qualify for legal aid, yet

still cannot afford a lawyer. Because of this serious problem, officials

here have begun making it much easier for individuals to represent

themselves in court, even supplying them with all the necessary legal forms

and with "information packages" about how to fill them out and present them

to judges.

 

The problem is, those who cannot afford the high costs are often the very

people who are least able to do all this for themselves, or else lack the

self confidence to do it alone. This is where paralegals can, if they are

fully knowledgeable, perform a limited but invaluable service. They can

guide individuals through the information packages and help prepare them to

appear on their own before the judge. Without this service, many unfortunate

persons who cannot hire a lawyer would be unable even to represent

themselves in court.

 

>From the beginning, the standard procedure in the ECMAS Support Group has

been as follows. If a person can afford a lawyer and does not have one,

names of lawyers on whom we have had good reports are suggested. If someone

already has a lawyer and describes that person as doing a reasonable job, he

or she is encouraged to work closely with the lawyer at every step of the

way; to be sure the various terrible pitfalls of divorce court are avoided.

If someone at the meeting cannot afford a lawyer, he or she is told how to

obtain the information packages for representing oneself, and given general

information about using them to go to court on their own. Finally, if

someone seems unable to do all this on their own, someone or other in the

group nearly always suggests that they go individually to [Tim] Adams. He is

one of the few paralegals available, and one about whose work we have had

very good reports.

 

[Tim] Adams' involvement in ECMAS

The major way the Post articles have attacked ECMAS is over our relationship

to [Tim] Adams, so we must correct some serious falsehoods and insinuations

about that relationship.

 

First, the huge majority of the people he has met through ECMAS he has aided

for free. Only a small minority who seemed to need more help to represent

themselves have been directed to him. And when it has turned out that they

needed and could afford legal representation, he has referred them to good

lawyers. From the founding of the support group, its leaders have advised

those present to get a lawyer if they can possibly afford one. And [Tim]

Adams himself has not done more in the meetings than answer questions about

how the divorce system works. When the fact that he can be hired for

in-depth help has been brought up, it has not been by Mr. Adams himself, but

by others present who were enthusiastic about his knowledge and abilities.

 

It has to be stressed that the kind of information Mr. Adams provides free

at support group meetings is extremely important, for two reasons. First,

people come to those meetings mostly because they feel a need for reliable

information, and none of the usual attendees is highly knowledgeable about

laws and court procedures. Equally important, the information ordinary

people at such meetings THINK they know is often mistaken. So without

someone present who really does know how the system works to correct them,

they would pass along much misinformation to each other. This could be

tragic for them and cause serious repercussions for ECMAS. Without someone

having [Tim] Adams' experience regularly present, much of the good work in

the support group meetings would not be possible.

 

To repeat, Ms. Laframboise has totally distorted the relationship of ECMAS,

and that of Dr. Christensen, with [Tim] Adams. Though she quoted anonymous

informants, it is quite clear to us who they were. Hence it is clear she got

her misinformation by speaking only to individuals Ms. Malenfant directed

her to. The ECMAS president gave Ms. Laframboise the name and phone number

of the ECMAS Support Group Committee chairperson, yet she never even called

him. Ms. Laframboise should know that a partisan source is apt to recommend

other informants who are on the same side. In this case, at least some of

the informants had earlier sided with Ms. Malenfant in her angry personal

dispute with Dr. Christensen described below.

 

Of special interest is the false claim that [Tim] Adams attempts to discover

the financial status of support-group attendees for his own financial gain.

The fact is that financial information has to be asked about in the group

for various reasons tied to providing appropriate help, such as issues of

property division and child support. It is also needed to be able to tell

them whether they are apt to qualify for legal aid so they can hire a

lawyer. Given those legitimate reasons and the high level of subjectivity of

this accusation, it appears the reporter was stretching very hard to find

ways to discredit us.

 

[Tim] Adams' record

This leaves the main issue Ms. Laframboise and Ms. Malenfant has attacked us

over regarding Mr. Adams. What exactly is the point of bringing up his past

mistakes? ECMAS has never condoned his having tried to have sex with a

sixteen-year-old prostitute five years ago; we condemn such behaviour. His

sole other legal offence, talking to a (fully adult) street prostitute two

years before that, we also regret. But we believe he has already paid his

debt to society. He has paid heavily, in fact, losing his right to practice

law. What really matters to us is all the good he is doing now.

 

Do Ms. Laframboise and Ms. Malenfant think that he did not suffer enough,

and it is their duty to ensure that his name continues to make the pages of

a national newspaper? Since joining ECMAS two years ago, Mr. Adams has

selflessly participated in the support group, providing very careful,

sensitive and helpful insights to people going through the tribulations of

divorce. Instead of thinking he should not be doing that, one could even see

it as "community service" to pay his debt to society even further. Where is

the compassion in saying that all the needy people he has helped (again,

mostly for free) should be denied that aid?

 

[Tim] Adams has never hidden the fact that he is a disbarred lawyer, and he

has told the reason for that to those who have asked. Are Ms. Laframboise

and Ms. Malenfant saying that, because of being disbarred, he should not

even be able to work as a paralegal? Or that ECMAS should not refer

prospective clients to him, as it would to lawyers or to other paralegals?

Such claims would raise questions about many practices of Ms. Malenfant

herself, who has no legal training. Herein lies another irony. Had those

anonymous sources been honest, they would have told how some of them have

themselves used her services in place of a lawyer in going to court. And

told how Ms. Malenfant wheedles her "clients" for donations. Had exposing

questionable business or legal practices been Ms. Laframboise's actual

purpose, she would have targeted the untrained and unlicensed activities of

her own ally.

 

The Christensen case

The other major part of the reporter's attack on ECMAS is over the active

participation (he has never been an officer in ECMAS) of Professor Ferrel

Christensen. First, why would Ms. Malenfant and Ms. Laframboise bring up the

contents of an academic book (Pornography: The other side) he wrote eleven

years ago? The reason originally given by both to ECMAS' president was the

suggestion that his book expresses a view terribly inappropriate for a

person in a group like ours: that it condones sex between adults and

children. We found out later that this is totally false. Under threat of a

lawsuit, in her second article Ms. Laframboise explicitly denied that Dr.

Christensen holds such a view. But will she now publicly admit that she

viciously slandered him to us? Will Ms. Malenfant publicly admit that she

did the same? [This is in the press-council complaint accompanying ECMAS's press release] [Back]

 

As to whether anything that actually is in his book is inappropriate,

members of ECMAS who have since perused it have seen nothing that is

relevant to our activities. It is important to state here that before Ms.

Malenfant began her attack on Dr. Christensen, he had never discussed his

views on sexuality, or his book, within the group. There was no reason for

him to mention it, for there is simply no relation between its actual

subjects and the kind of work ECMAS does. What does matter to us is how

dedicated Dr. Christensen has been, and the many hundreds of hours he has

devoted to building up ECMAS.

 

Unrevealed motives

So, what are the real reasons why Ms. Laframboise and Ms. Malenfant have

been attacking ECMAS and these two members? This story was certainly not

told in the National Post.

 

The fundamental reason, we maintain, is Ms. Malenfant's bitter and ongoing

personal dispute with Dr. Christensen, who employed her on a three-month

contract when she came to Edmonton last fall. Before she ever discovered his

book, she was sending messages to our members denouncing him angrily over

their falling out. She was trying to get ECMAS to support her over him. In

fact--this is crucially important--she did so by threatening to take her

complaints against him to the news media. As we saw it, she was trying to

coerce us through fear of harm being done to our work. Yet she got virtually

no support from the regular workers, that is, from those who attend the

monthly planning meeting or run our various committees. Out of hundreds who

have come to our support-group meetings and other activities, she managed to

get a half-dozen or so to back her by telling them one-sided distortions.

 

The president of ECMAS finally sent Ms. Malenfant an e-mail, asking politely

to be left out of the personal battles. She responded angrily, mentioning

Dr. Christensen's book for the first time and falsely claiming he condones

both child pornography and sex with children. Also for the first time, she

then complained about [Tim] Adams being involved with ECMAS. Because she

threw these new complaints in with all the other angry words about Dr.

Christensen, they did not come across as expressing principled concerns,

just a desire for revenge against him. That is the reason why she was

ignored.

 

In spite of being told fully about Ms. Malenfant's ulterior motives, Ms.

Laframboise refused to see them as affecting her friend's credibility. She

even printed the claim that Ms. Malenfant "made repeated attempts" to warn

us about having Mr. Adams involved before finally going to the press. In

fact, the one incidental complaint about Mr. Adams just mentioned is the

only one she ever made to the President of ECMAS, until she got the reporter

involved. When Ms. Laframboise called, she stated that Dr. Christensen's

book alone would not be enough to warrant an article. But since [Tim] Adams

had recently been elected Vice President of our society and since this was

news, she said, the common sex-related thread would enable her to associate

Dr. Christensen's book to her story.

 

Because Ms. Laframboise was using that election as an excuse to write about

us, it is informative to provide some detail here. As most of our regular

workers saw it, Ms. Malenfant had been trying to push her way in and control

us since arriving in Edmonton. Then just before our recent Annual General

Meeting on March 12, it was rumoured that she would be attempting some sort

of coup. She came to the meeting with an entourage of 8 or 9 people, nearly

all of them non-regulars who signed up and paid dues so they could vote.

Seeing this and fearing that the one person running for Vice President was

part of the conspiracy, Mr. Adams decided to stand for that office himself.

(He was partially mistaken about the circumstances, but there was no chance

to find that out with the meeting in full swing.) It was clear that the

people with Ms. Malenfant did in fact vote as a bloc, but they were

outvoted.

 

Revealingly, during the meeting neither Ms. Malenfant nor her supporters

raised any objection to Mr. Adams's candidacy. They said nothing about his

past being an argument against his being on the Board, much less anything

against his even being a member. Then, as soon as the election was over, she

and nearly all of her party got up in the middle of the meeting and left.

All of these facts, including the fact that it was Ms. Malenfant's behavior

that led Mr. Adams to run for office in the first place, were told to Ms.

Laframboise, but kept out of the newspaper.

 

More journalistic bias

We have much other evidence of such bias on the part of Ms. Laframboise.

When she first contacted any of our people, it was to tell them that the

expose' was already planned for publication on the upcoming weekend

(Saturday, March 24). The attitudes she expressed made it absolutely clear

that she believed her friend's accusations--she was not phoning to make a

good-faith investigation of the other side of the story. In fact, she did

not at first call the leaders of ECMAS in Edmonton, the ones who would know

about Mr. Adams' and Dr. Christensen's history with us. Instead, she

contacted the leader of the ECMAS branch in distant Calgary (more about this

below), and also phoned two individuals who had left the Board 2-1/2 years

ago, being inactive or barely active since. (The latter two turned out to be

staunchly supportive of the current leadership.) The ECMAS Board first

learned about the scheduled article from all these other persons. Finally,

she did not contact either Mr. Adams or Dr. Christensen to hear their side -

they had to approach her.

 

Then there are the seeming attempts by Ms. Laframboise to use the threat of

negative publicity to force ECMAS to take action against Mr. Adams and Dr.

Christensen. According to Mr. Adams, she made the suggestion to him that, if

he should now resign as Vice President, her editor might consider the

situation no longer newsworthy and withdraw the article. To protect his

children from further public scandal--and because (as noted above) he had

not really wanted to be Vice President in the first place--Mr. Adams

immediately gave his resignation to the Board.

 

Subsequently, Ms. Laframboise talked to the President, Bob Bouvier, for the

first time--two days before the planned publication date. She said that [Tim]

Adams' leaving the Board would not keep the article from going ahead. Then

she strongly urged that ECMAS totally "disassociate" itself from Dr.

Christensen and Mr. Adams, to save itself from being destroyed by the bad

publicity. When Mr. Bouvier said he could not make such decisions by

himself, she said she would delay publication long enough for him to call a

Board meeting. But she wanted to know its decision before the weekend was

over.

 

The ECMAS Board moved as quickly as it could, but had to confer twice on the

situation, which ran past the weekend. Nevertheless, the article still did

not appear. ECMAS' final decision was to accept [Tim] Adams's resignation

from his position, but, in spite of all this frightening external pressure,

not to sever his membership or that of Professor Christensen.

 

The ECMAS-Calgary affair

Ms. Laframboise also placed such pressure on the branch of ECMAS in Calgary.

Since they had no knowledge whatever about Dr. Christensen's book or about

our relationship with Mr. Adams, her motive in going to them was evidently

not information-gathering. She also gave them totally inadequate time to get

the other side of the story (to get a copy of the book to look at, etc.) or

to meet and deliberate before her deadline. Consequently, their reaction was

quite predictable.

 

On March 22nd, the head of ECMAS-Calgary sent Mr. Bouvier an e-mail that

included a letter indicating that if Edmonton ECMAS did not:

"1. Demand the resignation of Mr. [Tim] Adams immediately", and

"2. Disassociate yourselves from persons who support views of child sexual

involvement",

then

"by 9:00 pm on Saturday, March 24, 2001, then the board of directors in

Calgary will resign in its entirety and disassociate itself and ourselves

from the E.C.M.A.S. trade name in accordance with Section 19 of the bylaws."

 

After the Board of ECMAS-Edmonton stood behind the two members, and after

the Calgary chapter was prodded by the reporter once more, they carried out

their threat. One working day after that, the reporter's first article

finally appeared. And when it did appear, the article's main news-item was

the disbanding of ECMAS-Calgary.

 

Conclusion

To summarize, the disruption in ECMAS was precipitated by the reporter

herself; it was not (as she described it) autonomous. Yet despite all the

pressure, ECMAS-Edmonton resisted her manipulations. To whatever degree Ms.

Laframboise influenced the actions of some, it reveals nothing more than the

great imbalance of power between her and a little group of individuals with

no way of their own to present their side to the public. We submit that her

behavior and that of her editors has violated multiple principles of

journalistic ethics. More than that, their behavior has demonstrated crass

unconcern for the rights and feelings of other human beings.

 

For all these reasons, ECMAS herewith asks the Ontario Press Council to

thoroughly investigate the conduct of Ms. Laframboise and the National Post

in this matter.

 

 

Bob Bouvier for the Board of Directors

May 1, 2001

The Equitable Child Maintenance and Access Society

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Robert G.J. Bouvier Willowglen Systems Inc. 8522 Davies Road

Applications Engineer Total SCADA Solutions Edmonton Alberta

http://www.willowglen.ca Tel: +1 (780) 465-1530 CANADA T6E 4Y5

bouvier@willowglen.ca Fax: +1 (780) 465-0130

---------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Attachment Converted: "C:\NETSURF\EUDORA\ATTACH\ECMAS Press Release.htm"