The Canadian Centre for Men and Families opened in Ottawa earlier this month. This is the third location of the organization, which aims to connect men in crisis with both legal support and mental health support programs. The other two locations are in Toronto, where full services are offered, and Calgary, where the centre is open one day a week.
The Canadian Centre for Men and Families
The three centres are run by CAFE (Canadian Association for Equality), a registered educational charity and bills itself as the “first facility of its kind”. The centres bill themselves as “open, inclusive and safe space[s] dedicated to the health and well-being of boys, men, fathers and their families”.
The centres provide workshops, counselling, discussion groups, and special events. Programming includes sessions on fathering, trauma and abuse support, suicide prevention, tutoring and mentoring. They also provide advocacy, research, outreach, and public education about a variety of issues affecting men.
Services Geared Towards Men with Family Law Issues
Patrick Wright, the centre’s Executive Director, told The Lawyer’s Daily that:
A lot of the men that are coming into our centre are going through issues related to custody, or divorce and separation. Sometimes they’re victims of domestic abuse or sexual abuse, so we want to have a resource that they can rely on to provide them with…advice.
We want to provide space where men can come and get help. I think in our society it’s hard for men to be able to ask for help. Sometimes we, as men, feel alone and we don’t know where to go when we do need assistance.
Wright said that in the first month of operation, 15 to 20 men came into the Ottawa location seeking services and assistance. The most common issue most men have questions about is child custody, but there are other serious issues that generally go hand in hand with such discrete questions, including mental health issues or a need for trauma support.
Wright notes that there are many support centres related to family that are geared towards women specifically. In his opinion, it is just as important to include men in the dialogue about family law, since men also go through situations and experiences in which they require guidance and direction.
Wright says that:
We definitely want to be a place where men can go to get started. A lot of people come in and they don’t know where to start. So being able to provide them with some guidance…I think is really important.
It is unclear whether the centre plans to open any other locations, whether in Ontario or otherwise.
The Centre Has Sparked Controversy
When the first centre originally opened in Toronto it drew some controversy. Gender equality advocates opposed the opening, fearing that CAFE and the centre would propogate what the advocates viewed as misogynist and anti-feminist agendas.
Women’s rights advocates disagreed with CAFE’s methods of solving the hardships facing men, stating that the philosophy behind the centre seemed to be rooted more in frustration about woman’s rights being protected and women’s equality being promoted, rather than men’s rights being violated, and stating that this is not a means of building a society marked by “compassion and equality”.
The centre denies “launching a war on womankind”.
It remains to be seen whether any additional centres will open, but this is certainly an interesting development that we will continue to monitor.
If you are a father and have questions about your rights with respect to custody and support or any other family law matter, contact Windsor family lawyer Jason P. Howie at 519.973.1500 or online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, and also by lawyers, counsellors, and other professionals.