“We have arrived at that point in history where we need to make an intentional choice: do we continue to be the cautious caterpillar, a justice system married to an adversarial process for families, to an ethic of rights and obligations, or do we choose to take a leadership role and be informed by what neuroscience is telling us? Do we choose to take knowledge and create a system that decreases, rather than increases, the stressors families are under? Do we choose to use the knowledge of brain science to embrace an ethic of care, and incorporate an ethic of care into the family justice system?”
These are the words of Nancy Cameron, QC, who delivered extraordinarily informative and inspiring remarks to the BC/Yukon virtual Colloquium on Transforming the Family Justice System convened by the National Action Committee on November 23rd.
About one year ago, I posted about “ACEs”, Adverse Childhood Experiences that can have a profound and long-lasting effect on a person’s well-being, and on the well-being of generations to come. In the post “Putting children at the centre”, I talked about A2JBC’s Statement of Commitment to addressing the issue of the adverse impact on children of parental conflict and anxiety during the transition of parental separation.
Since then A2JBC has been challenged by the need to work through practical steps to flesh out that commitment, and has responded to the challenge by developing a forward-thinking Family Justice Leadership Strategy. The strategy is in its final stages and will be launched soon.
At the recent colloquium to dig more deeply into elements of the Family Justice Leadership Strategy, Nancy Cameron made a compelling case for system transformation and not mere incrementalism. Family well-being lies at the heart of that case. Failure to change is unacceptable, knowing what we now know about ACEs, about Indigenous experiences of the justice system, and about the adversarial court system’s inability to address, as Nancy describes it, the complex and deeply human needs families bring with their family law problems.
Please stay tuned for the Family Justice Leadership Strategy. It is my belief that, through listening to children, youth and adult family members about their needs and aligning organizations inside and outside of the justice sector to take strategic and targeted actions, we can transform the family justice system so that it meets the real needs of families and supports their near- and long-term well-being. Let’s choose to make the family justice system a butterfly rather than a cautious caterpillar!