Butterfly or caterpillar? It’s time for transformation of the family justice system

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!


  1. Rob Kruyt on December 7, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    Dear Justice Bauman
    Regarding: Butterfly or caterpillar?

    I have been stuck on and off in the Family Court system. My son in question for care and access is now 13. The current process has caused him incredible harm from 1. The adversarial nature and 2. From a mother who’s more controling than loving.

    I want to be at the table. I work with dozens of good fathers who all want to be at the table. Our input is critical to proper reform of the BC Family Law sector.

    Rob Kruyt
    Vancouver, BC

  2. Sohrab K on December 7, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Father’s impacted by the current family justice system need to have an equal voice at the table. There is a an almost sinister effort to silence fathers who have been negatively impacted by divorce and the family courts. That must change.

  3. Salem Webb on December 7, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    Please listen to the silent voices of our alienated children who just want a relationship with their dads! Our kids deserve equal time, and every parent deserves equal physical and financial responsibility. We are not a paycheck. We are not deadbeats. We are parents, and we want to raise our children.

  4. Kevin Maher on December 8, 2020 at 8:12 am

    The adversarial approach is one path to truth; through this lens we seek some measure of justice in family conflict. This works when both adversaries are committed to such. It works when both seek that fight.

    Where one party seeks a collaborative solution, or at least one where conflict is minimized, an aggressive or overly litigious party can direct the matter down a path where the path to justice is less about truth and more about financial attrition. The process becomes a cudgel for failed relationships.

    As a litigant in the Family Justice System, I have a stake in transformative initiatives within the system: particularly those that address inequalities present in custody, access, and child support. I look forward to following your work.

  5. Andre WL Roothman on December 8, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    One of the biggest drivers of family law litigation is money, being child support. Many a fight about residential arrangements/parenting time focuses on the magic 40% of time that needs to be spent with a parent. I wonder how much litigation about parenting time would disappear if the Child Support Guidelines were to be changed so that any time spent with a parent is to be considered in the calculation of child support. The best interest of the child is secondary in many such cases.

  6. Rosemary Gallagher (retired Provincial Court Judge) on December 11, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    What a wonderful statement. Thank you for making it!