From Where I Sit – Treated Right?

A July 25 article on page A3 of the Edmonton Journal has me shaking my head. The half-page story appeared under the headline ?Mother sues son she abandoned?; the subheading was ?BC woman, 71, seeks support from children under archaic statute.?

Shirley Anderson is suing her adult children for support under The Parents? Maintenance Act of 1922. The law came into effect during a recession, when no social safety nets existed, in a bid to prevent the poor and sick from becoming wards of the state. It obligates children to support their ?dependent? parents. Yet it does not define what a parent is or comment on the relative worth of the parenting job.

This case boggles the lay mind and highlights the potential problems when laws that no longer serve a purpose remain on the books unchallenged. For the record, let’s establish that I’m not a lawyer, and that my only information on this case is what I read in the paper. I acknowledge that people sometimes get misquoted or that words can be taken out of context. I understand that the courts? hands are tied by existing laws. (The Attorney General recommends its repeal. Nevertheless, on August 3 and 4, after years of battle, Shirley Anderson’s children will appear in court to fight this suit.)

I don’t understand why there is always a lawyer willing to take on any case, regardless of the circumstances.

The whole situation is bizarre on many levels. The children are quoted in the article as saying that Anderson was the ?mother [they] never had,? that ?she doesn’t even know [they] are alive . . . she never worked and she never worked at her family either,? and that ?the only time she called was to ask for money.? In the article, they describe their upbringing as ?dysfunctional, harsh, brutal.?

Only four kids are being sued because the fifth is in and out of jail, and the likelihood of collecting anything from him is remote. Anderson has included in her suit a son, now forty-six, whom she abandoned when he was 15 years old. Most of the kids haven’t had any contact with their mother for 20 years. The only daughter vows she will go to jail rather than pay a dime to her mother.

The court has demanded ten years? worth of financial records, with an estimated 500 pages and nearly 2100 photocopies required just since May.

An interim judgment of $50 a month (or $10 per child) was awarded in 2000. It is unclear whether any money was ever paid, but the mother’s lawyer intends to get the amount substantially increased (to at least $300 a month, per child).

The ultimate outrage, for me, is provoked by the words of her lawyer, Donald McLeod of Victoria, who has never met his client. He is quoted in the Edmonton Journal as saying, ?My interest, quite frankly, is to see that someone is treated right, and That’s all I care about.?

Treated right? Oh my God. If this story accurately represents what happened in this family, it seems these children were scarred by this woman and their upbringing. The emotional and financial burden of fighting this adds insult to injury. Charles Dickens got it right when he said, ?the law is a ass,? from where I sit.