Darrell Trociuk sat like a coiled
spring as he was described by a University of Victoria
law professor as "more than a casual fornicator" and
"less than a social parent."
In June, the 38-year-old
Delta dad won a seven-year-long fight at the Supreme
Court of Canada to have his name included on the birth
certificates for his triplet sons.
He's still waiting
for the change and he's angry that his case has since
become a feminist cause celebre in which he is often
On Thursday, he
confronted professor Hester Lessard after she had
given a thoughtful 45-minute presentation at the
University of B.C. -- part of a regular lunch-time
lecture series at the law school -- on why she
believed the unanimous verdict of the Supreme Court in
his case was wrong.
She came to talk
about family ideologies and the construction of
parenthood in a world where science says potentially
five adults can be involved in a birth -- the two
social parents (the couple who rear the child), a
sperm donor, an egg donor and a birth mother.
He came to complain
that he was being turned into fodder by the gender
Some scholars and
lawyers, for instance, have suggested that in today's
world of gay and lesbian families, the high-court
ruling in Trociuk is as flawed as the original
A writer and teacher
of feminist theory, constitutional law and equality
rights, Lessard is particularly critical of the
Justice Marie Deschamps, writing her first ruling,
erred in her analysis and in the manner in which she
framed the issues.
She believes the
decision is a disheartening endorsement of
"biological" concepts of parenthood, "an increasingly
fictional creation narrative."
"It legitimates a
heterosexual view of the family," she said.
Trociuk won because
the Supreme Court ruled B.C.'s Vital Statistics Act
violated Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms by
discriminating against "fathers."
A section of the act
provides mothers with sole discretion to include or
exclude information relating to fathers when
registering the birth of a child. A father who is not
named on a birth certificate has no say in the surname
of his child.
can't seek name changes for sons Ryan, Andrew and
Daniel, born on Jan. 29, 1996, until the province
rewrites the act and the government was given a year
to fix it.)
Trociuk was not
married to Reni Ernst, 44, who maintains that, as soon
as the boys are old enough, she will allow them to
choose their names.
The triplets were
putatively conceived in a last-ditch attempt to mend
the tumultuous relationship. When the inevitable split
came, it was bitter. It remains caustic.
Trociuk began the
fight to be acknowledged as the father of the boys
within six months of their birth.
He has visitation
rights and pays some child support for his sons, who
live in Nanaimo.
He lost the first
round to be recognized in B.C. Sup-reme Court and lost
again at the B.C. Court of Appeal.
This summer, though,
Justice Deschamps disagreed with the lower courts and
said Trociuk was right. It was a no-brainer in her
view: Mothers and fathers should be equal.
But in 2003, as
Lessard pointed out, who constitutes the "mother" and
"This is the crucial
mis-step," she said. "The debate should not be framed
by who is a 'mother' and who is a 'father.'"
The high court's
reasoning was flawed, Lessard said, and the justices
should have been more on top of their game.
Before they ruled the
Vital Statistics Act should be fixed, she said, a B.C.
Human Rights Tribunal had ordered it amended to
accommodate gays and lesbians. The high court should
have spent time mulling the same concerns.
In essence, what I
heard her say is the law today should be
gender-neutral and as reflective of real life as we
can make it. The Trociuk decision is bad law because
it perpetuates as many stereotypes as it purports to
correct. And I think she's right.
What about a dozen
aggrieved fathers in the audience heard,
unfortunately, was that they were going to have to
wait again while gay and lesbian parents were
And a few of them got
rude about it.
"I can't believe this
crap," snapped one particular boor who dubbed the law
school a "lesbian breeding ground."
Listening to the
theoretical ramifications of his case, Trociuk didn't
like what he heard either.
He has his own
version of the story and it isn't about stereotypes or
about the interplay of private and public authority in
the family unit. It's about romance gone wrong and a
father who doesn't get enough time with his kids.
"You are wrong," he
told Lessard. "I was all for a hyphenated name. She
has played a charade the whole way."
The professor was
talking about public policy and he was talking about
"I love my kids," he
said. "I could be run over by a bus today and there
would be no recognition."
Lessard had no
response and moved on to another question.
But what could she
Trociuk won in the
Supreme Court of Canada and it hasn't helped.