2015 AFCC-O Conference

On Thursday October 22nd and Friday October 23rd, 2015, the AFCC Ontario Chapter held its 7th Annual General Meeting & Conference, entitled From Risk to Resilience: Exploring Better Outcomes for Children.

For the first time, AFCC-O presented a Pre-Conference Institute the afternoon of October 22nd: Evidence Law for Mental Health Professionals and Family Lawyers. The presenters were Professor Rollie Thompson and Professor Martha Shaffer. The session was comprised of two parts: Part I addressed issues relevant to mental health professionals who are preparing for and may be required to testify in court, including their rights and obligations as witnesses, the principles of evidence law, giving opinion evidence and the law and practice relating to direct examination, refreshing memory, cross examination and redirect. Part II canvassed the top 10 evidence “rules” that every family law lawyer needs to know, with the rules being applied to various fact scenarios. Both parts were interactive and engaging.

Also on October 22nd, the New Professionals committee, chaired by Ms. Jaclyn Mackenzie, hosted the event “Opportunities for Resolution in Family and Child Protection Law”. Presenters included: Justice Stanley Sherr of the Ontario Court of Justice, Toronto, ON; Justice Anthony William J. Sullivan of the Ontario Court of Justice, Brampton, ON; Seema Jain, family law lawyer and mediator practicing in Toronto and Tammy Law, family law lawyer in Toronto, ON. Both Seema and Tammy have active family law and child protection practices. The event was moderated by Angela Greenberg, past Chair of the New Professionals committee, who is now a program lawyer with the Advocates’ Society. The event was well attended by multi-disciplinary new professionals. The advice given was practical and very informative. Audience members were able to ask their own questions and it was clear by the level of engagement (the event ran over time) that the frank answers were not only refreshing but helpful for new professionals working in the family justice realm.

As the New Professionals event was wrapping up downstairs at the restaurant Spring Rolls, the social event was getting underway upstairs! This event provided the wonderful opportunity for fellow family law and mental health professionals to mingle and connect with friends and colleagues with the opportunity of making new connections, in an informal setting, along with some delicious hors d’oeuvres.

Friday’s conference commenced with the Annual General Meeting. Our new President, Andrea Himel, is joined by Justice Gerri Lynn Wong as President Elect, Dr. Dan Ashbourne as Vice President, Dr. Rachel Birnbaum as Past President, Shely Polak as Treasurer and Linda Feldman as Secretary. Our Directors also include Justice Allan Rowsell, Seema Jain, Dr. Jay McGrory, Linda Popielarczyk, Steven Benmor and Karla McGrath. We welcomed our new board member Justice Phil Clay. Thank you for your time and commitment in volunteering to our Board!

During the course of the conference, we remembered our friend, colleague and AFCC-O champion Justice Geraldine Waldman, and heard wonderful and heartfelt memories recounted by patti cross and Rachel Birnbaum. AFCC-O announced an award to be presented in Justice Waldman’s memory at the AFCC-O conference in October, 2016, with eligibility criteria and other details to follow.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Kyle Pruett, a child psychiatrist and Clinical Professor in the Child Studies Centre at Yale School of Medicine. His session was entitled “A Game Changer in Parent Engagement”. As a pioneer in defining the role of fathers, he has conducted research into how the role of fathers differ from that of mothers, and the ways in which all parents can provide better outcomes for their children.

The balance of the conference was a series of panel discussions and talks by a variety of speakers from different backgrounds, designed to expand our professional toolboxes. There was practical advice on ways to improve parent engagement, a multi-media presentation with tips for parents and professionals, a community resource panel and sessions on the intersection of family law and child welfare and the intersection of family law, criminal law and immigration issues. The speakers and panelists were excellent. They are too many to mention them all. Suffice to say that they provided ample food for thought and provided serious consciousness raising in a number of areas! Thank you all!

The Nicholas Bala Award for Excellence in Children and Family Law was presented to Katie Hunter who highlighted the negative effects of corporal punishment on children in her thought provoking paper “Spare The Rod, Spare the Negative Effects?: Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada’s Protection of Corporal Punishment, Physical Correction and Physical Restraint”.

The AFCC-O Distinguished Service President’s Award was presented to Dr. Barbara Fidler in recognition of her outstanding commitment and dedication to optimizing outcomes for children and families in the family justice system in Ontario.

Our program concluded with an entertaining and amusing exchange between Aaron Franks and Lucy McSweeney as they bantered and informed us about important child related cases from the past two years.

Conference Agenda

2015 Silver Sponsor

2015 Bronze Sponsors