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Taking a stand for the rights of grandparents
Ryan White, CTV Calgary
Published Wednesday, August 21, 2013 2:29PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 21, 2013 6:45PM MDT
The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is treasured in many families, but some grandparents are deprived the privilege of being a part of the lives of their children’s children.
One woman in that situation has fought long and hard for the rights of grandparents.
When Marilyn Marks's granddaughter was nine months old, the baby's mother cut off all contact between the child and Marilyn.
“She was my first grandchild and I had formed a relationship with her so it broke my heart when I was not able to see her again,” says Marilyn. “I joined a support group for grandparents denied access and from that I decided that I would form a research and advocacy group.”
Marilyn started the Alberta Grandparents Association and others joined her in her attempts to try to convince the provincial government to change legislation which makes it very difficult for grandparents to gain access to their grandchildren.
Marilyn says while other provinces have made progress, in Alberta the battle continues.
“I have been very disillusioned as have many of our members,” says Marilyn. “A lot of them have dropped away, because they've just become disheartened. The legislation seems to become more burdensome.”
Barry Marks has stood beside his wife throughout the long battle and admires her tenacity and compassion.
“What inspires me about Marilyn is her ability to keep going, to advocate for other people, show a caring and compassion as well as a great deal of understanding of the grandparents situation,” says Barry.
Barry is an artist and a retired art teacher and he has turned to his artistic skill to comfort Marilyn. When Marilyn was denied access to her granddaughter, Barry painted a portrait reuniting the two.
The former Ernest Manning high school teacher delayed his retirement to help fund the expenses associated with Marilyn’s battle.
Marilyn has been recognized for her work on behalf of grandparents. She has been honoured with a Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal and the Alberta Centennial medal but Marilyn says she'd gladly trade those for a relationship with her grandchildren.
“What inspires me is the love of my grandchildren and the other grandparents who are feeling the huge loss of not being involved in their grandchildren's lives.”
For her tireless effort to reunite grandparents with their grandchildren, Marilyn Marks is this week’s Inspiring Albertan.
With files from Darrel Janz