Parentswho remove children from their home countries in defiance of court orders andcustody agreements often create situations that are, from a practical point ofview, extraordinarily difficult for the abandoned parent. If the receivingcountry ignores a Canadian request to return the children, or does not agreethat they should be returned, the other parent's options can be very limited.That is so even if the receiving country is a signatory to the Hague Conventionon international child abduction.
A year earlier, Justice Hugh O'Connell referred to the history of the litigation as bordering on the "obscene."
mother, who had de facto custody after separation, left the matrimonial home in
2000 with the children, alleging that the father had sexually abused one of the
boys. Two custody access assessments were subsquently completed, clearing the
father of those allegations. Indeed every expert involved with the children,
after numerous delays and adjournments, a date was set for trial last June. A
day before, the mother left Canada with the children, taking them to an Eastern
European country with the help of that country's embassy, which provided the
children with emergency passports. Their other passports were being held by
The mother wrote a letter to the court saying that she fled "in a desperate attempt to protect the boys from any further damage caused by their father and to arrange proper therapy."
Goodman decided to proceed with the trial in the mother's absence, given the history of delay and her conclusion that the mother had "wrongly taken the law into her own hands and made a conscious decision not to attend this trial."
She also took into account the mother's decision to use an assessment by a therapist from her own country, who lived secretly in the mother's home for several weeks prior to the trial, to support her request for the emergency passports.
Goodman concluded that serious harm would come to the children if they remained with their mother and custody was awarded to the father. So far however, the European country where the children now live has refused to return them, or even to fully address Canadian requests for their return.
theme that emerges from this case is the abject failure of international law,"
prime minister has been asked to intervene, the
a result, he brought a proceeding in the child welfare court in
"That is getting everyone here very excited about whether the court has jurisdiction to find the federal and provincial Crowns guilty of an offence. That would be brand new," he said, adding that now government seems to be at least listening.
far, the Toronto CAS has argued that it has no jurisdiction because the
children are not in
Kristina Reitmeier, who is chief counsel for the Children's Aid Society of Toronto, said the CAS is mandated to protect children in a defined territorial jurisdiction, as designated by the Ontario Child and Family Services Act. There is no jurisdiction for the court to make an order that would take effect outside the province.
"I have never seen someone try to use the child protection statute to enforce a custody order offshore, which is in fact what he's [Wilson] doing. He's trying to use a child protection proceeding to enforce Justice Goodman's custody order," said Reitmeier.
She added that anyone at the CAS who has had anything to do with these children thinks that they should be helped.
"I'm just not sure that the creative strategy that is being employed is one that is going to work."
He said what is different, and particularly galling about this case is that the abduction was "state-sponsored. They knew what they were doing."
The provincial court hearing has been adjourned until early December.