Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 11 - Evidence - September 25, 2014
OTTAWA, Thursday, September 25, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 8:05 a.m. to
study the international mechanisms toward improving cooperation in the
settlement of cross-border family disputes, including Canada's actions to
encourage universal adherence to and compliance with the Hague Abductions
Convention and to strengthen cooperation with non-Hague State Parties with the
purpose of upholding children's best interests.
Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, welcome to the seventeenth meeting of
the Second Session of the Forty-first Parliament's Standing Senate Committee on
The Chair: The Senate gave our committee the mandate to study issues
pertaining to human rights both in Canada and abroad.
My name is Mobina Jaffer, and as the chair of this committee, I am pleased to
welcome you to this meeting.
Before I continue, I would like to welcome two new members to this committee:
Senators Eaton and Tannas. Welcome. We are very happy that you've joined us. We
also have Senator Eggleton with us — not an old member, but a member of the
committee. Other members are joining. Senator Ngo is here, and Senator Nancy
Ruth is also joining our committee. She used to be the chair.
Honourable senators, since December 2013, the committee has held a series of
meetings on this issue. Today, we have invited additional witnesses who will
focus particularly on the practical operation of the Hague abduction convention
and the Malta Process mechanism.
The purpose of our study is to improve cooperation in the settlement of
cross-border family disputes, including Canada's actions to encourage universal
adherence to and compliance with the Hague abductions convention and to
strengthen cooperation with non-Hague state parties with the purpose of
upholding children's best interests.
The problem of international parental child abduction, while not new, has
grown over the past few decades, with general increases in international travel,
international relationships, and rates of divorce and legal separation. In such
cases, a child is removed from his or her home environment, referred to as the
habitual residence, transported to another jurisdiction by one parent, and may
or may not have any further contact with the parent left behind.
The committee is studying the effects this has on children. We are very
pleased today that we have at the start of our hearings witnesses from London.
We have Mandeep Gill from International Family Law Group, a firm based in
London; and from Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, Alison Shalaby,
Chief Executive Officer; and Anne- Marie Hutchinson, Chair.
I understand that Ms. Gill will start.
Mandeep Gill, Associate, International Family Law Group, LLP, as an
individual: Yes, I will. Thank you and good morning, Madam Chair. Thank you
for the invitation to speak. It's an honour to be able to address you. As you
have explained, I work with the law firm the International Family Law Group in
How has the application of the Hague convention of 1980 evolved to meet the
changing realities of cross-border family disputes? I won't go into the details
of what the convention is, because I'm fully aware that the committee has been
meeting for many weeks and has gone over that detail already.
Child abduction cases are on the rise year on year, and the Hague convention
now has 91 signatories, with Japan being the latest one, I believe, from April.
Child abduction is rising for various reasons, which I'm sure have already been
raised in previous committee meetings. But in my experience, overwhelmingly the
abducting parent is the primary carer, the mother, who wishes to return back to
her homeland with the children after a divorce or separation.
At the inception of the Hague convention of 1980, the thinking was the
abductors would be predominantly fathers who were non-primary carers, but that
doesn't seem to be the case in today's society. Sometimes mothers are abducting
in the knowledge that it's a civil offence and, in some countries, also a
criminal offence; sometimes they are completely oblivious to this.
Not every mother is fleeing from domestic violence, but it certainly seems to
be a feature in many cases where mothers are pleading an Article 13(b)
defence under the Hague convention. They are saying that, as a result of abuse
suffered in the country of habitual residence, it would be intolerable for the
children to be returned there.
The way in which these cases have evolved over time is that the English court
asks the left-behind parent to provide certain assurances and legally binding
promises called undertakings to, for example, not be violent; threaten violence;
or harass, pest or intimidate the mother upon her returning back with the
children. The concept of undertakings was perhaps not first thought about at the
inception of the Hague convention, 1980, but it has become an important aspect
of these cases in England in order to put in place safeguards and find a
practical solution to a return of the children taking place where allegations of
abuse are made by the abducting mother or where the mother would be in a
precarious financial position if she had to return with the children.
In the latter case, where it's a financial issue, then the father commonly
will give undertakings to the English court to provide certain financial
assistance, which will last until the first or notice hearing in the country of
habitual residence once a return has taken place.
Within the EU, we have the EU regulation called the Council Regulation No.
2201/2003. Therefore, within the EU, we also need to take that into account when
we're dealing with child abduction cases. It came into force in August 2004,
being applied from March 1, 2005 — so, many years after the 1980 Hague
convention. That is Article 11(4) of that EU regulation, which states:
A court cannot refuse to return a child on the basis of Article 13b of the
1980 Hague Convention if it is established that adequate arrangements have
been made to secure the protection of the child after his or her return.
And I think this has resulted, in England, for example, asking the central
authority of the country of habitual residence to provide information about
safeguards that are available for the child and what state of financial support
and welfare benefits the returning parent could be applying for. Again, the use
of undertakings achieves the object of this Article 11(4) in terms of the
In England, I think the application of the Hague convention has evolved in
recent years to there being an increase in respondents in proceedings seeking
expert evidence. That's been quite a hot topic in this country for the last year
or so where, for example, a respondent mother seeks to induce expert evidence
from a psychiatrist on the impact on her if she was to return back to the
country of habitual residence where often she won't have support networks,
family or financial stability.
The court will only allow such expert evidence if it will assist the court in
the proceedings, but such evidence was allowed in two Supreme Court cases Re
E and In the Matter of S. As a result of those cases, there was a
rush of respondents trying to found a defence with psychiatric evidence being
introduced to help bolster the 13(b) defence, and some respondents were
seeking to instruct the same psychiatrists as in those Supreme Court cases.
Another hot topic on how I think the Hague Convention has evolved recently,
particularly in this country, is what role the voice of the child should play in
these proceedings. There has certainly been an increase in children wishing to
be joined to proceedings that concern them, and wishing to have not only their
voice being heard but their own legal team so that they can fully participate in
the proceedings. And under the family procedure rules, the court is empowered to
make a child party to the proceedings if it's in the child's best interests to
At the end of last year we had a Supreme Court case here where this very
issue was dealt with in the case of Re LC, and the children were joined
as parties to those proceedings. There was a decision that certain older
children may have their own separate habitual residence from both of their
That is a new concept we've had from the end of last year. There has also
been an increase recently in non-subject children wanting to be joined to
proceedings, for example, siblings who are over 16 and therefore can't be
subject to the Hague convention proceedings, or step-siblings who would be
affected by there being a separation of siblings and the subject children being
returned back to their place of habitual residence.
Further, I think that mediation is very much in focus not just with child
abduction cases but also with domestic family cases in England, and in fact it's
a precondition of proceedings for domestic cases since April of this year.
Since April of this year, applicants in Hague convention proceedings have the
benefit of non-means and merits tested legal aid, which would mean that there
are potentially more people open to trying to compromise these proceedings if
they believe that it's better to come to an agreement rather than go through the
court system to have an end result. There may well be more mediation inquiries
or cases parallel to the Hague convention proceedings as a result of more legal
aid being available for that aspect.
The concept of joint custody arrangements has evolved also since the
inception of the Hague convention, 1980, and certainly it would not have been a
concept that was commonplace when the Hague convention was born.
Joint custody doesn't necessarily mean equal division of care, and in fact in
England we moved away from the terminology of custody in the late 1980s after
the Hague convention so as to avoid parents feeling that they have a sense of
ownership of their children and working towards a greater focus on parents'
responsibilities rather than parental rights.
In any event, others might disagree, but I'm not entirely sure whether an
increase in joint custody or joint care has had much of an impact on the Hague
convention because under Article 3, rights of custody is simply the right to
decide where the child resides rather than physical custody.
But I would say that before December 1, 2003, in England and Wales, a father
who is not married to the mother would only have parental responsibility, and
therefore the right to decide where the child resides, if there was a court
order or an agreement in the absence of the parents being married. Since
December 1, 2003, the law has changed here, which would mean that an unmarried
father can have parental responsibility by attending the registration of the
child's birth and being named on the birth certificate or signing a statutory
declaration to say that he is the child's father. So there may well be fewer
cases where the father now does not have rights of custody and, therefore,
cannot invoke the Hague convention as a result of that change of law we had
about 11 years ago.
Also since the 1980 convention, in the U.K. we are now party to the 1996
Hague convention, which I know was mentioned in one of your previous sessions,
and that came into force in the U.K. in November 2012, many years after the U.K.
government decided in 2001 that it should be ratified. Essentially, the overall
aim of that convention is to improve the protection of children in international
situations and to establish cooperation between the authorities of the
contracting states to achieve that aim.
The 1996 convention postdates the 1980 Hague convention, but predates the
Brussels II revised regulation that I mentioned a few minutes ago. It's taken 15
years to come into effect, whereas Brussels II revised came into effect
relatively quickly in March 2005, and therefore many of the provisions of the
1996 convention, though innovative and exciting in 1996, may seem a bit mooted
and familiar now as in recent years we've become familiar with the Brussels II
revised as between EU states, with the exception of Denmark.
I won't go into the details of the convention because it's very lengthy, but
it's a convention that can be used in child abduction cases as well. In contrast
to the 1980 Hague convention, which applies to children under the age of 16, the
1996 convention applies to the children under the age of 18. As a consequence,
it can be used to extend the operation of the 1980 Hague convention to pursue
the return of children who are over 16.
That is, I suppose, a short summary of that convention. Article 7 of it deals
with the situations of wrongful removal or retention of a child and reflects
Article 10 of Brussels II revised and Article 3 of the 1980 Hague convention.
Article 50, finally, provides that when both states are parties to the 1996 and
1980 conventions, nothing precludes the 1996 convention being used to secure the
return of the child wrongfully removed or retained or securing access rights.
The 1996 convention, therefore, provides an independent way of dealing with
abduction cases. There are around 35 contracting states to this convention,
Canada not being one of them, but of particular interest to the U.K. are the
contracting states of Albania, Armenia, Morocco and Ukraine, as these countries
are not party to the 1980 convention or the Brussels II revised convention.
That is all I wanted to say about that convention.
I don't know how I'm doing for time, but maybe we come back later —
The Chair: Yes, I would ask you to finish because we are running out
Ms. Gill: That's fine.
My concluding notes were in relation to the status and efficiency of
international mechanisms outside of the Hague convention, 1980.
I know in previous meetings the committee have talked about the Malta
Process, and in addition to that we've got the UK-Pakistan Protocol on Children
Matters since 2003. We've got the Cairo Declaration as well. I think these
agreements are a very good idea in the interests of international comity, but in
practice at the moment, in my experience, I think international judicial liaison
seems to work much better.
The Chair: Thank you. We also have your paper, which we will
distribute to members once it has been translated.
Ms. Gill: Thank you.
The Chair: May we now go on to the next speaker, please?
Alison Shalaby, Chief Executive Officer, Reunite International Child
Abduction Centre: I would like to echo what Mandeep said in thanking you for
allowing us to participate in this. I'm the chief executive officer for Reunite
International Child Abduction Centre. We're an NGO based in the U.K. For parents
we provide an advice line and mediation service, but we also undertake research,
we lobby for changes in law and we intervene in court cases.
What I'd like to focus on primarily is the work that we do in supporting
parents, and that's through our advice line where we deal with abduction cases,
prevention cases, leave to remove and also contact across international borders.
We did forward some statistics, which I don't know if you've actually had an
opportunity to see or not, but last year we dealt with 520 new abduction cases.
This year it's more likely to be just under the 600 mark. We have both the left-
behind parent and also the abducting parent contacting us. In some cases we may
actually have both parents who contact us, seeking assistance and support.
Our role in these cases is in the initial stages to provide advice and
information so parents can make an informed decision on which route they want to
go down. Do they want to go down the legal route, be it through the Hague
convention or domestic proceedings in a non-Hague convention country? Is it
through mediation, or do they actually not really want to do anything?
If they're going down the legal route, we will follow that case with them. If
it all goes along according to plan, particularly the Hague convention cases,
then our role is very much in supporting the parent emotionally, because I think
the emotional angle is overlooked or forgotten by many professionals.
If the case does not progress as we would expect it to, then at that point we
would intervene. We would speak with central authorities across the world, with
police departments, with possibly the embassies in London to express where our
concerns are and to understand what the blockage is in this case moving forward,
and that is quite successful.
When we look at how cases are resolved, I think one of the things that's
really missing when we look at this whole issue of parental child abduction is
that so few people have statistics. If you don't know what the scale of the
problem is, if you don't know where the blockages are, if you don't know how
parents want to resolve their cases, then I don't really know how we can move
forward in resolving these cases. We know that from our 2012 year we had just
under 500 or 506 cases reported to us, so that's going back almost two years
now. In 82 per cent of those cases they were actually resolved, but we see a big
gap between Hague cases and non-Hague.
With the Hague cases, around 92 per cent were resolved, but with non-Hague it
drops down to 65.5 per cent. Again, if we look at how they're resolved, we know
that in roughly 5 per cent of both Hague and non-Hague the parents actually
reconcile. In 20 per cent of the Hague cases the parents reach an amicable
solution without the need for court intervention or without the need for
mediators to get involved.
When we actually look at returns, then we had 42 per cent of our Hague cases
resolved through the child returning either through the full Hague proceedings,
voluntary once the Hague convention was raised, domestic proceedings or a parent
just returning voluntarily without the need for any other sort of intervention,
other than the left-behind parent contacting them and saying, ``Look, there is
this Hague convention; I will use it.''
When we look at our cases, in 75 per cent of the cases it's the mother who
removes the child. When we are speaking with the mothers we ask if domestic
violence is involved in these cases, and the vast majority of the mothers will
There is this perception, firstly, that it's fathers who remove when it's
not, and there is this big perception that mothers are always fleeing domestic
violence, and they're not. What the mothers are doing is making a lifestyle
choice for themselves. Their relationship has broken down in the country that
they're living in and they don't want to remain in that country. They're making
a choice for themselves, but they're also making a choice on behalf of the child
and, in most of the cases, without actually involving the child in that decision
We have an increase in the number of parents, again it's usually the mothers
who contact us, and they are saying that they're living in a country and they
want to return to their home country and how do they do that legally. We explain
about the Hague convention, and they don't tend to be able to get their heads
around the fact that you can't just leave.
British parents, parents who are living in Canada, Australia or America, will
say to us, ``Well, I'm British, why can't I just go home? I have a British
passport. Nobody can stop me and my children from leaving.'' Again, similarly,
we have a lot of Canadian parents based in the U.K. who contact us wanting to
return to Canada. We always ask them the question, ``You have made this
decision. What do your children feel about it?''
In every single case, and we're talking about upwards of near on 200 cases a
year, the mother has never spoken with the children about the relocation, which
I just think strengthens this argument that it is the parent who's making a
One of the other things that we try to do for parents, particularly when it's
an abduction to a non-Hague convention country, where we know that the domestic
proceedings are going to be long and protracted, is to find them a pro bono
solicitor in that country to assist them in that process. The other thing we do
is work very closely with our foreign office here and with government
departments overseas in raising the cases diplomatically.
Mandeep talked about mediation and that there's greater interest in that. I
think Reunite was the lead organization which, over a decade ago, introduced
mediation into these cases. We would say it is suitable in such a small number
of cases, and it's not the way forward. The way forward to resolve these cases
is to have effective legal systems in place around the world.
Hopefully that's given you an insight into the work we do, the support we
give parents in intervening in these cases, to move them on and get a
resolution, whatever that resolution may be. Hopefully we'll be able to have
some questions later on.
The Chair: Thank you both very much for your presentations. We found
them very interesting. We will now go on to questions.
Senator Eaton: Thank you very much.
Mandeep, are there differences dealing with children abducted to countries
that practise sharia law as opposed to countries that practise common law?
Ms. Gill: Abductions from England to sharia law countries, you mean?
Senator Eaton: Or from Canada or Australia to countries that practice
sharia law as opposed to common law.
Anne-Marie Hutchinson, Chair, Reunite International Child Abduction
Centre: I'm Anne-Marie Hutchinson, the chair of trustees of Reunite, and I'm
also a very old and long-in-the-tooth practitioner.
There are two aspects to the issue of Islamic states and the sharia. First,
where children — and it often happens — are brought into the U.K. from sharia
states, we have a problem with our courts, especially if they come from states
such as Saudi or Qatar, states where a woman's and indeed a female child's human
rights could be and are limited. We do have a conflict, then, when our courts
have to consider whether or not to return those children.
In respect of children who are taken out of the U.K., and putting Pakistan
and Bangladesh to one side because we do have special relationships with them
and I know Canada does also because they are part of the Commonwealth, but in
respect of the other states, then we have very real difficulties, often and
primarily because the legal custody of the child will be with the father and he
will have the right of veto over those children.
Unfortunately, within Reunite, we have many long-standing cases of children
who indeed turn into adults before they are able to be reunited with their
left-behind parent. I know that's the international experience. Certainly from
Reunite's perspective, we had hoped to have more teeth and more advancement to
the Malta Process. We were present at its inception. When it started many years
ago, we had hoped it would lead to something more akin to some of the bilateral
contracts. That hasn't come about. Our concern is that it is being used by some
of the states as soft law, and their first port of call is, ``Let's not mediate;
let's not treat this as a civil role.'' The starting point is not that children
should be returned to their state of habitual residence.
That said, the 1996 convention, with its ethos of comity and respect between
states, will prove in the longer term a vehicle where even sharia states,
perhaps not all of them but states such as Morocco and Tunis, could and would be
prepared to return children under that convention on the basis that they're
applying convention principles and not having to face head on issues of public
policy and their own domestic law. We have a case at the moment that's pending
where a child has been brought from Morocco to the U.K. That child's return to
Morocco is sought. It will be interesting to see how our courts will deal with
that because now they have to apply the 1996 Hague convention when making that
Senator Eaton: Alison, you talked about blockages. Are there usual
blockages? What are they?
Ms. Shalaby: What we tend to see with the Hague convention cases is
blockages in the communication between central authorities. Central authorities
tend to communicate purely by email, and I think there's a lot of pressure on
the resources of central authorities at the moment. For example, we had one case
that was an outgoing abduction to a Hague convention state. There was the Hague
hearing, and three months later we were sitting and still waiting for the
judgment. Our central authority was saying, ``We haven't heard. You've got to
sit tight and be patient.'' In the end, we just contacted the other central
authority and said, ``When can we expect to get the judgment? What is the
problem?'' We were advised actually that the judgment was communicated to our
central authorities three months earlier. Our central authority was saying, ``We
didn't receive it.'' The other central authority was saying, ``We sent it.'' As
far as we were concerned, we weren't too concerned where the miscommunication
had happened, but it happened so let's move on and get this child back to the
country of habitual residence. It's far easier for us just to pick up the phone
and ask the questions rather than wait for the communication to go via email
across maybe a period of two or three months.
Senator Eaton: Can you take me through the process? You get a
judgment. You work out the blockages. How easy is it once the judgment has come
down to get the child returned from country A to country B?
Ms. Shalaby: Usually it's very easy because there are enforcement
procedures. It's very rare, actually, once there is a return judgment, that the
parent actually refuses to return. They all tend to go quite smoothly. We have
seen recently maybe four or five cases where the parent has refused to return,
and we have had to rely on the enforcement procedures. I think in four of those
five cases, they have still not been enforced. What we're starting to question
now is whether it is a problem with the enforcement procedure or actually a lack
of willingness to enforce that decision in that other country.
Another area we may intervene is we had a case where they had the first Hague
hearing, and then it was going to be delayed for six weeks because the other
country had requested a full welfare check. We spoke with the central authority
and said, ``The Hague convention isn't about welfare and there shouldn't be this
delay. The process is going askew.'' The central authority agreed with us, but
they can't intervene in the judicial process. How we got around it was we wrote
a letter of not necessarily complaint but a list of our concerns. We passed it
to the central authority overseas. They passed it to the liaison judge. Within a
week, the Hague hearing had been heard without the welfare check and the child
was returned that very evening to its country of habitual residence.
Senator Eggleton: Thank you very much for your presentations and for
being with us this morning here, afternoon for you.
The cases that come under the Hague abduction convention involve some 91
countries. Then there are, of course, the countries that are part of the Malta
Process, which are largely those that are under part or total Islamic law or
sharia law. What is the breakdown of the cases that you deal with
percentage-wise between countries under either one of those processes? Is there
a trend in one direction or another?
Ms. Shalaby: If we take our 2012 cases, there were 506 in total; 329
of those were with Hague convention countries, and 177 were with non-Hague. I
think that's roughly two-thirds Hague, one-third non-Hague. I think that's the
trend we have seen in recent years. It sticks at that.
We have seen in the last sort of 18 months an increase into the African
countries. We have a lot of abductions now to Nigeria and to Kenya, where
previously, a few years ago, we wouldn't have seen that at all.
Senator Eggleton: Do you feel that progress is being made under the
Malta Process? You indicated that it takes longer to settle a case that's under
a non-Hague convention arrangement. Is there some improvement coming about in
that process to help cut down on those different times?
Ms. Shalaby: If I go from practical experience, what we're seeing from
parents, whilst I think the Malta Process brings a benefit in bringing people
together to discuss, we are not seeing any practical benefits. I think that
there is too much of an emphasis on mediation, where we know mediation will not
work if there is not an effective legal system in place.
I know that one of the supposed benefits that came out of the Malta Process
was a central contact point in each of these countries. Well, when we try
dealing with central contact points in one of the non-Hague convention
countries, we're just being told, ``Well, no, we're too busy to deal with these
types of cases.'' Part of me is concerned that this may just be lip service
rather than seeing actual benefits. I don't know from a legal point of view.
Ms. Hutchinson: I would just endorse what I said earlier about the
problem with the Malta Process. It sets out principles, but it doesn't set out
procedures, and there are no agreed procedures. That's where it has become
stuck. As I said, we had hoped there would be far more advancement in it over
Just looking at the countries and the cases involving those states, the
statistics show that if children are taken from the U.K., they tend to be
children taken by their fathers to non-Hague cases, which is not on a par with
Hague cases. As we said, Hague cases tend to be removed by mothers, but with
non-Hague, it tends to be the fathers who are the abductors. Serious research
needs to be done as to the reasoning for that, and then perhaps we may be able
to look for and find more solutions.
Ms. Shalaby: Could I add one point? We are seeing small chinks of
light. In recent months, we had a court-ordered return from Pakistan. We've had
one from Sri Lanka. There's been one from India, and there was one from Gambia
or Zambia. The only difference is that it has taken a lot longer. In Zambia, it
took them five years to reach the decision that the children's country of
habitual residence was England, so they should be returned.
So there are chinks, but I don't think they're necessarily coming from the
Malta Process. It's more to do with judicial liaison and the sharing of
knowledge and expertise.
Senator Eggleton: I will change the focus to prevention. It would be
better for all if we could do more in that regard. There have been suggestions
that there needs to be greater awareness about the Hague convention, that the
general population don't know about it unless they get into the circumstance
where there is an abduction, then they find out about something they never knew
about before. There is the question about what governments can do in terms of
anti- abduction controls at the borders — a passport alert system or an exit
What do you think would be the most effective preventive measures to take?
That question is for any or all three of you.
Ms. Hutchinson: In the U.K. a few years ago our embarkation controls
were removed. Up until that point of time, at the port of exit, it would be a
government official who would carry out passport checks and implement port
alerts. The only passport checks that are happening now are at ports of exit
that are carried out by aircraft carriers or whatever.
The ability of port alerts to prevent abductions has decreased massively, and
many children still go through the borders, even though the court has made an
order that a child should not be removed. That's an issue that has come down to
We are an island, so of all the countries, England should have been at the
most advantageous position to man its ports and prevent exits, but those
controls have gone, unfortunately.
Ms. Shalaby: I will speak from a practical point of view. We see
almost 500 prevention cases per year, and we have the broad spectrum. So we will
have a parent contact us to say their relationship has broken down, and there's
not necessarily any sign that there's this risk of abduction, but they have
taken precautions. On the other end of the spectrum, we will get at midnight a
call from a parent saying, ``I just got home. The mother and children have
disappeared. I've just found information on the computer that they're about to
leave the country in six hours. What do I do?''
We deal with all those questions.
From our point of view, it is about ``when,'' but as you've already said, a
parent doesn't think of this until they're actually touched by it. I'm a prime
example of that: My daughter was abducted to Egypt, and I didn't think about it
before she'd gone.
There are two areas we focus on. First, every year, we do an annual awareness
campaign in conjunction or partnership with our foreign office. It's a major
campaign that will focus on one particular aspect; it will cover radio and
television, and the ministers will get involved. There will be newspapers and
case studies. Following that campaign, we see a huge increase in calls to our
The other thing we do that's really important is police training. In the
U.K., and I think it's the same in Canada, there's a very inconsistent response
from police when a parent contacts them to say, ``My child is about to be
abducted.'' That response will vary from the police saying, ``It's a civil
matter; go away'' to the police taking it seriously and actually stopping the
children at the airport from leaving the country.
We have 43 forces. We're currently working on a standard set of procedures
that will cover all of those forces. We actually go out to all of the forces and
do training, so that police realize it is not just a domestic dispute or a civil
dispute; it's a matter of child protection, and they should take action.
Ms. Gill: I would endorse what Ms. Shalaby has said in relation to
police training. As a lawyer, often a client will contact me once they've been
in touch with the police and haven't had any joy with the police. Raising
training in general, and in particular to the police and the good work that
Reunite are doing, is incredibly important from a prevention point of view.
Often, a parent will go to the police as their best point of call and not
necessarily to a lawyer. I've had cases where a father has been turned away by
the police, the mother has abducted the child 48 hours later, and they are
fighting through the foreign courts 18 months later.
So training in that sense is incredibly important, as is the ongoing work
that is being done in this country.
Senator Eggleton: I have one quick final point. Ms. Hutchinson, you
mentioned embarkation controls having been removed and that the only controls
appear to be the airlines. Should they be sensitized to this? Should there be
requirements or education to have the airlines better operate in an embarkation
Ms. Hutchinson: They are aware. Reunite has been involved in campaigns
and awareness raising with the airlines. From Reunite's perspective, at the end
of the day, there is in the U.K. an offence for parental child abduction. That
duty and obligation should fall to the state and not to the commercial carriers
We were advised embarkation is going back. I'm not sure whether this is a
hitch and there has been a policy change, but we would like to see the old port
system back in place.
Senator Andreychuk: Thank you for the information, statistically,
because it has been very helpful in our study.
I'm just not clear: You're saying that in a lot of the cases where the mother
is abducting, it's a lifestyle change as opposed to violence, and that's one of
the myths. What I'm interested in, into the Malta Process and countries where
perhaps mothers' rights are still not identified or recognized, is there a
difference? Are those cases more related to violence or not?
Ms. Shalaby: I don't think they're necessarily with violence. I think
the difficulty we have is when a father abducts, it's difficult. They're going
back to their home country; that is where they're going to stay. When a mother
abducts, she doesn't necessarily want to destroy the relationship between the
father and the child; she wants them to have a meaningful relationship. And
often once she realizes that it's a criminal offence, that association with
criminality is enough to encourage her to return voluntarily.
For us, the worst possible case we could have is an abduction to one of the
Arab states by a father, because there is very little that you can do in those
Ms. Hutchinson: But as I mentioned earlier, we had a case — a U.K.
Saudi case — and our House of Lords as it then was — now our Supreme Court —
said clearly that where human rights and women's rights are engaged, and where
you have a state whose laws say that custody of a child should pass at a certain
age in line with best interests, and where you have a state where the father has
the right to veto not only over the child but over the wife — he could prevent
his wife leaving the jurisdiction and his will cannot be overridden by the state
apparatus — that is a fundamental breach of human rights, and our U.K. courts
would not return a child who is with its primary carer, the mother, to such a
There are a number of states to which our English courts could not, under our
current law, return children. That would involve states around Saudi. I think
that's a similar position. I've been up to the Canadian high commission, and
we've discussed this issue. It's problematic because, as a practitioner, I
wouldn't wish to see women going back to those countries where one knows they're
going back to a situation where they have no rights.
Senator Andreychuk: Are you using the international Convention on the
Rights of the Child in any of these cases to impress on the state, or the courts
in those states, that the child's interests are paramount and that they have to
take this into account, and this may conflict with some of the issues that
you've pointed out, since everyone has been a signatory but the U.S. and Somalia
to the convention?
Ms. Hutchinson: Indeed, but that's where you have a conflict between
the rights of the child and the rights of the caring parent, and then overriding
international principles of human rights. It's a difficulty, but our current law
says that where you have an overriding principle of human rights that is
undermined, you must give precedence to that as the overriding right. Even if
the child has been abducted from such a state and in the normal circumstances
you would return a child, you cannot return a child to a state that has an ethos
that fundamentally undermines human rights, mothers' rights and through that the
Senator Andreychuk: On the Malta Process, I understand it was to
assist in individual cases, but it was also to be a learning tool to get into
the countries that have not signed on to the convention. It was intended to get
that dialogue going with the states to point out that it's in their best
interest to start dealing internationally with abduction cases. Do you believe
that objective has been met?
Ms. Shalaby: I don't believe that it has been met, no. I think that it
has been positive in that it's brought people to the table, but have any
specific objectives been met? No, I don't believe so.
I think you have touched on a very good point, which is this notion of
reciprocity, because whilst we have a lot of abductions going out of the U.K.,
equally a country like Pakistan has a lot of abductions out of Pakistan into the
U.K. We know that because we get parents in Pakistan contacting us to say their
child has been abducted to Canada, to the U.K., wherever, what can we do? I
think because Pakistan doesn't have any way of collating those statistics,
they're not aware of the problem. If this notion of reciprocity was pressed upon
more, so these countries found out somehow that their children are being
abducted as well, there may be more of a two-way process.
Senator Andreychuk: I have a final question. You indicated that
mediation doesn't quite work in some cases. I'm interested, having worked in
Canada on family law for a long time, if you are finding the issues any
different between the parents when there's an abduction to an international
country, or whether they are the same fundamental issues of breakdowns and
issues between parents nationally when you deal with them. In other words, does
cross-cultural and cross-state make a difference?
Ms. Shalaby: We don't deal with domestic cases, so I can't really
compare the two. But I know when we're looking at international cases,
peculiarly, there's more of a desire to mediate, negotiate or discuss the cases
with non-Hague convention countries because that is more familiar to them within
their own way of life. Whereas with Hague cases, the real blockage is,
understandably, the left-behind parent doesn't want to mediate. The left-behind
parent wants their child returned. So we may get 100 to 120 referrals to us each
year of Hague cases, but in the vast majority of those cases, the left-behind
parent doesn't want to mediate. Those that are expressing a desire to mediate
when we do a screening interview, the parents are too polarized and I think
there's now too much pressure on parents to mediate to find a solution. A lot of
left-behind parents are saying, ``Yes, I will try it'' simply because they
believe if they say ``no'' that it will go against them in court.
These cases are just not suitable. If you go back 10 years or so to why we
set up mediation, it was because we were concerned that some parents didn't
actually want their children returned but they wanted good contact, and there
was no mechanism for that. We were successful with that. A lot of countries have
taken it to be that mediation can be used in all of the cases when it can't.
The Chair: I have a clarification. Ms. Gill, I think you said
sometimes a parent will ask for a psychiatrist's report that it is not suitable
for them to return to the country. How often is that used? My impression was
that the court would look at the best interests of the child and not look at
expert reports of the parent.
Ms. Gill: It's still relatively rare in the Hague convention context
because the proceedings are only to last a few weeks with a quick decision in
relation to jurisdiction and whether the child goes back to the country of
habitual residence or not. But there certainly seemed to me, in my practice, to
be a rush of respondent mothers who wanted to use those sorts of expert reports
to bolster Article 13(b) defences. It may have been mothers who are
relying solely on Article 13(b) defences where no other exception within
the Hague convention was relevant to their case.
It's on a case-by-case basis, clearly. I certainly wouldn't say it is
commonplace within Hague convention proceedings for there to be expert reports
of that nature. What is more commonplace is to have expert evidence from foreign
lawyers on rights of custody, et cetera, and that quite often happens. I
certainly wasn't suggesting that psychiatric reports are now becoming very
common at these proceedings. That's not the case, but there was certainly a bit
of a rush by respondents to instruct particular psychiatrists who had been
involved in the two reported cases I mentioned earlier.
Ms. Hutchinson: That's a two-part test. The test, first, is whether
the abducting parent is the primary carer. The next question that the court must
satisfy is this: Does the primary carer impact upon the child to such an extent
that you cannot separate the interests of the two? It would only be a situation
where you perhaps have a postnatally depressed mother, for example, and if you
returned her, you impact the child at the highest threshold. They are still very
rare in this jurisdiction.
I just wanted to touch on this briefly because I didn't write notes, but I
will send you some on the issues of Japan, if that's of interest to any of you,
with Japan being one of our newest members states. We are waiting to hear what
occurs in the first Japanese Hague case. There has yet to be one. The U.K. has
had one Anglo-Japanese case where we returned the children to Japan. Reunite has
done a lot of work, and I know the Canadian government has assisted a lot in
Japan, getting up and ready for the convention in Japan, training over a number
of years, which has also spilled over into China, where I think the same issue
will arise. In Japan, there seems to be — equally what we were doing in China —
a difficulty in their understanding what 13(b) means. Certainly under
Japanese law, it would appear they were going to say if there has been past
violence, then Article 13(b) is made out, whereas we all treated Article
13(b) as risk of future harm. Past harm may be relevant as evidence, but
it's the risk of future harm.
Certainly at Reunite we are concerned that much more work needs to be done
with the Japanese and the implementation on that. The work we have been doing
with China, which we believe may well come online with the convention, and
across the Asia-Pacific region I think that issue will be problematic, and a lot
of assistance needs to be given through the ministries of foreign affairs and
justice to have proper training. Equally, the Philippines, which is looking at
the convention, is raising precisely the same issues as Japan about past
domestic violence and wishing to put a gloss, as it were, on the convention.
The Chair: You mentioned 13(b), the exception. In your
experience, when is the exception used in the U.K.? You mentioned, for example,
the overriding human rights of a person. Are there any other cases where the
exception has been used?
Ms. Hutchinson: Well, it is that. It is the exception, and they are
exceptional cases. There are some cases where it is clear there is a very real
and live Article 13(b) defence, but those are still few and far between.
Possibly what's happening in the U.K., and sometimes they merge, is that the
issue of the child's objections sometimes becomes conflated with 13(b),
especially where you have older children, probably 12 years and up. Then it's a
sort of a mixing together of 13(b) plus a child's objections. Those are
the cases where our courts are declining to order return with more frequency.
Straight 13(b) is still something of a rarity, but it can happen. It can
happen even when there are undertakings and promises offered if it's to a
country where we could not be satisfied that there's any real teeth to those
undertakings. One example was during the Greek economic crisis 18 months or two
years ago when their infrastructure collapsed and mothers were, quite rightly,
one would say, saying, ``If I go back to Greece, they have no benefits. There's
no housing.'' The social structure at the moment had collapsed, and there were
valid reasons for not returning impecunious mothers to impecunious fathers or
children to impecunious fathers because there was no social system to support
them on their return.
The Chair: Do you know whether other countries in the EU are
consistent with the U.K. interpretation on the 13(b) exception?
Ms. Hutchinson: No.
Mr. Gill: No is the simple answer.
Ms. Hutchinson: In unison. We have an issue. All Western European, if
you like, countries have an issue with some of our newly joined countries from
central and Eastern Europe. Partly we believe it's their domestic system to
start with, which was very administrative and wasn't sophisticated enough to
take in the convention and implement it. Unfortunately, through a number of
these cases, we have seen irrational — I would use the word ``irrational'' —
refusals to return children. A number of those cases have ended up in the
European Court of Human Rights. We intervened in a case in Latvia. There have
been continuing cases from Poland and cases from Romania. I'm afraid the Central
European states at the moment, as far as the Hague convention is concerned, are
(a) being labelled as slow, and they are slow; (b), their appeal system, if
there is one, is slow to the point that it negates the implementation of the
convention, and (c), they have the highest rate of non-returns under Article 13(b)
for what we would see as rules of preference or general discomfort, but
certainly not the high threshold that the courts in Canada, the U.K., the U.S.,
Australia, et cetera, would wish to be applied.
The Chair: Thank you very much. There are so many other questions we
could ask. We have found it very interesting and very educational. We appreciate
your giving us your time and sharing your knowledge with us. We would appreciate
also receiving the information that you kindly said you would send us on Japan.
We look forward to continuing this conversation with you at another time. Thank
you very much.
We are very happy to welcome Hervé Boéchat, Deputy Secretary General and
Director of the International Reference Centre for Children Deprived of Family
from International Social Service. We welcome you to the committee and are
anxious to hear your presentation. May we please ask you to start?
Hervé Boéchat, Deputy Secretary General, and Director, International
Reference Centre for Children Deprived of Family, International Social Service:
Can you hear me clearly? I cannot hear anything.
The Chair: Yes.
Mr. Boéchat: Very Good. Then I will start. Good morning, ladies and
gentlemen, honourable senators and members of the committee. I would like to
begin by extending my sincerest thanks for inviting me to appear before you
My name is Hervé Boéchat. I am a lawyer by training and I am Swiss. I am
speaking to you today in my capacity as the deputy secretary general of the
International Social Service, or ISS, and as a former member of the Swiss
central authority for international child abduction, where I worked for five
years before joining the ISS.
Every year, the ISS network handles an average of 800 to 1,000 cases that are
connected in some way to child abduction or problems with visitation rights
involving families living in different countries around the world.
The International Social Service delivers the following services in the area
of abduction: the provision of information and counselling to parents and
appropriate authorities; assistance locating children abroad; the re-
establishment of contact with the parent deprived of access; social assessments
of the child's situation; international family mediation; and post-abduction
As you know, this work is made possible thanks to the organization's presence
in over 120 countries with the help of its correspondents. I had a look at the
work the committee did in March, especially the presentation given by my
colleague Dick Chamney, and I will try not to repeat anything that has already
been said. Instead, I would like to focus my remarks on three main elements.
I will begin by discussing the understanding and implementation of the Hague
convention and the issue of mediation, followed by the issue of non-Hague state
parties and then, briefly, issues related to the training of professionals.
To begin with, it is clear that the handling of international child abduction
cases raises a number of sensitive issues. From the ISS's perspective, the focus
absolutely has to be on the best interests of the child. While that may seem
obvious at first glance, in actual practice, it becomes clear that two distinct
approaches are possible when it comes to handling cases. The consequences that
these approaches can have on the child also become clear.
Without getting into a detailed legal analysis, I will try to provide a quick
overview of the problem.
The spirit of the Hague convention calls for the immediate return of the
child to their country of habitual residence in an effort to restore the family
situation to what it was prior to the wrongful removal. The Hague convention
sets out a limited number of exceptions to the child's return, whereby the
person objecting to the return must establish that the child's return would
expose them to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place them in an
Strict enforcement of the convention requires that the child's return be
ordered as soon as possible, barring when conditions described in one of the
exceptions in the convention are met. At this stage, a follow-up investigation
of the social environment to which the child will be returned is not conducted.
These investigations can take a long time, and the objective of the Hague
convention is to order a rapid return so that the child does not integrate too
quickly into the host country.
Occasionally, however, the reason for the child's removal is precisely the
context, in other words, the original environment they are from. The approach
advocated by the ISS requires that the return conditions be assessed. Clearly,
the point is not to stand in the way of a return, but rather to assess the
social environment to which the child will return, once the return is ordered.
Certain elements have to be taken into account, including economic conditions
and the situation of the parent who remained in the home country. For instance,
if the parent works, will they be able to care for the child during the week,
given the child's age, education and so forth?
That is why the International Social Service is of the position that the
conditions surrounding the child's return must be the subject of a social
assessment. At the same time, international family mediation must be attempted
to encourage the child's return to their original family environment under the
best possible conditions. The International Social Service is not alone in this
approach; Switzerland has incorporated the approach in its federal legislation
governing international child abduction. The approach was also the focus of a
draft protocol supplementing the Hague convention, one that was not approved but
retains recommendation status.
In light of that, I would like to say two things. At the practical level,
more and more, we are realizing how important international family mediation is;
it is an effective tool that is respectful of the rights of everyone in the
resolution of international family disputes. Our organization has long been
working hard to encourage the spread of this practice, developing a guide on the
usefulness and practice of international family mediation. Furthermore, we have
set up an international network of professional mediators, which already
includes Canada, where we work with the Association internationale francophone
des intervenants auprès des familles séparées.
The second thing I want to say is this. It is essential to keep in mind that
family mediation is a measure that is now recognized in the Hague convention
relating to measures for the protection of children, the 1996 convention, and
that it constitutes a major tool in conflict resolution. I will not belabour the
importance of Canada's ratifying the 1996 convention, since you already debated
the issue back in March.
The second point pertains to non-Hague state parties. As you well know, when
a child is removed to a non-Hague state, the recourse available to parents is
very limited. In such situations, the ISS can offer other solution options
thanks to its worldwide network of correspondents, particularly in Muslim
Not all cases can be resolved easily and quickly. But the possibility of
locating the child and abducting parent and establishing contact with them often
provides the parent left behind with tremendous relief.
If the child's return cannot be ordered, the establishment of regular contact
between the parent and child at least makes it possible to maintain the
connection. Here again, international family mediation plays a key role.
There is one last point I would like to address briefly, and that is the
training or awareness of the courts regarding the convention mechanism and the
various contexts it applies to. This point is not directed at the Canadian
justice system, in particular, but rather speaks to my personal experience
working at the central Swiss authority, where it often became clear that the
courts were still not familiar with the convention, especially its social
dimension. Given that judges are often the ones on the front line when it comes
to dealing with these cases, it is imperative that they be made aware of and
sensitive to the practical realities. In that connection, the ISS can also
provide training tools.
I will end on that note. Thank you for listening, and I am at your disposal
to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentation. We have a few questions,
beginning with me.
You were speaking about mediation. What you said was interesting because
we've heard from other people that mediation does not work in all circumstances.
Can you tell us in what kind of cases you feel that mediation works, or do you
believe that mediation works in all cases?
Mr. Boéchat: That is a difficult question. From the experience I
gained in the field in my previous job at the central Swiss authority, I would
say that abduction cases can, to some extent, be categorized into three types of
situations. First, there are those situations in which the rapid application of
the mechanisms in the convention makes it possible for a solution to be reached
quickly, so in the weeks or months following the wrongful removal. The
convention works well in such cases. Then, on the other extreme, there are
volatile domestic situations, which can involve violence or abuse, mainly
between the parents; in these situations, finding a solution can be very
difficult and parents may not be very open to discussion and thus mediation.
Finally, between those two extremes, there are, what I would call, middle-
of-the-road situations, where mediation plays a key role, precisely because it
opens the door to dialogue. We are able to bring the parents to the table and
talk about the problem. And clearly, in those cases, the likelihood of success
is much higher.
The guide we put together — unfortunately, you cannot see it very well
because it is backlit — contains a number of accounts of families who used
mediation services, and their experiences clearly show that simply being able to
say what they want to say and voice their anxiety without a direct confrontation
from the other parent fosters a more open attitude and paves the way towards a
solution that is acceptable to all parties. It is true that mediation is not the
answer in all cases, obviously.
The Chair: Is it possible for us to ask you to send us a copy of the
guide, preferably electronically? Can you provide us with a copy of the guide
that you're referring to?
Mr. Boéchat: Gladly. I will send copies in English and in French, as
the guide is available in both languages.
The Chair: Thank you. We really appreciate that.
Senator Eaton: Sir, you talked about the assessment of the child in
their present environment. Does that mean you reassess what the court decided
during the separation or divorce in terms of the child's well-being?
Mr. Boéchat: It is clear that social intervention has no effect on
legal decisions that were made, be it in the case of separation or the child's
return. The issue, as I tried to explain earlier, is to determine what the
reintegration conditions will be if the child returns to their place of habitual
Senator Eaton: Suppose you find that he would be better where he is
now. In other words, there's greater family support and he's financially more
stable. That plays no part in it?
Mr. Boéchat: Of course. Under the terms of the convention, once again,
the child's return is not put into question. We have handled some dramatic
situations, as the decision to return the child was made formally. However, let
us say the father remains in the country of habitual residence and is
financially incapable of caring for the child. That child would be under their
father's care, but there would practically be no family network to take care of
them. In such a case, an alternative has to be found. Does the child have
grandparents living there? Do they have to be accompanied to school? Can the
mother return with the children and live nearby? What kind of an arrangement can
we come up with, so that the return would be in the child's interest, and not
only be in line with the legal provisions of the Hague Convention. Do you
understand what I mean?
Senator Eaton: Absolutely. Thank you.
Senator Eggleton: I'd like to focus on the question of prevention. I
think your guide book also talks about prevention. There is also an awareness
problem. I understand a number of these abduction cases occur where the parent
who takes the child out of the country of habitual residence is not aware of the
law. How do we increase awareness? How do we deal with the question of the
government's involvement with prevention measures, such as border control
Mr. Boéchat: This may be the most difficult aspect of abduction
because it is true that, when it comes to police prevention, the available tools
are extremely limited. This is a principle of law; an individual cannot be
convicted before an act has been committed. It is true that parents who are
worried about the potential actions of their spouse or their child's parent have
very few means at their disposal. When they contact International Social
Service, for instance, mediation can be attempted to try to alleviate the
conflict. Then, from an institutional perspective, from the perspective of a
central authority or simply a country's authorities, the spouse's passport
cannot be confiscated, and preventive wanted notices cannot be posted in
airports. So it is true that prevention is a major weakness in such abduction
cases. Once again, it is true that there are very few tools available for
abduction prevention, aside from the social and mediation approaches.
Senator Ngo: Thank you, Mr. Boéchat. I would like to continue in the
vein of Senator Eaton's question. You say that mediation can be used to settle
cross-border family disputes. Can you tell us a bit more about this approach in
terms of intercultural conflicts — so between Hague and non-Hague countries?
Mr. Boéchat: Between countries or within a family?
Senator Ngo: Between countries.
Mr. Boéchat: At the meeting held in March, you talked about the Malta
Process, for instance, which is an interesting initiative on ways to bring
together Hague and non-Hague countries affected by international child
Once again, from the perspective of inter-state relations, the Hague
convention does what it can to try to encourage non-Hague countries to ratify
the convention. The mandate of an NGO like ours is not at the state level, but
really at the basic level. We have to be able to count on our network of
correspondents in those countries that can help locate the child and parent.
Afterwards, we have to start a new discussion, or mediation, process to try to
resolve the family conflict.
Of course, from a purely legal point of view, certain countries protect their
nationals much more than others, regardless of the existence or non-existence of
the Hague convention. In fact, we see that certain signatory countries give
preference to the person who is going back to his country of origin, whatever
their matrimonial rights, recognized or not by a court decision.
There is a problem with the training of judges and their knowledge of the
Hague convention. In order to improve the situation, holding information
seminars and conferences is one of the tools that is still very general but
nevertheless contributes to people becoming more familiar with the Hague
convention; but there are also parallel mechanisms, in particular international
mediation. Certain local spokespeople can act as mediators with the Muslim
culture, for example, and this applies also to the Jewish or Christian cultures
as well, in order to try to create links and bring some progress to these
situations. It is true that these matters remain very complex.
Senator Ngo: According to your experience, how much time does it take
on the average to obtain the return of the child in these cases?
Mr. Boéchat: It is very difficult to answer that question. The files
are so different from one family to another and from one country to another.
Certain situations, as I said earlier, can be resolved rapidly, because there
has been a realization by the parent, and also perhaps because the conflict was
not all that grave. Other situations, however, will never be resolved. And so I
cannot give you numerical data in reply to your question, senator.
Senator Ngo: Are there repercussions?
Mr. Boéchat: Regarding the files that will never be closed?
Senator Ngo: Yes, if the child does not return, for instance. No?
Mr. Boéchat: No. In fact, there are very few means. If the host state
does not cooperate, that is difficult. Once again, I am not only talking about
developing countries. We saw cases in Europe where the state refused to
cooperate. In Europe one can go up as far as the European Court of Human Rights,
but aside from that, it is true that recourse is very limited.
The Chair: Senator Eggleton was asking you questions on prevention,
and I was wondering if you could tell us if you have used the help of the police
to intervene when there are abductions. What has the reaction of the police
been? They would have more authority. Have you worked with the police to try to
help with abductions?
Mr. Boéchat: The police can intervene in cases where a misdemeanor or
offence, as defined by the Criminal Code, has been committed. What I mean is
that if there have been threats, or violence, police intervention is easier to
In the case of a situation where there is simply a suspicion on the part of
one of the parents, bringing the police in can be counterproductive, and it can
throw oil on the fire. So it is delicate. Of course, we are still talking about
the phase before the abduction.
After the abduction, clearly the police and customs officers would intervene.
In Europe, we have the Interpol communication system among the various European
police services. Those tools are very rapidly brought on stream when an
abduction is confirmed. Afterwards, success depends on chance, events, how
rapidly action is taken, the time available and the means taken. So, I would say
that police intervention has two aspects.
The Chair: As you are aware, there are countries that have signed onto
the Hague abduction treaty and some that have not, specifically in countries
where sharia law is practised. Can you please help us as to how the Malta
Process works in your experience, what has worked and what things we should be
aware of with the Malta Process?
Mr. Boéchat: Unfortunately, I am not an expert on the Malta Process,
since I left the central authority a few years ago. So it is difficult for me to
answer your question, and I apologize.
However, I can ask some of my colleagues for a written report; they are more
familiar than I am with this process, and I can send it at the same time as the
copies of the guide we spoke about earlier.
The Chair: I appreciate that. What can Canada and the other states
parties do to increase the availability of accurate and up-to-date information
on international child abductions?
Mr. Boéchat: What kind of information are you talking about, Madam
The Chair: Do you collect any kind of information that would help
Canada in updating or dealing with child abductions?
Mr. Boéchat: I think that the best source for comparative information
on practices in different countries, as well as statistics and examples of
practices that can be developed, would be The Hague convention itself; for
instance, it regularly publishes its Judges' Newsletter and compiles
decisions that were handed down in the interpretation of the convention.
We have developed a certain number of tools, including setting up an Internet
platform to develop family mediation and to favour intercultural dialogue. As I
was saying earlier, a network of international mediators has been put in place.
We would like to set up an information centre on international mediation
which could precisely reply to the questions you have put to me. This idea is
still at the preliminary project phase today, and currently it is The Hague
convention that contains the best and most focused information.
The Chair: The challenge with the Hague convention is that they have
not collected any data since 2008. We were wondering if your organization has
collected any data. If you have any data, we would very much appreciate it if
you could forward that to us because The Hague has not done this for a while.
Mr. Boéchat: Fine. I will see what I can find in the way of
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Boéchat. We greatly appreciated
I would like to thank you, and we hope we can continue this conversation in
the future. Thank you very much.