Mother pleads for Canada to bring back children taken to Iran

August 16, 2016


Alison Azer wants federal government to help bring her four children home after their father took them to Iran in alleged abduction.


Alison Azer has not seen or spoken to her children in one year.

And now the Canadian mother of four is pleading with the federal government in Ottawa to bring her children home after their father took them out of the country last August and never returned.

“Today it just feels like such a tragic day and I’m so very disappointed to have to get to this point and for my children to have to get to this point,” Alison told Middle East Eye in a telephone interview on Monday, which marked exactly one year since her children were taken from Canada.

Alison said that she has not even been able to speak to her four children – Sharvahn, 12, Rojevahn, 10, Dersim, seven, and Meitan, four – since they left the country.

At the time, Alison said she believed the children were going on a holiday to Europe with their father, Saren Azer, who shared joint custody with Alison after the couple’s divorce.

But what was meant to be a two-week holiday has turned into a year-long nightmare.

“They can’t rescue themselves and I can’t do this alone,” said Alison, who has launched the website, “I really, really need the government to work with me to bring the Azer children, my children, back to Canada.”

Interpol red alert

Saren Azer, an Iranian citizen of Kurdish background who moved to Canada in the mid-1990s, said he wanted to take his children on holiday to Europe in August 2015, Alison said.

A BC court granted him specific permission to travel to France and Germany with the children provided that he check in with Alison every 48 hours and return to Canada on 22 August.

A day before the children were scheduled to return, however, Canada’s federal police (RCMP) alerted Alison that they had been abducted. They were seen in Germany in mid-August 2015 and they were later believed to have flown to Sulaimaniyah, in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, with their father.

A trained physician and Kurdish rights activist, Dr Azer regularly went to Iraqi Kurdistan to provide medical care and humanitarian support for internally displaced persons in the area. On 21 August 2015, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued an order requiring the children be returned to Canada immediately, and a few days later on 24 August 2015, the RCMP obtained a Canada-wide arrest warrant for Azer.


International police agency Interpol also issued an arrest order for him on charges of “abduction in contravention of custody order” at the Canadian authorities’ request.

“We understand how difficult this situation is for the children’s mother and others in the community. We will continue our efforts at home and abroad to locate and safely return these children to British Columbia,” the RCMP in Comox Valley, the area of BC the family lives, said in a statement at the time.

In June 2016, the RCMP confirmed that Azer had reached out to assure police “that the children are safe” and to answer questions posed by investigators.

“The RCMP is mindful that cases of this nature are very emotional. We are hopeful that the dialogue will continue so that a resolution can be found in this parental abduction investigation,” the RCMP statement read.

MEE’s request for additional comment from the RCMP in Comox Valley was not immediately returned on Monday.

Hundreds abducted annually

The Canadian government says hundreds of children are abducted and held in a country outside of Canada by a parent or guardian each year.

Parents found to have removed a child under age 14 from Canada against an existing custody order, or in violation of another custody rights agreement, constitute grounds for criminal prosecution. Such crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction – the main international treaty that governs international child abductions – aims to ensure the prompt return of children under the age of 16 that have been wrongfully removed from their primary place of residence. The convention is in force in about 90 countries, but Iran is not on that list.

Ottawa also does not currently have formal diplomatic ties with Tehran; relations were severed under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, which makes the process of negotiating the children’s return all the more complicated.

Alison said she has been in touch with the RCMP and Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign affairs department, about the case. But the process, she said, has been full of “a tremendous amount of confusion [and] misinformation”.

“I don’t know who is leading this, who is accepting accountability; it changes pretty much week to week,” she said.

Her claims that Canadian officials did not respond when Iranian authorities contacted them following Azer’s detention in Iran on child abduction charges in June have been denied by Ottawa.

“The Iranian authorities never reached out to Canada when they brought Mr Azer in for questioning,” Omar Alghabra, a Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, told The Globe and Mail.

Francois Lasalle, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said the government has been actively engaged on the Azer children’s case since it began, and holds their safety and wellbeing as a high priority.

“Officials in Ottawa and several of our offices abroad have spent hundreds of hours working to find a resolution to this very complex family case,” Lasalle said in an email.

He said that while Canada faces challenges due to its lack of diplomatic presence in Iran, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken with his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, about the Azer case because “Italy acts as Canada’s protecting power in Iran”.

“The government of Canada appreciates the assistance we have received from the Italian government,” Lasalle said.

The story of four little kids’

Meanwhile, Alison said she had hoped that she and her ex-husband could have co-parented in the best interests of their children, including teaching them about their dual Kurdish-Canadian heritage.

Instead, she said he put the children at risk by breaking Canadian laws.

“This is not a story of East versus West,” she said. “This is not a story of Islam versus the rest of the world, or fathers versus mothers, men versus women. This is the story of four little kids who – at no fault of their own – have been taken away from everything that was familiar to them and safe for them.”

Alison said she would continue to do everything she can to bring her children home safely, and urged Ottawa to do the same.

“It’s really, really important for my children and for all other kids that might be at risk of being abducted that the government of Canada shows leadership and responsibility to its citizens … and it just hasn’t done that yet.”

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Father and son escorted off Toronto bus by police after suspected abduction

March 17, 2016


Jason Thompson has albinism and his four-year-old son does not. Police say someone thought the child was being abducted. Peter Kim reports.


Jason Thompson took his four-year-old son Xavier to see Zootopia on Tuesday, but when they missed the show — their day went from bad to worse.

The father and son were at Victoria Park subway station, singing Row, Row, Row, Your Boat while waiting for the #12 bus.

As they boarded, Toronto police said another member of the public reported Thompson to police because he has albinism and does not look like his son.

“Someone potentially believed the child had been abducted,” said Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu.

That’s when Thompson said the bus suddenly stopped en route and the driver refused to let anyone off.

“It’s sickening to me that someone would actually take that step,” said Thompson.

“Just as I’m sitting there looking at my phone two police officers are standing outside.”

Thompson said one of the officers came onto the bus and asked him if Xavier was his son, to which he responded that he was, and the officer then asked him to get off the bus.

He said he then asked why he was being singled out and the police officer allegedly told him, “You don’t want to do this here, let’s just get off the bus.”

Thompson said the officer quickly realized he and Xavier were, in fact, related despite having different skin tones.

“I was so dumbfounded, I probably just stood there with my mouth open,” he said.

“The officer knew I was offended and said, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay.’ They kept on reassuring me and were very sympathetic and understanding.”


Police attempted to follow up with the original caller to get more information, but they did not answer their phone.

“To that person I would say think again. A white guy with a brown kid doesn’t mean that anything is going on. This is Toronto,” said Thompson

“We’re a multi-cultural city, let’s embrace it and relax everyone.”

Thompson said he had to then explain the humiliating situation to his four-year-old.

“I said, ‘Somebody called and said I’m not your daddy and they were worried.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘You are my daddy.’”

Police say they take every call related to children very seriously, and anyone who witnesses anything suspicious should give them a call.


Thankfully a day that began horribly ended a bit better for Thompson and his son.

“My son starts crying and the officer was like, ‘Don’t worry we’ll give you a ride home,’” he said.

“So we get back in the patrol car, we’re heading down the street and my son’s like, ‘This is where the bad guys sit’ and the officer’s like, ‘No, the good guys sit there too.’

“We’re good guys right now.”

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Aussie mum cleared of Canadian child abduction

January 28 , 2015


Australia / Canada – Parental Child Abduction Case

AN Australian woman arrested at Los Angeles International Airport with her seven-year-old son has been acquitted in a Canadian court of parental abduction.

Secuestro Parental reocupar

The woman planned to fly to Australia with the child without telling her Canadian husband.

A court in Brandon, a city in the central Canadian province of Manitoba, was told the woman’s marriage was crumbling in December 2011, when she picked up her son from school and flew to Los Angeles.

They were booked on a flight to Australia.

When the father returned home from work the family residence in Manitoba was dark and his wife’s jewellery, cash, travel bags and many of their son’s clothes were missing.

Canadian and US authorities were able to track the woman and her son to the LA airport, where she was arrested.

Justice John Menzies ruled the mother always intended to return with the boy to Manitoba, and did not intend to deprive the father of his ability to regain care and control of his son.

“I’m satisfied that it was always her intention to return,” Menzies told the Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday, the Brandon Sun reported.

The woman, who has not been identified to protect the identity of her son, met her husband in Australia in the mid 1990s, they married in 2001 and moved to Canada in 2008.

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Canada: International Child Abductions: A Manual for Parents

September 18, 2012

Source: Canadian foreign affairs 


Child abductions are difficult and complex when they occur within Canada. When they involve other countries, they are even more so. Provincial/territorial and federal governments cooperate closely in assisting parents affected by such abductions. These cases involve Canadian children who have been wrongfully removed from Canada, or who have been prevented from returning home by one of their parents. There are hundreds of active cases.

Each international child abduction is unique. It is important, therefore, that you, the parent left behind, work closely with officials to improve the chances that you can be reunited with your child. You must be directly involved in the search and the anticipated return of your child. This is a bewildering and often prolonged experience. The objective of this manual, therefore, is to help you understand the process and to direct you to appropriate sources of help.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction—known as the Hague Convention—is the main international treaty that can assist parents whose children have been abducted to another country. As of January 2012, approximately 87 countries have adopted the Convention, including Canada. It offers considerable assistance in the case of children abducted to signatory countries, and over 400 Canadian children have been returned under its arrangements.



Your child is most vulnerable to abduction when your relationship with the other parent is broken or troubled. The vulnerability is magnified if the other parent has close family in, or other ties, with another country.

This vulnerability may be increased in situations where permission is granted for a child to visit or travel to another country. In many cases, abduction or custody issues arise when the child is prevented from returning to Canada. These cases may not be considered as abductions under the criminal laws of other countries concerned or of Canada. Rather, they may give rise to custody or wrongful retention issues. You should bear these factors in mind when you are contemplating travel for either yourself or your child.

In some countries, children must obtain the permission of their father and women must obtain the permission of their husbands in order to travel. If you are planning to visit another country where you are unfamiliar with the laws and customs as they relate to children and women, you should acquire a thorough knowledge of them before making final arrangements for the trip. You can begin by calling Consular Services in Ottawa.

As well, if you are separated or divorced, or if there is a court order with respect to custodial arrangements for your child, you should discuss your planned visit with a Canadian lawyer experienced in such matters. In some instances, it might also be necessary to discuss your situation with a lawyer in the country you will be visiting. Consular officials can provide you with a list of lawyers in foreign countries who may be able to assist.

If at any time you believe your child may be in danger of being abducted, you should discuss the matter with your local police, your lawyer, Consular Services and other organizations that may be able to provide you with assistance and advice. Remember that it is easier to prevent an abduction than it is to recover a child after an abduction has taken place. Do not ignore your fears. Act upon them and seek assistance.

Precautions and Preparations

If you have any reason to believe that your child could be abducted to or retained in another country against your wishes, you should ensure that you have detailed information about your child (including travel documents), as well as about the other parent and his or her family, friends and business associates both in Canada and in other countries. You should take colour photographs of your child every six months. A checklist of such information is given in the section Information and Document Checklist. Further, you should teach your child how to use the telephone and practise how to make long-distance collect calls. Special attention should be given to teaching a child how to make collect calls from a pay phone.

There is often a revenge motive involved in child abductions, and abducting parents may try to convince their children that the other parent no longer wants or loves them. Therefore, it is important for you to impress upon your child that you do indeed love him or her, and that you would in no circumstances want your child to leave you.


The laws of Canadian provinces and territories generally provide for both parents to have equal legal custody of a child, as long as there is no custody order and the child is living with them. This is the law in many other countries as well. If you are considering separation or divorce, if you are already separated or divorced, or if you were never legally married to the other parent, you should discuss custodial arrangements with your lawyer. Only your lawyer can provide you with advice appropriate to your specific circumstances.

A well-written custody order is important when dealing with parental child abductions, especially if the other parent is a landed immigrant or a Canadian citizen with ties to, or citizenship of, another country. Even if your Canadian custody order would not be officially recognized in the country to which your child could be abducted, it will serve as a formal statement of your custodial rights in subsequent discussions and proceedings. Your lawyer can advise you on what is appropriate for your situation. The custody order might include some or all of the following:

  • sole or joint custody;
  • access rights;
  • court-ordered supervised access;
  • prohibition on travel without the permission of both parents or the court, and surrender of all travel documentation for a child by the non-custodial parent;
  • deposit of passport/travel documents issued in the name of the child with the court;
  • if travel is permitted to a country that is a party to the Hague Convention, a statement whereby both parents agree that the terms of the Convention and/or of the Canadian Criminal Act would apply in the event of an abduction or wrongful retention; and
  • if one of the parents does not have Canadian citizenship or has dual citizenship, provisions for a bond to be posted in the event of the child travelling to another country, which would be forfeited to the other parent in case of abduction or wrongful retention.

You should obtain several certified copies of the custody order. A copy should be given to your child’s school and other authorities who may be acting in loco parentis. Further, the school should be advised as to who has authority to collect or take charge of your child.

Canadian Passports

Canadian government regulations permit the issuance of a passport to a child under 16 years of age if the applicant is the parent, the custodial parent or the legal guardian. Effective December 11, 2001, Canadian children must have their own passport. The practice of adding a child’s name to a parent’s passport is no longer permitted. If parents are separated or divorced, a child will not be issued with a passport unless the application is supported by evidence that the issuance of the passport is not contrary to the terms of a custody order or a separation agreement.

If you fear the abduction of your child, you may notify any passport issuing office in Canada (or the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate if you are abroad) to have your child’s name placed on Passport Canada’s System Lookout List, which puts officials on alert if they recieve a passport application in your child’s name. Before your child’s name is included on this list, you will be asked to provide the names and birth dates of both parents and the child, as well as copies of any custody-related documents.

The address for the central Passport Canada office is given in the section Directory of Assistance. There are also 29 regional Passport Canada offices across Canada. Consult the federal government section of your telephone directory for the one nearest you.

Dual Nationality

Many international child abductions involve parents and children who have citizenship of other countries in addition to Canada. Dual nationality is permissible under Canadian law. The fact that the abducting parent may carry another passport could create additional difficulty for you and Canadian authorities in preventing an abduction. The Government of Canada cannot prevent diplomatic or consular offices of other countries in Canada or elsewhere from providing passport services to Canadian children who are also citizens of those countries.

You or your lawyer can request that a foreign diplomatic or consular office not provide passport services for your child. To do so, you should provide the foreign diplomatic or consular office with a written request, along with a certified copy of any court orders dealing with custody of or foreign travel by your child. In the letter you can inform the foreign government office that you have also sent a copy of your request to Consular Services. If your child has only Canadian citizenship, you can ask the foreign government office not to issue a visa (if one is required for entry) in the child’s Canadian passport. There is no requirement for other countries to comply with such requests, but many countries do so voluntarily in the interest of preventing international child abductions.

Search and Recovery 

General Advice

The discovery that one’s child is missing is a traumatic experience. It is important that you stay calm and seek assistance from family, friends and appropriate professionals. Report your child’s disappearance to the police and to Consular Services, and consult with your lawyer.

A determined abducting parent can make the search for and recovery of a missing child an extremely complex process. It is very difficult even when the abductor is still in Canada. When the abductor leaves Canada, the process becomes far more complicated. Search and recovery efforts can be prolonged and are often unsuccessful. Therefore, you should not have unrealistic expectations of results, or expect results in a matter of days or, in some instances, months. You should be well organized in this process, establishing reasonable goals and expectations. These may include:

  • seeking to obtain early confirmation of where your child is located;
  • seeking to obtain early confirmation of the well-being of your child;
  • becoming informed about your legal situation both in Canada and in the country where your child is located;
  • understanding the limitations and constraints that may affect the return of your child to Canada;
  • learning about the legal process; and
  • understanding the potential financial implications for you and other members of your family in the search and recovery process.

It is crucial that you be reachable at all times, in case someone tries to communicate with you about your missing child.

If you do not have a custody order, consult with your lawyer on the need for one. In cases where the Hague Convention applies, a custody order “after the fact” may not be necessary. However, for abductions to countries not party to the Hague Convention, a Canadian custody order is important.

One of the most important things you can do in the early stages of an international child abduction is to establish friendly contact with the relatives and friends of the other parent, both in Canada and abroad. The fastest and most effective way to resolve international child abductions is for the abducting parent to return the child to Canada voluntarily. While there may be good reasons for you to believe that this approach won’t work, it is important that the effort be made. The section Other Actions contains more information on this.

You may want to contact a local or national non-governmental organization that provides advice and assistance to parents whose children have been abducted. Such organizations can be of considerable help to you and can put you in touch with other parents who have gone or are going through the same turmoil. A list of some of these organizations is given in the section Directory of Assistance.

However, the first and most important element is to determine exactly where your child is. Recovery actions cannot be taken until your child’s location is known. The following agencies can assist you in finding and recovering your child.

The Local Police

As soon as you suspect that your child has been abducted, contact your local police department immediately. The sooner the police network can begin to search and investigate, the better.

When you contact the local police, give them a copy of any custody order as well as photographs and descriptions of your child and the abducting parent. You should also provide any other information that may lead to the quick discovery of the location of your child. A checklist of such information is provided in the section Information and Document Checklist.

Ask the local police to enter the information in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) computer system, so that all police forces in Canada will have access to it. Also request that the information be entered in the United States National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer system.

If you believe that your child has been or may be taken out of the country, request that the local police immediately contact the National Missing Children Services of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Also contact Consular Services.

Your local police may initiate some of the following, or seek your assistance in doing so:

  • review with you and other authorities whether criminal charges should be laid against the abducting parent;
  • notify your child’s school authorities of the abduction, and ask that they advise you or your lawyer in the event that there is a request for school records; you may need to provide the school authorities with a certified copy of your custody order;
  • review credit cards that the abducting parent may have and request records of purchases;
  • obtain copies of records of long-distance calls that the abducting parent may have made prior to the abduction;
  • suggest to the RCMP or local police the publication of an Interpol circular;
  • if your child has chronic medical problems or is on regular medication, contact the physician and/or hospital that treated your child and ask for their cooperation should there be a request for information concerning your child; here, too, you may need to provide a certified copy of your custody order; and
  • if there are common credit cards or joint bank accounts, check your liability for transactions made by the abducting parent and take appropriate action.

The Canadian Government’s “Our Missing Children” Program

This program involves four federal government departments: the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the Department of Justice. The program’s objective is to locate and return missing and abducted children.

Following a request from the local police, customs officers can immediately have a border alert distributed to the member countries of the International Customs Union. The RCMP component, the National Missing Children Services, is associated with the global police network Interpol, through which it will assist any Canadian police agency in coordinating investigations abroad.

Among the services offered through the RCMP’s National Missing Children Services is theTravel Reunification Program, which is designed to help parents or guardians who cannot afford to pay the cost of having an abducted child returned to Canada. To qualify for the travel assistance offered by the program, the following guidelines must be met:

  • The request for assistance must come from the investigating police department, the provincial/territorial central authority or Consular Services.
  • The requesting agency is responsible for assessing the financial status of the family and determining if free transportation and accommodation should be provided.
  • The service is available only to return a child abducted by a parent.
  • A parent or guardian will not be sent overseas unless all legal steps have been taken for the return of the child to Canada and the local authorities are cooperating in the return.

The Media

Publicity can be both helpful and detrimental in international child abductions. It is important, therefore, that you discuss the matter of publicity with your local police and/or your lawyer. You should discuss the matter with Consular Services as well. In some countries, publicity could affect the willingness or ability of local authorities to assist in the return of your child. It may also cause the abducting parent to go into hiding and, in so doing, create further stress and danger for your child.

Search Agencies

A number of private organizations will carry out search activities on your behalf for a fee and/or expenses. You should obtain advice and guidance from professionals, including the local police and non-governmental organizations (see the section Directory of Assistancefor addresses), before engaging such agencies to act on your behalf. If you do decide to engage such an organization, it is important to have your lawyer involved in any negotiations to protect your financial interests and to ensure that the proposed activities do not further complicate the search for and recovery of your child.

The Hague Convention

More than 30 years ago, the international community recognized the need for cooperation between countries to find a means to prevent and resolve cases of parental international child abductions. In 1976, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, an international organization based in the Netherlands, accepted a Canadian proposal to alleviate some of these problems. Canada, along with some 30 other countries, actively participated in the negotiations that led to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Canada was the second country to ratify the Convention, which came into force on December 1, 1983. Canadian involvement in the negotiation and ratification process was coordinated closely with provincial and territorial governments. The Convention applies throughout Canada and in approximately 87 other countries.


The objectives of the Hague Convention are:

  • to secure the prompt return of a child wrongfully removed to or retained in any contracting state, to the environment from which the child was removed; and
  • to ensure that the rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are effectively respected in other contracting states.


The Convention can be of help to you if the following requirements are met:

  • Your child was habitually resident in Canada immediately prior to the removal or retention.
  • The wrongful removal was in breach of rights of custody or rights of
    access or retention within the meaning of the Hague Convention.
  • At the time of the abduction or retention, the Convention applied between Canada and the country to which your child has been taken and/or, in some cases, is travelling through.
  • Your child is under 16 years of age.

Application for the Return of a Child

1. What to Do First

If your child has been abducted to or is being retained in a country other than Canada and you are aware of the location, you should contact the office of your provincial or territorial Attorney General and/or Minister of Justice. These departments have special sections designated as the central authority for your province or territory, which are responsible for the administration of the Hague Convention. The federal Department of Justice is also a central authority and provides assistance to the provinces and territories. A list of all the Canadian central authorities is contained in the sectionDirectory of Assistance. The central authority can provide you with information on the countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention, and can advise you on how to proceed with an application.

As of January 2012, the Convention applied between Canada and the following countries:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Chile, China (Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions only), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark (except the Faroe Islands and Greenland), Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France (for the whole of the French Republic), Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (known as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in UN and other international bodies), Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (including Isle of Man, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Bermuda), the United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

In some instances, the Convention may not apply to dependent territories of these countries. It is, therefore, important to verify whether the Convention will apply to your situation. The number of countries to which the Convention applies continues to increase. The website for the Hague Convention provides an up-to-date listing.

The relevant central authorities in Canada and in the foreign country will do some or all of the following to assist you:

  • provide you with information on how to proceed with an application under the Hague Convention;
  • provide up-to-date information on the participating countries;
  • seek to discover the whereabouts of a child who has been wrongfully removed or retained;
  • prevent further harm to such a child by taking provisional measures;
  • secure the voluntary return of the child; and
  • provide or facilitate the provision of legal aid and advice, including the participation of legal counsel and advisors.

2. How to Apply

Your provincial/territorial central authority will provide you with a copy of the Convention-approved application form and other information about issues under the Convention. The application will require the following:

  • information on your identity, the identity and date of birth of the child and the identity of the person alleged to have removed or retained the child;
  • all available information concerning the whereabouts of the child and the identity of the person with whom the child is presumed to be;
  • a statement of the grounds proving your right to have the child returned; you must prove the wrongful removal or retention of the child and your custody rights that existed at the time of the wrongful removal or retention;
  • supporting documents, such as a certified copy of the judgement or agreement granting you custody or access rights, where such a document is applicable; and
  • a statement giving the foreign central authority the right to act on your behalf.

In addition to providing supporting documents in the official language of your choice (English or French), you may be required to provide translations in the official language of the country concerned.

3. Procedure in a Foreign Country

The Canadian central authority will transmit your application to the central authority of the country concerned. In turn, the foreign central authority will submit your application to its appropriate judicial authority. If the return of your child cannot be arranged voluntarily, a court hearing may take place. At the hearing, your rights may be represented by a lawyer acting on behalf of the foreign central authority or by someone you have engaged privately. The other parent can have legal representation at the hearing and can contest your application.

If the conditions contained in the Hague Convention are met, and none of the exceptions apply, the decision should be to order the return of the child. However, any decision can be appealed to higher courts in accordance with the judicial process of the country concerned, or there could be delays by the police in implementing a court decision in your favour. The Hague Convention calls for fast action in recovering a child, first seeking the voluntary return of the child by the abducting parent. If this fails and legal procedures are initiated, it can take many weeks before a decision is finalized. If a decision is not reached within six weeks of the date on the application, the Canadian central authority concerned may request a statement explaining the delay. The final disposition can take considerable time, depending on the nature of the legal proceedings involved, including appeals.

The Hague Convention contains a number of exceptions that could affect the decision by the court in the foreign country. Some of the main ones are:

  • The other parent proves that you were not exercising custody rights when the child was abducted/retained, or that you consented to the child’s removal or later acquiesced to it.
  • There is a grave risk that the child would be exposed to physical or psychological harm or would otherwise be placed in an intolerable situation if he or she were returned.
  • The child objects to being returned and is old enough and mature enough to have his or her views taken into account.

If the central authority in the country that received your Hague Convention application has reason to believe that the child has been taken to yet another country, it may cease the proceedings or dismiss the application and transfer it to the country concerned.


Central authorities do not impose charges for the application. There could be costs associated with court proceedings and legal counsel. Some countries will provide legal services free of charge; in other countries you may be entitled to legal aid; and in others it may be necessary for you to engage your own lawyer.

It is not essential that you travel to the country handling your Hague Convention application, but this may be desirable in some cases. If your application is successful, it would simplify matters if you, as the custodial parent, could be present to accompany the child on his or her return to Canada. You will be responsible for the travel costs involved in having your child returned to Canada. Refer to the section Search and Recovery for details on the RCMP’s Travel Reunification Program, which may be able to provide assistance in having the child returned to Canada.

Assistance in the Exercise of Access Rights

If you are having difficulties in exercising your access rights, your provincial/territorial central authority can also process an application under the Hague Convention for organizing or securing the effective exercise of those rights. In so doing, the central authorities are promoting a second goal of the Convention, which is to promote the peaceful enjoyment of access rights. You should contact your provincial/territorial central authority if you are experiencing such difficulties.

Other Actions

In the event that your child has been abducted to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention, it is possible for you to take other actions both in Canada and abroad that could lead to the return of your child. (Some of these actions may also be relevant if the abduction has been to a Hague Convention country.) In Canada, the civil justice system can be used to reinforce your custody rights and, if appropriate, the criminal justice system can be used to initiate criminal action against the abductor. It may be possible to take similar actions in the other country. As every situation is unique, it is important for you to seek legal and other professional advice and guidance before taking specific action.

Using the Civil Justice System

Once you have obtained a custody order from the appropriate Canadian court, the next step is to decide whether you wish to use the justice system in the country to which your child has been abducted.

Consular Services can provide you with general information on the legal system of that country, customs and practices of that country related to parental rights, and the experience of other people in seeking to use that country’s justice system to have an abducted child returned.

Consular officers in Ottawa and overseas can provide advice and guidance on the laws of a foreign country or on what might be the most appropriate action to take. However, for authoritative information, you will need to retain a lawyer in that country who is knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with custody cases involving foreigners. Canadian officials in Ottawa and at Canadian government offices abroad can provide you with a list of lawyers who speak English or French, who may be experienced in parental child abduction or family law and who may have represented Canadians in circumstances similar to yours. However, as this lawyer will be working for you, it is most important that you, and only you, make the selection. If you decide to undertake legal action in the other country, it may be necessary for you to be there in person at some stage of the proceedings.

Lawyers’ fees vary widely from country to country and could be in excess of what would be paid in Canada. Therefore, you should be very direct when making arrangements for legal representation in another country: ensure that the arrangements are in writing and that you fully understand what the lawyer will and will not do, when it will be done and at what cost. If necessary, Canadian consular officials can maintain contact with your lawyer to obtain status reports and to verify that your rights, as provided for by the laws of that country, are respected.

Your lawyer will advise you on the information and documentation that will be required in order to represent you within that country’s justice system. In addition to providing a certified copy of your custody order, it may be necessary to supply copies of your marriage and/or separation or divorce documents, along with copies of the relevant provincial/territorial and federal laws relating to custody and child abductions. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa can authenticate these documents before they are sent. For information, contact the Authentication and Service of Documents Section, tel.: 613-995-0119; fax: 613-944-7078. Your Canadian lawyer can assist you in gathering this material and having it delivered to your lawyer in the foreign country.

A custody order issued by a Canadian court has no automatic binding legal force beyond the borders of Canada. Nevertheless, there may be procedures and laws in place in the foreign country to have that order recognized and enforced there. In addition, such an order could be persuasive in support of any legal action that you undertake. Courts in other countries, like those in Canada, must decide child custody cases on the basis of their own domestic laws. This may give an advantage to the person who has abducted your child, if the abduction is to the country of his or her other nationality or origin. You could also be disadvantaged if the country has a legal tradition in deciding custody cases on the basis of gender and/or religious belief. If custody is given to the abducting parent in another country, you should make every effort to have the court specify your access rights. Some countries, even if they award custody to you or provide for access for you, will not permit the child to leave without the consent of the other parent.

Your chances of having your Canadian custody order recognized and enforced in another country are subject to all these factors and conditions. While it may appear that the deck is stacked against you, it is important to accept that recourse to the courts of another country may be the only hope for the safe return of your child. Each country is unique, and it is up to you to decide whether to proceed with legal action.

Using the Criminal Justice System

Parental abduction is a criminal offence under sections 281, 282 and 283 of the Canadian Criminal Code. In many situations, the criminal justice system can prove to be a very useful instrument in locating and recovering a child, especially when the person suspected of perpetrating the abduction has not yet left Canadian soil.

Since the administration of criminal justice is a provincial/territorial responsibility, criminal justice may be administered in a slightly different way from one province/territory to another. Thus, in the abduction of children, some provinces/territories require authorization from the Crown Attorney before proceedings can be set in motion, while in others proceedings can be initiated by the police themselves.

Use of the Criminal Code makes it easier for the police to search for and locate a child. An arrest warrant is generally issued, often improving cooperation among police forces both nationally and internationally. If necessary, an extradition request may be made if there is an extradition treaty with the country in which the alleged abductor is located.


Extradition may be worth considering in some cases of international abduction, but may be of no value in others. There is no guarantee that the child will be returned by foreign authorities even if they should permit the extradition of the alleged abductor. When threatened with extradition, some abducting parents have hidden the child or have gone into hiding themselves with the child.

In addition, not all countries regard child abduction by one of the parents as a criminal act. Consular Services can provide information on the criminal justice system in the country in question, and on whether it is likely to cooperate in parental child abduction cases.

Other reasons why extradition is not frequently used in connection with parental child abductions include:

  • Very few extradition treaties between Canada and other countries include parental child abduction or custodial interference as extraditable offences. In recent treaties, efforts have been made to include the concept of “dual criminality” as the basis for extradition. However, this requires that parental child abduction be considered a crime in both the countries that have signed the treaty.
  • Many civil law countries – in contrast with common law countries such as Canada (with the exception of the province of Quebec), Australia , the United States and the United Kingdom – will not extradite their own nationals. Nearly all the countries of Latin America and Europe are civil law countries. Experience has shown that foreign governments are often unwilling to extradite anyone for parental child abduction.

While it is important to report the abduction of your child to the police as soon as possible, your complaint will not necessarily result in child abduction charges. Whether at the level of the police, the Crown Attorney’s office or the federal Department of Justice, which is responsible for extradition questions, such decisions are made in accordance with the particular circumstances of each situation and the possible repercussions on the return of the child. Protection of the child is the primary objective.

For the police and the Crown Attorney to do the optimum job in dealing with your complaint, it is essential that you provide all the information available to you at the time of the complaint and any new information that subsequently arises. Based on this information, the best possible decisions can be made in the interests of you and your child.

Communication and Compromise

As the foregoing information illustrates, legal approaches to dealing with international child abductions can be prolonged and expensive and are often inconclusive. Before pursuing legal solutions, you should carefully consider and explore alternative approaches, such as negotiation with the abducting parent. In some cases, it may be possible to have relatives or friends of the abductor assist you in establishing contact and help to promote a compromise. As well, community or religious leaders may be willing to intervene on your behalf.

Such actions might not produce immediate results but could reduce tensions, promote the welfare of your child and increase the chances of your being able to visit the child and participate in some way in decisions affecting his or her well-being. Sometimes, compromise and reconciliation will be the only solution.

Information on the Welfare of Your Child

If your child has been found and it is not possible for you to establish direct communication, Canadian consular officials in the country concerned can try on your behalf to obtain assurances from the relevant authorities on the well-being of your child. If local authorities are not available or competent, consular officials can try to make arrangements to visit the child. If they succeed, they should be able to update you on the health, living conditions, and schooling of the child. Sometimes, consular officials are also able to deliver letters and photographs to your child and send you the same in return. If the abducting parent will not permit such a visit, the Canadian government office abroad can request the assistance of the local authorities, either to arrange such a visit or to have a local social worker involved.

If information on possible abuse or neglect of your child becomes available to consular officials, the matter will be discussed, with your permission, with local child welfare and law enforcement officers, possibly through the offices of ISSC. They, along with the local Canadian government office abroad, can ask local authorities to become involved and ensure that the child is protected.

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