What are the protections in place to prevent parental child abduction?
Sadly there are very few legal provisions in Canada to help prevent child abduction by a parent. Currently there is no legislation in place authorizing exit controls that would automatically stop a travelling parent with an abducted child. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) monitors persons entering Canada, but not those leaving. However, our border services may issue an alert if notified by the police of a suspected abduction, so it is prudent for concerned parents to inform their local police service immediately when a child is missing and it is believed that an abducting parent may take the child out of Canada.
In many cases, children taken to countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention can be returned through legal channels. But in other cases, particularly where the destination country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, it can be virtually impossible to have the child returned by legal means. For a list of Hague Convention signatories, go to http://travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_1487.html
Countries such as Pakistan, India, Egypt and Iran, to name but a few, are nearly impossible to extract children from once taken.
Among the protections available, concerned parents can pursue a court order restricting the child’s movement out of the province and/or country with the other parent. Oftentimes, a judge will make this condition mutually binding, especially if both parents have significant ties to another jurisdiction and both parents are suggesting to the court that the other may be a flight risk.
Parents may request that any such order include provisions that will allow that child to travel with a parent if proper terms are met such as obtaining a notarized travel consent from the other parent, as well as providing a full itinerary and contact information for the child while out of the regular jurisdiction. But if, despite promises given or documents signed, a parent is still concerned that the other parent may not return the child and will take the child to a non-signatory country, the non-travelling parent should seriously reconsider whether they are going to agree to allow the travel to occur.
Some other important steps that can be taken to safeguard against abduction or to help the police and the CBSA locate a missing child include:
- Keep detailed information about your children, including updated travel documents and updated photographs, and keep updated information on your spouse’s travel documents (passport number, etc.) if you can.
- Maintain a list of the other parent’s relatives, friends and contacts abroad that he or she would likely contact to aid with the abduction.
- Educate your children as much as you can by ensuring they know that you would never agree to leave them, and that if they hear this from anyone it is not true. Teach the children how to use the telephone, make long distance calls, use a pay phone, etc. Explain to the child that he or she should not travel with the other parent right now, or with strangers.
- Approach the court for sole custody, a non-removal order, and to have the other parent enter into an agreement not to take the child out of the jurisdiction lest they forfeit a sum paid to the court.
- Seek an order requiring that access to the child by the other parent be supervised. Note that such an order will not last forever, and is meant only as a short-term solution.
- Notify your children’s school and all care providers, relatives and friends of the non-removal order. Be prepared to provide copies of the order to these persons if requested.
For more detailed information to help educate you and your children to safeguard against possible abduction, please go to http://missingkids.ca/pdfs/en/ReduceRiskAbduction.pdf