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International Parental Child Abduction

Symposium "Hague Convention: International Children's Rights in the 21st Century"

William Crosbie
Assistant Deputy Minister for Consular Services and Emergency Management Branch from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
March 14, 2008


  • I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in this symposium to discuss this very important issue.
  • The issue of parental child abduction poses a serious challenge for consular services around the world.
  • With increased globalization, migration, travel, international education, there are more international marriages, which unfortunately results in a growing number of marital and family break-ups.
  • We need to have mechanisms to accommodate this demographic trend, and the Hague Convention should be seen as one of these mechanisms. It is a pragmatic response to international demographic and social developments.
  • We appreciate that different countries have different social values and mores - that is normal; but what transcends these differences is the broader principle of fairness and justice for children, the Hague Convention supports this principle.
  • As a multilateral convention, the Hague Convention does not make prescriptive value judgements, but provides pragmatic mechanisms and approaches to deal with a real and tragic social issue with international dimensions.

Why Are We Doing This?

  • The Government of Canada created a new Consular Services and Emergency Management Branch which demonstrates the importance we attach to the provision of consular services to our citizens abroad.
  • As the first Assistant Deputy Minister of this new Branch, I am eager to listen and learn from all of the speakers here today.
  • The Government of Canada has been working with Japan for several years to develop a solution to protect the rights of wrongfully removed or retained children, with an aim to assist Japan to eventually accede to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
  • Globally, we currently have more than 620 active child abduction and custody related cases around the world.
  • In Japan, we are currently managing 29 cases of child abduction and child custody – the highest number of unresolved cases for any one country.
  • Indeed, we are not aware of a single case in which a child taken from Canada has been successfully returned as a result of an order by the Japanese courts, by the efforts of Consular staff of the Canadian Embassy in Japan or by the efforts of Japanese Social Services.
  • Obviously, this is an issue of growing importance in Canada-Japan relations.
  • Understandably, there are cultural, legal and societal differences that affect how these cases can be resolved. However, we believe that these differences can be overcome and a mutually acceptable solution to resolve our current cases and to prevent new ones is possible.
  • I look forward to working with Japan and other like-minded countries in the coming days, months, and years to find this solution.

Canadian Approach

  • As part of our reinvestment in the Consular Services and Emergency Management Branch, we are committed to increasing our resources devoted to the management of Children's Issues cases. This is a priority for us.
  • To emphasize the coordinated approach the Government of Canada has taken to manage these cases, four governmental agencies created the "Our Missing Children" program.
  • This partnership between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Customs and Border Services Agency, DFAIT, and Justice Canada has improved Canada's ability to assist parents in locating and returning missing children to their rightful guardians.
  • We have dedicated case managers in Ottawa who are responsible for the management of Children's Issues cases and who have become experts in this field. They rely heavily on their contacts and partners to successfully resolve a case of child abduction.
  • It's a team approach. When a Canadian child is abducted to another country, our consular officials works closely with their colleagues in our embassies, the local police, the RCMP, the Central Authorities responsible for the Hague Convention and other agencies to locate and return abducted children to their habitual place of residence.
  • International parental child abduction cases are highly complex matters influenced not only by the bitterness within the family but also by the legal process that had been followed in Canada and the laws, culture and social conditions in the country to which the child has been abducted.
  • Many cases are resolved using the procedures available under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. While it is not a perfect tool, it has provided a mechanism / framework to resolve these cases and a vehicle to discuss mutual concerns with our other signatory states.
  • When children are abducted to countries, like Japan, which are not a signatory to the Hague Convention, a successful resolution of a case depends on the cooperation of the host country in finding common ground.
  • These cases are very complex and success, in many instances, takes years to achieve. In some cases, sadly the return of the child is only possible after the child has reached the age of majority.
  • In every case that I have seen, the children are always the victims.
  • I would like to talk about one particular case which emphasizes the heart breaking reality of these cases.

An Example of the Human Cost

  • The children were taken to Japan after a Canadian court granting their mother permission to travel to Japan for a two week vacation with her two children.
  • The court further ordered that the children were to return to Canada from Japan a specific date and returned to their custodial father.
  • As soon as our Consular officials were advised that the mother might not return at the court ordered date and time, efforts were immediately undertaken to attempt to negotiate the voluntary return of the children to Canada. The local police, the local social services, the child's school were all engaged by the Consular staff in hopes that the Canadian court order would be upheld and the children would be returned to Canada.
  • The mother of the children successfully petitioned the family court in Japan for custody of the children and the Canadian court order was submitted to the Japanese court for consideration.
  • All officials engaged in assisting the left-behind father were hopeful that the Canadian court order would be recognised by the Japanese court, as this was the only mechanism available to the left-behind father.
  • Unfortunately, the Family Court in Japan ruled against the Canadian court order and awarded custody of the children to the mother. This decision was also upheld by the Supreme Court of Japan. It is my understanding that there are no further legal avenues in Japan for the left-behind father to attempt to resolve this matter.
  • The father was financially crippled due to the legal costs. He has not seen his children since they left the Vancouver Airport in November 2004, over three years ago.
  • This matter is not simply a private legal matter, as some would say. I thought it was important to mention a specific case as it reminds us that governments have a responsibility to protect children by ensuring that their best interests are determined in the country where they habitually reside and why we have been pro-actively involved in assisting parents who have had children abducted to foreign countries.


  • My message is that we need to continue to work together to explore more comprehensive solutions to protect the rights children affected by these tragic circumstances.
  • I look forward to hearing the discussion from the speakers and the panel.




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