House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois will be voting for this bill.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members will be voting no unless instructed by their constituents to do otherwise.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats in the House this afternoon will vote no on this motion.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Independent

Gilles Bernier Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am voting for the motion.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

John Nunziata York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for the motion.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting yea on this motion.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Jag Bhaduria Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for the motion.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Gagnon Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Return To Canada Of Karim Noah
Private Members' Business

October 1st, 1996 / 6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Tremblay Rosemont, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Canadian government should bring all appropriate political pressure to bear on the government of Egypt to ensure the immediate return to Canada of Karim Noah, son of Mrs. Micheline Tremblay, a resident in the riding of Rosemont, who was abducted illegally, on January 17, 1993, by his father, Mr. Moustafa Nouh, and taken illicitly to Egypt.

Mr. Speaker, since my name is Tremblay as well, I would like to say right away, for the benefit of my colleagues and all those who are listening, that Mrs. Micheline Tremblay is not in any way related to me.

She is, however, a resident of the riding of Rosemont, and the reason I presented this motion on February 28 this year and the reason why we are having this debate today is that I hope to convince the Canadian government to provide some real support for what a mother, Mrs. Tremblay, is doing, a mother who has been fighting for almost four years to find her son and get him back to Canada.

Mrs. Tremblay earnestly hopes that the Canadian government will intervene politically, because she is convinced that the legal action she has taken and has continued to take in Egypt will not be enough to bring her son back.

The fact is that her ex-spouse, Mr. Moustafa Nouh, by abducting his child and taking him to Egypt, has simultaneously violated the Canadian Criminal Code, the Quebec Civil Code, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

Despite these patent violations of the law, Mrs. Tremblay has been unable to see her son again for more than three years, her ex-spouse was not arrested and the Canadian government has said repeatedly that it could not intervene in this case. Incredible but true, and I am convinced that the people who are listening will find it hard to believe and wonder how a country like Canada can let its laws and the rights of its citizens be trampled in this way.

I am also sure they wonder how a country like Egypt can agree to be a safe haven for a child abductor, a place where the law cannot reach him.

In fact, this can be largely explained by the legal context of the relations between Egypt and Canada with respect to this kind of situation and by the lack of political will on the part of both governments to change the situation.

Let me explain the legal context in a few words. I will then get back to the urgent need for the political will to do something in this case.

The ex-spouse of Mrs. Micheline Tremblay, Mr. Nouh, is a Canadian citizen of Egyptian origin. In fact, he is both a Canadian and an Egyptian citizen. When in Egypt, he is treated like an Egyptian citizen, which provides him double immunity against the charges brought against him: first of all, immunity against criminal charges, because Canada has not signed an extradition treaty against Egypt. Under the circumstances, the police find themselves virtually incapable of arresting the accused. Let us examine those circumstances.

After an investigation into the circumstances of the kidnapping of Karim on January 17, 1993, criminal charges were laid against the father, Moustafa Nouh, in Canada. A warrant for his arrest was issued, and the Canadian police asked Interpol to co-operate with them. This standard procedure does not, however, necessarily lead to an active search for the accused. The bulk of the work has to be done by the local police force, in this case the Montreal Urban Community force, which called for the co-operation of other police forces when there were any real clues.

Yet, since there is no extradition treaty between Egypt and Canada, it is impossible for the Canadian police to bring the accused to justice when he is in Egypt. Moustafa Nouh must, therefore, be identified and arrested when he is in another country, one with which Canada had an extradition treaty.

The investigation leading to such an arrest is a very long and difficult one, because it involves a knowledge of the international movements of the accused. The whole thing has to be done without the co-operation of the Egyptian authorities.

It is easy to understand how, in these conditions, Moustafa Nouh is still free to move around with total impunity in Egypt, and probably in other countries as well, despite the criminal charges brought against him in Canada.

In fact, Mr. Nouh is also immune from the laws of Quebec and Canada in another respect, namely the legal custody order. Child custody matters come under civil law, in this case Quebec's civil law, and the same goes for every country.

But there is an international convention to honour custody orders whenever a child is taken illegally away by one of the parents. This convention provides for the child's immediate return to his or her usual place of residence and recognizes that the courts in that location have jurisdiction over all legal custody matters.

Egypt has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and Canada has not yet compensated for this by negotiating a bilateral agreement with Egypt. Even though Egypt has not signed this international convention, some countries, including France, have an agreement with Egypt and all French nationals are covered by this treaty.

This is what the Canadian government should do. This is what the Canadian government has promised to do on several occasions. They tell us they are trying to do so but we are still waiting and in the meantime people like Micheline Tremblay still have to deal with these tragic situations.

If Egypt had signed the international convention or if Canada simply had a bilateral agreement with Egypt, proceedings would have been fairly simple and inexpensive as well as speedy. In fact, Karim would have been returned to his mother in Canada after a few weeks, because Moustafa Nouh would have been required to assert his custody rights in Canada in accordance with the laws of Quebec and Canada.

Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Mrs. Tremblay found herself in an absurd situation in that the police were unable to arrest the kidnapper for lack of an extradition treaty with Egypt while the Canadian government said it could do nothing because it had signed no treaty or convention with Egypt.

All they could do was suggest to Mrs. Tremblay that she try on her own to assert her rights before the Egyptian courts in accordance with Egyptian laws. It must be pointed out that such proceedings entail substantial legal and travel costs as the mother has to travel to Egypt every time she must appear before the court and there is no financial support program for the victims.

Fortunately, Mrs. Tremblay's co-workers at the National Bank in Montreal organized a fundraiser so she could initiate legal proceedings. But this is a long and expensive battle that no one can take on alone.

On the other hand, Egypt is a Muslim country whose laws and customs are very different from ours, which makes it almost impossible, in Karim's case, to obtain an order to have him returned to Canada. Let me give you an example to illustrate this.

Since Karim is a boy and his father is a Muslim, under Egyptian law, the child must be raised in the Muslim faith. Ms. Tremblay's son Karim was baptised in the Catholic faith, which is a serious breach under Egyptian law. That is why her lawyer suggested she should try to have her son's baptism annulled: to increase her chances of convincing a court in Egypt to give her custody of her son.

You can imagine that there are many more customs and considerations like this one that make it almost impossible to get Karim back without infringing in any way Egyptian law.

While realizing that laws, customs and religions may vary from country to country, and we respect that, we must understand that what we have here is a situation where a Canadian child was born to a Canadian couple and this child grew up in a setting governed by Canadian and Quebec laws until he was kidnapped and taken to his father's country of origin.

The law is clear, and international conventions are clear. If the father wants to return to his country of origin, he may assert the rights he has over the child before the courts in Quebec and Canada. In this case, having committed an illegal act on two counts, the father ends up in Egypt with the child, and the mother is the one who has to go over there to argue her case before Egyptian courts. In fact, it is exactly the opposite of what should be, and all this government finds to say is that it cannot interfere.

You know as well as I and everyone who is listening that this is absurd and just not true.

Mrs. Tremblay is hoping for a political intervention and we support her efforts. To date, more than 2,000 citizens of Rosemont have signed a petition to express their support.

In recent years, Canada has taken pride in the fact that it has made a number of decisions to ensure children a better future. As recently as last week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his satisfaction at Canada's action in support of children, at the 51st UN general assembly.

We want to give the minister a small opportunity to follow up on his nice speeches. We are convinced he can act and we want him to act now.

Our belief that the Canadian government can act was greatly reinforced last June. In fact, today's debate could have taken place on June 12. However, since we mentioned that the debate would then take place while Mrs. Tremblay was in Egypt, the powers that be got their act together for the first time in three and a half years.

On June 11, I received a telegram asking that the debate be postponed. For the first time, Mrs. Tremblay was able to see her child for a few hours, in the presence of the father. The powers that be had taken action.

But if we are holding this debate today, it is because the powers that be have stopped taking action. The initial co-operation is totally inadequate to settle the issue quickly. After initial progress, there were no other developments. This is why we will continue to ask people to sign the petition and to exert political pressure.

We want the Canadian government to act quickly to patriate Karim and to sign a convention to avoid other such cases.

I would like to conclude by paying tribute to the courage and the determination of the mother, Micheline Tremblay, who has been fighting for four years to be reunited with her son. I do hope she will inspire all of us to show solidarity and to urge this government to take action.

Return To Canada Of Karim Noah
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Francis Leblanc Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the member for Rosemont for moving this motion and this debate on the abduction of the son of Mrs. Micheline Tremblay. I would like to begin by saying that the government shares the member's frustration, as well as the distress of Mrs. Tremblay, who has been trying for so long to see her son again.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been unrelenting in its efforts since February 4, 1993 when Madame Tremblay advised us of the abduction of her son. Karim Noah is the son of Madame Micheline Tremblay and Mr. Moustafa Nouh. He was abducted by his father to Egypt in early 1993. At the time, Madame Tremblay and Mr. Nouh were separated from their common law relationship and had agreed to joint custody of their son who was born on June 14, 1989. Following the abduction, a Canada-wide and then an international arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Nouh.

After her son was abducted, Mrs. Tremblay made the first of many trips to Egypt, and instituted legal proceedings to have her right to custody recognized by the Egyptian courts. Throughout this undertaking, she was assisted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and staff of the Canadian embassy in Cairo.

She was unfortunately unsuccessful in having her right to custody recognized by the Egyptian courts, but finally obtained visiting rights, already a considerable achievement. Thanks to the many efforts of the Canadian embassy in Cairo, and the co-operation of Egyptian authorities, the child's location was finally confirmed and Mrs. Tremblay was able to visit her son last June 18.

Interpol Egypt, moved by this mother's plight, spared no effort to find Karim and co-operated closely with embassy staff so that Mrs. Tremblay could visit her son in complete safety.

The government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Canadian embassy in Cairo have been directly involved in assisting Madame Tremblay in her efforts to have her son returned. We are committed to continuing with our support and assistance.

Over the years of this matter we have made numerous representations to the Egyptian authorities. Our embassy in Cairo follows every possible aspect of Karim's well-being. It is always available to the father and holds ongoing meetings with both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interpol Egypt with a view to reaching a solution.

There are a number of tragic cases similar to the abduction of Karim Noah by his father, cases where a child born in Canada is abducted and then taken abroad in contravention of Canadian laws and without the agreement of one of the custodial parents. This is an important international problem, which adds to the suffering caused by the breakdown of the family and the separation. It affects numerous countries.

Canada is a leading country in the search for a solution. it saddens me that our efforts and the efforts of all the other interested countries have not resulted in a satisfactory solution. The government is determined to pursue its efforts, not only to support Mrs. Tremblay, but also to put in place a mechanism that will help us to settle all the other similar cases.

The international community has provided a partial answer. For some abducted children that answer can be found in the provisions of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This treaty was negotiated in the early 1980s and was based on a proposal by Canada. Since then it has been ratified by more than 40 countries, including Canada.

The treaty in essence provides for the prompt return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or retained from his country of habitual residence in breach of rights of custody. It has proven an excellent vehicle for many parents who have faced situations like those faced by Madame Tremblay.

The success of the Hague convention is limited by the fact that only about 42 countries have ratified it. Canada along with other countries regularly seeks to encourage other countries to sign but progress has been slow. This is mainly due to the fact that many countries have difficulty in accepting and implementing the basic

requirements of the treaty due to cultural, religious and legal differences.

Egypt is not a signatory and therefore the treaty is not available to assist in child abductions such as that of Karim Noah. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the current minister have been well aware of the problem with the treaty in respect of Egypt as well as the personal tragedy of Madame Tremblay.

I am happy to report that the Egyptian authorities shared our view that it is a matter requiring urgent action. It was subsequently agreed to enter into discussions to see if an arrangement could be established to deal with cases such as that of Karim Noah as well as other consular problems.

A Canadian delegation visited Cairo in March 1996. We are hopeful that an arrangement can be finalized in the near future.

The government is determined to conclude effective co-operation agreements that will make it possible to settle cases of international child abduction. I must add that it is an issue with complex legal, social and religious overtones.

Mrs. Tremblay has remained steadfast in her efforts to have her right to the custody of her child recognized by the Egyptian authorities. We are all sorry that this has not been possible. I can assure the members, particularly the member for Rosemont, that we are still determined to assist and support Mrs. Tremblay. I can only hope that our efforts will bear fruit.

Return To Canada Of Karim Noah
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to also speak to Motion No. 169 which deals with the abduction of a young Canadian from Quebec.

The hon. member for Rosemont is asking the Canadian government to bring the appropriate political pressure to bear on the Government of Egypt to ensure the immediate return to Canada of Karim Noah who was abducted illegally on January 17, as we have heard.

I would first like to note my respect for the hon. member's obvious concern for one of his constituents. I congratulate his efforts to represent his constituent in the House.

Child abduction is a serious and complicated matter in Canada, as it is in many other countries of the world. Canada has been a good example to the rest of the world in matters like this, one in which we have consistently showed our concern for the rights of children.

It is especially noteworthy that Canada played a leading role in drafting the process of the convention of rights of children and in convening the 1990 world summit for children.

Canada is also a member of The Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction. This convention was created out of the desire to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of wrongful removal and to establish a procedure to ensure their prompt return to their habitual state of residence.

This convention was adopted by the 14th session of The Hague conference. The convention sets ground rules for dealing with child abduction cases, both when the harbouring nation is a signatory of the convention and for those cases when the harbouring nation is not a signatory.

In this case the harbouring nation is Egypt, which has neither signed nor ratified this convention. In cases such as this one, when the harbouring state has not ratified the convention, the Department of Foreign Affairs can provide some assistance, as has already been done in this case.

It is my understanding that the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke with his Egyptian counterpart in November 1995. We have been updated regarding the progress that is occurring there.

Unfortunately because Egypt has not ratified The Hague convention, this case is governed by domestic law in Egypt. Therefore the Egyptian government is not solely responsible for the resolution of this case and the Egyptian courts will also have to become involved.

The authorities in Canada have also become involved by issuing a warrant for the father's arrest and ensuring the mother receives aid from the missing children's registry. While this is not a lot of help to the mother desperately seeking the return of her son, I have been informed that the role of the federal government in abduction cases is rather limited.

Family law falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Canadian provinces, therefore it is the provincial authorities that deal with the hands on work related to The Hague convention and associated child abduction cases.

I am sure all members in this House would urge the province of Quebec, along with the federal government, to work as diligently as possible to secure the return of this child.

Generally the federal government only acts as a conduit between foreign authorities and Canadian provincial authorities. The federal government does play a significant role along with the Canadian Department of Justice in liaising with the provinces regarding the access of new states to The Hague convention. Mostly it assists in general matters requiring liaison between foreign governments and those provinces.

The Canadian government assisted in this way when the Department of Foreign Affairs contacted the Egyptian minister. This was

the appropriate political action outlined by The Hague convention. Therefore while the motion of the hon. member for Rosemount clearly shows his desire to help his constituent, I would hope the Canadian government has done and is doing and will continue to do everything to help move the case forward.

Because family law falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces there is not much more that the Canadian government can do, according to my research of this case. However, due diligence is required.

While the Canadian government is restricted in its dealings with this specific abduction case, I would argue that we can become more involved with the broader issue of international child abduction.

We can start by persuading other nations to ratify the Hague convention using whatever pressure we may have, through aid or other things, to put pressure on countries to sign. For those states that were members of the 14th session of the conference on private international law, the convention enters into force between them and the other member states as soon as they deposit their instruments of ratification with the ministry of foreign affairs in the Netherlands.

There are currently six member states at this conference that have failed to ratify the convention. One of these is Egypt, the harbouring state in this case.

Those states that were not members of the 14th session can also be persuaded to ratify the convention. Once they register their ascension with the foreign affairs ministry in the Netherlands their ascension will have effect with the contracting states and they will be quickly accepted.

Once on board, the convention aids in the return of wrongfully abducted children by setting up the formalities between the harbouring state and the initial resident state of the child. Under The Hague convention these two states co-operate with each other and promote co-operation among the competent authorities in their respective states to secure the prompt return of the children. The convention also outlines the appropriate measures to be taken by both states.

The more nations that ratify this convention, the better the co-operation will be among nations in abduction cases, allowing for the speedy return of abducted children. This is an area in which the Canadian government can get more involved and can put more pressure on governments.

Too often we do not tie things like this to aid programs, to co-operative programs. I think it is time we started to do that. This is a serious problem not just for this one child but for many parents throughout this country and others. The Canadian government can also help end international child abduction by encouraging the use of a preventive method promoted by the convention.

The new ease with which people can move around the globe has caused an increase in international child abduction. Therefore the use of preventive methods must be increased. Ultimately prevention is the only true way to combat this rising phenomenon.

While the motion's purpose seems to have already been partly played out, the role of the Canadian government in dealing with international abduction cases has not. I challenge the government to increase its involvement in the issues of child abduction by encouraging states like Egypt to ratify The Hague convention and by promoting the preventative methods highlighted by that convention.

Again I point out that we write off debts for countries like Egypt. Maybe we should tie some other requirements before we do that sort of thing. I believe we can pull some strings so that we will not have to deal with cases like this in the House.

Being a parent, I can understand the terrible pain the parent is going through and I certainly sympathize with her.

Return To Canada Of Karim Noah
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too want to join with my colleagues to address what I would call a tragic question. As a mother I can empathize with this mother and her specific situation in this case.

My hon. colleagues have addressed some of the issues and I will also. Child abductions are difficult enough to resolve when they occur within Canada, but when they occur outside our borders in other countries it is doubly so.

When they involve other countries and other cultures the problems multiply. Because each international child abduction is unique, the approach taken must vary from case to case. What has to be done in one case may be the very thing to be avoided in another.

We will continue our efforts to engage other countries in finding solutions either by encouraging them to sign on to The Hague convention on the civil aspects of child abduction or, when they are unwilling, to seek other agreements of a bilateral nature to safeguard the best interests of children everywhere.

The Hague convention, which we heard a great deal about from previous speakers, and the United Nations convention on the rights of the child serve as our base from which to work for greater understanding and a more complete international response to this painful problem.

We must use our reputation as a country in the forefront of the battle for children's rights to save children from the deprivation and isolation that is the result of these criminal acts. This necessi-

tates our closest attention to both the individual child and the problem as a whole.

At the same time, we must use our increasingly sophisticated communication systems and networks of relations to more quickly locate such children. We must verify their well-being and enter into informed negotiations with the other parents and country of residence. I understand in this case we are proceeding to do just that.

Important, the government strongly believes that in addition to trying to cope with abductions once they occur, we must ensure that Canadians are well informed about these cases and that every effort is made to prevent them from occurring.

The Departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade co-operate closely, as we heard from the parliamentary secretary, with non-governmental organizations dedicated to dealing with this problem, including provincial social service agencies, legal and police authorities, the RCMP's missing children's registry, Canada customs and Citizenship and Immigration Canada in order to provide advice and guidance to parents facing the possibility of the abduction of a child to another country.

As a contribution to that effort, the Department of Foreign Affairs has just published a manual on the subject for parents and involved professionals. It is being distributed now. It is an excellent document and copies will be made available to members of Parliament. As members will note, it provides comprehensive information, guidance and advice for parents and we are hopeful that it will be of help in dealing with this very tragic problem.

Karim Noah is both a real person and a symbol. As a child, he is separated from his mother at an age when this should not happen. His mother is to be commended for the dedication and zeal with which she has sought to have him returned to Canada. As a symbol, Karim is a beacon for all of us to continue the action necessary to deal with this international social dilemma.

I can assure the hon. member for Rosemont and indeed all members that the Departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will always be there to assist parents such as Mrs. Tremblay. Equally, the Department of Foreign Affairs will redouble its efforts for agreements with more countries that would provide for a more effective way to deal with these tragedies.

Therefore I join with other members in thinking at this moment of Mrs. Tremblay and the difficult situation that we all face.

Return To Canada Of Karim Noah
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to accept the opportunity to speak today in support of the motion by my colleague, the hon. member for Rosemont.

This motion deals with a subject very close to my heart: child welfare. Even if the wording of the motion refers to calling upon the Canadian government to undertake negotiations and political representations in order to ensure the return to Canada of a child kidnapped by his father, nevertheless the individual really at the centre of any such matter is the child.

I shall therefore focus my speech on that aspect. As I have already said, we are speaking of a three year old who has had his mother brutally taken away from him. This is how we need to focus any discussion on the abduction of children.

The very real consequences, to get down to earth, to get down to the every day nitty-gritty of it, is that little Karim has not seen his mother for three years, is growing up without her, without her presence, without her care, without her love. All this because one adult has decided that is the way things will be, for reasons that have nothing to do with the child.

This is a cruel reality, with the risk of very negative consequences for the child. I am not saying, and am far from believing, that it would be more acceptable for a child to be deprived of the care of his father. On the contrary. The presence of both parents is necessary for a child to develop properly, but that presence can take a number of forms, depending on the circumstances. In the case of concern to us today, one of the two parents disappears completely from the child's life, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with him.

Unfortunately, children are often the victims of the bitterness and anger which eats up a family during and after a separation. According to the 1995 annual report of the RCMP'S Missing Children's Registry, often the abductor tells the child that the other parent no longer loves him, or worse, that the other parent is dead.

As well, the abductor often neglects the child's education and health, not to mention that he or she is left alone for long periods of time, which predisposes him or her to antisocial behaviour. In the case of Karim, we are told that he is ill. He was seen again this summer for the first time since January 1993.

Such situations are unacceptable and in fact criminal. They are criminal and punishable under the law. The Criminal Code provides a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for a parent who acts like the father of Karim.

With this legislation, our society recognizes how important it is for a child to live in a stable emotional environment, irrespective of the quality of the relationship between the adults who take care of him. Our society recognizes the importance to the child of having access to both parents.

Finally, our society feels it is important, in case of a conflict, to let a third party, in this case the courts, take on the difficult task of determining how the interests of the child are best served. A parent who abducts his child and deprives him of the presence of his other parent is a criminal who only thinks of his own interests and causes considerable damage to the child.

Little Karim is unfortunately not the only child to have been taken abroad illegally. In recent years, cases of child abduction and taking children to other countries have increased. This is partly due to the greater ease with which people are able to travel quickly over large distances.

In these cases, dispute resolution procedures are complicated because of their international nature. Even if one parent has been given legal custody of the child in Canada, we cannot be sure that this decision will be respected elsewhere. Consequently, and this is particularly true in the case before us today, a parent or guardian may be tempted to abduct a child, expecting to be safe from the Canadian justice system abroad, as in the case of Karim's father.

There are no statistics in Quebec today that establish with any accuracy the total number of Quebec children that have been displaced or are being detained abroad annually by one of the parents. After checking with the Missing Children's Registry of the RCMP, it seems the situation is the same at the federal level.

Figures are of course available. However, these indicate the number of abductions committed by a parent and brought to the attention of the police, but they do not indicate which of these abductions are international in nature.

In this context, it is still difficult to evaluate how widespread the problem of international child abduction really is.

However, even if the number of Quebec and Canadian children who are abducted is relatively low, we should not lose sight of the hardship suffered by these children.

Again, the real victim of an abduction is the child himself. In this particular case, it is young Karim, who has suffered and is still suffering from a loss of balance and stability caused by the trauma of being separated from the parent with whom he had always been. He is the one who has to put up with the uncertainties and the frustrations related to having to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture.

The ability to make contact with the abducted child and the chances for a quick resolution vary greatly, depending on whether or not the country of refuge is a signatory to the Hague Convention. The convention aims primarily to prevent the international movement of children by promoting close co-operation between the legal and administrative authorities of the contracting states.

However, Egypt, where Karim was taken, is not a signatory to the convention. We also know that, to this day, a small percentage of children abducted and taken to a country which is not a contracting state of the convention have been returned to Quebec and to Canada. In such cases, the co-operation and legal mechanisms established by the Hague Convention and by the Canadian legislation are not available to those parents who need help.

Locating a child becomes more difficult and may require the use of private investigating agencies. The parent must also seek legal representation abroad and pay for the related costs, as is the case for Karim's mother.

In addition to all these problems, the legal battle is subject to the national laws of the state, where the rules greatly differ from the ones that we have here.

Given this situation, I join the hon. member for Rosemont in asking the Canadian government to really do something about Karim's plight, and to show its support to the mother by exerting all appropriate political pressure on the Egyptian government to ensure the immediate return of young Karim.