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.


Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

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The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

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Some hon. members


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René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

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

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Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

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

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John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

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

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Gilles Bernier Independent Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am voting for the motion.

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John Nunziata Liberal York South—Weston, ON

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

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Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

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

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Jag Bhaduria Liberal Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

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

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Patrick Gagnon Liberal 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 NoahPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Benoît Tremblay Bloc Rosemont, QC


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 NoahPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso Nova Scotia


Francis Leblanc LiberalParliamentary 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 NoahPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform 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 NoahPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal 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 NoahPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Maud Debien Bloc 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.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with attention to the speeches made today by my hon. colleagues, and I, too, would like to take a few minutes of this House to address this issue.

Of course, unlike the hon. member for Rosemont, I do not know the child or his family personally, but I was closely involved in a similar case several years ago.

Back in 1982, when my daughter was in kindergarten, one of her little classmates disappeared. The child in question, Tina Lynn Malette, had been abducted by her father. A short time later, the family contacted me. I was then a member of the provincial legislature. I wrote to all the school boards in Ontario, then to those in Quebec and finally, in April 1983, we found out that Tina was in Tunisia. This is somewhat similar to the case that our colleague across the way has just described.

Like today, there was no extradition treaty covering such cases and Tunisia had not signed any conventions either.

What was difficult for everyone involved, including your humble servant, is that I knew the child and her family personally. I lived through this situation; her classmates, including my daughter, even asked me where Tina was.

We worked for years. I remember going to see the Tunisian ambassador to bring him petitions signed by 7,000 Canadians asking him to take whatever steps were required to return the child to Canada. In the beginning, the ambassador did not know or at least claimed he did not know where the child was, but later everyone knew where she was. She was in Tunisia. It was no secret.

Worse yet, the child's father had no legal authority over her. First of all, the parents were not married, not that it would have made much of a difference in this case. Second, the father and mother had been separated for years, and the mother had sole custody of the child. Third, he was not officially recorded as the father in the birth register, although he was the father, a fact the mother did not deny. So this is an abduction very similar to an abduction by a total stranger.

Just moments ago, I tried to reach Tina Lynn Malette's aunt on the phone, seeing that she is a neighbour of mine. I still do not know if the child's whereabouts have been established yet. I checked a little while ago. I keep inquiring. Today, my daughter is 19 years old and a university student. She has never seen Tina again, and neither have I nor my neighbour for that matter-the one I just referred to, who had custody of the child when her father kidnapped her, on the pretext of a Sunday afternoon visit. He had no visiting rights by the way.

In a nutshell, these are the facts of this case. I am sorry for telling such a sad story, a story that may even sound discouraging to those close to the child our hon. colleague opposite just told us about.

My goal in bringing this case to the attention of the House is certainly not to discourage this child's parents, but rather to share with this House my sadness around this kind of situation and also to show how frustrating it can be for those involved. In this, I share the sentiments of our colleagues, who raised this matter today. I hope that the governments that have not signed such treaties will do so.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say how important it is, in the field of international relations, for everyone in this House to take an interest in this question of extradition treaties and so on.

Some of us in this House, and this happens at certain times, try to take a somewhat isolationist approach. I am thinking of a certain political party, and I apologize for being partisan at such a sad time. They even try to get themselves exempted from delegations of parliamentarians who are exchanging points of view between countries. If only there were no other reason, but there are several others, on which we must reach agreement and come to an understanding between the countries of the world. It is for the very purpose of ensuring that there are laws to prevent this sort of situation from happening again in future.

At the risk of being pessimistic, there will probably always be countries in the world that will refuse to sign treaties and ensure that there is the good understanding necessary for relations between countries, of course, but, above all, to ensure the safety of children here and elsewhere.

In conclusion, we should all work together to put an end to this sort of problem, to resolve it to the extent that all governments are interested in doing so, and I hope that ambassadors, emissaries of other countries who may read the debates of this House, or even hear them live, will take note of what has been said by all members today.

I think that it is the wish of all parliamentarians to put a stop to situations allowing certain stronger parents, in conditions that are advantageous to them, but not to their children, to carry out abductions like this, to cause the difficulties about which our colleague, the member for Laval East, spoke a few minutes ago, the cultural difficulties faced by Karim Noah, and by Tina Lynn Malette when she left South Peele, Ontario, Canada, to go and live in Tunisia, and God knows whether she is still there.

A few years ago, my daughter had an opportunity to correspond with Tina Lynn, to send her a letter and a photo, although she had not seen her for perhaps ten years. Today, I no longer even know where Tina Lynn is.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member's time has expired.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity today to rise in support of the motion of the hon. member for Rosemont and also to raise another aspect of this question which was mentioned by the hon. member for Rosemont and the hon. member for Laval-Est.

Aside from the human aspect, it is necessary to give hope for parents who experience this kind of situation. I just heard the government whip tell us about what happened to people he knew, and the situation has not been cleared up yet at this moment, so that the family, the mother still wonders whether she will ever see her daughter again.

One would also expect, and this is not intended as a partisan remark, the government to do more than just being understanding. I heard what was said by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It is all very interesting to hear the Secretary of State say that he sympathizes with the family, that he understands the problem very well, and that he hopes we will find a solution will be found to the problem now facing Mrs. Tremblay, but I think they should also tell us-not only tell us but do something-they should also tell us what they are going to do in concrete terms to find a solution to this problem.

Unfortunately, I have to say that this government's past record does not hold out much hope for Mrs. Tremblay and others in a similar situation. We saw this in the case of Trân Trieu Quân, which my colleague from Louis-Hébert has raised in this House on several occasions. As far as the government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are concerned, the case is closed.

As in the case before us today, no specific action was taken, so that Mr. Quân is still in prison in Vietnam. For the past three years, Mrs. Tremblay has taken legal action upon legal action to obtain the return of her child, of whom she has custody. Unfortunately, three years later we are asking the same questions and making the same requests.

I do not want to waste your time, but I want to tell this government's representatives that they must approach the Egyptian government in order to find a definite solution. Of course we can deplore the fact that Egypt did not sign The Hague Convention concerning this type of situation, but we must find a concrete solution. The government must stop talking and start acting.

I refuse to believe that the Minister of Foreign Affairs cannot intervene directly with the Egyptian government and make it listen to reason in this particular case.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time for consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahAdjournment Debate

7:05 p.m.


Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, further to my question to the Minister of Justice I wish to emphasize my constituents' concern about safe homes and safe streets for themselves and their families. They have made this clear during two very well attended forums in my riding to discuss justice initiatives which gave my constituents an opportunity to voice their concerns, in particular with reference to the Young Offenders Act.

The justice minister's initiative about dangerous and long term offenders is of great interest to me and to the people in my riding who attended those sessions and others. Tough new restrictions on high risk violent offenders will make Canadian homes and streets safer. These new initiatives go hand in hand with a whole series of initiatives designed to improve the quality of life for Canadians.

The list of these initiative is impressive: the creation of a national crime prevention council which works on strategies that address the underlying causes of crime; increased sentences for young offenders who commit violent crimes; the creation of a flagging system using the Canadian Police Information Centre to help provincial prosecutors identify high risk offenders; a new mandatory five-year sentence for those convicted of using violence to force children into prostitution; the classification as first degree any murder committed while stalking; increased sentences for those convicted of stalking; a specific outlawing of the practice of female genital mutilation.

We have introduced child support guidelines to help protect children from financial hardship resulting from marital breakdowns. We have increased minimum sentences by 400 per cent for those who commit crimes using a firearm. We have classified smuggling of firearms as an enterprise crime with a sentence up to 10 years. We have introduced amendments that end self-induced intoxication as a defence against crimes of violence. We have provided the basis on which police can serve warrants on suspects to take samples for DNA testing. We have improved legislation with respect to proceeds of crime.

I have reintroduced my private member's bill to establish a victim's bill of rights in the Criminal Code.

Added to this list are proposals to create a new category of long term offender. Long term offenders will include those convicted of sexual assault and other sexual offences. To better protect the community, offenders in this category will be subject to an additional period of supervision of up to 10 years after they have completed their parole and prison sentences.

Further, specialized conditions can be added to ensure close supervision of the offender such as regular reporting to the assigned supervisor and mandatory participation in counselling, electronic monitoring and other rehabilitation programs.

These are all good initiatives but once again, I say to the minister that it is essential that young offenders also be subject to the provisions and sanctions included in Bill C-55.

It is my hope that the justice minister will take this view into account when proceeding with this much needed and important legislation.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahAdjournment Debate

7:10 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his persistent and thoughtful efforts at improving and toughening the criminal law across the land and for making representations on behalf of his constituents to ensure that our streets and homes are safe.

Bill C-55 is explicitly and unapologetically aimed at high risk adult offenders with long histories of violent behaviour. The government has listened to a public demand for Criminal Code amendments that will effectively target sex offenders, particularly pedophiles who present an ongoing risk to the community. The two improvements that are being made by Bill C-55 are the new long term offender sentencing option along with the dangerous offender improvements to that designation as well.

The concern with both these issues as with the long pattern of offending, unfortunately in both these categories pedophiles often have a very long track record of aberrant behaviour and conviction.

In both these types of procedures, long term and repetitive behaviour is required in order to bring them into question. The question therefore arises, are young offenders likely to be a target group for both these types of sentences?

It is possible, in answer to the hon. member's question, that young offenders who are transferred to adult court could be subject to these provisions. There is required to be a pattern of repetitive behaviour, a serious past record of violent offences for these types of designations to apply. It is possible that the new legislation would apply to young offenders.

I thank the hon. member for his question and will take his representations to the minister.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahAdjournment Debate

7:10 p.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question of September 24 was as follows:

The French speaking residents of the village of Laurier do not have a facility to house the students of the Franco-Manitoban school division. In spite of its constitutional obligations, the provincial government has made no decision acceptable to the parents.

Will the federal government take action to ensure that section 23, dealing with minority language educational rights, will be complied with?

The minister replied, and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, to be sure the community of Laurier has good reasons to invoke section 23 of the charter, and I am convinced that the education minister will show her willingness to settle a situation which contravenes this section of the charter.

From discussions I have had recently, I hear there is a possibility of this willingness, and I hope that this is so, for this situation has been talked about for a long time and ought to have been settled a long time ago.

The question I raised is important, not only in itself, but also because of its far wider implications. We are still talking about services for minorities, in this case the francophone minority outside Quebec.

We are still talking about the roadblocks faced by these minorities. Despite the protection provided them, the communities still have to fight for their fundamental rights, in this case the right to an education in French.

Yes, the government has just signed an agreement, yesterday, aimed at funding minority language education, and I applaud this initiative. I am proud of it. But the parents to whom I referred, as far as I know, are still lacking facilities for their Franco-Manitoban school division.

What I am demanding for Manitoba, and in all of Canada moreover, is that, when we are faced with such a situation, the entire country be considered, the entire Canadian population. What happens in Manitoba has an impact on the francophone in Newfoundland, the francophone as far away as British Columbia or the Northwest Territories, everywhere in the country. What we require is great willingness and open-mindedness from all.

Unfortunately, each time there is an altercation of this nature in the francophone community outside Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois and other separatist forces tend to use it to serve their own purposes.

Does the federal government have a role to play in ensuring that section 23 of the Charter, which deals with the right to education in French, is 100 per cent respected in Manitoba and elsewhere? I believe that the answer to that is yes.

I would add that I also believe that the government must provide the necessary financial support to these minorities, whether for education, for television, for radio-everything they require to improve their situation.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahAdjournment Debate

7:15 p.m.

Restigouche—Chaleur New Brunswick


Guy Arseneault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am quite familiar with my hon. colleague's concerns about French schooling in Laurier, Manitoba.

It is essential that French-speaking children be provided with suitable accommodation and access to the necessary services to get a good education. Discussions were held between the Franco-Manitoban school division and the Turtle River school board to find a mutually acceptable solution for this year.

The parties reached an agreement providing for portables to be installed on the grounds of the Laurier school and for francophone students to have access to the school's washrooms, gymnasium and library.

All those concerned realize this is only a temporary solution. We urge the Manitoba Minister of Education to look into the case so she can respond to the needs of the francophone community in Laurier. We are convinced that the problem will be settled to the satisfaction of all concerned.

I would point out that this government has made a firm commitment to official language communities and will continue to support them. We have an agreement with Manitoba,which provides for assistance in observing section 23 of the Charter and putting in place structures for school administration. We also have an agreement with the province for the provision of provincial services in French.

The federal government also supports many projects which the community feels are important to its development. For instance, a federal contribution of $1.5 million was made towards the construction of le Centre du patrimoine franco-manitobain.

We also concluded an agreement worth $10.2 million over a period of five years with the francophone community to help with its development.

All these interventions reflect the federal government's firm commitment to a flourishing Franco-Manitoban community.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahAdjournment Debate

7:15 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, last spring gas prices increased 8 cents to 10 cents a litre across Canada without justification. When I called for action by the Liberal government to stop this gouging by their masters, the big multinational oil companies, the Liberals blamed the provincial governments which by the way have no jurisdiction to regulate nationally established pricing practices.

NDP MPs organized a boycott of Imperial Oil for one week in May resulting in thousands of consumers joining the boycott and effectively driving down prices in Saskatchewan by about 4 cents a litre and in British Columbia between 2 cents and 3 cents a litre.

Finally the Government of British Columbia launched an inquiry as did New Brunswick. In June the federal government, through the Bureau of Competition Policy, initiated a criminal investigation of the oil companies' gas pricing practices. The boycott was called off pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

During the course of these inquiries being announced, the oil companies dropped their prices to create the perception that there was some competition. Yet all companies dropped their prices at about the same time to the same level. In late August and early September prices went up again. In Saskatchewan they went up 3 cents to 4 cents a litre.

The reasons given by the oil companies were laughable. In the spring big oil said prices were up because of the expectation of Iraq oil coming to market. In the latest increase big oil said prices were going up because of the expectation that Iraq oil would not be coming on to the market. Then when people laughed at these stupid, unfounded bizarre explanations for Saskatchewan's increase, big oil said that the increase was due to local conditions.

What are local conditions? According to Imperial Oil's own gas station managers, they were called by their head office in Calgary and instructed to increase their prices locally. That is what oil companies call local conditions.

The real reason for the increase is clear. There is a big increase in spring which is seeding time in Saskatchewan, and a big increase in the fall which is harvest time in western Canada, in Saskatchewan. Gouge farmers early, gouge farmers often. That is the slogan of the oil companies when there is no choice but to buy fuel for the two crucial business cycles: seeding and harvest.

These silly, stupid antics by the oil companies only hurt middle class working Canadians and business while increasing big oil's profits which leave Canada. Imperial oil this year took out $1 billion Canadian by buying Exxon shares which were held by Imperial Oil. These are reasons enough not to just investigate gas pricing but to have an energy price review commission which would have oil companies justify their prices with accuracy and truth, not smoke and mirrors.

As a result of this latest increase, Saskatchewan is paying 4 cents to 12 cents a litre more than other provinces. Quebec now is being charged 54.9 cents a litre; Ontario, 53.9 cents; Manitoba, 57.9 cents; Alberta, 50.9 cents. When the tax differences are factored out, Saskatchewan is still paying 4 cents to 6 cents a litre too much. That is in a province where we produce, refine, process and export our gasoline.

That is why I have asked the director of criminal matters in the Bureau of Competition Policy to focus its criminal investigation in Saskatchewan to ferret out the unfair gouging practices of the oil companies. I feel assured that the criminal investigation into the pricing practices of oil companies in Saskatchewan will be helpful in reducing the gouging which currently exists. Hopefully, it will call on the oil companies to account honestly for their actions.

Return To Canada Of Karim NoahAdjournment Debate

October 1st, 1996 / 7:15 p.m.

Saskatoon—Dundurn Saskatchewan


Morris Bodnar LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is aware, on May 13, 1996 the director of investigation and research commenced an inquiry under the Competition Act into allegations of conspiracy by gasoline producers and marketers. This inquiry was commenced after the initiation of a six resident application for an inquiry under the Competition Act by the member for Ottawa Centre. If evidence of a criminal offence is uncovered, I am sure appropriate measures will be taken by the director.

Some people are suggesting that prices should be regulated. The authority to regulate gasoline prices falls within the jurisdiction of the provinces. It is not a federal matter. In the member's province

of Saskatchewan it is for the NDP government to take action if it feels that gasoline prices should be regulated.

As a matter of general principle, the best regulator of gasoline prices is a competitive market. Prices set by government usually result in higher prices to consumers. This is in addition to the cost that taxpayers must bear to set up and administer a regulatory regime. The decision in July 1991 by the province of Nova Scotia to discontinue its gasoline pricing regime reflected in part a recognition that such decisions should be left to the competitive market forces.

Regulation would also remove the incentive for petroleum suppliers to be more efficient. Price controls weaken the stimulus for firms to either swiftly adapt themselves to change in demand or to develop more efficient methods of distribution. It is easier to ask the regulatory body to increase the controlled price than to attempt to lessen their operating costs.

In conclusion, it remains my view that the best interests of Canadians will continue to be served if gasoline prices are set in the competitive marketplace. As I indicated at the outset, unlawful anti-competitive behaviour will be appropriately addressed under the Competition Act.

Recently my colleague, the minister responsible for FORD-Q, discussed the issue of gasoline prices with his provincial and territorial counterparts.