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.