Halifax Daily News

Police not enforcing law in abduction cases

Sunday, April 26, 1998
By RACHEL BRIGHTON,
The Daily News

Police are not enforcing the law in parental abduction cases despite a tripling in the number of abductions in the province last year, two reports suggest.

Nine boys and two girls were snatched by their parents in 1997, compared with four in 1996 and two in 1995, according to the annual Missing Children's Registry report, obtained by The Daily News.

A separate report tabled in Parliament last week suggests police look the other way. "Police are generally reluctant to become involved with parental abductions," says the interim report on parental abductions, tabled by the federal government's sub-committee on Human Rights and International Development.

"Research, supported by oral testimony and written submissions of left-behind parents, has shown that police generally regard threatened and actual parental abduction as a 'domestic problem' rather than criminal activity.
"By extension, child abduction perpetrated by a stranger is treated as a more serious crime."
Across Canada, 426 children were abducted by a parent last year - the highest number in at least six years - and the number was seven times that of kidnapping by strangers.

Halifax RCMP spokesman Sgt. Bill Price said when a parent breaches a court custody order, the law has to enforce it.

"But these cases are not always cut and dried; there may be extenuating circumstances," said Price. The case manager at the Dartmouth chapter of the North American Missing Children Association said her agency has a good working relationship with police, but she could see why parents become fed-up with the system.

"Everything depends on the investigating police agency, it depends on how far they want to go with it," said Cheryl Ivany. "Some are super cops and some are Gomer Pyle." Ivany said law enforcers have to treat cases of stolen children as crimes, not family spats.

She also wants the province to set up a task force on child abductions, and the courts to issue orders for compulsory counselling as part of custody settlements.

To deal with international abductions, this week's parliamentary report recommended better training for law enforcers, and travel restrictions on parents and children following a custody battle.