Halifax Daily News

Dad Sues Over Child's Abduction

Sunday, April 26, 1998
The Daily News

E-MAIL: jmacdonald@hfxnews.southam.ca

One grieving father is so frustrated with official efforts to rescue his child he has threatened the government with a $5-million lawsuit.

Dartmouth resident Carlo Martini has not seen 18-month-old Carla Angela since October 20. "Not knowing where your daughter is, is the worst nightmare anyone could imagine," said the 39-year-old father and writer.

As part of a private prosecution filed with Dartmouth provincial court - and being reviewed by the crown - Martini charges his former common-law wife kidnapped their daughter and endangered her life. Martini has also written to the provincial Ombudsman, indicating he intends to sue the Department of Community Services for $5 million. He blames the department for not tracking down and protecting his daughter before she was taken out of the province. Community Services Minister Francene Cosman wrote to Martini this month, telling him he could discuss his case with her staff, or leave it for the courts to settle.

"I have no intentions to stop, until one way or another, my daughter's safety is secure, and she is returned," Martini told The Daily News. "I have exhausted myself; it has been an endless battle. Since October, I have been up and down ladders and to all the chains of command."

Martini stood in his living room, which is almost bare except for his daughter's soft toys: a purple Easter bunny and her "guardian puppy" Chuckles. He believes the toys would not have been left behind unless Carla was taken from her family home in a hurry.

Martini dabs his eyes before they spill out tears, and says he used to sing his daughter to sleep to the tune of Amazing Grace. But he substituted the words 'Amazing Carla.'

"I wanted her to know she was special. That's why her second name was Angela - Angel," said Martini, who fears his daughter's fragile health will worsen in her mother's care.

Martini first reported his daughter missing to Cole Harbour RCMP. He told officers his child had been kidnapped by his common-law wife from their Cole Harbour apartment.

But the RCMP officers had earlier heard a complaint about Martini from his wife.

The officers were faced with a "he said, she said" dilemma, said Cole Harbour's Cpl Jim Powell, in an interview with The Daily News this week. Powell said officers told Martini they knew where his daughter was - with her mother at a women's shelter - and they were convinced she was safe.

Not satisfied, Martini hired a lawyer, notified child protection services, and won a temporary custody order from a Dartmouth family court judge, who instructed police to detain the child in Nova Scotia.

When Martini returned to the RCMP on Oct. 31, with the court order, it was too late, said Powell. Investigating officers discovered the mother and child had been in Quebec four days before they began their search. Powell said Martini's wife had simultaneously applied for custody of the child in Quebec, which meant the RCMP in Nova Scotia had no jurisdiction to take the child from Quebec.

"We have her in Quebec, saying, 'I have custody'. We have him appearing in Nova Scotia, saying, 'I have custody.' It happens a lot," said Powell.

"The children are sometimes used as a pawn."

It was now up to Martini to convince higher authorities that a national warrant should be issued for his wife's arrest, said Powell.

"We couldn't make it a federal issue; that's up to him."

Powell said he had "no doubt whatsoever" Martini's daughter was in safe hands. Yet he acknowledged Martini "certainly wasn't very happy with the service we provided."

Martini's wife could not be reached for comment.