National Post

Thursday, January 28, 1999

Chretien fails to negotiate Montreal boy's return
Ukraine leader says no

Robert Fife, Ottawa Bureau Chief
National Post

Robert Galbraith, National Post / Cancer researcher Yury Monczak sits in his son's room surrounded by art work.

Ivan Monczak

Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister, was unsuccessful yesterday in convincing the president of Ukraine to return a six-year-old Montreal boy who was abducted by his mother and is now living in Kyiv.

Mr. Chretien took the unusual step of personally intervening on behalf of the father of Ivan Monczak, who was spirited out of Canada in June by his mother in violation of a shared custody order.

In a meeting with Leonid Kuchma, the president, Mr. Chretien said he asked him to intervene and received assurances that "he would do his best to help."

But Mr. Kuchma poured cold water on Mr. Chretien's hope of having Ivan taken from his mother, Miroslava Bartchouk, and sent home immediately to his father, Yury Monczak -- a Montreal medical researcher.

"Both in Ukraine and in Canada such cases are sorted out by the courts and this issue is before one of Kyiv's courts," Mr. Kuchma told reporters of the dispute that has caused a small rift between Canada and the Ukraine.

Canada has already protested the role played by the Ukraine government in helping Ms. Bartchouk flee with her child in violation of Canadian and international law.

The Ukraine embassy in Ottawa and its consulate in Toronto had been informed by lawyers hired by the boy's father that his former wife might try to take his son to Kyiv, where she had lived before meeting him and immigrating to Canada in 1991.

Despite the warning, the embassy issued the passport for Ms. Bartchouk, a landed Canadian immigrant, and put the boy on her passport, even through the Quebec Superior Court had forbid her from taking him out of the country without the consent of the father.

When she fled last summer, the Superior Court issued a Habeas Corpus ordering the child brought back to Montreal, where he was born, and granted his father full custody rights.

Mr. Monczak, a cancer researcher at Montreal's Jewish Hospital, told the National Post yesterday that Canada should consider sanctions against Ukraine to bring pressure for the return of his son.

"A child -- a Canadian citizen -- was abducted by a citizen of Ukraine. There is an important principle of law at stage here," a disappointed Mr. Monczak said in a telephone interview. "Economic sanctions should perhaps be used because Ukraine needs Canadian investments and benefits from our immigrant policies. Every favour has been done for Ukraine. Ukraine should do Canada a favour and return my child."

The Ukrainian government has already ignored attempts by both Lloyd Axworthy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, and Anne McLellan, the Justice Minister, to order Ms. Bartchouk to immediately return her son to Mr. Monczak.

If Canada is not willing to take tough action against Ukraine, Mr. Monczak said he will launch legal proceedings in Kyiv to get his boy returned.

"The Ukraine embassy issued her a passport and she put Ivan on her passport. She took him to Ukraine on an Ukrainian airline despite a direct order preventing it," Mr. Monczak said. "I know the child is suffering. I know the child is stressed. I'm sure he wants to come home. He was extremely attached to me."

Mr. Monczak met Ms. Bartchouk during a trip to Kyiv in 1991 and they married a year later. The relationship was rocky and within two years of Ivan's birth in 1992, Ms. Bartchouk left her husband. Two years later she attempted to abduct the child but the police tracked her down at a women's shelter, according to Mr. Monczak.

"She attempted to kidnap my son but it was foiled. She was found by police in a women's shelter. She accused me of beating her and my son," he said. "I was struck with a $45,000 bill to defend myself against this false accusation and she was forced in the divorce hearings to admit that she had lied."

The mother and son who live with her mother in the Ukrainian capital, could not be reached for comment.

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