June 22, 2000
Change custody laws sooner, not laterBy MINDELLE JACOBS
I met a man yesterday who has been in mourning over his daughter for years. She's not dead, but as far as her father's concerned she might as well be.
This is a story of lies and manipulation and how a decent, law-abiding immigrant was unjustly painted as a monster. Most of all, it's the tragedy of a 10-year-old girl who is growing up in a foster home because of that web of deceit.
There will be no real names in this tale because that would identify the girl. Perhaps it's better that way because this is not just a chronicle of one man's suffering and a girl's forced alienation from her parents.
It's an illustration of what goes wrong when vengeful women's lies are accepted as fact and men are automatically presumed guilty.
And it's a compelling reason why the federal government should amend the child custody and access laws sooner rather than later.
Like all immigrants, Abraham, 45, came to Canada with high hopes. He used to be an air force officer for a corrupt African country. One day, he'd had enough. He flew his plane to a nearby nation, requested asylum and eventually made his way to Canada.
He subsequently met a woman, they moved in together and she had a baby girl in 1990.
About a year later, the relationship ended and he moved out. That's when Abraham began his trip to hell.
Out of the blue, he was served with a restraining order denying him access to his daughter. His former common-law wife had filed a false affadavit claiming he'd beaten her up during their 18-month relationship and threatened to kill her.
No one ever asked Abraham, who has never been convicted of anything, for his side of the story.
As it turns out, the abusive partner in the relationship was his ex. Child welfare authorities apprehended the girl in 1997 because her mom had been brutalizing her.
A medical examination found the girl had multiple bruising and scars from both recent and past beatings. Her mother pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and was placed on probation for two years.
The girl was put in foster care for a year and then back with her mom for six months under supervision.
Worried about his daughter, Abraham applied for custody in 1998 and was granted it temporarily. He had his daughter for a year. That's when his world came crashing down around him.
At another custody hearing last year, his ex testified she beat the girl because of the stress over Abraham wanting to see his daughter.
In the end, the judge decided it was better that the girl be with her abusive mom than her dad.
"It is my view that while (the girl) would likely experience some healing while in (Abraham's) home, deeper healing is available to her through her return to the situation in which she lived most of her life and where the damage occurred," the judge ruled.
Got that? A battering mom is a better parent than a loving dad. She won custody and he got visitation rights.
Days after she got her daughter back, she fled to Vancouver, breaking her custody conditions. Abraham won a fleeting victory - he got his daughter back for a month.
But the girl had been brainwashed to hate her dad. She kept running away from home and was apprehended by child welfare authorities last fall. She's been in foster care ever since. Her mom isn't a capable parent and her dad was never given the chance.
"My 10-year-old daughter was destroyed by the system," says Abraham in despair. "Just imagine my daughter's generation growing up. There's a lot of them."
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Copyright © 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.