St. Catharines Standard

November 6, 2002

Jailed father still refuses to reveal location of two-year-old daughter

Derek Swartz, Special to The Standard
The Standard (St. Catharines - Niagara)

Emelie Bouchard

Somewhere, two-year-old Emelie Bouchard is likely unaware she is at the centre of a parental feud in Niagara.

The toddler's father is in a Thorold jail cell while her mother splits time between the St. Catharines courthouse and her Dunnville home, waiting for news about her daughter.

Emelie has been missing since Oct. 26 when she didn't return from a custodial access visit with her father.

Niagara Regional Police believe her father, Eric Bouchard, knows where she is. Bouchard, 35, of West Lincoln, is charged with parental abduction and was to be in court today for a bail hearing. He has told police Emelie is being well cared for in a safe environment, but has refused to say where.

Meanwhile, Emelie's mother, Deborah Bouchard, said she is going through hell as she waits for her daughter's return. "I want to see her. I want her home," she said.

Deborah accuses her estranged husband of using their daughter for political reasons.

The Dunnville woman said her former husband is involved with a group called Fathers for Justice, an association that advocates for fathers' rights after divorce.

Attempts to reach Eric Bouchard at the Niagara Detention Centre Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Deborah Bouchard was previously involved in a parental-access situation. In 1997, she spent five days in jail for refusing to allow the father of her oldest daughter access to the child. That daughter is now eight. She said she did the right thing then because she was protecting her daughter from harm.

In 2001, there were 387 cases of parents abducting their children, including 158 in Ontario, according to RCMP statistics. Barbara Snider said those figures understate the situation. The eastern Canada case director for the Missing Children Society of Canada said the majority of parental abductions are not examples of parents protecting their children from abuse.

"The greatest percentage of the time it's for revenge," she said.

Her society helps police locate and return abducted children and runaways. It has not been called in to assist with this case.

NRP Detective Neal Orlando said it is difficult to pinpoint where Emelie is.

Her father has family and friends in numerous towns in Quebec and British Columbia, police said. Orlando has called on the RCMP and the Quebec provincial police to help find Emelie.

"There's a good possibility she's in Niagara," Orlando said.

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