St. Catharines Standard

Thursday November 7th, 2002

Distraught mom may learn today tot's whereabouts

Hearing continues for father accused of abduction

The Standard (St. Catharines - Niagara)

Deborah Bouchard left St. Catharines court holding a small pink backpack and a baby bottle of milk Wednesday, but with no idea of her missing two-year-old daughter's whereabouts.

Minutes earlier, a bail hearing was adjourned for her estranged husband, who is charged with abducting the toddler.

Eric Bouchard, 35, of Smithville has told Niagara Regional Police his daughter Emelie is in safe hands, but he refuses to reveal where.

The accused, who is being held in custody at Niagara Detention Centre, was to return to court today to continue his bail hearing.

Defence lawyer Walter Fox told justice of the peace Rosemary Belcastro he's confident he and the prosecutor would be in a position to present a "complete resolution to the satisfaction of everybody" at the hearing.

Outside court, Fox wouldn't discuss the proposed resolution in detail or say whether it involves the missing child being handed over to authorities.

Neither would assistant Crown attorney Alan Tessmer comment on the proposal, other than to indicate he's optimistic it will lead to a positive result.

"I'm coming here at 9 a.m. and I'm hoping I'll be happy," he said.

Deborah Bouchard, 39, of Dunnville left the courthouse visibly distraught and declined comment until after today's hearing.

Eric Bouchard was arrested Nov. 1 on charges of parental abduction and contravening a court order to return Emelie to her mother Oct. 27 after a weekend visit.

A family court judge in Cayuga ordered him to return the child to his estranged wife Oct. 28.

Fox maintained his client took action out of concern for his daughter's safety. "He believes the court was wrong in giving interim custody to the mother," Fox said outside court. "He believed his child's welfare was at risk when he did what police say he did."

The abduction case has drawn the attention of at least two organization's that advocate fairer parental access rights in custody battles.

Charles Farrauto, president of Hamilton-based Kids Need Both Parents, maintained family courts share a portion of the blame for the toddler's abduction. "This is what parents are driven to when they can't get any help through the court system," he said.

Farrauto said he had been advocating on Eric Bouchard's behalf to gain greater access to his daughter.

Farrauto said he had spoken to him since his arrest, but didn't know the youngster's location.

"Knowing Mr. Bouchard as I do, I know that child is not at risk."

Grant Wilson, president of the Mississauga-based Canadian Children's Rights Council, was also monitoring the case. "I want to see how the courts handle this and see how sympathetic the courts are to a father who's protecting his child, if that is the case," he said.

© Copyright  2002 St Catharines Standard