Welland Tribune

November 7, 2002

Father faces abduction charge in family dispute

Child in "safe environment"

By DEREK SWARTZ, Tribune Staff ST. CATHARINES
Welland Tribune

Somewhere two-year-old Emelie Bouchard is likely unaware of the feud going on over her in Niagara. Her 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 she didn't return from a custodial access visit with her father.

The Niagara Regional Police believe her father, Eric Bouchard, knows where she is. But he won't tell them.

Bouchard is charged with parental abduction and will be in court here today for a bail hearing. He has told police Emelie is being well cared for in a safe environment.

Meanwhile Emelie's mother, Deborah Bouchard, says she is going through hell as she waits for her daughter's return.

"I want to see her. I want her home," she says.

She accuses her estranged husband of using their daughter for political reasons. The Dunnville woman says her former husband is involved with a group called Fathers for Justice, a group that advocates for fathers' rights after divorce.

There is neither a telephone listing nor a Web site for the group. Attempts to reach Eric Bouchard at the Niagara Region Detention Centre were unsuccessful.

Deborah is not a stranger to the situation. In 1997 she spent five days in jail for refusing to allow the father of her oldest daughter access. That daughter is now eight-years-old.

She says 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 statistics kept by the RCMP.

Barbara Snider believes those figures understates the situation. The eastern Canada case director for the Missing Children Society of Canada says the majority of parental abductions are not cases of parents protecting their children from abuse.

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

Her society helps police locate and return abducted children and runaways. They have not been called in to assist in this case.

NRP Det. Neal Orlando says it is hard to pinpoint exactly where the child is.

Eric has family and friends in numerous towns in Quebec and British Columbia. He has called on the RCMP and the Surete du Quebec to help find Emelie.

"There's a good possibility she's in Niagara. There's an outside possibility (Eric) delivered her to family or friends for harbouring," Orlando says.

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