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Two women, both desperate to be with their children, face serious repercussions for taking the law into their own hands. Both cases are convoluted and complicated, involve alleged child abduction, and invite controversy.
On one hand, we feel for these women who want nothing more than to be with their children and know that they’re safe under their mother’s protection. Conversely, we know it’s wrong to abduct or counter-abduct children, no matter the situation. They’re not chattel and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Canadian biathlete Olympian, Myriam Bédard, won the hearts of Canadians upon winning two gold medals in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994. Now, she’s in U.S. custody, hoping to return to Canada where she faces up to 10 years in prison on charges that she breached a custody order and kidnapped her 12-year-old daughter, Maude, taking her across an international border.
Her lawyers said that she and common-law husband, Nima Mazhari, had made their whereabouts public. They left Canada in October and made a plea for help to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Virginia Sen. John Warner, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins and even UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Reportedly, the couple were running from unnamed Canadians whom they believed wished to harm them for the biathlete’s role in the sponsorship scandal known as the Gomery inquiry.
Bédard has made international news once again, but this time for a crime of the heart. Many women, especially mothers, can feel sympathy for one who’s been separated from her children — for whatever reason.
Bédard and her family have been in the United States since early October, but Quebec police issued a warrant for her arrest two months later after Maude’s father, Jean Paquet, alleged his former wife had taken his daughter, violating their shared custody agreement. Bédard’s lawyers claim she had sole custody, including freedom of movement.
In another case, Canadian Melissa Hawach allegedly hired a mercenary squad to retrieve her daughters, Hannah, 5, and Cedar, 3, who were taken to Lebanon by their father, Hawach’s estranged Australian-Lebanese husband, Joseph Hawach, for a three-week holiday in July. Shortly after leaving Canada, however, Mr. Hawach cut contact with his ex-wife. The couple were married in Australia in 1999 and separated in 2005. Ms. Hawach had since returned to Canada with the children, but allowed her ex-husband to take the girls to see his family.
The mercenary squad is believed to have retrieved the girls and reunited them with their mother.
Mr. Hawach, 31, has been charged with two counts of abduction under Canadian law, and international arrest and extradition warrants have been issued. Will the same standards be applied to Ms. Hawach? Counter-abduction is illegal in this country, even if it appears to right a wrongdoing.
Do we, as women, sympathize with these mothers’ anguish, or do we uphold the principle that abducting children, by anyone, is illegal and immoral?
Let’s hope the courts handle these cases in the children’s best interests.