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Warrant issued for father's arrest, but whereabouts of child unknown

Elizabeth De Swart poses at her apartment in Calgary on February 6, 2020. A Canada-wide criminal warrant for child abduction has been issued for a father who has flouted court orders to return his son to Alberta from overseas, police confirmed on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
March 10, 2020 - 11:05 AM

TORONTO - A Canada-wide criminal warrant for alleged child abduction has been issued for a father who has flouted court orders to return his son to Alberta from overseas, police confirmed Tuesday.

However, it remains unclear whether Oscar Maillard has any intention of coming back to Canada or complying with the orders issued under an international treaty to turn the boy over to his mother.

"There has been a warrant issued for the arrest of Mr. Maillard," said Calgary Det. David Keegan said. "At this point, I don't (know where he is)."

In Calgary, Elizabeth (Liz) De Swart has been counting the days since she last had contact via video call with her four-year-old son in late January. While he was believed to have been in Spain at that point, it's not clear where he or Maillard is.

De Swart, 38, said she was hoping the criminal warrant might now help move her case forward.

"This was a big step that was required in order for the international authorities to get more involved," De Swart said. "I'm hopeful that this will now allow for international authorities — potentially Interpol — to take more of an interest."

Keegan said Interpol has not issued a "red notice" in the case — referring to what the international agency calls a request for law enforcement agencies to "locate and provisionally arrest a person." The detective, who heads up international child-abduction cases for the Calgary police, said he could not elaborate for operational reasons.

The criminal case against Maillard, 35, marks a stark turnaround in a saga that previously saw De Swart arrested for failing to hand the couple's Calgary-born son over to his father in Spain.

Last July, Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Barbara Romaine ruled under the international Hague Convention that the child was habitually resident in Spain — a country he had lived in for less than two months — even though the child had spent almost his entire life in Calgary. Romaine refused to stay her decision pending an appeal, giving De Swart just four days to take the child to his father in Alicante, Spain.

Instead, De Swart headed to The Netherlands, where she has relatives, in hopes Dutch authorities would intervene. When they refused and police came looking for her, she turned her son over to Maillard in the southern Dutch city of Breda on July 24, 2019.

De Swart then returned to Canada, where she was arrested in Calgary before being released. She still faces a civil contempt case, and has lost contact with her child.

"He doesn't understand why Mom's not there," she said of her last video calls with the boy.

Romaine's decision was overturned by Alberta's Court of Appeal in December, and Maillard was ordered to return the boy to his mother.

De Swart said Romaine's ruling in favour of Maillard — had it stood — could have had far-reaching consequences on other cases involving parental child abduction.

"Her decision would have had an impact on countless lives moving forward," De Swart said. "The Hague Convention completely failed us."

Maillard, who spoke to the media last summer about his joy at getting his son back, has not responded to requests for comment. He has initiated court action in Spain in hopes the courts there will side with him. De Swart also fears her ex could take their child to a country that hasn't signed on to The Hague Convention.

She's hoping Canadian political authorities might get involved. Regardless, a speedy reunion between the boy and his mom seems unlikely.

"Our hope is that the two parents come to some resolution and the child is brought back to Canada to comply with the order," Keegan said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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