Sent: Thursday, August 4, 2011 5:32:27 AM
Subject: In reply to your emails in which you express your concerns regarding your children in Japan
Mr. B.R. Gherbetti
Dear Mr. Gherbetti:
Thank you for your emails of May 25 and 26, 2011, addressed to the
Honourable John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which you express
your concerns regarding your children in Japan. The Office of the Right
Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, has also forwarded your
correspondence regarding this matter. As Minister of State of Foreign
Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), my portfolio includes consular
issues, hence, I am pleased to respond to your correspondence.
Please be assured that I understand your concerns for your children’s
health in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in
Japan, and the fact that you are facing private legal issues surrounding
the custody of your children. I am informed that you have been in
contact with the Children’s
Issues Section, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT),
and that they have provided you with contextual information with regard to
the difficulties parents face when trying to exercise their parental
rights in Japan.
Cross-border custodial issues can be heart-wrenching experiences and
DFAIT’s Children’s Issues Section appreciates your situation. While I
regret to learn that the mother of your children has refused to
voluntarily collaborate with consular officials at the Embassy of Canada
to Japan, in Tokyo, I recommend that you seek legal advice in Japan to
obtain clarification relating to your parental rights in that country.
In the meantime, please be assured that the Children’s Issues Section will continue to
provide you with guidance as well as support your efforts to maintain
contact with your children.
Thank you for taking the time to write and express your concerns.
The Honourable Diane Ablonczy, P.C., M.P.
Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)
c.c. The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
ATTENTION: The Honourable Diane Ablonczy, P.C., M.P.
Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)
I appreciate your reply to my emails. Allow me to address your statement, “I recommend that you seek legal advice in Japan to obtain clarification relating to your parental rights in that country.”:
1. Under current Japanese laws, “left-behind” parents are prevented from visiting or making any contact with their abducted children, even when these children have been illegally abducted from their national home of origin.
2. Under current Japanese laws, when a Japanese parent dies, Japanese courts award illegally abducted children to their Japanese grandparents instead of their sole living foreign parent. The children are then denied any access to their only living parent.
3. Not one single child has ever been returned to his or her country of habitual residence after being abducted to Japan.
4. Japanese courts habitually award custody to Japanese parents instead of to non-Japanese parents, and once again deny non-Japanese parent’s access to their children.
5. Japan sanctions, and is a safe haven for abductions. The system is such that even non-Japanese parents can flee to Japan with their abducted children and then exploit the Japanese system to their own advantage.
6. Japan does not provide comity (reciprocation) to Canadian Court orders.
7. The Government of Japan refuses to criminally prosecute an abducting parent or relative when that parent or relative abducts a child to Japan. However, if I or another non-Japanese parent goes to Japan and attempts to retrieve our abducted children, we will be arrested and imprisoned for kidnapping.
8. On March 22 1994, the Japanese government signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in its entirety, which enables children to have complete access to both parents. However, its current laws still allow the Japanese parent to decide whether or not the “left-behind” parent gets access or visitation rights, which are usually denied.
Which is why I am writing to you, Mr. Baird and Mr. Harper. I am aware of the Canadian government’s efforts to urge Japan to sign the Hague Convention however, if it is ratified by Japan, it will not be retroactive. Article 21 does provide a mechanism for access applications, but access is not the same as return. To that end, Japan and Canada are going to require a memorandum of understanding (bilateral treaty) to resolve current abduction cases like my children’s abduction of September 2009. (1) What, if anything, is DFAIT doing to negotiate such an bilateral treaty (MOU)?
Currently, in the United States, Congressman Christopher Smith, R-NJ, has authored House Resolution 1940, The International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2011.
He has also held Congressional hearings as Chairman of the House Committee Foreign Affairs, Africa and Global Health on International Child Abduction as recently as last month. Whereupon he called Ambassador Susan Jacobs (OCI) and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Kurt M. Campbell to testify before said committee to explain what they are doing to help left behind parents in the USA. He had left behind parents testify to this committee May 24, 2011.
(2) What is happening in the Canadian government regarding current cases of international child abduction?
http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/japan-japon/highlights-faits/media-20110209.aspx?lang=eng …The most recent mention of the issue from February 2011. — We have been “urging” Japan to “identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases.” for 31 years. It is now time for diplomatic and economic sanctions similar to those found in Representative Smith’s US Legislation.
I can find no evidence that Canadian left behind parents have been heard from on Parliament Hill since 1998.
In the government’s response to the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs (SCFAIT) 1998, The strategy in current use was outlined. In the last thirteen years since, how many children abducted to Japan have been returned to Canada? The answer is none.
It is time to develop a more effective strategy if you would like to live up the facetious boast in the Feb 9, 2011 joint press statement “our government places a high priority on the welfare of children affected by the breakdown of international marriages”.
(3) If our government places such a high priority on my children, why have no consular officials been sent to their home to verify their health and well being? They are in Iwaki, Fukushima. They are being irradiated everyday since March 11th.
(4) On March 22 1994, the Japanese government signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 9, Section 3 states: “States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests”. How can Japan have been in violation of this UN Convention for 17 years and not have been sanctioned by the UN for the ongoing violation? I will be surprised if you can answer this question to the satisfaction of any Canadian who has had his children abducted to Japan.
I have not even seen a picture of my children, nor heard their voices, in 699 days (23 months.) How would you feel in my position?
(5) When I go to Japan and try to visit my children (because I AM going to go), what, if any, assistance will the Canadian Consulate give me in my effort?
(6) What is the name of the senior consular official supervising children’s issues at our consulate in Tokyo?
Finally, I will add that as an educated person I recognize by its inaction and lack of results, that the plight of 40 or 50 children abducted to Japan is of little concern to the Canadian government in comparison to the trade revenue generated with that country. What if they were your children, would that realization give you any comfort? Would it give you any hope?
This is an international law and human rights issue. This is not as simple as a custody issue. Please keep that in mind at all times.
Please reply with answers to my six questions.
father of Rion Suzuki, Lauren and Julia Gherbetti (abducted to Japan, Sept. 2009)