What is the Hague Convention?
The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, often referred to as the Hauge Convention, is a multilateral treaty established in 1980 with the purposes of securing the return of children wrongfully removed from their home country and ensuring that rights of custody and access under the law of one jurisdiction is respected in other jurisdictions. Simply put, the aim of the Convention is to return children who have been abducted back home.
If a child has been abducted from Canada, the parent in Canada can make an application pursuant to the Convention for return of the child only if the following conditions are met:
(a) The child is under 16 years of age;
(b) The child habitually resided in Canada before being wrongfully removed;
(c) The Convention applies between Canada and the country to which the child was taken; and
(d) They had and were exercising custody or access rights at the time the child was taken.
A chart which sets out the countries that have signed the Convention can be found here. The country to which the child has been taken must both be a signatory and have a reciprocal agreement with Canada.
In Alberta, a parent who believes their child has been abducted should contact the Central Authority in Alberta, who will then contact the Central Authority in the country where the child is located. The Family Law Branch of Alberta Justice acts as the Central Authority in the province. They will assist with the preparation of the application and will send the application to the Central Authority in the country where the child is located. The authorities in the two countries will try to facilitate an agreement regarding the voluntary return of the child, failing which a hearing before the Court will be set in the country where the child is located to determine whether they should be returned to Alberta.
The Convention states that the Court must order the return of the wrongfully removed child, so long as the proceedings for the return were commenced less than one year from the date of the removal and none of the exceptions set out in the Convention apply. The exceptions, which must be established to defeat an application for return of a wrongfully removed child, include the following:
(a) The parent seeking return was not actually exercising custody rights to the child at the time of the removal;
(b) Consent was provided for the removal;
(c) There was acquiescence to the removal; or
(d) There is a grave risk of physical or psychological harm to the child if they are returned or it would place them in an intolerable situation.
Further information regarding the Convention and the processes for bringing an application for the return of a child can be found in the International Child Abduction section of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench website.