MP says Quebec mother must yield to Saudi laws
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, April 16, 2009 9:49AM EDT
Canadian officials cannot order the repatriation of a Quebec woman who claims her husband is holding her against her will in Saudi Arabia, because of local laws that supersede her desire to leave, says a Calgary MP involved in her case.
Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, said Nathalie Morin -- a 24-year-old Quebec woman who went to Saudi Arabia three years ago -- is living in a jurisdiction where Canadian laws do not apply.
As a result, the Canadian government cannot force her return home, nor can it expect that Canadian laws be applied in a foreign jurisdiction.
"When any visitor comes to Canada, we expect them to abide by our rules. The same applies to anyone going overseas," Obhrai told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday.
The rules in Saudi Arabia require Morin's husband to approve the travel plans of his wife and children.
As a result, the Canadian government must "wait until the husband can give the permission to leave," said Obhrai, who visited Morin in Saudi Arabia last December.
Additionally, Canada is bound by the Hague Convention to seek the permission of both parents if children are to travel outside of Saudi Arabia, Obhrai said.
"In this case, we need each side's permission, and therefore, we have been working...to try to facilitate that issue to get Ms. Morin's husband to agree to allow both Ms. Morin and the children to leave," he said.
But so far, negotiations have "not been successful," Obhrai said.
While Morin's family has suggested she is in an abusive relationship, Obhrai said he did not see anything that concerned him when he visited with her in Saudi Arabia last December.
"I came out with the impression that they were trying to resolve the issue and nothing stood out to me as a concern at that time," Obhrai said.
Morin has not returned to Canada since leaving for Saudi Arabia in October 2006. She has given birth to two children since leaving Canada.
At a recent news conference, Morin's mother, Johanne Durocher, played a taped message from her daughter.
"I want to return to Canada as soon as possible with my three children," Morin said in the recording.
Her mother has threatened to sue the Canadian government, in an effort to get her daughter home.
On Thursday morning, Durocher told CTV's Canada AM that Morin was invited to Saudi Arabia under false pretenses -- based in part, on the fact that she had been allowed to leave the country on previous visits.
"She (visited) him two times and he was very nice with her," she said in an interview from Montreal. "And he told her that he would never sequester her or the children. And we believed him because she (went) two times."
But the most recent visit left her daughter trapped in Saudi Arabia, Durocher said.
Earlier this week, a foreign affairs spokesperson told The Canadian Press that Morin "has been involved in a complex family dispute in Saudi Arabia."
The spokesperson said officials had e-mailed or phoned Morin more than 100 times since February 2008 and with her mother more than 220 times over the same time period.
Obhrai said Morin's story serves as an example as to why Canadians should be familiar with local laws before traveling overseas.
"As we expect foreigners when they come into our country to abide by our laws, they should be abiding by the laws of that country and that takes precedence over everything else," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press