In April 2019, Achraf Zeidan allegedly abducted Dina and Fawzi Zeidan to Lebanon in contravention of a Canadian court order. They were 5 and 8 years old at the time. There is a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest.
Dina and Fawzi have now been separated from their mother, Khawla Khalifa, and their young brother for two unimaginably painful years.
This story has received recent national media coverage:
- Windsor mother sues airline, former husband over allegedly abducting children to Lebanon (Windsor Star, 2021)
- Windsor woman launches multi-million dollar lawsuit to get her children back (CBC, 2021)
A civil process seeking reparations from Zeidan and his family, who are alleged to have assisted in a ruse and abduction, cannot be anybody’s preferred mechanism to seek justice and bring Dina and Fawzi home. However, even prior to an abduction she could clearly see coming, Khalifa has diligently and responsibly done everything she can to protect her children — only to be failed by layer after layer of supposed protections for her and her children.
It is clear that Canada is unable to prevent international children abduction, even with safeguards in place, and that for many parents there is no recourse after an abduction takes place. (Lebanon is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but signatory countries can also be non-compliant or crushingly slow.)
A trustworthy system of protection requires both of these aspects to change — both as a concrete preventative and as a clear disincentive to future abductors.
Members of the Zeidan family provided a statement via their lawyer to the Windsor Star:
“The Zeidan family, with the exception of Hoda Zeidan, was wholly unaware of the court order that required that Achraf’s children remain in the province of Ontario. Further, the entire Zeidan family was unaware that Achraf intended to leave Canada with his two oldest children.
“Finally, the Zeidan family are hopeful that Khawla and Achraf can work out their dispute for the benefit of their children as soon as possible. However, the Zeidan family is also hopeful that Khawla will not involve them in any further litigation, as they in no way assisted Achraf in breaching orders of the court.”
Whether the family was unaware of Zeidan’s plans will be established in court. However, even taken at face value, this statement isolates Zeidan’s acts as unsupported and unsanctioned even by his own family.
It is manifestly in Dina and Fawzi’s best interests to return to Canada and be reunited with their mother, brother, and extended family as soon as possible. Zeidan should face repercussions for his actions, but these need not deprive him of contact with his children, including the son he has abandoned in Canada and who has a right to know his father. For Zeidan to choose to return to Canada now in support of his family would be a remarkable demonstration of good faith.
Dear Dina and Fawzi: I miss you and love you both so much. I’ve never stopped trying to bring you back home to me and I won’t stop until you are. Know that you never leave my thoughts even for a second.Khawla Khalifa
Disclaimer: Khawla Khalifa is a member of the board of Return Our Children Home Canada. She did not participate in the writing of this commentary.