Harper calls for end to child ‘kidnappings’

by Setsuko Kamiya

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday urged Japan to adopt the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Abduction of Children, which has been called for by foreign parents who claim their children have been “kidnapped” across national borders by their former Japanese spouses with the aim of preventing access.

Harper raised the topic during his talks with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in Tokyo on Thursday. Fukuda told Harper that the Japanese government will discuss related issues to consider the possibility of signing the treaty.

“It is important to consider the issue by prioritizing the welfare of children,” a Foreign Ministry official quoted Fukuda as saying. The prime minister told Harper that he viewed the convention as a beneficial tool to secure children’s rights, the official said.

Among Group of Eight major powers, Japan and Russia are the only countries that have yet to sign the international convention, the official said.

Under the Hague Convention, international parental kidnapping occurs when a parent physically takes offspring across national borders with the intention of denying the other parent contact. Such cases often take place when international marriages break up.

The convention aims to protect children who are wrongfully removed from where they resided and from the harmful effects such situations can cause, and to protect the parents’ rights to access.

As of March, Canada said it had more than 600 unresolved child abduction and custody-related cases involving its nationals, of which 29 are with Japanese former spouses, the highest number from any single country.

At Thursday’s talks, Fukuda and Harper also agreed the two countries should arrange an official visit by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to Canada in summer 2009.

The proposed royal visit is intended to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. The Emperor last visited Canada in 1953 when he was the Crown Prince.