September 12 , 2014
Layale Khalifeh and her seven-year-old son Jad have a bedtime routine when they’re apart: they look at the moon and imagine the other is doing the same.
It was a ritual they practised during regular phone calls last month while Jad was in Lebanon with Khalifeh’s ex-husband, Mohamad El-Husseini.
But at the end of August, the phone calls stopped — and El-Husseini hasn’t come back with their son.
Khalifeh now believes her ex-husband has abducted Jad, and has turned to authorities to compel his return.
Amid her frantic efforts to find her son, Khalifeh said she draws some solace in the belief that Jad is thinking of her when he peers up at the moon.
“I know wherever he is, he’s still doing that,” she said Thursday.
Parental abduction cases involving Lebanon can be notoriously difficult to resolve, but Khalifeh said she won’t rest until Jad is back in Calgary.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to bring my son back,” she said.
El-Husseini had taken Jad to Lebanon and returned him without incident since the couple’s separation in 2011 — but what Khalifeh has uncovered in the past 10 days has the look of alleged plan to permanently leave Canada with the boy.
Khalifeh, 33, agreed to let El-Husseini travel with Jad to Toronto, then Lebanon, at the end of July for what he said was a family wedding.
Khalifeh signed a legal consent letter, which specified El-Husseini and their son would return to Calgary on Sept. 1.
The first sign something was amiss was Aug. 26, when Khalifeh phoned El-Husseini to speak with Jad — something she did every few days — and the call cut out.
“Since then, I have continued to attempt to contact him, but have not been able to reach him or our son,” she stated in her affidavit, filed in Court of Queen’s Bench last week.
The allegations in Khalifeh’s affidavit haven’t been proven, but were enough to obtain a court order granting her sole custody of Jad and compelling his return to Canada.
Khalifeh stated in the affidavit she went to El-Husseini’s house on Sept. 1 and no one was there — what’s more, the house appeared vacant.
She also found out another property of El-Husseini’s in Calgary was sold in June.
When Khalifeh called British Airways to see if the airline had any information about her ex-husband and son’s travel plans, she learned El-Husseini cancelled their return tickets last month.
That’s when Khalifeh went to Calgary police.
At the same time, Khalifeh’s parents, who live in Lebanon, contacted El-Husseini’s family in that country and found more disturbing news: the relatives said he quit his job in Calgary.
“(El-Husseini’s aunt) further advised that he had planned to move back to Lebanon without my consent,” the affidavit said.
Calgary police have issued a Canada-wide warrant for El-Husseini, 34, on a charge of abducting a child in contravention of a custody order.
However, the family court order and the Canadian warrant don’t have any authority in Lebanon, which has never signed an international treaty governing parental abductions, known as The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Police and Khalifeh’s lawyer, Andy Hayher, acknowledge the case is challenging to pursue from Canada.
“It’s very difficult in Lebanon to convince a court that a father has abducted his own child,” said Hayer, who is working on the case with a lawyer in Lebanon.
Khalifeh and Hayher have also contacted Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai, who is Parliamentary Secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
Obhrai said consular officials in Lebanon will be pressing the case on Khalifeh’s behalf.
Local police, too, are working with counterparts across jurisdictions, such as the RCMP and INTERPOL. In the meantime, Khalifeh is trying to remain strong until she can see Jad, who was supposed to be starting Grade 2 at the Calgary French and International School.
“He’s my life. He’s my everything,” she said.