British Columbia

Father and daughter reunited at YVR after five year custody battle

It comes after a complex court case that spanned several countries.

Lyndon Chen says ex-wife ran off from Taiwan with their son and daughter

Lyndon Chen looks at his daughter for the first time in five years at Vancouver International Airport on Jan. 26, 2017. (Daniel Imbeault/CBC)

There are reunions virtually every minute in the arrival bay at Vancouver International Airport.

But Thursday evening's meeting between Lyndon Chen and his 8-year-old daughter was a little more complex  — and emotional — than most. 

More than five years ago, Chen's ex-wife left Taiwan with their daughter and son.

She fled first to Hong Kong, where Chen regained custody of his son, but his wife then took off with their daughter to British Columbia. 

Chen fought for a court order back in Taiwan, and last year a court awarded him custody of his daughter. 

Chen was able to regain custody of his son through the Taiwanese court system years ago, but complications in his daughter's case meant he hadn't seen her for years before Thursday.

But because Taiwan is not a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the process to reunite Chen with his daughter required further steps, including approval by Canadian courts. 

Chen arrived in B.C. last week to continue the fight, and while the B.C. Supreme Court quickly granted him temporary custody, the RCMP soon found out the mother had sent her daughter back to Hong Kong to be with her relatives.

The court ordered the child be returned back to B.C. immediately — and Thursday night, she arrived. 

"I was just afraid she [wouldn't] recognize me after those years," said Chen, minutes after the reunification. 

"Then I showed her those pictures of when she was young when we were together and happy ... and we're getting better. We will get our life back."

Full custody case still to come

Chen only has temporary custody at the moment, and a full custody hearing will be held next week.

While he plans to spend the next few days recapturing lost time with his daughter, his lawyer Leena Yousefi is building a case against the mother.

"It's going to be a really tough decision for the judge. Because the child hasn't seen her father in five years - she's been in the care of the mother. But at the same time taking the child away from the father in some countries is abduction, it's a criminal act," said Yousefi.

"A judge needs to figure out who is the better parent. There's no happy ending for this child, we just have to figure out what's a better outcome in this case."

Chen is hopeful a judge will grant him full custody, so he can take both his son and his daughter back to Taiwan and start a new life together.

"I hope I can see my daughter forever," said an emotional Chen.

CBC News did try to speak with the mother involved in this case at the airport this evening, but she refused to comment.

Chen and his daughter leave the YVR arrival bay together. (CBC)

With files from Kamil Karamali and Eric Rankin