Canada-wide warrant issued for mom who vanished with 4-year-old in international custody battle
Spanish authorities are actively searching for the child who was born in Canada
A Canada-wide warrant has been issued by RCMP for a woman who was ordered to safely return her child to his father in Spain but instead allegedly fled for an unknown destination in Europe.
Elizabeth Cornelia Maria De Swart, 37, and her four-year-old son (whom CBC News has chosen not to name, as he is a minor) flew from Calgary to Frankfurt on Saturday, but their whereabouts are currently unknown.
The warrant is only enforceable in Canada. Spanish authorities are actively searching for the child and have been in contact with Interpol and local police in Europe, according to court documents.
CBC News has reached out to De Swart's lawyers for comment, but they are no longer representing her — and it's unclear who her current legal representation is. CBC has also reached out to a member of De Swart's family for assistance in reaching her, but the family member declined comment until they can retain counsel who can speak on behalf of De Swart.
The father has reached out to Global Affairs, and his lawyer says they are looking into the case.
Mom was ordered to return child to Spain
A June 25 ruling from the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta orders De Swart to provide for the safe return of her child to Spain.
The document states that the father, Oscar Maillard, a French and Canadian citizen, and De Swart, a Dutch and Canadian citizen, moved late last year from Calgary to France with their son, who was born in Canada.
In March 2019, they moved to Spain and enrolled the child in school. Maillard was working in Africa on a rotation, so he was frequently travelling between the two continents. He had been back at work in Africa for about a week when he called De Swart and couldn't reach her.
"I called her French number and the phone was off. I then called her Canadian phone number and her sister answered the phone and she said Liz and [your son] are safe. They've returned to Canada and they're not coming back. She repeated that three times, and then she hung up the phone," Maillard said.
Maillard then discovered that the child hadn't been to school in Spain since May 2. At that point, he filed a Hague application to get his son back.
We all expected the mother to comply with the court order, a serious court order with serious consequences.- Leigh Sherry, Oscar Maillard's lawyer
The Hague Convention is an international treaty that deals with issues of child custody and access that cross borders.
His lawyer, Leigh Sherry, says De Swart was given multiple chances to return the child without charges, but she didn't accept those offers.
"At that point, Maillard just really wanted the return of his son. To this day, that's all he remains focused on," Sherry said.
And, she said, it took multiple attempts before De Swart and the child eventually boarded the flight to Frankfurt.
"The child was ordered to return to Alicante by July 6, and the mother stated she would be going with the child and so plane tickets were purchased for them … she did not get on the plane with the child," she said.
Maillard said he'd returned to Spain last week to wait for his son's return, but when communication stopped, he started to get worried.
"Came Saturday, I got her, actually through Skype on her cellphone on a private number and she answered … I was asking, 'Can you tell me what's going on? What flight will you be on? Where are you going?' She only stated she had met with police and her lawyer and they had a plan that had been initiated," he said.
"We all expected the mother to comply with the court order, a serious court order with serious consequences," Sherry said.
Family raising money for De Swart's legal fees
An online fundraiser started by the woman's sister has raised more than $12,000 for her legal fees.
"We seek the help from everyone to spread the word of the injustice of having this young Canadian citizen, and by proxy his mother, forcibly removed from their home and returned to a country where the mother was in immense distress and at grave risk of harm," a post on the online fundraiser reads.
"I can only say that at the moment she is safe with my nephew. I have not been told where — for her safety and my own — but I anticipate more news in the coming days."
De Swart also made various allegations that Maillard was abusive, but those were rejected in the justice's ruling.
Sherry said De Swart herself was under no obligation to return to Spain, but that she had made it clear that she wanted to be the one to return their son to his father.
De Swart is described as five foot eight and 150 pounds with green eyes, and long blond hair. She wears glasses and has a scar above her left eyebrow.
No Amber Alert
Maillard said his frustration is mounting.
"At the end of the day, a Canadian boy is missing and no law enforcement in the country seems willing to help," he said.
"My son hasn't been able to speak with me since Tuesday [July 3]. He doesn't know what's going on."
Calgary police said in an emailed statement that child custody disputes are civil matters unless a court order is breached.
Police said that as of July 6, it was believed the mother and child had left Canada in compliance with the court order.
"This case does not meet the threshold for an Amber Alert as there is no indication the child is in any danger. As in other cases of international child custody disputes, jurisdiction of further civil allegations would fall to the local judicial system in which the complainant resides," the statement read.