B.C. children allegedly abducted by dad, taken to Lebanon
Published Monday, September 3, 2018 6:28PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 4, 2018 8:54AM PDT
When students in Abbotsford, B.C. head back to school on Tuesday, Shelley Beyak's children won't be among them.
That's because eight-year-old Liam and nine-year-old Mia are with their father, Wissam Tarabichi, who is facing criminal charges for allegedly spiriting the kids away to his home country of Lebanon without permission back in March.
Beyak has been involved in a draining and frustrating fight to get them back ever since, without a single opportunity to see or speak with them.
If given the chance, Beyak told CTV News she would want to tell her children "that I love them."
"If they ever see this, I want them to know that I'm going to die trying to get them home," Beyak pledged.
She and Tarabichi met in Lebanon back in 2006, while she was working and travelling overseas. They married the next year, had Liam and Mia, then moved to Canada in 2010.
But they were divorced and sharing custody of their children when Tarabichi allegedly abducted them earlier this year.
"The kids spent half the time with him, half the time with me. It was really equal," Beyak said.
The last time she saw her children was March 24, when her ex-husband took them to the U.S. for what was supposed to be a spring break vacation. She first realized something was wrong when the children's school, Ecole Margaret Stenersen, called to tell her Liam and Mia hadn't returned to class on April 3.
"I went to Wissam's house to see if they were home. It appeared pretty empty," Beyak said.
Police eventually told her Tarabichi had flown from Seattle to Paris, then travelled from there to Lebanon.
Tarabichi, who had already started trying to immigrate to Canada before meeting Beyak, and who completed his application independently of their marriage, is now charged with two counts of contravention of a custody order.
But that won't necessary make it easier for Beyak to get her children back. According to the Government of Canada website, Canadian custody orders and custody documents aren't recognized in Lebanon.
"Family law matters in Lebanon, including child custody and divorce-related decisions, are settled according to local religious laws," it reads.
The only advice offered to families involved in disputes: "consult a lawyer for advice on how religious law in Lebanon may affect your family situation."
Global Affairs Canada told CTV News it can’t comment on the specifics of Beyak's case for privacy reasons, but that consular officials are in contact with the family and providing them with assistance.
"Our hearts go out to the family affected," a spokesperson said in an email.
As far as Beyak is concerned, the Canadian government isn't doing enough to help her family and others like them.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland suggested one preventative measure the government could implement is to restrict Canadian passport usage in cases where there are concerns about unlawful travel.
"That's a technological fix that we can implement right now," Kurland said.
"It's well known to the family law bar and the immigration bar that abductions to the Middle East and other countries in the world occur with regularity."
For now, Beyak is working with a lawyer in Lebanon in a desperate bid to bring her children home. She has also set up an online fundraiser to help with expenses, which has collected more than $35,000 over the last four months.
Global Affairs Canada sent us a statement early this evening. They say they are aware of a case involving Canadian children abducted to Lebanon, and are providing consular assistance. They say they will not release further details for privacy reasons.— Maria Weisgarber (@ctv_mariaw) September 4, 2018