Randy Turgeon admitted he was “pretty anxious” last Friday (Sept. 7) as he prepared to go to pick up his son Christopher the next day after a flight from Mexico to Vancouver.
After a 12-year effort of trying to contact, then visit his ex-wife and son — dealing with lawyers, immigration officials and the like — he could hardly believe it was about to happen.
“I’m really apprehensive because until I actually see him get off the plane, I won’t believe it, and I’m trying not to get my hopes up,” said Turgeon, an ex-Squamish resident now living in Port Coquitlam.
On Tuesday (Sept. 11), Turgeon said the meeting at Vancouver Airport went well. “It was great. They walked him out and he gave me a hug right away,” he said.
In November 1999, Turgeon’s ex-wife Lilia Martinez Vasquez took the couple’s 3 ½-year-old son from Squamish, where they had been living, to Mexico. Under terms of the family’s custody arrangement, Vasquez was allowed to take Christopher there to visit family for up to one month per year.
Vasquez, though, allegedly never intended to bring Christopher back — Turgeon claims she emptied out her Squamish apartment before departing — and simply kept her son in Mexico.
On Jan. 7, 2000, a warrant for her arrest on suspicion of abduction in contravention of a custody order was issued in Canada. The warrant remains in effect, Squamish RCMP Cst. Colt Dzaman, who has been handling the case, told The Chief on Tuesday.
In an article in The Chief on March 14, 2000 — Christopher’s fourth birthday — Turgeon said, “When she wanted to go in November I should have suspected something was wrong. When December rolled around and it was supposed to be my Christmas with him and I didn’t know where she was, I knew something was wrong.”
The situation touched off an ordeal for Turgeon that included eight years just trying to find and establish contact with his son and ex-wife. In the past four years Turgeon has made five trips to a small town north of Puerto Vallarta to try to convince Vasquez to let him bring his son back to Canada.
“I originally found him four years ago,” he said. “The ex-wife had made an application to get a visa to go into the States and that’s how they located her.”
Between the trips and the hiring of immigration lawyers and such, Turgeon estimates he has spent between $40,000 and $50,000 in efforts to bring Christopher back.
Turgeon, whose son is a Canadian citizen but didn’t have a passport, had to arrange for an emergency travel document to allow Christopher to rejoin his father after Christopher, now 16, expressed a desire to do that.
He said Vasquez finally allowed her son to come to live in Canada — she even paid for his flight — at least partly because she wants to see the arrest warrant lifted. Turgeon said he’s not averse to helping with that process but wants his ex-wife to first acknowledge that what she did was wrong.
Dzaman said it would be up to the courts to decide whether to abolish the warrant, but that Turgeon’s wishes would likely be taken into account.
Because Canada has no extradition agreement with Mexico, these sorts of cases are often complex and time consuming, Dzaman said.
Christy Dzikowicz, director of missing children’s services for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP), on Monday (Sept. 10) echoed those sentiments.
“Often, when you’re dealing with parental abductions to other countries, it creates more complications when the person who has taken the child takes him or her back to their country of origin,” Dzikowicz said.
This sort of abduction is far from being a victimless crime, she said.
“It’s a serious act of abuse to deprive a child of access to one parent,” Dzikowicz said.
Turgeon, who maintains close ties to Squamish, brought Christopher to visit friends here on Sunday (Sept. 9). Turgeon said before the visit that he wanted to take his son up the Stawamus Chief to “see if I can jog his memory.”
After the visit, Turgeon said, “He didn’t recognize anything. He wasn’t that excited about climbing the Chief either, so we just visited with friends. Some of them have been with us through this whole ordeal.”
Turgeon, who is remarried, said he has no illusions that the road ahead will be easy. Christopher speaks limited English, but his father has enrolled him in a high school that includes an English-as-a-second-language program. Some of the other students are native Spanish speakers, he said.
“I’m excited, but of course, you’re having a teenaged boy come into your home…” Turgeon said.
The CCCP offers access to immigration services as well as post-relocation counselling and educational help to both parents and young people facing these sorts of situations, Dzikowicz said.
“Having been deprived of access to one parent for that length of time does have an impact and we try to make sure that the appropriate supports are in place,” she said.
The CCCP operates a service, Missing Kids, to provide support to those in need of help. For information, please visit www.missingkids.ca