Father Won't Reveal Daughter's Location


Paul Legall, The Hamilton Spectator

A distraught mother pleaded for the return of her young daughter yesterday while her former husband sat in jail on abduction charges and stubbornly refused to reveal the girl's whereabouts.

"I'm very terrified for my daughter," 39-year-old Deborah Bouchard told The Hamilton Spectator outside a St. Catharines courtroom. "It's absolutely horrible not knowing where she is. I just want my daughter back."

She asked that a picture of the 23-month-old girl be published in the newspaper in the hope someone will recognize Emelie. She also hopes a private investigator will come forward and donate a few hours to help police in their search for Emelie, which could take them as far as Quebec or British Columbia.

"I'm her primary caregiver. That in itself is abuse, to deprive her of the person she trusts and depends on," Bouchard said. She's worried the child won't be able to sleep or eat properly in a strange environment.

She hasn't seen Emelie since Oct. 25 when her former husband, Eric Bouchard, 35, of Smithville, took the child for a court-approved weekend visit. The couple married in July 1999 and separated in August last year. During the bitter court battle that followed, she was granted custody of Emelie and her former husband was allowed access to the child every second weekend and during the week when he was working weekends.

After he failed to return the child on Oct. 28, Deborah obtained an apprehension order that gave police the power to seize Emelie and return her to her mother. By this time, Emelie had disappeared and the father refused to say where she was, except to assure the mother Emelie was in a "safe place."

In a telephone interview with The Spectator last week, he said he kept the child for her own protection and would rather go to jail than tell his former wife where she is.

"This is my last resort," he said. "I have no other way ... It is very disgusting it has to come down to this."

He said he took the extreme measure because he wasn't getting fair treatment in the family courts where he was fighting for full custody of Emelie and Deborah's other daughter, Jenna, 8, from her previous relationship with Wayne Allen.

Now living in Vancouver, Allen told The Spectator he endorses Eric Bouchard's efforts to get both children and has flown in from British Columbia several times to lend him support in court.

In the mid '90s, Allen was also involved in a high profile family court battle with Deborah Grenier, as she was known then, over custody of Jenna. During the proceedings, she was jailed five days for contempt of court for refusing to let him see the child.

Yesterday, she said Allen owes her $ 47,000 in child support payments, a figure he doesn't dispute.

Last week, Deborah -- who lives in Hamilton -- pulled Jenna from school out of fear she might be abducted also.

Niagara police arrested Eric Bouchard Nov. 1 while he was working the evening shift at Cascade Precision, a car parts manufacturing plant in Burlington.

He was charged with parental abduction and contravening a court order for not returning Emelie to her mother after the weekend visit. In a press release this week, police requested the public's help in finding Emelie who is described as about three feet tall, with blond hair and blue eyes.

"Her whereabouts are unknown at this time. Police have received information Bouchard has family in Quebec and friends in British Columbia," Niagara Detective Neal Orlando stated.

During a telephone call from the Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold on Monday, Bouchard showed no sign of backing down and refused to reveal his daughter's whereabouts. He insisted she is in a safe place where she is loved and properly cared for.

Through a video link from the jail, he made a brief appearance in the St. Catharines court yesterday and was ordered to be brought back to court in person today for a bail hearing. He has retained Toronto lawyer Walter Fox to represent him.

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