An Abbotsford mom is continuing to urge the Canadian government to help bring home her two kids, who were illegally taken to Lebanon by their father last spring.
Shelley Beyak has been in Beirut since Jan. 10 to visit her kids Liam, 8, and Mia, 10, but is due to return home at the end of this month.
She emphasizes that the children, who were born in Lebanon but had lived in Canada since 2010, are Canadian citizens.
There are travel bans on their Canadian passports at the airport in Lebanon.
Beyak said although there are great staff at Global Affairs Canada, they operate within a tight framework and do not have the power to resolve her situation.
She is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step in.
“(The kids) cannot be discriminated against because of where they were born,” Beyak said in an email to The Abbotsford News.
“I feel very alone, and wonder how he can keep ignoring this. It is urgent because we are talking about the ongoing harm to Canadian children.”
Mia and Liam have been in Lebanon since last spring. They were scheduled to travel on a court-approved trip to Seattle with their dad Wissam Tarabichi – who is from Beirut – over spring break.
They didn’t return for the start of school on April 3 at Margaret Stenersen Elementary in Abbotsford, and Beyak was notified.
It was then discovered that Tarabichi had indeed travelled to Seattle but, from there, he and the kids boarded a plane to Paris and then to Beirut, which does not recognize international parental kidnapping as a crime and where custody issues are often made by religious authorities.
Beyak, a youth worker, then launched an extensive legal battle – expected to cost more than $200,000 – to have them returned home.
She said her visits with the kids in Beirut were arranged through a lawyer she hired in Lebanon.
“The quickest way to see them was at a centre run by the Sharia court, and once the access order was made, we scheduled as many visits as possible with the children during my trip,” Beyak said.
She said the visits have been filled with “ups and downs,” compounded by the fact that Tarabichi is often in, or just outside, the room.
This prohibits any talk of the circumstances of what brought them to Beirut and Beyak’s hopes of getting them back to Canada.
Beyak said she always tells the kids that she loves them and misses them, but it is difficult for them to communicate that back.
She worries about the long-term impacts they will experience of being taken from their life in Canada, including all their friends and family.
“I can’t begin to know how deep their trauma is, but my evaluation is that they are coping as expected for children in crisis,” Beyak said.
She said although she has been able to communicate with Tarabichi, her feeling is that he is happy with the status quo – that she can see the kids in Lebanon, as long as she agrees to his parameters of contact.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe account is raising funds for Beyak’s legal costs. The page can be found by searching “Help Bring Mia and Liam Home” at gofundme.com.
A Canada-wide warrant for Tarabichi’s arrest remains in effect.