CTV.ca News Staff Updated: Thu. Apr. 16 2009 8:12 AM ET
The father of a girl who was found recently after being missing for two years is ecstatic that his daughter is alive and well, but admits there is a long road ahead for both of them.
Frank Gonis, of Montreal, got the word on Friday that his 10-year-old daughter Ashley had called 911 from a SkyTrain station in Vancouver.
She told police she was had run away from home and gotten lost. She said she didn't want to return home and asked to be placed in foster care.
Gonis told CTV's Canada AM his daughter has been missing since January 2007 and he had all but given up hope, and felt there was little chance she was even still in the country.
"When I got the call I was downstairs getting ready to go to work and the phone rang. It was the police officer who has had the case... and she told me: 'We got her, she's in Vancouver.' I almost fell down, I had to hold onto something. I couldn't believe it after all this time," Gonis said.
Officers told him that Ashley had either run away from school or from home, and had walked for seven kilometres over three hours before she called the police.
Gonis said "I love her, and I can't wait to hold her again" but admitted there is "a lot of work to be done with Ashley."
He told Canada AM he has been locked in a custody battle with Ashley's mother since their split in 2001.
When the battle was finally coming to an end two years ago, and it looked as though Gonis was to receive custody, Ashley and her mother disappeared.
Gonis said he realizes it will take time and hard work to develop trust and renew a relationship with his daughter.
"I haven't seen her so it's hard to say, but the comment I got was her mother has done a real number on her. I know there's parental alienation. She's scared to talk to me. There are a lot of things we have to go through," he said.
Pina Arcamone of the Missing Children's Network Canada, said Gonis' situation is common among estranged parents.
"There's a lot of jubilation because the good news has come in that they finally found the child, but the real work begins today because as Frank mentioned he has not seen his daughter in over two years and the same for Ashley who was eight when she last saw her father," Arcamone told Canada AM.
She said the child likely still has strong memories of her time in Montreal, and her father will have to remind her of their history together using photo albums and other items that are familiar to her.
"Basically it's the chance to give both dad and daughter the time to reconnect, to get acquainted once again and for Frank to tell his daughter he really loves her, he has missed her and he has searched endlessly for the past two years."
She said Ashley is currently in the care of child and youth workers in B.C. who will help prepare her for the reunion.
Vancouver police are investigating the abuse allegations and say that no charges have been laid.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Maurice Vellacott, MP Saskatoon-Wanuskewin
For Immediate Release
April 16, 2009
OTTAWA – Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) today announced the results of a new poll on Equal Parenting after divorce.
"The results indicate that four out of five Canadians (80 percent) continue to support equal shared parenting after divorce with almost no difference by gender, region, age group, or party affiliation," said Maurice Vellacott. “This poll was commissioned in conjunction with the work I've been doing to advance Equal Parenting through Private Member's Motions and Bills,” Vellacott added.
The results are nearly identical to a survey conducted in 2007, and are part of a long term trend indicating continuing high levels of support for equal parenting.
Conducted by Nanos Research during March, 2009, the question asked survey participants was: “Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose federal and provincial legislation to create a presumption of equal parenting in child custody cases?" The statistical margin of accuracy is 3%, 19 times out of 20.
Last year Vellacott tabled Private Members Motion M-483 on Equal Parenting to gauge parliamentary support and received 17 Conservative and Liberal seconders to his motion.
"The response I received to this motion has encouraged me to proceed with the poll and the drafting of a Private Member’s Bill in this session with a view to garnering all-party support for Equal Parenting, Vellacott said.
Poll results indicate that supporters of all Parties in the House of Commons are united in their support for Equal Parenting, ranging from a low of 76 percent for NDP voters to a high of 83 percent for the Bloc.
Recalling the popular support for the 1998 “For the Sake of the Children” report, Mr. Vellacott noted that there has historically been broad political support across party lines. Canadians have long called for this; and countries such as Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, and many US states have proceeded along these lines.
Mr. Vellacott has been working with members of the extended divorce community to develop amendments to the Divorce Act. "The divorce community are the real experts in this field as they have first-hand experience with the strengths and weaknesses of the current legislation," he said. “The proposed amendments won’t solve all problems, but they will certainly address a major point of contention in divorce," he advised.
Equal Parenting calls for continuation of parental rights, and obligations with joint legal responsibility and joint physical custody, with the presumption that equal parenting time is the best interest of the child.
– 30 –
For further comment, call (613) 992-1966 or (613) 297-2249