Japanese thwart Canadian parents’ struggle to access abducted children

Japanese thwart Canadian parents’ struggle to access abducted children

Tim TerstegeTim Terstege holds his son Liefie at a lawyer’s office in Yokohama, Japan, in February 2015, the last time they were together. (HO/The Canadian Press)


Colin Perkel , The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, October 2, 2016 12:09PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 4, 2016 9:01AM PDT

TORONTO — A Canadian father is hoping a mountain hike will help ease his distress and draw attention to the insurmountable roadblocks countless parents like him face in trying to access their children in Japan after their marriages fall apart.

Tim Terstege is planning to climb Mount Fuji on Oct. 13, the day four years ago his wife disappeared with his then-four-year-old son.

“That’s kind of a dark time for me; it’s a positive way of just dealing with it,” Terstege said in an interview from Himeji, Japan.

“When you go through this type of situation, you have to deal with a lot of pain. It’s just really hard. Climbing Mount Fuji is for me just a way of breaking out of the sorrow.”

Terstege, 42, formerly of Barrie, Ont., officially has 24 hours a year access to his son, Liefie, a dual Canadian-Japanese citizen. But he doesn’t know exactly where his wife or child are and the courts have not been of help. It’s the Japanese way, he said.

“Whoever abducts the child first is going to get custody,” he said.

The Canadian father is far from alone in trying to navigate a seemingly impenetrable and hostile Japanese system sometimes described as a black hole for children. Figures indicate dozens of Canadians — mostly fathers — are among thousands of foreigners faced with the gut-wrenching loss of their children in Japan. Some parents are reported to have killed themselves in despair. Others have ended up in jail after trying to snatch back their children.

The Japanese embassy in Ottawa said it was “unable to express (its) viewpoints” and referred questions to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, which had no immediate comment. Global Affairs Canada, which said it was currently dealing with 25 cases, offered only general observations about consular assistance.

However, in a letter to Terstege this past week, a senior official said the issue was important to the Canadian government, and embassy officials in Japan had, among other things, discussed his case with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We recognize the need to continue to raise the issue of parental child abduction cases with Japanese authorities,” the letter states.

In a briefing note last year, one Canadian consular official noted the “reality of the Japanese system” but said Canada was not pressing Tokyo for change, as former prime minister Stephen Harper did years ago.

In 2014, Japan finally signed on to the Hague Convention, which aims to provide legal recourse against international child abductions. However, enforcement is woefully inadequate and a parent can frustrate court orders to return a child simply by refusing to comply, experts say.

“While the process of implementing the Hague Convention has brought some clarity to the theory and practice of enforcing returns, without sanctions for contempt — which Japanese judges lack in these cases — or other police-like powers to back them up, court orders can end up being meaningless pieces of paper,” Colin Jones, a lawyer from Calgary, wrote in a recent article in The Japan Times.

Visitation restrictions, draconian by Canadian standards, can leave parents feeling like they have been treated like criminals, Jones said.

Kris Morness, of Vancouver, considers himself lucky in that he is usually able to Skype weekly with his son, Max, 5, believed to be in Tokyo.

Despite obtaining full custody and an American arrest warrant for his wife, who abducted Max three years ago from Seattle, Wash., where they were living, Morness said there’s little point in trying to litigate in Japan.

“It’s really traumatizing when you lose a child like this,” Morness, 43, said. “All I can do is wait. It is the worst bureaucratic nightmare I’ve ever experienced.”

In an effort to effect change, Bruce Gherbetti co-founded the activist organization Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion after his own experience. In 2009, his wife accused him of domestic abuse and, while he was in pretrial custody in Vancouver, she took their three girls now aged 9, 11, and 13 and left for Japan.

Among other things, Kizuna aims to educate the Japanese about the potential harm to children deprived of access to one parent.

“Your child is akin to a table or an automobile (in Japan),” Gherbetti said from Australia where he now lives. “If someone takes one of those from you, you have a better chance of obtaining its possession again than you do a child.”

Terstege said he’s given up on the Japanese court system. Even though he and his wife are still married, it’s highly unlikely he could ever regain custody, so his goal is to try to see his son for the 24 hours a year in the presence of a third party organization as per court order.

“I’m not going to give up,” Terstege said. “Climbing Mount Fuji is just another thing for me for motivation.”

Source:  “Japanese thwart Canadian parents’ struggle to access abducted children”, CTV News, Canada

It is also well worth visiting the website set up for Liefie by his father, Tim.

Alma mater

Hello Hugo

It is 20 years to the day since I had my first university lecture, back on a Monday late in September 1996.  It was in constitutional and administrative law. That subject proved to my only first in the following summer’s exams but I went on in 1999 to get a first class degree – my proudest moment, only surpassed in a winter 9 years later by your birth.

I revisited the campus this morning.  Soon after 8am, I walked back into the library that I last set foot in 17 years and 3 months or so ago – and 20 years since I enrolled (the library opened at 9am back in my day and closed at 9pm weekdays and 5pm on Saturdays; it is now open 8am to midnight every day during term time).  I was also able to go into the lecture theatre where I attended the first lecture all those years ago.  I couldn’t wait until the 20th anniversary of my graduation as there was a local news report recently that the university was to sell off this campus before then.  The law school moved to another part of the university in the summer that I graduated so I didn’t get to see the old law library itself (or the new one come to that) but did get to have a walk around the areas where I gazed out of the windows, read, wrote and typed, probably in that order – this still being just before the internet took off, for 3 years of my life.

I had previously made a proper visit to the area and the first to the university since I left, though to the grounds only, almost exactly 5 years ago in September 2011, itself almost exactly 2 months before your removal from the UK.  In 2011 I visited on the 15th anniversary on my enrolment, the Saturday week before today’s visit.

After visiting today, I had a quick walk through the local area and took in many of the old haunts before rushing back to work – Monday mornings are always a nightmare but it’s better to endure it than have a double nightmare on a Tuesday morning.  In terms of the local area it was largely unchanged but the local high street was being redeveloped so next time it is likely to be different.  That said, one of the great things about London is that in general it doesn’t change that much with the effluxion of time.  Even my parents when visiting in the past have pointed out almost unchanged places that they visited in their youth.  It is a city shrouded in history that never fails to fascinate.

What you should take away from this message is that time flies so make the most of your life, especially when you are young.  Quite seriously I cannot believe that 20 years has passed since I became a student. When young, you think that you have all the time in the world.  My experiences today reminded me, perhaps 20 years too late, that that is not the case.

I shall attach some photographs, from 2011 (if I can retrieve them) and today, below in due course.


Waterloo East station – I used a lot back in those days; Waterloo (main) Station was where I would arrive in London from home; The Shard is visible in the distance 


A closer-up photograph of The Shard taken from a train 


Part of the library where I studied for 3 years 



The lecture theatre where I had my first lecture 








The winter gardens and park adjacent to the university 


The pillar box from which I would send letters home for three years 







9/11 – 15 years on

Image result for 9 11 memorial london

Hello Hugo

I visited the 9/11 Memorial Garden in London’s Grosvenor Square, close to the (soon -to-be relocated – as announced in the year of your birth) American Embassy, late afternoon today.  It is a beautiful place.  The photograph above is one obtained from the internet.  I took some myself, including of the Embassy itself, with its flag at half-mast, buttressed each side by the Eisenhower and Reagan statues, but due to technology problems have not been able to transfer them to this blog yet.  I will add them below, including a photograph of the US Ambassador’s message taken in the garden, when I can.

I first flew to Japan on 9/11 itself, learning of the heart-breaking events in the States whilst stopping off for lunch with my father in a pub at Boston Manor (which sounds far grander than it is, as Google will confirm) on the Piccadilly Line out to Heathrow Airport; it was the first and to date only time that I boarded an aircraft not being quite sure whether I would be getting off at the other end.

The garden is beautiful and typical of London’s wonderful parks and open spaces which I hope you will enjoy one day.




Grosvenor square, London,11 September 2016



End of Summer 2016 message

Hello Hugo

So ends another summer, your 5th in Japan, although yours will last well into September.

I shall send you a package shortly to bridge the gap between Children’s Day in Japan and your birthday in November.  I will post photographs below after doing so, either tomorrow or next week – I still have some items to buy.

It has been an eventful summer.  The UK voted for “Brexit” and this month saw the 2016 summer Olympics take place in Rio; the UK took second place in the medal tally, eclipsing even the London Olympics 4 years back.  That success  has been attributed to the (at the time slightly controversial) launch of the National Lottery in 1994 to provide funding for arts, heritage, sport, community projects etc.

I wrote about the London Olympics here, the day after Tokyo was successful in its bid to host the 2020 event.  I have posted this, this and this in relation to the Tokyo Olympics – no doubt there will be more such posts over the next 4 years.   No doubt, also, that the 2020 Games will be one of the key events in your childhood – I well remember the 1988 and 1992 Olympics and, more vaguely, the 1984 ones, all of which took place when I was a boy.  You were born in 2008, itself an Olympic year.

I have had something of an Olympic year myself work-wise but the less said about that the better.  The weather has been nice in London for the most part these past months, including this incredibly hot day in July.

Although I don’t want to say too much here just now so as not to prejudice anything that may happen, there are some signs that the Foreign Office here is beginning to take your situation more seriously, albeit 5 years on from your removal to Japan.  I pray that something concrete will emerge.





Tokyo 2020 clues: when Japan’s PM dressed up as Super Mario


Tokyo 2020 clues: when Japan’s PM dressed up as Super Mario

  • 5 hours ago
  • From the sectionAsia
Dancers perform with Japanese flags during the closing ceremony in the Maracana stadium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016Image copyrightAP
Image captionThe handover to Tokyo2020 was an all-action affair

With athletes and viewers exhausted, the closing ceremony for Rio2016 was passing off as expected…

Until Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped out of a giant green pipe dressed up as video game character Super Mario, one of Japan’s best-known exports.

It was then the world got a clue that, for Tokyo2020, the next Olympic hosts would take full and shameless advantage of Japan’s pop culture icons.

Abe making pipe-dream a reality

The Tokyo2020 video beamed to audiences in Rio showed Mario running excitedly around Tokyo then jumping into his famous green pipe.

Cue the slow rise of the green pipe in Rio with a hunched Mario-like figure perched on top.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dressed as Super Mario, holds a red ball during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty ImagesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionPrime Minister Abe popped out of a pipe just as the Mario character he was dressed as does in the Super Mario games

Japan’s Prime Minister, not famous for his extrovert displays and pop culture references, emerges dressed as Super Mario and doffs his hat to enthusiastic crowds, then setting social media alight.

JapanImage copyrightAP
Image captionShinzo Abe going full cosplay.
Closing ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 21/08/2016. Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is seen on stage.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionWhat a time to be alive.
@Raitthun tweets: Image copyright@RAITTHUN
Image captionTwitter could barely contain itself

Some were quick to point out that Mr Abe was clearly the star of the show, overshadowing Tokyo’s newly-elected mayor, Yuriko Koike, who was in attendance waving the Olympic flag and dressed in a kimono.

Image copyright@2012SATURI2010
Image caption“Laughing so hard as Yuriko in expensive kimono which was ruined by the rain received the Olympic flag but outdone by Abe’s cheap Mario hat”, said this tweet

The parade ended with Mr Abe holding aloft a now glowing red ball, Japan’s rising sun.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds up a ball duirng the flag handover segment during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 inImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Super Mario for the uninitiated

Super Mario is a fictional character in the hugely popular Mario video game franchise created by Nintendo. A stout Italian plumber famous for his red cap and blue overalls, he has appeared in scores of video games, becoming the world’s biggest selling video game franchise of all time.

Super MarioImage copyrightYOSHIKAZU TSUNO
Image captionSuper Mario is a stout Italian plumber who is excellent at kart-racing

And what else can we look forward to in Tokyo?

Mario was not the only pop culture icon in attendance. Doraemon, the animation character with a famous magic pocket from which he can pull out gadgets from the future, also featured in a preview video, along with the mouth-less cat, Hello Kitty.

Girls touch models of Doraemon, a Japanese popular animation character, displayed at Tokyo's Roppongi Hills, 30 July 2016.Image copyrightAP
Image captionDoraemon is one of Japan’s most famous characters
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike (right) waves the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 21 August 2016, Rio.Image copyrightAFP

Some requests for Tokyo from social media

1. Please can Studio Ghibli help direct the opening ceremony? There were calls for Japan’s most famous film studio, Studio Ghibli, known for its fantastical tales and extraordinary animation to have a role in the opening ceremony.

@wendeego tweets: Image copyright@WENDEEGO

2. Can Pokemon Go become a sport in 2020? There were no Pokemon characters in the ceremony – about the only place they haven’t appeared in the past few weeks – but that did not stop people from suggesting it could become a sport in four years time.

@damienics tweets: Image copyright@DAMIENICS

3. Can Tokyo2020 be staffed entirely by robots? Many put in requests for robot volunteers to staff the Olympics or at least the ceremonies to employ robots as performers.

@tejashpatel_ tweets: Image copyright@TEJASHPATEL_

In Japan, the interest in the ceremony was also fevered, with people apparently excited and delighted by their cosplay PM’s guest appearance.

Some even felt the need to mark the once-in-a-lifetime event with caffeine.

PM Shinzo Abe pictured in a coffee art designImage copyright@GEORGE_10G
Image captionPM Abe’s face was translated into coffee art

Others, however, weren’t as impressed, with one commenting that the event was “nothing compared” to Queen Elizabeth playing a Bond girl in the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Yet Mr Abe’s appearance has provided some form of positive coverage for the Tokyo Games, which has been plagued by controversy. Tokyo was accused of plagiarising its initial Olympic 2020 logo, which it eventually changed, and the original stadium design by architect Zaha Hadid was scrapped due to spiralling costs.

But for now, it seems many people are putting its bad publicity aside, and expecting their minds to be blown by whatever Tokyo has planned for four years’ time.

A huge message is unveiled in the main arena reading Image copyrightEPA