Why didn’t Canadian authorities stop Edyta Watkins when she took her children across the border? Because there aren’t any exit controls.
When Edyta Watkins, her father and her two children crossed into Niagara Falls, Edyta had the boys’ passports she had been ordered to return in court. She also had her own passport and driver’s licence, which were both suspended because she hadn’t made child support payments.
So why didn’t Canadian authorities stop Edyta Watkins at the border? Because there aren’t any controls on people leaving the country.
On the other side, U.S. border agents don’t have access to internal passport information, according to Joanne Ferreira, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As for the issues of the suspended driver’s licence and court orders not to take the boys out of the country, Ferreira couldn’t disclose for security reasons whether agents would have that information.
But Terry Smith, of Child Find Ontario, said Canada’s custody disputes shouldn’t be another country’s problem.
“If we actually had an exit policy for customs and immigration, she wouldn’t have got out,” Smith said. “We’re not stopping people from leaving, we’re stopping them from coming in.”
A spokeswoman for Canadian Border Services Agency said it would be a significant policy shift, but one that may be considered, after further analysis.
Last February, CBSA president Stephen Rigby told a parliamentary committee that a partnership between the U.S. and Canada was possible.
“We have had ongoing discussions with our colleagues to the south, in our sister agency in the United States, on the possibility of implementing a program that would basically see at the land border our entry system used as their exit system and vice versa,” Rigby said.
Terry Smith, of Child Find Ontario, isn’t holding her breath. She said parental abduction like the Watkins case doesn’t register as a “big concern” to the government “on the whole.”
“Only at certain levels. There’s this general feeling that the children are with a parent, so they’re not in danger,” she said.