Recent case: Hague Convention case under COVID-19 court protocols

woman's hand holding a child's hand

Onuoha v Onuoha 2020 ONSC 1815: The family had been living in Nigeria, but in October 2019, the mother brought the couple’s two children to Ontario. The father claimed that he had not consented to this and brought a Hague Convention application in Ontario for the return of his daughters.

The case was mid-process when regular court operations in Ontario were suspended due to COVID-19, at which point the next hearing was postponed until early June. The father sought to have the matter dealt with on an urgent basis.

Justice Madsen, in deciding the matter was not urgent, wrote the following:

At first blush, this case would appear to fall within the understanding of an “urgent” matter . . . as it is a matter “relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child,” (at least from the perspective of the father). However, I am unable to find that the matter is urgent at this time. The children are currently residing with their mother in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. There is currently a global pandemic underway, which has resulted in wide-spread travel restrictions, including the current international Travel Advisory of the Government of Canada. . . .

This is not the time to hear a motion on the return of children to another jurisdiction. Indeed, were the father to be successful, any order would likely not be capable of being implemented for weeks or even months. It would be foolhardy to expose the children to international travel. . . . the children’s “safety” and “well-being” are protected, for the time being, by remaining where they are in the care of their mother in Ontario. While the matter is very important to the parties, it is not in my view currently “urgent.”

Justice Madsen then assures the father that no status quo in favour of the mother will result from the delay in hearing his motion and states her expectation that the mother make “every reasonable effort” to have the children speak regularly with their father by Skype, FaceTime, telephone or other means.