A Campbell River woman is hopeful her granddaughter will be returned to Canada to live with her father.
The fate of eight-year-old Sofii Doyle is in the hands of the Mexican appeal court which should be bringing a judgement down this week or next. Her grandmother Jan Wade and father Jeff Doyle have been travelling back and forth to Mexico working the Mexican legal system in an effort to have Sofii’s mother return her to her father who has legal custody.
Soffi, who was born in Campbell River, was taken to Mexico in September, 2013 for a visit by her mother Christina, a Mexican national who had separated from Jeff after the couple returned to Campbell River in order to give their daughter a quality education. The September, 2013 visit was the second such request Sofii’s mother had made, the first visit going off without a hitch. However, Sofii and Christina did not return as expected the second time. Jeff had agreed to the visit and put it in writing, stating that they were expected to return in three weeks. Written permission from separated parents is often advisable when taking children across borders.
However, Christina never brought Sofii back. What followed were months of spotty communication, the procurement of an official declaration from the B.C. Supreme Court that Jeff was Sofii’s legal guardian and the launch of legal proceedings in Mexico.
In September of this year Jeff was informed of a trial date set for Sept. 22 in Mexico City and he and Wade flew to down to attend.
They saw Sofii from outside the courtyard making her way in with Christina and several friends. They immediately called out to Sofii but she appeared confused and hesitant.
“Hugs and kisses were shared with Sofii,” Jeff said. “We sat with her for a while and gave Sofii her birthday presents on the stairs of the court house.”
Unfortunately, the judge did not show and a replacement had to be found. That meant the hearing was postponed for a week.
Jeff and his mother returned to Vancouver Island to get back to work. But Jeff went back to Mexico the next week and appeared in court on the 29th. The judge awarded Jeff two preliminary visits at a government run facility on Oct. 4 and 5 for three hours per day. Christina arrived 40 minutes late.
“Those precious hours with Sofii gave me an opportunity to feel whole again, alive again with hope and love and invigorated as a parent to be with my daughter laughing, playing, holding hands, talking for hours, running and holding hands, blowing bubbles and telling each other stories,” Jeff said. “The whole time (I was) holding back tears as the clock ticked away the hours as if they were minutes.”
They went back to court to receive the decision of the judge on Oct. 7. It was made in Jeff’s favour but the judge wanted to have Sofii remain in the same house and to keep her daily routine as close as possible for Sofii’s sake. Christina pleaded to the court to not take Sofii away immediately and the judge gave in somewhat.
The mother had 10 days in which to make an appeal and in the meantime, prevented Jeff from seeing his daughter and Mexican officials from checking up on her. Police were called and Christina’s testimony was also found to be fraudulent, Jeff said.
More court proceedings followed, two of which the mother did not appear, even though Jeff flew all the way from Canada to attend. Christina’s appeal was then launched and the Appeal Courts decision was to come down on Nov. 11 but the decision ordered a psychological evaluation of Sofii. In the interim, attempts to have visits with his daughter were blocked.
The result of the evaluation was to be returned to the court by Dec. 13.
Jeff and his lawyer have also fielded state criminal and federal criminal actions for domestic violence, child abuse and child abduction, procedural fraud, failure to allow visitation rights even though Jeff has full custody and other criminal charges.
All this legal action has taken a financial toll on Jeff and he and his mother Wade are appealing to the community for assistance. Even something as straightforward as taxi rides are costly. Mexico City is a huge city with almost as many people living there as live in Canada. It takes an hour and a half taxi ride just to get from Jeff’s hotel to the court.
A trust account for donations has been set up at the Campbell River CIBC under the name Help Bring Sofii Home. The transit number is 00140 and the account number is 88-51034 and the account can be accessed at any CIBC in Canada.
Despite what Canadians may have heard about the Mexican legal system, Jeff and his mother have nothing but praise for it. They have sided with the Canadian father, ruling in his favour and the authorities have made the effort to enforce court orders and investigate legal charges.
Jeff’s lawyer, Eddie Varon James Levy, was hired over the phone in Los Angeles three days before the first hearing and flew to Mexico City on the strength of a promise he would be paid.
“He has worked tirelessly on our behalf,” Wade said.