Jeff Doyle wants his little girl back.
But seven-year-old Sofii is a long way from home, living with her mother in a country where authorities rarely enforce child custody orders.
“I’ve been told it’s my responsibility because I opened the door,” says the 44-year-old Victoria resident.
Doyle spent most of his life in Campbell River. Sofii was born here too. But for mother Cristina, a Mexican national, she couldn’t get out of the River City fast enough.
“She’s a professional dancer – I guess there wasn’t enough for her here, it was too cold…she hated Campbell River,” says Jan Wade, Doyle’s mother who lives in Campbell River and has also been trying to get Canadian authorities to help her son.
Doyle and Cristina met in Japan and then returned to Canada. After Sofii was born, they moved to Mexico with the mutual understanding they would return to Canada for Sofii’s education.
They were still in Mexico and five-year-old Sofii was in school when Doyle received a call from the principal that drug gangs were battling and parents needed to get their kids out.
That’s when Doyle and Sofii returned to Campbell River while Cristina waited to get her visa. Later, the couple discussed moving to Victoria so she could have more opportunities to dance, but they never did and the relationship ended.
Then, in July 2013, Cristina asked Doyle if she could take Sofii to Mexico for a visit. Doyle agreed, mother and daughter went south, and did return to Canada.
Last September, she asked if she could take Sofii again to Mexico. And again Doyle agreed in writing, expecting the two of them to return in three weeks.
But they never came back.
Doyle and Wade believe the two are in Mexico City. There’s been contact, but it’s been minimal, and becoming even more infrequent.
“I had a call on Father’s Day, on March 25 and at New Year’s, that’s been it,” says Doyle, who adds the calls are very limited.
In June, Doyle and his lawyer went to B.C. Supreme Court to get an official document showing he is Sofii’s legal guardian.
“That’s a tough thing for any father to do,” Doyle says.
He’s also been dealing with RCMP. According to Wade, Mounties have been very helpful and even forwarded a recommendation for a child abduction charge to be laid, but B.C. Crown counsel has declined to lay any charges.
Doyle says the reason is, he signed a consent release for Sofii, but it was just for three weeks.
The family has also contacted North Island MP John Duncan, North Island MLA Claire Trevena and the Ministry of Justice, but little, if anything, is happening to help the situation.
“The whole thing is an eye-opener about what can happen – my daughter was wrongfully taken,” states Doyle.
Wade says Mexican authorities are very reluctant to return children or enforce international court orders regarding custody. Nevertheless, they are trying to do whatever they can to bring Sofii home.
“I was the full-time dad…and now I hear a kid’s voice out on the street and I think it’s Sofii – it’s been very difficult,” says Doyle, his voice trailing off.
In his Victoria home, Doyle has a room ready for Sofii’s return. It has her toys, unopened gifts from family and friends, and letters too.
On Sept. 16 she will turn eight years old and her dad doesn’t know if he’ll get a call or even see her for a moment on Skype.
“I live through photographs and videos I have of her. I watch them every day,” say Doyle. “I have pictures of her everywhere, just in an effort to make it feel like she’s still here.”