True Story: Joanna and Maria

By Trix van der Schalk

Across from me sits a very attractive petit woman of about 35. She is cheerful and smiles a lot. Her name is Joanna van Bijsterveld. Although she says that she is just an ordinary girl from Amerongen, she is in fact startlingly cosmopolitan and speaks at least three languages fluently, English, Dutch and Greek.

In Canada is a little girl of nine, Maria, Joanna’s daughter. Mother and daughter haven’t seen each other for almost five years – by order of the Canadian government and in part due to irrevocable decisions rendered in Dutch courts. The only contact they are allowed is via Skype – by order of Maria’s father. They see each other and talk for an hour every two weeks.

Their story is one where the law has been applied – according to The Hague Convention – without taking any compassionate consideration of the human beings involved. Joanna, who is a Dutch citizen, separated from her Canadian husband before Maria was a year old; she felt threatened by him and was afraid. Once she had officially been granted full custody of Maria, she decided to leave Canada with her little girl and fled to Greece, a country where she felt at home and could speak the language. Mother and daughter later moved to Jordan where they settled down comfortably for 2½ years.

From hereon I quote the timeline given to me by Joanna, as her situation cannot be expressed in a more succinct way.

• In March 2005, I left Canada with our daughter (I was told no consent was required as I had full custody of Maria, and was even able to add her on my Dutch passport).
• In December 2007, I was told to seek legal advice in the Netherlands because Maria’s father had managed to have an INTERPOL arrest warrant issued for my extradition, which meant we could not continue to live in Amman, Jordan.
• In February 2008, we arrived in the Netherlands. Within a few days of our arrival, I was arrested and Maria was placed in temporary foster care while I went to prison.
• In April 2008, my ex-husband managed to successfully use The Hague Convention to apply for her immediate return to Canada – sadly it was only discovered several months later that he had lied in his application with regards to who actually had custody on the date of the alleged abduction.
• In September 2008, my ex-husband managed to finalize our divorce in my absence, and without my knowledge and was granted full custody of our daughter.
• In May 2009, the Supreme Court in the Netherlands finally decided to dismiss the extradition case, thereby acknowledging the fact that I had valid full custody of Maria on the date of our departure from Canada. The dual criminality required for extradition was not fulfilled.
• Since April 2008, Maria has neither been allowed to see me nor any other members of her maternal family. Nobody has done anything to protect her interests and rights.
• Despite an attempt in 2009 to apply for international visitation under The Hague Convention, Maria’s father still refuses to allow me to visit her. Furthermore, he has not withdrawn his charges, which means I risk re-arrest and extradition if I leave the Netherlands. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Surete Quebec arrest warrants have not been withdrawn, despite clearly being based on false information and dubiously modified following my complaint in 2011.
• Neither INTERPOL, the RCMP, Surete Quebec, nor the Dutch courts have ever properly addressed – or taken responsibility for – their mistakes in this case. The Crown Prosecutor has ignored the above-mentioned facts. (Both defenses 284 and 285 in the Criminal Code are clearly applicable here.)
What Joanna has experienced is every parent’s worst nightmare. “It could happen to anyone”, she says. “There should be much more clarity with regards to how The Hague Convention is carried out. More weight should be placed on the responsibility of the central authorities and courts to properly adhere to The Hague Convention, its scope, and their Guide to Good Practice. Far more emphasis needs to be placed on children’s well being and best interests.”

On her road to justice, Joanna suggests that perhaps international couples should draw up pre-nuptial agreements about the futures of their unborn children. “Couples draw up agreements about property, finances, inheritance, and who the dog goes to if they break up. Shouldn’t we be realistic about as yet unborn children in the event of divorce? Who should they live with and where; and under which circumstances? We may not want to spoil our romantic notions of each other before we are married, but we have to consider our feelings of rancour if things should go wrong”.

Joanna misses Maria more than words could express. But she is not worried about Maria. She is sure that her ex-husband and his family love their daughter and that she is well cared for and well adjusted. She no longer harbours any resentment towards him; she has experienced closure and found peace within herself. She is spiritually inclined and neither dwells on the past nor obsesses about the future and is sure that she will see Maria sooner rather than later. Joanna has the following quotation to share with the readers of this article:

Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it…this will miraculously transform your life.” – Eckhart Tolle’


Merry Christmas Maria!


The letters from love-tug children ‘begging not to go back to dad’ after they went on the run with their mother

The letters from love-tug children ‘begging not to go back to dad’ after they went on the run with their mother

  • Jessica, 14, writes: ‘I am not happy at all… I do not want to go back to Spain’

  • Jennifer Marie Jones, 46, abducted them from their father in Spain

  • The mother and her children went on the run before she was arrested

  • Miss Jones is being held at a police station in Gwent, south Wales

    ‘Four children found after going on the run with their mother in Wales have written letters begging not to be made to live with their father in Spain.

    As their mother, Jennifer Jones, was held by police, family members released hand-written notes they claim prove a judge was wrong to order them to be sent away.

    In one, Jessica, 14, writes to the judge: ‘I am not happy at all… I do not want to go back to Spain,’ underlining the word ‘not’.

    During their time on the run, Miss Jones told family members she had acted drastically to ‘protect’ her children from their father, Spanish Lieutenant Colonel Tomas Palacin Cambra, who she claims was abusive towards her and the children. He denies the claims.

    Miss Jones has fought a bitter custody battle with her former husband since their 12-year marriage ended in 2008. She has tried to run away with the children once before.

    Their father was granted custody in the Spanish courts, but the children return to Wales to spend the summer holidays with Miss Jones and her family.

    Last week she failed to send them back, and a High Court judge ordered her to return them to Spain by midnight on Friday.

    She failed to do so, and lost an appeal on Monday. But when police officers and social workers went to her home the family had disappeared.

    At a hearing on Tuesday, Mr Justice Roderic Wood said he was ‘very concerned about the children’, launching a national hunt for the runaway mother. After they were found yesterday, grandmother Brynelda Jones, 78, said returning them to Spain would be ‘like sending lambs to the lion’s den’.

    Read more: She adds that she is ‘scared’ to be with her father and is ‘finally feeling brave enough to speak up for myself’.






‘Let me go, I want my mum!’

‘Let me go, I want my mum!’ Four girls are dragged kicking and screaming on to aeroplane in Australia after judge rules they must return to father in Italy

  • Sisters, aged between nine and 15, had been in hiding

  • They were brought to Australia on a holiday two years ago by their mother

  • Mother then kept them in the country, prompting a bitter legal battle

  • Judge in Australia ordered that the girls must go back to Europe

    Disturbing scenes showing four girls being dragged kicking and screaming on to a plane in Brisbane to be sent back to their Italian father caused outrage across Australia today.

    The sisters, aged between nine and 15, were ordered by a judge in Australia to be returned to their father in Italy, despite the children’s wishes to stay in Queensland with their mother.

    The girls’ mother, who was married to an Italian, had taken them to Australia from Italy for a holiday two years ago – and then kept them in the country.

    Kicking and screaming: A girl is dragged on to a plane in Brisbane after a judge in Australia ruled that she and her three sisters must return to their father in Italy

    A bitter international fight ensued between the parents, resulting in an Australian judge ruling the sisters must be returned to their father.

    Despite staying in hiding, the girls were finally collected by Australian police and security officers last night and driven to Brisbane airport – where passengers stared in shock as the girls screamed and struggled to break away from their escorts.

    Up to a dozen federal officers in suits were present as the four sisters were dragged to an airport lounge to await boarding on an Emirates flight, but they were determined not to go without a fight.

    ‘Let me go, I want my mum, I want my mum,’ one of the younger girls – they cannot be identified because they are minors – cried as federal officers held onto her arms.

    All girls cried out to their escorts to let them return to their home in Australia and complained the officers were hurting their arms. But the police were determined the girls would be sent home, one officer telling a girl: ‘Now, you’re going to get back on the plane.’

    Passengers stared at the scenes of the sisters struggling with police, many saying that the incident was ‘awful…terrible.’

    The Courier Mail newspaper reported that it had learned the mother of the girls clung in desperation to the rear of an Australian Federal Police car as it drove away with three of the sisters from a house where they had been staying.

    She collapsed in the road sobbing at the end of what was described as a day of unfathomable anxiety and stress.

    For weeks the girls, who have joint Australian and Italian citizenship, had remained in hiding with their great-grandmother after a court ordered they should be returned to their father in Italy. 

    Desperate: The girls’ mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, clung to the rear of an Australian Federal Police car as it drove away with three of the sisters

    A close friend of the girls’ mother told the paper that the prospect of being returned to Italy against their wishes had made the girls anxious and withdrawn in recent days.

    ‘What do you expect from little kids being taken away from their mum?’ said the friend. ‘The whole thing is unfair.’

    The father had insisted in court battles that the children should be returned to Italy under the provisions of the Hague Convention, an international treaty against child abduction.

    Justice Colin Forrest found in the Australian Family Court last year that while he did not absolutely accept ‘the truthfulness of all of the evidence deposed to by the father’, he was satisfied the father did not consent to the children’s relocation.

    As Australians expressed their anger and dismay on social media, leading radio commentator Neil Mitchell said on his morning show in Melbourne that sending the children back to Italy amid the distressing scenes was ‘cruel, unreasonable and absurd’.

    Referring to the children being dragged kicking and screaming to an aircraft to be sent home to a father they did not want to live with after their mother had collapsed in the street, he said all this was happening because of the law.

    Read More: ‘If you’re a parent, this is disturbing stuff,’ he said. ‘I don’t doubt the judge is correct under the law, but we are talking here about children – is there no room for common sense?’


For Maria With Love


Robert Green FREE on 17th May!

The good news has just come through from Robert that his custodial sentence will end and he will be FREE to go home early in the morning of 17th May. He received the news in the Governor’s office this afternoon and there has been much jubilation at Craiginches ever since.

He will still be under curfew when he gets home (7pm to 9am every night of the week) for 3 months and of course campaigning and so on is out but at least he’ll be able to go for walks and go on line and all the things he’s not been able to do.

Robert wishes me to say that he strongly believes it is largely due to the tremendous support he has had from so many people that he’s been let out early and asks me to say a very big THANK YOU to everyone once again. He also wishes to commend the prison staff who have been universally gracious and helpful. This has made made what could have been a much more trying time really quite bearable.

Read more: He’s also made some good friends from amongst his fellow inmates with whom he’ll be keeping contact.


The Aurora

The Aurora from TSO Photography on Vimeo.


Look At Me Mummy!!!!!!


It is always so tragic when relationships break up where kids are concerned. Such a tragedy can be seen in the situation of Maria where it is clear that she loves her mummy dearly as can be seen in this video where she so desperately wants to share her love and enthusiasm for life with her mum. It is quite evident and I have to say encouraging that the father of Maria can see that she needs the love of her mother and would appear to be actively encouraging this by sharing this lovely video taken of Maria on her bike to let her mum see that she is happy and well. There is obviously a lot of love from both sides towards Maria. Wouldn’t it be nice if Joanna, Maria’s mother was allowed to vist Canada to see her daughter Maria, without the fear of being imprisoned as soon as she steps off the plane at the airport?


Joanna Van Bijsterveld – On Hart van Nederland 24-04-2009

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