Saudi Arabia: Ottawa won't help woman held against her will under guardianship system

CBC News

The Canadian government says it cannot bring home a Quebec woman who claims her husband is refusing to allow her and her three children to leave Saudi Arabia. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon discussed the case of Nathalie Morin with his Saudi counterpart during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday. After his return from Riyadh, Cannon said he considered the case to be a private matter that must be resolved by Saudi officials.

Saudi law allows a husband to prevent his spouse and children from leaving the country without his permission, Cannon said.

"It is important to remember that when Canadians leave Canadian territory, they are subject to the laws and conventions governing the country where they are," Cannon's press secretary Natalie Sarafian said in an email.

In an interview with the French-language arm of the CBC, Morin said she has been trying to return home for 2½ years.

"He doesn’t keep me in Saudi Arabia because he loves me and wants to keep me — it is just that he wants to get money, or one day have a chance to travel," Morin told Radio-Canada.

Morin alleges she is regularly abused by her husband.

"I cry, he hits me. I laugh, he hits me. I talk, he hits me. I get angry and he beats me," she said.

Contacted by Radio-Canada on the phone, Morin’s husband denied the allegations of violence.

Because of the intervention of the government of Canada, Sarafian said, the human rights officials in Saudi Arabia conducted visits and investigated the allegations of abuse.

She said the government "will continue [its] efforts" in the case.

Morin's mother, Johanne Durocher, said she was bitterly disappointed by the government’s efforts to repatriate her daughter.

"The government had important elements to negotiate for Nathalie, but didn’t use them," she said.Johanne Durocher says she won't give up her fight to bring her daughter, Nathalie Morin, back home. (CBC)

Durocher said she would not give up the fight to bring her daughter home.

Saudi laws were recently amended to allow foreign-born wives to leave without requiring their husband’s approval — but the change is not retroactive and so does not cover Morin and her children.

Radio-Canada is expected to air a full interview with Morin on Thursday.