The case of a Welland mother who fled a court hearing with her daughter has finally come to an end. Allana Haist and her daughter Layla were brought to the public’s attention after the issue of a December 2 Amber Alert. The two month ordeal had captured the attention of the Niagara region.
The Amber Alert for nine-year-old Layla, as well as a Canada-wide warrant for Haist’s arrest, were the result of her failing to show up for a scheduled court hearing. She instead went into hiding with the child, but turned herself in two weeks later and she was subsequently arrested.
Haist had perviously defied another court order in October 2015, when she smuggled her daughter out of Egypt — and away from the child’s father, Mohamed Abdel-Motaleb.
Haist and her lawyer, Natalie Fortier, presented Haist’s actions as that of a mother taking desperate measures to protect her child. Haist alleged that Abdel-Motaleb had sexually abused Layla and that a return to Egypt would place her in immediate danger. Haist and her lawyer argued her case should be tried in Canada, with jurisdiction given to Ontario courts. The child’s father denied such claims, and argued that jurisdiction resided in Egypt and the custody battle should therefore continue there.
Before determining the issue of jurisdiction, the Welland court had to decide whether or not Haist’s claims of her daughter’s abuse were credible, and whether or not returning Layla to Egypt would place her in harm.
During the week-long hearing, the court heard from Layla’s maternal grandparents, a local detective, and a Children’s Aid Society worker. A videotaped interview of the child claiming her father abused her was also entered into evidence. Those who took the stand had different opinions. Layla’s grandparents n the allegations to be true, while the detective and CAS worker were more doubtful of the child’s statement, worried that they were “contrived” and Layla “was unable to provide convincing details”.
Despite an outpouring of support from the community, including Facebook groups supporting Haist and Layla and a GoFundMe for Haist’s legal costs, Ontario courts decided at the end of January that jurisdiction would rest in Egypt. Ontario Superior Court Justice James Ramsay delivered a 16-page ruling, in which he called Haist a “remorseless and persistent liar”, wrote that he found “no credible evidence of the prospect of sexual abuse”, and dismissed the allegations as a “malicious contrivance” by Haist.
In regards to the videotaped statement by Layla, Justice Ramsay found her statements — which involved details such as gangs of men, hundreds of children and a sex factory — to be the product of the child’s imagination, and that they were the result of “relentless pressure” placed on Layla to accuse her father.
By the time Haist and her family learned of the ruling, Layla’s father Abdel-Motaleb had already taken Layla back to Egypt. Haist’s father is concerned that, should Haist go to Egypt to continue fighting for custody, she may face separate charges in that country. The family is looking at their options in deciding how to proceed.
For now, however, a criminal charge of child abduction against Allana Haist is still before Canadian courts. A court date has been set for April 4.
-Alicia Azzarello, Contributor